With training camp in full swing, the hype train on many players is rolling out of control. Offseason storylines can blind us when it comes to draft value for certain players, and many times small news bits can be blown out of proportion. Teams are still ironing out their backfield battles and committee rotations, rookies are making waves and veterans are forgotten. Now, it's time to identify some players who are overvalued based on their current ADP (FantasyPros.com). I'm not hating on any of these guys, but instead I'm preaching caution before you draft them given their asking price.
I love Marshawn Lynch. In his prime, he was an elite fantasy running back, a no-brainer first round pick for years. Back then Lynch was such a stud in fantasy, such a ridiculous touchdown machine, that even though he sat out the entire 2016 season, he still leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns (51) since 2011.
Newsflash: Lynch is not in his prime any longer. So stop drafting him like he is!
He's now 31 years old and while there may be some gas (or Skittles) left in his tank, Lynch is not going to be that same elite fantasy running back we had grown accustomed to.
Between 2011 and 2014, Lynch's 16-game statistical averages were 300 rush attempts, 12 rushing touchdowns and just over 1,300 rushing yards. Add in his receiving averages of 31 catches and around 275 receiving yards per year, and that mileage adds up, especially with his violent running style.
It all finally caught up to Beast Mode in 2015 when his body broke down, mainly core muscle injuries, forcing him to have surgery after playing in just seven games. The last time we saw Lynch on the gridiron, he owned a 3.8 yards per carry average on 111 rush attempts, far worse than his career 4.3 yards per carry mark. He temporarily "hung up" his cleats later that season.
You already know all of this.
What I'm getting at here, is this: Do you really want to sink a late-second/early-third round pick on a running back who has major workload and durability concerns? If you're cool with taking a guy whose biggest question mark is "How much gas does he have left in the tank?" go for it. Many took the same risk with Arian Foster a season ago (he retired after Week 7). I'm not saying it's the same situation but it's worth noting.
Some will be quick to point out Oakland's highly-regarded offensive line, and Lynch's potential for double-digit touchdowns. I understand all of that. But are you really telling me that there are only nine running backs in the entire NFL that you'd rather pick before Lynch this year in a fantasy league? His workload is already predicted to be sub-200 carries. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard showed enough promise as rookies to earn additional work out of Oakland's backfield. And we know Lynch has never been a huge threat as a pass-catcher. So, come on people, pump the breaks on Beast Mode a bit.
A season ago, Spencer Ware was an ideal late-round target at the running back position. If you drafted him at his 10th round ADP last year, you got a 247-touch workload and a top-20 fantasy finish out of him. Sweet deal. This season though, he's being drafted much higher as the incumbent starter in Kansas City. There are a few reasons to tread with caution here.
The team's quarterback, Alex Smith, led Kansas City in rushing touchdowns last year with five. Ware had three rushing scores and added two receiving. Not great totals for a three-down back with over 200 carries. Of the nine rush attempts Ware had in goal-line situations (inside the five-yard line) he only converted on two. That made him the only back in the league last year to see at least eight such rush attempts and score fewer than three times. Furthermore, no Chiefs' running back has rushed for more than six touchdowns in a season (Ware, 2015) since Jamaal Charles has been out of commission.
Kansas City drafted Kareem Hunt to compete with Ware in camp. The Chiefs took Hunt with the 86th overall selection, the highest pick the team has spent on a running back since they drafted Charles in 2008. It's one of the most intriguing camp battles of the preseason for fantasy purposes. Hunt is an all-around back with a three-down skill set. His biggest strength is his uncanny balance and ability to remain on his feet through contact, and he's already made waves in camp practices as a pass-catcher.
You might remember Ware playing a significant role as a pass-catcher out of the backfield last year. But his season was a tale of two halves in that aspect:
Spencer Ware's receiving production, 2016
Week 1-8 averaged 39.1 rec ypg
Week 10-17 averaged 16.7 rec ypg
So if Hunt continues to show promise as a receiving threat, it's not crazy to peg him as the third-down guy, at the very least, with the potential for a bigger role if Ware struggles. Perhaps it was a bold prediction, but ESPN's Chiefs beat reporter Adam Teicher predicted that Hunt would be the teams rushing and receiving leader out of the backfield as a rookie. Bold for sure, but not out of the question especially if he wins the starting role over Ware outright.
Maybe now you can see why I'm finding it difficult to make sense of Ware's ADP as we head into the thick of fantasy draft season.
Contrary to popular belief, Leonard Fournette's situation as a rookie in Jacksonville is not the same as Ezekiel Elliott's was a season ago. Yes, they were both No. 4 overall picks in the NFL Draft. Yes, they're both extremely talented. But Zeke went to a dream situation in Dallas behind one of the top offensive lines in the league. It was pretty much a given that he would thrive there as a rookie, and he made that clear after his first preseason appearance. But Fournette isn't the same type of back, and his team situation is a far cry from where Zeke found himself in Dallas last year.
