Fantasy football draft season is just around the corner, and we’re all looking for value picks and future stars. However, it’s important to take a step back and think about strategy as well as players to avoid. Doug Moore provides us with a list of 2016’s most overdrafted fantasy players and why you need to avoid these seemingly reliable stars.
As the 2016 NFL (and fantasy football) season rapidly approaches (Thank God!), it’s time to take a look at the results from drafts that have taken place so far. This article will look at two players from each position (quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end) that appear over-drafted (drafted higher than they should be) and examine why they should be taken lower.
DISCLAIMER: All draft information is from MyFantasyLeague.com’s ADP data for 2016 in standard scoring, re-draft leagues. All ADP data taken from Sunday, June 26, 2016.
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers (5th QB taken)
Big Ben could be in line for a big year in 2016. He will have the best wide receiver in the game, Antonio Brown, at his disposal along with arguably the best running back in the game, Le’Veon Bell, returning from injury. To go along with them, the signing of tight end Ladarius Green will be a welcome addition as well.
However, Roethlisberger is 34 years old and is coming off a down season in which he only played in 12 games because of various injuries. He threw for 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, which is a poor touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also will be going into 2016 without his usual left tackle, Kelvin Beachum, who signed with the Jaguars as a free agent. The team will presumably hold a competition for the starting left tackle spot after not signing or drafting Beachum’s replacement. Roethlisberger will also be without one of his best weapons, Martavis Bryant, who is suspended for the 2016 season.
There is no doubt that Big Ben could have a great 2016, but at his age and injury history (he has only played a full regular season three out of 12 seasons), it’s difficult to see him outproducing Blake Bortles or Drew Brees, who are being drafted after him. He’d have a much more logical average draft position (ADP) if he was in the 7-8 quarterback range, but not as the fifth-highest quarterback taken.
Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans (11th QB taken)
There is little doubt that Mariota is on his way to being a very good quarterback in the NFL. He is not only developing nicely as a passer, but continues to pose a threat with his legs. However, in fantasy football, his expectations may be a tad lofty in 2016 based on his ADP. Currently being drafted ahead of Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, and Andy Dalton, he is being drafted way ahead of what he may be expected to do in 2016.
Mariota did finish last season off nicely (averaging the ninth most points from Weeks 9-17 of all quarterbacks [excluding Andrew Luck, who only played in one game]) and he did also receive some new weapons on offense to utilize, including Rishard Matthews and DeMarco Murray. That, along with his teammates in 2015 such as Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker, and Dorial Green-Beckham, make for a strong supporting cast. But there are some other issues to keep in mind.
After drafting Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and trading for Murray, the Titans may be heading toward a run-heavy offense, which may include utilizing Mariota as a runner rather than a passer. The new coaching tandem of Mike Mularkey (18-39 record) and Terry Robiskie as his head coach and offensive coordinator respectively, it’s not a very inspiring tandem to encourage people that Tennessee will become better in 2016. And lastly, Mariota missed four games in 2015 because of multiple knee injuries, which may come with the territory of being a mobile quarterback. So while Mariota could have a great sophomore season, I wouldn’t buy him at his ADP in re-draft leagues.
Eddie Lacy – Green Bay Packers (8th RB taken)
Eddie Lacy, the same Eddie Lacy who was a colossal bust in 2015 and finished as the 25th-ranked running back in standard leagues, is being drafted as a top-10 running back in 2016? I’m not sure I can buy that. Yes, Lacy did lose a noticeable amount of weight over the offseason after being publicly chastised by head coach Mike McCarthy. And the team didn’t make any notable additions at running back aside from re-signing James Starks, but I’m not so sure Lacy is worth the high price associated with being a top-10 running back.
Lacy finished with a measly 4.1 yards per carry and only three rushing touchdowns in 15 games last season, which included a demotion to second string behind Starks for three games. He was a huge waste of a first-round pick in 2015, yet people are drafting him ahead of Doug Martin and LeSean McCoy, to name a few. The Packers are expected to bounce-back in 2016 after a down year offensively in 2015 (15th in the NFL with 23 points per game on average), but it could be a very pass-heavy team as Jordy Nelson will be back alongside Randall Cobb at wide receiver.
There is hope that Lacy could regain form in 2016 and be a dominant fantasy running back, but at his price tag even after a horrible 2015, I wouldn’t take that risk.
Matt Jones – Washington (19th RB taken)
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m not a fan of Jones at all for 2016. He played second string behind Alfred Morris in 2015 and now seems to have the edge for the lead role in 2016. But when he is being drafted as a mid-tier RB2 based on his ADP after a season when he had 3.4 yards per carry and five fumbles in less than 165 carries, I can’t go near him and neither should you.
Washington is moving to a more pass-friendly offense with Kirk Cousins and his plethora of weapons including Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, and first-round pick Josh Doctson. In 2015, Washington was tied for 14th in the NFL in rushing attempts. As a team, Washington only ran the ball 43.5% of the time on offensive plays in 2015. Chris Thompson will also be back and have a role on 3rd downs as a pass-catching running back. Seventh-round pick Keith Marshall could also be in line for some touches in 2016 as well.
