The flip side of succeeding with value players is failing with overvalued players. These are players that will not put up stats commensurate to their draft spot, and avoiding them is another of the important keys to a successful fantasy team. In an attempt to point out these players, we asked our staff to look through the Top 150 and identify players that should underperform their draft position.
Players Receiving 4 Votes
Josh Gordon, Cleveland
Bloom: It has been seemingly forever since Josh Gordon ruled the fantasy wide receiver roost, and while he returned last year, he didn’t exactly come in hot. This year, he’ll likely start the season with a low volume passing quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, and Gordon will be sharing with Jarvis Landry, who could lead the team in targets. Duke Johnson Jr should be the No. 3 target, and both David Njoku and Corey Coleman should be growing in the passing game. It’s very difficult to see Gordon producing up to ADP in this situation.
Holloway: Josh Gordon is an extremely talented wide receiver, but he is difficult to trust. He has played in only ten games since 2013 when he dominated the league catching 87 passes for 1,646 yards and scoring 9 touchdowns in only 14 games. When he has played, he has dominated the wide receiver targets, but now, Cleveland's wide receivers are much better and should split the targets. Jarvis Landry, himself a target hog at Miami was signed to a five-year $75 Million contract which included $47 Million guaranteed. Corey Coleman drafted at 15th overall in 2016 returns and the Browns are hopeful he can be healthy. The Browns also added Antonio Callaway in the 4th round this year. Callaway would have been drafted earlier, if not for his off-field issues. Cleveland also has capable receivers at both running back and tight end. Even though the Browns offense should be much improved, there are abundant mouths to feed in the passing game.
Pasquino: There is always an inherent risk when taking a player coming off of a suspension or taking a wide receiver from Cleveland, but when those two players are the same person, well, it's wise to really throttle back on that decision. There is no question that when Gordon is playing and in top form, he can be a dominant force as a true WR1. The questions of whether he can check all those boxes are what should keep you from looking at him as a true fantasy starter. More than likely, you should let someone else take the risk on him and look for safer options at wide receiver that have far less downside risk.
Wood: Stop the insanity. Please. It's easy to root for Josh Gordon’s story to end well. But fantasy football is a game of probabilistic outcomes, and the likelihood Gordon matches his current ADP is minuscule. Research the sad realities of drug addiction and the relapse rates are heart-breaking: 85% of addicts relapse within a year of treatment. Even if you feel his VERY REAL risk of being suspended again is worth taking, other aspects of Gordon’s outlook are discouraging. He’s had one good fantasy season. It was five years ago. His catch rate is abysmal. He wasn’t particularly good upon his. There is no analytical way the team can improve enough to support two top-25 fantasy receivers, so a bet on Gordon is a bet against Jarvis Landry; who broke the bank this offseason. Drafting Gordon like he’s a coin flip to reprise his 2013 form is foolhardy.
Allen Robinson, Chicago
Brimacombe: After an up-and-down four-year career in Jacksonville, Robinson found his way to Chicago and scored a big money deal. Robinson was dynamite back in 2015 when he put up an 80/1400/14 season finishing as the fourth-ranked wide receiver that year and followed it up with a 73/883/6 season as the 31st-ranked wide receiver. During Week 1 last year, Robinson tore his ACL so he should be ready to go full strength to start the season, and the Bears are believers as they gave him a three-year, $42 million contract. The Bears offense looks to be on the rise, and Robinson’s ADP is a prime example of that as it is a steep price to pay following a bad season and then by a torn ACL season.
Haseley: Outside of Robinson’s masterful 2015 season that included 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns, his other two years were average and not at all elite. He wasn’t on a prolific offense in Jacksonville yet managed to thrive, at least for that one year. Now he joins a new team with a new coach and offensive system with questions about the potency of the offense. There’s belief that the offense is on an upswing, but that’s yet to be proven. Robinson’s recovered knee is also yet to be proven. There are too many questions to take a leap for Robinson at the point he’ll likely be drafted.
Howe: Robinson’s 2015 was truly sparkling; he caught 14 touchdowns, of course, as well as more 20+ yard passes (31) than anyone in the last decade not named Calvin. But his 2016 dip was hard to handle, and last year’s ACL tear piled even more uncertainty onto his value profile. And it’s hard to look at his move to Chicago as a step up. The football world has railed relentlessly on Blake Bortles for years, but Mitchell Trubisky is still a wild card, and last year’s passing volume – just 27.5 attempts per game – was the league’s lowest. Robinson looks like the clear lead dog in terms of targets, but in this offense, that could only mean 115 or so. And Robinson has never shown himself to be an efficiency guy, so those spending a premium pick on him will be praying for touchdowns.
