The Hate is Real

Throughout fantasy drafts often times you will find yourself avoiding particular players. Whether it be their draft price, the fact that you don’t think they are good, or just plain spite. Regardless I have compiled a list of seven players that have a negative fantasy perception surrounding them in the fantasy community entering 2019. We will then evaluate, analyze, and reflect on if the hate on these players is warranted. Can you let go of a grudge? Remember you cannot let your emotion of a player drive your draft strategy!

Note: All ADPs are courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com.

Emmanuel Sanders

Denver Broncos | WR

All reports are that Sanders is on track to come back from his Achilles injury. He has already posted videos of himself running routes. Though, it seems like most have forgotten how valuable he was to the 2019 Broncos offense. He not only provided explosiveness at the wide receiver position last season, but the Broncos found a number of creative ways to get him the ball; whether it be through bubble screens, end-arounds, or wide receiver laterals where Sanders would drop back to throw. He was the best player on offense in the first 13 weeks, and his statistics back it up.

Sanders ranked ninth in the NFL in yards per route run (2.12) and ran 63.6% of his snaps from the slot position. Even though he profiles as a slot receiver, he was heavily used down the field. He had his second-highest yards per target (8.9) since 2014. While Courtland Sutton led the team in with 25 targets 20 plus yards down the field, Sanders had the same amount of 20 plus yard receptions (9) as Sutton despite just 16 deep targets. Sanders also led the Broncos at the receiver position in yards after the catch (302). In Weeks 1-13 before Sanders went down with an injury he ranked 18th in total yards after the catch (YAC) 19th in deep targets and 13th in total targets. But the injury he suffered is killing his ADP. Currently WR50 with guys like Tyrell Williams, Curtis Samuel, and DeSean Jackson.

So even if Sanders starts this season on the PUP, we saw a situation similar last year with Alshon Jeffery. He started the season on the PUP in 2018. Missed first three games still finished as the WR26 overall and WR23 in points/game. He’s maybe not quite as washed as you might think. If Steve Smith at age 36 could come back from an Achilles injury and be semi-productive with Joe Flacco surely Sanders can too.

Sony Michel

New England Patriots | RB

Currently going as the RB25 in PPR formats, the hate is growing on the former Bulldog who rushed for 931 yards for 4.5 yards per carry, and six touchdowns last season. Michel has been missing from offseason minicamps so far this summer and it’s because of this degenerate knee injury.

Via CBSSports.com and the Athletic’s Jeff Howe, “the Patriots’ second-year running back underwent a knee scope that explains his recent absence from one OTA and all of the mandatory minicamp last week.” However, Howe also reported that Michel is expected to be ready to go in time for training camp. Howe also described the scope as “minor in nature.”

Fantasy owners are extremely concerned about the knee injury surrounding Michel, and the fact that the Patriots also invested a third-round pick in rookie running back Damien Harris from Alabama. However, unlike with another former Georgia running back from Los Angeles, Michel had an actual procedure to fix the issue he was dealing with. Todd Gurley’s situation is different as his injury seems to be more chronic. So owners should feel more confident that Michel will be a full-go in training camp.

Secondly, the addition of Harris could be to just limit the hits that Michel would need to sustain throughout the season and to keep him fresh. Again it’s difficult to predict how their roles will shape up, but with the way the Patriots leaned on Michel down the stretch, you’d have to assume he will lead the team in running back touches to start. Besides the knee injury, the biggest knock on Michel was ball security entering the NFL; he had just one fumble last season.

There’s a chance that Michel could see less carries in 2019 per game, but see an expanded role in the passing game and used more in space. Looking back at his profile from 2018 it’s easy to forget how explosive Michel was so perhaps coming back from an injury he suffered last year will create a higher rate of efficiency which could make up for fewer carries.

Ben Roethlisberger

Pittsburgh Steelers | QB

Regression is coming for Big Ben in 2019 and everybody in fantasy is in on it. Looking at 2018 where Roethlisberger finished as the number three quarterback, nobody is predicting a repeat success. The two main reasons being that Antonio Brown is now an Oakland Raider and the fact that the Steelers led the NFL in passing attempts per game (43.1).

The Steelers also had the second-highest rate of pass play percentage (67.39%) versus run play percentage (32.61%) in 2018. However, looking over the past 12 seasons in regards to both pass attempts/game and pass play percentage here are some interesting statistical nuggets. Teams that lead the league in passing attempts over that timespan saw an average drop of 2.8 attempts/game the following season. Surprisingly though teams that led the league in passing play percentage saw an increase in the following season by an average of 2.5%. Roethlisberger is currently going as the QB15 behind Philip Rivers and in front of Tom Brady.

