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 3 Votes
Jared Cook, New Orleans
Drew Davenport: Cook's season was, believe it or not, a fairly typical Jared Cook season despite posting career highs across the board. He was explosive at times, and at others, he disappeared. He scored 193.6 PPR points on the year, but consider that 41.8% of his points on the year came in just three games against three of the worst tight end defenses in football. In his other 13 games, he topped 52 yards receiving just twice, had fewer than 4 catches 7 times, and fewer than 32 yards receiving in 9 of those games! While Cook certainly has upside based on talent and having Drew Brees as your quarterback, there is no evidence to suggest that the Saints will focus enough on Cook to make him a good pick at his current ADP.
Andy Hicks: Jared Cook continues his NFL tour of every franchise and at age 32, on his fourth team in five years he has the expectation of being a starting fantasy tight end. After his best season to date in Oakland, where he finally looked as good in the box score as he does on paper, he takes a risk in moving to New Orleans as Drew Brees career winds down. It will be difficult for Cook to achieve his draft slot, let alone approach it or even exceed it making him a hard guy to draft. No value and a high chance to disappoint means you should look elsewhere.
Justin Howe: Cook enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2018, catching a team-high 68 balls for 896 yards. Still, there’s a reason that happened on his fourth NFL roster, and that he wasn’t prioritized by a cap-rich Raiders team before leaving town. Cook has always been long on speed and athleticism, but short on consistency. Prior to 2018, he’d never caught 55 passes in a season, and he hadn’t topped 700 yards since 2011. Moving to New Orleans brings a quarterback boost, for sure, but it’s no longer the fantasy-friendly move it once was. Drew Brees has dropped back just 34.3 times over the past 2 years, fifth-fewest in football, as he’s leaned more heavily than ever on the Saints ground game and defense. Besides, Brees hasn’t targeted any of his tight ends much since Jimmy Graham left town. Since 2016, the team’s starter hasn’t topped 12.0% of team targets or 40 yards a game. Even when Ben Watson erupted in 2015, he drew just a 16.5% target share. His big fantasy line was a product of the Saints throwing the ball 667 times. Cook won’t enjoy anything close to that kind of volume in 2019, so even if he’s mega-efficient again, his upside is capped tightly.
Eric Ebron, Indianapolis
Phil Alexander: Jack Doyle is only one year removed from a cumulative TE6 finish in PPR leagues, and when he was active last season, Ebron exceeded four targets just twice in six games. The red zone chemistry between Ebron and Andrew Luck is real but Doyle and 6'4'', 236-pound free-agent signee Devin Funchess will cut into his workload when Indianapolis gets within striking distance. Ebron profiles as a high-volatility option you won't be happy to have in your starting lineup in the ~10 games he fails to score a touchdown. His upside is linked to Doyle missing significant time again and Ebron might even lose snaps to an improved Mo Alie-Cox this year.
Will Grant: It pains me to list Ebron as over-valued because I felt like he was a great value pick earlier this year. But the news on Andrew Luck isn't good, and it looks more and more like he may miss some time this season. That immediately bumps Ebron down toward the bottom of the TE1 group. Add in the return of Jack Doyle and more involvement from Mo Alie-Cox and it looks like Ebron is going from a sure thing to a possible backup as a fantasy tight end.
Ryan Hester: The anti-Ebron argument is an easy one: touchdown regression. Not only did he score at an incredible clip last season, but he now has more red zone competition and target competition on his team. Indianapolis acquired Devin Funchess this offseason, and Funchess is no slouch in the red zone with his huge frame. Jack Doyle had offseason hip surgery but should play more in 2019 than he did in 2018, where long stretches missed allowed Ebron to dominate tight end snaps and targets for the Colts. Similar production can be had later in drafts.
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia
Ryan Hester: There is a clear big three at tight end this year, but only Travis Kelce is worth straying from a sound positional scarcity strategy to draft a tight end early. Ertz has competition at tight end from someone on his team in Dallas Goedert. And Alshon Jeffery will also share red zone duties. Ertz is a difference-maker at the position, but the ability to find a diamond in the rough is easier at tight end than running back or wide receiver, so I’d prefer passing on Ertz and acquiring a cheaper tight end later.
Chad Parsons: Shooting the needle for an elite tight end season takes the perfect storm of healthy, usage, and touchdowns. Ertz set records for usage in 2018 with 116 receptions and a career-high eight touchdowns. However, Dallas Goedert is a developing star nipping at Ertz's heels and Ertz's yards-per-reception dipped to a career-low 10.0. The Eagles are loaded at the skill positions, including the additions of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, DeSean Jackson, Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, and a full season from Darren Sproles. The Eagles are poised to be one of the 'spread it around' offenses in the NFL, softening the top-two potential for Ertz.
