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Fantasy Draft Over and Underrated Picks

By Danny Radical

Article by Speedy Pete

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With football season right around the corner, it means millions upon millions of people

will be preparing to compete for cash prizes in their fantasy football league. No matter the
rituals, types of players, and rivalries within your league, drafting well is always essential. With a
resurgence in terms of young running backs and quarterbacks, strategy may be different this
year. With every year though, there are always players that are ranked too high and too low by
these draft experts, and here are some that I think are overrated and underrated in terms of pre-draft hype.

Overrated: Kareem Hunt, Kansas City

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​The fantasy godsend of the first half of the season was a major disappointment in the

second half, and was a big reason as well for the Chiefs starting 5-0 then only finishing 10-6 and
collapsing after being up 21-3 against the Titans in the playoffs. Once Hunt’s game got figured
out, he had only one good game in the second half of the season. The combination of that and
other factors are a reason why he won’t meet his expectations for this season. According to
ESPN Mock Drafts, Kareem Hunt is projected as the #11 overall player, while being #8 ranked
on CBS Sports and #9 on NFL.com, and averages out to a late 1st-early 2nd round pick in most
formats. However, he is somebody to me that won’t perform to that level. First of all, a lot has to
do with the switch at quarterback. Patrick Mahomes is much more of a gunslinger in comparison
to Alex Smith, and Smith being a very basic quarterback gave Hunt a lot of catches.

This isn’t to take away from Hunt’s route running ability and the fact that he couldn’t catch passes that were
beyond screens and simple in routes, but I don’t know if Mahomes with not having the greatest
raw accuracy will be able to hit him as much on those deep balls. The second reason is that the
Chiefs also brought in Sammy Watkins to be a #2 receiver after the Chiefs have struggled in
that area for years. Outside of star tight end Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, their depth after that
was awful, giving Hunt more opportunities to line up as a receiver. Now with Watkins, a more
athletic wide receiver that can make those catches on 50-50 balls and has more size, I don’t
expect Hunt to line up as much in those formations. I also expect Tyreek Hill to flourish a little
more being a speed demon paired with a gunslinger quarterback like Patrick Mahomes to have
a more significant role in this offense. And finally, the loss of coordinator Matt Nagy could
change Hunt’s role on this team. Nagy, now the head coach of the Chicago Bears, used Hunt in
very creative ways. This isn’t to say Andy Reid or new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy can’t
use him similarly, but don’t expect the same success rate. And lastly, the schedule for the AFC
West is also much harder, especially for the first-place Chiefs, who will have to play the Patriots
and Jaguars. So the combination of those three factors as well as him struggling badly in the
second half leads me to be skeptical of drafting Hunt where a lot of people have him projected.

Underrated: Devonta Freeman, Falcons running back

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​Devonta Freeman is the epitome of consistency in this league. People get enamored by a

lot of these younger running backs coming into the league the last two years, but when it comes
to a consistency aspect, I like Freeman a lot even compared to some of the running backs
ranked higher expected to have bigger years. Now I wouldn’t take him over Todd Gurley, David
Johnson, or Antonio Brown by any stretch of the imagination, but to put him outside the first
round seems pretty ridiculous for somebody of that magnitude when it comes to running
consistently. Sure, he had a down year last year in terms of yardage with just 865, but he also
didn’t receive as many carries. With the Falcons behind in games more than expected last year
and Matt Ryan having a down year, those factors caused those numbers to plummet. The other
factor is that Steve Sarkisian was not a great play-caller, especially in red zone situations, last
year, causing players like Freeman and Julio Jones to have lower than expected touchdown
totals. Expect that to change in his second year as offensive coordinator, similarly to what
happened with Kyle Shanahan in 2016 and this impressive arsenal of skill players, especially
now drafting Calvin Ridley in the first round. Not to mention, despite Tevin Coleman being the
faster running back, Freeman still gets a solid amount of receiving yards too. Like the rushing
number, that dropped off from 2015 and 2016, but I don’t expect it to be down for long in the
second year of Sarkisian calling plays. Not to mention, Matt Ryan tends to bounce back after an
off season, which he had last year following the Super Bowl heartbreak.

