With the 2015 NFL season rapidly approaching (or very slowly approaching, depending on who you talk to) I would like to dig into my first segment of overrated/underrated. This will be a weekly segment based on average player rankings across various fantasy football sites, but for this first installment I am using current ADP, or Average Draft Position, and you guys get the present of an “outdated” section as well. The outdated section will be players who I think may have hit their expiration date over the offseason. All ADPs in this article are from PPR leagues and will be coming from fantasyfootballcalculator.com, it’s a pretty nifty little website if you are bored and want to do some research (not a plug, just an observation). Using ADP at this point in the year is a little crazy, so just to be clear I am not too focused on the exact number these players are being drafted, rather just the general area they are going. I will also observe where these players are drafted in comparison to others at their respective position. Let’s start with a few players I think are overrated heading into the next NFL season.
Overrated: NFL Players being over drafted in fantasy football leagues (based on ADP)
Getting a TE that annually finishes the season top two in his position, in the third round of a 12 team league is good, right? Wrong. The player is Jimmy Graham, and by now we are all aware of his situation. Honestly, even if he were still on the Saints, with Drew Brees feeding him in a pass happy offense, I still wouldn’t touch him at his current ADP of 25 (3.01). Guess what folks? He is NOT in New Orleans anymore. I don’t think I would be looking for Graham until the fifth round at the earliest in fantasy drafts, and I really am a huge fan of his. It just doesn’t make sense to expect the player who finished 41st overall last year (in PPR) to go to a run first offense, with a running QB, and produce more than he did the year before as a member of the Saints. Let’s look at some numbers that indicate why Graham’s opportunities might be limited in Seattle. He is going from the Saints who threw 659 passes last year, to the Seahawks who threw 454. Saints completed 456 passes for a 69.2% completion percentage, as the Seahawks completed only 287 passes (63.2%). The Saints had 1514 more passing yards than the Seahawks as well as 13 more passing TD’s.
His targets are undoubtedly going to drop along with his receptions as the Saints were the second most pass happy team in 2014 behind only the Colts, and the Seahawks were the least pass happy. Along with that, his TD numbers and his yards should drop as he’s moving to a more ball control type. It’s really the perfect storm for a disaster and I am looking to avoid it at any cost. A guy I would much, much rather have than Graham (especially at their current ADPs) would be Travis Kelce, currently going 51st overall (5.01). I might even take Kelce over Graham if Graham were somehow available that late, and that’s not a knock on Graham’s talent, merely his situation.
Kelvin Benjamin had 145 targets last year what did he do with them? Well he could be featured in a Butterfinger’s commercial at this point (and that might actually be a more viable career for him than to try to catch NFL passes). Benjamin ended up tied for the NFL lead in dropped passes with ten, however his targets were in large part to blame for that. His actual drop percentage isn’t terrible at 6.9% (Sportingcharts.com).
The point is that he really didn’t do much with a ridiculous amount of targets, sure he caught nine touchdowns, but even with those touchdown numbers he finished as the WR16. He is currently going at WR14, and it may seem logical to expect some improvement in his sophomore year as he continues to build chemistry with Cam Newton (who missed some games last year due to various injuries and was never really 100%). The only thing is, I expect Kelvin to decline this season, both due to his targets going down (they really can only go down, right?) and his TD rate inevitably declining, with both a healthy Cam rushing for more TD’s, and a focus on more of a run first offense, along with the fact that Carolina just has to find more pass catching options for Cam by next season.
I don’t think Kelvin’s ADP is too big of a stretch, and if you like the guy then by all means take him there, but if he’s really going over DeAndre Hopkins (current ADP: WR16) then people are going to be sorry they made that pick. I think Kelvin showed what his max potential is last year. Maybe he gets a little better at actual football next season, but his targets and red zone opportunities going down should more than even it out for fantasy football.
