2017 Overvalued Fantasy Football Players: Where We Went Wrong

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Jan 16, 2018

Terrelle Pryor was one of the most over-hyped players in 2017

We kick ourselves every year, thinking, “how could we not have seen him coming? The breakout was obvious, but there was an obvious flaw in the process.” That may be the case sometimes, but in others, there may not be any obvious signs of a breakout.

Retrospect analysis is the worst kind of analysis, because there’s often no substance to what’s being said, unless we’re doing it for a purpose. You know who I’m talking about – the guy who says Todd Gurley was obviously the better draft pick than LeSean McCoy, even though that same guy selected McCoy in the first round of the draft. At the end of the fantasy season, it’s always good to go back and learn from our mistakes, trying to improve the following season. By going through and dissecting our hits/misses, we may find some trends that can lead us to obvious breakout candidates in 2018.

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Just yesterday, we went through and looked at the players who should’ve been higher on our draft boards. If you missed that article, you can read it right here. Today, we’ll be going through the players that the fantasy community whiffed on. Maybe it was a coaching. Maybe it was a mis-evaluation in talent. Whatever the case, we’re here to learn from our mistakes before drafting in 2018. This is the type of article you’ll want to come back to prior to draft season, as you’ll likely spot a few trends that’ll force you to drop certain players on your draft board.

Quarterbacks

Matt Ryan (ATL) Draft ADP: QB4, Finish: QB15
This one was quite obvious, wasn’t it? I mean, Ryan hadn’t ever flashed as a player who could win the MVP award in years past, and that’s coming from someone who believes in him as a real-life quarterback. His touchdown rate in 2016 was 7.1 percent, which was almost two full percentage points higher than any other year in his nine-year career. It was naturally going to come down, and the loss of Kyle Shanahan as the offensive coordinator proved to be too much to handle. What can be learned from this? Don’t chase career years with high touchdown rates from veteran quarterbacks.

Derek Carr (OAK) Draft ADP: QB6, Finish: QB19
Another draft position that was puzzling to me as the season approached. The Raiders didn’t do anything to change their offense, outside of adding Marshawn Lynch to pound in some of those short-yardage touchdowns. When you looked at the grand scope of things in Carr’s career, you saw improvement, but when you looked closer, you saw a quarterback who padded his stats in a few high-attempt games, which he didn’t get all that often. It’s fine to expect progression in a player’s career, but don’t expect a massive leap without anything huge changing around him.

Andrew Luck (IND) Draft ADP: QB11, Finish: N/A
I might as well apologize for this one, as I was one of those advocating drafting Luck in the late rounds, thinking he’d be back by the third or fourth week of the season. Thinking back in retrospect, it may not have been the best idea, because even if he had returned, who’s to say that his shoulder would’ve been 100 percent? It really came down to not wanting to spend a high pick on a quarterback, but still get an elite talent. This time didn’t work out, that’s for sure. If spending any equity on one in the future, I’ll ensure that we see him play at least a few series’ in the preseason.

Running Backs

Jay Ajayi (PHI) Draft ADP: RB7, Finish: RB33
Most knew when they drafted Ajayi that he came with some risk. I mean, his 2016 totals were swayed by three 200-yard games. Now, that’s a huge accomplishment, so I don’t blame anyone for wanting to draft him, but his ADP was quite rich for someone with such a short resume and a history of knee issues. On top of that, the Dolphins offense was never going to finish as a top-five scoring team, so the odds were stacked against him, though nobody could have suspected he’d fail to score on 152 touches as a Dolphin. When investing on a running back this high, he should have a better track record than Ajayi had, and preferably on a better offense.

DeMarco Murray (TEN) Draft ADP: RB8, Finish: RB23
If you had read my article last offseason on why age matters (read it here), you would’ve known that Murray wasn’t worth a top-two round pick. His mileage and age combined added up to a limited ceiling, especially knowing there’s a more talented running back on the roster. This one is easy to learn from – don’t draft a running back who is 29 or older inside the top two rounds, especially when there’s a high-round draft pick right behind him on the depth chart. There are always exceptions to every rule, but Murray wasn’t ever a generational talent.