Overall, Jones could be in line for a solid 2016, but it’s hard to believe he will suddenly be a top-20 running back after his horrible 2015. And his price tag is much too high when you have Jay Ajayi, Giovani Bernard, and Jeremy Langford being drafted after him. Stay away from Jones until his ADP becomes more reasonable, if it ever does.
Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders (9th WR taken)
I love Amari Cooper, but not at this price tag. After finishing with less fantasy points than teammate Michael Crabtree (Crabtree 19th best wide receiver in 2015, Cooper 24th), Cooper’s ADP has somehow skyrocketed for 2016 in redraft leagues. He is being drafted ahead of Keenan Allen, Sammy Watkins, Alshon Jeffery, and Demaryius Thomas and his price tag may only climb more as we approach the season.
Cooper had a terrific season, considering he was a rookie with a quarterback coming off a lackluster 2014 season. With 72 receptions, 1,070 yards, and six touchdowns, he did not have a bad year at all. But Cooper did have 10 drops in his rookie season, which was tied for second only behind Mike Evans (who had 11). With another offseason in the NFL, his drop issue could be better in 2016, but that still doesn’t justify him being drafted as a top-10 wide receiver for the upcoming season.
Crabtree had more receptions (85) and touchdowns (9) in 2015, yet Crabtree’s ADP is 40. While I do agree that Cooper likely will have a better 2016 than Crabtree, I can’t say he’ll have that much of a better season. And with a team that has a very good defense (on paper at least), the team may not be forced to pass as much. Cooper could have a top-20 wide receiver season in fantasy football, but I’m not ready to say a top 10.
Kelvin Benjamin – Carolina Panthers (19th WR taken)
Coming off a great rookie season in 2014 (73 receptions, 1,008 yards, nine touchdowns), Benjamin was preparing for a strong sophomore campaign in 2015. Unfortunately he tore his ACL before the 2015 season and was forced to miss the entire year. Now that he is back and expected to be ready for Week 1 of the upcoming season, Benjamin could go back to having another solid season in 2016. I’m not so sure he’ll have a better 2016 than Brandon Marshall, Golden Tate, Jeremy Maclin, or Julian Edelman to name a few who are being drafted after him so far, though.
As mentioned above, Benjamin had a great 2014 season, but that was when there almost no one else to throw to. In 2015, Cam Newton found Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn, and even Devin Funchess. With Benjamin back in the mix, there will be more competition for targets in the passing game. Keep in mind, this is also a team that finished 27th in passing attempts and 24th in passing yards in 2015. This is clearly a run-heavy offense as they finished first in rushing attempts, second in rushing yards, and tied for first in rushing touchdowns. It may be hard for Benjamin to get 70 or even 60 receptions in this offense with other mouths to feed.
Benjamin, at his ceiling, could have a low-end WR2 season, but that would take a lot to happen as long as Newton is the quarterback. Playing in arguably the most run-heavy offense and the fact that he may not even be the top target in the passing game, I’m not ready to draft Benjamin anywhere close to his ADP.
Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs (4th TE taken)
During the second half of the season (Weeks 9-17) of the 2015 season, Travis Kelce had the 16th most fantasy points of all tight ends. Players like Vance McDonald, Will Tye, Richard Rodgers, and Benjamin Watson all finished with more points during that span, but Kelce is being drafted as a top-five tight end so far, ahead of Tyler Eifert and Delanie Walker who both had more points in 2015 than Kelce.
The Chiefs are not particularly known for being a pass-heavy offense, as they finished tied for 29th in passing attempts, 30th in passing yards and tied for 26th in passing touchdowns in 2015. With Jamaal Charles returning from injury and Jeremy Maclin returning as the team’s Number 1 wide receiver, there may not be much room for Kelce to get enough targets to sustain top-five tight end production. Plus, Kelce saw 13 more targets and had five more receptions in 2015 compared to 2014 but only had 13 more yards receiving and the same amount of touchdowns.
Kelce is clearly one of the best tight ends in the league, but the Chiefs are not a very pass-friendly offense and he may be handicapped because of that. He is a lock for a top-10 season if he is healthy, but I’m not ready to draft him in the top five of tight ends in 2016.
Coby Fleener – New Orleans Saints (7th TE taken)
Fleener was given a huge contract (5 years, $35 million) this offseason by the Saints after losing Benjamin Watson in free agency. Even though Fleener is part of one of the most pass-heavy offenses in football and has a future Hall of Fame quarterback throwing him passes in Drew Brees, Fleener is currently being drafted as a top-eight tight end in fantasy football and that is simply too high.
In his four years in the NFL, Fleener has only surpassed more than 500 yards receiving twice and five or more touchdowns once despite having 50+ receptions in three consecutive seasons. It’s encouraging to see that the Saints are heavily invested in Fleener, but his stats don’t add up to him necessarily breaking out. He was already in a pass-heavy offense in Indianapolis with Andrew Luck throwing to him and he still couldn’t string together solid seasons. On top of that, the Saints also have Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Michael Thomas, Mark Ingram, and C.J. Spiller in line for targets in 2016.
There is reason to believe that Fleener could be a TE1 in 2016 in a new offense, but when Zach Ertz, Ladarius Green, Julius Thomas, and Gary Barnidge are all being drafted behind him, I’m not ready to commit to such a high price tag for an unproven commodity.