by Nick Ercolano
February 22, 2019
We're diving into our top players to avoid in 2019 fantasy football, so DO NOT DRAFT THESE PLAYERS. Avoiding landmines in fantasy football is arguably more important than drafting well. Not only do you not have a shite player in your lineup, but it leads to another person drafting that player and bringing them down as well. Misery loves company. Jajaja. This list will drastically change as summer passes us by, ADPs fluctuate like Jonah Hill's weight.
But as I start to dive into the ADPs of players right now, I see some obvious ones, and that's what we're getting into today. Our top players to avoid in 2019 fantasy football, so DO NOT DRAFT THESE PLAYERS.
Right off the rip, I want no part of Ben Roethlisberger in 2019. I say often, an average NFL QB is going to be as good as his weapons around him. If Antonio Brown is gone, this offense is going to suffer big time. They also have Ramon Foster, the NFL's 7th best PBing guard a FA. Ben finished as QB3 in fantasy last year. He's currently off the board as QB10, pick 99, so at least the public is starting to learn. If you had him, it was a pleasure, but it's time to break the loyalty. He attempted the most passes in the NFL last year (675), but he wasn't good. While that high volume led him to leading the league in passing yards (5,129) and 5th highest TD total (34), he led the NFL in interceptions (16), he threw 31 interceptable passes per PP.com (2nd most), his PFF QB grade was 17th, adjusted completion % (which takes into account throwaways/spikes/etc), was 29th among 39 qualified QBs. His RZ completion percentage ranked 28th, where he led in both RZ interceptions (4) and 10zone INTs (2), and his DB com % was 26th.
Here's the big stat though (per Mike Tagliere's podcast) Ben totaled a league-low 46.0 percent of his yards through the air. 54 % OF HIS PASSING YARDS CAME AFTER THE catch. That tells you, unsurprisingly, that his WRs are really good. Yea... AB and JuJu are. Not to mention Vance McDonald moved with the ball, etc. Ben is an easy pass in an offense trending the wrong direction. Give credit to PIT front office for their offensive line.
While Ben ranked 29th/of 39 in adj. com %, guess would rank dead last. Josh Allen. If I play in 6 Superflex leagues, I may own Allen in one of them as my QB2. MAYBE. Allen was miserable throwing the ball last year. Yes, he's in an awful situation, but that's not going away overnight. The big story with Allen is his rushing ability, which was relatively unknown coming out of college:
You guys should know this, success that comes purely out of running for a QB is just not sustainable. Some of you will point to Cam Newton. Newton also throws for between 3500-4000 yards and 20-25 TDs along with his rushing. Allen is really bad at throwing. How he ended the season, he was literally fantasy's QB1 over the L6 weeks of the season. He only played in 12 games on the year, but finished as QB14 in FPPG, thanks to that 40-point game in Week 17 versus Miami. It was fun to own him down the stretch, but if you're banking on him to be your QB1 in 2019, it's a huge problem. Look at the situation completely unbiasly: Allen ranks dead last in adjusted completion %, a negative TD:INT ratio (10-12), his best weapon is Zay Jones with almost NOTHING behind that, no running game, the 22nd ranked pass-blocking line in the league, he already dealt with injuries last year and if you think he's going to succeed next year, it has to be solely because you think he keeps up this type of rushing ability, I doubt he can hold up a full 16 games if he's running the ball 10 times a game. Drafting him, okay, if you're in a few leagues, but relying on a big breakout or to continue this success I think is stupid.
You know who else had a ridiculous end of season? Derrick Henry. Running back of the Tennessee Titans. Currently going off the board at RB17, 33rd overall. There is not a lick of a chance that I'm touching Henry in the top 3 rounds. In dynasty, he's in the same spot which is absurd. You know who likes Derrick Henry? I'll tell you who likes Derrick Henry. Literally, only the people that said he was going to break out last year, then finally got a sniff of that heroine at the end of the year. They just want to be proven right.
Yes, the 5-game sample size is everything. He, like Josh Allen, finished atop his respective position, as fantasy's RB1 over the L5 weeks of the 2018 szn, mostly due to the Week 14-15 combo where he ran the ball 50 times for 408 yards and 6 touchdowns.
