Don’t reach for these fantasy players on draft day

Don’t reach for these fantasy players on draft day

Draft Strategy

Don’t reach for these fantasy players on draft day

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

A big part of fantasy drafts is value. Reaching for the wrong players can set owners back early in the season. The following players are being overvalued based on their current Average Draft Positions. Don’t take them too early on draft day or it could be costly.

Average Draft Position (ADP) is taken from Fantasy Football Calculator data as of August 18 and is based on a 12-team Point Per Reception (PPR) league.

Round 1

Leonard Fournette, RB Jaguars (ADP: 1.10)

It’s hard to say a first-round pick is a reach but one player being a little over-drafted in PPR formats is Fournette.

Fournette had a good rookie year but his inconsistency hurt fantasy owners. He gained fewer than 70 yards rushing seven times in 2017. Fournette also finished with a modest 36 receptions. He’s never going to rack up a lot of catches, which hurts his value in a PPR league.

Fournette did score 10 touchdowns, topped 100 yards five times and got 20+ carries seven times. He finished as the No. 9 fantasy running back in PPR formats, averaging 17.7 points per week. That feels about right again this season for a back who isn’t a major factor in the passing game.

Fournette isn’t a bad pick at the end of the first round but he’s going ahead of Kareem Hunt and Christian McCaffrey on average in PPR leagues. That makes Fournette somewhat of a reach.

Round 2

Dalvin Cook, RB Vikings (ADP: 2.02)

The second round looks stacked with players like Michael Thomas, McCaffrey, Keenan Allen and Davante Adams all strong selections. If there’s one player going a little high, it’s Cook.

Cook has all the tools to be a stud NFL running back. The only issue with him going so high for fantasy purposes is the makeup of the Vikings and the presence of Latavius Murray.

On paper, the Vikings are loaded with talent and one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl this year. Minnesota should be playing from ahead a lot and that means more carries for the clock-killing Murray.

Cook himself stated that he expects both players to be heavily involved in Minnesota’s offense and while the second-year back is expected to get more touches, Murray will be a factor in the red zone. Murray has scored 20 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

Cook is in line to have a big year, although the presence of Murray makes selecting him a risky top-15 pick.

Round 3

Jerick McKinnon, RB 49ers (ADP: 3.02)

McKinnon is one of the toughest running backs to predict this season for fantasy purposes. While he enters Kyle Shanahan’s running back-friendly offense, the former college option quarterback has never been an every-down back. He had opportunities to be the main guy in Minnesota and never took control of the job.

McKinnon never exceeded 159 carries in a season with Minnesota. He’s averaged 3.59 YPC (worst in the NFL) and 1.50 after contact (second worst in the NFL) on 309 carries over the past two seasons. McKinnon is a good receiver but his production doesn’t line up with his reputation. For a guy who is supposed to be an amazing athlete, McKinnon averages just 6.9 yards per reception in his career. Other than receptions (142 in four seasons), the production simply isn’t there.

McKinnon is already dealing with a calf strain and will miss the rest of the preseason. Add in the presence of Matt Breida, who will also have a role in the 49ers’ offense, and McKinnon may be this year’s most over-valued player.

Round 4

Jay Ajayi, RB Eagles (ADP: 4.03)

Ajayi is going off the board in early Round 4 on average in PPR leagues. That’s too high for a player living off four good games two years ago. Take away the three games where Ajayi rushed for over 200 yards and scored four touchdowns. You’re left with a back that has three 100-yard games and six scores.

The Ajayi love likely comes from the thinking he’ll see most of the early down and goal line work. That’s not a given. Ajayi has received 20+ carries nine times in three seasons. Last year, Corey Clement got 13 red zone carries and scored five times, compared to Ajayi’s 20 carries and zero touchdowns. Going back to 2016, Darren Sproles saw 18 red zone carries, so he’ll be in the mix to steal touches away from Ajayi too.

The Eagles are like Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Doug Pederson doesn’t care about your fantasy team. He uses multiple personnel groupings to confuse opposing defenses. All three of the Eagles’ backs will get touches depending on the opponent and game flow. Pass on Ajayi and grab Clement later in the draft.

Round 5

Josh Gordon, WR Browns (ADP: 5.03)

When owners look at Gordon, they think of what could be. Unfortunately, what could be may never happen again in Gordon’s career.

Gordon is obviously a physical freak will the ability to take over a football game. The issue with Gordon is he’s dealing with real problems and it makes him hard to trust for fantasy purposes. Gordon is already missing training camp for personal reasons. Owners will have to burn a fourth or fifth-round pick on a guy who continues to deal with issues off the field and has one touchdown since 2013.

Gordon is a high-risk, high-reward player. Do yourself a favor and let someone else roll the dice on him. Draft Jarvis Landry instead. He’ll be the Browns’ most productive receiver this season and it won’t be close.

Round 6

Alshon Jeffery, WR Eagles (ADP: 6.01)

Jeffery is recovering from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and reports suggest he could be placed on PUP to start the season, which would cost him the first six games. To be fair though, Jeffery was being drafted even before that news broke.

Jeffery was good but not great in his first season with the Eagles. He caught 57 balls for 789 yards and nine touchdowns on 120 targets. The touchdowns certainly helped but Jeffery only topped 60 yards receiving five times and he didn’t record a single 100-yard game.

The reality is 2017 wasn’t a down year for Jeffery, it was what we’ve come to expect from him. Jeffery hasn’t eclipsed 57 receptions or 821 yards since 2014. Now he may miss the first six games of the season. No thank you.

