Monster Discussion: Busts
Gridiron Experts staff has joined together to answer some tough fantasy football questions for our members in an exclusive three piece premium feature. Each “Monster article” is over 6,000 words of fantasy insider content. In each article the Gridiron Experts staff are asked five tough fantasy football questions. Get all their years of experience in one monster source. There are three monster articles in this series: Fantasy Advice, Sleepers and Busts.
In our final Fantasy Monster article series, the questions are all heavily focused on players that will be utter busts in 2015. This article is perfect for those just starting out in fantasy or those who want a crash course overview of how we feel about certain players this season.
Other Monster Pieces:
I want nothing to do with Carlos Hyde in 2015. His barriers for success far outweigh his upside: he’s in a new system, the retirements of guard Mike Iupati and tackle Anthony Davis will hurt the power run and Hyde has not automatically earned the job. The San Francisco 49ers drafted running back Mike Davis in the 2015 NFL draft, Kendall Hunter is returning from ACL surgery and Reggie Bush was acquired during the offseason. The 49ers may take more of a committee approach than people realize. Also, there is no way I am going to spend a pick in Round 3 or Round 4 to add him to my roster, especially when there are plenty of better options still on the board. If you like risk, you can draft Latavius Murray or Joseph Randle in Round 4. If you want to play it more conservative, draft Alfred Morris in Round 3. I don’t see Hyde offering enough upside to warrant his heavy price tag, and I would much rather wait to draft Bush in the later rounds. Bush reportedly has built a rapport with Colin Kaepernick during the offseason, and he ran with the first team when Hyde was sidelined with injuries. Hyde is not even on my radar.
C.J. Spiller, New Orleans Saints: The Spiller hype has reached outlandish levels. If you want to draft the former Bill, you will now have to do it in the third round as the 15th RB off the board on average. The Saints let Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet walk in free agency, who combined for 55 carries and 83 receptions. Last season, the number 15 fantasy RB scored 192 PPR points. If Spiller takes ALL of Cadet’s and Thomas’ receptions, doubles their amount of carries, and maintains his career yards-per-touch averages, we’re looking at 196 PPR points. Mark Ingram will undoubtedly get all of the goal-line looks, capping Spiller’s touchdown upside. If Spiller plays 16 games (it’s happened just twice in five seasons), catches 83 passes, runs for five yards-per-carry, and scores five touchdowns of 20-plus yards, he’ll finish as the RB10 and slightly outproduce his draft position. I’m willing to bet three of those four events don’t happen and I’m gladly letting other owners draft C.J. Spiller.
Melvin Gordon can make like the leaves on the trees and breeze for me in 2015. I love his talent, size, and speed but I hate where he is being drafted. I’m weary of rookies to begin with, so there is little to no chance that I will be drafting Melvin Gordon at his current RB12 rank. I’m getting the feeling that fantasy owners are using last season’s rookie receiver class as a forecast for this season’s rookie running back class, and it’s just too risky for me. I’m not going to spend a high draft pick on Melvin Gordon when I can draft Danny Woodhead ten rounds later. People have also forgotten about second year back Branden Oliver, who could steal work at the goal line. We have Gordon ranked ahead of Frank Gore, Justin Forsett, Alfred Morris, Lamar Miller, and Latavius Murray. I’d much prefer an older running back with NFL game speed and experience under his belt over Melvin Gordon.
There is almost no way Jamaal Charles is ending up on my roster this season. His round 1 ADP is just too high for me. Last season, his numbers were well below expectations and he split time with Knile Davis and De’Anthony Thomas. I cannot see taking him over guys like Eddie Lacy, C.J. Anderson, Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson and even a suspended Le’Veon Bell. At the end of the season, I would not be surprised to see him finish with RB2 stats. Yes, KC does have a few more weapons that could open things up with Jeremy Maclin and an emerging Travis Kelce, but Alex Smith does not intimidate anyone. Opponents will load the box against Charles and make an effort to take him out of the game. If he slips to the second round he might be worth a pick and of course in PPR his value goes up despite Thomas as a receptions vulture.
