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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.
Player Receiving 5 Votes
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville
Ryan Hester: It wasn’t long ago that Jacksonville and Fournette were headed for a messy divorce. Fournette was suspended in Week 13 last year, and the team told him that suspension voided some bonuses in his contract. There were also reports that Jacksonville would “blow up the roster” this offseason prior to Fournette meeting with team brass to clear the air. On the field, the situation isn’t great either. The offense should improve, but it won’t be a top-notch unit. And Fournette isn’t the greatest pass-catcher. The team also brought on Alfred Blue and drafted Ryquell Armstead. Let someone else draft the fantasy headache that comes with Fournette.
Andy Hicks: Leonard Fournette was not the back the Jaguars wanted him to be in 2018. Many questions come up when evaluating his prospects this year and beyond, but the number one concern is resilience. Does he want to play the game? Can he play injured? Can he get out of the coaches and admin staff doghouse? The team has assembled a veteran group behind Fournette, along with a fifth-round rookie should Fournette disappoint. Another concern of mine is his paltry rushing yards per attempt. Runners that fall backward in their second year don’t generally tend to come good. If there is evidence that 2018 was a blip, then we can adjust accordingly. Until then he becomes one of the biggest risks you can take in 2019.
Justin Howe: Fantasy players have struggled with Fournette over his two years in the league. He’s flashed as a volume producer and touchdown scorer, but the sheer week-to-week uncertainty can be crushing. Fournette has lost 11 games over his first 2 seasons to various injuries (as well as a team suspension in 2017), and he always feels like a roster risk not quite worth the investment. A true size/speed specimen coming out of LSU in 2017, Fournette has yet to show much explosiveness on the NFL field. Over 21 games, he sits at just 3.7 yards per carry, and he’s topped 4.0 in just 6 of those. He doesn’t break off big runs, and he plays in a shaky offense that doesn’t provide much touchdown opportunity. Fournette will need his health, focus, consistency, and team to all click at once, or he’ll struggle to produce the RB1 upside many drafters are expecting.
Daniel Simpkins: Fournette hasn’t proven he can stay healthy for a sustained period of time and the team is still very bad offensively, even with the addition of Nick Foles. Also, remember that Fournette mentally checked out from the team last season and was reportedly very close to being traded. The odds are against Fournette being worth his current ADP.
Jason Wood: It’s hard to find something encouraging in Leonard Fournette’s NFL tenure. He’s been suspended by his team, and he had his contractual guarantees voided. The Jaguars owe him nothing if they decide enough is enough. Meanwhile, he’s also struggled to stay on the field, and his pounding style doesn’t bode well for future durability. The addition of Nick Foles should help, but this is still a challenged offense with no proven receivers or tight ends. As if that weren’t enough to worry about, the Jaguars hired George Warhop as their new offensive line coach – and he’s been the statistically worse O-line coach in the league over the last decade.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Kareem Hunt, Cleveland
Clayton Gray: If someone told you about a backup running back who was playing behind a three-down stud of a starter, would you be interested? If someone told you about a backup running back who was going to a new team and did really know what his role would be, would you be interested? If someone told you about a backup running back who was definitely going to miss half the season, would you be interested? Since those questions are all about the same running back, why is anyone interested?
Ryan Hester: Hunt is a great talent on an ascending offense, but he’s suspended for eight games. For those in leagues with rosters sizes exceeding 20-22 places, he might be worth stashing because it won’t impact those fantasy managers’ ability to plug a viable alternative into their lineup. It also won’t hurt their ability to work the waiver wire since wires are thin in leagues that deep. But for the typical league with a 16-18 player roster size, it’s not optimal game theory to stash Hunt because the opportunity cost of an early-season waiver pickup is too much to swallow. Besides, trying to ascertain what Hunt’s role will be on a new team with half of a season missed is a fool’s errand.
