By Tzali Nislick
We’re inching closer to the start of the NFL season, which means draft season is right around the corner as well. One strategy I have every year is making a do not draft list; this list is composed of players who I think will vastly underperform their ADP or draft day ranking. No matter what, I don’t draft these players… unless for some reason that player falls so far to the point where it would be ridiculous to not take him. Some of these may surprise you, but don’t mistake me for saying some of these guys are objectively bad football players. I just think they will underperform fantasy-wise given their expectations coming into the season.
*All rankings and stats are based on ESPN PPR scoring
1. Josh Allen, QB – BUF
Yes, I know the Bills added Stefon Diggs but I’m just not convinced that Josh Allen has developed enough as a passer. He finished as the QB6 last year despite completing just 58.8% of his passes (32nd) and throwing for 3,089 yards (23rd) with an 85.3 passer rating (24th), thanks in large part to his rushing ability. His 510 rushing yards and nine ground scores are in line with what he did as a rookie, but in the long run I don’t think his touchdown totals are sustainable. Look at Dak Prescott for example. He had six rushing touchdowns in each of his first three seasons but that number decreased to three last year. I still think Allen has a high ceiling as a football player, but I’ll believe it when I see it when it comes to his throwing ability. And last time I checked, that’s kinda important for a quarterback. ESPN currently has him ranked 7th in their quarterback rankings ahead of Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Carson Wentz, all guys I’d prefer to Allen.
2. Aaron Rodgers, QB – GB
I don’t know who needs to hear it, but Aaron Rodgers is not an elite quarterback anymore. That’s right, I said it. Well, not for fantasy at least. Rodgers is 36 and over the last few years has not been putting up the same numbers that we are accustomed to seeing from the future Hall of Famer. Rodgers barely hit the 4,000 yard milestone last season and his 26 touchdowns was the second fewest total of his career in seasons in which he’s been healthy. That was enough to rank 9th at his position, but he scored 20 fantasy points in just three games last season. He had four games in which he scored 10.02 points or fewer. And in his last eight games, Rodgers averaged just 14.22 fantasy points, and that was with a healthy Davante Adams. The Packers neglected to sign or draft any wide receivers to go alongside Adams, and instead selected AJ Dillon in the second round, a player who will only take the ball out of Rodgers’ hands. The controversial decision to draft Jordan Love 26th overall signals that Green Bay is beginning to think about life after Aaron Rodgers, and fantasy owners should be ready to move on from him too.
3. James Conner, RB – PIT
Last season for James Conner was in a word, brutal. The Pittsburgh product was limited to 10 games and his rushing yards/game slipped from 74.8 in 2018 to 46.4 in 2019. He was hampered by shoulder and quadricep injuries, after an ankle injury forced him to miss three games the year prior. The bottom line is Conner has struggled to stay healthy so far in his career. He’s been on the injury report 11 different weeks in the last two years. And although he’s a talented player, his injury history is too much of a factor for me to take Conner as my second or third running back. The Steelers also drafted Anthony McFarland Jr. in the fourth round, and he joins Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell in a crowded Pittsburgh backfield. I’m staying away.
4. Marlon Mack, RB – IND
This is so unfortunate, it really is. I like Marlon Mack a lot, as he has over 2,000 total yards and 18 total touchdowns over the last two seasons. But the Colts drafted Wisconsin star Jonathan Taylor in the second round, and he’s going to be even better than Mack. I predict that Mack will get the first shot at the starting role but it’ll only be a matter of time before Taylor takes over the backfield and runs with it (pun intended). Mack has just 31 receptions over the last two seasons, so he doesn’t offer anything through the air that could potentially save his job. Like I said, it’s unfortunate because Mack has been a productive player over the last two years, but Taylor will be too much of a factor in Indianapolis.
5. Nick Chubb, RB – CLE
This one pains me. As someone who’s had Nick Chubb in nearly every league I’ve played in over the last two years, I’ve grown to become a huge fan of his. But I just can’t ignore the drop-off in production over the second half of the season once Kareem Hunt returned from suspension. He went from RB6 without Hunt to RB15 with him. He still managed to finish as RB8 overall for the season, but Chubb scored single digits in four of his last seven games and went from averaging 20.2 carries per game in the first 11 games to 15.2 in the final five. Simply put, he deferred to Kareem Hunt at times last season, especially through the air. One of the things I’ve loved about Nick Chubb is his consistency and dependability, but his floor isn’t as high anymore. I still expect Chubb to receive the bulk of the workload this season, but his ranking of RB9 is slightly too high for me.
