2016 fantasy football players to avoid

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"Haterade," as defined by Urban Dictionary, is a "fictional beverage ... purportedly consumed by individuals who are jealous of others, supposedly fueling their ability to be jealous."

First, props to me for working in Urban Dictionary. Secondly, I swear I'm not sipping on Haterade in writing this column.

When I talk about "players to avoid" aka fantasy busts, all I'm saying is that given their current (read: early June) draft price, not only am I not buying, I'm actively ... OK, I guess I'm actively hating.

Also, I only consider big names when putting this list together. What fun is it, and really how helpful is it, to tell you I think Jared Cook will underwhelm? He's going in Round 13 and up -- it means nothing for me to tell you to avoid him. With that, here are a few guys that could massively disappoint.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

 

No question about it, Freeman was the breakout superstar of 2015. Racking up 1,600-plus total yards and 14 touchdowns will do that. But if you're reading this, it's likely you've heard how 10 of those scores came in a five-game stretch in the early part of the season. Adding more context, of those five games, three came against NFC East teams and one game versus New Orleans ... that's the wet tissue paper of soft schedules.

Over his final five games (at TB, at CAR, at JAX, vs. CAR, vs. NO) Freeman was pretty good from a fantasy perspective, posting three double-digit performances and averaging about 90-ish total yards per game during that span. Sounds pretty good if you ignore the fact that he also averaged a horrific 3.06 yards per carry. If you want to give him a pass on two games versus Carolina, I'm cool with that but keep in mind Tevin Coleman didn't play the team's final two games due to a concussion and lurks as a big-time threat to Freeman's work load for 2016.

As a result I have him ranked much lower than my colleagues, ranking him 20th overall. He is almost universally regarded as a top-12 pick and at that price, I can confidently tell you Freeman will not be gracing me with his services this year.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints

 

Look I get the love for Ingram, he's going to be 27 years old, a running back's prime, and he's the lead back in a good offense. There's a lot to like, no question. But without looking, how many times do you think the Alabama product has rushed for 1,000 yards in his five NFL seasons? The answer would be ZERO.

Whether it's injury or ineffectiveness, Ingram hasn't put it all together yet for any long stretch of time. He's only had one healthy season where he played all 16 games, having missed at least four games in three of his five seasons.

Last season we also saw Ingram involved in the passing game amassing 50 catches for 405 yards. But will/can this hold up? The dude had 53 catches and 288 receiving yards in his previous four seasons COMBINED and was never known as a great pass-catching back. I fear regression will rear its ugly head.

Granted, there aren't any terrifying names behind him, but don't be surprised if C.J. Spiller and (deeeeeep sleeper) Daniel Lasco snatch up a lot of passing-down work.

Michael Fabiano has Ingram at 13th overall, which I think is insane. Late May/early June mocks on Fantasy Football Calculator show Ingram going in the mid to late 20s, which is more palatable. I have him 33rd overall.

Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets

 

I like Marshall, I really do. Dude is thoughtful and well spoken and the way he has addressed mental health issues is nothing short of heroic. But with that out of the way, from a fantasy perspective, Marshall is looking at a massive backslide in terms of statistical output.

He's 32 years old and last season collected a CAREER-HIGH 14 touchdowns. With 1,502 yards he was just six yards off his career high mark in that stat as well. I think a MUCH more realistic projection for him would be about 1,200 yards and seven or eight scores and that's if everything goes according to plan.

If it doesn't? Like if the quarterback situation goes south, if his body breaks down, or if 2015 second-round pick Devin Smith develops into a consistent downfield threat, the floor for Marshall gets pretty scary pretty quick.

I still have Marshall in the late 20's but don't feel great about it.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans

 

Murray's offseason was a microcosm of his 2015 season. Entering 2015, Murray was pretty much a surefire second-rounder in standard fantasy drafts. Then the season played out and holy hell, it was a mess.

Fast forward to this most recent offseason where Murray left Philly and signed with Tennessee. Again high hopes for Murray given Marcus Mariota and an utter lack of running back depth behind him. "VOLUME, VOLUME, VOLUME," we said ... but then Tennessee went full Draymond Green on our fantasy nether parts and drafted Derrick Henry.

