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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
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland
David Dodds: Baker Mayfield had plenty of highlights in his rookie season including setting the NFL record for most touchdown passes by a rookie. In 2018, the Browns needed that kind of production. Mayfield had 134 attempts while trailing big and amassed 1,086 yards and 8 touchdowns in those situations. 293 of 486 pass attempts were while the Browns were losing. With a better team, he might not be asked to do as much. He is currently being drafted at or near his ceiling.
Will Grant: This one probably deserves an asterisk because by the start of the season, Mayfield could be on the value plays list. Hot off the news that the Browns signed Odell Beckham, Mayfield shot up draft boards and was going as the #3-#4 quarterback off the board for a time. Then reality set in and people began to realize that he’s only in his second season and this team will need some time to gel. His ADP has come down a bit, but he’s still going much higher than he should in many leagues. Mayfield is near the bottom of the starting fantasy quarterback tier, but still has a lot of weapons around him. Come training camp, if he’s working well with the team, he could move back to a value play if people continue to fade him.
Ryan Hester: It’s easy to want to be excited about Cleveland’s offense, and all roads lead to Mayfield. Head coach Freddie Kitchens brings excitement but also brings continuity after taking control last season following the firing of Hue Jackson. And the acquisition of Odell Beckham fans the flames of hype. But there is proven upside in veterans like Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton available later. Mayfield has top-three quarterback upside, but if he is already being selected in the Top 7, there’s better equity elsewhere.
Chad Parsons: I am one of the biggest Mayfield proponents out there, dating back to his Oklahoma days. However, the Browns (specifically on offense) are being anointed as the next great thing for 2019 a la the Rams and Chiefs previously. Mayfield may very well meet or exceed expectations, but there is plenty of downside with Mayfield at his current ADP. Odell Beckham was added, but the offense featured a short-game-centric Jarvis Landry and a raw David Njoku previously. Will the coaching staff foster Mayfield into an elite producer in Year 2? Will Mayfield's personality blend well with the not-always-an-in-line-solider Beckham? Mayfield is priced more at his ceiling than close to his floor for 2019.
Jeff Pasquino: There are very high expectations in Cleveland this season. Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt for the second half of the year will 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 one or two fantasy points per game, which is too expensive a price to pay. As for many seasons now, it is better to pass on the first several quarterbacks to address other positions early and then simply add value quarterbacks in the second half of the draft.
Players Receiving 5 Votes
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 pass on 8.2% of his pass 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 three seasons, he’s taken just 10 rushes from inside the 10-yard line – fewer than even Christine Michael.
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.
Matt Waldman: One of the best quarterbacks in the game, the fantasy football community has been several years late with recognizing Wilson’s value. Now that the Seahawks have become a run-heavy offense and lost Doug Baldwin, fantasy players will be late to realize the difference between efficiency and production. Wilson had tremendous efficiency in terms of yards per attempt and his ratio of touchdowns to interceptions. However, there were 20 quarterbacks with at least 14 starts in 2018 with more passing attempts than Wilson. The addition of D.K. Metcalf will allow the Seahawks to move Tyler Lockett to the slot, but the remaining personnel on the perimeter are boom-bust vertical receivers. Wilson’s No.10 fantasy performance last year was his ceiling in this offense, not his floor.
Kyler Murray, Arizona
Will Grant: A rookie quarterback with some young wide receivers, and a Hall of Famer who is probably in his last season and you have a mix that I don’t see turning into fantasy gold. Next season I can see Murray being my starting fantasy quarterback. But not this year. He’s being drafted well before I’m comfortable taking him this season and a solid training camp will only make it worse.
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.
Maurile Tremblay: I don't doubt Murray's skills as a passer or (especially) as a runner. I think his long-term fantasy prospects in Kliff Kingsbury's offense are excellent. I just think relying on him to produce immediately as a rookie is more wishful thinking than rational expectation. The new offensive system will have some kinks, and his receivers consist of one declining veteran (Larry Fitzgerald has clearly lost a step and speed wasn't his greatest asset to begin with) along with numerous unproven youngsters. It's not an ideal situation for immediate fantasy success.
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 the 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.
Players Receiving 3 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.
