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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 6 Votes
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville
Will Grant: After a promising rookie season, the expectations were sky-high for Fournette in 2018. Yet for a good chunk of the season, he couldn’t stay healthy and he clearly underperformed the 1st round pick it took to land him. He finished the season with six touchdowns, but never cracked the 100-yard rushing mark and posted less than 175 yards from scrimmage total over his final three games. The 3.3 yards per carry that he averaged for the entire season were downright depressing. While he has little competition in Jacksonville, the questions about his commitment to football are troubling. He won’t cost you a 1st rounder this season, but even at his discounted ADP, there are just too many other running backs available who have a better chance to shine.
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 two 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 Fournetmentally checked out from the team last season and was reportedly very close to being traded. The odds are against Fournetbeing 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.
Player Receiving 5 Votes
LeVeon Bell, NY Jets
Will Grant: I just can’t see spending a 1st round pick on a running back who missed all of last season and will be carrying the ball for a new team in 2019. Maybe the year off does him good and he comes back with fresh legs and a chip on his shoulder, looking to prove that the Steelers made a mistake. With his combined rushing/receiving threat, Bell certainly will have plenty of opportunities to touch the ball. But 1st-round picks, even late ones, should be as rock-solid as they come. In a PPR league, there are plenty of other running backs or wide receivers that I’d take before Bell at the end of the 1st round.
Chad Parsons: I fully expect Bell to be the foundation back for the Jets considering his contract and lack of meaningful competition on the depth chart. However, I question Bell returning from a year off football (conditioning, dedication, likely lesser team results, etc) where an injury can occur in addition to a lackluster offense compared to the all-star squad (offensive line plus skill positions) left in Pittsburgh. The downside is immense with Bell, while his cost is close to his ceiling.
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 two to four 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.
Jeff Tefertiller: It is difficult to advocate spending a premium pick on a player who has not played in over a year, moves to an offense that will offer fewer reception targets, and few scoring opportunities. Given a player of Bell's ability, the year off is not as crucial as the change in scenery. Coach Adam Gase has not thrown the ball to the back much since leaving Denver. This is an aspect that makes Bell so valuable. So is his ability to find the end zone. Given the risk, a late-first is too high of a cost to pay given the other options.
Maurile Tremblay: Bell sat out the 2018 season and will be joining a new team in 2019. In terms of overall offensive quality, the Jets are a big step down from the Steelers. Bell is a patient runner who reads his blocks well, but he doesn't seem particularly well suited for the Jets offense. Bell's greatest strength is as a receiver out of the backfield. But judging by how Adam Gase failed to use Kenyan Drake that way last year in Miami, Bell's greatest asset may be underused in Gase's offense this year in New York. I would have Bell ranked much higher if he were still lining up for the Steelers instead of the Jets.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Derrius Guice, Washington
Phil Alexander: Guice had a rocky recovery from ACL surgery, Washington brought back Adrian Peterson to compete for early-down work, and Chris Thompson is still around to hog targets out of the backfield. Even if Guice has the upper-hand on Peterson, Washington doesn't project as a team whose running backs will benefit from positive game scripts very often. At best, Guice is a two-down grinder on a bad team, and at worst, he's an injury-risk stuck in a three-way platoon. Take a home-run swing on Tevin Coleman or David Montgomery instead.
Jeff Haseley: I'm not sold on Derrius Guice. I am sold on Peterson. If he can be a contributor at age 33, age 34 shouldn't be that far off. Peterson has the experience to earn the leading role, plus there's no guarantee that Guice will return strong or have the same level of vision and burst that the elder Peterson has. The Washington backfield at best is a committee, and one that will be difficult to gauge week in and week out.
Devin Knotts: Guice is coming off of an unfortunate ACL injury in the preseason last season, prior to that he was the hot name in fantasy skyrocketing up Average Draft Position lists. The Redskins in the offseason re-signed 34-year-old Adrian Peterson, drafted Bryce Love, and Adam Schefter has reported that Guice is coming along slower than people would like. Guice has a lot of talent and there is a lot to be excited about, but the reality is that the Redskins are likely going to be a team that is out of the playoff hunt early in the season and there really is no reason for them to run Guice if they have any concerns about the long-term health of his knee. This is a situation where he will likely be in a split backfield for most of the season and one that at his current price should be avoided.
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 four years of football. 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 in 2018 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 was worse than the team let on, and he missed all of the team’s offseason work. Meanwhile, Royce 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 spent most of the 2019 offseason waiting for his surgically-repaired wrist to heal. The injury has limited Lindsay from maximizing his offseason training. Now, he’ll be competing for playing time with Freeman in a new zone scheme that’s a better fit for Freeman’s talents. Lindsay should earn a significant role, but counting on him 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 cost him the entire offseason. Drafting Lindsay expecting a repeat of 2018 is ripe for disappointment.
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia
Jeff Haseley: The Eagles have not had a 200-carry back since LeSean McCoy in 2014. They are a committee approach type of offense, especially under Doug Pederson. Those expectations don't appear to be changing in 2019. I expect a carry-share between Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders. And don't forget about Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood either. Sanders will need to be far and away the better back in order for him to see the lion's share of the team's carries. His full potential may not be known for a year or two.
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 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.
