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
Antonio Brown, Oakland
Will Grant: We will have a whole roundtable -- which will be posted on Thursday evening -- on what people are thinking about Brown this season. My main issues with him are that the Raiders are not the same as the Steelers at just about every position that matters for a wide receiver. Derek Carr is not Ben Roethlisberger and that's going to lead to a disappointing season for Brown.
Ryan Hester: The narrative is right for Brown to have a big season. He’s coming off a year that some would call a “down” one (touchdowns notwithstanding), and he’s on a new team trying to prove to the world that he was right for forcing his way off his old team. But the more concrete items work against Brown. Besides the feet and helmet drama, there’s a fear of the unknown with a new offense, he’s on the wrong side of 30, and Oakland’s philosophy under Jon Gruden last season was originated in the Stone Age. At this point in the draft, selecting a younger player on a better unit feels more comfortable than taking Brown.
Andy Hicks: With all kinds of weird reports coming about Antonio Brown's feet, following years of diva behavior, it is time to be very cautious about Brown in 2019. After five consecutive seasons as a top-three fantasy receiver, he is now in Oakland. Expecting this level of dominance on a new team, with a new quarterback and at age 31 is placing ridiculous expectations on the former Steeler if he is right to go. Add in temperament concerns, gelling with his new teammates and Oakland's tough traveling schedule and the makings are there for a massive drop in production. Hope for the best, but expect a significant downturn in production.
Daniel Simpkins: The more Oakland’s offense is examined, the more convinced we should become that Jon Gruden is going to make the running game, and particularly Josh Jacobs, the focal point of the offense. Brown’s ceiling is much lower than when he was with the Steelers. With fewer quality opportunities, he will not reach the statistical heights of the players that are being drafted around him at current ADP. Add in the recent news about his frostbitten feet and he just seems to be a player we should all be avoiding this draft season.
Jason Wood: Antonio Brown hasn’t had to play many games without Ben Roethlisberger under center, which is a big reason why Brown is on a Hall of Fame trajectory. In games where Roethlisberger hasn’t been Brown’s signal-caller, the enigmatic receiver has pro-rated at less than 70 reception, less than 1,000 yards, and has never caught a touchdown pass from someone else. If that’s what the Raiders have to look forward to, Brown will be an unmitigated disaster. The reality lies somewhere in between – Brown won’t be as good in Oakland, but Derek Carr will be functional enough to get him better numbers than a past-his-prime Michael Vick did a few seasons ago. Either way, Brown has a ceiling in Oakland that belies his ADP, and that’s before accounting for the bizarre situation with his feet that’s keeping him from practicing in training camp, and building a much-needed rapport with his new supporting cast.
Player Receiving 3 Votes
NKeal Harry, New England
Devin Knotts: Harry has a significant amount of talent, but the reality is that history and recent events have major red flags for this season. The reality is that rookie wide receivers have a difficult time adjusting to New England's offense. In college, Harry had drop issues which we have seen pop up early in camp, and now we have seen Harry miss practices which is not helping his case. The team brought in Cameron Meredith last week which adds a veteran presence in the locker room and shows that they aren't completely comfortable with the guys they have. Harry is a clear avoid for me at his current price.
Matt Waldman: Harry has fantasy WR2 upside this year, but much depends on his ability to handle option routes with Tom Brady and how he'll be deployed in an offense that lost some of its top supporting talents in the passing game. Harry's ability to separate at the NFL level will be a lingering question mark until he proves otherwise. He's quicker-than-fast and his techniques off the line are often sloppy. Considering that New England already has a slot option in Julian Edelman, Harry may have to spend more time on the perimeter where he hasn't been as effective during his college career.