I expect him to outperform guys that are ranked higher, including Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette, Kareem
Hunt, and Melvin Gordon. The fact that he isn’t ranked as a 1st round pick is beyond me, being
that he has the least question marks. If you have a late pick or even a middle pick and can snag
him in the 2nd round because everybody else buys the hype of the youngsters, you may end up
with a tremendous value. And even if you’re picking 11th or 12th, don’t be afraid to take him with
your first pick either. He has been that consistent for a very skilled offensive team where it will
be worth it.


Overrated: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers wide receiver

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JuJu Smith-Schuster turned into a popular waiver wire add last year when Martavis
Bryant struggled to stay on the field and produce for the Steelers last year. However, I think the
Steeler #2 receiver course will hit another turn with the loss of Martavis Bryant as well as the
drafting of James Washington in the second round. Evaluating both of them in their respective
drafts, Washington did a lot of things better than JuJu at the collegiate level. He is faster, is a
better route runner, and has slightly better agility off the line of scrimmage than Smith-Schuster.
This isn’t to say that JuJu isn’t fast or agile, because he is, but I also think the speed difference
is enough for Washington to be used in more complicated routes and more deep options, which
the Steelers have always emphasized as part of their playbook. Going to actual fantasy ranks,
JuJu is ranked 40th on NFL.com and 41st on ESPN, and averages out to about a 4th round
pick. While that is fair based on what he did last year, I worry that his production can drop off
with a harder schedule this year (especially with the Ravens getting their top 2 corners back
healthy), as well as the presence of Washington.

The Steelers have always shuffled in speedy receivers well into the system, and they tend to do well within a 3-year window, with the exception of Antonio Brown, who is the best statistical receiver in football and my fantasy #1
pick if I had it. We’ve seen others, such as Santonio Holmes, Antwaan Randle El, Martavis
Bryant, Mike Wallace, and Emmanuel Sanders, do well within that 2 or 3 year window, and then
fall off. I worry the same thing about JuJu, not because he isn’t a scheme fit, but because he’s a
lesser skilled receiver like some of the guys I listed there, with the excepti
times these Steelers skill players not named Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown are fantasy traps,
and I believe JuJu will be the latest victim of that.


Underrated: Jay Ajayi, Eagles running back

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​The starting running back of the defending Super Bowl Champions is a very interesting
case when it comes to fantasy. It’s funny, because last year everybody had him as a 2nd round
pick coming off a breakout season with the Miami Dolphins. Meanwhile, I was skeptical, and if I
did this article last year, would have been on the list of overrated. And I was right, as his lack of
productivity in Miami caused him to get traded to the Eagles, where he played well and won a
Super Bowl in the process. And for that and the potential with what I believe is the best
offensive line in football, he is ranked #55 by ESPN.com and #46 by NFL.com? First of all,
LeGarrette Blount is now with the Detroit Lions, so expect Ajayi to take over as the main power
back and hence get more goal line touches. Second of all, expect the Eagles to be as cautious
as possible early in the season with Carson Wentz coming off a bad ACL tear suffered in Week
14 against the Rams. Therefore, with him rolling out and running less often than last year,
expect Ajayi to get more touches that way too.

Now, they do still have Corey Clement to potentially take touches away from Ajayi, but I believe he is more of a change-in-pace and pass-catching back used on 3rd down and for specific matchups more than anything else.
Expect Ajayi to still be more in a feature role, and by the end of the season have double the
carries and far more yards and touchdowns. If you’re playing a PPR league, his value may be
right where he stands just for the sole purpose of him not being a pass-catching back. However,
if you play in a traditional setup or even a half-point PPR league, I see Ajayi having good value
in the late third round/ early 4th round over players such as Jerick McKinnon, Joe Mixon, and
Golden Tate that are ranked significantly higher. With the best offensive line in football and a
more featured role in a better situation fantasy wise, expect Ajayi to shatter his pre-draft rank.

