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 players and identify players that should underperform their draft position.
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Player Receiving 8 Votes
Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh
Mike Brown: Green is still working his way back from ankle surgery, and there's no guarantee he'll even be ready to play come Week 1. As if that's not enough, he leaves the team where he failed to produce when they had an actual need for a playmaker, and joins a team that honestly doesn't really need a whole lot out of him. If the Steelers were to find out he wasn't suiting up this year, it probably wouldn't affect their plans all that much. There are just too many other weapons there for him to be really relevant, and he's almost undraftable at this point.
Dan Hindery: There are conflicting reports as to whether it is an ankle injury or serious concussion concerns keeping Green out of uniform for the Steelers. Either way, it is hard to invest a mid-round pick on Green at this point. Not only are the health issues a major concern, but also Green has not had an opportunity to build any chemistry with his new quarterback this offseason. Green has always shown flashes of serious potential, but for whatever reason has not been able to translate his raw skills into consistent production. It doesn't make sense to gamble on Green finally putting it all together when there are other talented tight ends with similar upside and far fewer concerns (Martellus Bennett and Antonio Gates for example) going in the same range of the draft.
Stephen Holloway: Ladarius Green signed a four-year $20 Million contract with only $4.75 Million in guarantees with the Steelers in March. He is a much more athletic tight end than the recently retired Heath Miller and presents match-up problems and the ability to go deep. However, he caught only 77 passes in his four years with the Chargers, with his career high of 37 coming last season. Even if he returns to health after missing most of the pre-season, he will have a lot of competition for targets with Antonio Brown being in Roethlisberger’s comfort zone and the Steelers have two great receiving running backs.
Chris Kuczynski: This really seems like low hanging fruit to not to rank Green very high in your draft. I wasn't buying into the hype that he could jump right into the Steeler’s offense and be a solid TE1, just because he hasn't shown the ability to be a key contributor to an offense with all of his opportunities to do so in San Diego. Now that we are hearing he is having lingering concussion symptoms that may cause him to miss time or even go on IR, Green is a player that is easy to avoid. It may be wise to take him off of your draft board all together.
John Mamula: Ladarius Green is completely off my draft board until he can get back on the field. Green underwent ankle surgery during the offseason and there is still no timetable on his return. Recent reports have come out that he has been suffering from severe headaches. Too many question marks to trust at his current ADP. Let somebody else take the risk on Green unless he gets back on the field.
Daniel Simpkins: This selection is low-hanging fruit, but needs to be made anyway for fantasy owners who are still drafting Green in the 10th round or earlier. Green currently is in the concussion protocol after experiencing lingering symptoms from a concussion he suffered last year. This casts a shadow of doubt over Green’s career. He could exit the game much in the same way Jahvid Best did a few years ago. Until we know more one way or another, we need to hold off on taking Green except perhaps as a late-round flier.
Matt Waldman: As I mentioned in the segment about Antonio Gates, Green never overtook Gates because he's not knowledgeable enough about defensive coverages and finding open zones. He's also missed a ton of offseason time to gain rapport with Ben Roethlisberger. I don't think Todd Haley will adjust his scheme to Green's strengths and taking him anywhere ahead of the 6-10 tight ends listed behind him seems foolhardy. He's a great athlete but not a good tight end. At least not yet.
Mark Wimer: Green is off my tight end boards as he looks like he is banged up again. He hasn't practiced with his new team due to some combination of a nagging prior injury and (rumored) migraine headaches - whatever his malady is, the fact is that Jesse James has worked with the first team throughout camp and preseason while Green has been on the trainers' tables. James is the starting tight end for Pittsburgh, folks.
Players Receiving 4 Votes
Gary Barnidge, Cleveland
Mike Brown: Barnidge had one of the more unexpectedly huge seasons in recent fantasy history a year ago. He helped many an owner who were stung by Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, and company. That said, a lot of his production had to do with the fact that the Browns were out of weapons. Duke Johnson Jr was just a rookie, Josh Gordon was suspended, and the weapons stable was largely bare. There are a number of reinforcements in Cleveland now, and Barnidge's targets will likely suffer a lot as a result.