Waldman: Fantasy owners must think Allen Robinson will follow in the footsteps of Jordy Nelson, who tore his ACL in August of 2015 and returned a year later to become the No. 2 PPR receiver. Like Nelson in 2016, Robinson isn’t practicing yet but his comeback appears on schedule, if not a little ahead. Unlike Nelson, Robinson lacks an elite quarterback and veteran surrounding talent in the receiving corps that matches the Green Bay Packers. Robinson is learning a new system, working with new players, and rehabbing his ACL. He may finish as a fantasy starter, but there are too many players who fantasy owners are taking after Robinson who are healthier, have better quarterbacks, and have greater continuity and rapport with their system and teammates.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City
Alexander: There's too much overlap between Hill and Sammy Watkins' games to draft Hill as if Watkins' signing doesn't matter. The 22% share of the Chiefs targets Hill enjoyed last year has nowhere to go but down, and at least a small percentage of the home run plays Andy Reid drew up for Hill last year will now go to Watkins. The only hope for Hill to justify his ADP is if the entire offensive pie grows significantly for Kansas City's pass-catchers due to the change from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes at quarterback and a defense that looks lousy on paper. Both scenarios are plausible, but too much still has to go right for Hill to approximate his 2017 counting stats. After all, however great Mahomes is at throwing downfield, he'll be hard-pressed to top Alex Smith's league-leading success rate on deep throws from last year.
Bloom: The Chiefs did not pay Sammy Watkins 30 million guaranteed dollars this offseason to be a decoy. While Tyreek Hill’s numbers last year justify his ADP, the No. 2 receiver in the pecking order 2017 was a combination of Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, and Albert Wilson. Watkins is a much stronger option, and Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt aren’t going away, either. Hill’s value is likely to be close to Watkins, but ADP doesn’t reflect that, and Watkins is the one whose cost is around the production that we should expect.
Wood: Buying Tyreek Hill at current prices assumes a lot. It assumes he’ll maintain last year’s target share even though the Chiefs signed Sammy Watkins to a three-year, $48 million contract with $30 million guaranteed. It assumes Pat Mahomes will be as accurate as Alex Smith. It assumes Mahomes will have the same throwing tendencies and make the same reads. It assumes Matt Nagy was an easily replaceable play-caller. That’s a lot of assumptions for a player that’s going to cost you an early pick and be positioned as one of the centerpieces of your roster.
Jarvis Landry, Cleveland
Haseley: Jarvis Landry was heavily utilized as a short-ranged receiver in Miami. Until he shows differently, that’s all he is. Yes, he found the end zone nine times in 2017, but his average is closer to five scores. Not only is he joining a new team, but the likelihood of him maintain such a high number of touchdowns like he scored in 2017 is low. While Cleveland’s offensive needle is pointing up, you still need to take into account that the Browns have totaled 20, 15, and 15 touchdown passes in each of the last three years. Fantasy is all about receiving value, and in Landry’s case, we should be expecting the opposite – a regression to a mean that is less than desirable given the expectations that most have for him.
Hester: The selection of Landry here assumes Tyrod Taylor is the Cleveland starter to begin the season. Taylor's strength as a passer is being a one-read, deep ball player. Landry's strengths don't align with that, and teammate Josh Gordon's do. Aside from the lack of skills aligning, it can be difficult to work new receivers into an offense. Landry has no chemistry with his coaches, play-callers, or quarterbacks. Don't be surprised to see a slow start. There are more consistent high-floor plays such as Marvin Jones Jr and Golden Tate and also high-ceiling plays such as Josh Gordon and Brandin Cooks all being selected around the same position or later than Landry.
Miglio: Jarvis Landry has seen 160-plus targets in two of the past three seasons, and he saw 131 the one off year in Miami. The Dolphins made it a point to get Landry the ball near the line of scrimmage, too, which gave him a ton of easy receptions to boost his PPR totals. Even if his claim that Browns quarterbacks are better than anything he had in Miami – Jay Cutler was pretty terrible, let’s admit – his target share in an offense with Josh Gordon, David Njoku, Carlos Hyde, and Duke Johnson Jr commanding looks is going to go down dramatically. His PPR scoring will follow suit. Unless Landry’s game changes, he is going to be a bitter disappointment in fantasy leagues this year.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Amari Cooper, Oakland
Hester: Cooper struggled over the last two seasons to wrestle away the WR1 position from Michael Crabtree. With the veteran now gone from Oakland, it would seem that Cooper's arrow is pointing up. However, the team also added Jordy Nelson (free agency) and Martavis Bryant (in-draft trade), meaning the competition for targets remains. New head coach Jon Gruden is also a wild card. He hasn't coached in a decade and has spent much of the offseason talking about old-school football, suggesting that he's "trying to throw the game back to 1998." The team's personnel moves suggest a run-centric approach as well. Cooper has also struggled when covered as the No. 1 receiver. His biggest game last year came when he was utilized in the slot for much of the game.
Wood: Cooper has yet to live up to lofty expectations, and it’s getting late in the game to expect differently. He’s coming off his worst season and was apparently out of favor with the previous coaching staff. When veteran Michael Crabtree outproduced Cooper in his rookie year, it was understandable. When Crabtree outproduced him again in 2016, and 2017, it left major questions. Jon Gruden, in his “wisdom,” said goodbye to Crabtree but brought in Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant. Both have designs on significant roles. Also, the Raiders could be among the worst offenses in the league; take a look at new offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s career. He’s been a disaster at every stop. Gruden – who’s been out of coaching for a generation – and Olson, who has been bad in five NFL cities, are going to turn Amari Cooper into a WR1? That’s a sucker’s bet.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis
Hicks: The price to draft T.Y. Hilton is that of a borderline fantasy WR1. In two of the last three years, Hilton has barely been a bottom end WR2. Will Andrew Luck return? Can the Colts put together an NFL quality running game? Can Hilton exceed half-a-dozen touchdowns? Can he get near 80 receptions? How will he be used in a new offense, with a new coach? There are too many questions to be certain of what Hilton will produce this year, making his risk-factor high. Hilton has remarkable endurance, which is a blessing considering his size, but his main form of use to fantasy owners has been yards. How likely is he to get to 1200 yards given the uncertainty here?
Miglio: It has been nearly two years since Andrew Luck threw a regulation-sized football. It will be a miracle to see him on the field in September at this point, let alone back to form. Last season T.Y. Hilton wound up 27th in PPR scoring with Luck sidelined the entire year. With Luck’s imminent return increasingly out of reach, it’s a wonder Hilton is being drafted as a borderline WR1.
DeVante Parker, Miami
Howe: Let your leaguemates take the too-high leap after Parker’s perceived upside. But through three NFL seasons, the actual production has been very little, even with solid usage (5.4 targets per game). Also, Parker's touchdown potential has yet to manifest – he’s caught just eight over three NFL seasons – and he doesn’t profile as the type to benefit much from target-hog Jarvis Landry leaving town. It’s more likely Danny Amendola steps into the slot and absorbs 75% or so of Landry’s workload, and Kenny Stills has been much more effective on the outside than Parker. There’s a ceiling here drafters shouldn’t ignore, but they certainly shouldn’t be prioritizing it as high as they are. Parker’s floor is a WR4 or WR5 finish; he just hasn’t looked like a pro yet.
Waldman: Talk to Adam Gase, and Parker has matured as a professional. Gase has seen improvement with Parker taking care of his body. However, former Dolphin Chris Chambers, who runs a training business, told the media that Parker hasn’t been consistent. Chambers has reached out to Parker multiple times but hasn’t received a response. Chambers cites that Parker saw an extremity expert who is associated with Chambers, but as he told Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson, “[Parker] didn’t stay consistent to see the benefits through the course of an NFL season. Just a couple of visits…” It’s worth noting that Chambers runs a business and skeptics could interpret Chambers’ statements as media opportunity to promote his business at the expense of an NFL player who he’s speculating isn’t embracing the structured programs that top receivers like Antonio Brown use. It is possible that Parker, as Gase suggested, is building a routine on his own that works for him. Until we see proof, I’m not buying Gase’s perspective.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Davante Adams, Green Bay
Hicks: Davante Adams is heading into the 2018 season rated as a top-10 fantasy receiver. That could be an error. Adams is at the head of the Packers receiving group almost by default. Jordy Nelson was let go, Randall Cobb has underachieved over the last three years, and Geronimo Allison is seen as, at best, a complementary receiver. Adams has been successful despite not having a 1,000-yard season in his career and touchdowns are inflating his stats. The safest option in the Green Bay offense is Davante Adams, but he comes with the not very safe price of a WR1. The passing yards from Aaron Rodgers will go somewhere. Pay attention during training camp, as the rookie that is most ready will be a good late round investment in your fantasy drafts. A poor investment would be Davante Adams who has to have his best season to reach his current ADP.
Robby Anderson, NY Jets
Holloway: Robby Anderson had his best season a year ago for the struggling Jets’ offense. Looking closer, he had two fewer catches than Jermaine Kearse and he had 12 more targets. Even though his felony charge of resisting arrest was recently dismissed, he carries that baggage heading into the 2018 season. The Jets drafted their potential long-term quarterback in Sam Darnold, but the team's offensive outlook entering this year is not ideal. Kearse remains with the team and Qunicy Enumwa, the team’s leading receiver in 2016 returns. None of these three stand out from the others and therefore none should be highly regarded this season.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay
Waldman: Evans is capable of top-five production at his position. At his best, he’s a vertical threat who wins with his size and long speed. He runs a sizable amount of routes that are slower developing, which makes him more reliant his offensive line. Julio Jones was the only option among 2017’s top-15 PPR fantasy receivers who has a similar build and role as Evans, and Atlanta’s offensive line is much better than Tampa’s. The Buccaneers have difficulty running the football, protecting the passer, and scoring in the red zone. Evans’ catch percentages inside the 20 (26 percent) and inside the 10 (11 percent) also reflect the struggles of a quarterback who must become more decisive and efficient in compressed areas of the field. Winston has a 45 percent completion percentage inside the 20 and a 31 percent rating inside the 10. Until Winston and the line improve, Evans doesn’t belong in the top tier.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona
Brimacombe: This will be year number 15 for Larry Fitzgerald and he looks to continue to produce at a high level for at least one more season. Fitzgerald is coming off of three straight seasons with over 107 receptions, 1,024 receiving yards, and 6 touchdowns. Fitzgerald turns 35 before the season starts and is showing no signs of slowing down. "I never really need to be rejuvenated," he said. "I love the competition. I love hearing people say 'he's 35, he's too old to do this still,' and me just continuing to do what I do. All that stuff motivated me.” With a healthy David Johnson back in the mix and the drafting of Christian Kirk, you have to think Fitzgerald’s usage and targets may take a dip.
Devin Funchess, Carolina
Bloom: Funchess was the No. 1 receiver for a stretch last year, and he even produced like one. Further in his favor is that he was playing through a shoulder injury for part of the season. Projecting him as the leading receiver this year is a different proposition, as Greg Olsen will be back, the team drafted D.J. Moore in the first round, traded for Torrey Smith, and still has Christian McCaffrey as the main target out of the backfield. Funchess could have some big games, but this isn’t going to be a pass-happy offense that can support four or five fantasy relevant targets. We know McCaffery and Olsen will be two of them. Betting on Funchess to be the third over Moore at ADP isn’t worth it.
Pierre Garcon, San Francisco
Wood: Garcon is a compiler. He ranks 78th among active receivers in fantasy points per target but has benefited from being on teams that force-fed him the ball. Last year was going to be more of the same because 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has a long history of overloading his top pass catcher. But an injury and the acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo changed Garcon’s fortunes, possibly forever. Garoppolo went 5-0 (for a team that struggled to win a game before his arrival) and was signed to a long-term extension. During that 5-0 run, Garoppolo found a go-to receiver, and his name is Marquise Goodwin. Goodwin was on a 93-catch, 1,229-yard pace playing alongside Garopollo. Why would Goodwin suddenly take a back seat to an average, aging compiler like Garcon? If Shanahan is the intelligent, analytical head coach everyone believes him to be, Garcon will be relegated to the WR2 role.
Kenny Golladay, Detroit
Howe: There’s so much to like about Golladay the prospect. He entered the league last year on the heels of wild collegiate production – 2,285 yards over 2 years, good for a whopping 40.8% of Northern Illinois’ yardage. He then showed generally well in athletic testing (a 4.50 40-yard dash and strong jump numbers at 6’4” and 218) and opened eyes as a prime mid-round target. After shredding his first preseason, Golladay caught 28 balls and 3 touchdowns as a rookie, scoring from 10, 45, and 54 yards out. Most importantly, he kept pace with Marvin Jones Jr in the Detroit pecking order: over the 10 games in which Golladay saw 35+ snaps, he finished with 45 targets to Jones’ 56. Any real uptick in attention should put him in position to draw 75-80, and that’s just a baseline – he has the upside to eat even more noticeably into Jones’ share if he’s progressing. Considering that Golladay produced 1.97 PPR points per look as a rookie, it’s easy (and fun!) to project him as a weekly WR4 at the moment and continue scooting him up the board over the course of the preseason.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati
Hester: As someone who has owned Green in many leagues over the past few years, it feels awkward to include him here. But his offense and quarterback are holding him back from reaching the ceiling that his talent suggests he has. That incredible talent makes it feel like sacrilege to write this, but Davante Adams is a player with a better combination of projected volume and a high ceiling due to his quarterback. If this were an attempt to be clever on Twitter about a Green-vs.-Adams comparison, I'd write "Aaron Rodgers," insert five-to-seven greater than' signs, then "Andy Dalton" and watch the likes and retweets pile up.
Chris Hogan, New England
Holloway: Chris Hogan has had several individual games where he starred with the Patriots, but in five NFL seasons in Buffalo and New England, he has never had more than 61 targets or 41 receptions. This year projects for more of the same as Hogan competes with Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Jordan Matthews, and others for Tom Brady targets. Hogan is a much more valuable NFL player than a fantasy option, other than best ball leagues.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston
Simpkins: Like his quarterback, Hopkins is due for some regression after catching 13 touchdowns last year, second highest in the league. It’s easy to forget when looking at Hopkins’ totals that many of the Texans’ ancillary targets got hurt and Hopkins was targeted at the highest rate in the NFL-- nearly 34 percent of the team’s passes were directed to him. With Will Fuller V, Bruce Ellington, the tight end group healthy, and deep speedster Keke Coutee added, Hopkins won’t get the volume that propelled him to finish as the top receiver in fantasy football.
Marqise Lee, Jacksonville
Holloway: Marqise Lee returned to the Jaguars signing a somewhat surprising four-year $38 Million contract with $18 Million guaranteed. The first caution flag is that Jacksonville will continue to be a run-centric offense (#1 last season) with a stifling defense (#1 last season) so the passing will not be the focus. The Jaguars finished 21st in passing attempts, 17th in passing yards and 20th in passing touchdowns. The second caution flag is that Blake Bortles remains the quarterback. The current wide receiver depth chart of Lee, Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and D. J. Chark doesn' seem to have a dominant player. Would anyone really be surprised by one or even two of these matching Lee’s production this year?
Jordy Nelson, Oakland
Bloom: Aaron Rodgers was able to generate fantasy value out of Jordy Nelson last year, mainly on the back of red zone involvement, and certainly as part of a long-time relationship on and off of the field that created chemistry and synchronicity. Now Nelson is in Oakland, with a new, inferior quarterback, and in an offense that is going to feature Amari Cooper in the passing game. The odds are against Nelson being worth a pick at ADP.
Adam Thielen, Minnesota
Pasquino: This may be an unpopular stance, but we may have seen the peak of Thielen’s fantasy production last season. While his season-long numbers were strong, looking harder at the last six games of the regular season (and two postseason games), Thielen had just one touchdown and one game with over 100 yards receiving. The NFL learns fast, and defensive coordinators adjusted quickly to Thielen’s emergence as a very capable wideout. Add in the return of Dalvin Cook to rekindle the Minnesota ground game and the change at quarterback to Kirk Cousins, and there are several possible paths to lower production for Thielen this season. For those reasons, he should be falling down your wide receiver draft list.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver
Hicks: Once a wide receiver reaches 30, you should re-evaluate where they sit in the fantasy community. Demaryius Thomas has a clear pattern of downward production since 2014. There is an obvious correlation to poor quarterback play, but at some stage, the spotlight must be put on Thomas. Players who also take up a large cap hit need to be examined as well, and with a $12 million cap hit this year, turning into $17 million next year, the cost to cut Thomas becomes a real issue. I expect this to be the last year for Thomas in Denver, and as such other younger receivers to take some of his playing time. The only hope for Thomas is a return to his 2014 form or the Broncos returning to the playoffs. Do not expect either.