10 Overvalued Players for 2014

Zac Stacy was a pleasant surprise last season, but are we too optimistic this year? (Photo: Icon SMI)

Zac Stacy was a pleasant surprise last season, but are we too optimistic this year? (Photo: Icon SMI)

Ryan Boser brings you his 10 players that are overvalued in the fantasy ranks. All ADP data is courtesy of MyFantasyLeague.com, from drafts occurring since July 15th.

Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams
Standard ADP: Pick 3.06, RB14
PPR ADP: Pick 3.08, RB14

Zac Stacy entered the league as an unheralded, lunch pail bruiser. He eventually ascended a talent-poor depth chart to amass strong numbers despite his one-dimensional, between-the-tackles limitations. Sound familiar? It should. Because Alfred Morris was the exact same guy the year before. Unfortunately, in Morris’ sophomore season, he plummeted from RB5 to RB14 through no fault of his own—his YPC only dipped from 4.8 to 4.6. So what changed? The setting. Morris, like Stacy, is a volume-dependent compiler, and backs of this ilk are also inherently touchdown- and game script-dependent. Not a good thing when your team falls from 10-6 to 3-13.

Also not a good thing when your team uses a top-75 pick on a dynamic complementary back (Tre Mason). Stacy emerged in Week 7, and averaged 24 touches (which equated to a ridiculous 83% of the team’s RB touches) the rest of the way. That’s perfectly fine if you’re the Chiefs or the Vikings, but Stacy’s a rather ordinary talent. Offensive line upgrades should help him improve on his subpar 3.9 YPC clip, but the investment in Mason is a crystal clear indicator that the Rams understand who Stacy really is—a thunder to somebody else’s lightning.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills
Standard ADP: Pick 5.08, WR24
PPR ADP: Pick 5.06, WR25

Over the last 10 years, 17 WRs have been taken in the top half of the first round. Not a single one of them finished as a WR1 in Year 1. In fact, only three (17.6%) finished as a WR2, and only four (23.5%) finished as a WR3. That means 58.9% of them didn’t even finish as fantasy starters. If recent history is any indication, Watkins’ Year 1 ceiling is already baked into his ADP, giving him virtually no chance of turning your investment into profit.

Of course, any slim chances of Watkins bucking the trend are also further diminished by a run-heavy, EJ Manuel-led offense. Greater talents such as Calvin Johnson (2007 WR38) and Larry Fitzgerald (2004 WR31) were unable to live up to Watkins’ ADP in very similar situations.

Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Standard ADP: Pick 5.07, QB6
PPR ADP: Pick 5.11, QB7

Frankly, I could make this entire list about QBs. They’re all going too soon in non-industry leagues. The cat’s out of the bag—it’s the most replaceable (read: devalued) position in fantasy due to oversupply and the fact that you only need to start one.

For the sake of this article, I’ll single out Nick Foles as somebody who’s going too high in relation to his QB peers. I like Foles just fine, and I love Chip Kelly, but after the “Big 3,” I see a tier of about 8-10 guys who could all make a legitimate run at the 4-spot. Picking a guy near the end of that tier (Cutler/Wilson/Romo are going about three rounds later than Foles) should get you comparable production for a fraction of the price, and you won’t feel nearly as compelled to lock him into your lineup regardless of matchup.

While my issue here is more with the value than the player himself, in digging through Foles’ final nine game logs, an unavoidable question arises: Were his numbers artificially inflated by an incredibly soft schedule?

Foles’ 7-TD breakout came against a 27th-ranked Raiders FF pass defense that also gave up 5 TDs to Alex Smith. His monster game (469 total yards and 3 TDs) against Minnesota’s 32nd-ranked pass defense came one week after the Vikings had given up 3 TDs to Joe Flacco, and one week before they would give up 366-4 to Andy Dalton. Foles had two other 3-TD games, with both coming against bottom-12 FF defenses (Green Bay and Arizona). He averaged a “meh” 281-1 in divisional matchups with the bottom-10 FF defenses of Dallas and Washington, and an equally “meh” 205-1.5 in neutral matchups with Chicago and Detroit. In fact, the first top-12 defense he faced came in the playoffs, and the 3rd-ranked Saints just happened to hold him to 195-2.

