By Joe Pollock
Last week we talked about seven of my most undervalued players. This week it’s time to flip that coin over and look at the guys my evaluations are telling me are the most overvalued players for fantasy football in 2018 based on current ADP. In the same way that guys like Todd Gurley, Deandre Hopkins, and Alvin Kamara can carry you through to championships when the fantasy community underestimates their value, overvalued guys like Mike Evans (Pick 9 in ADP; Finished 52nd in PPR), Amari Cooper (Pick 22; finished 71st), and DeMarco Murray (Pick 15; finished 82nd) can leave fantasy owners staring at a playoff bracket without their team’s name in it come December. Sometimes it’s just as essential to avoid healthy busts as it is to identify studs and breakouts. So how do we find a 2017 Todd Gurley and avoid the 2016 version? The bad news is there’s no tried and true method. The good news is there are a few indicators that can help us weed out each year’s prospective underperformers.
Efficiency is a fickle beast when it comes to fantasy football. It can have analysts (admittedly ones like myself), pounding the table for a Melvin Gordon bust that never occurs because of yards per attempt averages below the running back version of the Mendoza line (4.0 Y/A), and it can also have us screaming from the rooftops about a (spoiler alert) Alvin Kamara regression in 2018. A reliable fantasy asset should carry efficiency markers that are above average, but not so far above average that the numbers are unsustainable. There should also be multiple data points indicating the level of efficiency. Don’t merely rely on yards per attempt to identify running backs or catch percentage for wide receivers as breakout or bust candidates. A bust candidate will likely have unsustainably high touchdown percentages, yards after contact, yards per attempt/reception, or even some advanced metrics like Football Outsiders DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) and DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). The best litmus test for the overvalued asset is a straightforward question; am I projecting the outlier?
Another strong trend regarding players likely to bust is historical usage for a player’s position in a specific offense. If a particular coaching staff has favored the committee approach or likes to spread the ball around and you’re projecting 300+ carries or 160+ targets for the lead guy on that offense just because he’s got a boatload of talent, it may be smart to adjust your expectations.
Alvin Kamara (ADP: Pick 6; RB5)
If you want to know my full thoughts on Alvin Kamara and his situation for 2018, check out the article I wrote the day news of the Mark Ingram suspension came down entitled Trade Alvin Kamara Now. If you want the TL;DR version with some new stuff to boot, keep reading.
Now that football season is rapidly approaching, I see more and more chatter about how Ingram’s suspension will mean a massively increased workload for one Alvin Kamara, and I can’t help but sit and shake my head. No back in a Sean Payton system has ever seen an average of 15 or more carries per game for a 16 game season. Not one. Kamara had precisely zero games in 2017 with 20 or more carries. There were only two other backs outside of Kamara to finish as top five performers at the position in any of the last ten seasons in PPR scoring without logging a single game with more than 20 carries. Those backs were Danny Woodhead in 2015 and Darren Sproles in 2011. Kamara is more talented than Sproles or Woodhead ever were, but without a significant bump in volume in the running game beyond what Sean Payton has done in the past, Kamara’s upside will remain capped.
From an efficiency standpoint, Kamara’s 2017 was a definition outlier performance. His points per touch (1.69) were beyond historic. For reference, Todd Gurley’s fantasy points per touch in 2017 of 1.12 would have looked incredible in the absence of Kamara. Ladainian Tomlinson’s points per touch in the 2006 season (widely considered to be the best season regardless of position in fantasy football history) were 1.19. Tomlinson scored 31 touchdowns that year. Unless Kamara is, in fact, Clark Kent’s alter ego, his fantasy efficiency will assuredly come back to earth in 2018.
Alvin Kamara scored a touchdown, on average, every 15.5 times he touched the ball. Again, for reference, Todd Gurley scored every 18.1 times he touched the ball, Christian McCaffrey every 28.1, Ezekiel Elliott every 29.8, and Le’Veon Bell every 36.9. Kamara’s yards per carry were off the charts as well. 6.07 yards per rushing attempt was the fourth highest in a single season from any running back since the merger in 1970 with at least 100 carries. The three running backs who averaged more yards per attempt in a season were Mercury Morris in 1973, Jamaal Charles in 2010, and Barry Sanders in 1997. Kamara might be the best back of all-time. It’s more likely that he regresses towards the mean in 2018. This isn’t to say Kamara will be worthless this year; I just like him as an early second round value a lot better than I like him as a mid-first.
