The most wonderful time of the year is officially upon us. It’s Fantasy Draft Week
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots (Round 1)
Is Rob Gronkowski the best tight end in fantasy? Yes, he is.
Is he worth a first round draft pick? No, he’s not.
For the past several seasons, Gronk has been a fringe first-rounder even in standard 10-team leagues. The guy is an absolute freak, an innovator at the tight end position and if he remains healthy for 14-16 games he offers 1,100-yards and double-digit touchdown upside, which is a definite weekly advantage at the tight end position.
So why is he on this list?
It’s simple: He’s going to cost you too much. With the abundance of elite wideouts and top-tier running backs to choose from in the first and early-second round this year, it doesn’t really make sense to pay a first round price to get Gronk to anchor your squad. And if you’re drafting at the end of the first round, you have an opportunity to either lock up two elite receivers or balance your roster with one each of a top-tier back and wideout. If you sacrifice one of those picks for Gronkowski, you’re exposing your roster to a gaping weakness at the other positions.
Plus, as great as Gronk is, he finished 39th overall in total fantasy points last year, 15th overall among non-quarterbacks and 18th overall in fantasy points per game (12.2) among non-quarterbacks. None of those numbers demand his first-round asking price.
The Patriots will be sans Tom Brady (Gronk’s BFF) for four games and the team added another talented tight end Martellus Bennett to the mix. This may spell fewer looks for Gronk in the red zone-where he really makes his hay (led the Patirots in red zone targets, receptions and touchdowns in 2015).
Someone in your league is definitely going draft him in the first round, just don’t let it be you. For further proof, check out how Michael Fabiano fared in one of our mock drafts when he took Gronk at No. 10 overall (Spoiler alert: not great, Bob).
Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks (Round 3)
The only clear-cut thing about the Seattle backfield this year is that it’s going to be a full-blown committee.
Rookie back C.J. Prosise projects as the third-down pass catching guy. Christine Michael has made waves in both camp and preseason action, earning himself the right to siphon at least 8-10 touches per game. Yet, Thomas Rawls is still being drafted as a third-round selection in the majority of leagues.
Fantasy owners need to come to terms with the fact that, until he’s 100 percent healthy and fully integrated back into the Seattle offense, Rawls isn’t going to be the beast you’re drafting him to be early on. If he does indeed miss the entire preseason, it’s highly unlikely that the Seahawks will feel comfortable giving him the ball 15-20 times per game right off the bat.
As is the case with Gronk, I’m not saying to ignore Rawls completely. If he falls in your draft there is a chance he becomes a bargain somewhere around Round 5. But if you’re selecting him in Round 3 to plug in Week 1 as your RB2, you’re bound to be very disappointed.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints (Round 3)
In his second pro season, Cooks led the Saints in targets (129), receptions (84), receiving yards (1,138) and receiving touchdowns. He’s just another example that wideouts do not need to be giants in order to put up huge numbers in the NFL (see:Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton, Jarvis Landry). The thing is, New Orleans didn’t have as many options in the passing game last year as they do heading into 2016.
There’s a real possibility that Drew Brees’ targets are not as concentrated as they were last year with the likes of Coby Fleener, Willie Snead and rookie Michael Thomas all in the mix now. Not to mentionMark Ingram’s heavier involvement in the passing game (and yes, sadly C.J. Spiller is lingering too).
Cooks isn’t frequented in the red zone either. Just two of his nine receiving touchdowns came inside the red area last season. The Saints have a handful of other options when they’re inside the 20-yard line which would limit Cooks’ opportunities there. The fact that Cooks is being drafted ahead of guys like Keeanan Allen, Sammy Watkins and Demaryius Thomas is criminal. It creates value for those other guys, but at his current cost, I’ll be drafting around Cooks in all drafts unless he falls a round or two.
Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots (Round 5)
Okay, okay, this is a sensitive subject. I get it, Edelman has, in the past, been a monster in PPR formats. In 2013 (the only season in his career that he played 16 games) he racked up 105 catches and followed up with 92 receptions in 2014. But he has also missed seven games over the last two seasons due to injury. His career high in touchdowns is seven and he’s posted a 1,000-yard receiving season only once.
Heading into 2016, there are more than a few reasons to avoid him at his current cost. The guy has now undergone two foot surgeries to repair an injury that nagged him last year. Tom Brady is suspended for four games and Edelman has had no preseason reps with Jimmy Garapolo under center. Plus, when you’re drafting a wideout in the fifth round, you want a consistent producer. Edelman has had a couple of nice seasons but has not been what I would consider consistent. His injury history is mounting, Edelman is aging and there are other threats in the New England passing attack to soak up targets: Martellus Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan andJames White all project to have roles as pass-catchers not to mention Dion Lewis when he gets back healthy. Edelman’s price is simply too high for a guy who cannot be utilized as a WR2.
Golden Tate, WR, Lions (Round 6)
Golden Tate will probably be just fine as a flex option in PPR formats this year, but even still, his Round 6 ADP is way too rich for my liking.
