Suspect Seven: Name players to fade in Fantasy Football for 2018

I’m reluctant to use the words “Do Not Draft” in any piece. Fantasy sports are always contextual, and usually there’s a price for everyone, a pocket where a fade starts to make sense.

That said, I live in the real world. And this deep into draft season, we have a reasonable estimation of what things cost. Based on the current marketplace, here’s a list of players I don’t expect to invest in. I invite you to try to beat me with this crew.

• Allen Robinson (Yahoo ADP 53, WR22): It’s been three years since he’s been a fantasy difference-maker. It’s been two years since he did anything. Now Robinson is changing teams, tied to an unproven quarterback and a cluttered, confusing usage tree, and off a major injury.

Hey, I’m excited about new head coach Matt Nagy, too. Same goes for OC Mark Helfrich, who did fun things at Oregon. But there are so many moving parts to this offense, so many young players with wide ranges of outcomes. Will Anthony Miller produce as a rookie? Can Mitch Trubisky step forward as a second-year QB? Will Tarik Cohen get a production spike? Is Trey Burton the true featured weapon in the passing game?

Can I stop asking rhetorical questions?

And as much as I’d love for the Bears or Titans to fit into the “this year’s Rams” blank, maybe no team will fit that profile. It’s possible the breakthrough of Sean McVay is leading us down some questionable paths this summer. I still have some Chicago shares, but Robinson offers too much risk and not enough certainty for me. I needed a notable coupon to draft him, and the optimism-driven drafters are not providing that coupon.

• Alshon Jeffery (Yahoo ADP 44.9, WR19): Jeffery’s slow recovery from shoulder surgery might save fantasy owners from themselves. The Eagles are a spread-it-out offense, and Jeffery’s efficiency fell through the floor last year. I can live with a lower catch rate or a lower YPC if the other stat is in a good place; last year, they both fell.

Jeffery still was a credible fantasy play last year because he scored a lot — ah, touchdowns, the ultimate fantasy deodorant. But why play the risk game with a hurt Jeffery this year when you can get Nelson Agholor (a reasonable bet to have similar numbers) several rounds later? Even if you can’t count on the cheap Agholor backboard, count me out on Jeffery. Don’t draft into injury problems unless you’re getting a friendly discount.

• Josh Gordon: Listing his ADP is a waste of time, since it’s about to blow up. Gordon is back with the Browns, in some capacity anyway, and it’s going to lead to some fantasy players pricing him all about the upside, ignoring the floor. I could sign off on a Gordon pick if you took him after your core is established, but I won’t draft him as a core player.

Yes, that monstrous 2013 season happened, but that was five years ago. And five years is an eternity in the NFL. Gordon was the eighth-highest scoring player that year, behind Jamaal Charles, Peyton Manning, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, Knowshon Moreno and Demaryius Thomas (a good time to be a Bronco). Look at that list again. You want to live in the ancient past, be my guest.

Is Gordon a good bet to play a full season? No. Are we sure either of his quarterbacks are good? No. Is he a slam-dunk to be the most targeted Brown even when he plays? No. Can we assume rational coaching with Hue Jackson and friends? Even if you’re a Dog Pound loyalist, you know the right answer here.

Gordon is a Hero Pick now, a FOMO pick, an emotional pick. I want you to make sound, rational choices at the draft table. I’ll root for him, sure. If he blows it up, I’ll enjoy it and tip the cap. But this is not a story I’m going to invest in.

• Deshaun Watson (Yahoo ADP 37, QB3): He was a monster for six games last year, for whatever a six-game sample can ever mean. Teams will be better prepared for Watson this year. The Texans defense will likely be better and the offensive line likely worse. And with Watson coming off a major knee injury, perhaps the team will be more proactive in protecting him — and less proactive when it comes to maximizing Watson’s athleticism.

Watson showed up as the top quarterback on some boards this year, which struck me as silly flag planting and overzealous branding. The Hero Pick, the Look at Me Pick. Add some common sense to the cocktail before you shake and serve. And consider at the quarterback pool, the deepest QB class in the fantasy era. Don’t try to win a wrestling match for a quarterback, take what the room gives you. Leverage your marketplace and room.

Leonard, Part II (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
Leonard, Part II (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

• Leonard Fournette (Yahoo ADP 15.8, RB9): Have a good laugh when you hear anyone dream of Fournette playing a full season. He was constantly hurt at LSU, and then he had injury problems in his rookie year. Yes, running back is an attrition position. But the first rule of Fournette is figuring out how many games are likely, and I’m thinking that’s 10-13 starts at best.

Did he look like a special player to you last year, this “generational back” that some tagged him as? (That tag is thrown around loosely; now Saquon Barkley is the generational back). Sure, he had that 90-yard romp through tired and disinterested Steelers, in the fourth quarter of a blowout. A 3.9 YPC is mediocre. He wasn’t fooling anyone in the playoffs — 3.5 per carry, 6.3 per catch.

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I get that you want at least one running back with your first two picks, probably. But there are plenty of first-round backs you can take who offer Fournette’s upside and much better floors, and then you’re free to take a wideout — not Fournette — in the second round. If you need to take a back in the second, why not Devonta Freeman?

• Jerick McKinnon (Yahoo ADP 29.4, RB13): Kyle Shanahan is a mind worth betting on, but he’s wrong sometimes, too. He pounded the table for Joe Williams and C.J. Beathard, too. (Maybe it’s unfair to render verdicts there, but we at least have a lean.)

McKinnon isn’t an instinctual runner, which makes sense when you consider he was a quarterback for much of his college career. And why was he so ordinary when handed the Minnesota gig last year? A 3.8 YPC, just five touchdowns on 218 touches? That’s all you could do with that prime, juicy setup?

The 49ers finished fast last year, when Jimmy Garoppolo helicoptered in and saved the day. Shanahan has been a miracle worker before. But when I look at McKinnon, I see a “head-of-committee” back and not someone who has bell-cow qualities. He’s miscast as a second-round pick.

• LeSean McCoy (Yahoo ADP 30.9, RB 15): Not every fade will be a midrange or long jumper. I’m entitled to a layup on the way out.

I’m stunned McCoy’s age, volume and off-field concerns haven’t been baked into his price. He’s one player on this list I’m positive I’m not dancing with. The Buffalo supporting cast is a mess, too.

If you’re going to be wrong on a player like McCoy, make sure you’re a year early and not a year late.

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