Overrated: Ronald Jones Jr., Buccaneers running back

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Every year, there are always overhyped rookie running backs within fantasy football that
are very easy to bank on potential. While I like Derrius Guice and Sony Michel where they are
projected and do believe Saquon Barkley will be productive as both a runner and a receiver,
despite me being skeptical to take him in the first round like some analysts predict. However,
the one I don’t like is Ronald Jones Jr., who was the Buccaneers’ 2nd round pick in this year’s
most recent draft. For one thing, he was very undersized coming out of the draft, coming in at
under 200 pounds. Despite him bulking up a little bit (5’11”, 207 pounds), I still am worried about
his power run game. His outside run game is OK, and possesses some agility, but his raw
speed and release aren’t great either, and his vision seemed average at best watching him at
USC. And knowing Dirk Koetter and the way this team has been structured, expect Jones to be
mostly used outside. And why is that a concern? The outside of the Buccaneers offensive line is
not great at the tackle position with Donovan Smith and DeMar Dotson. Now with Jameis
Winston suspended for the first 3 games (and should have been more), it may be easier for
Jones to get touches.

That being said, 2 of those games are against Top 10 run defenses in the
Eagles and the Steelers, and the other is at New Orleans in the Superdome where it is very
difficult to play. The other factor I look at is how much is he really going to play? Yeah Doug
Martin is gone, but they have platooned well without Martin in the past when he’s been hurt, and
both Peyton Barber and Charles Sims have shown good flashes, and even the veteran Jacquizz
Rodgers had a decent stretch last year in the second half of the season. With that in mind, I
don’t expect Jones to be a feature back. And with Charles Sims as the pass-catching back, I
don’t expect him to do much of that either. The combination of that and his overall skillset as a
running back has me concerned to draft him where he is projected at #48 (ESPN.com) or #50
(NFL.com). I believe the experts are ranking him there based on potential more than anything
else, and I personally don’t believe you will see that potential come through with those factors in
mind and with the belief that I don’t think he is an overly skilled running back.

Underrated: Chris Thompson, Redskins running back

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In a backfield crowded with young backs last year, it was Chris Thompson who shined

most of all for the Washington Redskins. I was very high on both Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine
as good young options to get touchdowns for that team, but it was Thompson who ended up
being the most productive, on pace for almost 900 yards receiving, which are unreal numbers
for a running back. And those stats came with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, who likes to throw
the ball deep and on intermediate passes. Cousins was let go after bad disputes with the front
office, and like Le’Veon Bell, franchise tag issues and struggles to get a long-term contract.
After losing Cousins, they traded young corner Kendall Fuller and a 3rd round pick to the Chiefs
for Alex Smith. And we all know that Alex Smith is a tremendous game manager but isn’t an
overly skilled quarterback. He likes to throw the ball short and on simple routes, and that will
only benefit somebody like Chris Thompson even more.

Alex Smith made a fragile Jamaal Charles still relevant in 2013, and backs like Spencer Ware and Kareem Hunt relevant after that when it came to the receiving game. And honestly, besides Charles who was an elite running
back before he got injured, Thompson may be the next best in terms of a pass-catching back on
that list. And with Alex Smith throwing him the ball, assuming he stays healthy, he could receive
for 1,000 yards if he stays on that pace. And with him being ranked #87 on ESPN.com’s list and
#72 on NFL.com, I think he will produce better than that, probably more like a high-end flex
option. It feels strange to say that Alex Smith, a very basic quarterback, will help a skill player
more than a more intermediate quarterback in Kirk Cousins. In the case of the pass-catching
running back like Thompson, there might not be anybody you would want more maybe besides
Tom Brady.


Overrated: Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos wide receiver

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​Emmanuel Sanders has been one of those players that you expect to produce good
yardage having Peyton Manning as his quarterback for 4 years. Since then, he had 1 1,000 yard
season in 2016, where it seemed like all of his production was in the first half of the season, and
last year had 555 yards with the same situation and a much easier schedule than 2016. Sure,
Case Keenum is an upgrade over Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch, but how he will play is an
unknown in Denver, being that he has been only good for one year in Minnesota last year.

I don’t think Sanders’ production this year, even if it is better than 555 yards, will warrant a draft
position of #53 by ESPN.com and #65 on NFL.com. Not to mention, he is a little guy who isn’t
an overly skilled receiver. He isn’t a great route runner, doesn’t have great hands, and his speed
will diminish as he ages and gets injured more, which is something he relied on all throughout
his career. To me, he is just a product of Peyton Manning more than anything else, and I have
avoided him in fantasy leagues since. For somebody that isn’t overly skilled, playing in a hard
division, a #2 receiver, and is getting older, I worry about him a lot from a fantasy standpoint,
especially ranked that high.