The Marvin Jones hype train has left the station, the Lions added Anquan Boldin and tight end Eric Ebron looks to be on track to get back from an ankle injury for the season opener. Add to it that Theo Riddick is an elite pass-catching back and you can see why you might want to draft around Tate in Round 6.
In two seasons in Detroit, Tate has averaged 94 receptions, over 1,000 receiving yards and five touchdowns. But his 20 percent target share (128 of 622 team targets was inflated last year due to the lack of other options in the passing game. He also caught nine fewer passes in 2015 (90) than in 2014 (99) yet finished the year with 518 fewer yards and averaged 4.4 fewer yards per catch for a career-low average of 9.0 yards per reception.
In the middle rounds of a standard draft, you’re better off targeting an upside running back or sleeper-type wideout. Players going around the same time include Jeremy Hill, Michael Floyd andEric Decker, all of whom I’d feel more confident starting on a weekly basis. You know what you’re getting with Tate. His floor will sustain decent fantasy production but his ceiling is limited due to the role he plays and abundance of other options in Detroit. I’m drafting around him this season.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles (Round 7)
The outlook for Philadelphia’s skill players is basically one big shrug emoji heading into the season. New head coach Doug Pederson will take the play-calling reigns for the Eagles. And while Jordan Matthews figures to be the team’s No. 1 option in the passing game, it’s hard to be excited about his outlook in fantasy. Even in a Chip Kelly offense that ranked second in the NFL with 68.9 offensive plays per game, Matthews’ ceiling was sub-1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. With Matthews’ transitioning into more of a slot receiver, those numbers will likely dip this year.
Formerly the offensive coordinator in Kansas City, Pederson’s offense for the Chiefs has notoriously neglected wide receivers. The quarterback situation in Philadelphia isn’t helping matters with Sam Bradford slotted to start. In his last seven games of 2015, Bradford threw just 10 touchdowns ranking him 21st among quarterbacks during that second-half stretch and ironically tied Alex Smith during that span with 7.6 yards per completion. Since Bradford’s mediocre play is likely to continue, Matthews being relegated to slot duties, and the Eagles in line to run a lower-volume offense, it makes sense to avoid this Philadelphia receiver on draft day.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions (Round 9)
Maybe Round 9 you’re not risking too much if you’re considering Ameer Abdullah in drafts because at that point he’d be your RB4 or maybe RB5. But you won’t see him on any of my fantasy squads.
Of what I’ll call the six “relevant” fantasy running backs who logged between 407-460 snaps last season (Todd Gurley, Jeremy Hill, Charles Sims, Javorius Allen, Bilal Powell), Abdullah ranked fifth, or second to last, in fantasy points per snap (21) per FantasyData.com. The reason for that was his lack of touchdown scoring-he only scored three times all season: Week 1, Week 3 and Week 15. In standard scoring, he only logged two double-digit fantasy point games and despite his abilities as a pass-catcher, he averaged just 2.25 targets per game and 1.56 receptions per game. And despite leading the Lions in both rush attempts and rushing yards, he still averaged fewer than nine rushing attempts per game. That’s not nearly enough volume to sustain a viable floor as a fantasy option.
Detroit used Joique Bell as their main short-yardage and goal-line back in red zone situations last year, and with a healthy Zach Zenner back in the mix as the team’s power back, Abdullah will probably be sapped of those valuable goal-line opportunities yet again. And don’t forget that they still have an elite pass-catching back in Theo Riddick to rotate in on third-down passing situations further limiting Abdullah’s opportunities. When you factor in that the second-year runner has been absent for the majority of the preseason as he makes his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, you can see why he made this list of players to avoid. Plus, the Lions have ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in terms of pass attempts per game dating back to 2009, it’s evident that this is a pass-first offense.
Josh Gordon, WR, Browns (Round 11)
Let’s consider all of the factors here.Josh Gordon hasn’t played in an NFL game since December of 2014. There is absolutely no way he’s in football shape and has been dealing with a quad injury, so his preseason reps have been limited as it is. Plus, he’s learning an entirely new playbook. Gordon is already going to miss a third of the fantasy regular season serving his four-game suspension and is one mistake away from his NFL career being completely over due to his off-field volatility. Is that a guy you want to draft on your fantasy squad? NEXT!
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks (Round 11)
I can’t help but wonder why anyone would draft Jimmy Graham this season, no matter how many rounds he is slipping. It’s basically a wasted pick. Graham tore his patellar tendon (knee) in Week 12 last season. It’s an injury that few, if any, high-end players have returned from to play at a high level. Yes, players have recovered from the injury but they haven’t been the same. Remember when Victor Cruz went down with a similar injury in 2015? He hasn’t played a single snap of live game action since.
The devastating injury is one that saps a players’ speed, quickness and explosiveness–attributes that are absolutely essential for a big-play tight end like Graham. Sure, he might get back on the field at some point this season (although he’s no sure thing to be back by Seattle’s season opener), but he won’t be the essential for a big tight end like Jimmy Graham to be productive.
It’s common knowledge that there is a plethora of other great tight ends to target in the later rounds, so don’t throw away a draft pick on a hope and a dream in Graham.