Jeff Pasquino: Zach Ertz is a key part of the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense, and 2018 was his best season to date. Ertz broke the single-season record for receptions with his 116-1163-8 stat line that put Ertz in the Top 3 for fantasy tight ends for the second consecutive year. The problem with drafting Ertz as the second overall tight end and as a Top 25 pick is that there is not a lot of room for upside with a late second-round or early third-round selection. Ertz is also starting to get pushed for targets by his understudy, Dallas Goedert. There are a lot of targets for Philadelphia at both wide receiver and running back to compete with Ertz. There are also much better value plays (and sleepers) at the tight end position overall, so unless slides down to the fourth round or later it is likely better to focus on running back or wide receiver for the first three rounds.
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit
Drew Davenport: The rookie is certainly set up to succeed. The Lions invested significant draft capital in him and it'll be assumed that he is the starter to begin the year. The problem is that the Lions are likely to see a significant reduction in pass volume, and new coordinator Darrell Bevell is not big on featuring the tight end position. Hockenson could certainly carve out a role, but the history of rookie tight ends making a fantasy impact in year one is not a good one. It's doubtful that Hockenson bucks this trend, and the risk is too high because of his current draft position.
Will Grant: Best to just avoid the Detroit tight end situation this season. Hockenson and Jesse James will compete for the table scraps of the Detroit passing game. Even if Hockenson comes out as Detroit's top producing tight end, I don't see enough production out of him to warrant a roster slot in any redraft league format.
Jason Wood: Hockenson is as close to a can’t miss prospect as we’ve seen in a generation. Unlike most of today’s tight ends, Hockenson is a devoted and powerful blocker in addition to having a refined approach as a receiver. Unfortunately, he’s not going to help fantasy teams this year. Even all-time great tight ends rarely do much as rookies, and Hockenson has the chips stacked against him. Detroit’s offense has question marks, and they’re planning on running a conservative, power-running approach. Hockenson is going to be more valuable to the Lions as a blocker this year, than a playmaker. Hockenson could be the most valuable offensive rookie in real football terms, but it would take a small miracle for him to justify a top-12 fantasy draft pick.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Evan Engram, NY Giants
Daniel Simpkins: It’s difficult to select an overvalued tight end because, at current ADP, they all seem fairly priced. The only one that stands out as potentially being a bad deal is Engram, due to the likelihood of rookie signal-caller Daniel Jones starting at some point in the year. Engram may get more targets as his quarterback uses him as a safety valve, but the quality of those targets will likely be very poor.
Noah Fant, Denver
Jason Wood: Fant was overrated as a prospect, and shouldn’t have gone ahead of Irv Smith in the April draft. He’s an oversized receiver, and that rarely translates into NFL success in spite of our biases to the contrary. When I watched Fant at Iowa, I saw a kid who could win off his athleticism but wasn’t as polished a route runner as his teammate T.J. Hockenson, and he was a liability as a blocker. The Broncos may have no choice but to play him given their depressing depth chart, but betting on rookie tight ends is always a risky bet, even if they’re skilled enough to play all downs and distances. Fant is more Mike Gesicki than Travis Kelce. Remember that.
George Kittle, San Francisco
Jeff Pasquino: George Kittle had an outstanding 2018 season (88-1377-5), setting the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end. Some of the reason that Kittle was so productive was the lack of alternative targets for the 49ers in the passing game, along with instability at quarterback. Kittle more than doubled every San Francisco wide receiver in receptions (Kendrick Bourne had 42, tops at WR for the 49ers) and nearly tripled up all the receivers in yardage, as no wideout topped 500 yards for the season. With Dante Pettis’ strong second half (he was WR11 from Weeks 12-16) and the return of Jimmy Garoppolo, the passing game dynamic is ripe for changes. Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard focused on their safety valve – Kittle – and did not target the wide receivers as much. The passing game under Garoppolo will likely spread the ball around more this year, which will limit Kittle’s upside to a lower level than last season.
Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh
Justin Howe: Traditionally speaking, there’s just not a lot of tight end volume in this Pittsburgh offense. Dating back to Heath Miller’s retirement in 2016, they’ve targeted the position at a modest 17.8% clip, and no one has topped 50 receptions in a season. Yes, Antonio Brown vacates about a million targets, and that could certainly drive up McDonald’s share. But it’s also safe to assume the Steelers will throw considerably less after 713 attempts last year. Besides, it’s unlikely McDonald is just the transcendent talent they’ve been waiting for. Last year, in his true breakout season, he failed to top 50 yards in any of the team’s last 10 games. The oft-injured McDonald has also never played a full season, averaging just 12 over his 6 seasons. McDonald isn’t a bad play by any stretch, as long as he’s drafted appropriately, on speculative value. Those chasing him into the Hunter Henry/Eric Ebron range, though, are likely overpaying.
Greg Olsen, Carolina
Andy Hicks: Greg Olsen is at an age where injuries, loss of playing time and diminishing skills get even the best of them. Olsen has missed 16 games in the last two years with chronic feet injuries that should limit his playing time in this his likely final season. Carolina does have the luxury of budding talent Ian Thomas to help smooth the transition for the Panthers and Olsen’s mentorship will be just as important as any contributions he has on the field. Expecting Olsen to be a consistent fantasy presence is placing too much emphasis on nostalgia and not enough on likely 2019 outcomes.