Courtesy my write up with Fantasy Pros: With a current ADP near the bottom of Round 1, acquiring the fantasy services of Bears RB Matt Forte is an expensive proposition, and one that is likely to be a costly mistake. With Mark Trestman’s pass-happy offense, Forte was heavily featured as a receiver out of the backfield- including setting an NFL-record with 102 receptions last season. In fact, Forte eclipsed 20+ carries in only three of 16 games last year. Now that Adam Gase will be calling plays in Chicago, we will see a more diverse attack, with multiple alignments, including ’12’ formations with two tight ends and even a fullback. More damaging for Forte’s fantasy value will be the fact that he’ll be utilized far less as a pass-catcher, thus limiting his fantasy ceiling and forcing him to rely more on running behind a shaky Chicago offensive line. In 2014, Forte played 1,006 snaps, which led all running backs- that number is not sustainable for a running back that will turn 30 during the season and has accumulated a lot of mileage over the years. Two years in a row the Bears have invested 4th round picks on young running backs, and with Forte’s contract set to expire at the end of this season, it’s possible that Chicago’s new coaching staff will be eager to lighten Forte’s workload in an effort to see if his successor is on the roster. Matt Forte has been a tremendous fantasy football asset over the years, but it might be time for fantasy owners to be proactive, not reactive.
I rarely enter a fantasy draft thinking there are players that I will avoid “at all costs”, since just about anyone can have value if the price is right. But I’ll be surprised if I end up with any Frank Gore shares in 2015. I appreciate the narrative that he has generally been a productive back throughout his career and finally gets to play with a really good quarterback on a dynamic offense. But the 32-year-old is approaching 2,500 career carries and averaged just 4.2 yards per attempt over the last two seasons in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the Andrew Luck era has yet to produce a top-25 fantasy running back in Indianapolis, let alone the low-end RB1 to high-end RB2 status many seem to be bestowing on Gore this offseason. In the third round, I’m much more inclined to take Melvin Gordon, Lamar Miller, or Mark Ingram, and I’ll probably only take a chance on Gore if he really slides on draft day.
The easy answer to this question is Odell Beckham Jr., depending on whether you’re a believer, but I’m going with Brandin Cooks. His ADP currently rests at 4.01, but I find it hard to believe Cooks finishes as the 16th-best WR this season. Many assume the absence of Jimmy Graham will inflate Cooks’ numbers. That’s a fair assumption, but he has a long way to go to live up to the first pick in the fourth round. For reference, WR16 last season (DeSean Jackson) put up 56 catches for 1,169 yards and six TDs. Expanding Cooks’ 2014 numbers out to a full 16 games (remember, he missed the last six games last year with a broken thumb), he projects to put up 73 catches for 756 yards and four TDs. Those numbers would give him 99.6 fantasy points in standard leagues, which would have made him WR42 last year. That’s a measly 6.2 points per game on average. To live up to his WR16 billing, he would need to see a nearly 50 percent increase in per-game production (9.0 PPG). Maybe another year of experience and a Jimmy Graham-less New Orleans offense boost him that high, but at this price, I’m not buying.
Golden Tate, Detroit Lions: Without question, Golden Tate has the most inflated 2015 ADP of any wide receiver. Many owners are looking at his year-end stats and seeing that he finished as a top-12 fantasy WR in 2014, thinking he’s a bargain with a WR21 ADP this year. Let’s take a look at Tate’s splits with and without WR Calvin Johnson in the lineup. Without Johnson: 5 games, 39 receptions, 599 yards, 3 TDs. With Johnson: 11 games, 60 receptions, 732 yards, 1 TD. When Calvin Johnson is healthy, the Detroit passing offense runs through him – not Golden Tate. If you prorate Tate’s per-game numbers with Megatron in the lineup over 16 games, you get 205 PPR points, good for WR25. If you take Tate at WR21, what are you betting on? Calvin Johnson missing 5 games again or Tate stealing the WR1 job in Detroit? I’m antipathetic to both of those theories.