Isaiah Crowell (CLE) Draft ADP: RB12, Finish: RB30
I remember the debate on Crowell like it was yesterday. There were two extremes going at it. One was saying that he deserved to be a top-25 pick, while others questioned their sanity. The reason for optimism was that the Browns had added to their already solid offensive line, and the Browns committed to Crowell in the offseason. Still, the talent was never irreplaceable with Crowell and it showed throughout the season. On top of that, you guessed it, he wasn’t on what was going to be a high-scoring offense. The lesson to be learned here is that no matter how good the offensive line is expected to be, running backs need to be on a team to score points in order to get into the top two rounds, unless they’re an exceptional talent (Crowell isn’t).

Doug Martin (TB) Draft ADP: RB22, Finish: RB56
Here’s a player we bought too much into coachspeak with. Well, maybe it was more of the beat writers who led us to believe Martin was going to return to the player he was in 2015. Thinking back, head coach Dirk Koetter said that he wasn’t going to simply give Martin the job, and the re-signing of Jacquizz Rodgers should have set some alarms off. The odd part is that Martin was simply handed the job back, though his performance, or lack thereof, wound up costing him the job. He’s been a hit-or-miss player his entire career, and 2017 was no different. If you’re taking the risk in 2018, understand that he comes with major risk, no matter what you’re hearing in reports.

Ameer Abdullah (DET) Draft ADP: RB23, Finish: RB40
What could we have done to predict the ineffectiveness of Abdullah? The workload was there, as he totaled at least 14 touches in seven of the first eight games, as the Lions seemingly wanted him to be ‘the guy’ in their offense. This comes down to scouting, as Abdullah’s patient-style simply doesn’t fit the offensive line. He often danced behind the line of scrimmage, waiting for holes to open up that never did. His situation reminds me so much of Jerick McKinnon a couple years back, but McKinnon eventually realized he needed to change his style in order to produce. Unfortunately, Abdullah never did that. You should have no shame in drafting Abdullah here, as you did everything right – he simply didn’t produce with his opportunities.

Mike Gillislee (NE) Draft ADP: RB25, Finish: RB55
This one stings for a lot of fantasy analysts, as there were some who ranked Gillislee as a top-12 running back, thinking he’d take on the LeGarrette Blount role in the Patriots offense. After two weeks, it seemed they were right, as he sat there as the No. 5 running back. From that point, the Patriots started to favor Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead in the offense, and then a fumble in Week 6 sealed his fate of eventually being deactivated on game-day. The lesson here is that if you’re going to draft a Patriots running back, you might as well lock up the running back behind him on the depth chart in case a situation like this happens. There was nothing wrong with the process in drafting him as the No. 25 running back off the board.

Adrian Peterson (ARI) Draft ADP: RB27, Finish: RB54
This one is really odd, as the Saints backfield always produces fantasy points, but Peterson wound up scoring a lot more fantasy points behind the subpar Cardinals offensive line. Where could we have gone wrong drafting a 32-year-old running back who essentially missed two of the last three seasons? With Peterson, it was likely due to the nostalgia that he brings. As one of the best running backs of all-time, this is forgivable, but we must learn from our mistakes. Don’t draft aging running backs who aren’t used much in the passing game, no matter how many fantasy titles they’ve won you in the past.

Wide Receivers

Jordy Nelson (GB) Draft ADP: WR6, Finish: WR50
Some will look at this and say that it’s because Aaron Rodgers went down with a multi-week injury, but that’s not the only problem. Nelson failed to record 80 yards in any game this season, including the seven games he played with Rodgers. Did you know that Josh Doctson finished with more fantasy points than Nelson? He came into the season at 32 years of age, which is an age to be concerned about a wide receiver. There’s no way you could’ve predicted Rodgers getting hurt, but Nelson was a straight-up drop candidate once that happened, something that can’t happen with a wide receiver drafted as a borderline first rounder. As highlighted in my age matters series last year (read it here), wide receivers tend to drop-off a bit after the age of 31, so keep that in mind for 2018 drafts. I’ll post an article on those wide receivers as we get closer to the season, so stay tuned.