But can we also drive home another storyline? Let's look at the last five weeks of the season, who did they play? NYJ, JAC, NYG, WAS, IND. When Week 13 came, Henry had just 128 total touches on his resume, his legs were fresh. Those teams, none of which competing for anything, the playoffs, 13 weeks into the season and tired, unlike Henry, do you think they want to go full steam ahead against a 6-3, 250lb running back? Of course, not. They have nothing to play for. Yes, Indy was the last team on that list, and arguably the only one there with an okay defense, Henry scored 11 fantasy points that game.
I want you to take a look at this chart.
These were the running backs drafted in 2018 drafts, from RB16 through RB32. Basically all colossal busts. These mid-round RBs, that don't contribute on all three downs, are really risky. Yo, it's 2019. I talked about this in my top 10 lessons learned video. If you're drafting an RB, especially in the early rounds, they need to catch passes. Henry doesn't do that. I.E. Jordan Howard last year. Yes, there will be guys that do well without catching passes. Sony Michel last year, Chris Carson. But you didn't have to draft them in the top 3-4 rounds. The truth is, more often than not, these guys won't pan out. Just looking at the list, Jay Ajayi, Derrick Henry, Alex Collins, Royce Freeman, all guys that don't catch passes. Some will, but they're extremely risky and the earlier you take them, the more you have on the line.
Henry had a single game last year with more than 2 targets. His target totals through three years is 15, 17, 18. In college: 1, 5, 11. It's not a thing, please don't say some shit down in the comments like "oh but he can catch passes". No. He can't and he won't, so shut up. So, you're getting a two-down back, behind a line that's mediocre, in an offense that's not good, which means he'll be game-script dependent but don't expect them to get up huge so no, all because of a 5-game stretch last year, after we had already seen 41 games from Henry. Please don't touch Henry anywhere near the 3rd round, I won't in the 4th either.
Leonard Fournette and Devonta Freeman. These two I look at similarly, and I think could sway either way, me loving them or hating them, depending on where they're drafted. Fournette is the 19th RB off the board, 35th overall, Freeman the 20th, a pick behind him. I like Fournette more, but certainly not in the 3rd round. Freeman has taken a beating the last couple of years. After those couple of dominant years, I think we've seen that his powerful running style has caught up to his 5-8, 205lb frame. You can only run like that against guys who are bigger than you for so long. The Falcons run game was abysmal without him last year, but their offensive line took a big dip. I honestly see them going extremely pass-heavy with Dirk Koetter back as OC. I'm also pretty sure Freeman is a concussion away from retiring. I'm likely avoiding him unless he falls very far in drafts, round 5-6. Fournette's ceiling is ridiculously high. We saw that during his rookie year, then 2018 was washed away because of a 10-game hamstring injury. If Fournette stays healthy, a lot of things will line up in 2019. If Nick Foles signs in Jax, that offense will be immensely upgraded from Blake Bortles, even if you don't think Foles is good. T.J. Yeldon is going to be gone in FA, which will open up passing work for Fournette, who looked to be a big part of that before he got hurt last year. Fournette consistently caught between 3-5 passes/game in games he didn't leave with an injury. Their offensive line also took a huge plunge, a lot to do with injuries. In Fournette's rookie season they were a top-5 run-blocking unit. At full health, they should be at least above average. However, the immense injury risk with Fournette warrants a round 4 price tag.
One last running back I'm almost definitely staying away from is James White. He was a fun story last year, but you've always been able to draft James White in like the 13th round of fantasy drafts, and now after five seasons, he finally showed a real good 8-game stretch because Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead were both injured you're going to draft him at pick 51?? Nawwww. White is actually the last RB I would draft in fantasy next year. If I'm paying up, it's going to be for Sony for sure. Otherwise, I'll grab Burkhead in like that 13th round. Drafting the last Patriot usually works out tbh. Burkhead plays all three downs, so an injury to any of the other Pats RBs gives him a huge boost in playtime. And you even saw glimpses of how they probably want to use him, down the stretch, he had 17 touches in Week 16, 16 in the Conference Championship. He'll get his in 2019.
In games where Sony Michel carried the ball more than 10 times, which just narrows out any games he got hurt in, White averaged 9.6 touches. You really trying to use a 5th round pick on a guy that gets 9 touches/game? Add games that Rex Burkhead also played into that split:
This doesn't include the playoffs, where he had an absurd 15-catch game against LAC, but terrible CC and Superbowl. Just goes to the inconsistency of the NE backfield, so drafting him in the 5th/6th is off the table.
