Players to Avoid

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Players to Avoid

Let’s face it — there are far many more useful players in fantasy football than there are players you don’t want under any circumstances. Heck, even the players you go into a draft thinking you don’t want under any circumstances could become appealing at the right price, and that’s what makes this article a bit trickier to write than our much bigger Fantasy Points Targets series.

That said, not every player starts on even ground, and analyzing the talent, situation, and cost of those players for fantasy is crucial in eliminating some players from your draft board.

These are the players we have a hard time drafting this year, for whatever reason.

Players added to this update

None of note.

Players removed from this update

Leonard Fournette (RB, Jax) — Every argument we made against Fournette in our initial run of this article was correct. “Using a 2nd/3rd-round pick on Fournette is like purposely jumping on a landmine and hoping it’s a dud.” Well, that landmine exploded with Fournette’s release. We have no idea where he’ll land, but if he does land somewhere, we’ll reevaluate his fantasy landscape.

Deebo Samuel (WR, SF) — Deebo is ramping up his running at training camp and it may not be long until he’s back in pads. He’s still on the doubtful side for Week 1 but he should be back on the field in September. Jimmy Garoppolo is going to need Deebo with all of the WR injuries the 49ers are dealing with in training camp, and his eighth-round price is more palatable now.

Quarterbacks

Note: As we said in our Quarterbacks Targets article, we do not typically recommend drafting a quarterback in the first handful of rounds in a one-QB format. Yes, Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes will almost certainly score you a lot of points. There are absolutely roster builds including them that will win fantasy championships. But the evidence against drafting a QB early in fantasy football has been mounting for years to the point where it’s an accepted fact that it’s a suboptimal strategy. Remember, two years ago, Mahomes was available in the double-digit rounds. So was Jackson in 2019. And passing on the early-round guys opens up room to add talent at the RB and WR positions, where starter-worthy players aren’t available as late as they are at QB.

It would be foolish to say to “avoid” Jackson and Mahomes, or at least it would look that way on paper, and we don’t want our subscribers to get the wrong idea if we were to say that (“Wait, you told us to avoid Mahomes this year and he threw 41 TD passes!”). But there are more optimal ways to build your fantasy roster.

Now, let’s get into it…

Aaron Rodgers (GB, 119 ADP) — The case to be made for drafting Rodgers at his QB14 ADP, six spots ahead of where we have him ranked, isn’t a terribly strong one. At least as far as we can deduce, it’s merely anecdotal — “Rodgers will be pissed off at the Packers for drafting Jordan Love in the first round, and he’ll have an ‘F.U.,’ MVP level season with his middle fingers raised at the GM’s suite.” As entertaining as that would be to see, we have to look at the facts. After Rodgers finished as the overall #1 QB in fantasy points per game in the 2016 season, he’s declined each year — 6th in 2017, 10th in 2018, and 15th in 2019. The Packers’ top WR, Davante Adams, has 431 career receptions. Every other WR on the roster combined has 142. TE Marcedes Lewis has 393 career catches, but he runs like Andre The Giant at this stage of his career. And the Packers’ response to Rodgers’ pencil-thin receiving group was to… draft his successor, a power running back, and a fullback/H-back with their first three picks of the 2020 NFL Draft. Rodgers has every reason to have a spiteful season. We’d love to see him pull that off, but the evidence suggests this will be a run-first team, and his ADP — propped up by his name value — is just too high.

Philip Rivers (Ind, 191 ADP) — Rivers isn’t exactly expensive (QB26 in ADP), but we just see no upside whatsoever here when multiple players around him have at least some. Top WR TY Hilton (hamstring) has battled injuries for years and is already banged up. The top two receivers behind him, Parris Campbell and rookie Michael Pittman, are talented but unproven. TE Jack Doyle is a nice player, but that’s about it, and #2 TE Trey Burton also has his share of injury woes. But above all, the Colts have one of the NFL’s deepest backfields — Jonathan Taylor, Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines — behind what could be the league’s best offensive line. Rivers is here to assist this offense to a Super Bowl run, not to be the catalyst. There are so many appealing options, even those available this late, on whom we’d rather take a chance.