 

 

Lamar Miller

Houston Texans | RB

A close friend of mine on Twitter, Nate Hamilton summarizes Miller’s statistics pretty well over the past five seasons. Solid production, but yet no love for Miller in 2019. But despite how bad the Houston offensive line was last season; Miller had a career-high in yards per attempt (4.6), yards after contact (692), yards after contact per attempt (3.22), and avoided tackles after rush (33). Of running backs in 2018 with at least 210 carries, Miller’s yards per attempt ranked eighth, yards after contact ranked eighth, yards after contact per attempt ranked fourth.

With the Texans actively making improvements to the offensive line in 2019, Miller is an easy candidate to absolutely smash his current ADP. On an offense that ranked top-12 in points scored last year having a running back on a top-12 offense is a smart fantasy play. Unless you truly believe D’Ontae Foreman is healthy and will garner a significant workload, keep rolling the haters with Miller in 2019.

Jimmy Graham

Green Bay Packers | TE

The days of Graham being an elite tight end are indeed over. However, despite his limited athletic upside Graham still finished last season as the TE12 overall. That fantasy finish comes with Graham just having two receiving touchdowns all season, which is the biggest part of Graham’s game now. That was his lowest touchdown total since 2015 in his first-year with Seattle when Russell Wilson threw 34 touchdown passes. But Graham knows he needs to step in the red zone.

“I’m completely focused on putting my best foot forward, and being the player that I am: Scoring down in the red zone and being that big threat on third down. I’ve gotta get back to that, and I take it serious. It’s something that eats at me every day, just not making the playoffs and sometimes not making the plays that I should have. You better believe I’ll be ready.” via Yahoo.com.

Another year in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers’ touchdown passes increasing due to positive regression; Graham could easily be the main beneficiary. Over Graham’s first seasons with the three NFL franchises he has played for he has averaged just three receiving touchdowns. In his second seasons? 8.5 touchdowns on average.

For reference, we could expect to see at least two receivers on the Packers reach eight touchdowns in 2019. Every single season in which Rodgers has thrown for more than 30 touchdowns (5 occurrences) two receivers scored at least eight touchdowns and twice two receivers scored double-digit touchdowns when Rodgers threw at least 38 touchdowns. Currently going as TE17 in ADP and that offense essentially an unknown behind Davante Adams maybe you should get s’more shares of Graham in 2019.

Marquise Goodwin

San Francisco 49ers | WR

This is the classic example of the post-hype sleeper. Bring us back to the end of 2017 and everybody wanted a piece of Goodwin. We are just one season removed from Goodwin’s 56 receptions for 962 receiving yards averaging 17.2 yards per reception and 9.2 yards per target. Goodwin has the 11th highest yards per target of all NFL wide receivers over the past two seasons with at least 148 total targets. But after Garroppolo got hurt in 2018, Goodwin’s fantasy production plummeted. Not to mention he himself was dealing with injuries and off-the-field issues.

With Jimmy Garroppolo at quarterback for the 49ers, Goodwin averaged 8.2 targets, 5.8 receptions, 80.8 total yards, and 15.1 fantasy points per game. Based on last year’s wide receivers that would place Goodwin as the WR20 on points per game basis. There is a fit for a Taylor Gabriel type-role within the 49ers offense and that could easily be filled by Goodwin who can make the big splash plays. With the hype building around Deebo Samuel and Dante Pettis, Goodwin is getting no love; his current ADP is WR64.

Leonard Fournette

Jacksonville Jaguars | RB

When I first created the Twitter post below Fournette was the foremost mentioned player. Seems like hate burns deep for a guy who was drafted in the first round last year and ended up contributing just three weeks of solid production. That negative perception has now carried over into 2019 where Fournette is being clumped together in drafts in the third-round with running backs like Devonta Freeman, Marlon Mack, and Aaron Jones. Ironically this seems to be the injury discount round for running backs; those running backs all missed time with injuries last year.

However, this negative perception is clouding the fact that Fournette has been a fantasy monster when on the field. He is just one year removed from his 2017 campaign when he was the RB9 in PPR. That season Fournette led the running backs on Jacksonville in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and routes run in just 13 games. In 2018 from a points per game basis, Fournette was averaging 15 fantasy points per game in the eight games that he did end up playing. That was good for RB12 again from a per game basis in 2018 in PPR scoring. That was more than Philip Lindsay (14.9), Mack (14.8), and Jones (14.3). So maybe the pessimism surrounding Fournette in 2019 should subside. Especially with a new quarterback in Nick Foles and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

With Foles under center, Fournette should see fewer eight-man fronts. Running backs that saw ten or more carries with Foles under center from 2017-2018 saw an eight-plus man in the box just 19% of the time. Fournette has seen an eight-plus man front an average of 42% of his rushing attempts in his career. Call it the post-Blake Bortles era where Fournette could pay off.

Honorable Mentions:

Couldn’t fit all players on the list so please be sure to my separate article featuring Todd Gurley expectations and where I recommend drafting him in 2019. Also, check out my tweet to find some more honorable mentions and comment on who would be on your own personal “hate” list! And remember we don’t always hate players; we just hate their ADPs!

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