The coaching staff has tried to reassure Murray and the fantasy community that Murray would still be the featured back. But bruh ... come on. Even in a dream scenario, the massive 'Bama back will come in and vulture a significant portion of goal-line looks, sharply limiting DeMarco's touchdown potential. And if you're like me, you see a straight time share by season's end.

Compounding the issue is that Tennessee still has zero proven outside threats. Dorial Green-Beckham is super interesting and the most intriguing of the receivers, but a burner he is not. Expect single coverage and stacked boxes galore.

The fantasy brain trust of Michael Fabiano, Alex Gelhar and Marcas Grant (hereby referred to as The Trust) all have DeMarco ranked in the 40s and they are all pretty smart dudes but in my mind there is absolutely no possible way Murray will pay a profit at that draft price. I've got him in the low 60s, Money has him even lower at No. 73.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

 

Charles is one of the most exciting and best running backs of the past 20 years but as they say, Father Time is undefeated. Charles is 29 years old and will turn 30 by season's end and sorry if I'm burying the lead here a bit but, oh by the way, he's coming off of his second ACL tear in the past five years.

The Trust (an amazing name for a future Shane-O-Mac heel stable) has Chuck slotted between 12 and 15 but have guys like Allen Robinson, A.J. Green, Eddie Lacy and Lamar Miller ranked lower. I'd MUCH rather have all four of the aforementioned names on my roster before taking a gamble on Charles. If I'm anywhere in the second round of your typical 10-teamer, I will pass on him, albeit reluctantly.

Speaking to his greatness though, I'm about as low on him as any analyst can really be but still have him at No. 21.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers

 

Stewart is a prime example of players who overachieve being over-ranked the following season. If you ask most fantasy fans, you will find nary a negative word regarding The Daily Show's 2015 campaign. But look at the raw numbers.

In 13 games, Stewart amassed 989 rushing yards and just 99 receiving yards to go along with seven total touchdowns. If you had zero expectations for Stewart last year, those are great numbers. But in the overall scheme of things, they are very, very whatevers.

In a year where every running back in existence had a ligament explode, Stewart's numbers were extremely useful but let's not get crazy here. The Trust have him penciled in somewhere in the mid- to late-30's and locked in as a good RB2. I'm not nearly as confident.

Stewart is entering his ninth NFL season, is 29 years old and has an extensive history of injuries. Overcoming ankle and knee surgeries previously, Stewart missed the Panthers' final three games in 2015 because of a foot sprain. That's a lot of wear and tear on the lower body. Speaking of, his 242 carries last year was a career high.

Second-year player Cameron Artis-Payne had just 45 totes last year, but you can expect him to push Stewart for more carries this season. And with red zone monster Kelvin Benjamin back from his own injury and Cam Newton continuing to do Cam Newton things, I see Stewart's seven touchdowns as an absolute ceiling. That's not great upside and given his age, injuries and competition behind him, the floor for Stewart is scary low.

He's a player that I won't be drafting even in the sixth round, let alone the fourth or fifth which is where a lot of other experts have him.

Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

 

Going into last season I was absurdly high on Hill, but holy hell has a lot changed in Cincy.

Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are gone. Tyler Eifert is hurt. As we stand today, in early June, 1,929 total yards and 19 total touchdowns are injured or on other teams.

Hue Jackson, a coordinator that just about everybody (especially Cleveland) was fond of, is gone ... Cincy fans you've got to realize there is going to be a MASSIVE adjustment period here for the offense.

Good luck with that as you open your season versus the Jets and Broncos in two of your first three weeks.

Speaking of the schedule, in addition to New York and Denver, the Jungle is looking at the Steelers, Dolphins, Cowboys and Patriots to open the year. So two games against brutally tough defenses (NYJ, DEN) and three that have shootout potential written all over them (PIT, DAL, NE); i.e. contests that read like Giovani Bernard games all the way.

All this, before we even delve into the ugly numbers of 2015. Hill's 3.56 yards per rushing attempt was one of the worst marks in the NFL, ranking 45th out of running backs who had at least 50 carries. Hill was less efficient per carry than such luminaries as Antonio Andrews and Alfred Blue. Meanwhile, his backfield mate Bernard was tied for 10th-best in this category, averaging 4.74 yards per carry.

