10 Overvalued Players by Draft Round (Fantasy Football)
With NFL football finally upon us, we fantasy players are poring over every bit of analysis we can find in preparation for peak draft season. Sleeper articles, ADP calculators, and mock drafts litter our desks and browser histories as we hunt fiercely for those diamond-in-the-rough value picks.
Amidst all this clamor, we sometimes give too little air time to another key player in fantasy drafts. One who is equally vital and always more volatile: the overvalued bust. Granted, publicly identifying these overvalued picks can be rough, as it means flying in the face of the common opinion.
With that in mind, we’re going to scour each of the first 10 rounds of standard drafts for these fantasy land mines. Please hold your torches and pitchforks until the end of the presentation.
Melvin Gordon (RB5, 9th overall)
If any of you happened to read my Bold Predictions article, you already know how I feel about Gordon. He is an inefficient running back with a volatile, if short, touchdown history. It may come as a bit of a shock, but Gordon has averaged 3.7 yards per carry over his two-year career.
That puts him in the company of Zach Zenner and Alfred Morris. And while he rushed into the end zone 10 times in 2016 – nine of which came from inside the five-yard line – everyone seems to have forgotten he failed to score even once in 2015.
With Keenan Allen healthy, the Chargers may not lean on Gordon quite as much this year. Considering it would take him around 270 attempts to break 1,000 yards at his going rate, that’s not a promising start. Throw in some minor TD regression, even to seven or eight scores, and Gordon may not even be an RB1 by the end of the season.
Marshawn Lynch (RB12, 24th overall)
While there are other potentially overvalued players that have sat comfortably in the second round for months, Lynch is by far the most dangerous bust target after climbing his way to the RB12 spot. Unlike with Gordon, however, no one is drafting Lynch on the merit of his most recent performances.
In 2015, Lynch played seven games and finished as the RB56. Last year, his most memorable contribution to the football community was an amusing Madden commercial.
Yes, the Oakland offensive line and offense, in general, are stronger than those of the Seahawks Lynch retired from. But he’s still a 31-year-old running back who hasn’t seen NFL action since surgery for a sports hernia two years ago. Beast Mode is being drafted at his ceiling, and his floor is a very long way down.
Brandin Cooks (WR11, 27th overall)
We’ve heard the narratives — best receiver Brady’s had since Moss; outside threat unlike anything on the New England roster. Honestly, it’s all true. But the danger with Cooks is two-fold: lack of consistency and target share.
Cooks finished as a WR2 or better six times last year. He also finished as a WR4 or worse five times. On a weekly basis, it’s very difficult to predict when Cooks will catch that 60-yard TD and when he will disappear entirely.
More importantly, he is entering an offense with very few targets to spare. Rob Gronkowski and James White are among the best pass-catchers at their positions. No matter how Cooks meshes with his QB this season, he will not touch the chemistry Brady has with Julian Edelman. Not to mention Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, and Chris Hogan. Cooks will get his throughout the season, but he will also be nearly impossible to rely on as a consistent WR1.
Terrelle Pryor (WR18, 37th overall)
Put your pitchforks away; we still have six rounds to go! Like it or not, the hype on Pryor has gone a little too far. After finishing as the WR18 last year with the Browns, the converted quarterback has found his way to the Redskins and into the fourth round of fantasy drafts.
Here’s the problem: the receivers around Pryor are much better in Washington than they were in Cleveland. He finished as the No. 18 WR in fantasy in 2016 on the back of 140 targets and is being drafted at that exact spot in 2017.
As with Cooks, there is too much talent around Pryor – Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, and Josh Doctson among others – to expect that kind of attention again. With the loss of opportunity comes the loss of fantasy points, dropping Pryor’s value below his current ADP.
Matt Ryan (QB4, 49th overall)
Any quarterback going before the seventh or eighth round could make this list, as the fantasy depth at the position is simply incredible. But Ryan is overvalued not just overall, but among QBs as well. Following an MVP-season and near-victory in the Super Bowl, the masses fully expect the 32-year-old to repeat.