I have zero interest in Allen Robinson. Robinson is currently getting drafted as WR22. He finished last year as WR41. WR36 in FPPG (half ppr).... So, it has now been a full 3.5 full years since we've seen Allen Robinson be consistently good on a football field. Yes, I know he had good games last year and made big plays. But many people underestimate consistency. It's the reason I think a lot of dynasty players, well not just dynasty, but even NFL front office execs miserably miss on their draft picks. Because this guy has so much "potential". He "flashed". Look at this game. Guess what, that matters. Being able to prove that you're actually good at football, over a long period of time, not just three games, matters. Because when you look at the long-run, it starts to account for everything. There are not short sample-size biases. It accounts for durability, stamina, chemistry. Not just talent that you flashed on a single play where you jumped 41 inches in the endzone. Guess what, this is the NFL. Every one is talented. The truly great are the ones that produce, and produce consistently. Are we just going to hold onto Robinson's 2015 season forever?
Is this to say if A-Rob was paired with A-Rod, he wouldn't be an elite fantasy WR? No. But he's not. Robinson is in Chicago, whose offense we saw take a big step forward with the implementation of Matt Nagy's offense. My problem is much more with the situation then the player.
Mitchell Trubiksy was far too eratic and this offense has far too many mouths to feed to expect any sort of consistency from Allen Robinson. Trubisky threw the ball more than 35 times in a game just once all year, and most of his fantasy success came thanks to his rushing ability. His PFF passing grade was 34th among QBs, which was behind Josh Allen, also 34th in adj. comp. %, he attempted a deep ball on 16.8% of his passes, second highest rate only behind Josh Allen, usually not a good sign, but was only accurate on 37% of them, 25th in the league. And he did this behind a top-5 pass blocking line. It's not like Josh Rosen, where his numbers were miserable, but he also had the absolute worst line and situation. It's bad because Trubisky's accuracy ranked 33rd when the pocket was kept clean (per PFF), and dropped to 36th under pressure. Like, looking back, you want to say things got better, and Trubisky progressed, he had a 24:12 TD:INT ratio, which is very good, but he wasn't, realistically. I watched a lot of him, he had some nice dimes, but he also had like 9 passes that should've been intercepted. Per PP.com, he was 6th in the NFL, throwing 26 interceptable passes. That's a huge number, and he didn't even play in a full 16. He also threw for a TD on over 5.5% of his throws, which is higher than both Andrew Luck and Drew Brees' career TD rate, and tied with Tom Brady's, I'd put money that comes down in 2019, and that his TD:INT ratio is much worse.
With Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Tarik Cohen, Trey Burton, trying to feed Jordan Howard, Adam Sheehan back as a RZ weapon, which Robinson already barely saw targets down there, it's too much going on there for any sort of consistency.
Austin Hooper had a semi-big year, but he stinks. I'm telling you. Hooper had more games of 0 yards this year then he did 80 yards. That's because he doesn't touch 80 yards. It's been 33 games since Hooper has hit that number. Week 1 of 2017, when some asshole safety on Chicago blew his coverage and let up an 80-yard TD to him. Hooper had three decent games this year thanks to TDs that propelled him up TE rankings. Otherwise, the guy scored fewer than 7 FPs in 10-of-16 games. I'm good. I'm a Falcons fan, I know what Hooper is, there's no upside here. There's no breakout coming.
Jared Cook had a very big year, but he's a FA and I highly doubt anywhere he lands will let him see anywhere near the target share he saw in Oakland. His target share (18%) was 4th highest in the NFL behind, guess who, Kelce, Ertz and Kittle. He was the only thing close to athletic Derek Carr had to throw the ball too. In his 10th NFL season, on the wrong side of 30, Cook set career-highs. Also he scored like 5 FPs in half of their games so, he was ridiculously boom or bust. If he went to like NE to replace Gronk, or NO, then maybe he'd get back in here.
Older TEs (Gronk/Olsen/Walker/Eifert)
Stay away from Will Fuller, please. Emmanuel Sanders, too. He's old, coming off of a huge achilles tear, now he's going to playing with Joe Flacco instead of Case Keenum. No one throws more to slot WRs than Keenum has over the last two years. It's a monster downgrade to Sanders even if he is back and healthy. I likely won't touch Le'Veon Bell in the top-15 picks if he goes to any of the teams currently projected to make a run at him: NYJ, BAL, PHI. No one throws the ball to their RBs as much, something that made Bell so valuable. BAL and PHI use RBBCs regardless. They will have different backs rotating in and out. I'll likely think about Bell back half of 2nd, earliest.
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