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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
Drew Brees, New Orleans
Drew Davenport: There certainly has been some correction this offseason with his ADP as he's no longer in elite territory. But even so, it's not low enough to take a quarterback who is essentially a platoon player at this point in his career. While he had big games at Atlanta (dome), and at Cincinnati (historically bad defense), he was pedestrian or downright awful in most other road games. Additionally, the New Orleans defense played poorly to start the season and when they improved as the season went on the Saints offense was what Sean Payton wanted it to be - a rushing offense. Brees will still have his big weeks, but he's a pass at his current ADP.
Ryan Hester: Toss aside his advancing age and the team’s move towards a more balanced approach in recent years. Brees is overvalued because of fantasy football game theory. Why draft a quarterback in the 8-12 range who will finish in the 8-12 range when you could draft a quarterback 16th or later who has top-six upside? We see those kinds of finishes every year with quarterbacks. Even if a QB16+ leap of faith falls short, there are other options via the draft and waiver wire to dig fantasy GMs out of the shallow hole.
Dan Hindery: Brees is slightly overvalued because the age-related risks of a steep decline are not fully priced in. After a hot start in 2018, Brees only produced QB2 numbers from Week 4 on. He faded especially hard down the stretch, throwing just three touchdowns total after Week 12. The late-season swoon could have just been a blip on the radar but it is more of a red flag considering Brees turned 40-years old in January. There is no reason to shoulder the age-related risks with Brees considering the strength of the younger quarterback options in the same part of the draft.
Justin Howe: Brees remains one of the NFL’s most efficient passers, but he’s no longer much of a fantasy consideration. There are big games here and there – particularly in strong home matchups – but on the whole, Brees no longer separates himself from the QB2 pack very often. Over the last 2 years, the New Orleans offense has slowed considerably (just 20th in total snaps) and thrown a lot less (28th in dropbacks) than fantasy players are used to. Reputation and a handful of juicy Superdome matchups keep Brees in the QB1 range of drafts, but there’s much more upside – and similar floors – to guys that last even further.
Russell Wilson, Seattle
Drew Davenport: If you watched much of the Seattle offense last year you saw them run the ball relentlessly and unimaginatively. Despite doing so, Wilson's final fantasy finish was impressive. Although he took a step back in the rushing department, his passing efficiency was responsible for his final numbers. He is a strong candidate for regression, and fighting the Seattle offensive tendencies and statistical probability is not interesting where he's being drafted.
Ryan Hester: Wilson could be the poster boy for multiple regression arguments this season. His team ran the ball 52.8% of the time last season (the second-most run-heavy team ran the ball 48.5% of the time). So one might think that Wilson will be a better fantasy performer if Seattle passes more often. But that individual hasn’t accounted for the other regression argument. Wilson threw a touchdown on 8.2% of his attempts last season. His career rate before last season was 5.7%. So even if the team passes more, the touchdown regression should counteract the added volume. Another item to consider for Wilson’s fantasy outlook is that he only had 67 rushing attempts last season. He had averaged 96 per year prior to that. Wilson has always been an efficient runner, so the lost rushing production has to be considered for this year’s outlook.
Justin Howe: Wilson continues to draw ADP love based on his strong touchdown output over the last two years. But chasing touchdowns from year to year is a fool’s errand, especially in lower-volume offenses. Wilson is fresh off a year in which his 8.2% touchdown rate Wilson had found the end zone on just 5.0% of throws over the previous two years, so it begs to be seen as an outlier. Not to mention, drafters tend to over-credit his rushing production. Wilson certainly adds a fantasy element on the ground, but not to the degree that Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen does. Over the last 3 seasons, he’s taken just 10 rushes from inside the 10-yard line – fewer than even Christine Michael did as a Seahawk.
Jeff Pasquino: Russell Wilson can easily produce Top 10 quarterback numbers, as he has done each of the last six seasons, but there is a lot of downside risk for Wilson entering 2019. First, Wilson barely made it into the Top 10 last year, as the Seahawks focused towards a ground game as their primary mode of offense. Now Wilson’s top wide receiver from the past few seasons (2014-2017), Doug Baldwin, has retired, plus Wilson is rushing less and less as he ages. Wilson certainly has the talent to warrant a Top 10 pick and can perform as such, but the likelihood that Seattle gives Wilson enough passing plays to perform as QB10 or better this year is relatively low.
