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Every year, players either surpass, meet or fall short of expectations, both on the football field and in the fantasy realm. For fantasy purposes, drafting the players who meet or exceed expectations is absolutely crucial. Once you hit the middle rounds, you’re looking to build depth and maybe add a prospective starter or two. These rounds are littered with both young, unproven guys and guys looking to prove they can still contribute. In order to be successful, you have to separate the ones who will prove themselves against the ones who either aren’t quite ready to be fantasy contributors or who are too far removed from their best days to be in your lineup. In order to make sure you do this, we’ll be rolling out one overrated player, one underrated player and one safe bet for every ten picks, based on our player rankings. This is part five of the series as we tackle players ranked in the 81-100 range.
NOTE: Rankings as of 8/10
Overrated: Ben Roethlisberger (No. 81 overall, No. 10 quarterback)
Roethlisberger has enjoyed a long and successful career. He’s twice a Super Bowl champ and five times a Pro Bowler. But heading into his 14th year, he’s only been a top 10 fantasy quarterback four times in Yahoo scoring, with the last time coming in 2014. This isn’t a slight at Big Ben as a football player, but as a fantasy player it’s worth skipping him here. His 11.6 yards per completion last year was the third-worst mark of his career. Now of course it’s worth mentioning the return of Martavis Bryant as a reason for this high ranking. But the numbers will tell a different story. In 2015, when Bryant was available all season, Roethlisberger still only finished 21st in points and 16th in points per game among quarterbacks. Roethlisberger has also missed six games over the past two years. Unless you grabbed one earlier, your starting QB should still be in the offing by the time Roethlisberger is drafted.
Underrated: Kelvin Benjamin (No. 84 overall, No. 36 wide receiver)
In just three seasons, Benjamin has already experienced a career’s worth of ups and downs. He had a huge rookie year, tore his ACL in his second-year training camp and then came back not quite back in form but still managed to piece together a solid season. So entering his fourth professional year but just third professional season, what Benjamin really is remains to be determined. But he certainly deserves to be higher than this. As a rookie, he finished 19th among wide receivers in points per game, and then he finished 24th last year, even in a down year for his quarterback, Cam Newton. The biggest thing to like about Benjamin is his ability to get downfield. He ranked 15th in air yards last year and 10th as a rookie, which is impressive for a 6-foot-5 receiver. Expect a bounce-back year for Newton and, in turn, a good year for Benjamin, who reported to camp in excellent shape.
Safest bet: Pierre Garcon (No. 87 overall, No. 37 wide receiver)
This might seem like a strange pick for a safe bet considering Garcon is on a new team, the 49ers. But he’s going back to his old offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, and the last year the two were together, Garcon posted 113/1346/5. Obviously we shouldn’t expect anywhere near those numbers, but it’s important to know when considering Garcon. Since that huge 2013, Garcon has been nothing if consistent. He’s had at least 750 yards every year, even as the second, third or even fourth option in Washington’s offense. He’s one of the league’s toughest players going over the middle, and he will be the legit No. 1 target in San Francisco. He’s very reliable week-to-week as well.
Overrated: Hunter Henry (No. 97 overall, No. 11 tight end)
Henry’s stocked has ballooned this offseason thanks to an insane touchdown rate. Of his 36 receptions last year, eight went for touchdowns. His best weeks came in weeks that Antonio Gates didn’t play, and Gates still finished five spots higher than Henry did. Now of course there’s a lot to like about Henry, such as his 11 red-zone receptions (third in the league, per Player Profiler) and his tight-end-leading eight TDs. But I’m willing to say his inflated touchdown rate comes way down this year, and once you look past that, you see a player who finished 31st among tight ends in target share and 23rd in air yards. Until he retires, Gates is the top tight end. And with Keenan Allen’s return and Mike Williams in the fold depending on his back, Henry’s red-zone success should fall off quite a bit.
Underrated: Martellus Bennett (No. 98 overall, No. 9 tight end)
Bennett finished eighth among tight ends last year despite seeing the fewest targets of any tight end in the top 15. He finished fifth in fantasy points per target, per Player Profiler. Now he’s headed to Green Bay, where he’s the most talented tight end the team has had in a long time. There’s a lot to like about Bennett: He catches the ball (just two drops last year) and is good in space (second-most YAC among tight ends per Player Profiler). He’s a weapon the Packers have sorely missed ever since Jermichael Finley’s career-ending neck injury. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm and Bennett his undisputed top tight end, Bennett is well worth a pick at this juncture.
Safest bet: Dak Prescott (No. 96 overall, No. 13 quarterback)
Prescott likely won’t hit his absurd 23:4 touchdown to interception ratio from his rookie year. That’s perfectly fine from a fantasy perspective, though. The Cowboys ran just 510 pass plays last year, dead last in the league, and Prescott still finished sixth in total points among quarterbacks. While losing Ezekiel Elliott to a six-game suspension will change the offense, Prescott still plays behind an outstanding line and may end up with more rushing touchdown potential with goal-line carries up for grabs with Elliott out. The QB had six rushing touchdowns last year. Facing a much tougher schedule, the Cowboys are also going to have to throw more. Prescott was accurate (fourth in completion percentage) and efficient (fourth in yards per attempt).