Andy Hicks: Why anyone would consider Kareem Hunt in 2019 is beyond me. It is not a two-game suspension or four, it is eight. Who has the roster space to take that dead weight? He does not come back until week 10, which is almost fantasy playoff time. Will he have remained trouble-free? Will other players have filled in nicely in his absence? What condition will he be in? Truth is Cleveland can cut bait with him at any time, so if he is on your fantasy waiver wire approaching his return and Cleveland look like they could use him, sure take a chance. Using a pick, let alone one in the first ten rounds is a sure-fire way to waste roster space.
Aaron Jones, Green Bay
Drew Davenport: It's easy to pile on Mike McCarthy and his failure to use Jones more often last year. But it may just be that he didn't feel comfortable that Jones could handle a heavy workload. Jones' history suggests that this idea has some merit. He lost his entire 2015 season in college to injury, and then as a rookie in 2017, he sprained the MCL in both knees. He then dealt with a hamstring issue in training camp in 2018, and then ended his season with another MCL injury. That makes just one healthy season in his last 4 years of football. Follow that up with the early news out of Packer camp that Jones is dealing with another hamstring issue yet again. The upside from his talent and the Green Bay offense are undeniable but don't forget that Head Coach Matt LaFleur has stated that he sees some type of committee in the Packers' backfield. All of this leads to Jones being overvalued at his current ADP.
Andy Hicks: Aaron Jones had a great half-season last year and looked good in parts during his rookie season. Despite clearly looking better than Jamaal Williams, Mike McCarthy split carries between the two. In comes a new coaching regime and it is widely presumed that Jones will be a starting fantasy back. One thing we’ve seen with new coaches though is the certainty that the roster is turned over reasonably quickly and despite the talent of Jones, coaches seem to have trouble trusting him. Whether Jones survives and is productive or not remains to be seen, but at his current asking price he is a bigger risk than people are factoring in.
Jason Wood: Aaron Jones is being touted as a potential top-10 breakout this year. Anything is possible, but the assumptions underlying the optimism are flawed. Jones’ impressive 5.5-yard career rushing average is most often cited in his defense, but as Footballguys own Adam Harstad has shown time and again, YPR is the most overrated statistic in football. What I care about is the opportunity, and Jones was never trusted enough to touch the ball more than 10-12 time per game. It would be one thing if the new coaching staff was talking a big game, but Matt LaFleur has said he plans on splitting touches between Jones and Jamaal Williams. Unless Williams gets hurt, Jones should be a solid RB2 this year, at best.
Phillip Lindsay, Denver
Daniel Simpkins: Lindsey’s wrist injury gave Royce Freeman an opportunity for extended first-team work. Freeman has been impressing behind a blocking scheme that is a better fit for him than what Denver ultimately implemented last year. Lindsey’s workload will not be what it was last season and his production is just not sustainable given that fact.
Matt Waldman: A good gap-scheme runner with excellent speed, Lindsay made the most of his rookie opportunity after a strong camp and Royce Freeman’s high ankle sprain that plagued Freeman for much of the season. Lindsay will not only see reduced playing time as the Tevin Coleman of this offensive scheme—something the coaching staff alluded to—but he’ll also have to split that Coleman role with Theo Riddick, one of the best receiving backs in football. With Riddick suffering a broken shoulder blade, Lindsay should earn a significant role early on. Even so, counting on Lindsay to reprise RB1 production in a Denver offense with a healthy Freeman running in a scheme better-suited for Freeman is too optimistic.
Jason Wood: Lindsay was the most surprising fantasy star in 2018. An undrafted rookie standing 5-foot-8, and weighing 190 pounds should not be capable of a 1,200-yard, 10-touchdown season. But it happened. And it may happen again, but I have my doubts. Royce Freeman, unlike Lindsay, is built for an every-down role. And Freeman is healthy after a high ankle sprain put him behind Lindsay twelve months ago. With a new blocking scheme this year, it plays into Freeman’s bulkier, one-cut-and-go skillset. As if that weren’t enough red flags, Lindsay has a wrist injury that’s cost him the entire offseason. Drafting Lindsay expecting a repeat of 2018 is ripe for disappointment.
Damien Williams, Kansas City
Will Grant: A bit of a reversal for me as I had Williams as one of my value plays earlier this summer. Kansas City has announced that they'll go RBBC this year and expect to cap Williams at 20 touches or so per game. That bumps him down about a round from his current ADP and he's someone you should still target, but more at the end of the 3rd, top of the 4th round range now.
