It’s not always a skill issue, but every year there’s several players that turn into monumental busts. Having one of these guys eating up roster space halfway through the season is demoralizing, but sometimes unavoidable.
Adam Thielen, WR – Minnesotta: It’s funny how fantasy football tends to have fairly predictable ebbs and flows, and after the monster for Thielen (92 catches for 1276 yards) the fantasy community has gone all in on the 27 year old. Currently ranked 11th at his position and 30th overall, I’d argue to exercise caution when selecting Thielen that early.
Between a new quarterback that seemed to favor the long ball (Kirk Cousins) and an OC in John DeFilippo that has shown a commitment to their down field targets (examples; Travis Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Alshon Jeffrey) the expectation should be that regression is coming. Now, I’m not suggesting that Thielen falls completely off the map, but expect a far less consistent stat line. A more reasonable expectation would be roughly 1,000 yards and 5 TDs; similar to his 2016 numbers.
T.Y. Hilton, WR – Indianapolis: This one certainly feels like low hanging fruit, but Hilton continues to see an ADP of around 33, good for 13th among wide receivers. What’s disconcerting is that Hilton seems to have enough monster games each year to hide the fact that he’s more likely to bust than he is to boom.
With 9 weeks of 50 or fewer yards and 7 weeks with 30 or fewer, the reality is that Hilton is no better than a flex start. Regardless of how confident you may be at identifying when Hilton is set to go off, it’s still a waste of a pick in the fourth round when you can only reasonably rely on Hilton 25% of the time.
Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay: I’d like to preface this portion of the article by saying I believe Rodgers, pound for pound, is still the best signal caller in the NFL. Still, at 34, and returning from a near-season ending injury, he’ll have the most difficult fantasy schedule among all QBs with 7 of his first 11 games coming against the top 10 stingiest defenses in terms of QB scoring.
While Jimmy Graham should help, there’s also a possibility that he’ll get off to a slow start and an aging Rodgers may resume running for his life. A healthy Aaron Rodgers is a valuable fantasy asset, no matter how you look at it, but in the 2nd rounds of drafts, there’s little chance he pays off in terms of the return on that investment.
I’d like to preface this by saying that every player has some kind of value, but the real issue I take with the following players is the value other fantasy players have assigned to them. As always, take these with a grain of salt, as I’ll likely look at any of them if they fall into a round with appreciable value.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB – San Fransisco: It sure looked like Jimmy G was the real deal as he lead the listless 49ers to 5 straight wins to close out the season. And it certainly helped his stock that he beat three playoff teams in Jacksonville, Tennessee, and the LA Rams. But has he done enough in his brief time as a starter to warrant being drafted as the 9th QB off the board?
Instead of targeting a QB with 7 career starts and expecting a top 10 finish at the position, it’s a far safer proposition to look at the names directly behind him on the list. Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Rivers can all be had, and all offer far more consistent value in my opinion. Do I think Jimmy G is a bust candidate? No, not particularly, but with all the buzz surrounding the former heir to the Tom Brady empire, I’ll let someone else overpay for the unknown commodity.
Tom Brady, QB – New England: This may surprise some, especially being a Patriots fan living in Massachusetts, but the news out of New England has been mostly terrifying, yet Brady is still being drafted as the QB4. Between a lack of off season work, his top target from last year being traded, and his former safety net in Julian Edelman facing a 4 game suspension after missing all of last year with a knee injury, and you have a recipe for disaster if you lob and early round pick at Brady.
Of course, he’ll probably prove me wrong, but there’s no way I’m drafting Brady before Brees, Wentz, or Newton – the next three QB’s on the list. If I can get Brady for a discount, I’m comfortable with his superior talent making up for these things, but in the 5th round I’m drafting skill players and snagging someone else several rounds later.
Dion Lewis, RB – Tennessee: Every year the final running back rankings reveal a few surprises, and Dion Lewis’ 203 points (RB13) was certainly the stand out name to me. But now a member of the Titans, Lewis’s name keeps popping up on watch lists as a name to watch, something I just can’t get behind.
