Updated: Sept. 1 at 11:10 a.m. EDT
Fantasy football owners, especially in the early stages of draft season, tend to overhype players — often rookies and those on new teams. While every single player has some fantasy worth, it can be easy to get caught up in the hype machine or rely on dogmatic assumptions. Consider this as a “pump the brakes” warning, rather than a “don’t draft under any circumstance” doctrine.
The position is extremely deep and full of capable starters this year. An overall assessment of the position points mostly to one player being deserving of the dreaded “bust” label, but a few lesser names can be considered, such as Carson Palmer and Tyrod Taylor. Hopefully no one was entering their draft with intentions of making either of those guys a starter.
Instead of grasping at straws just to provide names, we’ll offer a broader cautionary explanation: No quarterback (in any conventional scoring structure) is worthy of a first-round pick. Or a second-rounder. And unless you pick in the final two or three spots of the third round, which means you’ll be picking on the long end of the turn in the fourth, only Aaron Rodgers’ name should enter your mind.
Simply put, the position offers far too much range with minuscule separation from top to midrange to low-end starting material without sacrificing at running back and wide receiver. This is the precise reasoning why experts leagues almost always result in the first quarterback coming off the board in Round 4.
Cam Newton | Panthers | ADP 8:02 | Overvalued
There is a lot to like about Newton when he is 100 percent healthy and clicking on all cylinders, making it difficult to count out players of his skill set. The risk-reward factor skews negative for him, though, and much of it is because of the positional depth. Working against Superman is a recovery from a major shoulder surgery. He looked fine in his extremely brief preseason appearance, which offers hope. Assuming he returns to form, the Panthers lack star power in the passing game. Sure, this team added Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel to become more explosive, but how much trust can we justifiably put into a pair of rookies? Should you be the owner to draft Newton, at least make sure to secure a strong backup with weekly starting potential.
David Johnson | Cardinals | ADP 1:01 | Bust (sort of)
Johnson has a bust index pointing the wrong direction. Hear me out … I don’t actually expect Johnson will be a total bust. However, for the consensus No. 1 overall pick, any missed time or significant regression can be grounds for the dreaded bust label. Before automatically crowning him as the wisest choice to begin a draft, factor in these key points: He had a massive workload (373 touches), plays for an offense on the downswing, and is coming off a significant late-season injury (overuse?). Chris Johnson’s 2009 season (408 touches) was last time the NFL leader in touches played 16 games the next year (5th in fantasy points). Every other follow-up season since for touch leaders has resulted in fantasy disaster. The elder Johnson was re-signed to steal a few breather touches, and Arizona’s aerial game should be better than last year, thus taking some targets from the big-bodied runner. David Johnson should be extremely good but may not be the top fantasy back in 2017.
Joe Mixon | Bengals | ADP 4:02 | Overvalued
Mixon will be an unbelievable fantasy weapon — in 2018. It is understandable why he is so liked, but it is also misguided. The Bengals still have the one-dimensional Jeremy Hill to stand in Mixon’s way for easy touchdowns. Hill will be gone after this year. Mixon’s early-season role should be that of catching passes and spelling Hill, presuming the rookie can defend Andy Dalton in pass pro. Eight months removed from ACL reconstruction, a healthy Giovani Bernard is on the field and looking to reclaim the third-down role. Consider all of the playmakers in this offense … there is only one football. Now look at this offensive line. It’s offensive. Mixon is far closer to being an RB3/flex buy than a top-20 running back as he is being chosen.
Ty Montgomery | Packers | ADP 4:01 | Overvalued
Montgomery played inspiring football last year but is not the sole answer to Green Bay’s rushing woes. He is part of the solution, just as he should be included in fantasy plans. The wideout-turned-running back is a justifiable RB2 or flex in PPR scoring but becomes a liability in standard leagues. In 2016, he scored once every 40 times he put his hands on the ball, which ranked 31st among RBs with at least 120 total touches. Running back Jamaal Williams, a fourth-round rookie, is having a fine camp in his bid to steal touches. At a minimum, he will press for work near the goal line. Green Bay’s interior offensive line turnover in the past two seasons warrants a mention, if nothing else. Simply put, in scoring formats without the spoils of receiving points, Montgomery will struggle to consistently provide return on his ADP investment.