Underrated: Jordy Nelson, Raiders wide receiver

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​This is one of those hit-or-miss kinds of players this year. Many Packers receivers

haven’t done well in other places, understandable. None of them are as skilled as Jordy Nelson.
Jordy Nelson, at 6’ 3” and 217 pounds, is more quick and agile that people give him credit for.
With the exception of Julio Jones, there may not be anybody else that fast for that size. That’s
why I think he will be just fine with the Oakland Raiders. He’s playing with Jon Gruden, playing
with a good young quarterback in Derek Carr, and playing as the #2 receiver alongside Amari
Cooper and Martavis Bryant. With that in mind, he will get very little to no double teams and will
probably not face top corners like he did in Green Bay.

Now obviously, Derek Carr is no Aaron Rodgers, but he can still throw touchdowns, and Jordy Nelson can still catch them at a high level, with 13 in 2014 and 14 in 2016. And for somebody ranked #91 on ESPN.com and #99 on
NFL.com, you have to expect him to double, at worst, his 482 yards from last season, especially
with the talent around him and Jon Gruden now as your coach. I would take him as a late #2
receiver if I waited that long, and actually had the confidence to start him quite often in my
starting lineup. If not, he would be a very good flex option or bye week option to use that may
outperform other teams’ #2 receivers. Personally, I believe he will outperform the majority of
receivers ranked outside the Top 30, and he is ranked outside the Top 90. His rating is
ridiculous, even at 33 years old, for somebody on a team as talented offensively as the Oakland
Raiders and a quarterback as good as, when healthy, Derek Carr.


Overrated: Evan Engram- Giants tight end

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The youth potential in fantasy football can be enamoring especially at a position so

scarce like tight end. However, being ranked #58 overall on NFL.com and #75 on ESPN.com is
way too high for somebody like Evan Engram. In a year for the Giants that was flat out abysmal,
Engram was not a huge issue. He caught 64 passes for 722 yards and 6 touchdowns. However,
he was the only semi-decent target on that team with all the receiver injuries and no running
game or offensive line. He also had many drop problems last year, which certainly doesn’t
warrant his 1st round pick status (don’t even get me started on them passing on Dalvin Cook
that year), and with targets back this year and the drafting of Saquon Barkley, there is a lot of
reasons to believe Engram will receive nowhere near as many targets as he did last year.

First of all, since the 1980s Giants with Mark Bavaro, they have really never been a tight
end-oriented offense. The Giants have always strived on strong receiving cores and talented
quarterbacks in the past. Therefore, I expect Engram to be a 4th or 5th priority when it comes to
receiving on this team. Secondly, getting those targets back and getting the coach in Pat
Shurmur that they did, expect the receivers to flourish a little more in his system than the tight
end, and also expect Saquon Barkley to line up as a receiver a lot and flourish similarly to the
way both Dalvin Cook and Jerick McKinnon did in his offense last year. While it won’t be that
easy to get everything going at a high rate right away, the concepts of the offense will still be
similar, and that’s why I don’t expect Engram to receive a lot of targets. And with the
combination of that and the problems he had with drops (only a 55.7% catch rate last year),
Evan Engram seems like somebody to avoid drafting that high.


Underrated: George Kittle, 49ers tight end

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​Another rookie tight end on a bad team like Engram, but unlike the 1st round reach out of

Ole Miss, the 146th pick of the 2017 draft is the one that I think can outperform his draft stock
both in reality and in fantasy. Kittle had 43 catches for 515 yards and 2 touchdowns last season,
production that most of the time was during the second half of the season with Jimmy
Garoppolo. To me, that spawns a good sign for a young tight end that is fast, has good size,
and is a decent route runner for his position. Another factor I like about this is exactly why Evan
Engram did well last year, because the 49ers receiving core seems like the last resort they
pulled out when all their receivers were out for the year. Also, Garoppolo comes from the
Patriots quarterback tree. Throughout the Bill Belichick era, they have always had good or great
tight end play, with most years the tight end being the best overall player in that offense. With
that mindset of the greatest coach of this century being instilled in Garoppolo’s mindset, I would
expect Kittle to receive more targets as well.

