The start of the football season is a time for optimism as everyone is excited for the season to begin. Pump the brakes on the enthusiasm surrounding these players likely to bust:
Cam Newton, Panthers – This pains me to write because I absolutely love Cam Newton and have touted him for the past two seasons. However, after pumping him up as a top six overall quarterback (QB) last season, he only finished as fantasy’s number 16 QB. The team didn’t really add any major weapons in the offseason other than drafting rookie Devin Funchess. Is he NFL ready? Scouts seem not to be sure whether he is skilled enough to play the outside (20 drops at Michigan) or if he is just a large slot receiver. Sure Kelvin Benjamin is a stud and will now head into his sophomore season with a year under his belt. There’s certainly something to be said for maturity. The team also cut ties with DeAngelo Williams leaving Jonathan Stewart the main man in the backfield. After throwing for 4,051 yards in his rookie season, which included back to back 420-plus yard games to begin his career, Newton’s passing yards have decreased every season. Last season’s 3,127 yards were a career low but also came in only 14 games so he likely would have slightly surpassed 2013’s 3,379 yards. Regardless, we’re talking about a QB throwing in the mid-3000’s which is nothing in the modern NFL. His 223 passing yards per game ranked 21st in the NFL last season behind such names as Kyle Orton, Brian Hoyer and Teddy Bridgewater. The 18 TDs were a career low but he has never thrown more than 24 passing TDs. Much of his fantasy value comes from his legs yet he has only scored 11 rushing TD in the past two seasons compared to 14 as a rookie. If he’s not running at an elite rate then he is going to disappoint. Benjamin will get his and Greg Olsen will also factor in (although he has not scored more than six TD in any of his four seasons with Carolina). With only one new (and unproved) weapon on the offense and a continuously poor offensive line, I do not see much upside for Newton, especially the way he’s likely to be priced. For the first time in his career, I will be avoiding and advise you should too. UPDATE: Top target Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL which is a gigantic loss for Newton.
Matthew Stafford, Lions – Somehow Jay Cutler, who led the NFL in turnovers, still outscored Matthew Stafford in standard fantasy scoring last season. Other QBs who scored higher: Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill and Joe Flacco to name a few. Reggie Bush signed with the 49ers in the offseason so the team went and drafted Ameer Abdullah who, though possesses slightly different skills, is expected to fill essentially the same role. Eric Ebron is now a more year more mature but he was still a monster in stature last year as were targets Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew. Johnson is yet another year older which is a concern considering he hasn’t played 16 games since 2012. Oh and let’s not forget NFL veteran Golden Tate either who possesses solid hands but just isn’t a monster. Let’s not get lost here though; most of Stafford’s issues are self-inflicted. His accuracy is simply well below average. ProFootballFocus keeps track of a statistic “aC%” or completions plus drops per aimed throw. aC% = (Completions + Drops – NFL average drop rate) / (Pass Attempts – Spikes – Throwaways – Batted Balls – Balls disrupted by a QB hit). Basically, it’s just an adjusted version of completion percentage that removes wasted throws and normalizes drops. Of all quarterbacks, Stafford’s aC% ranked 28th in football…there are 32 teams. Hell he ranked 25th in just plain old completion percentage (60.3 percent). Regardless of all the weapons you could ever give him, he’s not going to finish as a top five quarterback again (last time was 2011) unless he can somehow correct his mechanics.
DeMarco Murray, Eagles – Including the playoffs last season, DeMarco Murray took 436 carries to lead the NFL easily last season. The track record of RBs coming off of 400-plus carry seasons is simply putrid. According to a study by footballdocs.com, just about every RB to ever eclipse the 370 carry mark has followed it up with a disappointing season. Eric Dickerson, Walter Payton and LaDanian Tomlinson are the only players in history to rebound with solid follow-up seasons. Along with Murray, the Eagles also signed talented back Ryan Mathews who should take away some touches from him. The team also possesses offensive weapon Darren Sproles who will see a handful of snaps out of the backfield per game…snaps that weren’t taken away from him in Dallas. I think expecting a repeat season is foolish and a steep drop in carries is to be expected. There has always been injury risk with Murray so now the additional insane workload injury risk caused from last season’s overuse isn’t leaving me with a warm, cozy feeling inside. The Eagles offensive line ranked as the top run blocking offensive line last season according to ProFootballFocus, making them the only team with a better rating than the Cowboys. Due to the drop in touches alone, he will not be worth the elite price that it costs to get him.