Stefon Diggs (ADP: Pick 33; WR14)
Stefon Diggs is an unbelievable talent. When he’s clicking, and his name doesn’t show up on the injury report, he’s nearly unstoppable. Unfortunately, Diggs isn’t always clicking, and his name is found on the injury report all too often. If he plays 16 healthy games, I might be eating crow on this one. I’m fine with that. Diggs has upside; that’s undeniable. The problem with Stefon Diggs, as with every player on this list, is his draft position. He’s currently being taken as the 14th wide receiver off the board at pick 33 in FantasyPros consensus PPR ADP. That’s just in front of Larry Fitzgerald, Amari Cooper, Allen Robinson, Demaryius Thomas and Brandin Cooks. Those receivers have a couple of things in common that Stefon Diggs does not, 1,000-yard seasons and top-15 PPR finishes. Since 2010, Fitzgerald, Cooper, Robinson, Thomas, and Cooks have amassed 16 1,000-yard seasons and 11 top-15 finishes to Diggs ZERO. While I know breakouts happen every year, prior fantasy performance is the most reliable indicator of future fantasy production.
The other issue with taking Diggs as the number 14 wide receiver off the board is his new quarterback’s tendency to spread the ball around. Cousins is fantastic. Nobody in their right mind would deny that. Cousins, however, has not produced a top-20 wide receiver in any of his three seasons as a starting quarterback. There is an argument that he’s never had two pass-catchers as talented as Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, but DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon have both finished as WR1s with other quarterbacks in their careers. Jackson did it with Nick Foles and Michael Vick at the helm in 2013. Those guys aren’t exactly Peyton Manning. Couple this with a coordinator change for not just Cousins, but Diggs and Thielen as well and throw in a defense on the other side of the football that should keep opposition scoring to a minimum, and this is a wide receiver corps that I’m steering well clear of in 2018.
Deshaun Watson (ADP: Pick 44; QB2)
Seven games. That’s the entire sample size for the player currently being selected as the second quarterback off the board. That’s lunacy. Deshaun Watson threw a touchdown pass on 9.3% of his passes in 2018. Aaron Rodgers career touchdown percentage is 6.4%. His highest career touchdown percentage for a single season was 9% in 2011. Watson’s touchdown rate was the third highest of all-time among quarterbacks that have attempted at least 100 passes in a single season since the merger and was a virtual tie with Ken Stabler’s 1976 rate of 9.3%. Only Peyton Manning, in an NFL MVP season in 2004, had a rate higher than Watson’s 2018 number.
If you consider Watson’s 2017 performance sans the outlier touchdown numbers, it was pretty pedestrian. Watson ranked 15th in yards per game and had the fourth highest interception rate (3.92) among qualified passers. His completion percentage of 61.76% put him 22nd. The only categories in which Deshaun Watson put up elite numbers were the aforementioned touchdowns and touchdown rate, passer rating and QBR (due to his astronomical touchdown rate), yards per attempt, and rushing yards per game. Considering this is Watson’s second ACL injury in four years, relying on his mobility for fantasy points, at least early in the season, could prove unwise.
Much in the same way Alvin Kamara could be Superman, Deshaun Watson could be the most efficient touchdown thrower in this history of the game, but I doubt it. Watson’s numbers will regress, and unless his interception rate falls and his yards per game average increases, we will see disappointment from owners bold enough to grab the Texans signal caller this early in fantasy drafts.
Will Fuller V (Pick 69; WR29)
A big chunk of Deshaun Watson’s outlier touchdown performance in the seven games he played during the 2017 season came at the hands of Will Fuller V. Fuller scored seven touchdowns in seven games to start the season. Granted, will fuller is fast, and he has good hands. He’s a decent talent when it comes to catching contested passes, and he’s an excellent deep threat. That said, he’s not an elite wide receiver, and his route tree is incredibly limited. Per Matt Harmon’s
If you want to see more data like this as you prepare for your 2018 fantasy draft, check out The Fantasy Footballers Ultimate Draft Kit. It’s the only place to find Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception, and in my eyes, the Reception Perception alone is worth the price of admission.
