It’s hard to really peg any of the players in the first round this year as players to avoid that could possibly be an absolute disaster to your 2014 fantasy success. There’s typically one that’s pretty easy to spot and his name is usually, “Established running back whose circumstances have changed so much that you don’t think he’ll put up last year’s numbers.” Last year, I felt that way about Ray Rice and advised against picking him. The reason being, I thought Bernard Pierce would eat into his workload. Well, the reason was slightly off but Rice did suck last year. I call it a half-win!
As for 2014, there is a certain someone that has entered the first round hearts of fantasy football players again. Personally, I’m not having it.
Peyton Manning – This year, Marshawn Lynch vaguely fits that profile of the established running back going in the first round with too many questions and I was tempted to pick him here as my player to avoid in round one, but I trust the Seattle running game enough that I think barring injury there’s no way he falls off a cliff this year — even if the production dips a bit. I can still see him returning first to second round value, and with the drop off in the running back crop from the first couple rounds and the rest of the draft, that makes him a pretty safe pick in my mind.
Peyton Manning gets the call here, mainly because I never want to draft a QB in round one. Cop out? I also don’t see him nearing the 55 touchdown passes he threw in 2013 either, by far a career high. Last year was also the first time that Manning threw for 5,000 yards, going for over 5,400 which was by far a career high. I’m banking on a regression this year. In most fantasy formats and platforms, if you adjust Peyton’s 2013 numbers to around 5,000 yards passing and 45 touchdowns, he will have nearly the same exact fantasy point total as the next best quarterback, Drew Brees. Since I am counting on some form of regression, to me that doesn’t justify taking Peyton in round one and so far ahead of the other signal callers.
Though I generally subscribe to the late round quarterback strategy, if I were inclined to take one of the Big Three quarterbacks, I’d gladly let someone else overdraft Manning, leaving Rodgers and Brees as values in round 2/3. Drafting Peyton Manning in the first round is expecting him to match his value from last year with no room for error. Sure, he could come very close and return 1st to 2nd round value, but you are paying a premium for him while other quarterbacks have just as much of an opportunity to match the same fantasy point totals at a lower price tag, a round or two later. That means you are missing out on drafting a tier 1 running back and arguably the best wide receiver and tight end in the first round in Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and Jimmy Graham. The drop off from the top tier of quarterbacks to those available in rounds 5-7 and even rounds 9-10 is historically not so severe as the drop off in running back, wide receiver and tight end tiers. That’s Value Based Drafting, or VBD. That’s why every quarterback isn’t a perennial first round pick. That’s why I’m not drafting Peyton Manning in Round one.
Other players whose ADP are right on the round 1 / 2 cusp that no one can make me take: Arian Foster, Demarco Murray.
Alfred Morris – I don’t want to take most “running backs in flux” this year, and I don’t think you should either, if you can somehow wring meaning out of that phrase. I think the Redskins’ offense will be very different this year than it was last year, and I think Morris is more of a complementary player in that offense. If I’m drafting at the end of round 2, I would take Gio Bernard (a more dynamic running back than Morris) or Le’Veon Bell (a running back with a more clearly defined role) if they were available. Otherwise, I’m more inclined to take one of the wide receivers routinely available there: Julio Jones, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall.
Consider verily: Gio Bernard, Jordy Nelson.
Reggie Bush – I was happy to take Bush in the third round last year, especially in PPR leagues. He had some good games and some bad games, and even showed his underrated toughness in playing well with injury on a few occasions. He also shared the backfield with Joique Bell. All in all, it was a good-not-great season. What’s changed this year? Not that much, although he’s a year older and the Lions have added a few more offensive pieces to share the load. I think we begin to see his value slide back ever-so-slightly this year, like the tide. Which Detroit running back do you think will end the year with more production, Reggie Bush or Joique Bell? I could see a compelling argument for either, and I think Bell, who is being drafted on average two rounds later, is a worthier gamble.