Chris Feery: Gary Barnidge was one of the bigger fantasy surprises of 2015, and that’s led to some serious optimism for his prospects for an encore in 2016. The Browns have installed a new offense courtesy of head coach Hue Jackson, and the club will see a new quarterback at the helm in the form of Robert Griffin III III. Barnidge may very well still have a big role in 2016, but the Browns went out of their way to load up on wide receivers in this year’s draft, a serious sore spot for the team in 2015. Those receivers were not selected to merely be window dressing, and a returning Josh Gordon will only further cloud the target distribution picture. In short, those expecting another season of Top 10 tight end production out of Barnidge may be disappointed with this season’s output, but you could do much worse for a TE2 on draft day.
Justin Howe: He was a fine 2015 story and truly played well, but Barnidge just doesn't fit the profile of a guy likely to repeat – and therefore worthy of his 8th-round ADP. Barnidge is an oft-injured 31-year-old who'd never topped 13 catches in a season. It seems likely his 2015 breakout came mostly from a thin receiving corps and his resultant connection with Josh McCown. With a new quarterback, coaching staff, and dynamic supporting cast now in place, Barnidge may not see more than half his 2015 target total. He's priced at his absolute ceiling, and well ahead of guys with much higher ones.
Jeff Pasquino: I am avoiding everyone on the Cleveland Browns’ offense this year (again). Even though Barnidge had a stellar year in 2015 (79 catches, 1,043 yards, nine touchdowns), the Browns once again face issues with their offense and, in particular, their quarterback situation. Barnidge is going to be the top receiver for Cleveland, but unless the Browns improve the running game and under center, defenses are going to do everything they can to blanket Barnidge and force the ball elsewhere. I expect Barnidge to perform as a lower-end TE1 in 2016 and not be worth his current ADP.
Coby Fleener, New Orleans
Sigmund Bloom: Fleener is inheriting a role that was good to Ben Watson last year, but he is also competing with rookie sensation Michael Thomas for targets in the middle of the field. Two of Watson's three best games last year came when Marques Colston (whose spot Thomas should take) was out, and the third was a 52-49 shootout when everyone got fed. The tight end wasn't as consistent as Watson's year-end numbers suggest, and Fleener is a "work in progress" so far in Saints camp, suggesting that he could have trouble getting a full complement of snaps if he doesn't improve in all aspects of the game. He is being drafted near his ceiling at a position full of values this year.
Ryan Hester: Recent reports have suggested that Fleener is still a work in progress. On an offense captained by Drew Brees, the ball will find its way to the players who are where they are supposed to be. Players like Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead IV have experience in the offense, and rookie Michael Thomas (who is slated to be the “big slot” in New Orleans, a position that shares middle-of-the-field targets with the tight end) is drawing rave reviews as well. There are plenty of other options I’d rather take at tight end while scooping up value at other positions in the middle of the sixth where Fleener is going.
Justin Howe: I get the appeal to Fleener, and I own some shares myself. Judging by Ben Watson's 2015, his ceiling is high in a dynamic offense heavy on touchdown opportunity. But it's important to note the differences. Watson was a dependable all-around veteran of 12 seasons and saw 85% of Saints snaps last year. Fleener, a notoriously inconsistent player, has never topped 68% of team snaps. He's rarely much of a blocker and only sporadically effective as a receiver. The team kept Josh Hill on board, who fits more with Watson's skill set and has dominated in the red zone thus far. He'll certainly steal snaps, especially if Fleener's reported camp struggles continue.
Matt Waldman: He's lost in Saints camp and Drew Brees has proven that he doesn't need a great tight end to thrive. If his ADP as no earlier than the 10th round, I'd take a chance on him figuring out soon but not as the fifth tight end on this list.
Jimmy Graham, Seattle
Chris Kuczynski: The severity of the patellar tendon injury Graham suffered last season casts a shadow on what his expectations should be coming into this year. Very few, if any, athletes return to preinjury form. If you also factor in his place in this Seahawks offense where he was misused last season, it may be a stretch to recommend him as a TE1 even if fully healthy. As it stands now with doubts that he will be ready to play at all to start the season, he should be looked at more as a late round flier than a player who will be a staple in your starting line.
John Mamula: Jimmy Graham is completely off my draft board this season. The patellar tendon rupture is one of the most difficult injuries for a football player to return from. It is near impossible for a WR or TE to regain their explosiveness or power after this type of injury. Until Graham proves me wrong, I will let somebody else take the risk of drafting him.