Jason Wood: Bill Belichick is the greatest coach ever, but he’s not infallible. Bethel Johnson. Chad Jackson. Brandon Tate. Taylor Price. Aaron Dobson. All are former high draft picks by Belichick whose careers were, shall we say, forgettable. That doesn’t mean Harry is doomed, but it does mean we can’t assume greatness simply because of the landing spot. Harry also got off to a rough start in OTAs, which isn’t a death knell save for the fact he has to win over Tom Brady, who at this point in his career has zero time or patience for developmental players. I can see Harry being productive this season, with some maturation and seasoning, but drafting him at his current ADP requires a productive start – and that’s unlikely.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Amari Cooper, Dallas
Ryan Hester: Cooper finally flourished after being traded to Dallas last season. But his production there seemed a bit fluky. First of all, it was a small sample size with only a portion of the year played in Dallas. Secondly, he had plenty of big plays despite a low average depth of target and huge chunks of yardage after the catch. Cooper’s first game in Dallas was Week 9. From that point on, he ranked fifth among all receivers in PPR points per game despite ranking 21st in total air yards and 14th in percentage of his team’s air yards. The fantasy community has seen over the last couple of years that air yards are a good predictor of future success. Cooper’s elite half-season happened despite a lack of elite air yards numbers, suggesting that it could be difficult to duplicate.
Jeff Pasquino: The Dallas Cowboys are a run-first team, led by Ezekiel Elliott’s performances. Dallas would much rather ride their workhorse back (and strong defense) to a weekly victory than to try and have Dak Prescott try and win a game by airing it out each week. While it is clear that Cooper was a big factor once he joined Dallas last year (76 targets over nine weeks, resulting in 51-724-6), but teams are going to be much more focused defensively on Cooper for this coming season. Dallas’ passing attack will have plenty of question marks with Cole Beasley gone and an un-retired Jason Witten coming back to steal red-zone targets. Investing in Cooper to be a WR1 means banking on a 1,000-yard season with near double-digit touchdowns for Cooper, which looks like a lot to ask.
Will Fuller, Houston
Matt Waldman: Although something most fantasy players won't notice because of Fuller's injury history, Fuller has developed into an excellent route runner. If he can stay healthy, he should earn career highs this year in a passing offense loaded with talent. If you fear soft tissue injuries from Fuller, you'll be staying away from him unless you can get him at a discount. I fear the injuries and it’s why I have Fuller lower than most.
Jason Wood: Fuller hasn’t finished inside the Top 40 at his position in three seasons, yet fantasy managers fawn all over him every draft season. His supporters argue Fuller need only finally stay healthy to become a fantasy star. He’s only appeared in 31 of 48 regular-season games in three years and tore his ACL last October. Labeling someone injury prone can be tricky but Fuller certainly pushes the limits. Even if you think Fuller finally stays healthy, his value is overrated. In two seasons playing with Deshaun Watson, Fuller ranks 27th in fantasy points per game. A respectable ranking, sure, but not high enough to bet on his health. Fuller also needs to contend with a healthy Keke Coutee this year. Let others pass on Fuller and focus on Coutee a few rounds later.
Tyler Lockett, Seattle
Jeff Pasquino: Tyler Lockett enters 2019 as the clear top wide receiver in Seattle, which was likely the case even before Doug Baldwin’s surprising retirement this off-season. Seattle is focused on running the ball more than most teams in the league today. Such emphasis results in less opportunity for all members of the passing offense for Seattle, which is one reason Russell Wilson’s projections (justifiably) are held down for 2019. Lockett’s WR11 status for last season was inflated due to his very high touchdown-to-catch ratio (10 to 57). The touchdowns pushed him into WR1 status, but double-digit scores on fewer than 70 targets is extremely rare (he is only the third wide receiver since 1992 to have 10 or more touchdowns on less than 70 chances). Lockett’s value is heavily skewed by touchdowns, making him far better in best-ball leagues than as a weekly WR2, where solid production each week is paramount.
Jason Wood: Touchdowns are the most volatile factor in fantasy value, and Tyler Locket is 2019’s poster boy for negative regression. Lockett finished as WR11 last year in a most unusual manner; doing it off less than 100 targets and 1,000 yards. To score ten touchdowns on 57 receptions is highly unusual, and historically unsustainable. To think Lockett will replicate his low-end WR1 ways this year requires a belief he’ll see increased target share. Yet, the Seahawks are among the most conservative teams in football. Russell Wilson isn’t going to suddenly throw the ball 600 times. Meanwhile, Lockett benefitted from a lack of alternatives but this year the Seahawks brought in a younger, stronger, faster version of Lockett in rookie D.J. Metcalf. Metcalf may not be a star in Week One, but he is capable of displacing Lockett atop the depth chart in short order.