Consider relievedly: Julius Thomas, CJ Spiller (in a similar position as Bush, but with better upside).
Bishop Sankey – I’ve enjoyed the rookie running back seasons of Doug Martin and Eddie Lacy the last two seasons, but I’m not ready to jump onto the Bishop Sankey train just yet. If I could take a flyer on him in round 6 or 7 when I have my mainstays figured out, then sure, but the reports out of Nashville have been mostly “we’re still trying to figure out what to do with him”, which rings similarly to how coaches spoke of Tavon Austin last August. Just how much upside does this Tennessee offense possess, anyway? Maybe Sankey gains an offensive role as the month wears on, but I’m not willing to spend a valuable fourth round pick on an unknown commodity.
Consider justifiably: Larry Fitzgerald, Cordarrelle Patterson.
???? – I’m going to admit that this round weirds me out. Chris Johnson, Trent Richardson, Ray Rice, Ben Tate. All of these men are like lottery tickets you might find frozen in the gutter of some major metropolitan area after The Day After Tomorrow, when civilization has mostly ended, aside from a brave few. Any of them might pay off, but how, why? If you need a running back here, I won’t blame you for taking a chance, but I hope you will have at least enough running back quality on your roster by this point in the draft that you feel comfortable passing.
Consider enthusiastically: Jordan Cameron, Vernon Davis.
Stevan Ridley – I had Ridley on one of my squads last year and can’t bring myself to do it again at any price. An early fumble can spell the night for him so easily, and unfortunately there’s just not enough space on my roster for that kind of player. Yes, I know the upside is high and he did have a nice string of games last year — but that’s just my point. His useless string of games at the end of the season came after a very useful stretch, proving that even after proving himself a valuable offensive piece for an extended period, Ridley just plain fumbles too much for Belichick.
Consider confidently: A quarterback. THIS is the sweet spot to draft a QB. Waiting on a quarterback after this point could leave you in a bind. You’ve got your choice here of Foles, Brady, Griffin, Ryan or Newton.
Terrance Williams – I just don’t think that being slotted as starting wide receiver opposite Dez Bryant is enough to automatically buy into a breakout season, and at this price you’re counting on one. The second-year player had trouble making adjustments as a rookie, and I foresee week-to-week volatility. According to ADP, there are a slew of wide receivers available after Williams is selected in the seventh round who I think can offer a better combination of safety and upside, including Kendall Wright, Eric Decker, Brandin Cooks, Reuben Randle.
Consider amiably: Any of those wide receivers, Darren Sproles (I think he will have a week-to-week role in Chip Kelly’s offense).
Seattle Defense – The sea birds are the first defense taken off the board in nearly every fantasy football draft. Don’t do it! Hey, I just thought of something. Wouldn’t it be fun if you could draft stadiums? How would you score that?
Consider significantly: Eric Decker, Brandin Cooks, Kyle Rudolph.
Deangelo Williams – We’ve been down this road before, and it seldom works out. This kind of player is the opposite of Stevan Ridley; we know where he’ll be most Sundays but he consistently struggles to offer enough week to week upside. If I somehow ended up with Deangelo Williams after an autodraft, I might keep him a few weeks and then drop him so I could use the roster spot for a different matchup play every week. That’s essentially what he is anyway.
Consider instead: Jeremy Hill, Christine Michael, Devonta Freeman, Carlos Hyde.
The Rest of the Draft:
Miles Austin – By now, your team should have a solid core — or a gushy candy core — depending on which analogy is more appealing to you. Use the rest of the draft to take chances on speculative upside plays. Players who can come into significant value if one or two things go right for them. You might hit on a few. Or you might hit on none of them, in which case these end-of-roster players are easily discarded for other more worthy spec plays from your league’s waiver wire.
Don’t try to find your WR4/5 at the end of the draft. Try to find the guy that can be an extra WR1/2 with a little luck.