by Vincent Verhei
If you're familiar with Football Outsiders, you know that every year we use our KUBIAK projections (available here for a mere $20!) to forecast the upcoming fantasy football season. It's an invaluable tool for fantasy football players, who get not just a list of players ranked by total point production, but a fully customizable spreadsheet that can be designed to sort players by almost any scoring system your league might use. The spreadsheet also lists where players have been taken in drafts on other web sites, so you can see where KUBIAK rankings differ from conventional wisdom. That knowledge can prove even more valuable than the rankings themselves, suggesting not only which players could be most valuable, but also when you're likely to find a steal in later rounds.
Today we'll look at the overrated players, those going higher in drafts than KUBIAK thinks they should. We'll look at underrated players in a separate article next week. Each player is listed with his KUBIAK rank as of August 10, along with his rank in Average Draft Position (ADP), which is where he has actually been going in fantasy drafts. These numbers will show where each player ranks at their position, not overall. Players at different positions can change in overall value greatly depending on league settings and waiver wire rules, but their rankings within their positions shouldn't change much. Obviously, which players are underrated or overrated by ADP may change if your league has non-standard rules.
Jimmy Garoppolo, SF
In his five starts last year, Garoppolo threw for 1,542 yards and a half-dozen touchdowns. He produced 82 fantasy points in that stretch, among the top ten quarterbacks over the last five games of the year. Other quarterbacks who produced at least 80 fantasy points over a five-game span included Trevor Siemian (Games 1-5), Jacoby Brissett (Games 3-7), and the man Garoppolo replaced in San Francisco, C.J. Beathard (Games 6-10). Josh McCown, of all people, produced 104 points from Games 8-12. The point is, virtually any quarterback who can win a starting job in the NFL is capable of going on a hot streak over one-third of a season. Garoppolo will probably wind up better than the Siemians and Brissetts of the world, but let's allow him to finish a full season before we rely on him as a fantasy starter.
Andrew Luck, IND
This, obviously, is all about risk. Luck threw nine passes in an exhibition game against Seattle last week. That brings his total in regular or preseason games since January 2, 2017, to … nine. Luck has been a top-ten fantasy quarterback four times in the past six years, and a top-four player three times, so we understand the temptation. It's just hard to put much faith in a shoulder that has basically kept an entire franchise in limbo for the last 20 months.
Tom Brady, NE
This, obviously, is all about age. Brady will be 41 this season. Only once in NFL history has a quarterback that old thrown for more than 20 touchdowns: Warren Moon, who threw for 25 scores with the Seahawks in 1997. Only three others that age (Moon in Seattle in 1998, Vinny Testaverde with Dallas in 2004, and Brett Favre with Minnesota in 2010) have even broken double-digits. Tom Brady has been doing things no quarterback has ever done before for a while now, but he is a human being and he does age, and when his time as a top-end passer comes to an end it is likely to happen swiftly and without mercy. Brady will probably be a good fantasy quarterback this year, but if not, then he may be very bad.
Jordan Howard, CHI
The Chicago Bears ran the ball 46 percent of the time in the first half last year, the highest rate in the league. The Kansas City Chiefs ran the ball 32 percent of the time in the first half, the lowest rate in the league. Matt Nagy, the coordinator for that pass-wacky offense in Arrowhead Stadium, will be calling the plays this year at Soldier Field. That should mean a lot more throws for Mitchell Trubisky and a lot fewer runs for Jordan Howard.
Joe Mixon, CIN
OK, we're stumped by this one. Mixon was 32nd in fantasy scoring last year, and though he's clearly the top runner in Cincinnati now, Giovani Bernard is still on the roster. So are Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, and last year's first-round draft pick, a now-healthy John Ross. The Bengals have loads of options in the rushing and passing games, and it's not likely that Mixon will get enough touches to be anything more than a low-end RB2.
Rashaad Penny, SEA
It appears that a lot of fantasy players were so excited about what a first-round running back could do in a Pete Carroll/Brian Schottenheimer offense that they didn't bother to check whether that running back would actually start. Chris Carson remains atop the depth chart in Seattle, and that's not likely to change -- and even if it does, this still figures to be a committee approach. Someone in your league will probably get stuck with Penny as a starting running back this year, but they're going to be outscored at that position more often than not.
