Overvalued Fantasy Football Dynasty Players
Austan Kas sheds light on which dynasty players may be overvalued.
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Trading in the offseason is part of what makes dynasty leagues so great. Instead of looking up way-too-early rankings in preparation for an August draft, those in dynasty formats are wheeling and dealing in addition to studying up on the 2017 class for rookie drafts this summer.
It’s the trading aspect of dynasty leagues that we’re going to look at today. We covered some undervalued assets earlier this week, but let’s flip the script and look at four players who may be overvalued.
When discussing an overvalued player, it’s not an attempt to say the player isn’t good or won’t have useful fantasy days in the future — which is important to understand. This is solely about these players as assets, and whether their value is higher than it should be. It’s about assessing risk and possibly looking to invest in a similarly-valued asset who is safer. It’s about looking down the road and trying to figure out what a player’s value might be 12 months from now.
When dealing with player value, we need to have a baseline for reference. For that, we’re going to use the January average draft position data (ADP) at Dynasty League Football (DLF), which is taken from DLF’s staff startup mock drafts and is usually a good barometer of the dynasty community.
Let’s take a look at four players who are currently being overvalued and get into why now may be an ideal time to sell these assets.
Anytime a wideout is taken in the top five in the NFL Draft, they are going to get a long leash from the dynasty community, and understandably so. Wideouts are typically the “safest” position, and a player taken that highly is obviously a great talent.
Watkins is certainly a talented player, but the issue here is his value. Per DLF’s ADP data, Watkins is being taken, on average, 11th in startup drafts, and he’s the eighth-ranked wideout.
He’s being valued as if he’s already a proven star, and his production hasn’t matched that valuation. Watkins has posted just one 1,000-yard season — 1,047 yards in 2015 — and he’s never made more than 65 catches in a year. Overall, he’s hauled in 17 touchdowns in 37 career games, and he’s averaging 66.5 yards per contest.
Instead of Watkins’ value falling, it’s held steady as a late-first-round choice in startups for nearly the last 12 months. Sure, we’re drafting based on future production, not past numbers, but Watkins hasn’t done much to instill a lot of confidence going forward. He wasn’t really healthy in 2016, struggling with a foot issue for most of the year, and health has been an issue for him as he missed three games in 2015 and eight games in 2016.
There’s also the not-so-small matter of the trainwreck that is the BuffaloBills’ quarterback situation. Tyrod Taylor’s future with the team is up in the air, and it sure seems like the Bills want to hit the reset button at the position. If they do that, Tony Romo is a possibility — probably the best-case scenario — or Buffalo could opt to take a passer in the draft. Unless they land Romo, Buffalo could be starting from scratch with an unproven quarterback, which isn’t exactly an ideal situation for Watkins.
Between his injury history, middling play and Buffalo’s quarterback mess, Watkins is a ton of risk to take on as a first-round pick in a startup draft. There are several much safer options going after him — Dez Bryant, T.Y. Hilton, A.J. Green and Michael Thomas to name a few — and I’d guess that if Watkins fails to deliver this upcoming season, his stock will finally fall. We may look back 12 months from now and say this offseason was the best time to move him.
You could make the case that any running back coming off a monster season is probably an overvalued asset, given how often running backs are injured and how unpredictable the position is on a year-to-year basis. Gordon, though, really fits the bill. He had a big year in 2016, but it’s going to be difficult for him to sustain his production moving forward.
In fantasy, volume and touchdowns are king, and Gordon dominated in both of those areas last season. It helped him overcome his 3.9 yards per carry, which ranked 29th out of the 42 backs with at least 100 attempts last season. But Gordon is unlikely to catch those same breaks moving forward, making this offseason the ideal time to cash in your shares.
Let’s start with volume. Gordon benefitted greatly from a season-ending injury to Danny Woodhead. In Week 1, Woodhead’s only full game of the season, Woodhead out-touched Gordon 21 to 15, and he outplayed him, too, totaling 121 yards, including 89 rushing, to Gordon’s 57 yards. Woodhead did that in a game where the San DiegoChargers had a positive game script for a majority of the contest, which ostensibly should have favored Gordon.
Then Woodhead tore his ACL in Week 2, and Gordon dominated the backfield touches thereafter. Per data from Football Outsiders, Gordon played more than 75 percent of the Chargers’ snaps from Week 2 through Week 13, which was his last healthy game. For reference, David Johnson (83.8 percent) and DeMarco Murray (81.0 percent) led the league in snap rate last season. So Gordon was getting the ball as much as anyone, which is obviously a recipe for fantasy success.
Woodhead is an unrestricted free agent so he may not be back in San Diego, but after watching their 2015 first-round pick take on a massive workload and then suffer a hip injury late in the year, it’s probably safe to assume the Chargers will curtail Gordon’s touches a bit. Any loss in volume will be a significant blow unless he improves his efficiency.
The other ingredient to creating a fantasy star is touchdowns, and Gordon ended the season with 12 scores (10 rushing and two receiving) in 13 games. He benefitted from some fluky touchdown luck, scoring a rushing touchdown once every 99.7 yards.