Dan Hindery: It is hard to find too many faults with the current quarterback ADP but Brees does look slightly overvalued as a top-10 quarterback. 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.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay
Jeff Haseley: Jameis Winston has accuracy concerns and ball security issues and he has not finished above QB18 in two years. I'm not convinced Bruce Arians will change that. It's not that long ago that we thought Winston was done in Tampa Bay due to his struggles as well as off the field issues. There are other quarterbacks I'd rather select than Winston at his current ADP.
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 Blaine Gabbert train anytime soon, but the Bucs will be brutal on his starting time if he cannot stop stupid turnovers.
Maurile Tremblay: Last year Winston started the season with a suspension and then took a while to get going, but he closed out the season very strong in his last six games and now gets to run a Bruce Arians offense. I have him rated as a decent fantasy starter.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Jared Goff, LA Rams
Ryan Hester: The motivation here might be more personal taste than analysis. His offensive line won’t be as good this season after losing two starters, and the threat of a running game might be less impactful with Todd Gurley’s bulky knee. But the real reason for selecting Goff here is that drafting quarterbacks in the QB8-14 range is rarely an optimal fantasy strategy. Quarterback streaming allows for fantasy managers to shoot for the moon and select a player who they hope will be a top-3 performer. And if he’s not, they can use the waiver wire to simulate top-10 production. Goff will likely be a top-12 quarterback, but that will include weeks outside the top-18. When drafting quarterbacks, draft expected consistency earlier or cheap upside later. Fantasy managers know what they’re getting with Goff, and they should be wise enough to know they can do better earlier or approximately the same later.
Jason Wood: Jared Goff was exposed in the Super Bowl. Badly. He’s not an elite quarterback, although he doesn’t need to be most weeks thanks to a stellar supporting cast and the best head coach in football not named Bill Belichick. While I’m not suggesting Goff isn’t a capable fantasy starter, I am suggesting his upside is limited and his cost uncompelling. The more film people have on Goff, the more worried I get about his week-to-week fantasy relevance. Not to mention a concerning thinning of the Rams offensive line this offseason. Do yourself a favor and either draft a real stud earlier, or wait and take someone like Kirk Cousins many rounds later.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Tom Brady, New England
James Brimacombe: Brady is a legend in every single way but he is a legend who is also entering his 20th season. He finished 2018 as the 12th ranked fantasy quarterback and went on to win the Super Bowl once again. The times have changed in New England and now with Sony Michel, James White, and Damien Harris the Patriots are wanting to have a more balanced attack and run the ball more. With the quarterback position so deep this season there is no need to take a shot on Brady when you can look elsewhere for higher upside plays at the position.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco
Devin Knotts: It’s hard for a quarterback who is the 19th quarterback off the board to be considered overvalued, but here we are. Garoppolo came to San Francisco and started off with a bang as he averaged 336 yards passing in his first three games as a 49er. Since then, however, things have not been so great for Garoppolo as he is averaging just 250 yards and has nine touchdowns to six interceptions over that timeframe. He is now coming off of a torn-ACL, in a year in which the 49ers have a potential out of his contract which would save the 49ers $75M over the next three seasons. This is a 49ers team that has one of the weakest wide receiving groups in the NFL, so it is difficult to see Garoppolo turning this around and being a reliable QB2 which is what you would be drafting him to be.
Cam Newton, Carolina
Andy Hicks: The success of Cam Newton as a fantasy quarterback continues to be tied to his running ability. With a serious shoulder issue, one has to wonder how ready and able he will be to play at his best in 2019. As we saw with Andrew Luck setbacks are devastating. He will now be over 30 as well, meaning his days of running could be a serious issue. He hasn’t developed into an elite passer and into his ninth season, we have to presume he never will. The drafting of Will Grier gives the Panthers backup long term, but there are warning signs everywhere that Newton could drop precipitously from fantasy reckoning. He is in the final year of a contract as well, which will make it easy for the team to move on should he struggle again.
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.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta
Phil Alexander: Ryan finished as the QB3 last season and returns with an improved offensive line and the same solid skill-position weapons. But after an uncharacteristically low 3.8% passing touchdown rate in 2017, we saw a bit too much of a bounce-back last season (5.8%). If we assume a return to his career-average touchdown rate (4.8%) and fewer pass attempts due to the Falcons defense regaining its health, Ryan falls to the back end of the QB1 pack. He's a fine option as a starter but is best utilized in a platoon alongside a high-upside late-round pick.
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.