This may be getting a little nitpicky because I do think Eddie Lacy finishes as a top 6 RB next season, however his current ADP at 1.03 is scary to me. He showed us last year he has bust potential as he came out of the gates slow, and momentarily had a 50/50 split with James Starks. Many dumped Lacy and didn’t get much back for him, but savvy owners took advantage of the opportunity and were rewarded greatly once Lacy got going, as he finished the season as the RB6. The scare to begin last season is enough for me to move him down the ranks, not due to his lack of upside, but to his low floor when he isn’t scoring TD’s or getting volume. The Packers seemed to have lightened Eddie’s workload last season, as Lacy amassed 20+ carries in only three different games (as opposed to ten games of 20+ carries in 2013). The Packers showing that they were willing to split carries between Starks and Lacy for some of the season was alarming. I’m not sure if that means that they don’t believe in Lacy’s abilities, or that they don’t believe he can handle a full workload, but either way it is not something you want to worry about with your top 3 pick. Both Forte and Lynch are guys going behind Lacy that I think possess a higher floor, which is important with early round investments. We are all trying to avoid busts, and the potential for a bust is evident in Lacy. Obviously I don’t think Lacy should be at all avoided in drafts, but he wouldn’t be a guy I’m targeting quite yet at 1.03.
Underrated: NFL Players being under drafted in fantasy football leagues (based on ADP)
It’s a lot easier for me to write about underrated players than it is overrated players. I am an optimistic person at heart and tend to overvalue people as opposed to undervalue them, so this section will be a lot more fun for me, beginning with somebody that is always noted as underrated: Jordan Reed. I’m not sure how many times people can talk up Jordan Reed before we just give up on the guy altogether, but there’s no reason not take a flier on him at 159 overall (13.06). He is the 16th TE going off the boards, so he can easily be paired up with a safer option if you don’t want to risk it all on him (I would, however, take the chance on him and stream if it fails). There’s zero question about Reed’s talent, it’s just a matter of him finding a fit in Washington’s offense and building rhythm with a QB.
Last year Washington was a mess, so I think Reed’s season finishing as the TE21 while missing 5+ games to injuries can be forgiven. In his rookie season he was sidelined 7 games as well, and he has never been able to produce consistently in his career, between missing games and switching QB’s, things have been hard. He only has 124 targets in his young career and has corralled 95 of them for 964 yards and 3 TD’s. Out of the 20 games he has participated in (some of which he left early due to injury) he has gotten 6+ targets a total of 12 times. His numbers in those 12 games: 78 catches (102 targets) for 836 yards and 2 TD’s. Extrapolate those games he has been heavily involved in (6+ targets) to a 16 game season and you are looking at a 104 catch (136 target) 1114 yard, 2.67 TD season.
It might be a little optimistic to hope for a 136 target season, but I think it would be smart for Washington to feature Reed in their offense, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he reaches 120 or more targets. Reed has proven he can produce with volume (when healthy), and no disrespect, but I do not view Niles Paul as a threat to take opportunities away from Reed. At little to no cost, I like Reed as a late round flier that can produce top 8 TE numbers. (Please be a real thing, Jordan.)
Has Marques Colston ever not been undervalued? I know the guy is boring, but he’s solid, and has been consistent throughout his entire career. Colston’s current ADP is 145. Marques Colston’s worst season of at least 14 games (played 11 games in 2008) is 59-902-5. There may be a worry about some decline at this point in his career, but a decline will likely be small and steady for a guy who has been the poster child of consistency.
To be honest, Colston could decline in per target numbers this year and still amass his production from last year (where he finished at WR36). Why, you ask? Well because of a guy named Jimmy Graham leaving town. Graham saw 124 targets last year, and as solid as Josh Hill may be this year, there’s no chance he reaches that number. Now, the Saints are saying they will be throwing less, so there may be fewer targets overall to go around, but I would still expect another 40-50 targets towards WR’s this season. Speaking of their WR’s, another guy from last year that is gone is Kenny Stills and his 85 targets! That’s another 85 targets to be split between Colston and the other remaining receivers.
