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Early Overvalued Rookies (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Jason Katz | @jasonkatz13 | Featured Writer
Jun 17, 2019

David Montgomery is getting a lot of attention out of a weak crop of rookie running backs.

Fantasy owners love rookies. For the most part, rookies are the only players no one has seen play in the NFL. What’s cooler than being the manager in your league who nails a rookie pick? Unfortunately, betting on newcomers is not always the best move. Just because we don’t know what a player will actually do in the NFL doesn’t mean there is a limitless ceiling. This is far more of a problem at wide receiver than running back, but even so, to use 2018 as an example, there are usually multiple Royce Freemans for every Saquon Barkley. Let’s take a look at some overvalued rookies based on early ADPs.

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David Montgomery (RB – CHI): RB28 ADP, 52 Overall
Whenever I say anything negative about David Montgomery on Twitter, the responses act as if I insulted someone’s mother. It’s incredible. Why are people so enamored with a running back who would have barely been a top-10 option if he came out one year earlier? Montgomery is a big fish in a small pond. The 2019 RB class is bad, and Montgomery is merely the best of the worst.

Are we supposed to like the landing spot? Montgomery’s ceiling in the Bears’ offense is a 50% opportunity share and, notwithstanding his strong pass-catching acumen, his receiving upside is limited in a backfield that features the explosive Tarik CohenJordan Howard had 1,080 total yards and nine touchdowns on 270 touches in 2018. Even if we grant Montgomery more efficiency with his touches, that looks to be just about Montgomery’s ceiling. Howard was the PPR RB31 by average fantasy points per game. Montgomery is currently being drafted around the early-fifth round in non-PPR leagues.

Sure, Cohen could get hurt, which would undoubtedly propel Montgomery into a larger workload, but that’s what it is going to take for the rookie to justify his ADP. And this is assuming Montgomery absorbs the entirety of Howard’s vacated touches. Let’s not forget that Chicago also signed Mike Davis, and it is foolish to presume he won’t do anything. Davis is no super athlete, but he is faster than Montgomery and somehow has more burst than Montgomery’s 11th percentile score.

Montgomery is known for his ability to make defenders miss, but he struggled mightily running between the tackles in college, generating a class-low 2.89 yards created per carry, per Graham Barfield’s yards created metric. Montgomery does his best work out in space, but Cohen occupies that role. This backfield could easily be a 40-40-20 split akin to what the Eagles will probably do (more on them in a moment). While I understand chasing upside, do not draft Montgomery over the receivers and handful of running backs you can get in the same area. I would not consider Montgomery until at least the sixth round.

Miles Sanders (RB – PHI): RB31 ADP, 69 Overall
Another rookie running back and more Howard talk. We just can’t get away from this guy. Howard left Chicago and landed in Philly via trade, and not because the Eagles plan to bench him in favor of a rookie. While I have no doubts that Doug Pederson would have scrapped his committee approach if the Eagles signed someone like Le’Veon Bell, they do not roster an elite talent or three-down back. This is going to be the same committee it has been for years. Howard, Sanders, and a third back (either Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, or Josh Adams) will split the touches somewhere around 40-40-20.

The good news for Sanders is that, unlike Montgomery, he is actually fast (76th percentile speed score) and incredibly athletic. The problem is the lack of volume. I know a cohort of truthers think Sanders is the guy to push Pederson away from his committee approach, but he is not. Although Sanders can certainly be the passing-down back and split early-down carries with Howard, I’d be shocked if anyone other than Howard handles goal-line work. Sanders is looking at somewhere in the area of 10-12 touches a game, at most, with minimal goal-line carries and uncertainty surrounding his passing-game usage. If everything breaks right for Sanders, he could become a low-end RB2. I’d much rather use a sixth-round pick to take a shot on Darrell Henderson, Rashaad Penny, or Tevin Coleman as my RB3.

Mecole Hardman (WR – KC): WR42 ADP, 100 Overall
I will start out by saying that I don’t hate the idea of selecting Mecole Hardman because at least you can see the upside. However, where he is currently going — and whom he is going ahead of — is absurd. It is still early, so things could change. For now, what is going on with Hardman? He’s getting drafted near the eighth/ninth round, somehow ahead of Keke Coutee and Curtis Samuel.

Hardman’s ADP is directly correlated to Tyreek Hill’s status. The closer we get to the season without a Hill suspension, the further I expect Hardman’s ADP to fall. As of right now, the most likely outcome is that Hill receives a suspension somewhere in the one-to-four-game range. Unless Hill is getting 10+ games, I have no interest in Hardman since Hill could walk right back into his job as Kansas City’s unquestioned WR1. I am no Sammy Watkins fan, but Hardman is not usurping him either. And Mecole Hardman is not Tyreek Hill.

The older folks out there may remember former Saints receiver Devery Henderson. He specialized in those random 3-90-1 type games. When he didn’t score, he was useless. That’s what Hardman is going to be as a rookie. He will give you the occasional splash play, but you will never know when it’s coming and, therefore, never know when to start him. There is no plausible path to a WR2 season for Hardman. In the eighth round, you need to target players who can conceivably emerge into reliable starters. That’s not Hardman.

T.J. Hockenson (TE – DET): TE11, 116 Overall
I had to do a double take when I saw T.J. Hockenson’s ADP. He’s being drafted as a TE1. That’s ridiculous. I am going to completely remove my opinion that Hockenson is an above-average TE prospect and not the generational talent most analysts think he is. Evan Engram was great in 2017 and posted a TE1 season. Engram is also a ridiculous athlete who benefitted from a complete lack of alternatives in the Giants’ offense. Just two TEs have posted TE1 season as rookies … ever.

What exactly is Hockenson’s path to a TE1 season? He is competing with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Theo Riddick for targets. Sure, Matthew Stafford can’t possibly be worse than he was last season but head coach Matt Patricia has stated that the Lions are going to be a run-oriented offense in 2019. The Matt Patricia era is going to be an unmitigated disaster in Detroit. His tenure will be looked on with such disdain that I wonder if he will ever get another coaching opportunity after he is inevitably fired by the end of the 2021 season. If Stafford’s 574 pass attempts from 2018 decreases, how much can Hockenson to improve upon the 63 targets the Lions’ tight ends had last season? In Eric Ebron’s best season in Detroit, he only saw 86 targets. As a rookie, Hockenson will be hard-pressed to eclipse 80.

There are so many TEs going later (Trey Burton, Delanie Walker, Jordan Reed, and Tyler Eifert) with higher ceilings than Hockenson. Take another WR or RB instead and grab one of these veterans later.

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Jason Katz is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jason, check out his archive or follow him @jasonkatz13.

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