Buyer Beware: Fantasy Football Players You Need to Avoid in Drafts

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2020

Buyer Beware: Fantasy Football Players You Need to Avoid in Drafts

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    Eventually, some of the biggest NFL stars fall from fantasy football grace. Similar to on-field performances, the declines can happen in a flash or over time. But don't wait until a player fails to live up to expectations; bail on him before it's too late. 

    Because of aging, a change in supporting cast or injury concerns, some notable players won't go into the 2020 season with the same outlook as in years past. Before you copy your draft queue from 2019, make some necessary changes.

    Based on average draft position (ADP) in point-per-reception leagues, we've selected eight early-to-middle-round players who will provide poor value in their current spots. They're not necessarily undraftable, but managers should avoid them at the ADP provided by Fantasy Football Calculator.

    In many cases, personnel and philosophy changes will adversely affect the fantasy value of these players. Unless you prefer playing catch up after a rough start, steer clear of the following names.

QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    ADP: 8.08

    Aaron Rodgers can still give you those "wow" throws downfield, but he's trended in the wrong direction as a fantasy option. Over the last two terms, the 36-year-old signal-caller has ranked sixth and 10th, respectively, among quarterbacks in points, per FantasyPros. 

    This season, Rodgers could easily drop out of the top 10. 

    The Green Bay Packers don't have a clear-cut No. 2 wide receiver. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard will compete for the spot. Both have a lot to prove, logging fewer than 600 receiving yards in each of their first two terms. The team signed Devin Funchess, but he opted out of the 2020 campaign. 

    Furthermore, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur may take the ball of Rodgers' hands and shift the focus toward the ground attack. Green Bay selected AJ Dillon in the second round of April's draft and passed on wide receivers for this year's class. 

    To compensate for the lack of high-quality pass-catching options, LaFleur can place the offensive burden on Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and Dillon in the backfield.

    Rodgers' completion percentage has slipped every year since 2016. He barely cracked 4,000 yards in 2019. With an offense built to run, the two-time All-Pro's numbers may look average on paper, which doesn't bode well for his fantasy output.

RB Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    ADP: 3.09

    The last time head coach Adam Gase and Frank Gore joined forces, the five-time Pro Bowler led the Miami Dolphins in rush attempts (156) over a 24-year-old Kenyan Drake.

    Before the New York Jets signed Gore, Gase considered taking some pressure off Le'Veon Bell, per ESPN's Rich Cimini.

    "I do think we have some guys that can help maybe lessen the load on [Bell] to where it's not all on him," Gase said. "Hopefully, we can get some of the younger backs to where we can make a good one-two punch to where we can really excel instead of feeling like it's just all on him all the time."

    Gore and rookie fourth-rounder La'Mical Perine could have decent roles in the Jets backfield, putting Bell's fantasy football value in peril.

    Gore registered 166 carries in 16 contests, which included eight starts, for the Buffalo Bills in 2019. Under Gase, he's probably going to handle a steady load within a familiar offensive system.

    Perine hauled in 40 passes for 262 yards and five touchdowns as a senior at Florida. He can play on all three downs.

    On top of the competition for touches at running back, Bell must also adjust to an offensive line with as many as three new primary starters at both tackle spots and center. 

RB Mark Ingram II, Baltimore Ravens

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    ADP: 4.05 

    The Baltimore Ravens backfield looks like a fantasy football nightmare. General manager Eric DeCosta embraced the idea of a four-man rotation featuring Mark Ingram II, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. 

    When you factor in quarterback Lamar Jackson's ability to run, five ball-carriers could split the Ravens' total rushing yards, leaving Ingram in a tough spot for fantasy managers.

    Last season, offensive coordinator Greg Roman used two primary running backs, Ingram and Edwards, with a sprinkle of Hill, who recorded 58 rush attempts for 225 yards and two touchdowns. As a second-round pick, Dobbins further complicates the prospective roles at the position. 

    According to ESPN's Jamison Hensley, DeCosta thinks Dobbins can play on all three downs. If that's the case, Ingram isn't likely to fulfill his fantasy expectations as a fourth-round pick with Edwards also taking early-down carries.

    The uncertainty in the Ravens' crowded backfield hurts Ingram's fantasy upside. He's not a good fourth-round option.

RB Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    ADP: 6.05

    Ronald Jones II put together a solid second season, logging 1,033 yards from scrimmage despite sharing the backfield with Peyton Barber, who signed with the Washington Football Team during free agency.

    In 2019, Jones made significant strides on the ground and also caught 31 passes for 309 yards, showing another dimension to his skill set. Yet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Ke'Shawn Vaughn, a skilled pass-catching running back who recorded 66 receptions for 648 yards and three touchdowns as a collegian.

    The Buccaneers placed Vaughn on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Days later, they signed LeSean McCoy. The former Kansas City Chief only played 295 offensive snaps last year, mostly because of a mix of injuries and healthy scratches, but he's a dual-threat playmaker when healthy and involved in the game plan.

    Once the season starts, Jones, Vaughn and McCoy may split the carries and targets. Don't forget Dare Ogunbowale, who hauled in 35 passes for 286 yards in 2019.

