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Fantasy football is an evolving game with fresh guidelines every season. It’s understood that your basic goal is to find players that will outperform their price. That’s a philosophical start, but to help bring clarity to your war room, we took a straw poll from the clubhouse and created an effective blacklist. These are the guys our writers are taking off their boards entirely because their stock is an unsustainable bubble.

Sammy Watkins

Sammy Watkins is being drafted at 5.11, ADP 57.10. This puts him ahead of Ravens WR1 Torrey Smith (6.01, ADP 61.05), Patriots WR1 Julian Edelman (6.05, ADP 63.57), Dolphins WR1 Mike Wallace (7.03, ADP 71.45), and Saints WR1 Marques Colston (7.12, ADP 82.75), all of whom have significantly better QBs and proven track records than Watkins. If Watkins was catching passes from Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, it might be a different story, but E.J. Manuel is not the kind of QB who brings out the best in his receivers. Remember, we’re talking redraft here: Watkins is a terrific dynasty league pickup, but if you’re trying to win now, there’s no reason to pick him up so early, with so many other options available. I’d potentially be interested in Watkins as my WR4/5, but at his current ADP, I’m much more likely to draft his teammate Robert Woods, who is currently going undrafted in MFL formats. – Jim Kloet

Shane Vereen

According to MyFantasyLeague.com redraft ADP, Shane Vereen is coming off the board at in the early fifth. He’s also coming off the board at 4.1 if you hop over to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, so if you want Vereen shares you have to take him in the fourth to have a shot at putting him on your team. Because of this, I’ve seen people take him as early as the third round, and this just seems problematic to me.

What I constantly hear from many is that Vereen can catch 90 balls this year, but does Bill Belichick really want to throw the ball 90 times to him? What Happened to Brady and Co. in 2013 was an absolute worst case scenario. Rob Gronkowski wasn’t able to stay healthy, Aaron Dobson exited with injury, and Danny Amendola also left with injury. They simply didn’t have the talent to trot out on the field, and thus, Julian Edelman achieved an aDOT of only 8.4 per PFF.

Gronkowski appears to be off to the races, and we saw Belichick flip the switch and start rolling with a ground and pound late last year. Dobson is still a wild card, but I can’t foresee the Patriots having to dump the ball off nearly as much as they had to last year. The situation staying the same is ignoring regression, and people are drafting Vereen based on last year’s situation which to me, is problematic. If he was around in the sixth round I’d start to think about taking him, but because he’s not going to get actual carries for the most part, I’m letting others draft him at his current ADP. I’d rather take my chances on guys that I know will receive carry volume in this range. – Fantasy Gumshoe

Arian Foster

Foster is soon to be 28 years old. He’s already missing time in training camp: four consecutive practices, to be precise. What’s not precise is the reason for his absence. My question: does it matter? Why spend a relatively premium draft pick (25th overall, pick 3.1) on an aging running back in a new offense with a suspect QB who is coming off injury and is already injured in training camp. Let’s count the reasons to pass on Foster.

1. Injury Risk: According to new site, Sports Injury Predictor, Arian Foster is “the player most likely to get injured this year and we have him as an extremely high injury risk for 2014.” Alrighty then. Intuitively I agree with that assessment, which is based on a proprietary injury projection algorithm.

2. Declining Production: Even if you believe he will stay healthy all season, I still think you should pass on him. Take a look at this data from the NFL Career Graphs App.

foster.png

Most of his efficiency and productivity related metrics are trending down over the past two seasons, on a per-game basis. And that was with a coach and offensive system that was invested in featuring him.

3. Bad Game Script: Historically, (like many RBs) Foster has posted worse numbers when his team loses and when his team is an underdog. Think the Texans will be underdogs a lot this year? Me too.

4. Better, Cheaper Options: The final reason(s) to avoid drafting Foster at his current ADP is the plethora of other backs available later. Setting aside strategic reasons for passing on a RB at the top of the third round, you could get any of these backs later.

Andre Ellington, the discount Gio Bernard. Zac Stacy, the most undervalued player in fantasy. Alfred Morris, who should benefit from better game script and should be drafted at will. Reggie Bush, who might thrive in a new offense, and who last year produced a fantasy points/snap rate better than Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte. Toby Gerhart, who could be a RB savior. Bishop Sankey, whom we love. Ryan Mathews, who led the NFL in RB fantasy points per snap last year.

Are those backs perfect? No. There are questions about all of them. But that’s kind of the point–at a position where all but a very few players have significant questions, you’re better off going cheap(er) than paying full price. All of these backs are expected to be lead backs, or at least the lead back in a productive time share (Foster only managed 58 percent of team rush attempts in games he played last year). Unlike Foster, all have either produced a good season last year, or have significant reason for optimism this year. Except for Bush, all are younger. Those that are in the same offensive system as last year all sport better RB Sim Projections. Basically I’m saying there’s plenty of more enticing fruit on the tree. — James Todd

DeSean Jackson

A year ago DeSean Jackson’s ADP was 69.3. Since then, he played in 16 games for the first time since 2008 en route to career highs in yardage and TDs. For his efforts, he was promptly released by the Philadelphia Eagles because of his allegedly troublesome behavior.  Now, we’ve got an undersized speed receiver, entering his age 28 season, who just got paid, learning a new offense and no longer being the No. 1 receiving option . . . and we’re drafting him more than a round earlier than last year?