With Rex Ryan and LeSean McCoy in town, I can’t buy into Sammy Watkins. It isn’t talked about much anymore, but some fantasy players may forget that the second-year receiver is still recovering from hip surgery. His numbers (982 receiving yards and six touchdowns) were solid in terms of NFL production for a rookie dealing with Kyle Orton leading the offense, but he just wasn’t in the right environment to offer a ton of fantasy value. E.J. Manuel has seen both of his seasons cut short due to injuries, and he may be able to provide more stability in 2015. Still, it’s easy to understand why fantasy players do not have confidence in Manuel or Tyrod Taylor, and Ryan is going to run McCoy until he breaks. Julian Edelman is generally being scooped up just a few picks after Watkins, and I can’t see myself passing over a receiver who has averaged 98.5 receptions over the past two seasons for Watkins. The upside is too limited, and I don’t think he is going to serve as the sneaky option some fantasy players believe he can be.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills: According to Fantasy Football Calculator, LeSean McCoy has a 2015 ADP of number 11 overall in standard scoring systems. Despite playing all 16 games last season, McCoy finished with his lowest YPC (4.2), touchdown total (5), and reception total (29) since his rookie year in 2009. By sheer volume, McCoy still finished as the RB11 in standard scoring leagues. Deemed a poor fit in Eagles head coach Chip Kelly’s offense as he returned to his collegiate ways of dancing in the backfield and east-to-west running, McCoy was shipped off to Buffalo. Now, McCoy faces a massive downgrade in fantasy situation from a year ago. He will run behind a slightly worse offensive line, play in a much worse offensive scheme, and likely share the backfield with an incompetent quarterback. There are other players with higher floors and similar ceilings being drafted near the top 12 in fantasy drafts. It’s hard to envision McCoy topping his totals from a year ago, and that makes him a risky to bet to return value at his current ADP.
Matt Forte has always been a great pass-catching back and he’s seen at least 60 targets in each of his seven seasons in the NFL, buoying his overall fantasy value. But the receiving element of his game has been exaggerated over the last two years by Marc Trestman’s offensive philosophy, in which Forte was targeted an amazing 224 times for 176 receptions, 1,402 yards, and seven touchdowns. That two-year average of 88 catches, 701 yards, and 3.5 scores is considerably ahead of Forte’s pre-Trestman career, when he averaged 53 catches, 465 yards, and fewer than two touchdown receptions per year. Now 29 years old and with more than 2,200 touches in his career, it’s easy to see Forte being less involved in the offense under new head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who is likely to orchestrate a more diverse plan of attack than the Bears have utilized recently. There are enough red flags that I’m generally avoiding Forte early in fantasy drafts and I think he could really burn owners investing a first-round draft pick in him.
“I don’t want anything to do with Jeremy Maclin. The only thing that I like about the Maclin move to Kansas City was Maclin’s familiarity with Andy Reid. It was an anomaly last season that there was not a single receiver on the Chiefs who recorded a touchdown catch, but I still don’t believe that Alex Smith will suddenly favor his wide receivers over his tight ends and running backs when it’s time to for short dump offs. Even if the Chiefs try to turn Smith into a gambler in the early part of the season, Maclin is no longer in a system that will support long-term fantasy results. A healthy Travis Kelce will soak up most of Smith’s attention, and Jamaal Charles will continue to play a key role as a pass-catching back. Maclin is still talented, but he won’t record 10 touchdown catches like he did in 2014. It’s also doubtful that he will get anywhere close to 85 receptions. There hasn’t been a single player since Smith joined the Chiefs who has topped 70 receptions in a season, and I don’t expect the arrival of Maclin to change anything.