Player Receiving 2 Votes
Sony Michel, New England
Ryan Hester: Michel will enter the year with a shaky injury situation due to the knee issues that plagued him in his college days along with the scope he had this offseason. Between Michel’s present, his past, and the fact that New England never has issues with a plug-and-play methodology at running back, approach Michel with caution. They may use a committee approach with the early-down and clock-killing work in order to pace Michel for the extended season that is always a goal and nearly always a reality in New England.
Justin Howe: Michel looks like an awfully tough investment for 2019. As usual, the New England backfield is a crowded mess with niches and situational needs all over the map. Michel looked the part of a fine NFL runner last year, but he also typecast himself as a thoroughly one-dimensional back (just 11 targets) who can struggle to produce in different game scripts. When the Patriots are pushed to throw more – or even just game-planning away from a tough defensive front – Michel could wind up saddled with a lot of eight-touch weeks. There’s also his chronic knee issue, which cropped up as a rookie, and the Patriots’ third-round pick of Damien Harris to fret over. Michel is a talented grinder, but that’s often been an interchangeable role in this offense. James White is clearly the Patriot to roster, and Harris offers a lot more speculative value down the draft board.
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.
Nick Chubb, Cleveland
Devin Knotts: Nick Chubb exceeded all expectations last year with a fantastic rookie season that has everyone excited heading into 2019. Chubb is going to be a player who is expected to take a significant workload early in the season with Kareem Hunt suspended for eight games, but once Hunt gets back, what the Browns decide to do will be entirely dependent on the situation they’re in as a team. If they are out of the playoff hunt or have a playoff spot wrapped up, they will likely incorporate Hunt into a split role to rest some of the early-season workload from Chubb. The other knock against Chubb being overvalued is his ability as a receiver which is still a part of his game that leaves a lot to be desired and he will likely be taken off the field during passing downs.
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 much 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 could doesn’t project to significantly outscore other change of pace running backs like Austin Ekeler and Nyheim Hines and those two are going many rounds later.
James Conner, Pittsburgh
Jeff Pasquino: James Conner inherited the lead back role last year with Le’Veon 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.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta
James Brimacombe: I just can't warrant the current ADP of Freeman as I would prefer to draft a wide receiver in his range and with his injury concerns, the price just feels too rich to me. I also see Ito Smith as a threat in the run game who has touchdown potential of his own. Freeman only played in two games last season, so for me, the injury history plays a huge part and I don't feel like it is reflected enough in his ADP.
Melvin Gordon, LA Chargers
Phil Alexander: It's hard to escape the memory of Gordon limping 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. Even if Gordon reports before the season begins, it wouldn't be shocking if capable backups Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson are called on even more this season to keep Gordon fresh.
Darrell Henderson, LA Rams
Drew Davenport: The hype train on Henderson has officially left the station. 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 hard to justify Henderson at his current ADP.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee
Devin Knotts: One of the biggest questions heading into 2019 is what version of Derrick Henry will we get? The fourth-year running back lit the fantasy world on fire the last four weeks of the season rushing for an average of 146 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game. The problem is that his fantasy price this season is based on those games and the rest of his season he was sub-par as he failed to rush for 60 yards in any game from weeks 1-14. Henry is extremely limited as a pass-catcher which significantly decreases his floor compared to some of the running backs around him. Expect high volatility from Henry, as he will have a few games where he is tremendous and is able to break a long-run, but without the receiving points, especially in PPR, it is going to make it difficult for him to produce the value where he is being drafted.
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.
Kareem Hunt, Cleveland
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 it’s likely very thin in leagues that deep anyway. 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 a half-season missed is a fool’s errand.
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 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 pick at current ADP.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo
Andy Hicks: Since the 2018 season started we have had LeSean McCoy's name mentioned in a serious scandal, a precipitous drop in production and the following players signed or drafted in the offseason; Frank Gore, Devin Singletary and T.J. Yeldon. Also adding to the situation is the fact that McCoy can give the team an immediate additional saving on the salary cap of almost seven million dollars. When a running back drops from 5.4 yards a carry to 4.0 and then to 3.2 and all the other surrounding information is factored in, it seems an almost crazy decision to put any stock into the 31-year-old McCoy for the Bills.
Adrian Peterson, Washington
James Brimacombe: Washington currently has Adrian Peterson, Darrius Guice, Chris Thompson, Bryce Love, Samaje Perine, and Byron Marshall on their running back depth chart. Peterson did put up 1,000+ rushing yards last season in the absence of Guice, but all signs point to the young unproven Guice to win the backfield back and show that he is healthy and can give his team an offensive boost that they desperately need. I feel Peterson was resigned for insurance purposes only and he will be playing more of a backup type of role this season and even at his late-round ADP is not worth the roster spot.
Damien Williams, Kansas City
Chad Parsons: To begin with a positive, I have been one of the biggest fans of Damien Williams in his career. However, Williams cost for 2019 has soared after being a fantasy league winner filling in for Spencer Ware, who filled in for Kareem Hunt in Kansas City last season. Williams is the classic journeyman. In 77 career games, Williams has seven games of 10+ carries and just one (2018 postseason) of 15+ carries. Now the expectation for the 27-year-old is to be the lead back for much, or all, of 2019 - color me skeptical for the previously undrafted and unheralded NFL option. Carlos Hyde is an overlooked RB2 on the depth chart, one with a far greater profile of NFL lead back work. I would not be surprised if, even without an injury to Williams, Hyde usurps Williams as the lead option.