Let’s be honest though, Colston isn’t sexy. He is, however, a great value pick. Brandin Cooks’ current ADP is 39 (4.01) compared to Colston at 145 (12.04), Cooks is the 17th WR going off the board and Colston is ridiculously the 54th, despite being the 36th ranked WR last year in what is potentially his floor, and despite the fact that he is in a more favorable position this year. Let’s compare Cooks and Colston a little bit. In the 10 games that Cooks played (Colston also played all 10 of those games) he out produced Colston in terms of yard five of the ten times, so half of the time. In those 10 games total Cooks had 550 yards and 3 TD’s to Colston’s 536 yards and 1 TD. There’s not a wide gap between these two, in fact there’s really not much statistically so far that says Cooks is even the safer option. The fact that you can get Colston over 8 rounds later than Cooks is absolutely insane, and I’m taking Colston at his ADP 100% of the time over Cooks at his. You should, too.
As far as running backs go there are many that I think are undervalued, Jeremy Hill (2.08) should be going near the end of the first round. DeMarco Murray (1.12) should still be near the middle of the first round, but Latavius Murray at 44th overall (4.06) is the biggest surprise I’ve seen. If people are worried about Roy Helu or Trent Richardson, don’t be. Latavius will be a bell cow and is likely to produce top 15 RB numbers (he’s currently going RB20). Using a nice numberFire stat called NEP, or Net Expected Points, we can compare what Latavius did on a per rush basis compared to the average football player. Latavius’ NEP/rush was 0.05, as unsexy as that sounds, it puts him above Mark Ingram, DeMarco Murray, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster, and Eddie Lacy, so the kid can straight up ball when he gets the rock.
In comparison, his fellow backfield mates last season Darren McFadden (-0.15), Marcel Reese (-0.30) and Maurice Jones-Drew (-0.32) were all much, much worse. With the aforementioned McFadden and Jones-Drew out the picture, Latavius will get the volume he should have been getting last year, and he will produce. Latavius has a very solid chance to finish the season with second round fantasy value, and what more could you ask for of your fourth round pick? I’m assuming his ADP will rise come summer, but even if it goes up a full round, I’m still taking him.
Outdated: Players who produced last year, but won’t produce ever again (bold predictions)
There will be no statistical data in this section as they are all just gut calls, but here are a few guys that I believe won’t be fantasy-relevant ever again. Beginning at TE, I am going to boldly say that Antonio Gates’ 2014 was a complete aberration, and he will never deservingly be plugged into your starting lineup again (okay, maybe week one he still technically “deserves” to be). The Ladarius Green era has begun (again, very bold). Many thought Gates was on the decline heading into 2014, and many thought Green was on the rise and undervalued prior to the season beginning. Both of those thoughts will be validated in 2015, it’s just that nobody wants to be dumb enough to think it again. That’s why I’m here!
Roddy White is another guy that will disappear off the face of the planet. After completing a (mostly) healthy 2014 in which he saw 122 targets, I predict that Roddy will never play more than 10 games in a season the rest of his career. Roddy was questionable far too many times last season, and sat out of practice routinely. He is showing all the signs of a wearing down WR, and has been oddly risky yet safe for fantasy, as his ADP seems to always drop more than his eventual production. This is the season where that finally all goes wrong, though, and you will be wasting a sixth round pick on a guy who will miss a large chunk of the season, and will be a borderline WR3 in the games that he is healthy for.
Frank Gore is still going to be drafted as a RB2, but he will be 32 by the time the season starts. He has been a steady mid round RB pick for years, so of course people will keep drafting him in the middle rounds. He’s going to a fine situation in Indianapolis, however I think Dan Herron is the superior runner, with a -0.03 NEP/rush and 50% success rate, and Gore (-0.06 NEP/rush and 42.52% success rate) is just there so Herron doesn’t get overused. Gore will likely be the goal line back and get some TD’s, but that will be his entire worth as he will be under double digit touches more often than not. Gore will be nothing more than a late round flier come 2016, and even that will be due only to his TD upside.