While he’s undoubtedly an electric player when healthy, 2017 was the first time Lewis turned in 16 games in his career, and betting on anything more than 7 games is a crap shoot with the diminutive back. Also against him is his role in the Tennessee offense, as he slides in neatly on the depth chart as the 3rd down back behind elite runner Derrick Henry. Sadly, no team targeted their backs less than the Titans 66 total RB targets. The ceiling is so low in Tennessee with a healthy Henry on the roster that I’m staying away from Lewis at all costs.
Kenyon Drake, RB – Miami: On the surface, Drake seems like a logical name to take the “next step” into fantasy relevance, especially after he dominated the touches for the Dolphins down the stretch, turning 91 touches into 444 yards and 2 TDs from week 13 on. How did the Dolphin front office repay him? By bringing in Frank Gore via free agency and adding Kalen Ballage in the draft.
We’ve seen similar situations before, and I’d argue caution when investing in the Miami backfield. Much like the Spencer Ware/Kareem Hunt situation last year, there is likely very little room for error when it comes to touches for Drake. Of course, staying healthy should see him resume the roll of the top dog, but touches will be limited, and his prospects of turning in a top 20 RB season are slim in my estimation.
T.Y. Hilton, WR – IND: It’s easy to look at the bottom line and say “but Hilton was productive” while ignoring the deficiencies playing in Indianapolis’ offense creates. The news on Andrew Luck has been mostly positive, but it still doesn’t look like he’ll be returning any time soon, yet fantasy drafters haven’t seem to given up on Hilton as an elite WR.
A closer look reveals how inconsistent Hilton was with Jacoby Brissette throwing him the ball. More than half of his yards (966 on the season) came in only three games (505) which in this case can’t be offset by the threat of scoring, as his 4 TDs is about what you can expect for the smaller receiver. If he continues on the pace he’s at, he’s a flex start at best, which is something that you can’t afford out of a 4th round pick.
Tyreek Hill, WR – KC: This one may sound strange, as I was a big fan of Hill’s going into last season, even going out of my way to own him in several leagues, but every year we must re-evaluate each players value and leave the past love in past when ranking players. Hill is currently the 10th WR coming off the board, but presents many of the same problems highlighted above with T.Y. Hilton.
Similarly, his final stat line is a bit of a mirage as the 75 catches for 1,183 yards only represents half of the story. Aside from four big games (552 yards and 3 of his 7 TDs), Hill failed consistently to hit 5 catches or 100 yards. Add to the roster a WR the caliber of Sammy Watkins, and he’s now relying on the big play to score, further damaging his fantasy value. While I can see a similar 100 targets, the effects of additional receiving weapons, an elite run game, and a first year starter are too much to overcome when drafting a player as early as Hill needs to be drafted.
Evan Engram, TE – NYG: Another player I preached judiciously last year, Engram turned in one of the finest fantasy seasons for a rookie TE ever, and is being rewarded for it by being the 5th TE off the board in 2018. As a TE being drafted in the 6th round, you’d like to be relatively sure that his production will remain consistent, but that’s where the problem begins.
Last year, as we all know, was a perfect storm for Engram, as the receiving corps for the Giants was decimated all year, leaving Engram as the only reliable starter capable of catching the ball. Now, he’ll be fighting for targets with a healthy Odell Beckham and Sterling Shephard, and he’ll see far less usage in the red zone as the Giants drafted Saquon Barkley, the best RB prospect for Big Blue in years. Could he surprise, sure, but will be finish as the TE5? Not a chance.
With the Hall of Fame Game set to kick off the pre-season in just over three weeks, we still have very little information regarding the status of Andrew Lucks rehab from offseason shoulder surgery.
The most obvious fallout from this is with Luck himself, where my previous QB rankings had him still in the top five despite the lingering issues. At this point, with as little information as we have, I have dropped Luck in my postitional rankings from 5 to 9, falling behind Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston, Russell Wilson, and Dak Prescott.