Running Backs

Todd Gurley (Atl, 34 ADP) — Here’s the thing about Gurley — last year might have been as good as it can get for him at this point. He finished RB14 in PPR total fantasy points, and RB16 in PPR FPG. He scored 14 TD. And the Rams still decided to eat ten figures of dead money to release him. The argument for drafting Gurley at his ADP is a simple one. The Falcons have next to no depth behind him, and their offensive line should be better than the Rams’ one Gurley ran behind last year. But Gurley’s degenerative knee condition has sapped him of the explosiveness that made him a special player, and it’s beyond evident on film (as our Greg Cosell has noted multiple times). The Rams eating all that dead money is further confirmation of that. We project the Falcons to lead the NFL in pass attempts, and that’s the area in which the Rams reduced Gurley’s role the most last season. Moreover, Gurley often gets drafted in the 2nd round, which we think is insane given the talent available there at WR, TE, and even occasionally, RB. For instance, we’d rather have Melvin Gordon, Jonathan Taylor, and James Conner straight up over Gurley. He has a higher ADP than all three.

David Johnson (Hou, 40 ADP) — DJ is more appealing than someone like Todd Gurley or Leonard Fournette because he’s basically a full round cheaper, but he moved like he was carrying Adam Caplan on his back last year, which makes him terribly risky. Heck, it’s kind of depressing to think about, but the only time Johnson had a start-to-finish elite fantasy campaign was in 2016, his breakout season. He was productive but volume-oriented in 2018, and the rest of the time he’s flashed, at best. Perhaps the new scenery in Houston helps him — coach Bill O’Brien seems insistent that David is ready to contribute in a big way. The speed of the Texan receiving corps could open up space underneath, but all considered, we’re far more likely to draft the elite WR options available where David is being taken, while taking the significant discount on Duke Johnson to get a piece of this Houston backfield.

Devin Singletary (Buf, 56 ADP) — We’d love to love Singletary, because in theory, he fits the profile of a player we should be targeting — a young back with solid draft capital (third round in 2019) on a run-first offense. He averaged 5.13 YPC last season, most among any RB with 150 or more carries. But he’s been an inefficient to downright poor receiver dating back to his time at Florida Atlantic, Josh Allen will almost certainly vulture goal-line rushing TDs (17 the last two years), and Buffalo spent yet another third-round pick on rookie RB Zack Moss, who was a far better receiver in college than Singletary. We think it’s possible Singletary becomes an annual 125-175-carry type of change-of-pace back than a true bell cow, and if he isn’t going to be a great receiver in the pros, that’s not a great role to have for fantasy — he’s last in Yards Per Route Run (YPRR) in Graham Barfield’s Yards Created history, and he was 36th of 39 qualifying RBs in that stat last year. Singletary is way too expensive, but we love Moss multiple rounds later.

Phillip Lindsay (Den, 92 ADP) — What’s Lindsay’s role going to be? We love the player and his hard-charging style, but you have to look at the fact that Denver paid Melvin Gordon good money to come in and be the lead back. Lindsay’s run for 1000-plus yards in each of his first two NFL seasons, which is spectacular for a former UDFA. But with Gordon the presumed lead back, how many carries will Lindsay get? Even if it’s 150 (9.5 per game), will he get enough goal-line and third-down work for it to matter? Those are the snaps we need our RBs to be playing, after all. But among players with 90 or more targets over the last two seasons, Lindsay's 6.24 YPR ranks dead last in the NFL. If you expand the criteria to 70 targets? Lindsay drops to second-worst… behind only fellow Bronco Royce Freeman (5.75). Over the same span — albeit in a better offense — Gordon averaged 8.54. Lindsay could play 40% of the snaps here, but if Gordon gets all the calorie-rich RB touches, it’s not going to matter. His ADP has risen by a round and a half once Gordon (ribs) got dinged in camp, which makes him less appealing, at least in our eyes.

Wide Receivers

DeAndre Hopkins (Ari, 18 ADP) — Nuk ranks behind only Julio Jones and Antonio Brown in receptions (632) and receiving yards (8602) since entering the league in 2013. Hopkins has seen 150+ targets in five straight seasons, but he’s heading into foreign territory without his pal Deshaun Watson in a brand-new offense. Nuk could struggle to keep up that pace with limited opportunities to get on the same page with Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury in his first season. Hopkins also averaged a career-low 11.2 YPR, and he saw his receiving yards per game slide to 77.7 after topping 90+ yards per game in three of his last four seasons from 2015-18. The Cardinals should at least attempt more passes per game (34.6, 18th) with an improved offense this season, but it’s not enough to alleviate our concerns about Hopkins’ chemistry with a new QB in a new offense and his dip in efficiency last season. As Odell Beckham showed last year joining a new, exciting QB/offense, there’s some downside to a top-tier WR switching teams.