I did research for RotoAcademy that showed 76 percent of free agent receivers since 2004 have failed to match their previous production in the first year after changing teams. Moreover, the average decrease in fantasy points was 26 percent.  If the first part of my argument didn’t scare you away, then the change of scenery history should certainly cast even more doubt. Based on his current ADP of 52.7, there’s no way I’m drafting Jackson.  I’d gladly take guys like Torrey Smith, Jeremy Maclin, or DeAndre Hopkins who can be had for cheaper. – Jon Moore

Jimmy Graham

As is usually the case, I was late to this party so the players I wanted to write about (Foster, Watkins, and Emmanuel Sanders) were already taken by my brilliant cohorts here because they realize how much of an anti-value all of those players represent. So, I am going to take a bit of a controversial stance and say that the player I won’t be drafting is Jimmy Graham. Yep, that Jimmy Graham. With Gronkowski not on the PUP list and looking like he will be ready to go in Week 1, there’s not a reason to be taking Graham ahead of him. Due to Gronk’s injury-riddled last two seasons, we’ve sort of crowned Graham as the king of the tight end, an indestructible force of fantasy points . . . who isn’t nearly as efficient as Gronk is. Graham scores a TD on 13 percent of his catches while Gronk does so on 18 percent. It’s a really simple equation. The fantasy community has interpreted Graham’s relative health as safety, while forgetting that Gronkowski is an unmatched force. Graham’s still a fine pick, but I would take Gronkowski instead, 100 percent of the time. – Davis Mattek

Emmanuel Sanders

There seems to be a lot of hype for a wide receiver who spent some time being outplayed by Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. Sanders currently has an ADP of 65, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. I understand his QB is now Peyton Manning, who just had one of the best, if not the best season in NFL history. However, Sanders is the fourth-best receiving option on that team, behind the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas. There are numerous WRs I would take before Sander’s current ADP and many more after that. Some of those WRs include: Eric Decker, Mike Wallace, Golden Tate, and Terrance Williams. I wouldn’t be against drafting Sanders if he was going substantially later, but he’s not just going to automatically replace Decker’s numbers because Decker is no longer there. They’re quite different players. Manning is going to regress this year and you can read more about that here. My favorite point established in the article I just linked, is how is a player who had trouble taking targets away from Brown and Wallace, going to take away targets from players of such a high caliber like Thomas and the rest of the Broncos WRs? – Justin Bailey

Giovani Bernard

I’ve previously outlined why I won’t be drafting Montee Ball, Antonio Brown, or Jordan Reed at their current ADPs. But for someone new, what about Bernard? Don’t get me wrong, I own a few shares of Bernard in best ball leagues, so I’m not staunchly opposed to him. I just probably won’t own him in any formats where I actually have to set lineups. He projects to be in a timeshare again this year, but with Jeremy Hill instead of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. I understand that Hill is a rookie, but he also pretty much has to be better than BJGE. Bernard’s ADP made sense before the team drafted Hill, but now I’m not so sure his workload will actually increase from last year. Considering I’ll regularly be able to take DeMarco Murray, Le’Veon Bell, or even a top-tier WR where Bernard is being drafted I probably won’t end up with Bernard on my teams. – Justin Winn

C.J. Spiller

C.J. Spiller is being drafted in the third round as the 16th RB off the board. With backs like Toby Gerhart and Bishop Sankey available a round later—not to mention stud receivers like Vincent Jackson and Andre Johnson—I won’t be touching Spiller in redraft leagues. Though he’s shown signs of greatness, the reality is that Spiller is nothing more than a RB3 when Fred Jackson is healthy.

Of course, Spiller may still have value if a Jackson injury was the only thing keeping him from RB1 numbers. However, elite athlete Bryce Brown will also be competing with Spiller for carries. Even Anthony Dixon is earning praise at training camp. It wasn’t a great sign for Spiller that he rotated evenly with Jackson in the Hall of Fame game and ceded the backfield entirely when the Bills entered the red zone. Even if Spiller manages to stay healthy, he won’t see enough volume to live up to his RB16 ADP.

Buffalo has been looking to trade Spiller and recently signed Jackson to an extension. It’s obvious that they don’t have much confidence in Spiller in the short or long term. At his current price, you shouldn’t either. – Vaughn Stewart

Cordarrelle Patterson

Cordarrelle Patterson’s ADP at pick number 36 is just obscene. Regardless of potential, Patterson would have to take a jump like Josh Gordon did in 2013 to justify that pick. Everyone wants to find the next breakout star, but failing to weigh risk versus reward in Patterson’s case could sink a draft. On the flip side is you hit on Patterson, then you are simply getting what you paid for. There is not enough value to be had at that price for a player that has little history of NFL or college production to justify that risk. Potential has never won a game, performance has. Pay for performance, not potential. — Scott Smith

Vincent Jackson

Vincent Jackson is entering 2014 at 31 years old still without a season in which he’s reached 80 receptions or 10 TDs receiving. Even though he was once again a top 15 scorer overall, Jackson posted only six top 24 PPR weeks in 2013. That’s problematic entering 2014 because he was a target monster a season ago, something that was abnormal for his career and will be unlikely to repeat itself to that degree with all the additions that the Bucs have made offensively.

Year

Targets

MS TGT%

2013

160

31.1%

2012

147

22.0%

2011

115

19.8%

2009

108

20.9%

*Played in only 5 Games in 2010

Jackson led the entire NFL in terms of market share target percentage and had the third-most targets trailing by two or more scores at 51 (32 percent of his total). He was third in the league in routes per target, but 20th in routes per reception, aiding another season in which he failed to post a catch rate of at least 60 percent, something he’s only done once in his career. The types of targets he generally receives already come with an inherently low success rate, so removing some targets from the equation does hurt him some.

I would prefer Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White, or Andre Johnson over Jackson at his current cost and owners can get the same weekly viability from Torrey Smith and Mike Wallace nearly 30 picks later in drafts, and both were a little less volatile weekly despite not carrying the true ceiling of Jackson, who does have the propensity to go nuclear in a given week. If you’re anticipating a drop in overall targets, pass on Jackson for one of those options later.

Player

Tgt

Rec

CR%

PPR PPG

St. Dev

Top 24 Wk

Jackson

160

78

48.8%

15.2

10.1

6

Smith

137

65

47.4%

12.7

6.2

6

Wallace

141

73

51.8%

12.5

7.8

6

– Rich Hribar

Hakeem Nicks

One player I will not draft at his current ADP is Hakeem Nicks—and it’s funny for me to say that . . . because I just (regrettably) drafted him. It’s true that I got him at 12.08 (pick 140) as the WR53, which is a slight discount to his ADP of 11.09 (pick 117.84) as WR47—but even drafting Nicks at a “discount” is a mistake, because his production in 2014 is likely to fall woefully short of his ADP. He’s being drafted just before Riley Cooper, last season’s WR31 in PPR seasonal scoring. He’s being drafted before Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin. Last year, they were 30th and 15th in PPR seasonal scoring, whereas Nicks was 45th. He’s being drafted well ahead of Jarrett Boykin, who was last year’s WR51 even though he didn’t see extensive game action until game five and played most of his games without Aaron Rodgers as his QB. Who’s likelier to have success, the emerging WR3 in a passing offense quarterbacked by Rodgers?—or the declining WR3 in a two-TE, rushing-centered offense? I don’t care that Andrew Luck is Nicks’ new QB. He was also Donnie Avery’s QB in 2012 and Darrius Heyward-Bey’s in 2013, know what I’m saying? At his ADP, Nicks seems to have very little upside and a world of downside. He’s the one guy I want not to have on my teams—from now on. Oh, and Greg Little. And I don’t care if he doesn’t even have an ADP. I don’t want him either. – Matthew Freedman

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4 comments
FantasyBunk
FantasyBunk

@DavisMattek You echoed my thoughts completely on Gronk. He's all but interchangeable with Graham but can be widely had in the 4th.

Do you keep Gronkbot for a 6th or Ball for a 9th?

apsmacart
apsmacart

If you are playing to make money then Gronk is the second guy off the board behind Foster. You can not risk losing a top 3 pick in your draft and expect to win money consistently. If he were to hit then maybe your win percentage gets a little higher but if he busts (again) then you lost your entire bankroll if you had drafted hime in every league, if not then you really lowered you win percentage below allowable levels. 


You have to draft safely, not to lose in the early rounds, then take your high risk / high reward players in the middle to later rounds. However I do agree with you on Graham but for different reasons, being that you need stud rb's and wr's to win, sure Graham helped a little last year for some people but I beat guys that draft either Graham, Gronk and Manning every year, time after time and it will happen again this year.

amicsta
amicsta

@apsmacart I disagree. You risk losing a top 3 pick in your draft simply by drafting one. Plenty of guys get hurt every year that we did not expect and if you just play it safe all the time then you will lose some opportunities at value. Gronk is one of those cases to me. He's a slam dunk top 5 pick when healthy, so to me, some of that injury risk is priced into the fact that you can get him in the 2nd right now.

apsmacart
apsmacart

@amicsta @apsmacart Then I guess we can agree to disagree, with that being said I wonder how many teams won or lost everything since Gronk has been playing with him on the team. I do not mean for this to sound arrogant but I sure would love to play some guys like you in some of my highstakes games. I could send you an invite to one if you feel froggy. Maybe we all should do a pro's vs joe's here at Rotoviz, I could set it up if anyone is interested.