2019 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

Robbie Gould
Robbie Gould
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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 $25!) 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 database that can be designed to sort players by almost any scoring system your league might use. The database 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 useful 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 later this week. Each player is listed with his KUBIAK rank as of August 10, along with his average rank in ESPN and Yahoo! drafts. These numbers will show where each player ranks at his 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 may change if your league has non-standard rules. You can also go back and see who we thought was overrated in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.


There's an obvious common theme amongst the three most over-rated quarterbacks: each has at least one Super Bowl ring. All that glimmering hardware may get the attention of casual fantasy football players, but it's important to remember that real-life championships won in the past won't help you win fantasy leagues in the present. But there are also more specific reasons to be skeptical of what these quarterbacks might do this fall.

Drew Brees, NO
FO rank: 13
ESPN Rank: 7
Yahoo! Rank: 7

The issue for Drew Brees is age. He turned 40 in January, and that is very old for a quarterback. Only twice in NFL history has a player so old thrown 30 or more touchdowns in a season. We also think the Saints are going to be really, really good this year -- they're our Super Bowl favorites going into the season -- but that means they're likely to be leading in the fourth quarter a lot, which means they'll be running out the clock, which means Brees won't be throwing many passes or racking up many fantasy points.

Russell Wilson, SEA
FO rank: 11
ESPN Rank: 10
Yahoo! Rank: 6

Opportunity is also an important consideration for Russell Wilson. The Seahawks were last in the league in passes last season. With three wide receivers added in the draft and sophomore tight end Will Dissly returning from injury, they will probably throw more often in 2019, but just how much more remains to be seen. Wilson must also overcome the retirement of his top receiver. Doug Baldwin caught 49 touchdowns in his Seahawks career, more than twice as many as any of his teammates in his years with the team.

Tom Brady, NE
FO rank: 18
ESPN Rank: 11
Yahoo! Rank: 13

And then there's Tom Brady, who is dealing with advancing age and the retirement of his top receiver, but to a more extreme degree than either Brees or Wilson is facing. At 42, Brady is two years older than Brees. There have been a total of 38 touchdowns in NFL history thrown by players of Brady's age or older; the single-season record is 11 by Warren Moon with the Seahawks in 1998. And as good as Baldwin was for Seattle, Rob Gronkowski was much, much better for New England. His 79 receiving touchdowns are also more than twice as many as any of his teammates in his years with the team. The Patriots are now much deeper at running back than they are at wide receiver or tight end, and are likely to pass less frequently as a result.

Running Backs

Our KUBIAK rankings agree with conventional wisdom at the top of the running back tables. Yes, players such as Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, and Ezekiel Elliott (assuming he doesn't go nuts with his holdout) are likely to be good fantasy picks. It's the second-level running backs who are getting overdrafted, and in each of these cases, it's mostly a matter of figuring out what teams are going to do with their committee backfields.

Sony Michel, NE
FO rank: 33
ESPN Rank: 22
Yahoo! Rank: 22

Sony Michel averaged 112.0 rushing yards and scored six touchdowns in three playoff games last year, which is why some may have forgotten that he averaged 71.6 yards and ran for six touchdowns in 13 regular-season games. We're guessing the regular-season numbers are a better indicator of what he'll do this fall. Michel will be fighting Rex Burkhead and third-round rookie Damien Harris for playing time, he has almost no receiving value (only eight catches last year, regular and postseason combined), and he has been fighting a knee injury.

Aaron Jones, GB
FO rank: 23
ESPN Rank: 18
Yahoo! Rank: 17

Aaron Jones has averaged exactly 5.5 yards per carry in each of his first two NFL seasons, and many Green Bay fans would like to see him play a larger role in the offense. He averaged 11.1 carries per game in 2018, a rate we see climbing to … 11.8 in 2019. Yes, Matt LaFleur's Tennessee teams were very run-heavy, but in Tennessee he had Marcus Mariota. Now he has Aaron Rodgers. He will likely adjust his play calling accordingly.