Reggie Bush, 49ers – We’re not in Kansas anymore…or in Reggie Bush’s case, Detroit. The 49ers team is simply depleted all over due to players leaving (Michael Crabtree) and retiring (Anthony Davis, Patrick Williams, Justin Smith and Chris Borland). The only one that will affect Bush is the tackle Davis but it’s worth noting just how much of a team they could potentially be. Last year’s second round pick Carlos Hyde has earned the featured back role after averaging 4.0 yards per carry (YPC) in 2014. Colin Kaepernick is a reasonably undisciplined QB as he only throws balls at one speed: rocket speed. For that reason, he has never really utilized the screen game which will hurt Bush’s causes to be a major factor in point-per-reception (PPR) formats. The 49ers offense ranked 31st in RB targets last season, and even with the addition of Bush, I wouldn’t expect them to finish much higher due to the skill set of their QB. Bush is a bigger name than he is production at this point of his career.
Andre Johnson, Colts – Clearly Andre Johnson is not the same player he once was. In back-to-back seasons now, Johnson’s yards per target (YPT) have plummeted compared to the numbers from the season before. He went from 9.9 YPT in 2012 to 7.8 in 2013 and 6.4 in 2014. Despite seeing 147 targets last season, he only caught 85 passes for 936 yards and three TD. Johnson has never caught double digit TDs (even in his prime) and the norm seems to be around four recently even though he has played 47 games in the past three seasons. He’ll likely improve on the conversion rate on the targets with quarterback Andrew Luck but the Colts are not short on offensive weapons. He was the man in Houston while he’ll just be one of the bench in Indianapolis. Right now his ADP is 44 in yearly leagues and he’ll likely cost a low WR1 to high WR2 cost to roster in DFS. I’ll pass and go with receivers who find the end zone and haven’t lost a step.
Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs – This goes without saying his production is due for a drop off. He goes from an offense that played at the quickest pace in the game, meaning they ran the most plays, to an offense that didn’t throw a TD to a WR all season. The trend likely will not continue this season and a Chiefs WR likely will find the end zone but is that the type of optimism you’re looking for in a player? One who will probably score the first WR TD in over a year? Alex Smith doesn’t like taking risks on the deep ball and Jeremy Maclin was a player who relied on it (17.4 yards per catch). Smith likes to take a three step drop and get rid of the ball (which is part of the reason I love Travis Kelce’s prospects this year). Look, Andy Reid is familiar with his talent and will scheme to get him involved in the offense. It’s not like the production should totally drop off. However, the fact that his ADP has risen this season is crazy to me and it’s a situation where I’ll have to wait and see before I’m a believer.
Martellus Bennett, Bears – Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen and Rob Gronkowski did not lead the league in receptions among tight ends last season…Martellus Bennett did. Bennett recorded 90 receptions with 916 yards and six TD. His 128 targets ranked behind only Gronkowski’s 131. Those looking at last season’s numbers expecting a replication will likely be disappointed. Although the team lost Brandon Marshall, they added rookie Phenom Kevin White and slot receiver Eddie Royal. Last season, Bennett basically was the team’s slot receiver. With Royal in town taking targets away from him, he should fall back to the pack in terms of tight ends and end up solid yet unspectacular. In DFS, I like to go either elite TE or save funds at the position so Bennett doesn’t fit into my typical plan anyways. UPDATE: Kevin White will undergo surgery to repair a stress fracture in his shin and may miss the whole season. Bennett is no longer overvalued in my book as more targets should be heading his way. New Orleans Josh Hill is being over-hyped despite his mediocre speed and receiving skills so he’ll replace Bennett as an overvalued candidate.
Julius Thomas, Jaguars – Another player who may have some lofty expectations after a nice season is Julius Thomas. Peyton Manning has always been friendly to his tight ends. He turned Dallas Clark into a pro-bowler who later struggled to stay in the league after his tenure with Manning. Thomas is more talented than Clark but heading to the Jaguars offense certainly will not help his cause. If there’s one thing working in Thomas’ favor, it’s the fact that Blake Bortles ranked second to last in football in YPT last season. Thomas’ 11.4 YPT ranked 27th among TEs as he’s a big but not necessarily incredibly fast target. This means Bortles will put a decent amount of emphasis on looking for his giant TE. Lots of dump offs will help his reception total in PPR but unless he’s scoring nearly double digit TDs, he will not be worth (at least initially) his price tag. Unless Bortles greatly improves, there is too much risk in rostering Thomas on a week-to-week basis without much upside.