I’m not saying Foles needs to apologize for the cake schedule, but I do think he comes with a lot more uncertainty than a guy like Matt Ryan, who’s going a full round later. Can Maclin/Matthews/Sproles offset the losses of DJax/Avant, and will all the moving pieces align smoothly? Will Maclin’s knee hold up? How will Foles adjust to inevitable defensive adjustments now that teams have had a chance to dissect his (and more importantly, Kelly’s) tape? Finally, is Foles capable of overcoming the tough matchups to be your every-week starter? If you pay his current price, you’re banking on “Yes.” We’ll find out this season against the NFC West, particularly in his Week 14 fantasy playoff matchup with Seattle.

Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
Standard ADP: Pick 5.04, TE5
PPR ADP: Pick 6.02, TE5

Vernon Davis and Colin Kaepernick have started 22 regular season NFL games together. Twelve of those games included Michael Crabtree, and 10 did not. Davis’ per game averages without Crabtree are 3.8 catches for 62.3 yards and .9 TDs. His per game averages with Crabtree are 2.2 catches for 30.9 yards and .4 TDs. Additionally, Stevie Johnson joins a (relatively) healthy Crabtree and Anquan Boldin to give Kaepernick the best WR group he’s ever had, in an offensive system that ranked 3rd in 2013 rushing attempts and 32nd in passing attempts.

Another problem with Davis’ ADP is that, like QB, TE is a severely devalued position because supply greatly outweighs demand (only 12 starters). If you’re not landing one of the top-tier guys (Manning/Rodgers/Brees or Graham/Gronk/Thomas), you’re better off sloughing/streaming the position and loading up on the premium-valued RB/WR spots. Using a 5th/6th rounder on Davis means you’re locked into a starting commitment when there’s dirt-cheap production readily available late in your draft or on the waiver wire.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins
Standard ADP: Pick 4.02, WR14
PPR ADP: Pick 3.07, WR12

Coming into last season, Pierre Garcon had gone three straight years with remarkably consistent WR3 (per game) fantasy production. And then he dropped a league-leading 182-target outlier on us. Not only was that 48 more than his previous career high, but his NFL-best 113 catches were also 43 more than his previous peak. Still, despite the gluttonous force-feeding, he scored just 5 TDs, which, disgustingly, was only one shy of his career high.

The impending regression is painfully obvious. Gifted TE Jordan Reed, who missed nearly half the season, is ready to roll. Andre Roberts was brought in to upgrade the WR2 spot, and then quickly usurped by DeSean Jackson. As Mr. Rotoworld Evan Silva recently noted, Jackson will occupy the “Z” position, which has historically been the moneymaker in the Jay Gruden offense.

Garcon was merely a fringe WR1 last season despite the insane volume. The fact that he’s being drafted as one now is ludicrous.

Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Standard ADP: Pick 2.12, RB12
PPR ADP: Pick 3.02, RB11

Arian Foster entered last season with major red flags (overuse/injury/YPC decline), and he rewarded faithful drafters with two touchdowns in eight games. As another famous Texan once said: “Fool me once… shame on you. Fool me… you can’t get fooled again.”

It was a debilitating back injury that cut Foster’s 2013 campaign in half, and he recently admitted that he contemplated retirement. Doesn’t exactly give you the warm fuzzies, does it? Moreover, his list of soft tissue injuries is snowballing, as he’s currently sidelined with yet another hamstring ailment.

Foster’s being drafted as a back end RB1 near the end of R2, which feels downright reckless. Predicting injury usually isn’t wise, but in Foster’s case it certainly appears that the writing is on the wall.

Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions
Standard ADP: Pick 9.05, TE11
PPR ADP: Pick 10.02, TE13

Recently, boss man Paul Charchian dug up this deflating nugget: since 2000, rookie RD1 TEs have averaged 321 yards and 2 TDs. Furthermore, reports out of Detroit have indicated that Ebron’s adjustment has been even rockier than your typical rookie TE, which has ultimately resulted in a dropfest.

Ebron’s outstanding speed and athleticism got him drafted No. 10 overall, but he remains an unpolished 21-YO who’s battled inconsistency (hands and focus). At a middling 6’4”, Ebron only scored 8 TDs in 34 games at UNC. Conversely, 6’7” Joseph Fauria scored 7 TDs in 30 targets as a rookie last season. Ebron’s certainly not cut from the same cloth as monsters like Gronk or Graham, but he has been compared to a poor man’s Vernon Davis. The real Vernon Davis posted a 20-265-3 line in Year 1.