Player Receiving 3 Votes
Kyler Murray, Arizona
Andy Hicks: Kyler Murray is about to get tested. The number one overall pick has landed with a high reputation but has an inexperienced coach and a basic offense planned. The potential for high-level failure is there for all to see. Murray does have the skillset to transcend the NFL, but does he have the mindset that would be required to go along with it? How will he react to failure? How will his body react when that reputation of being elusive meets the NFL? To me, his height is the least of his worries. This is a tough business and there is no coronation for anyone. I will let others fall for the hype and the upside. Let’s see what he does once the season starts.
Matt Waldman: An example of the difference between theory and practice, Murray’s current value is definitely a projection from the theorist camp of analysts. And there’s a compelling argument from the theorists for Murray: 1) Kliff Kingsbury has studied Murray and creates offenses that will match Murray’s strengths. 2) Murray has big-play ability as a thrower and runner. 3) The Cardinals defense will likely force the Cardinals offense into a lot of garbage-time or catch-up football that benefits Murray’s fantasy production. In practice, the Air Raid scheme isn’t a new and magical scheme for the NFL and it still requires a quality offensive line and wise signal-caller to execute. More practical fantasy players will bet on Murray having a run of strong fantasy starter production, but not without one-third to one-half of a season where the rookie and his surrounding talent struggle.
Jason Wood: Like my friend Flavor Flav says, “don’t believe the hype.” I’ve never seen the fantasy community romanticize a situation as much as they have with the Cardinals and the Air Raid. How many times have we seen a productive college system fail miserably at the next level? It’s not that the Air Raid can’t succeed, but it takes personnel and coaching. There are no short cuts. In Arizona, we have a head coach with no pro experience who couldn’t win consistently at Texas Tech. We have a franchise quarterback three inches shorter than my son – a high school junior – who wasn’t considered an NFL prospect 12 months ago. Murray’s height may (and I emphasize may) not be an issue, but his frame certainly is. The Cardinals had the worst offense in football last year, and yet people think Murray can be a top-10 fantasy commodity? Good luck.
Player Receiving 2 Votes
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland
Andy Hicks: Baker Mayfield is likely to have a rising cost as the preseason continues. Caution should be advised. Not only do we have the difficult second-year situation, but he has a rookie head coach, high expectations and chemistry that may need time to come together. In his rookie season, he showed poise, skill and that unquantifiable “IT” factor that elite quarterbacks have. Whether it all comes crumbling down in a heap as it usually does for Cleveland remains to be seen. Mayfield has an improving group of options at his disposal, but how will they play as a unit under Freddie Kitchens? How does expectation meet reality once we get to live-action? The Browns play both Super Bowl teams, three other sides with a winning record and two teams expected to improve rapidly to start the year.
Jeff Pasquino: There are very high expectations of the Cleveland offense this season. Odell Beckham Jr has been added as the new top wide receiver, along with the addition of Jarvis Landry. Both receivers should complement starting tight end David Njoku and lead tailback Nick Chubb, who will also be joined by Kareem Hunt for the second half of the year. All of these talents give Baker Mayfield plenty of options in the passing game, and the young and talented signal-caller enters his second season as the clear starter. The issue is that there is not a lot of upside to Mayfield if a Top 50-70 pick has to be invested to obtain his services for your fantasy team this season. The difference in taking any Mayfield and a lower-tier quarterback much later in drafts projects to be only 1-2 fantasy points per game, which is far too expensive a price to pay.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Josh Allen, Buffalo
Phil Alexander: Allen is a tough player to rank. He went on a tear for fantasy purposes down the home stretch of last season but owed his success almost entirely to his willingness to take off running any time his protection broke down. It's a game plan that never seemed sustainable, and Buffalo's off-season moves -- retooling the offensive line, signing Cole Beasley and a cavalcade of running backs -- seem to agree. Take away a significant portion of Allen's rush attempts and we're left with a 52% passer who threw more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (10) as a rookie. There will be some spike weeks due to Allen's rushing ability, cannon arm, and dangerous deep receivers (John Brown and Robert Foster), but he can't be counted on from week to week as more than a low-end backup.