Now I know we’re not drafting Fuller with elite guys like Antonio Brown and OBJ. I also know that even a sixth-round pick is way too much draft capital to spend on a guy who can’t stay on the field. Fuller has played in exactly 75% of games since he came into the league in 2016, and when he has been on the field, he hasn’t been the most consistent producer. After bursting onto the scene in his rookie year with back-to-back 100-yard games including a touchdown in Week 1, Fuller has broken the 100-yard mark just one time. He’s scored touchdowns in only 20 percent of the games he’s played. If you’re drafting fuller in best ball or taking a flier in DFS, be my guest. His upside week-to-week is worth the risk. If you’re looking for a season-long performance that looks anything like what he did with Watson in the first eight weeks of 2017? It might be best to look elsewhere for value at the wide receiver position.
Evan Engram (ADP: Pick 60; TE5)
Evan Engram is a fantastic talent. He’s an excellent pass catcher, and by all accounts, he’s become one of the most dynamic players in the Giants offense. As a dynasty asset, Engram is one of my top targets in 2018. In redraft, however, he’s a guy I’m beginning to fade. Engram was the beneficiary of some highly unusual circumstances in 2017.
Coming into the season, the Giants’ top four wideouts on the depth chart were Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and Dwayne Harris. Beckham missed week one with an ankle injury suffered in the preseason on August 21st vs. the Browns, then found himself on IR after shattering his ankle in the Giants’ Week 5 matchup vs. the Chargers. Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris both suffered injuries that same week and were placed on IR as well. Sterling Shepard avoided IR, but missed five games, though one was the Week 17 game vs. Washington that Engram missed as well. In total, the Giants top four receivers on the Week 1 depth chart missed 39 games and saw only 158 targets in 2017. Odell Beckham Jr. alone was targeted 169 times in 2016. Barring another injury to Beckham, Engram’s target share in 2018 will almost certainly regress.
Then there’s the matter of what Evan Engram did with his targets last year. A catch rate of 55.7% for a tight end is abysmal. It’s not Ricky Seals-Jones at 42.9%, but it’s not far off. Engram ranked 24th in the league in catch rate among tight ends with at least 50 targets during the 2017 season. Engrams 6.28 yards per target were sixth-worst among all qualifying tight ends in his rookie campaign. If Engram is to live up to his ADP as the fifth tight end off the board in the late fifth round, he’s going to have to have not a small, but a massive increase in efficiency going forward. I’m not touching him. There’s no value there.
Jimmy Garoppolo (Pick 98; QB10)
I’ll come right out and say it. Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t belong in the same breath with the top 12 QBs for 2018. Yes, he finished as the QB10 after becoming a starter, but that was in the absence of the most elite fantasy quarterback ever to play the position and the immensely more talented Deshaun Watson. Regarding points per game, Garoppolo tallied 16.4 in the five full games he played last year. That would have tied him with Drew Brees for 13th in per-game fantasy scoring. He was decent in 2017, but his seven touchdowns to five interceptions should give any reasonable fantasy player pause when we’re looking at just a six-game sample. Garoppolo is a solid signal-caller. He just isn’t ready to be invested in this heavily for fantasy.
Digging deeper, we see that Jimmy G has poor lower body mechanics when he tries to load up and chuck it down the field. His back leg straggles behind leaving his lower half dragging through the throw. This results in poor ball placement, especially on passes outside the numbers thrown 15 yards or more down the field. The metrics bear this out. Look at this chart showing passer rating by target depth & location (Shout out to SharpFootballStats.com for the graphic).
27 and 34. That’s truly awful. For reference, DeShone Kizer’s left and right deep ball passer ratings were 54 and 38 respectively. The good news for Garoppolo is that his passer rating on short and intermediate throws is exceptional. Jimmy G has a release reminiscent of the quarterback for whom he understudied in New England for four years before being traded to the 49ers last October. His upper body throwing mechanics are flawless, and the kid has a chip on his shoulder. He’ll be working night and day to figure this out, but before I invest any draft capital at all in a quarterback, I need to see more upside than red flags, and I don’t yet see that with Garoppolo.
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