Rex Burkhead | Patriots | ADP 10:11 | Overvalued
New England handsomely paid Burkhead this offseason, which alludes to a hefty role in the offense. His addition was before Mike Gillislee was brought into the fold. Burkhead is a fantastic special teams player and is easily worth his contract doing nothing but the dirty work with an occasional offensive touch. Consider who acquired him: Bill Belichick is such a stickler for details, especially on special teams. Burkhead is in a messy backfield and plays for an offense with a million mouths to feed. His only clear path to touches is if Gillislee misses substantial time. Even a player drafted in Round 10 can be overvalued. Spend a late-round flier pick on someone with more upside.
Keenan Allen | Chargers | ADP 3:02 (PPR) | Overvalued
Plain and simple, Allen shouldn’t be trusted as a top fantasy receiver. He cannot stay healthy and has suffered several serious injuries. The Bolts have considerable weaponry, as well as a legitimate running game, and don’t need to force-feed Allen. He is a fringe WR2 in PPR, and only if you are able to stomach such risk.
Martavis Bryant | Steelers | ADP 4:08 | Overvalued
A fourth-round ADP for a player likely to be suspended indefinitely if he makes one misstep? Bryant offers little in point-per-reception scoring and is an immense gamble for modest returns. He hasn’t played in a full season and is too reliant on touchdowns. Just know what you are getting into before picking Bryant merrily as a No. 2 receiver. He’s a borderline WR3/flex target, and even then gamers must be guarded. Picking him requires owners to build a deeper receiving corps, which could cost dearly at other positions.
Sammy Watkins | Rams | ADP: 6:04 | Bust
Moving on from his time in Buffalo that was pocked with injuries, Watkins gets a fresh slate in a much nicer climate for a vertical threat. The concern of losing time to an ailment is just as high in Los Angeles, however, and now his quarterback situation takes a turn for the worse. Furthermore, the high-flying wideout must learn a new system and build chemistry in a hurry. Watkins’ draft stock is trending in the right direction to mitigate some of his negatives, yet it is tough to envision his season producing anything better than being a fringe matchup play this season, unless Jared Goff unexpectedly makes major strides.
Tyler Eifert | Bengals | ADP 6:09 | Overvalued
Speaking of fragile, Eifert is a cupcake. He also, like the aforementioned Joe Mixon, has so many other weapons to battle for touches. The Bengals face major questions along the offensive line after losing two key starters — a situation that may force Eifert to stay in for more blocking assignments. Obviously inline blocking isn’t his game, but necessity could say otherwise. He hasn’t finished a season yet in his career, and touchdowns buoy his fantasy worth. Eifert has value and will help teams … hopefully at a much more digestible asking price.
Martellus Bennett | Packers | ADP: 7:03 | Overvalued
Bennett is more than capable of posting fine season-long totals in fantasy. The issue is how he gets there, as it tends to be a meandering road with more lows than highs. When he is good, though, we’re talking two or three TDs in a game kind of good. Bennett’s best worth in fantasy is found in best-ball or total points contests (DFS, too, given the right matchup). Target him in situations that don’t effectively penalize for being inconsistent. Given all of the weapons in Green Bay’s passing game, and now a few more in its rushing attack, Bennett could get lost in the shuffle from a consistency perspective. Think of him as being a TE2 more often than midrange TE1 like he has been drafted this summer.
O.J. Howard | Buccaneers | ADP 13:01 | Bust
Rookie tight ends rarely contribute meaningful fantasy stats, and last year’s showing by Hunter Henry is the exception, not the rule. Only one tight end (Tim Wright) caught more than 50 passes as a rookie in the last five years. The top 15 rookie tight ends since 2011 have averaged 35 catches, 385 yards and three scores. This translates to 91 PPR points, or last year’s 28th-ranked fantasy tight end. Howard serves as a backup to Cameron Brate, who showed rapport with Jameis Winston in 2016. A stable of pass-receiving running backs will cut into the tight end targets, as well.