In 2015, on average, a running back scored a rushing touchdown once every 152.7 rushing yards. In 2014, it was a rushing score for every 150.1 rushing yards. There were 78 more rushing touchdowns league-wide in 2016 than there were in 2015, and backs had a rushing score every 125.9 yards. Even with the unexpected boost in league-wide rushing touchdowns a year ago, Gordon was still scoring at an unsustainable rate.
If Gordon gets the same volume and touchdown luck moving forward, he’ll be a top-tier running back, but it’s unlikely he can repeat either. His ADP is that of an elite asset as he’s the 21st overall player and the sixth-highest running back. That makes him a prime sell-high candidate, especially if you can turn him into a top wideout.
At some point, all these serious injuries are going to take a toll on Gronkowski. Valued as a late-first-round pick in August, his stock hasn’t slipped too much despite his season-ending injury. He’s the 22nd overall player in DLF’s ADP data, and he’s coming off the board 16 spots ahead of Travis Kelce, the second-ranked tight end.
Look, no one is going to argue against Gronkowski’s on-field dominance. The dude is a monster. The issue here is two-fold: he can’t put together a full year, and part — maybe a lot — of his value is tied to a very old quarterback.
Gronkowski’s bulldozing style makes him so enjoyable to watch, but it also leads to a number of injuries. He hasn’t played 16 games since 2011 (although he played 15 games in 2014 and was a healthy scratch in the season finale), averaging 11.25 games per year over the past four seasons. He’s suffered everything from a broken forearm to a torn pectoral muscle to a back injury. All of those are serious ailments, and it stands to reason that they could start to hinder his ability over time.
It may be happening already. It’s just an eight-game sample from this past season (and two of those games were sans Tom Brady), but if we’re going to nitpick, Gronkowski posted his fewest catches (3.1) and yards (67.5) per game since his rookie year.
Brady, as great as he is, will succumb to Father Time at some point. He’s still playing at an elite level, but as Marshawn Lynch and Peyton Manning can attest, when a player hits the wall, it can be a very sudden decline. Whenever Brady’s play does start to suffer, Gronkowski’s numbers will likely fall as a result, and his value will follow suit.
Similar to Watkins, it sort of feels like this offseason could be the last time Gronkowski is still viewed as a top-24 (first two rounds of a startup draft) dynasty asset. Unlike Watkins, however, it’s hard to picture a scenario in which Gronkowski’s value jumps back into the ranks of the truly elite.
Even if he puts together a huge 2017 campaign, Gronkowski will be entering his age-29 season in 2018 with a quarterback going into his age-41 season. He’s not going to be a top-10 asset at that point. On the flip side, if Gronkowski suffers another injury in 2017 or Brady’s play slips, his value will drop, possibly in a big way, making now an opportune time to sell.
Much like Watkins, Moncrief’s value over the past year has been such where you’re basically paying for the breakout year before it happens. When you stomach that kind of risk, obviously, the breakout needs to happen for it to be worth it. At this point, it’s fair to wonder if Moncrief has that monster year in him, and with the way he’s being valued — the 25th overall player and 18th receiver — it’s going to need to be a very big year to justify the cost.
Simply put: Moncrief has been a disappointment through three years with the IndianapolisColts. An athletic freak with eye-popping combine numbers, Moncrief become a dynasty darling in the pre-draft process. That was only magnified when he went to the Colts and got the opportunity to play in a high-powered offense with Andrew Luck as his quarterback.
After a decent enough rookie season, Moncrief played all 16 games in 2015, but he didn’t get to play much with Luck, who suited up for just seven games due to injury. This past year was supposed to be Moncrief’s ascension into fantasy stardom, but he couldn’t stay healthy, suffering a shoulder injury and missing seven games.
Moncrief propped up his fantasy value in 2016 with some unsustainable touchdown production. He finished with seven touchdowns despite making just 30 catches for 307 yards. That’s bonkers.
In 2015, players (including running backs), on average, caught a touchdown pass once every 148.3 receiving yards. A year ago, that number was a receiving touchdown once every 157.3 receiving yards. Moncrief caught a touchdown pass once every 43.9 receiving yards. In the past two seasons, he’s snagged 13 touchdowns in 25 games, but even if you want to argue he’s a better-than-average red zone producer, he’s not going to maintain last year’s touchdown luck.
Other than the great touchdown production in 2016, Moncrief was pretty bad, averaging 3.3 catches and 33.1 yards per game. He got out-produced by teammate Jack Doyle, who put up 3.7 catches and 36.5 yards per outing. Nothing about Moncrief’s statistical profile hints at a breakout, yet he’s valued as a top-20 wideout.
Other than playing in a good offense, one thing Moncrief has going for him is age as he will be playing in his age-24 season in 2017. And sure, we haven’t gotten to see a full year of Luck and Moncrief together since Moncrief’s rookie year, so there is still some intrigue here, but the price to see under the hood is just too much.