10 Popular Fantasy Players to Avoid[the_ad id=”63198″]Everyone loves reading about players with upside. Unheralded guys that make good value picks. Players that can be drafted with a reasonable expectation that the onfield results will exceed their draft expectations. And perhaps everyone’s favorite preseason topic is guys that are going to be this season’s top sleepers.
Perhaps an equally important but much less-discussed topic is what players are going to be disappointments. Who will be this season’s Eddie Lacy? What player currently being hyped as a bargain or draft sleeper is destined to be relegated to your bench?
As there are many different aspects that make a player a coveted value pick, many different factors- often out of a player’s control- can make them risky picks. Understanding some of those factors can be extremely important in helping you read through the hype and understand why the popular sleeper picks aren’t all going to hit.
Let’s take a look at some players that are currently being over-drafted or some who might carry much more risk than currently being discussed.
It’s not that Ben Roethlisberger is a bad choice as your starting quarterback, it’s just that there’s not much value in taking him at his current ADP when there are far better (and much cheaper) options available rounds later.
There’s also some flaws in Big Ben’s status as a sure-fire QB1. First, he’s missed at least one start in five of the last seven seasons- including four games last year. Secondly, he’s only exceeded 30 touchdown tosses twice in his career. 11 signal-callers alone exceeded 30 touchdown passes in 2015. He also will offer you next to nothing as a rusher, and many of those second and third-tiered fantasy QB’s can really boost their output with 30-40 rushing yards per contest.
Finally, there are big questions about Roethlisberger’s supporting cast. Prized free agent TE LaDarius Green is rumored to be in danger of missing time, RB Le’Veon Bell will miss the first three games, while WR Martavis Bryant the entire season with separate suspensions. Speaking of the receiving corps, outside of superstar Antonio Brown, the rest of Pittsburgh’s wideouts don’t inspire a lot of confidence.
Roethlisberger is fine as your QB1 if you can get him after the 9th or 10th round, where he’s typically long gone. I’d much rather sit back and take much safer options like Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, or Carson Palmer who I all have ahead of Roethlisberger in our award-winning rankings.
Detroit Lions[the_ad id=”58837″]Based on his strong showing last season, Stafford is being selected as a QB1 in many leagues, but I’m not really interested in him as anything more than a back-up. I have a hard time believing that an offense can lose a Hall-of-fame caliber receiver and not struggle to replace that production. I think that Detroit’s red zone passing attack- an area Stafford is actually good- could take a step back.
I also think that Jim Bob Cooter will take less chances downfield and use a faster-paced, short passing game. Last year, Stafford completed a career-high 67.2% of his throws, but his 10.7 yards per completion were the lowest of his career and ranked next-to-last in the league.
Without Calvin Johnson on the lineup, I think Stafford’s touchdown numbers will drop back closer to the pace he was on before Cooter took over as play-caller. Stafford had 15 touchdowns through Detroit’s first nine games, which is a more realistic similarity to his career numbers. While Golden Tate‘s red zone role should remain intact, the Lions will need a new receiver to prove he can be a presence in that area, or team’s will focus on stopping Tate. Megatron’s outrageous measurables are what made his so good in that area, and opened things up for both Stafford and Tate.
Stafford has also taken 89 sacks in the last two seasons behind Detroit’s young offensive line. 16th overall pick Taylor Decker should start at left tackle, but that’s a tough task for a rookie and the coaching staff has already preached they’ll be patient with his development. The struggling offensive line is just another one of the reasons I’m wary of Matthew Stafford this season.
San Fransico 49ers
Hyde might be one of the trendiest “sleepers” or “upside” running backs in all of fantasy football. The marriage of Hyde’s potential and Chip Kelly‘s ability to establish a dominant running game have fantasy drafters envisioning Hyde as a 1,500-yard, double-digit touchdown running back that they can nab in the fourth round.
I have my doubts that Hyde will live up to those lofty expectations. My first and biggest concern is Hyde himself. Two seasons into his career and Hyde has already missed 11 games with a sprained MCL, an ankle injury, a bad back and a broken foot that cost him nine games last season. Then, Hyde suffered a concussion in the third preseason game of 2016. That’s a long list of injuries for a player entering his third pro season.