The other thing I always look at when it comes to the fantasy tight end is that a lot of the top tight ends in the league skill set wise (Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce, Tyler Eifert) seem to be very injury-prone players.
While Kittle hasn’t been in enough games to tell if he is injury prone or not, it’s not as much of a
risk in the particular spot that he is expected to be drafted, which is probably in the 8th round or
later for people loading up on running back and receiver depth and waiting on a tight end. And
for somebody ranked so low among fantasy tight ends as well as overall players, I expect Kittle
to outperform that draft stock. He is ranked #141 on NFL.com and #164 on ESPN.com. And
among tight ends, he is not even Top 10 on either list. With Garoppolo there and very little
targets to threaten his target count, expect Kittle to be a good fantasy sleeper for the tight end
position.


Overrated: Cam Newton, Panthers quarterback

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​I will end this article with a section on quarterbacks with the league MVP 3 years ago as
somebody to avoid drafting at his stock. This isn’t because he isn’t talented. I believe Cam
Newton is a Top 10 quarterback talent wise in this league. It is because I have drafted him a lot
in years where he has fallen off after having that kind of year, including in 2016 following the
Panthers Super Bowl run. But it wasn’t just that year. It was every year following a strong
season. After a tremendous rookie year where he had 35 all-purpose touchdowns and won
rookie of the year, he had just 26 the next year, and 4 more interceptions passing. After another
great year in 2013, where he had 24 passing touchdowns and almost 3,500 yards, he fell off to
just 18 touchdowns and barely over 3,000 yards passing the next year. The point I am getting at
is that Cam Newton is a pattern quarterback. He has one great year and then one off year. I
have said the same thing about Matt Ryan, which is why I knew he’d fall off last year but expect
him to bounce back this year, especially with the Falcons drafting Calvin Ridley this year.

But going back to Newton, according to pattern, this is an off year. And with the Falcons and Saints
having loaded rosters and the Panthers having a second place schedule in comparison to the
last place schedule they had last year, that is one of many reasons to believe he can have a
setback. There is that, the fact that his receivers around him aren’t great, and the fact that Ron
Rivera may limit his running if he continues to get hurt. When Cam Newton is at his best, it is
when he runs free a lot more, such as his rookie year, when he rushed for 14 touchdowns. At 29
years old and being worn out in the league already, I don’t know if he will be able to have that
kind of impact running the ball. And if his passing numbers aren’t great, which I expect to
happen with not great receivers, don’t expect Cam Newton to warrant his 80th overall player
selection and being ranked the #6 quarterback among fantasy experts.


Underrated: Derek Carr, Raiders quarterback

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​In 2016, Derek Carr was, in my opinion, the runner-up for NFL MVP behind Matt Ryan.

He threw for almost 4,000 yards in that season and had a whopping 28 touchdowns to only 6
interceptions, guiding the Raiders to their first playoff berth since losing Super Bowl 37.
However, within that season was a gruesome leg injury that ended those playoff hopes and
hindered his production that season as well. Combine that horrific event with back spasms
suffered most of last season and Amari Cooper having the most nightmarish season any
receiver could have, things did not favor Derek Carr in 2017. However, with Jon Gruden back in
control of the Oakland Raiders, a very talented offensive mind, expect Carr to improve big time.
Not to mention, despite losing Michael Crabtree, they added Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant
as physical receivers to complement the faster Amari Cooper, giving Carr more depth and
balance. They also got more protection on the outside by drafting UCLA tackle Kolton Miller in
the first round. Losing Austin Howard and replacing him with Jorge Feliciano or the even worse
Marshall Newhouse did not help Carr at all, with a lot more pressure than usual coming from
that side.

With Miller, their offensive line is very complete and I believe the second best
offensive line in football only to the Eagles when healthy. While it was the talented Donald Penn
that missed assignment on Carr’s injury, that doesn’t mean he’s a bad left tackle. And the
interior line may be the best in football, meaning that he won’t have to run for his life on the snap
instantly. With those factors in mind, I expect him to shatter the season he had last year, where
he threw for just 22 touchdowns and tied a career high 13 interceptions. Carr is a quarterback
that can make every throw and is a very good decision maker and can make tough throws and
deep throws. Combine that with Amari Cooper not getting any worse and bringing in several
other new targets and Jon Gruden, I expect him to completely blow away the disrespectful rank
of #245 on ESPN and #185 on NFL.com.