Mark Wimer: The fact is that far more NFL players have had their careers seriously degraded/ended by patellar tendon ruptures than those few who have come back to be productive after this particular injury/surgical repair. Graham may well begin the season on PUP, and then have to work his way into 'football shape' midway through the season. IF he is progressing well in his rehab during training camp and looks close to returning to the field I may move him up somewhat, but I'm not hopeful this will happen.
Jason Wood: Drafting Jimmy Graham is akin to forgetting that 2015 ever happened. Graham tore his patellar tendon in Week 11 and was lost for the season. Our injury experts Jene Bramel and Craig Zumsted are doubtful that Graham can return to form; at least in the early part of the season. Optimists will point to other players who returned from a torn patellar tendon to thrive thereafter…except THERE ARE NONE. And it's not as though Graham was lighting things up before his injury. He had 41 receptions for 491 yards and 2 touchdowns in 10 games.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee
Phil Alexander: Tight ends being drafted inside the top 150 players appear priced correctly for the most part, so it's tough to peg one as overvalued. While I'm not necessarily opposed to Delanie Walker's sixth-round ADP, I'll list him here for two reasons. First, his TE5 finish from last season was largely due to his 133 targets, which led all tight ends. Walker may very well still lead the Titans in targets this season, but he'll have more competition than last year when Kendall Wright only played 10 games and Harry Douglas was the team's WR2. Both Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe represent upgrades at wide receiver for Tennessee and Wright will presumably be over his latest injury (hamstring) sometime soon. Second, to take Walker in the sixth round, you're forced to pass up several running backs and wide receivers who profile as every week starters. As just one example, the drop off from Jeremy Hill in the sixth round to Ameer Abdullah in the eighth is much larger than the difference between Walker in the sixth and Gary Barnidge in the eighth.
Ryan Hester: Walker's 2015 season was buoyed by a huge target share on a team with unproven and unimpressive wide receivers. This season, the team has said they plan to run as often as game script will allow, which should hurt Walker. Even if you're of the mind that they will be a poor team again and will have to throw more often than they desire, Walker is joined by an emerging Tajae Sharpe and free agent signee Rishard Matthews. Kendall Wright and Harry Douglas are also still in town. I'd prefer Gary Barnidge if you're looking for a tight end that has little target competition on a bad team or Julius Thomas for his red zone acumen, both of whom are being drafted later than Walker.
Andy Hicks: Delanie Walker easily had the best year of his 10 year NFL career to date by topping 1000 yards in 2015. He earned a nice extension, but the details are interesting. It was essentially a 1 year contract extension that allows the Titans to move on from him with ease after this season. He will be 32 by the time the season starts and history is unkind to aging Tight Ends. I would rather pick a player with upside at the position than go with a guy that could find the cliff quickly. The direction the Titans are moving in seems to be trending to running the ball. Let someone else take him.
Jeff Pasquino: The Titans are expected to be very run-heavy this coming season, which really limits the upside for all Tennessee receivers. Walker had over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns last year, but expecting him to approach those marks again this coming season may be an overestimation. Let someone else grab Walker in the Top 7-8 picks and target lower options on your draft board for a much cheaper price.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati
Stephen Holloway: There is concern about Eifert’s recovery from his May ankle surgery. He might miss a few games. Even if he can return early, he could be limited initially. After scoring only 2 TDs in 16 games over his first two seasons, he scored 13 TDs in only 13 games last year. The expected reduction in touchdowns along with his off-season surgery is enough to slide him slightly back.
Devin Knotts: Tyler Eifert’s suffered an ankle injury in the Pro Bowl that has limited his ability to participate in training camp, and he is still being taken as the seventh overall tight end this season. Injuries are not a new thing for Eifert, as in his three-year career he has missed 19 games including all but one game in 2014. While the consensus is that he will likely miss a few games to miss the start of the season, most are thinking that this will only be one or two games. What isn’t factored into his draft value is a possibility of a setback and the injury continuing to drag on and either keep him out or limit his ability throughout the season. At this price, there are many great tight ends around him who will be more consistent throughout the season.
Jason Wood: He's missed 19 games in three seasons, and we have no idea whether Eifert is on track to return early in the season, as he's been sidelined since May ankle surgery. Combine that with the loss of Hue Jackson, and Eifert is too risky to pay his current price.