All signs point the opposite direction. Ryan destroyed his previous career-bests in completion percentage, yards per attempt, and interceptions last year. He will regress back to the mean in every category in 2017. With the black cloud of the SB loss and no more Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, expect Ryan’s fantasy value to plummet back to the borderline QB1 range he knows so well.
Tevin Coleman (RB26, 63rd overall)
It seems counterintuitive to list Coleman as overrated, considering the 23-year-old was the RB18 in only 13 games last year. The problem is that finish came on the coattails of clearly unsustainable efficiency. In 2016, Coleman averaged 13.6 yards per reception and scored on 7.4 percent of his touches (first and second best respectively among relevant running backs).
The entire Falcons’ offense is due for a regression after a monstrous season, which means fewer touchdown opportunities for everyone. For Coleman, fewer chances, a reduced scoring rate, and the recent contract extension for Devonta Freeman are all downward arrows that put a short ceiling on his fantasy production.
Cam Newton (QB9, 79th overall)
Fantasy drafters are expecting a rebirth from Newton this year, following an abysmal season as the QB17. Unfortunately, this optimism may be misplaced. Except for his incredible MVP season in 2015, Newton has mostly relied on his legs for fantasy value.
That value is dwindling quickly. He posted career lows in rushing attempts, yards, and TDs last year, and coach Ron Rivera has stated his plan to decrease that portion of Cam’s game further to keep him healthy.
The addition of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel might seem like boosts to Newton’s fantasy value, but they’re part of the plan to reduce his exposure. Carolina’s new focus on the quick-passing game will limit hits to their QB, but it will also limit his ability to put up big plays downfield. Chance are he’ll improve on his 2016 fantasy finish, but fall short of his QB9 ADP.
Martellus Bennett (TE8, 85th overall)
At the most cursory level, it’s easy to see Bennett’s new quarterback and project fantasy greatness. This is a consistent TE1 who will now catch passes from Aaron Rodgers on a weekly basis. The concern, as with many others on this list, is the volume.
With Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and even Ty Montgomery, Green Bay is stocked with talented pass-catchers. It’s not hard to imagine Bennett hauling in as few as 40 receptions in 2017, giving him a very low floor.
With the potency of the Packers’ offense, it’s likely Bennett will get a handful of touchdowns. But predicting when those scores come will be very difficult, leaving you with just as many weeks of three catches for 30 yards. Wait a little at tight end and find value in consistency with guys like Kyle Rudolph, Zach Ertz, or even Jack Doyle.
Corey Davis (WR41, 104th overall)
In general, rookies are consistently overdrafted in “redraft” fantasy leagues. The hype and excitement of these “shiny, new toys” boost their ADP significantly. While Davis is considered by many to be a top dynasty pick, he falls prey to this overvaluation in single season leagues.
Davis is competing for targets with red zone kingpin Eric Decker, 2016 breakout Rishard Matthews, and reliable TE Delanie Walker on a heavily run-focused Titans’ team. The rookie receiver is extremely talented and capable of massive production as a WR1 in the future. But he’s currently being drafted around or ahead of guys like Jeremy Maclin and John Brown, who have similar floors and more upside for 2017.
O.J. Howard (TE13, 114th overall)
Despite the fact that it should be harder to find overvalued players this late in drafts, O.J. Howard may be the most overvalued player on this list. The rookie is going as the No. 13 TE in drafts, ahead of Eric Ebron, Jason Witten, and dozens of valuable sleepers at RB and WR. Only five rookie tight ends have finished as the TE13 or better in the past decade, and two of those were Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez on the mind-boggling 2010 Patriots.
Howard is an excellent prospect at the position, but the rookie hype has raised expectations to an unreasonable level. Like Davis, he is an excellent dynasty pick, but the odds are against Howard returning value on a 10th round ADP.