Again, I won’t get caught up too much in an “at all costs” mentality, but I’m not buying Emmanuel Sanders shares if the price continues to be a third-round pick. After a breakthrough campaign in 2014 in which he caught 101 balls for 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns, Sanders is currently being selected as a borderline WR1 in fantasy drafts and that’s way too high for my liking. A closer look at Sanders’ numbers a year ago shows a definite bias toward the first part of the season, with him averaging 14.0 fantasy points per game over the first 10 games and 9.8 ppg over the last six. The timing was consistent with injuries impacting Peyton Manning’s play and driving a shift to more of a run-focused attack in Denver. With new head coach Gary Kubiak and his famed zone-blocking scheme in town for 2015, that trend seems likely to continue. At OTAs in May, Sanders himself admitted he doesn’t expect as much receiving production under the new coaching regime, and he may be the most adversely affected member of the passing game relative to last year’s numbers.
If by “this year’s Bishop Sankey” you mean “rookie whose skillset doesn’t match his measurables,” then I’ll take Ravens rookie WR Breshad Perriman. Despite never catching more than 50 passes or nine touchdowns in a college season, Perriman was a first round pick thanks to his athletic ability and 4.26 40-yard dash time at his pro day. Perriman has the height, weight, and speed combination that NFL teams envy, but his lack of technical skill and inconsistent hands will make him an overrated commodity as a rookie. If by “this year’s Bishop Sankey” you mean “RB who will be overdrafted and mired in a RB-by-committee for his entire rookie season,” then I’ll go with Falcons RB Tevin Coleman. Coleman has elite straight line speed, but is a one-dimensional runner and his shortcomings in the passing game will limit his snaps. Not to mention, the Falcons have other talented RBs in second-year back Devonta Freeman and speedster Antone Smith. Coleman will disappoint his owners this season and I’m willing to bet that Freeman finishes higher in the year-end RB rankings.
I think “this year’s Bishop Sankey” will actually be his teammate, David Cobb. The Tennessee Titans running back position looked bleak last year, and it was just assumed that Sankey could offer fantasy players value because he was projected to be the starting running back. In hindsight, many analysts are now talking about how the 2014 running back draft class was not very deep and the second-year back may have been a reach, and there have also been rumblings that Sankey still doesn’t have his fundamentals down. Even though Sankey provided less than stellar results last season, that doesn’t mean Cobb can just come in and offer immediate fantasy value. A cause for concern in his draft profile is the question of his efficiency in pass protection, which is worrisome when you have a rookie quarterback. Cobb is powerful and can truck through defenders, but that doesn’t mean the Titans are going to give him the keys to the starting job in Week 1, and the team will most likely rely on a committee approach to start the season. Cobb is commonly being drafted in Round 9 or Round 10 at the end of July, but the preseason hype may push his draft stock up. Sankey was a sixth-round pick on FantasyFootballcalculator.com last season. I think Cobb will find himself as a mid-round pick closer to the season but will disappoint owners who think they are being crafty.
Sankey was the first running back taken in the 2014 NFL Draft and fantasy owners tabbed him as a low-end RB2 before he disappointed with a forgettable 569-yard, two-touchdown rookie season. A year later, the first back taken in the 2015 NFL Draft may be setting fantasy owners up for a similar downfall. As much as I love his long-term potential, I think Todd Gurley is a dangerous pick in redraft leagues as a top-25 fantasy back. By most accounts, Gurley is progressing well in his recovery from a November ACL tear and may even be ahead of schedule in his rehab. But St. Louis’ Week 1 clash with the Seahawks will be less than nine months removed from Gurley’s knee injury and I can’t imagine the Rams will rush back the player that might be the future of the franchise. Even if he’s cleared to play before the end of September, Gurley is a player that never had more than 222 rushing attempts in a collegiate season and totaled just 388 carries over the last two years combined. St. Louis will want to see what they have in their prized rookie in 2015, but I don’t think they will push him to be the three-down back that he has the potential to be for years to come. Plan on a limited role for the first running back taken in this year’s NFL Draft on a team with questionable offensive potential. Sound familiar, Sankey owners?