Hyde has also been far from spectacular when he has been on the field. While I do see the potential, Hyde’s 4.1 yards per carry number is pedestrian and he has yet to have a single play of more than 28 yards in 221 career touches. Hyde also has limited experience as a pass catcher, with a mere 23 receptions in 21 games played.
The supporting cast around Hyde is another major concern. The 49ers quarterback situation is among the worst in the league and we saw how the Philadelphia offense could struggle last year without strong QB play. San Fran’s receiving corps is also a bottom-5 unit, further telling me that opposing defenses are going to focus entirely on shutting down Kelly’s running game.
Finally, the offensive line is a major concern for me. Last year, Football Outsiders ranked the 49ers O-line as the worst in the league. While the club did trade up to take guard Joshua Garnett in the first round, outside of LT Joe Staley, the rest of the line looks to be average or below average. It will be tough for this inexperienced unit to learn a complex new system.
Soon to be 31 and with over 2,500 career touches under his belt, Matt Forte’s long run of excellence enters its twilight with the Jets, who signed him to a three-year deal. The Bears didn’t even want Forte back, which should raise some major concerns.
Forte has been steadily declining since his huge 2013 season and is unlikely to turn back the clock with the Jets. In fact, Forte might not even be the best back on New York’s roster. Bilal Powell has a similar skillset and is going to be a big part of the Jets rushing and passing game. Powell also has some 2,000-less touches under his belt- he could easily work himself into an even split with Forte, or even surpass him.
I also don’t see the Jets offense being near as potent as it was last year. While re-signing QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was vital, his career 2015 season stick out as an anomaly on what has otherwise been a mediocre journeyman career.
Should the Jets passing game regress, it will be harder for Forte to produce consistent weekly fantasy numbers. With and ADP in the bottom half of the fourth round, that’s exactly what fantasy owners will be expecting from Forte. I see Forte as a risky investment who is more likely to become part of a committee than he is to live up to the RB2 status that a fourth round pick warrants.
I actually don’t have a problem with Stewart’s current ADP, which regularly slides into the seventh round. It’s highly unusual to get a starting running back from a good team that deep into most fantasy drafts.
I’m just not really interested in acquiring Stewart as anything more than an RB3 or flex play. First and foremost is Stewart’s long history of injuries. He’s missed three or more games in each of the last four seasons and only once in his career has he managed to play 16 games and exceed 200 carries. Stewart just isn’t built for a featured back role.
Secondly, Stewart offers next to nothing as a pass catcher- an important aspect in fantasy as most leagues are now PPR. Last year, Stewart only caught 16 passes in 13 games. That lack of receiving prowess meant that J-Stew put up less than 10 PPR points in over 30% of his starts last season.
Finally, Stewart has never been much of a short yardage runner or touchdown scorer. Despite getting a career-high 242 carries last season, the Panthers only game Stewart eight attempts when 1-yard was needed to convert a first down or touchdown on 3rd or 4th down. Stewart’s success rate on those conversions ranked 25th in the league.
A running back who will not catch more than one pass a game and will likely cede short yardage work to a teammate, or QB Cam Newton has a very limited ceiling.
Jeffery is quite capable of being one of the 10-best wide receivers in the NFL, but the rebuilding Bears have a ton of questions that make the fifth-year wideout a risky second-round fantasy pick.
QB Jay Cutler has long been a mediocre fantasy signal-caller and his inability to consistently win games always seems to keep him seemingly on the cusp of a benching. With Matt Forte’s departure, the Bears backfield is also in transition and is expected to be a committee or led by much-maligned-by-the-metrics-crowd RB Jeremy Langford.
Also, with TE Martellus Bennett traded to New England, none of the current Bears caught more than 37 passes last season. Until Chicago can prove to have another legitimate weapon on their new-look offense, Jeffery is going to see constant double teams. Perhaps WR Kevin White will help, but he has yet to take a pro snap.
Finally, Jeffery really battled lower-body ailments last season, ultimately limiting his onfield performance and keeping him out of seven games. Already in 2016, Jeffery was nursing an injured hamstring in camp, and hamstring injuries are notorious for their reoccurrences and that’s particularly troubling for a player with a checkered history of similar injuries.
For the most part, the fantasy football community has a very short memory. As 2016 draft season arrives, that unreal 2015 second half for Doug Baldwin is fresh in everyone’s minds. Starting in Week 12, Baldwin caught 11 touchdowns in Seattle’s final five contests and led many fantasy squads to a championship en route to his first top-10 WR finish.
But Baldwin isn’t going to carry over that kind of insane momentum. The Seahawks will return to their “run first” philosophy and Baldwin is likely to drop from the 103 targets he saw in 2015 back down to the more conservative range he averaged in his first four seasons.[the_ad id=”62257″]RBs Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael give Seattle a potentially potent 1-2 punch to restore the running game that Pete Carroll favors. If the club utilizes both backs, that will mean far fewer targets for Baldwin and explosive second-year wideout Tyler Lockett– himself a legitimate threat to lead the Seahawks in receptions and touchdowns.
Baldwin is currently being drafted in the fourth or fifth round in many fantasy leagues, as the 25th wide receiver off the board. In that range, I’d prefer guys with a more prove track record, like Eric Decker, Emmanuel Sanders or Larry Fitzgerald, or even a couple of youngsters with potentially more upside, like Donte Moncrief and Baldwin’s teammate, Tyler Lockett.
There is some truth to the logic that new head coach Adam Gase likes to feature his X-receiver as the primary play-maker (think: Demaryius Thomas.) Unfortunately, second-year wideout DeVante Parker hasn’t shown much to indicate that he’s ready to be a featured wideout.
Parker had a nice run in 2015’s second half, but could hardly get on the field from Weeks 1-12 with conditioning and other concerns. So far this offseason, Parker has irked his new coach with the same issues, including a lingering hamstring injury that has severely limited his time with the first team.
Teammate Jarvis Landry also was more heavily involved in the red zone than most thought and that is likely to continue into 2016. While a healthy DeVante Parker has flashed some big-time ability and skills, I think committing to him as a starting wideout or WR3 on your fantasy squad is just a bit too risky.
New Orleans Saints
It’s not that I don’t like Fleener or recognize his potential in the Saints’ high-octane passing attack, I just don’t like the sixth or seventh round price tag that acquiring Fleener’s services will cost your fantasy squad.
At 6’6″ Fleener is easily the favorite to replace WR Marques Colston as the primary red zone target for QB Drew Brees. But second-round rookie WR Michael Thomas will also claim a stake in those looks and might be starting in Colston’s vacated “big slot” role.
Fleener also hasn’t shown that he can be a consistent red zone threat either, often sharing or losing those snaps to former teammate Dwayne Allen. In 60 career games with a pass-happy Colts offense, Fleener has managed to score only 17 touchdowns, which averages out to 4.5 TDs for every 16 games.
Of course, Fleener isn’t just a red zone player and has the skills to make an impact in between the 20’s as well. For me, I’d rather be attacking pass-catching running backs or strengthening my receiving corps in the sixth and seventh rounds of a draft. While I do think Fleener has top-5 potential, I feel like I can wait five or six rounds later and still get a top-10 guy in Jason Witten while getting more value from the RB or WR I took instead of Fleener.
Barnidge’s 70-1,043-9 line from 2015 will go down as one of the biggest fantasy surprises ever. Heading into his seventh pro season last year, Barndige had all of 48 career catches and three touchdowns before blowing up and becoming “Barnkowski.”
One reason that I hesitate to include Barnidge here is his head coach Hue Jackson. Jackson is a smart offensive play-caller who routinely alters his game plan to match his player’s skills, rather than trying to make players fit into his system. That makes me think that Barndige could put up another solid 2016 season.
But the Browns are a team in transition and are likely to run more two-back and three-receiver sets. In addition, Cleveland has a completely revamped, young receiving corps and the new analytics-driven Browns staff is going to want to see them on the field.
Like Coby Fleener, I just don’t like the value represented in taking Barnidge at his current ADP. Tight end is a fairly deep position, rife with streaming ability and late-round values, like Witten, Zach Miller and Vance McDonald.
Senior Writer Gridiron Experts. 2012 FantasyPros Most Accurate Fantasy Expert. Member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. 26-year fantasy football veteran. Featured on NFL.com, Fantasypros, Football Diehards annual magazine, local AM sports radio, podcasts everywhere and SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Once scored 4 touchdowns in a single game for Polk High School.