Dez Bryant (DAL) Draft ADP: WR8, Finish: WR25
Looking at his ADP, it seems as if not many listened when we said that his schedule was horrid in 2017. And no, I’m not talking about strength of schedule – I’m talking about his slate of top-notch cornerbacks. Bryant wasn’t in a position to succeed this year, but he seemed to get worse as the season went on, though his struggles coincided with those of Dak Prescott. When it comes to wide receivers, don’t turn the other cheek and ignore when they have a schedule littered with top-tier cornerbacks. Don’t worry, we’ll have you covered once the schedules come out.

Amari Cooper (OAK) Draft ADP: WR10, Finish: WR31
Let me hear it for this one. If you’ve been following me for some time, you know that I’m an avid Cooper fan. His finish of WR31 doesn’t fully describe how bad his season was, as there were a few games propping that up. While I believe the process was correct on Cooper, maybe his skill-set wasn’t quite there in 2017. It was his third year in the league, and he was on an upward trajectory. He was the ultimate upside pick in the second-round who came with risk, and this time it didn’t pay off. I’ll be buying again in 2018, though his cost will come down due to his struggles this past year. I’m still a believer.

Terrelle Pryor (WAS) Draft ADP: WR15, Finish: WR111
There were a lot of smart people in the industry who liked Pryor coming into the 2017 season, though it obviously didn’t pan out. My stance on him was that it was disrespectful to life-long wide receivers who have perfected their craft, to expect Pryor to just walk in and dominate because he was a special athlete. “But Mike, he dominated in 2016!” No, he didn’t. It was all volume-driven, and going to the Redskins, they had much more talent on the roster that could get those targets, which is what ultimately ended up happening after his inefficient start to the season. Lesson here: Don’t buy a 28-year-old athlete learning a new position as anything more than a late-round flier.

Kelvin Benjamin (BUF) Draft ADP: WR18, Finish: WR46
When a player isn’t a special talent, it’s only a matter of time before he’s exposed. Sure, Benjamin finished as a top-24 wide receiver twice in his career, but volume will do that. There wasn’t anything necessarily wrong with the process that led you to drafting Benjamin, but take this as a lesson that just because a player has seen volume in the past, it doesn’t automatically mean he’ll get it in the future, especially when they aren’t a standout talent.

Martavis Bryant (PIT) Draft ADP: WR19, Finish: WR51
This one was somewhat hard to see coming, because we didn’t have much history to go off with a player who’d been suspended for an entire year. Bryant may have come back in better shape, but he lost his place in the offense, which led to frustration that almost got him traded. He got better as the year went on, but he wasn’t close to the wide receiver he was in his first two seasons. While the decline may not always be as steep as it was with Bryant, it may be best to lower players who are coming off suspension.

Brandon Marshall (NYG) Draft ADP: WR27, Finish: WR132 (WR101 on per-game basis)
This one seemed to obvious, as Marshall already started to fade with the Jets in the previous year. Despite Odell Beckham missing the first game and parts of others, Marshall wasn’t ever able to establish any sort of rhythm in the Giants offense, despite seeing solid targets. He came into the season at 33 years old, so many did see this as an easy-pass in drafts. When entering your fantasy drafts, lower the players who have reached the age of 32 and beyond.

Tight Ends

Jordan Reed (WAS) Draft ADP: TE4, Finish: TE43 (TE11 on per-game basis)
If you drafted Reed, you already know what you did wrong, right? Trusted an unhealthy individual to be healthy. And no, I’m not talking about his history of injuries that caused him to miss 18 games over the first four years of his career. I’m talking about the fact that he had foot problems throughout the entire offseason that led him to talk to infamous surgeons. Didn’t we learn our lesson with Sammy Watkins and Dez Bryant, who both tried to come back from foot injuries too soon? Don’t trust a pass-catcher who has a foot injury before the season even begins.

Martellus Bennett (NE) Draft ADP: TE7, Finish: TE45 (TE35 on per-game basis)
This one is tough because Bennett went from Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers last offseason, which may have been an upgrade. However, Rodgers hadn’t ever targeted his tight ends heavily, so there were a few warning signs. With that being said, the Packers did make it a point to go out into free agency and snag him, leading us to believe that they had big plans for him. And to be fair, they did have plans for him – he just failed to execute on them. He totaled a massive 28 targets through the first four weeks, but turned them into just 141 scoreless yards. It’s apparent that he and Rodgers just didn’t click, leading to him being released. There wasn’t much you could’ve done to see this outcome.

Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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