For starters, the Jaguars had the lowest scoring rushing offense in the entire NFL in 2016. Plus, the team hasn't rushed for double-digit scores since 2010. Obviously, that's a problem the coaching staff would like to fix, but much of the issue lies in the quarterback. Blake Bortles owned the fifth-worst passer rating (78.8) among qualified signal callers last year. Since joining the NFL in 2014, he has the worst winning percentage among 29 quarterbacks to make at least 25 starts since 2014. These are the kinds of stats that have coach Doug Marrone saying things like he'd ideally like Bortles to attempt "zero" passes per game. Great vote of confidence in your starting quarterback, coach. The Jaguars can say they want to be a run-first team all day, but when it comes down to it, when they're losing by three scores in the second half, the team will have to throw.
Simply put, Fournette has landed on a bad offense with a bad quarterback. No matter how talented the running back, that combination is a recipe for mediocrity at best. Matt Harmon dug deep into this type of scenario last summer regarding Todd Gurley, and he was right. Gurley, one of the top running back prospects of the last few years, was a complete fantasy football bust based on his first-round ADP, because the Rams were terrible on offense and had abysmal quarterback play. If you didn't see that coming, well, don't say you weren't warned.
Plus, we don't know yet if the 240-pound Fournette will be the team's pass-catching back. T.J. Yeldon, who saw 50 catches on 68 targets last year, remains on the roster. Chris Ivory is still around too, and he's the highest paid running back on the team. He was terrible last season mainly due to injury issues, but a now-healthy Ivory is a threat to Fournette's workload at least early in the season.
These factors have led me to fade Fournette in redraft formats given his steep asking price as we buckle up for what's going to be a wild August.
There's no way around the fact that Christian McCaffrey is a special talent. Obviously, the Panthers knew this when they selected him with the 8th overall pick in the NFL Draft in April, immediately upgrading their set of offensive weapons. Based on early reports out of training camp, McCaffrey is every bit the stud that Carolina thought he was when they selected him. And with the narrative that the team's offensive strategy is evolving to employ more short, quick-fire passes from Cam Newton to limit unnecessary rush attempts by the quarterback, it makes sense why McCaffrey has generated extreme amounts of hype. It seems fantasy owners have taken that hype and are willing to invest in McCaffrey, in some cases, as early as the third round. The Stanford product is being drafted ahead of players like Ty Montgomery and Dalvin Cook, and that's a little aggressive.
Hey everyone, rememberJonathan Stewart? Yeah, he's had 200-plus rush attempts in each of the last two seasons and was a top 25 fantasy back both years. The Panthers signed him to a one-year extension this offseason. He's going to get his early down and goal line work, and could be even more of a threat as a runner given the Panthers' offensive line upgrades and added offensive weapons (McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel) that opposing defenses will need to key in on, every play. Stewart is the team's starting running back, McCaffrey is a change-of-pace weapon who will be moved around the field to create mismatches. When you consider that no Panthers running back has seen more than 25 receptions in a single season over the last three years, it becomes difficult to imagine that this short passing offensive strategy will be honed to perfection when the season begins.
McCaffrey is being drafted at his fantasy ceiling. He's a rookie, and we don't know exactly how much Carolina is going to use him. A game-changer when he's on the field, I can see the Panthers using him more to create opportunities for other players around the field. If he can't be covered one-on-one, defenses will double him up, leaving open other parts of the field. McCaffrey is a stud, but if you want to own him in redrafts this season, you're going to have to pay up.
The Atlanta Falcons boasted the most dangerous running back tandem in the NFL last season during their Super Bowl run. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were electric with the ball, slipping through the grasp of defenders all season on their way to a combined 2,482 total yards and 24 total touchdowns.
In just 13 games, Coleman finished as a top 20 fantasy running back. He was credited with 11 scores himself but only saw 118 rush attempts during the season. If Freeman continues to absorb 220-plus carries, that may be Coleman's ceiling in terms of rushing production. Plus, not a single one of Coleman's eight rushing scores last year came on a carry from inside the five-yard line, which is cause for concern as we look ahead to 2017. (For context, Freeman had 16 carries inside the five-yard line and scored on five of them.) I'm no advanced analytics expert, but that seems like a formula for regression ... and I highly doubt this is the first time you've heard that narrative regarding Coleman's fantasy value this year. Still, he's being drafted, on average, ahead of upside guys like the Patriots' Mike Gillislee.
So far in camp, the word is that Coleman expects to run more routes than he has in the past. In a way, that's good news, because it means he may be on the field more often. But he's more of a threat between the 20s than he is in the red zone -- that's where Freeman makes his hay. For what it's worth, Coleman already ranked highly among running backs in terms of snap percentage taken out wide. Per Next Gen Stats, Coleman was third among running backs with 7.18 percent of his snaps lined up wide, and just 88.86 percent of his snaps were taken out of the backfield, which was 38th of 44 qualified backs (at least 300 snaps). So it's only natural for the team to use him more in that aspect, and perhaps less as a runner.
Freeman will be playing for a new contract this season and is the clear leader of the Atlanta backfield. While Coleman boasts a three-down skill set, the team seems intent on taking advantage of his receiving ability. It's hard to see Coleman repeating, or out-performing what he did a season ago. Keep that in mind before you pull the trigger in Round 7.