Tom Brady, New England
Will Grant: Someone in your league will be a Patriots fan and take Brady as their starting quarterback this season. It's going to happen - you can bet on it. But Brady is a different quarterback without Rob Gronkowski and his stats are going to take a hit. Right now Brady's going well ahead of guys like Kirk Cousins and Lamar Jackson - both of whom should post higher stats that Brady by the time the season is over. Let someone else take the risk - there are plenty of other guys to have on your team.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota
Matt Waldman: An important aspect of fantasy performance is weekly consistency. While difficult to predict it, we can examine past outcomes and in this department, Cousins isn’t good. Despite earning nearly 4,300 yards and 30 touchdowns last year, half of his games amounted to fewer than 250 yards and he was the 19th-ranked fantasy quarterback after Week 12. In fact, the one consistent thing about Cousins has been his fantasy playoff slumps. From 2016-18 Cousins has averaged 223 yards, 1.5 touchdowns and 0.8 interceptions between Weeks 13-16. Last year, Cousins took the shine off Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen—one of the best receiver duos in the NFL. If you believe you can use him as a committee option and guess his down weeks, be my guest. I don’t like that kind of guessing game.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis
Jeff Haseley: When healthy, Andrew Luck is one of the better quarterbacks in the league in terms of ability, preparation, and decision-making. Having said that, his calf injury is worrisome and may affect his ability to perform at 100% if it lingers into the regular season. Provided there is no further injury, he could have a challenging first few weeks of the season or longer.
Patrick Mahomes II, Kansas City
Jeff Pasquino: Patrick Mahomes II was a dominant performer at quarterback last season, and he carried many a fantasy team to championships last year – but there are many reasons to pass on Mahomes. He requires a Top 50 pick, which is much more expensive than last season. Taking Mahomes as the first quarterback off the board makes sense, but the price that must be paid requires giving up on another Top 50 RB, WR or TE. Mahomes would have to be the QB1 again by a wide margin to justify that early of a pick. Lastly, there are several high caliber quarterbacks that can be selected much later in fantasy drafts, so once again this season the recommendation is to pass on drafting a quarterback in the first 7-8 rounds.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Jason Wood: Why are we sure Rodgers has top-three seasons left in the tank? Sure, he was the No. 1 fantasy quarterback in 2016, but he was 10th the year before, 31st in 2017, and 7th last year in spite of playing all 16 games. I realize we’re all excited to see Matt LaFleur replace Mike McCarthy, but LaFleur is no sure thing. He hardly impressed last year in Tennessee and before that was an acolyte of Sean McVay. Who’s to say the pupil can replicate the teacher? Between Rodgers’ injury history, an uncertain change in scheme, early reports that Rodgers and LaFleur are butting heads over the right to audible, and an uncertain receiving corps beyond Davante Adams, there’s no way I’m paying Rodgers’ current price tag.
Deshaun Watson, Houston
Daniel Simpkins: Watson is a fine talent with great weapons. Yet among all the quarterbacks being drafted around him, his offensive line is by far the most suspect. He was sacked a whopping 62 times in 2018 and played with a partially collapsed lung. The Texans drafted two offensive linemen with early picks, but rookie offensive linemen seldom hit the ground running in terms of protecting the quarterback and providing better protection than their predecessors. Injury is tough to predict, but one has to push the likelihood of injury higher than that of his peers in the same ADP range when one considers these factors.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay
Andy Hicks: The arrival of a new coach in Bruce Arians for Jameis Winston could be a massive boost for his career or the end of a chapter. Those with him on their roster need a more stable choice should this go wrong. He has shown elite talent at some stages and poor decision making at others. Youth or a clear pattern is the key question. The only surprise will be if Winston is average this year. It is likely to be boom or bust. No one is going to be firing up the start Ryan Griffin or Blaine Gabbert train anytime soon, but the Bucs will be brutal on his starting time if he cannot stop stupid turnovers.