Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 29, at 11:47 a.m. EDT
Avoiding dangerous pitfalls in fantasy football is virtually as important as finding the hidden gems. Suggesting someone is “overvalued” means gamers can find similar results from a later selection, or the standards have been set too high based on Average Draft Position data (ADP).
The dreaded “bust” label invokes the thought of a player being completely useless, but it can also cover when a first-rounder drastically disappoints. Missing by a round or two even slightly so early can be a costly mistake without making up ground later in a draft.
All ADP data is based on 12-team, PPR scoring
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: Overvalued (ADP: 6:04)
Wilson could be in for major regression. The Seahawks are improved along the offensive line, which certainly helps his cause, but the emphasis will be more running. It’s no secret the ground game will see more action with Rashaad Penny (finger) being selected in Round 1. Chris Carson has looked brilliant this offseason, too. Most important of all, tight end Jimmy Graham is no longer a Seahawk, and the front office did nothing of note to immediately replace him. Forgive my skepticism when it comes to Brandon Marshall contributing anything meaningful. Tyler Lockett is flimsy, and Paul Richardson is now a Washington Redskin. Doug Baldwin (knee) has been a quality wideout the past three seasons, yet he cannot do it all alone. And he’s injured. Wilson led the NFL in touchdown passes a year ago and may not be asked to do nearly as much this go around. This could play out as a scenario where gamers overpay for past production via inflated expectations.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Bust (ADP: 7:02)
Preface: Newton has a definitive “bust factor” about him, which isn’t to say he automatically will be awful, but there are enough factors working against him to make it entirely possible. The Panthers brought in Norv Turner to lead the offense, and his vertical game requires deep drops in the pocket behind a severely weakened offensive line. Newton already takes too many hits. The system is complex and requires time to master. Newton’s ultimate separator is his ability to rack up rushing TDs. How willing will the Panthers be to continually allow a 29-year-old Newton to take the lead on the goal line? Newton hasn’t completed better than 60 percent of his throws in any the the past four seasons, and he has not topped the almost routine 4k yardage mark since his rookie season. With only one year of more than 24 passing TDs to his credit, Newton requires his legs to create starter-worthy points.
Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bust (ADP: 9:04)
Jones is talented, no doubt, but he enters a messy situation. The best part of his outlook in Tampa was the potential for a high volume of touches, but that appears to be over with the “starter” label placed on Peyton Barber. Even if Jones eventually takes over, Barber likely will steal enough carries to matter, and all of this is coming behind a suspect offensive line. The quarterback situation is shaky with or without Jameis Winston under center, and it could be argued the entire offensive system could hinder the rookie runner. Jones has been limited as a receiver and doesn’t appear to have a firm grasp on NFL concepts yet.
Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns: Bust (ADP: 8:06)
Try to find a way without several injuries where Johnson comes close to his 2017 numbers. We’ll wait. … He saw a wide receiver-like 93 targets for 74 catches a year ago, and he has at least 74 looks in each of his three seasons. The biggest boost to his 2017 value was an unforeseen four touchdowns on the ground. That isn’t happening again. He scored one rushing TD in his 177 attempts prior to that year. Jarvis Landry and (presumably) Josh Gordon are going to steal far too many targets to keep alive the only thing regularly making Johnson fantasy-viable. Antonio Callaway could be a factor, too. Where will he find consistent rushing attempts (82 last year) behind two capable backs? All told, Johnson likely means more to the real version of the Browns than he will to any of our fake teams in ’18.
C.J. Anderson, Carolina Panthers: Bust (ADP: 10:07)
Some drafters may be encouraged by Anderson’s 1,007-yard season in 2017 with the Denver Broncos, though the bigger takeaway may be he started all 16 games for the first time in his career. While he isn’t a dangerous receiving threat, most any hope of him contributing in this are is removed by Christian McCaffrey’s presence. The Panthers lost All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell in free agency, and additions in the passing game suggest a strong desire to open up the offense. Cam Newton is always a TD vulture. CJA will need to be more explosive than last year’s 4.1 yards-per-tote average and find the end zone with greater frequency (once every 82 attempts last year) to be better than a roster-filler for fantasy.
Doug Martin, Oakland Raiders: Bust (ADP: 13:09)
There really isn’t any incentive to take a chance, even as late as his ADP, on the former Buccaneer. Marshawn Lynch may be nearly three years older, but he looks infinitely younger on the field. Martin has averaged a pathetic 2.9 yards per carry over his last 19 games, and he has just two relevant seasons in his entire career. At 29 years old, coupled with injury history and a crowded backfield, there simply is no upside. Anyone expecting another monster season — or, frankly, anything remotely close — is living in the past.
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals: Overvalued (ADP: 2:09)
There’s little question about Mixon’s potential, and while he definitely was overvalued as a rookie, it’s not so obvious this time around. His ADP should make him an RB2 for many gamers, which in and of itself is not a reach, but he’ll also be some teams’ No. 1. The fear is Cincinnati’s offensive line has been drastically reworked, including a rookie center and two new starting bookends. Perhaps it proves to be for the better, but there is a chemistry factor for which to account. Giovani Bernard is paid far too handsomely to sit idly by and watch. Mixon should be good but won’t be great, so this is more of a “temper your expectations” warning than an outright plea to avoid him. In all likelihood, gamers will be able to find similar production a few rounds later.
Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers: Overvalued (ADP: 3:04)
The former Minnesota Viking has flashed more than once in his career, failing to stand out as a fantasy beast whenever given the chance. Kyle Shanahan has been able to get the most out of running backs in his NFL coaching career, though it has come via split backfields. Look at Atlanta’s usage of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman under Shanny. McKinnon definitely isn’t Freeman’s caliber, and he probably isn’t better than Coleman across the board. McKinnon’s versatility will help gamers in all scoring formats, but he isn’t great at any one thing. He has a calf injury and will miss the rest of the preseason. The backfield offers undervalued competition in Matt Breida (shoulder) and Joe Williams. San Fran’s offensive line has upgraded over the spring, which cannot be ignored. Whether McKinnon can return to health and get it done on a weekly basis is the million dollar question. Gamers are drafting him as if he’s a proven weapon, and while he very well could emerge, this price tag is insanely high.
Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears: Bust (ADP: 5:06)
Even though Week 1 will mark a full year since Robinson’s ACL tear, he’s still coming back from knee reconstruction — never an easy task. Now he has to worry about rehab, the fear of reinjury, build chemistry with a second-year QB, and learn a new offense from a freshman coach all at once. No thanks. Following a breakout 2015 effort, A-Rob basically disappeared in ’16. It wasn’t entirely his fault, though ignoring only two 100-yard games and no TDs over the final six weeks is difficult. This system relies on ground production and short-area passing, this system could rely heavily on passing to backs and tight ends. Promising rookie wideout Anthony Miller may steal his thunder, too. Historically, the Windy City hasn’t fostered many stud fantasy receivers, with Alshon Jeffery in 2014 being the last 1,000-yarder for the Bears, and no quarterback has thrown for 4,000 yards in team history. Robinson is hardly a sure bet to produce like a fifth-rounder. Or even a seventh-round selection.
D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers: Bust (ADP: 10:12)
Over the long-view trajectory of a rookie contract or even career, Moore should be anything but a fantasy disappointment. However, he must learn an NFL offense and live up to first-round expectations for a team reliant on controlling the clock. Even though this coaching staff wants to open it up, Cam Newton displays limitations as a passer and is learning a new offense. Plus, he has two safety blankets in Greg Olsen and Christian McCaffrey to gobble up looks. Moore is an intermediate weapon whose ability to shake defenders will be his biggest asset in development. Moore isn’t without value, though it could take longer than many gamers can afford to wait before he returns meaningfully on investment.
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins: Bust (ADP: 13:07)
A player with such an extensive injury history needs to stand out at some point in order to gain fantasy owners’ confidence. Parker has done nothing of the sort this summer. He has been owned in practices by cornerback Xavien Howard, and Parker has struggled to shed press coverage. Perhaps even more alarming, his positional coach noted Parker is such a work-in-progress that he called it, “one day at a time.” Yikes. Despite being an exceptional athlete with a wealth of potential, even at a midround draft placement, Parker has done nothing this summer to encourage gamers to take a chance on him.
Will Fuller, Houston Texans: Overvalued (ADP: 6:11)
Injuries are always a concern with Fuller. On one hand, playing opposite DeAndre Hopkins clearly helps Fuller by opening up single coverage. On the other, he’ll never see the bulk of the looks and is overly dependent on scoring touchdowns. In 2017, he scored seven times in a span of just four games — consecutively, mind you. The prior season, Fuller’s two TDs came in a four-game span. Think of it this way, he was explosive in six of his 24 career games and added a single 100-yard game in the remaining contest … good luck trying to put that into a weekly lineup. Given his low volume of looks and, subsequently, receptions, Fuller is suited only for non-PPR systems.
Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts: Bust (ADP: 10:07)
Well, maybe “bust” isn’t entirely fair, but expecting stats like last year’s 80-catch season could be a far-fetched notion. The reasons for most of his catches was no one else stood out in the passing game for the inexperienced Jacoby Brissett. Raw quarterbacks tend to rely on the tight end position. With Andrew Luck back, the aerial game could be less reliant on dinking and dunking. Doyle hasn’t averaged better than 9.9 yards per catch in his career, which stifles his ability to produce yardage. Having scored nine total times in the last two years, Doyle offers modest but not prolific scoring ability. Be wary of making him your primary tight end.
Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers: Overvalued (ADP: 5:04)
This one is tricky. Some gamers will overrate him, as evidenced by a ridiculous high selection of 28th overall. Anything later than his ADP is perfectly fine, as long as one understands what they’re drafting. Entering his age-32 season, Graham, two years removed from a catastrophic knee injury, has flashed some of what had made him one of the most dangerous weapons in fantasy. He remains a scoring threat, which should keep his fantasy value afloat, but expectations have to be restricted. His days of 80-plus grabs are gone — the same may even be said for the 60-catch plateau. Joe Philbin returns to Title Town to command the offense. Historically, tight ends have been involved but hardly were the focal point of his designs. With Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and a trio of capable running backs, Graham could outright disappear several weeks. Don’t automatically assume because of Aaron Rodgers that Graham will return to his elite ways some four-plus seasons ago.