Amari Cooper (Dal, 38 ADP) — Both Cooper and Dak Prescott have been significantly helped by each other’s presence over the last season and a half, but Cooper has much stiffer competition for targets going forward. Michael Gallup is an ascending third-year WR who scored just 8.2 fewer fantasy points than Cooper in their 14 games played together. The Cowboys also drafted CeeDee Lamb in the first round, and he’s going to command targets right out of the gates, while TE Blake Jarwin has the potential to be a dynamic weapon in the middle of the field. Cooper has more competition for targets and it doesn’t help that he notoriously struggles against some of the tougher cornerbacks throughout his career — Darius Slay and James Bradberry have been added to the division. Cooper fell below seven FP five times last season, which is unacceptable for a player being drafted as a top-12 WR. We’re targeting a bunch of WRs in the same range that Cooper is being selected in. We’re going to pass on Amari and his couple of dud performances that he drops every season.

Keenan Allen (LAC, 56 ADP) — Allen has quietly stacked together three consecutive seasons with 16 games, 136+ targets, 97+ catches, 1100+ yards, and six TDs. Unfortunately, Allen’s chances of reaching the heights he’s maintained the last three seasons will be difficult in 2020 with Philip Rivers leaving for Indianapolis, who clearly preferred throwing to Allen. Hunter Henry, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler could potentially emerge with bigger roles because of the quarterback change. Even if Allen is able to maintain his healthy 25% target share from last season, the quality and quantity of targets will go down with Tyrod Taylor and scattershot rookie Justin Herbert leading the offense. The Chargers attempted the 10th-most passes per game last season (37.3), but that rate will go down this season with their quarterback change and because of the improving defense they’ve built. Allen has been a stable low-end WR1 option the last three seasons, but we’re not looking to roster Allen this season with much more uncertainty surrounding his situation heading into 2020.

Christian Kirk (Ari, 93 ADP) — Kirk logged quite the boring fantasy campaign as a sophomore last season after being a popular breakout candidate in Kliff Kingsbury’s first season with the Cardinals. Kirk topped 18+ FP just once in 13 games and all three of his TDs came in that same contest when he posted 10/138/3 receiving against the Buccaneers. He saw only four end-zone targets last season while averaging an ugly 6.8 yards per target. The Cardinals then traded for DeAndre Hopkins this March, who has finished in first or second in target share in three straight seasons. Hopkins should continue to be a ball hog, meaning Kirk won’t come close to his 23% target share and his 8.3 targets per game from last season. We’re passing on Kirk at his current ADP as he isn’t even guaranteed to be the #2 WR for Kyler Murray this season with Larry Fitzgerald and a host of young WRs also in the mix.

Mecole Hardman (KC, 108 ADP) — Hardman had a rough start to his second season with both Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson coming back to town, which will likely prevent Hardman from becoming a full-time player. That means Watkins’ 90 targets and 79% snap share and Robinson’s 55 targets and 70% snap share won’t be vacated for Hardman to step into this season. Hardman should see an increase in usage this season after playing just 45% of the snaps with only 2.6 targets per game last season, but he’s unlikely to see a huge increase in opportunities. Even with Watkins and Robinson returning, a buy-low opportunity for Hardman never materialized as his ADP is still sitting in the ninth or 10th round. Hardman is also the favorite to handle both kick and punt return duties, and team’s rarely use full-time players in both of those roles. Hardman’s production is going to be sporadic and hard to predict even if he gets more regular usage with stud Patrick Mahomes, and he’ll need an injury to Watkins and/or Robinson to have a chance to live up to his ADP.