6. Odell Beckham Jr., WR – CLE
Last season was a frustrating one for Odell Beckham Jr. and his fantasy owners. Having him on a team last year almost made me want to punch a kicking net. He scored fewer than 11 PPR points in seven games last season, and over 20 just twice. After the Browns received an absurd amount of hype entering 2019, Beckham’s WR25 finish was a disappointment to say the least. We haven’t seen Beckham as an elite fantasy receiver since 2016, as ankle and quad injuries caused him to miss 16 games between 2017 and 2018. He was banged up last season too, as he underwent offseason surgery to repair a core muscle injury that caused him to frequently appear on the injury report. Over the last two seasons Beckham has averaged 215.8 fantasy points, which is far off from his 303.6 average in his first three seasons. He’s currently ranked 13th by ESPN, and he hasn’t shown enough in recent years to prove that he can stay healthy over 16 games. It’s possible he rebounds in his second campaign with Baker Mayfield, but I don’t trust him enough as a borderline WR1.
7. Courtland Sutton, WR – DEN
I’m a huge fan of Sutton, but this comes down to there being too many mouths to feed in Denver’s offense. The Broncos spent a first round pick on Alabama standout Jerry Jeudy and then went out and selected Penn State’s KJ Hamler in the second round. They also signed Melvin Gordon, who can also catch passes and then there’s Noah Fant who could breakout in his second season. I’m worried that Sutton won’t see enough targets to justify his WR16 ranking this year. For what it’s worth, Sutton wasn’t a very efficient player last year either. He was 15th among wide receivers in targets but just 32nd in receptions and 74th in catch percentage among wideouts. He had a 26.1% target share, which was 8th in the NFL but only had three games last season with over five catches. I like the Denver pass catchers in real life more than I do for fantasy football purposes, and I think there are better WR2 options than Sutton.
8. AJ Green, WR – CIN
You know that player that no matter what you do, he always somehow ends up on your team every year? That’s AJ Green for me, but this year I will finally buck the trend. I’ve just been burned by Green too many times. The veteran wideout missed all of 2019 with an ankle injury he suffered in the preseason and at times he seemed close to returning but always suffered a setback. The year prior he played in just nine games due to a toe injury. Green has only played one full 16 game season in the last four years and will be 32 when the season starts, so I have no faith that he’ll be able to stay healthy for all of 2020. It seems as if Tyler Boyd has passed him as the number one pass catcher in Cincinnati and I’d much prefer him as my third or fourth receiver over Green.
9. Evan Engram
Evan Engram is another player I’ve been burned by in the last two years. After a phenomenal rookie season that saw him finish as the TE5, Engram faield to build on that spectacular campaign and has missed 13 games over the last two seasons. He has all the talent in the world to be a top-5 fantasy tight end as a former first round pick, but hasn’t been able to stay on the field. That’s a common theme for players on my do not draft list. As they say, the best ability is availability. Currently, Engram is ranked as the TE6, which means he’ll be going in the middle rounds after the top tier of tight ends are taken in the first few. And while he has the potential to justify that ADP, I’d rather build my bench or take a top-tier quarterback than an injury-prone tight end who I can’t trust. If I wanted someone like that I could just wait for Rob Gronkowski, who’s ranked as the TE10 and could prove to be a value.
10. Austin Hooper
I love Austin Hooper as a player, but signing with the Browns in the offseason was a death sentence for his fantasy value. Hooper was certainly a beneficiary of the Falcons’ pass-heaviest offense in 2019, as he was the TE1 before suffering an injury in Week 10. He’ll now be going to Cleveland, which had just the 18th pass-heaviest offense last season, and they could be throwing even less this year, since they are expected to win more games and not have to chase as many leads as they did a year ago. The Browns will also now be coached by Kevin Stefanski, who ran just the 29th pass-heaviest offense last season as the offensive coordinator in Minnesota. Despite his trade request, David Njoku is still in Cleveland as is Beckham and Jarvis Landry and with two great running backs, targets may be scarce for Hooper with his new team.