Damien Williams, KC
FO rank: 21
ESPN Rank: 19
Yahoo! Rank: 13

Damien Williams is a fifth-year pro with 183 career carries, never more than the 50 he had last season. Andy Reid has outright used the words "running back by committee" to describe his approach this year, saying that Williams will compete with Darrel Williams, Carlos Hyde, and rookie Darwin Thompson for playing time. Damien Williams had also been sidelined by a hamstring injury and only returned to individual drills this week.

Wide Receivers

Our list of overrated wideouts includes two veterans with major injury concerns and a youngster who has yet to prove what he can do as his team's top target.

A.J. Green, CIN
FO rank: 28
ESPN Rank: 15
Yahoo! Rank: 13

So here's a weird one. After tearing ligaments in his left ankle, A.J. Green underwent minor surgery in July. It's unknown just how long he'll be sidelined, but Bengals coach Zac Taylor has confirmed that Green will be missing some regular-season games. Green's KUBIAK projections have fallen accordingly, but they're still more optimistic than Green's projections at ESPN.com. Apparently, ESPN's readers are not referring to those projections, and instead are expecting that Green will be available for 16 games. Spoiler: he won't.

Kenny Golladay, DET
FO rank: 26
ESPN Rank: 21
Yahoo! Rank: 19

Before Golden Tate was traded to Philadelphia, Kenny Golladay was averaging 68.1 yards and 0.4 touchdowns per game last season. After the trade, those numbers shifted to 73.3 and 0.3. The Lions still have Marvin Jones and have added Danny Amendola, so it's not as if Golladay is their only option out wide. Also, as is the case with New Orleans, we are more optimistic about Detroit's chances this season than most observers, and more wins usually lead to suppressed numbers in the passing game.

Odell Beckham, CLE
FO rank: 9
ESPN Rank: 6
Yahoo! Rank: 4

A couple of things here. First is health: Beckham missed four games last year and a dozen the year before, and has played 16 games just once in five NFL seasons. Second, while Beckham's reunion with college teammate Jarvis Landry makes for a good story, it could hurt his chances to make plays. Beckham has never played with a wideout who caught more than 71 passes in a season; Landry has had at least 81 catches every year of his career. Either Beckham's or Landry's numbers -- or both -- will have to take a hit.

Tight End

Only one tight end is going significantly higher in ESPN and Yahoo! drafts than we think he should. We included another for the sake of completeness.

Eric Ebron, IND
FO rank: 17
ESPN Rank: 8
Yahoo! Rank: 8

Eric Ebron targets per game in 2018 with Jack Doyle active: 3.7. Targets per game with Jack Doyle not active: 8.8. In related news, Jack Doyle overcame hip surgery and a knee injury this offseason to open training camp as the Colts' starter at tight end. A healthy Doyle would limit Ebron's fantasy potential to a low-end backup at best.

Jared Cook, NO
FO rank: 9
ESPN Rank: 7
Yahoo! Rank: 7

Jared Cook, like Brees, is likely to see his numbers drop as the Saints should be running out clock in the fourth quarter. Also like Brees, he is getting up there in years. He turned 32 in April; the best fantasy tight end age 32 or older last year was Jimmy Graham, who caught a total of two touchdowns for Green Bay. But we're splitting hairs here -- there won't be many leagues decided by the seventh tight end drafted.


Robbie Gould, SF
FO rank: 22
ESPN Rank: 7
Yahoo! Rank: 8


OK, we should probably go deeper than that. Consider, then, that the 49ers have not made the top 20 in points scored since 2013. Consider that the rest of the world is expecting San Francisco to improve with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo, but we're not convinced. Consider that while Robbie Gould has been excellent over the past three years, converting 97 percent of his field-goal attempts, he never hit on 90 percent in any of his prior 11 NFL seasons.

Defense/Special Teams

FO rank: 22
ESPN Rank: 12
Yahoo! Rank: 7

The Browns led the league last year with 14 fumble recoveries, and were third in fumble recovery rate at 61 percent. That's good! It's also completely unsustainable. The league average numbers last year were 7.8 recoveries and a rate of 47 percent, and that's a lot closer to what we can expect from Cleveland this year.