John Brown (Buf, 123 ADP) — The Bills didn’t have a #1 WR on paper entering last season, but Brown stepped up and delivered the goods. He finished as the WR23 with 14.7 FPG by posting career-highs in targets (115), receptions (72), and receiving yards (1060). Previously pigeonholed as primarily a deep threat in the past, Brown was shockingly consistent last season, reaching 10+ FP in 13 of his 15 games thanks to his ability to get open at all levels of the field. It’s going to be tough for him to match that level of consistency this season with Stefon Diggs added to the fold this season. Diggs projects to take over Brown’s role as the #1 WR so it’s safe to knock a target or two off of Brown’s 7.7 targets per game average from last season since the Bills will still be a run-heavy offense. TE Dawson Knox could also be ready for a bigger role in this passing attack, as well. Brown’s weekly outcomes are likely to be much more all over the map this season since he’s going to see less volume from an already inaccurate QB.

Sterling Shepard (NYG, 122 ADP) — Shepard has typically been a solid WR3 option when he’s been on the field with his seasonal FPG averages sitting between 11.4 and 14.2 in each of his first four seasons. Our concern is with Shepard and his troubling durability concerns heading into the 2020 season. He dealt with migraine issues during the 2017 season, which caused him to miss two games, and he’s had five documented concussions since high school, which included two concussions in a four-week span last season. He’s now missed 22.9% of his games (11 of 48) in the last three seasons, and he’ll be battling with a full cast of receivers to see targets this season. The Giants brought in Golden Tate last off-season and he pushed Shepard to the Z receiver spot, and second-year QB Daniel Jones also has TE Evan Engram and X receiver Darius Slayton as big-play options. Shepard has impressed in training camp but we still have our concerns about his ability to stay healthy for long stretches of time. We won’t be actively targeting Shepard this summer because of his injury concerns and his competition for targets.

Sammy Watkins (KC, 145 ADP) — Watkins has now finished with fewer than 700 receiving yards in four straight seasons with three different teams (Chiefs, Rams, and Bills), with his best finish being a WR37 campaign in 2018 during that span. He looked headed toward a potential monster season after Tyreek Hill went down with a collarbone injury and Watkins proceeded to hang 46.8 FP in Week 1 last year. Unfortunately, 33.8% of his fantasy production for the season came in that game as he scored just 91.7 FP in his final 13 games. Watkins obviously has potential playing with Patrick Mahomes on one of the league’s best offenses, but he should continue to lose opportunities to Demarcus Robinson and up-and-comer Mecole Hardman. Watkins is still just 27 years old, but he’s hardly been a reliable option and he admitted to being burned out in interviews this off-season.

Tight Ends

Austin Hooper (Cle, 129 ADP) — Hooper has had an ideal career trajectory with steady improvement throughout his first four seasons, which culminated in a TE3 finish in FPG (14.7) last year. His biggest challenge this season will be trying to duplicate his 7.5 targets per game that he saw from Matt Ryan last season. Hooper is going from an offense with the most passing volume over the last two seasons to an offense that projects to finish in the bottom half of the league in pass attempts per game with Kevin Stefanski running the offense. Hooper will also be dealing with a downgrade at quarterback going from Ryan** to Baker Mayfield, and he’ll have stiff competition for those limited targets from Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Kareem Hunt, and fellow TE David Njoku. Hooper is going to have a much tougher time being a reliable fantasy option in his new pass-game environment in Cleveland.

Jack Doyle (Ind, 157 ADP) — Drafting Doyle is the equivalent to drafting a slot receiver late in your drafts to get the guaranteed floor production instead of going for the ceiling of a promising prospect. Doyle is averaging just 9.0 YPR for his career and he’s scored just 18 times across 100 games in seven seasons. He also reached 15+ FP just twice last season. Doyle will at least be the clear top TE option this season, but it didn’t help him much last season playing with Jacoby Brissett. Doyle failed to score a touchdown and he couldn’t reach three catches or 30+ yards in his final four games without Eric Ebron last season. Doyle did get a quarterback upgrade this off-season in the form of Philip Rivers, who has a long history of feeding his TEs. Doyle will still have to contend with more wide receiver depth than ever before with rookie Michael Pittman and a healthy Parris Campbell in the fold with T.Y. Hilton. Doyle has a great chance to finish as mid-TE2 this season with steady but unspectacular production, but we’d much rather take chances on a slew of promising young TEs being drafted after Doyle. He’s also missed a significant chunk of training camp with a neck injury, which is a small concern considering his availability issues in 2018 when he missed 11 games to a hip injury.

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