Alshon Jeffery, PHI
In each of the last three seasons, Jeffery has caught between 52 and 57 passes, for between 789 and 821 yards. Our KUBIAK projection: 56 catches for 794 yards. There's no reason to expect Jeffery to get much more than that at age 28, on a roster that also has Nelson Agholor and Mike Wallace at wide receiver and Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert at tight end.
Josh Gordon, CLE
The riskiest player in all of fantasy football. Gordon has averaged 77.2 receiving yards per game in his career, seventh-most in league history. That's partly due to playing in such a pass-friendly era, but it's still more than contemporary fantasy mainstays such as Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins. Among active receivers, only Julio Jones and Antonio Brown have ever gained more receiving yards in a single season than the 1,646 Gordon had in 2013. Either Tyrod Taylor or Baker Mayfield will likely be the best quarterback with whom Gordon has ever played. But since his first year at Baylor in 2009, Gordon has just one thousand-yard season in either college or the pros. He has just 638 yards in 10 games in the last four NFL seasons. The words "suspension" and "suspended" appear 20 times on his Wikipedia page. On July 23 Gordon announced he was leaving the team to tend to his "overall health and treatment plan," and as of August 9 there was still no timetable for Gordon's return. Draft Gordon at your own peril.
Stefon Diggs, MIN
The weird thing here is that we're actually projecting a career-high 956 yards for Diggs, along with a half-dozen touchdowns, which is more than he had in two of his first three years. But fantasy players apparently think he will blow all those numbers away. Will the arrival of Kirk Cousins make that much of a difference? Probably not -- Minnesota's last two quarterbacks set an all-time record for completion percentage (since broken) and led the league in passing DVOA, so it's not as if Diggs has been hamstrung by lousy passers. Since Mike Zimmer arrived in Minnesota, the Vikings rank 25th in total passes, so it's not like they're going to be throwing the ball all over the place despite their $84 million man. There's not much reason here to expect Diggs to be more than what he has been.
Trey Burton, CHI
You'll note that subhead reads "tight end" and not "tight ends," because there's really only one player at the position going too high in drafts -- but that one player is going WAY too high. The Bears guaranteed Burton $18 million over for years and Matt Nagy told the Chicago Sun-Times that the tight end will be playing Travis Kelce's role in his offense, so apparently everyone assumes he'll be putting up 800-plus yards and a half-dozen scores a season. Of course, that same Sun-Times article noted that second-round draft pick Adam Shaheen would still play a big part in the offense, and that Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Tarik Cohen would be catching plenty of passes too. Burton only had 629 yards in four seasons in Philadelphia, so it's not like he has a history of making big plays all over the field. And he's not going to score one touchdown every 4.6 catches like he did last season, either.
For the sake of completeness, I will note that KUBIAK has Jimmy Graham seventh, while his average draft position is fourth, but that's really nitpicking at this position. If you need a tight end late in the draft and Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and Zach Ertz are off the boards, nobody will blame you for drafting the most obvious goal-line weapon in Aaron Rodgers' arsenal.
Harrison Butker, KC
Butker led the league with 42 field goal attempts last year even though he only played 13 games. That's 3.2 field goal attempts per game, the most by any kicker since San Francisco's David Akers had 52 in 16 games in 2011. The common thread between those two teams: Alex Smith, the ultimate play-it-safe, take-what-the-defense-gives-you quarterback whose offenses have usually fared well between the 20s but struggled to punch the ball into the end zone. We're lukewarm on what Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will do this year, but there's likely to be an increase in both touchdowns and turnovers in Kansas City, which will mean fewer scoring opportunities for Butker.
In 2016, the Texans had 31 sacks and 11 interceptions; they had 32 and 11 in 2017. We're projecting a mild boost to 39 and 14, but that's still well, well short of what a lot of fantasy players are expecting. It would help if the stars in the front seven were all healthy for once (the trio of J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney have only played in 25 games together the last four years) but at this point "healthy" might be a relative term anyway. Can the addition of Tyrann Mathieu make a difference for Houston? Probably not -- he had only 11 interceptions and 4.0 sacks in his 66 games in Arizona. And then there's the "ST" in "D/ST." Houston ranked 26th in special teams DVOA last season. That's very bad, but it was still their best ranking since 2011. Houston has now ranked in the bottom seven in this category six years in a row, including two last-place finishes.