Beyond that, we have to consider what life without Luck would be like for the first few weeks. Hilton is a safer pick as he’ll likely be the focal point of the passing game. Frank Gore is a safe bet at his current ADP as well since it’s unlikely they’ll use him more or less regardless.
I’m not the biggest Moncrief fan in the world and depending on how much time Luck misses, he falls on my board, but I’m intrigued about Jack Doyle and his potential contributions. While there’s not enough statistics to provide answers for the young TE, it stands to reason that beyond Hilton, he’d be a likely saftey net for a young QB filling in for Luck. Don’t adjust your rankings on him.
Despite all this planning, we could hear in the next few days that Luck is a pillar of health and his rehab is progressing nicely. By all accounts, the Colts front office expects Luck to be ready for week one, but in the absence of solid evidence, it makes sense to prepare for the worst.
Ryan Tannehill quietly put together a borderline top 10 QB season, and Lamar Miller proved he could run the football with some consistency and catch it on occasion in the passing game. The receivers on this team are young and talented, with high volume option in Jarvis Landry and burners in Kenny Stills and Rishard Matthews. Adding Jordan Cameron only makes it harder for defenses to match up when they want to spread you out. Worth Drafting: Ryan Tannehill will likely be valued lower than he should be, as a later QB1 he’s worth it. Lamar Miller may have some competition later in the year from the uber talented Jay Ajayi, expect him to be a workhorse if healthy. Landry should be a good bet for 70+ catches, and Stills could be a weapon for Tannehill over the top. Jordan Cameron, if healthy, will step in and replace Charles Clay’s production very well.
11. San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers manages every year to put together a top 10 QB season, and expect this year to be no different. Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd should still see the bulk of the passes, new addition Stevie Johnson has a lot to prove and could be a nice late round WR addition. Despite Ledarius Green’s presence, Antonio Gates went out and killed it last year, and I’ll never again doubt the big mans ability or drive. Worth Drafting: Philip Rivers as always falls just shy of the NFL elite, but is a solid QB if you miss out on the top teir guys. Keenan Allen has the tools to be a WR1 and Michael Floyd will still stretch the field a bit (16.5 YPC last year). Stevie Johnson is a risk/reward player as his pedigree may trick owners into jumping early. Antonio Gates should be himself again this year, and I would caution against Ladarius Green fans against expecting any real fantasy value unless Gates gets hurt. Melvin Gordon could be this years highest scoring rookie… don’t be afraid to draft.
10. Chicago Bears
I know what you’re thinking, “the Bears in the top 10?” They may not be a top 10 NFL team, but we’re talking in terms of fantasy contributions. Jay Cutler may be inconsistent, as is evidenced by his second half slide, but he still has plenty of tools and a big arm. Alshon Jeffery will have an uptick in attempts as Cutler has shown a propensity to seak out his top target despite double teams. Matt Forte is a top 10 RB and top 3 in PPR formats, and Martellus Bennet moves into the top 3 conversation at TE thanks to Jimmy Grahams change of scenery. Worth Drafting: I was high on Jay Cutler last year, and this hasn’t changed. If you look at his first 5 or 6 weeks last year, he had some pretty good numbers that would have been even better if he didn’t turn the ball over. Kevin White is an unknown quantity but he should replace Marshall in the long run with the same kind of build. Jeffry should be a top 10WR and Bennett is a top 3 TE.
9. Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan did the best he could with the rash of injuries that clipped the Falcons wings last year, but a healthy squad will make a world of difference. Ryan is a top 10 QB even without his top two targets healthy. Tevin Coleman could push Devonta Freeman but both are talented and whoever makes it out of camp as the #1 should see above average RB numbers. Roddy White is still an every week start even with the top 3 WR in Julio Jones across from him. They have question marks at TE as Toilolo Levine led their active TE’s with 62 points last year (in 1pt PPR). Worth Drafting: Matt Ryan had a few brutal weeks and still managed a top 10 finish, he’ll have a better grasp on this offense and health not withstanding should be a top 10 QB this year as well. Julio Jones has the talent to finish #1, and he’ll likely go in the first 15 picks. Roddy White gets over looked more every year but he’s still a top 20 WR. The real question is Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman? I think it’ll be a battle in camp, and both guys should have some fantasy relevance come week 1.