Alpha dog Calvin Johnson has averaged a league-leading 12.0 targets/game the last two years, and free agent Golden Tate offers a big upgrade opposite him. The trio of Bush-Bell-Riddick will most likely lead all NFL RB groups in receptions under new OC Joe Lombardi (formerly of New Orleans). That leaves Ebron battling red zone specialist Fauria and blocking specialist Brandon Pettigrew for table scraps. For Ebron, not only will volume be an issue, but also the quality of volume, as Detroit has much better options in the red zone. Add in the fact that back end TE1 production is as replaceable as back end QB1 production, and I’m not sure I’d even draft Ebron in typical 16-rounders.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Standard ADP: Pick 6.10, WR27
PPR ADP: Pick 6.04, WR29

Two thirds of the Eagles’ core WR group is new to the Chip Kelly offense. Sophomore TE Zach Ertz is pegged for a bigger role. LeSean McCoy has always been very active in the passing game, and Darren Sproles is the prototypical X-Factor. In short, the Eagles have a glut of versatile pieces with no clear hierarchy. At this point, trying to predict target distribution is an exercise in futility, which is exactly how Kelly wants it.

Among the WRs, the Eagles are most heavily invested in holdover Riley Cooper after re-upping him for 5-$25M this offseason. Training Camp Hall of Famer Jordan Matthews is, believe it or not, still an unproven rookie. Jeremy Maclin rounds out the group, coming off his second right ACL tear. He sits atop the depth chart, but I view all three of these WRs as relatively interchangeable parts, none of which profile as a true No. 1 NFL WR. In these muddy instances, you’re always better off throwing a dart at the cheapest commodity, and Maclin is going a staggering four rounds earlier than both Matthews and Cooper. To make matters worse, he’s probably the riskiest of the three, and he’s already missing practice time with knee soreness. Everything about this situation screams unpredictable weekly volatility.

Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Standard ADP: Pick 3.07, QB4
PPR ADP: Pick 3.11, QB4

In my Foles blurb, I briefly touched on why all QBs are overvalued. I also explained why you’re better off taking the 10th-12th QB than the 4th-6th, as I’m anticipating a very minimal drop-off. Naturally, that puts the QB4, Andrew Luck, squarely in my crosshairs. I love Luck, but for my money, he’s the single most overvalued player in fantasy.

Over the last three seasons, the QB4 spot has yielded an average of 400.2 FF points (using basic QB scoring). Luck has thrown exactly 23 TDs in each of his first two seasons, while posting FF totals of 366.2 (2012) and 345.2 (2013). His rushing production has been his saving grace, and very consistent, so we should be relatively safe in penciling him in for 300-4.5 on the ground. That’s 57 points. He threw for a disappointing 3,830 yards in his first season under Pep Hamilton, resulting in 191.5 points. That leaves 151.7 points needed to reach the QB4 plateau (400.2), meaning that if Luck’s rushing production and passing yards remain constant, his passing TDs would need to jump from 23 to 38 to justify his rank among QBs. A more even progression in passing production would look like 4,200-33, which is still a very steep incline.

Adding Rob Chudzinski should certainly help Pep see the light, but realistically, we’re still just talking about a “Special Assistant.” And while Luck’s WR depth chart appears to be deeper than ever, it’s an illusion. By all accounts, Hakeem Nicks looks like a shell of his former self. Reggie Wayne is a 35YO coming off an ACL tear, and T.Y. Hilton is a No. 2 masquerading as a No. 1. I’m optimistic about youngsters Da’Rick Rodgers and Donte Moncrief, but they’re both still projects. TE Dwayne Allen’s return should help Luck inch closer to delivering upon his ADP, but leaps and bounds are needed.

Luck has outscored 2012 draft classmate Russell Wilson by 1.4 PPG over their first two seasons (22.2 to 20.8). If you think that slim margin justifies a 4-round gap in ADP, I’d like to extend a personal invite to my high-stakes home league.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Standard ADP: Pick 2.07, RB10
PPR ADP: Pick 2.04, RB7

Giovani Bernard had a very fine rookie campaign, but the fact that he’s being drafted like a feature back feels irrational. This, of course, is because Cincinnati chose to upgrade the BenJarvus Green-Ellis role by making 233-lb. Jeremy Hill the second RB off the board in May’s draft (R2, pick 55 overall). Hue Jackson wants to pound the rock, so both youngsters will get fed, but there’s no denying that Hill’s better built for goal line use. I’m expecting a much more even fantasy point distribution than their 8-round ADP gap suggests.

I view Andre Ellington as an extremely similar player to Bernard, and not only is he going 1.5 rounds later, but he’s actually being groomed for a featured role with no competition in sight.

This entry was posted in NFL. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to 10 Overvalued Players for 2014

  1. Brian Johnson says:

    Great breakdown, thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *