The NFL draft is in the books, most of the fantasy-relevant vets have found new homes and we're knee deep in "best shape of his life" and "quickly picking up the playbook" storylines.
That means we're officially entering draft season son.
Projections, hope, optimism, and yes, hate.
I was tasked this year with figuring out who could be a statistical bust in 2017. And I'm not going to lie, I enjoy tapping into my inner Buc Nasty [double taps chest, kisses two fingers and point skyward for Charlie Murphy].
But listen, don't get your feelings hurt here. I'M TALKING FANTASY VALUE. Some of these dudes are terrific real-life players, but their value right now in the fake game is setting them up to disappoint managers.
Also, keep in mind if I'm swinging, I'm swinging. It'd be the absolute easiest thing in the world to sit here and tell you James White won't average 139 total yards and two touchdowns per game like he did in the Super Bowl. I'm not hitting on guys that are largely outside the top 100. People aren't expecting those types of guys to go off; if they do nothing, no big deal, you cut bait and move on.
So here you go, 10 (+1) high-profile players who could vastly underperform their current (early June) valuations. Or, to put it more simply ... "hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate ..."
The Chicago rookie broke through in a big way last year, going from an unheralded fifth-round pick to being a top-10 fantasy back by year's end.
Howard amassed the second-most rushing yards in the league (1,313 yards, 5.1 ypc) to go along with seven total scores. As a result, he's widely regarded as a top-12 pick in standard-scoring leagues.
This is a long way of saying the wide receiver corps could be bad to very bad.
With defenses likely to key in on stopping the run, you can fully expect Howard's lofty 5.1 yards per carry in 2016 to suffer a steep drop off. Considering David Johnson averaged 4.2 ypc last year, let's at least be open to the idea that Howard will run in the low fours as well.
I think a fair projection would be about 1,200 total yards with six to eight touchdowns which, oh by the way, is what Gurley did this past year. Howard's floor is significantly lower and given his draft day price, I'll pass.
We're seeing Cooks commonly ranked in the late 20s to early 30s of overall lists, and offseason drafters are grabbing the speedster at around that price as well.
Cooks had a similar valuation going into 2016 and while he finished as the WR8 on the season (1,203 total yards, eight TDs), he was an absolute roller coaster on a weekly basis giving you literally zero or 30 on any given week.
And ask yourself, what about his situation has improved? He's likely to see less volume as the Saints throw far more often than the Patriots. Cooks still isn't a true go-to pass catcher, not with Rob Gronkowski on the field. And really, with Gronk, a developing Malcolm Mitchell, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, James White, Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee (all capable pass catchers), I'm having an awfully hard time seeing where the yards or the scores will come from.
Cooks will be a terrific real-life addition to that offense but I would be absolutely shocked if he got to 1,200 yards and six scores this season.
I don't see a great ceiling and the weekly volatility isn't worth it to me.
In 16 games last season, he was able to collect good yardage (1,163 total yards) but scored a paltry three times. And don't let the totals fool you, nearly 18 percent of his fantasy production came in Week 17. EIGHTEEN PERCENT OF HIS POINTS CAME WHEN 99 PERCENT OF YOU WERE DONE PLAYING FANTASY.
So yes, technically he finished as the WR22 but in standard scoring leagues he was an utterly uninspiring fantasy wide receiver cracking double digits just twice in his first 16 weeks of play.
With the plethora of Pats pass catchers listed above, there is an almost zero percent chance the 31-year-old sees the career-high 159 targets he saw last year.
I don't have Edelman in my top 100 let alone a top-50 candidate.
In 2016, it was largely a failure to launch for Lamar Miller in Houston. And if we're being honest here, he was a semi-bust in fantasy clocking in as the RB18.
Miller had a career high 268 rushing attempts, good for sixth-most in the NFL. Despite the work, Miller barely cracked 1,000 rushing yards and scored just six total touchdowns.
Commonly ranked in the early 20s, he's solidly entrenched as a third-round pick this year. This seems fair, but there are serious red flags, or I guess more accurately one giant burnt orange flag.
The team used a third-round pick in the NFL draft on Texas product D'Onta Foreman, who is an imposing physical specimen. A 6-foot, 235-pound bruiser, Foreman ran a scintillating 4.45 40-yard dash at his pro day. This was just three weeks removed from suffering a stress fracture at the combine. This dude can move.
You've got to think Foreman will mix into the Houston backfield and will almost assuredly be a goal-line vulture given his size.
Miller needs a lot of things to break the right way for him to surpass his numbers from last year ... I don't see it happening.
Let me get this out of the way, I absolutely love this kid as a prospect. But for fantasy purposes, I am not a fan of his current valuation. Experts have the versatile Stanford back ranked in the 20s with my good friend and well-respected fantasy mad man, Adam Rank pushing him as a top-17 pick.
Regardless of how talented McCaffrey is, this is Cam Newton's team first, second and third. And Cam's amazing ability to tuck it and run has depressed the fantasy numbers of his running backs.
Case and point, there has never been a 1,000-yard running back rusher so long as Cam Newton has donned the Carolina blues. over the past five years the top RB rusher has averaged around 840 yards per season. The top running back receiver (not necessarily the same as the leading RB rusher) has averaged a very pedestrian 24 receptions per season during this time period as well.
There is tons of talk that Carolina is going to revamp their offense to help feature McCaffrey's skillset but color me skeptical. Ron Rivera is who he is and more importantly Cam is who he is at this point. Asking a former MVP and a career 58 percent thrower to all-of-a-sudden sit back and be a pure pocket passer is nuts.
Cam is still going to run (probably a lot), Jonathan Stewart still lurks and Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin are expected to soak up tons of targets in the short to intermediate area of the field. So basically all the areas where McCaffrey can score fantasy points have various road blocks ahead of him.
Still, I think 1,000 total yards and five to seven touchdowns is a feasible projection for him, and while there is clearly upside, a lot of things could go wrong and unhinge his stats for 2017.
If you want to give the ultra-talented 24-year-old the benefit of the doubt, I get it. When Watkins is healthy, he is a baaaaaaad man. But that's the problem. It was a broken foot in 2016, hip surgery in 2015, broken ribs in 2014. This is in addition to ankle, hamstring, glute, calf and groin injuries he has suffered during his career as well. Oh by the way, he had a second surgery on his broken left foot in January and is still recovering.
But go ahead take him in the 4th round, I'm sure it'll work out fine this time.
The loss of Gary Kubiak cannot be understated. Literally every quarterback he has ever worked with has seen career years under his tutelage. This is a dude that Jedi mind-tricked us into thinking Brock Osweiler was a serviceable, top-20ish quarterback. What the hell do you think is going to happen to Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch this year? Expect the quarterback play to fall considerably, meaning poor DT and Manny Sanders will see their stats suffer.
Thomas has a value in the 30s, Sanders in 50s. I have them 10 spots lower each and that's out of pure respect for their games. Their floors on a weekly basis could be terrifyingly low this year.
It's a good fit on paper. Power runner going to a power run team. But fool me 17 times, shame on all of us or something like that. His yards and touchdowns are trending the wrong way and Seattle has entirely too many other options in the backfield. Thomas Rawls is there and fills a similar role and while it was majestic seeing a 300-lb running back catch the ball in space in Green Bay, in the Pacific Northwest all indications are Lacy will not see many passing targets with C.J. Prosise expected to have an expanded role this year. Plus, who the hell knows what rand-o practice squad player Ol' Pete will call up to tote the rock at some point.
Lacy is seeing love as a top-40ish pick, I've got him at 70.
After finally breaking through in 2016 and collecting the first 1,000-yard rushing campaign of his six-year career (RB10), the Saints showed great faith in Mark Ingram's abilities by signing Adrian Peterson and drafting the highly touted Alvin Kamara. This is in addition to Travaris Cadet who quietly caught 40 balls out of the backfield, hitting pay dirt four times.
For whatever reason the coaching staff does not entirely believe in Ingram, that much has been made crystal clear. If A.D. has anything left or if Kamara explodes out the gates, this could be a full-on timeshare in the Big Easy which should make fake game enthusiasts UNeasy.
Maybe it's his sick dance moves, maybe it's his reality show, whatever the reason, Kelce is seemingly the consensus No. 2 tight end on fantasy draft boards. I mean, I get where it's coming from as the highly-talented and highly-entertaining tight end was the TE1 in 2016 amassing 1,125 yards and four scores.
Those are terrific numbers for a tight end, no doubt, but to justify his current mid-40s price tag, you're banking on him putting together another 1,000-yard campaign and expecting growth in touchdown production.
Not only do I see yardage regression, there is almost no indication we'll see Kelce hit the Quan any more than he has in previous seasons.
Of his four touchdowns last year, one was a fluke-ish 80-yard score and Kelce had five touchdowns in each of his two prior seasons. The reason why? Well, Andy Reid offenses haven't historically thrown to tight ends in the red zone. I don't see that changing.
I like Kelce's upside but we have more than enough evidence to support the idea that Kelce will be one of five or six tight ends that will put up 850-950 yards with five to seven touchdowns. I'm not paying a premium for that.
Most rankings have Kelce in the 40s, I have him in the mid-70s. So I guess I won't be "Catching Kelce" this year.
With that I'll show myself out.