Nearing the end of August, fantasy football draft season is now in full force. The smell of the virtual grid iron is in the air, and optimism is high for fantasy owners across the globe. A successful draft is key in setting the tone for a winning season that will enable you to rub your victories in the nose of all of your closest friends week in and week out over the next few months.
Finding players that are going to outperform their average draft position (ADP) is the key to having a quality draft. Big name stars may make your team look glamorous and tough, however the price is often too high for the marquee players in your draft. For instance, Calvin Johnson is commanding a first round draft price, and for good reason. Clearly the best receiver in the NFL, he still is not worth a first round pick.
Wide receiver is the deepest position in today’s pass happy NFL, and you can find comparable value in the later rounds. In ESPN standard scoring leagues, Calvin Johnson was only the best fantasy receiver by 3 points. Brandon Marshall was number 2 at his position, and this year is going in the late second round. Roddy White tallied just 23 fewer points, yet is currently commanding only an early third round price tag.
I am not saying Calvin Johnson will not be a valuable asset to his team, this was merely an example of a player who probably will not live up to his ADP come the end of the season.
Some players are being incredibly overvalued by experts and drafters alike this year. If you want to hoist your league’s trophy at the end of the fantasy season, you will be wise to avoid reaching for these five players in your league’s draft.
1) Darren Sproles- New Orleans Saints RB
Currently being drafted in the early fourth round of most fantasy drafts with an ADP of 31, Sproles is in no way going to live up to the expectation of a weekly fantasy starter.
Now that he is 30 years old, he is at the point in his career where most running backs begin to regress. Sproles does not appear to be immune to Father Time himself, as he missed a few games due to injury in 2012 for the first time since 2007. It could be a sign of things to come.
Also the committee approach is still going to dominate in the Big Easy despite the loss of Chris Ivory. Mark Ingram and Sproles will share time, and Sproles never was one to run the ball much anyway. More of a receiver than a true running back, Sproles only carried the ball 48 times for 248 yards a season ago.
His pass catching ability makes him an interesting flex play this season, and he probably has value as an injury replacement or bye week fill in considering he caught 7 touchdowns in 13 games last year. However a fourth round pick is not the time to be drafting replacement running backs, as this adds little value to your team.
2) Steve Smith- Carolina Panthers WR
At 34 years old, Smith is significantly further down the wrong side of 30 than Sproles. The speedy wide out is being drafted with the 56th selection of ESPN drafts, meaning he should be a weekly starter for those who select him. Prepare to be disappointed if you are one of the believers.
Although quarterback Cam Newton has rejuvenated the career of Steve Smith, Father Time will catch up with him eventually. Here’s a vote that this is the year it happens. Smith has been in the league long enough to have began his career with Chris Weinke hurling the ball his way.
If Smith wants to remain fantasy relevant this season he will have to produce 1,000 plus yards for a third straight season. Touchdowns have never been a strong suit for Smith, who has topped ten scores just once in his entire career, which greatly limits his fantasy upside. He scored just four times a season ago despite putting up 1,174 yards.
Considering he is at the age where the soreness lasts a little longer, and the speed starts to give way, Smith should struggle to top 1,000 yards this season. Odds are he won’t put up enough touchdowns to make up for it. You’ve been warned.
3) Colin Kaepernick- San Francisco 49ers QB
A sensation last season after replacing Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick is expected to be a fantasy superstar in his first full year as a starter. Going at the end of the fourth round in many drafts, he is the seventh quarterback being taken on average. That means he is your starting quarterback if you take him, no question about it.
Drafting a running quarterback is a risky proposition. The risk of injury is always elevated when a quarterback is exposing himself to hits on a regular basis. Depending on a read-option offense for points, and rushing touchdowns from a quarterback is also no guarantee.
The NFL is a passing league, and Kaepernick is simply an average passer. Yes he has a rocket arm, no he does not use it to put up elite passing numbers. With the popularity of the read-option last year, you can bet that defensive coordinators across the league have spent their offseason coming up with a way to stop it.
Attempting less than 3o passes in all but two games last season, Kaepernick does not even attempt enough passes to produce an elite fantasy day with his arm. In over half his games as a starter, he completed 1 or fewer touchdown passes. He also has never eclipsed 300 yards passing in a regular season game.
4) Kyle Rudolph- Minnesota Vikings TE
Depending on anyone who Christian Ponder is throwing to is difficult to justify. One of the least consistent quarterbacks in the NFL, I am not comfortable starting anyone he is throwing to now that Percy Harvin is gone. However Rudolph continues to be drafted early in ESPN drafts. Currently going number six among tight ends and in the 8th round of most drafts.
Have people forgotten that Rudolph completely disappears in the Vikings offense? Last year he had three games where Ponder did not even TARGET him. With that in mind, how could anyone feel comfortable starting Rudolph week in and week out?
Tight end is an incredibly top heavy position. Other than Gronk and Graham, there is little difference between the mid-level tight ends. If you don’t grab an elite option, you might as well be the last in your league to grab a tight end. The production will be roughly the same, regardless of which mid level guy you end up with.
Reaching for Rudolph is not going to pay off, he is a touchdown dependent player until proven otherwise, and touchdowns have a way of being unpredictable year in and year out.
5) The New York Jets
With Mark Sanchez leading the quarterback race, and an unproven running back, how could you possibly feel good about starting any Jet? Chris Ivory may emerge as a fantasy starter, however he averaged just 2.2 yards per carry in his last preseason option, not exactly generating any excitement with those numbers.
Mark Sanchez may be playing better than Geno Smith, but he should still be owned in zero fantasy leagues, there are far too many better options. Don’t get cute with a cushy Jets match up, Sanchez is always a risk for a negative outing.
Santonio Holmes is coming off of a year ending injury in 2012, and is an 8th round selection in fantasy drafts. He has the talent to be a weekly starter on your team, but without a quarterback to get him the ball, he will not produce a good fantasy season.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express