Fantasy Football: 7 Players Who Will Go Too High in Your Draft
The fantasy football draft is the highlight of the NFL season for fantasy players. It's the one night when everybody’s team is in first place.
The draft is an unending fountain of optimism, but as the saying goes, "You can’t win your league on draft night, but you can certainly lose it."
The draft is all about finding value. It’s about matching up production with draft slot and ensuring that you get what you pay for.
That means mitigating risk early on and stockpiling upside in the later rounds.
With that in mind, I went through MockDraftCentral’s Average Draft Position (ADP) listings and picked out a few players in the top 100 that are being drafted too high.
These are players that are generally going in the top few rounds of drafts, a time when fantasy owners can’t afford to whiff on a pick. These aren’t necessarily players that can’t produce for a fantasy team, but rather guys that won’t deliver on their draft day value.
In every case, there's a better (usually less heralded) option that can deliver more value even later in the draft.
Mike Vick (Average Draft Position: 7.33)
At the head of the “dream team”, the world is at Vick’s feet. He has plenty of weapons at his disposal (Jackson, Celek, McCoy, et al.) and it seems his potential to put up fantasy points is limitless.
Truthfully, I can’t argue with any of that. Vick’s upside is worthy of his top-10 ADP. If he actually reaches his fantasy potential, he’d deserve to be drafted first overall.
Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that Vick will realize any of these expectations.
His unorthodox style makes him a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators, but it also opens him up to more injuries than the average drop-back passer.
Vick has played a full season just once in his eight-year career. Don’t expect him to repeat that feat this season.
There’s also the question of whether Vick can actually repeat his performance from last year. He was dominant right out of the gate, but tailed off a bit as the season progressed. Vick threw just six interceptions in 2010, but all of them came in his last five games of the season.
Once Vick was permanently installed as the starter, opposing defenses began to figure the Eagles out. As Vick spent more time leading the Eagles’ offense, opposing coaches built up film libraries, learned more about his weaknesses, and eventually developed strategies to stop him.
Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg will no doubt have some new schemes cooked up for this season, but there will be fewer surprises this year. The NFL will be fully prepared for Vick and that’s not good news for his fantasy owners.
I’d rather have: Aaron Rodgers (10.25)
Hakeem Nicks (Average Draft Position: 19.77)
Nicks exploded on the scene last year with three touchdowns in the season opener against the Panthers. He was effective throughout the rest of the season, but his season stats were absolutely inflated by that huge performance.
It’s really difficult to depend on wide receivers to score touchdowns. Nicks seems to have a nose for the end zone, but so do Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Mario Manningham, and Travis Beckum. It’s entirely possible that Nicks will score 11 touchdowns again, but with so many other options for the Giants offense, it’s far from a sure thing.
Every fantasy owner expects their top draft picks to perform in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Giants’ schedule does not line up well for Mr. Nicks.
The G-Men play four games in December; three of them are in the wind tunnel at the New Meadowlands.
Nicks performed well at home in 2010, but didn’t perform at his top levels. He racked up more receptions, yards, and touchdowns on the road than at home. Don’t hold out hope for a standout playoff performance in 2011.
Nicks is a solid No. 2 wide receiver, but there’s too much risk here to slot him in as a No. 1.
I’d rather have: Greg Jennings (21.64)
Peyton Manning (Average Draft Position: 26.89)
Yep, Peyton Manning is being overvalued.
In this case, it’s really not so much about what Manning won’t do, but more about what the players who are being drafted behind him will do.
Manning has shown the ability to play through pain, but his neck injury this offseason came at a terrible time. The lockout prevented him from rehabbing with the Colts’ medical staff, which has pushed back his recovery and kept him out of training camp.
He’s been an ironman for his entire career, but this neck injury isn’t something that Manning can simply play through. Without the ability to turn his head freely, there’s no way that Manning can even attempt to take the field with the Colts.
Manning conducts a well-tuned orchestra, but without time to arrange all of the pieces, things may not come together for a few weeks. That delay, combined with the lingering injury risk, makes Manning a bigger risk in 2011 than he’s ever been before.
Frankly, there are better options at quarterback for the early-round pick that it’ll take to snag Manning this year.
I’d rather have: Philip Rivers (38.71)
Dwayne Bowe (Average Draft Position: 28.51)
Bowe exploded onto the fantasy scene last year, leading all NFL receivers with 15 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, touchdowns are incredibly difficult to predict from season to season. Bowe himself only scored 16 touchdowns in the three seasons prior to his breakout in 2010.