Chad Parsons: Williams has never strung together much of a profile of extended work in the NFL. The Chiefs added Carlos Hyde and Darwin Thompson of note in the offseason. Williams is priced near his ceiling considering his risk of losing the job, being the pass-centric part of a committee, or any injury opening the floodgates for other backs to emerge and Williams not getting the job back.
Matt Waldman: There’s a bad narrative flying around that Andy Reid is a feature-back coach. Name a coach who wouldn’t be a feature-back proponent with peak-LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles as your starter? You can’t. Reid used a committee prior to McCoy and after Charles got hurt and then before he drafted Kareem Hunt. After Williams initially earned the starting role as a feature back this spring, Reid changed his mind this summer and decided on a committee. Williams has great timed speed and good size but he’s no more than a competent runner between the tackles. He benefited from a productive stretch run against run-friendly teams, a difficult red-zone offense to stop, and opponents that typically yield points to check-down receivers. Most of all, he benefited from a bare depth chart. Carlos Hyde and Darwin Thompson are playing well enough to change that dynamic and usurp Williams’ touches from all angles.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
LeVeon Bell, NY Jets
Ryan Hester: Bell is one of the most versatile players in the NFL. But his situation doesn’t match his current draft position. At the height of his powers, Bell was worth the overall No. 1 running back selection. This season, he’s still being selected as a high-end RB1 despite the following: he’s going from a Hall of Fame quarterback to a second-year passer; instead of running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines, he’ll be behind a unit that is middling at best; and he could be rusty after sitting out an entire season.
Jeff Pasquino: Asking a running back that has not played a game since January 2018 to be a Top 10 player for 2019 is a high bar to clear. Assume that Bell is 100% ready to go and will not skip a beat – which is the best-case scenario. He now joins a New York Jets team that is expected (again, best case) to win 8-9 games – or about 2-4 fewer wins than Bell normally would get as a member of Pittsburgh. Looking back at Bell’s career, his fantasy production dropped 20% (10% in PPR) in 16 regular-season losses since 2014. Even in the best case of an 8-8 season for the Jets, Bell’s upside as a Top 5-10 back appears to have a much lower likelihood of happening as compared to his downside risk for his first season after such a long hiatus.
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia
Daniel Simpkins: Watching tape shows Sanders’ potential, but he probably has a year or two of work to do before he reaches it. Also, add the fact that Philadelphia does not seem to have the tendency to commit to one back in the backfield and you have a vastly overvalued rookie player that likely will be one we want to cast back to the waiver wire at some point in the season.
Matt Waldman: The idea that running backs are unskilled labor is a pervasive theme among fantasy football analysts and players because of the intuitive and athletic facets of the position. Because there is a lot more to the position than most people attribute. This overvaluing of athletic ability leads to rookie backs generating immediate and unearned draft value in fantasy leagues. Devontae Booker, Ronald Jones, and Bishop Sankey are recent examples. Sanders has skills to develop into a quality NFL running back, but having faith in a player who fumbled every 34.6 touches as a collegian is misplaced. Sanders must prove he can hold onto the ball, pass protect, and make wiser decisions between the tackles before valuing him ahead of the underrated veteran Jordan Howard and the rest of the veteran backs on this roster. Head coach Doug Pederson has already stated as much about Howard’s ball security and pass protection.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Saquan Barkley, NY Giants
Jeff Pasquino: No place better to start than at the top of the list. Barkley is viewed as the top pick (overall), but there are several reasons to be concerned. The Giants could easily implode this year, as Eli Manning struggled last year and rookie Daniel Jones could see action sooner rather than later. The supporting cast is also thinner with Odell Beckham Jr now in Cleveland. Barkley is a three-down back and can produce as both a rusher and a receiver, but the run game could be minimalized in the second half of contests where New York trails, which is likely to be more often than not this season.
Tarik Cohen, Chicago
Dan Hindery: The Bears clearly felt Jordan Howard was too one-dimensional, as evidenced by their trading him for a late-round pick despite his bargain contract. Third-round rookie David Montgomery is more well rounded, doing much of his best work as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Free-agent signee Mike Davis is also an excellent receiver. With three above-average pass-catching backs on the roster, it is easy to envision Cohen’s targets decreasing by one or more per game. If we assume fewer touches, Cohen doesn’t project to significantly outscore other change-of-pace running backs like Nyheim Hines or Duke Johnson Jr and those two are going many rounds later.
James Conner, Pittsburgh
Jeff Pasquino: James Conner inherited the lead back role last year with LeVeon Bell’s season-long holdout, and for that reason alone he was an immense value. Conner started the season strong with five 100-yard rushing games in his first eight contests, but he failed to achieve that level after Week 9. Conner’s 13 touchdowns were also mostly in the first half of the season (nine touchdowns from Weeks 1-9, just four afterward). Throw in the departure of Antonio Brown and factor in that the Steelers led the league in pass attempts last year and there are several paths to disappointment with Conner’s performance for this coming season.
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota
Chad Parsons: Cook has missed significant time through two seasons and still has interior running question marks to his game. The Vikings drafted Alexander Mattison, whose strength is as an inside runner, on Day 2 where teams project starter upside (or expectation) during their rookie contract at a minimum. Mattison is a threat to Cook's workload, touchdown upside, and lead role if another injury shortens Cook's availability in 2019.
Melvin Gordon, LA Chargers
Phil Alexander: A holdout with a chance to last well into the season is the obvious problem with drafting Gordon but hardly the only one. It's hard to escape the memory of watching him limp to the finish line on two bad knees last season. He's now missed at least two games in three of his four career seasons, and last year's injuries occurred while the Chargers were curbing his touches a bit. Gordon's 18.75 total touches per game represented a three-year low and 12% decline from 2017. It wouldn't have been shocking if capable backups Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson were called upon more this season to keep Gordon fresh, and that was before considering the potential effects of a missed training camp.
Darrell Henderson, LA Rams
Drew Davenport: Despite recent news that Henderson is struggling with the Rams' blocking schemes, his ADP is still way too high. He's being drafted as either a high-end handcuff or a running back with some stand-alone value at the back of the roster. The problem is that he's not likely to be either. The Rams matched an offer sheet on Malcolm Brown to keep him, and he is in his third year in Sean McVay's system. Assuming Los Angeles tries to limit Todd Gurley's touches, the hope for Henderson drafters is that he has some stand-alone value as a change of pace back. The alternative is that Gurley loses a significant portion of the season. In the first situation, Henderson isn't going to see enough work to be a consistent producer for what he's costing in drafts. And in the second situation, Brown still lurks as the early-down and possible goal-line back if Gurley weren't around. It's still very hard to justify Henderson at his current ADP.
Jordan Howard, Philadelphia
Drew Davenport: While Howard ended the year in Chicago in the respectable territory with his final numbers, he was a nightmare to own in 2018. Between fumbling, poor hands in the passing game, and a committee with Tarik Cohen, Howard was impossible to count on from week to week. In 2019 he goes to an even worse situation. Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson is fond of the committee approach to his backfields and Philadelphia decided to draft the exciting rookie Miles Sanders as well. Howard certainly has a path to fantasy relevance, but his consistency is likely to get worse in 2019 rather than better. Even at his deflated ADP, he's likely to disappoint.
Mark Ingram, Baltimore
Dwain McFarland: The Ravens have moved to a multiple personnel approach on offense. In 2018 the team regularly worked three backs into the mix. Even when injury struck, they stuck to this approach. First, it was Alex Collins, Javorius Allen, and Gus Edwards. Then it became Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon, and Ty Montgomery. The most likely scenario for Ingram is taking on the role Edwards played down the stretch – the hammer. That will be worth about 40% of the rushing attempts per week on a big rushing attempt volume team. Unfortunately, Lamar Jackson is going to vulture looks near the goal line, and Kenneth Dixon and Justice Hill are viable pass-catching options. Ingram’s weekly application on the field is limited and not worth a fourth-round pick.