Last year's draft class is often a fertile trough for fantasy football owners hoping to snag the next star. While plenty of second-year players offer great value this year, a few should be avoided in most cases.
Drafting younger players is always a bit tricky. You don't have a lot of evidence by which to draw conclusions, and the players you're targeting still haven't reached the peak of their powers. You're going much more off potential with guys like Montee Ball and Jordan Reed than you are with DeMarco Murray and Greg Olsen, for instance.
The four second-year stars below shouldn't occupy a spot near the top of your draft board. They'll either be overvalued by the owners in your league or fail to follow through on the promise they showed in their rookie seasons.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
What's not to like about Giovani Bernard? Marvin Lewis limited his touches somewhat last year, and Bernard still managed to get 1,209 all-purpose yards and eight combined touchdowns. Surely he's going to be better in his second year, right?
Eh, maybe not.
Rotoworld's Adam Levitan wrote an interesting article analyzing the last 33 running backs to run for at least 600 yards in their rookie season. Of those 33, 22 saw at least a slight drop in production. Second-year backs aren't exactly sure things.
Then you throw in the Bengals' most recent second-round draft pick, Jeremy Hill, who together with BenJarvus Green-Ellis could conspire to take carries away from Bernard. He could struggle to top last year's 695 yards on the ground.
The former North Carolina Tar Heel offers value with his receiving skills, but then you're relying on Andy Dalton, and that's hardly ever an advisable thing to do.
EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills
EJ Manuel arguably played above expectations last season. Few thought he could step into an NFL offense from Day 1 and not look completely out of his depth. But Manuel completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 1,972 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those numbers were something upon which he could build.
Now he's got two new targets in Mike Williams and Sammy Watkins to bolster the passing game. Robert Woods should also take a step forward in his development.
The only problem is that Manuel remains a work in progress. Yes, it was only the Hall of Fame Game, but his inability to look off a receiver stood out in a big way:
The Patriots secondary will destroy EJ Manuel if he can't learn to look off a target.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 4, 2014
3 passes batted down now for EJ Manuel. It won't kill him to look off a WR or DB here and there.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 4, 2014
Some might consider Manuel a nice buy-low candidate for this season, but a massive jump from year one to year two doesn't look to be happening. He's only worth a pick if you're in like a 20-team league. Even that's kinda pushing it.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
A lot of DeAndre Hopkins' potential value for 2014 was wrapped up in Andre Johnson possibly forcing a trade away from the Houston Texans. Instead, the Pro Bowler remains with the team and doesn't appear to be agitating for a move.
"What happened last year is over with," Johnson said, per CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco. "It's a new season. Yeah, you want to see the ball go down the field. It is what it is. I can't worry about what happened last year."
With Johnson still commanding the majority of the targets in the passing game, you wonder how much will be left over. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't the most comforting presence under center, either, fantasy-wise. He's a safer pair of hands than Matt Schaub, but that doesn't count for much in fantasy football.
A healthy Arian Foster should also have Houston continuing to establish a presence on the ground as well.
It should be said that if Hopkins falls three or four rounds further than you expected, he's worth a look. But most owners are bound to overrate him this year.
Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Christine Michael is likely the Seattle Seahawks' future in the backfield. The present, however, firmly belongs to Marshawn Lynch. The four-time Pro Bowler received a nice new contract to keep him happy for this year, per NFL.com's Michael Silver:
So Marshawn Lynch got an extra $1.5 million of guaranteed salary for 2014, all fines forgiven and a week off of training camp? He ain't mad.— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) August 1, 2014
As Michael Fabiano of NFL.com pointed out as well, Robert Turbin is the next guy in line should something happen with Lynch, so it's not like Michael is one injury away from being a starting running back:
If you think Christine Michael is a lock to start if Marshawn Lynch's holdout continues, you're wrong. Turbin will be their RB1 in a RBBC.— Michael Fabiano (@Michael_Fabiano) July 28, 2014
In a keeper league, Michael is a great option. He's a talented, young runner who will pick up the torch whenever the Seahawks cut Lynch. For now, though, he doesn't offer that much value. He won't get too many carries stuck behind two guys in the depth chart.