Courtland Sutton, Denver
Ryan Hester: Sutton is a talented player, but when he had a chance to get the biggest piece of the team’s target share last season, he failed. And Sutton likely won’t be the No. 1, as it appears that Emmanuel Sanders is on track to start the year on the active roster despite an Achilles tear last season. Sanders is a more accomplished player, and new quarterback Joe Flacco has a history of adapting to new veteran receivers and building rapport quickly. Even if Sanders isn’t fully healthy and Sutton leads the team in target share, how efficient will targets be in a middling offense from a middling-to-bad Flacco?
Matt Waldman: My concerns with Sutton last year were routes and technical details with his hand usage at the catch point. Both issues held Sutton back from better production last year despite massive hype that was mostly unfulfilled. Until we see early returns from his offseason work, I'm not moving him up my board. Although Joe Flacco is a veteran, he’s also a low-producer among fantasy quarterbacks and his addition doesn’t automatically help Sutton’s cause as a fantasy option.
Golden Tate, NY Giants
Andy Hicks: The Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles didn’t think that Golden Tate, at age 31, was worth even a token contact and were happy to move on. The Giants, on the other hand, threw the checkbook at him and Tate was signed to a four-year deal. Someone here made a mistake and my money is on the New York team. He is essentially locked into the team for two years given the contract specifics, but with a likely handover at quarterback and roster turnover imminent, the exact role that sees Tate as a worthy fantasy selection seems difficult to see. Tate has moved from a consistent 90+ catch a season guy to a guy that barely featured in the box score by the end of the season. A prospective four-game suspension only makes things worse.
Dan Hindery: Heading into 2019, Tate looks like the type of player who can provide replacement-level fantasy without much hope for more. In the last four seasons, Tate averaged just 10.6 yards per reception and scored a touchdown on only 3.6% of his targets. He needs to be peppered with targets to have any real fantasy value and it is hard to see that happening. The Giants offense is centered around Saquon Barkley, both as a runner and receiver (121 targets last season). With Tate past his prime (he turns 31-years old in August), improving young talents like Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram should match or exceed Tate’s share of targets as well. Tate should be the fourth target in a bad offense. Factor in the four-game suspension and Tate’s ADP looks especially crazy.
Adam Thielen, Minnesota
Drew Davenport: Through seven games last year Thielen averaged a ridiculous 12.7 targets per game, and he ripped off seven straight games of over 22.8 fantasy points (PPR) in his first eight. But over the final nine, he averaged just 7.1 targets per game and he went from the overall WR1 to WR7 by the end of the season. That's not to say that this is a poor overall finish. But he failed to eclipse 38 yards in 4 of his final 9 games, hit 100 just twice, and ranked as the WR19 over that stretch. Head Coach Mike Zimmer was not happy with how much his offense was throwing the ball early in the year, and he moved to correct this by replacing his offensive coordinator and handing the ball to his running backs at a much higher clip to end the year. This is not to say that Thielen is a poor fantasy asset. The problem is that he's still being drafted near his ceiling based off his torrid 2018 start, and if the 2019 Vikings run the football like they want to, he won't have the opportunity to come close to his lofty ADP.
Jeff Pasquino: There is no question that Adam Thielen got off to a red-hot start last year, opening up 2018 with eight consecutive 100-yard receiving games. The problem was his second half of the year, where only once he was able to top that mark. His splits are abysmal for the second half of the season, where he averaged less than five catches and 60 yards per game with only three touchdowns (his first half averages were 9.25 receptions, 115.6 yards along with six total scores). Thielen is a forced pairing with Kirk Cousins’ performance numbers as well, which should also give fantasy team owners something to think long and hard about. Couple all of the above with Minnesota wanting to give Dalvin Cooks and rookie Alexander Mattison more chances this year and Thielen’s numbers on 150+ targets from 2018 could easily go down this season.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Corey Davis, Tennessee
Drew Davenport: There isn't much to get excited about when it comes to Corey Davis in 2019. He is a talented receiver who has an immense ceiling in the right situation. But despite boasting a 26% target share in 2018 he posted just 65 receptions and a putrid 58% catch rate. These are numbers that are mostly attributed to a poor Titans offense and a mediocre quarterback situation. Oddly, a switch to Ryan Tannehill at some point could give Davis more stability. But in the end, with the Titans run-heavy scheme and a shaky offense he's just not worth the ADP currently attached to his name.
Julian Edelman, New England
Andy Hicks: Into his eleventh NFL season, it is being presumed that with the departure of Rob Gronkowski that Edelman becomes the safety valve and only reliable receiver for Tom Brady. That is a dangerous assumption to make. Now aged 33, playing a role where he takes an absolute beating, his ADP expects him to perform to a level he has not achieved in his career to date. His best fantasy finish is as the 18th ranked receiver and his lack of touchdowns and receiving yardage severely cap his fantasy numbers. Unless he falls in drafts, he should be ignored for players with much higher upsides.
Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay
Chad Parsons: The formula for Godwin to take a substantial step forward in 2019 is historically a dicey one. Typically the formula is a clear WR1 for a team with an average or better NFL quarterback or the WR2 with minimal competition for targets attached to an elite quarterback and/or passing game. Godwin has neither as O.J. Howard returns from injury and may very well be the No.2 target in Tampa Bay, not Godwin. Also, Mike Evans is the unquestioned WR1 and, without a prolonged injury, Godwin has minimal chance to supplant Evans. Both are roadblocks to Godwin unlocking a new level of production in 2019 making him a clear avoid candidate in drafts.
Kenny Golladay, Detroit
Drew Davenport: Golladay enjoyed a breakout season of sorts in 2018. He benefited greatly from Golden Tate being traded during the year and the loss of Marvin Jones for half the season, but there were signs he was ready to take the next step before either of those occurred. Even so, he finished just WR21 and was prone to disappear at times. Anyone taking Golladay at his current ADP is betting that he can take another step forward this year, and that new coordinator Darrell Bevell will make him more of a focal point in the red zone than his running mate Jones. While both of those are possible, taking Golladay where he's going now is asking for everything to line up perfectly to justify the cost. In what could be a low volume pass offense owners can find a better gamble.
Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia
Drew Davenport: Admittedly Jeffery's ADP isn't outrageous for his accomplished career. Despite missing the first 3 games of the season he still managed a decent final finish in fantasy points scored. But he is prone to completely disappearing in this offense and is too often an afterthought. From Week 8 through Week 14 last year (7 games), Jeffery failed to top 50 yards receiving one time. He had a string of five straight games below 9 fantasy points. Now the Eagles brought back DeSean Jackson, and Dallas Goedert has another year in the system. Asking Jeffery to beat his numbers last year is a stretch, and that's what his current ADP is asking you to do. It's even somewhat likely that his numbers will decline, and when he was not start-worthy in almost half of his games last year the cost is just not worth it.
Cooper Kupp, LA Rams
Andy Hicks: Cooper Kupp looks like a vital cog in the Los Angeles Rams passing attack, but his current draft slot is ridiculous. Both Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks are the clear main threats, while the presence of Kupp allows them to be at their best. Kupp will have good days, but coming off an ACL tear and seeing fewer targets than the other receivers mean he has an almost impossible chance of giving back those who draft him a fair return.
Dante Pettis, San Francisco
Will Grant: Pettis is in a full-blown competition for the top wide receiver spot in San Francisco right now. If he can take a step forward in his progress, he should finish with a decent season, but his current ADP has ranked as a receiver who will contribute as a flex or WR3. I think that's pretty generous for a guy who may not even be his team's top receiver. His ADP is really too high for me right now.
Sammy Watkins, Kansas City
Jeff Pasquino: Sammy Watkins’ value is intrinsically tied to how much utilization he will see for the Chiefs for this coming season. In 2018, Watkins was only on the field for roughly 50% of the Kansas City offensive snaps (462 snaps for Watkins, as compared to 1,034 for QB Patrick Mahomes II). The results were marginal production (40-519-3 and 5-52 rushing), but most of the positive outlook for Watkins for this coming season was related to Tyreek Hill’s status and potential suspension in 2019. With more and more news coming that Hill will miss fewer games than expected, Watkins’ is far less likely now to be the top receiving option for Mahomes beyond a handful of contests.
Tyrell Williams, Oakland
Phil Alexander: Per Pro Football Focus, Derek Carr threw a deep pass on 9.2% of his attempts in 2018, the second-lowest rate of any quarterback who attempted at least 400 passes. Why exactly should we be drafting Williams ahead of upside receivers in great offenses like Tre'Quan Smith and Donte Moncrief when he's a deep-ball specialist paired with a quarterback who petrified to throw the ball downfield?