    While Jones likely starts as the lead ball-carrier, he has limited PPR value because of the three pass-catchers behind him on the depth chart. If the Buccaneers divide the rush attempts three ways, the USC product's overall fantasy appeal would take an even bigger hit.

WR Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    ADP 5.05

    Fantasy managers shouldn't consider Keenan Allen this early in the draft—not with quarterback Tyrod Taylor taking over for Philip Rivers.

    Even in his down 2019 campaign, Rivers gave his wide receivers a chance to rack up big numbers. He still threw for 4,615 yards and completed 66 percent of his pass attempts.

    Taylor has been a conservative quarterback in three terms as a full-time starter, throwing for fewer than 3,100 yards and 21 touchdowns in each of those years with the Buffalo Bills. He'll have better weapons this season, but the 31-year-old would have to shatter career highs to help his pass-catchers accumulate solid fantasy numbers.

    Taylor hasn't held a full-time starting role through a season since 2017. If he stumbles at the beginning of the upcoming campaign, the Chargers may pull him for this year's No. 6 overall pick, Justin Herbert. Because of potential chemistry issues, fantasy managers should have concerns about wideouts paired with rookies who take over an offense with a campaign in progress.

    Along with Mike Williams, Hunter Henry and Austin Ekeler, Allen has to build a rapport with a quarterback who has modest career passing numbers while a top draft pick awaits his time to start. That's not an ideal situation for a fifth-round pick.

WR Julian Edelman, New England Patriots

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    ADP: 6.12

    After logging a career-high 1,117 receiving yards during the previous term, Julian Edelman will see some decline in output this year.

    For a decade, Edelman caught passes from Tom Brady, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. He'll build a connection with Cam Newton, a less accurate quarterback in the pocket, or a second-year signal-caller in Jarrett Stidham.

    Newton, a former league MVP, is the favorite to claim the starting position, but he's completed 59.6 percent of his passes in nine seasons. 

    Although Newton can use his big arm to stretch the field for chunk yardage, Edelman has been more of a chain-mover out of the slot than a big-play receiver over the top, averaging 10.9 yards per reception for his career.

    In 2018, Newton's last year as a full-time starter, Christian McCaffrey led the Panthers in receiving yards (867) as a safety blanket out of the backfield, which helped boost the quarterback's completion percentage.

    The Patriots can use running back James White in the short passing game while featuring Sony Michel and 2019 third-rounder Damien Harris on the ground to mask Newton's ball-placement issues. Edelman dropped 13 passes last year, which also makes him an odd fit for a quarterback with questionable accuracy.

WR DJ Moore, Carolina Panthers

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    ADP: 3.12

    DJ Moore hauled in 87 passes for 1,175 yards and four touchdowns with backup quarterback Kyle Allen under center for most of the 2019 season. With some continuity, he might've improved those numbers, but the Maryland product must now adjust to new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater within a fresh system under head coach Matt Rhule.

    Rhule comes from the collegiate ranks, so fantasy managers have no idea how his scheme will translate to the pros. The Panthers picked up a solid No. 2 wide receiver in Robby Anderson, who's familiar with the head coach from their college days at Temple.

    Similar to Tyrod Taylor in Los Angeles, Bridgewater isn't an aggressive quarterback known for racking up yards and touchdowns. In five starts with the New Orleans Saints' top-three scoring offense during the previous term, he recorded fewer than 200 passing yards in two of those outings, scoring more than two touchdowns in one contest.

    With running back Christian McCaffrey as the focal point of the Panthers offense and a signal-caller who's averaging 173.9 passing yards per game for his career, Moore isn't in a good position to top his 2019 fantasy output.

TE Evan Engram, New York Giants

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    ADP: 7.04

    Evan Engram has the size, speed and hands to push for a top-five spot in points among tight ends in PPR leagues. On the other hand, he hasn't been able to shake the injury bug over the last two seasons, missing 13 contests since 2018. Because of his spotty availability, the Ole Miss product has become an unreliable component within the New York Giants offense.

    In 2019, Engram recorded 113-plus yards in two of the first three weeks—one start coming with Eli Manning under center and the other with Daniel Jones. 

    Keep in mind, Jones and Engram connected while wideout Golden Tate served a four-game suspension to open the season. After the tight end landed on injured reserve with a foot injury, wide receiver Darius Slayton emerged as a key playmaker in the passing attack.

    Engram has the talent to pop up with a handful of productive games if he stays healthy, but the fourth-year pro will compete with a solid wide receiver group and running back Saquon Barkley for targets.

    Jones can spread the ball among Tate, Slayton and Sterling Shepard. Per head coach Joe Judge, Big Blue's offense will share similarities with the Dallas Cowboys unit from previous years as Jason Garrett takes over play-calling duties, per NFL Network's Kim Jones. That's good news for Barkley, who may handle a high volume of touches comparable to 2016 and 2018 rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott.

    In some weeks, Engram may become an afterthought within the offense because of the plethora of weapons at wideout and a high-usage running back.