- The expectations for Fournette and Hunt, among other players, are soaring this preseason, so fantasy football owners should be wary when drafting them
This story was originally published on July 3 and has been updated with slight changes on August 8.
Ahead of the 2017 season Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans was being drafted in the late-first or early-second rounds of most fantasy football leagues. But in the 15 games he started, he complied 1,001 total receiving yards and just five touchdowns, finishing 18th among receivers in standard leagues and 17th in PPR formats. He was a useful player worthy of starting every week he took the field, but he came nowhere near returning the value of his ADP—a true bust.
With that we present 2018’s top bust candidates, the players who are most overvalued in the early stages of fantasy draft prep season.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars
Football Outsiders tracks a stat it calls success rate. A play is considered a success for a running back if he gains 40% of the yards needed to move the chains on first down, 60% of the needed yards on second down and 100% on third and fourth down. Among the 47 backs with at least 100 carries, Fournette ranked 37th in success rate. He offers as little value as a receiver as possible for a workhorse back, and he has missed significant time in both of the last two years—one with the Jaguars and one at LSU—due to injury. The ankle injury unquestionably contributed to his second-half struggles, and he cut his weight to combat his injury history, but it still introduces risk. Don’t forget that he plays in an offense led by Blake Bortles, so there’s plenty of team-based risk here, too. I just don’t see how fantasy owners can take him at his ADP, which has him going off the board ahead of DeAndre Hopkins, Melvin Gordon, Odell Beckham, Dalvin Cook and Julio Jones.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs
I like Hunt considerably more than Fournette, I just don’t like him nearly as much as his late-first-round ADP. No matter how good a player is, he needs some help from his environment, and Hunt’s environment couldn’t have been better last year. Spencer Ware’s ACL tear guaranteed that he’d have no real threat to his playing time, and the Chiefs didn’t have a true No. 1 receiver, which helped drive more volume in his direction. Not including Week 17, in which he got one carry, he had 324 touches in 15 games, good for 21.6 per game. On top of that, the Chiefs were incredibly efficient and explosive last year, but saw their quarterback and offensive coordinator depart in the offseason. Is Hunt a good bet to be a true bust? No. Is he overvalued at his ADP, which has him going off the board ahead of all the players listed in Fournette’s capsule, other than Melvin Gordon? Absolutely.
Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs
I don’t mean to pick on the Chiefs—I think they’re a dangerous fantasy and real-life team, and I have Patrick Mahomes among my breakout picks. But Hill lives and dies by the big play, and I don’t think he will justify his early-third-round ADP in a 12-team league. Drafting Hill almost certainly means passing on Doug Baldwin, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Josh Gordon, Kenyan Drake and Derrius Guice. Also, Hill could be impacted by Kansas City’s transition from Alex Smith to Mahomes under center and the signing of Sammy Watkins could lower Hill’s target share. Hill seems set for a year in which he makes a greater impact for the Chiefs than he does for his fantasy owners.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts
Last season gave the fantasy community a full look at what Hilton is without Andrew Luck: A boom-or-bust receiver who projects as a WR2/3 over a full season. Hilton had three monster games last year in which he caught 19 passes for 505 yards and three touchdowns, but he had 461 yards and one score in his other 13 games. Luck is expected back this season, but it’s impossible to know what version of him will take the field. And yet, Hilton’s ADP assumes that the old Luck is coming back, without question. Are you really comfortable taking him ahead of Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, Allen Robinson, Demaryius Thomas and Larry Fitzgerald? I’m not. If Luck proves that he can make every throw during training camp and in preseason games, then we can revisit this discussion. If he doesn’t, Hilton looks like a prime value bust.
Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles
Ertz’s ADP is less than a full round lower than Travis Kelce’s, which suggests that many fantasy owners view him as a solid consolation prize to the Chiefs’ tight end. Let’s be clear: Ertz is not the weapon that Kelce is, and he doesn’t have as large or bankable a role in Philadelphia’s offense as his counterpart does in Kansas City’s. To be fair, Ertz was excellent last year, especially before Carson Wentz tore his ACL, and he deserves to shoot up draft boards this season. Still, the Eagles found incredible success in their everyman approach, with no one player serving as a true go-to guy in the offense. It’s hard to imagine that will change much, if at all, this season. Allen Robinson, Demaryius Thomas, Sony Michel, Ronald Jones and Marvin Jones are, among others, the opportunity cost associated with selecting Ertz at his ADP. Plus, there’s some quarterback risk at play here, related to Wentz’s return from ACL surgery. Remember, that injury didn’t happen until the middle of December, and as well as Nick Foles played in the Eagles’ run to the Super Bowl, Ertz’s ADP assumes Wentz is under center Week 1. I don’t think we can make that assumption just yet.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Raiders
Nelson is about to learn how hard life can be for a receiver when he doesn’t play with a generational quarterback like Aaron Rodgers. After rising to the top of the wide receiver position in Green Bay, Nelson is in for a rude awakening in year one with Derek Carr. Rodgers is a master in the quarterbacking arts, and that helped Nelson turn into the fantasy star he was for the last half-decade, or so. Third downs? Red zone efficiency? Big plays? Rodgers did it all spectacularly, and it all contributed to Nelson’s bottom line. The two perfected the back-shoulder throw, on which Nelson scored so many of his touchdowns. In addition to the personnel downgrade, Nelson lost a step in his own right, as age and a torn ACL robbed him of some of his explosiveness. Even with a reasonable price tag, it’s hard to get excited about him this year.
Jared Goff, QB, Rams
Goff played eight games against teams ranked in the top 13 in Football Outsiders defensive DVOA last season. In those eight games, he completed 54.4% of his passes for 1,765 yards, 6.71 yards per attempt, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. Goff isn’t the first quarterback to struggle regularly against good defenses, and he won’t be the last, but those aren’t encouraging numbers if you’re going to take him over Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith and Marcus Mariota, which his ADP requires you to do. The Rams, too, expect to be Super Bowl contenders this season, and the upgrades they made on defense brings some game-script risk to the table for Goff. We don’t necessarily want our quarterbacks on last-place teams, but we don’t want them tied to juggernaut defenses, either. Goff is a fine QB2, but projecting him as a regular starter pushes him firmly into bust territory.
Derek Carr, QB, Raiders
There are a lot of facts about Carr that aren’t too fun, but my favorite comes courtesy of Chris Raybon, who tweeted a stat about Carr last month that makes it hard to believe that the oft-rumored breakout is ever coming. The stat? Carr has been below average in YPA in all four of his years in the league. More specifically, Carr’s YPAs from 2014 through 2017 of 5.46, 6.96, 7.03 and 6.79 have all been at least 3% worse than league-average. Given that YPA is one of the stats best correlated to quarterback success, Carr does not inspire much confidence going into this season.
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
Remember that success rate stat we talked about with respect to Leonard Fournette? Mixon was one of the 10 backs with 100 carries who had a lower one than the Jacksonville rusher. Another reason to be down on the RB? Despite a dreadful rookie year in which he finished 33rd at the position in standard leagues and 30th in PPR formats, there’s no discount on him this season. You’ll still have to use a late-second round pick if you want to secure his services, likely eschewing players such as Jay Ajayi, Derrius Guice, Alex Collins, Doug Baldwin, Josh Gordon, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. That’s a lot of risk for a player who showed us last year his floor is at least RB33. For context, the 33rd back by ADP, Tevin Coleman, is coming off the board in the middle of the seventh round of a 12-team league.