7 comments, Last at 19 Aug 2019, 12:29pm

1 Brady's Ranking

While I understand FO's trepidation toward Brady's stats this year, and I usually bang the drumbeat of 'He can't keep doing this', attention must be paid to what the other teams in the division did in the offseason. Both the Bills and Jets drafted highly rated defensive tackles in the first round. While Oliver and Williams are excellent pass rushers for their position, they also bring a lot of value to run defense. So that's 4 games against teams with improved run defenses, to go along with playing the NFC North. Brady is going to have to throw this year to win games. While I think Brady may be less efficient without Gronk this year, he may still put up higher yardage numbers simply because he'll need to. I also doubt he's going to become an interception machine. Drafting him 11th or 13th doesn't seem bad in this light.

2 Robbie Gould's improved kicking percentage

I don't honestly care where any FFL kicker is drafted. But to be fair about Robbie Gould's improved kicking percentage, those first 11 years were in Chicago. Kicking in Santa Clara is significantly easier. He was money every time he played the Packers. Chicago was stupid to let him go. It's why I'm very nervous about rumors the Packers may cut Crosby.

3 Browns' D/ST Ranking: Streaming

One thing to note for the Browns D/ST ranking: They're a hot pick for players who are streaming D/ST. With everyone healthy and Myles Garrett getting to go against a back up LT in Week 1, people have been drafting them for that game alone, knowing they're going to drop them next week for the Cowboys or Panthers or Ravens.

6 KUBIAK issues

I agree.  Kind of going down the rabbit hole on this one, but I think this is one example where KUBIAK simply fails to be treated like a fantasy spreadsheet instead of a spreadsheet for someone building a football team.

Im not saying that it matters a whole lot, and I recognize it would be a more complicated method, but the accurate way to judge defenses would be to view them as "value above cutting them for a replacement level streaming option" (recognizing that value is somewhat abstract, it would still basically accurately gauge defenses as having no value at the point that they should be cut).  If a team is playing the Chiefs/Saints week 1, they should be cut before week 1, and they have no draft value.  A team with 2 or 3 "above replacement streaming value options" before needing to be cut week 4 would obviously have more value, even if maybe there is a team with a better week 1 option.  A really elite defense obviously could have reasonable value, although they should be compared to the "replacement level streaming option" of each week, not the "12th best (seasonal) defense" for an entire season.

As an example, KUBIAK likes the Rams D, and sure its a great defense, but they face the Panthers week 1 (not great but...fine), and the Saints week 2 (time to cut them).  There are several defenses worth drafting over this defense, since any team with a better week 1 expectation would be better to draft.  The current ranking system of defenses for fantasy purposes is useless to a point that its not even worth looking at.  (as a random example, id much rather have the Ravens D facing the dolphins week 1, Cardinals week 2, and then cut them week 3 vs Chiefs)

This same general principal applies to QBs (low tier QBs get streamed, so youd rather have a $1 QB with good matchups early),

Im not as certain as far as how KUBIAK handles "boom or bust" type players, such as RBs who its not clear what percentage of carries they will get, but you wouldnt want to rank a player based on the "average" performance of such a player, because when they bust/dont get enough carries, you replace them, so their bust is replacement level, and their boom is their boom, so their value is a reasonable amount above their average performance.  (maybe thats how it works, im really not certain)

4 Raiderjoe

actually agree with all these choices. if had to adidagees with oen jhuyst for sake of it, would pick t. brayd. he might even be part alien and play till age 53 and then go back to his planet.

7 wait a second

"Beckham has never played with a wideout who caught more than 71 passes in a season; Landry has had at least 81 catches every year of his career. Either Beckham's or Landry's numbers -- or both -- will have to take a hit."

Isn't it ordinarily considered a bad thing to be the only decent receiver on a team? That's how life has been for ODB for the past few years on the Giants.

Passing isn't a zero sum game. Having a second good receiver stretches the defense and can lead to more first downs and more passing plays. Sure, at some point there are negative returns to an increase in the number of good WRs, but I seriously doubt that happens at the transition from 1 to 2 good WRs.