8. New York Giants
The world was against the Giants after a brutal season prior, but Eli Manning still finished top 10 at QB, and Odell Beckham emerged as a top WR threat. With the return of Victor Cruz this offense could have two scary weapons for Eli to use. Rashad Jennings may be a little older than the other top RB’s, but he still averaged 10-11 points per week (depending on your scoring system). Larry Donnell put together an admirable season and the Giants like to use TE’s in the passing game. Worth Drafting: Eli is a safe bet to out perform his numbers last year if he has a healthy WR corps. Beckham will likely be drafted incredibly early, but with Cruz back, he’ll be hard pressed to repeat his second half numbers. Rueben Randle is the real steal here, as his value takes a huge hit with two studs in front of him, but in a passing offense, he should out perform his ADP. Rashad Jennings was fine when he played, but grab Andre Williams late as a handcuff if you need to use Jennings as a RB 1 or 2.
7. Detroit Lions
I hate to say that Matthew Stafford is overrated, because I think he’s an entertaining gun slinger in the Brett Favre mold, but his terrible efficiency actually lowers his ceiling despite as often as he throws the football. That being said, he has two elite WR’s in Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Either one can carry the torch if the other isn’t performing. At TE, they have two question marks: is Brandon Pettigrew capable of being used in the passing game and can Eric Ebron be healthy enough to contribute. I think Ebron is the TE the Lions would rather emerge. Joique Bell got a lot of touches last year, but averaged under 4 YPC. His value lies in the passing game, but the Lions served notice in drafting what they think is a 3 down back in Ameer Abdullah. A great talent, he should push Bell for touches early and often. Worth Drafting: Matt Stafford at the right price has enough volume to contribute but he’ll drive you crazy. Calvin Johnson slipping down the ranks only helps the owner who gets him, he’s still the best in the game in my opinion. Golden Tate is a solid second option, and a good one two punch in Bell and Abdullah in the backfield make this a formidable offense. Ebron is the TE to look at with a much higher ceiling.
6. Seattle Seahawks
The beautiful thing about this offense is that it’s predictable and consistent. Russell Wilson will beat you through the air or on the ground, and his ability to run at the right time means he’ll get you a ton of points that other QB’s won’t. Marshawn Lynch is a workhorse unlike any in the league. He’ll touch the ball with greater consistency and efficiency than anyone else. The homeruns aren’t always there, but 4-5YPC and double digit touchdowns make him my #1 back. Doug Baldwin has proven to be a solid #1 for a team that doesn’t throw it that much, his value will reflect that. Beyond him, Jimmy Graham should give Wilson a redzone threat, but no one else is more than a flier. Worth Drafting: This team features three top 5 position options. Russell Wilson ran for 850 yards last year… he’s in my top 3 for QBs. Marshawn Lynch may not have as many 30+ point weeks as a Le’Veon Bell, but his unparralleled consistency (12 weeks above RB average) make him my #1, and Jimmy Graham will likely be the #1 option inside the 20 plus just a tick behind Baldwin elsewhere. Draft all three confidently. Doug Baldwin is a safe WR if he’s available after the top options are off the board.