There’s no doubt that he’s the top target for the Chiefs, but it’s just not realistic to go into 2011 expecting another 15-touchdown season.
Even beyond the touchdowns, Bowe’s 2010 season was marked by peaks and valleys. Though he racked up over 72 catches and 1,162 yards, Bowe had three or fewer catches in eight of the 16 games he played last season. That lack of consistency just won’t cut it for a top fantasy receiver.
Bowe will have a productive season in 2011, but unless he’s able to match the touchdowns he delivered in 2010, the price for drafting him does not match his actual value.
I’d rather have: Mike Wallace (33.67)
Jonathan Stewart (Average Draft Position: 35.75)
For years, fantasy owners have been tormented by the running back timeshare in Carolina. It always seemed that if one of the backs could just win the job outright, he could produce at an elite level.
For a while, it looked like that might be the case in 2011, but alas, Carolina’s backfield is as crowded as ever.
Jonathan Stewart certainly doesn’t lack talent. He’s been a productive runner for his whole career, but in 2011, his situation just doesn’t provide him an opportunity to post great fantasy numbers.
First and foremost, Carolina has (loudly) proclaimed its commitment to DeAngelo Williams by signing him to five-year, $43 million contract. Setting the logic of this deal aside, it certainly means fewer carries for Jonathan Stewart. Teams don’t shell out $21 million in guaranteed money to backups.
Williams’ injury-prone nature could eventually open the door for Stewart, but there’s no way to predict that. In fact, there’s probably just as much of a chance of Stewart himself getting hurt.
Outside of Stewart’s individual role on the team, the Panthers’ running game isn’t set up for success in 2011.
With Jimmy Clausen and Cam Newton staging a training camp pillow fight for the starting quarterback job, there’s no doubt that opposing defenses will load up against the run and dare Carolina throw the ball downfield. Throw in David Gettis’ season-ending ACL injury, and the situation is even more dire.
Stewart is a very talented back, but unless he somehow wriggles his way out of Carolina this season, he won’t deliver on his draft position.
I’d rather have: Ryan Grant (54.13)
Sidney Rice (Average Draft Position: 50.89)
I really don’t understand all of the love for Sidney Rice in the fantasy community.
He had one fantastic season in 2009, but his other three years in the NFL have been a disappointment. He’s never been able to stay healthy and even when he’s been on the field, he’s been inconsistent.
In the six games he played last year, he only topped 25 receiving yards three times.
Whether he disappears on the field or off the field (due to injury), it’s unlikely that Rice will deliver consistent output from game to game.
Rice’s inconsistency may not totally be his fault, however, as he’ll be at the mercy of the mess at quarterback for the Seahawks.
Ultimately, a bet on Sidney Rice is a bet on Tavaris Jackson.
Only playing in six games last year, Rice really hasn’t had an opportunity to build a great deal of chemistry with Jackson. They did suit up for the same team, but there’s really no reason to think that Jackson will favor Rice more than another other Seattle receiver.
Additionally, Jackson’s lack of accuracy, especially on downfield throws, will likely limit Rice’s effectiveness as a deep threat.
A pick in the position that Rice is being drafted should deliver either consistency or upside.
Rice’s past doesn’t portend a consistent season in 2011 and the offensive environment in Seattle limits his upside. He’s simply not worth it at this point in the draft.
I’d rather have: Wes Welker (56.85)
Tony Gonzalez (Average Draft Position: 98.92)
Tony Gonzalez has had a spectacular career. Whenever he retires, his name will certainly grace a plaque in the Hall of Fame.
But for the 2011 fantasy NFL season, he’s just that, a name.
Gonzalez’s receptions and receiving yards have declined each of the past four years, dropping to 70 receptions and just 656 yards in 2010. That yardage output was his lowest since 1998.
It’s well-known that Gonzalez keeps his body in incredible shape, but at the age of 35, it’s unlikely that this decline will reverse.
Aside from the erosion of his own skills, the addition of Julio Jones to the Falcons’ passing attack is not a good thing for Tony Gonzalez. As Atlanta brings in more weapons for Matt Ryan, Gonzalez’s opportunities will almost certainly decrease.
At this point in his career, the perception of Tony Gonzalez does not match the reality of his production.
I’d rather have: Brandon Pettigrew (109.36)