Greg Olsen, Carolina
Andy Hicks: The two major risk factors for Greg Olsen this year are the return of Kelvin Benjamin and his advancing age. Olsen took full advantage of the absence of Benjamin last year to post career highs in receiving yards and fantasy ranking. Benjamin returns however and at age 31 there is no way that we can see any improvement in Olsen this year. More than likely he will be on a decline. Maybe a steady one, maybe a steep one. His current draft slot expects him to do better than he did last year. A tall order indeed. Jump off now before it is too late.
Ari Ingel: Greg Olsen, Panthers – Olsen is a great player and certainly one of the leagues best tight ends, but last season he was essentially the only game in town in this passing attack. With Kelvin Benjamin back from injury and second year player, Devin Funchess, "light years" ahead of where he was as a rookie, there are going to be more mouths to feed in this offense. Once again, I like Olsen, but I'd rather wait a few rounds and grab Travis Kelce, Coby Fleener or a number of other tight ends later.
Chad Parsons: Like Doug Martin of the running back position, Greg Olsen is the tight end priced at his absolute ceiling this season. At TE3, Olsen is valued with the same principles as a year ago – a season where Kelvin Benjamin missed the year and Devin Funchess was a rookie with his head swimming. Both wide receivers seeing an uptick from a year ago means a much lower ceiling and floor for Greg Olsen this season.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Rob Gronkowski, New England
Sigmund Bloom: It pains me to type this, but Gronkowski is not worth a first-round pick this year. The pack is catching up to him at tight end. The Patriots added Martellus Bennett, who could cut into his red zone targets and otherwise give the Patriots' quarterbacks another viable middle of the field target. If you take Gronkowski in the first, you forgo any falling values at the position (including Bennett) and lose a layup elite WR/RB in a very deep first round at both positions.
Devin Knotts: Rob Gronkowski is currently being selected as the first tight end off the board and the 12th player overall. The issue with Gronkowski this season is that there is no discount for Tom Brady missing the first four games of the season and with Gronkowski’s injury history it makes it difficult to select him as your team's first selection. Gronkowski is preparing to play the first games in his career without Brady so there is a significant risk especially since he is not practicing much in the Preseason. Adding to the fact that Gronkowski has missed at least one game in each of the last four seasons there are five games that have a severe risk for the first round tight end. There needs to be a discount for the risk, and currently, there is not one thus creating a situation where Gronkowski is overvalued.
Julius Thomas, Jacksonville
Cian Fahey: A fully healthy and fully fit Julius Thomas is a very valuable player. That Julius Thomas didn't exist in 2015. He appeared to eat his signing bonus before suffering an injury to start the season. Believing in Thomas is believing that he didn't lose motivation after cashing in during free agency. Even if you believe that, he will still be competing for targets with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee while Chris Ivory steals touchdown opportunities in the redzone.
Daniel Simpkins: Thomas has been on the injury report for much of his career, including missing five games last year. He has yet to play a complete season entering the sixth year of his career. When Thomas was healthy, Bortles arguably preferred to target Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns over Thomas in red zone work. With options like Gary Barnidge, Martellus Bennett, and Dwayne Allen, all being selected a round or more later, it makes more sense for owners to pass on tight end and take another position in the eighth round.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Martellus Bennett, New England
James Brimacombe: We all love the idea of the Patriots in two TE sets but drafting Bennett at his current ADP of TE14 just doesn’t feel right for me. There is no secret that Rob Gronkowski is the best TE in the league and possibly ever in the NFL, he is still going to get his targets and maybe Bennett will help Gronkowski have a little more room on the field.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City
Jeff Haseley: Owners who drafted Travis Kelce last year found themselves struggling to find consistency and likely snagged another tight end off the waiver wire (Gary Barnidge, Ben Watson). If Kelce didn't see a change in volume or production with Jamaal Charles out of the picture, why should we expect him to rise to the occasion this year? Kelce is a decent tight end, but the position of where he's being drafted doesn't equal his production. I'm passing on Kelce in most leagues, focusing on other players with more upside or higher expected value.
Jordan Reed, Washington
Will Grant: Jordan Reed was huge value last season, especially for DFS players. This year he’s everyone’s ‘sleeper’, and people are over-paying for him in PPR leagues. Reed has an ADP that puts him just at the top of the 4th round, and the #2 fantasy TE off the board behind Rob Gronkowski. Reed’s going to be a good pick this season, but you can find a lot better value at the top of the 4th round.