Round 7

Jamaal Williams, RB Packers (ADP: 7.10)

There may not be a bigger fantasy headache than the Packers’ backfield. Williams has an ADP in the seventh round, while Aaron Jones is going in the eighth round and Ty Montgomery the ninth.

Williams will get first crack at being the early-down back with Jones suspended for the first two games. How long he stays there is another story. Jones averaged close to two yards more per carry in 2017 (5.5 to 3.6) and Montgomery is one of the top receiving backs in the NFL.

Williams has the most short-term fantasy value and he could lock down the job with a strong start to the season, although Montgomery still lurks to steal touches. The bottom line is all three backs will have a role in the Packers’ offense this season, which explains why their ADPs are so close together.

Instead of trying to figure out which Packers’ running back to draft, take Chris Carson, Isaiah Crowell or Jamison Crowder instead. They’re all better picks than Williams in the seventh-round.

Round 8

Pierre Garcon, WR 49ers (ADP: 8.11)

Garcon has played 10 NFL seasons. He’s reached 1,000 yards twice and is averaging 3.7 touchdowns a year.

Marquise Goodwin has established himself as the 49ers’ No. 1 receiver and Trent Taylor will be a factor in the slot. In Garcon’s most productive seasons, he’s been a target hog. That’s not likely to happen this year with the 49ers.

San Francisco’s receivers may not jump out at people but Taylor, Kendrick Bourne and rookie Dante Pettis are all young players the coaching staff is high on. Look for Jimmy Garoppolo to spread the ball around more rather than just feeding one receiver.

Going by his last three seasons, Garcon’s projections look like 70 catches, 700 yards and two or three touchdowns. That’s not bad but it’s also not a guy you have to get on your fantasy team.

Round 9

C.J. Anderson, RB Panthers (ADP: 9.05)

There isn’t going to be a timeshare in Carolina. Christian McCaffrey is the clear lead back in the Panthers’ offense.

Last year in McCaffrey’s rookie season, Jonathan Stewart rushed for 680 yards and six scores. How many times did you start him in PPR leagues? Was he even on a roster in your league? Let’s say for argument’s sake, Anderson puts up similar numbers even though he won’t. That means you’re using a ninth-round draft pick on someone who will rush for 600 yards and six touchdowns.

Anderson’s signing will have a bigger impact in real football than it will fantasy football. He’s a competent No. 2 NFL running back but if McCaffrey stays healthy, Anderson will struggle to duplicate Stewart’s 2017 production.

Round 10

Nyheim Hines, RB Colts (ADP: 10.11)

Every summer owners opt for the shiny new toy and end up missing what’s right in front of them.

Hines has never played a down in the NFL and his role in the Colts’ offense is uncertain early in the season. Yet, Hines is somehow being drafted two rounds earlier than James White on average. That’s the same James White who has 156 receptions over the last three seasons.

Hines is an electric player who will bring a big-play element to the Colts’ backfield. However, he’s still behind Marlon Mack and Jordan Wilkins in the pecking order for touches. And that doesn’t even include touchdown vulture Robert Turbin, who will be back to haunt fantasy owners after he serves a four-game suspension.

Hines is a late-round flier. Instead he’s being drafted over White, Wilkins, Giovani Bernard and Theo Riddick. It’s mind-boggling.

Round 11

Cameron Meredith, WR Saints (ADP: 11.09)

Meredith enters a good situation in New Orleans and the 11th round isn’t a bad spot to take him in fantasy drafts. However, there are a few red flags that point to Meredith being a bust with the Saints.

Meredith is coming off a torn ACL that cost him all last season. He played sparingly with the Bears, starting just 10 games in his career. If you look back at that 2016 season, Meredith had five big games on a terrible team that was forced to pass a lot. Meredith was also clearly the Bears’ top receiver that year, again, on a team that had to throw so often Brian Hoyer topped 300 yards in four-straight games. Yes, Brian Hoyer.

The big drawback with Meredith is he’ll need to fight for targets in the Saints’ offense. Michael Thomas is clearly the No. 1 option, while Ted Ginn will haul in his occasional deep ball. The biggest road block, besides health, for Meredith is rookie Tre’Quan Smith. Smith is dripping with talent and the Saints have shown in the past that they’ll lean heavily on rookie receivers (Thomas, Marques Colston).

Meredith is a popular sleeper pick but the bet here is Smith is the Saints’ second most productive receiver behind Thomas. Pass on Meredith and instead grab Smith late in your draft. You’ll look like a genius come November.

Round 12

Samaje Perine, RB Redskins (ADP: 12.05)

Perine got a chance to show us what he can do last season when Rob Kelley went down with an injury. It wasn’t much.

Perine averaged a pathetic 3.4 yards per carry and even worse for a 235-pound back, he scored one touchdown. It looked like Perine was going to be a fantasy factor after posting back-to-back 100-yard game against the Saints and Giants in November. Take those two games away though and Perine topped 60 yards just once (67) and he needed 21 carries to get there.

Owners are looking to pounce on a Redskins’ running back after Derrius Guice was lost for the season. Chris Thompson is the best option in PPR formats but the reality is that Washington’s backfield is one for owners to avoid.

To make matters worse, Perine is dealing with an ankle injury and the Redskins are bringing in Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles for workouts. The 12th round and beyond is full of players with much more fantasy upside than Perine. Don’t waste a draft pick on the Redskins’ third-string running back.

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