His fantasy value was carried almost exclusively by his 11 rushing touchdowns (12 total). Again, with the offense in total flux, you can expect that number to go down. If he plays as poorly as he did last year, punching in even half that total seems like a tall task.

The Trust has Hill ranked in the early 40s, pushing him into the fifth round. I wouldn't feel anywhere near comfortable taking him that early. I have him slotted at 57th overall. Adam Rank is going all-in on the Bengals offensive nosedive and has Hill at 66th overall.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jaguars

 

Coming out of Alabama, playing for a high-scoring offense, Yeldon has name value, of that there's no question. But again, you look at the numbers and the situation and I don't get the hype.

In 12 games, as a featured back playing for a team that was in the top half of scoring, Yeldon had three total touchdowns. THREE.

His 1,000-plus total yards and 85 scrimmage yards per game were nice, not taking that away from him. But he also had a converted quarterback as his only main competition for carries.

That changed in a BIG way this offseason when the Jags went and signed Gelhar-mancrush Chris Ivory to a CHUNKY five-year, $35 million deal that includes more than $15 million over his first two years.

It's painfully obvious this is going to be a 50-50 timeshare at best, and at worst, Ivory emerges as a powerful two-down guy with Yeldon mixing in as a passing-down back.

I think 800-900 total yards and five or six touchdowns seems like a pretty fair projection, which translates to about five to six fantasy points per game ... so if that does it for you, go for it. Fabs is the most bullish on him, ranking him in his top 60. Marcas has him down at 84th. Money and I both have him just outside of our top 100.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers

 

Hey, speaking of terrible, terrible seasons, how about that Melvin Gordon, eh? Ranking one spot lower than Jeremy Hill in terms of yards per carry was the highly-touted Wisconsin rookie mustering just 3.48 yards per rushing attempt.

Look, I get it, the Chargers were all kinds of injured, especially on the offensive line, so I'm not burying him quite yet but his 2016 prospects look bleak.

Gordon had microfracture surgery in January to repair cartilage in his left knee and the initial diagnosis had him back anywhere between 4-6 months.

He's reportedly back and doing individual drills at OTAs which is great but I'm not overly hopeful he'll be anywhere near 100 percent come August. The procedure he had done has a LOOOOONG track record of sapping players of their explosiveness.

For Gordon's long-term outlook, I'm actually hoping San Diego will work him in extremely slowly and give Danny Woodhead at least 50 percent of the backfield shares this upcoming season. Let Gordon come back at his own pace and give him a chance to be a monster in 2017 and beyond.

But for 2016? Thanks, but no thanks.

Frank Gore, RB, Colts

 

The long-time Niner is absolutely one of the most underrated backs of the past decade. Despite injury concerns for the entirety of his career, the dude has been amazingly durable and just kept pounding out yards.

Even including last season, Gore has a stupid streak of 10 CONSECUTIVE SEASONS of 1,200 scrimmage yards or more. For a running back that is just absurd.

Nothing but respect.

But last year, despite a totally solid statistical year (1,200-plus total yards, seven scores) the grind finally started to show. Gore still played all 16 (again) but he averaged a career low 3.7 yards per carry. I think more concerning, looking ahead to 2017, is the fact that despite his age (he's 33 this season) the team still fed him 260 carries last year. That's a TON. I expect a further decline this season.

I have him ranked in the low 80s and that's mostly out of respect and the fact that for some completely non-sensical reason the Colts didn't draft a running back in a year where there was serious running back depth. I mean good god, the Saints have 40 running backs and even they couldn't resist taking one (Daniel Lasco) late in the draft.

I'll take Gore in the double-digit rounds if he's there but am expecting flex numbers at best and a floor so low, he could be droppable by mid season.


In closing, in the words of Silky Johnson, "I hate you, I hate you, I don't even know you and I hate you ... HATE! HATE! HATE!"

Why wait? CLICK HERE to get your 2016 NFL Fantasy season started.

-- Follow James on Twitter @JamesDKoh

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