5. Dallas Cowboys
My value of the Dallas Cowboys is contingent on the offensive line. Darren McFadden’s ability hasn’t been his big question, it’s been his health. If he can stay on the field he’ll benifit greatly from the O-Line that helped DeMarco Murray lead the league in rushing last year. Dez Bryant and Tony Romo have a special connection, allowing both to creep towards the top 5 in their catagories. Cole Beasley should be a good value pick in PPR leagues, and Jason Witten is ageless and productive. Worth Drafting: At their relative ADP’s I’d say nearly all of the offensive weapons are worth a look. Bryant, Romo and McFadden all three will be drafted in the first 4 or 5 rounds. Witten, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley all have a good chance to produce weekly for this team as well.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Who knew Le’Veon Bell would bounce back from a tough rookie year to lead the league in fantasy scoring? We knew he’d be good, but it gave the offense the freedom to throw different looks at the defense. They were rewarded with a career year by Roethlisburger and the emergency of Antonio Brown as a top WR office. Marcus Wheaton will put up solid WR fantasy stats as well, and Heath Miller, although no longer Elite, still has some gas in the tank. Worth Drafting: Ben Roethlisberger may not finish with the totals he had last year, but he’s a good bet to finish at or near a top 5 QB. Le’Veon Bell is going to miss a few games to start the year, but it’s clear he’s the focal point of that offense and he’s young enough to eat up 300+ touches and is a beast in PPR. Antonio Brown is the Marshawn Lynch of the receiving game. Quietly posting 300 or so points in PPR leagues and nearly 15-20 points every week. Bell and Brown are likely first or 2nd round picks. Don’t sleep on Miller either as there is really only 5 or 6 elite TE’s on the board, and after you’re looking at either consistency (miller) or home run weeks.
3. Denver Broncos
This wouldn’t change if Peyton Manning was 50 years old, and that’s because they finally found their RB to compliment their lethal passing game. Peyton is a general, and will use his elite weapons liberaly, and will make mediocre talents look even better. Julius Thomas is gone but anyone that can run routes will look solid in this offense. CJ Anderson as a 3 down back compliments Manning in ways Montee Ball never could, averaging 180+ points in PPR formats over the final 7 weeks (on par with Le’Veon Bell). Worth Drafting: Manning may be falling behind his contemporaries a bit but should still finish in the top 5. Demaryius Thomas looks to be a top 2 WR with Emmanuel Sanders not far behind. CJ Anderson is a bit of an unknown quantity but even if he’s only a quarter of the back he was over the last 7 weeks, he’ll be a top 10 back. Not sure about Virgil Green, but I think we said the same thing about Julius Thomas a few years ago, and Manning turned him into a top option.
2. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy… do I need to say more? A high powered offense with consistency and familiarity unlike any squad in the league, they could break records if the schedule shakes out for them. They play through the air, and on the ground, but they give everyone their due which is rare for a team with as many options. Worth Drafting: Aaron Rodgers may have been supplanted by Andrew Luck, but he hasn’t fallen far. All four of the players above will be gone in the first 3 or so rounds, which is scary for opposing defenses. Andrew Quarless is the other player to target, but they’ve never been a heavy TE use team.
1. Indianapolis Colts
AFC Championship withstanding, this is the most outstanding offense in football. A team that is often in shootouts, Indy has a quarterback to compete with them all. Adding Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, and Phillip Dorsett through the draft makes this offense even better than last year. Luck could (and I’d argue should) crest 5k yards and 50 TD’s, contributing to TY Hilton’s continued emergence as a 2nd round WR. Frank Gore has proven he can play forever, and in this Indy offense should contribute on the ground and in the air, and Andre Johnson may have lost a step but as a route runner, the dangerously accurate Luck should have no problem finding him in the soft spots of the defense. Worth Drafting: Andrew Luck will finish the year as the highest scoring player in football, draft him in the first round if you want him, he’s that good. TY Hilton and Andre Johnson should both have 70-80 Receptions with 1100 plus yards, although I expect Johnson to be the bigger red zone threat and higher ADP. Frank Gore may not be a top 5 or even top 10 RB, but expect some huge weeks from the old dog as he will be highighted in the passing game. Even Dwayne Allen, for all his deficiencies, should finish inside the top 10 of the TE ranks.
If you have a problem with any of these rankings, I say good, because debating and conversation is the best way to explain why we feel the way we feel. Tell me where I’m wrong, and who is your Fantasy Elite?