The NFL season hype is starting. We are mere weeks away from training camp, and that means that the Fantasy Football season is also upon us. As a fan of the sport, nothing is more fun than participating in a fantasy league. You prep for the draft like a real NFL coach, watching film and analyzing schedules. Then you sit at your computer with your draft sheet and you do everything wrong.
Planning out your draft is hard. Name recognition is a major reason certain players are drafted high. For example, Chris Ivory and Matt Forte had the same amount of total points last year, both are changing to a new system, and Ivory is almost 3 years younger than Forte, yet Forte is expected to be a first round pick while Ivory is expected to go in the sixth. Rob Gronkowski only had 41 more points than Tyler Eifert (while playing in 2 more games), yet Gronk is expected to go 5 rounds ahead of him even though Eifert is expected to get a lot more targets than he saw last year. However, both men have had injury concerns throughout their whole career, so picking either is no safe bet.
In summary, drafting can be tough. It’s hard to know who will produce and who won’t, so we thought we'd help you out.
Here are 16 big named players who will ruin your fantasy team in 2016.
31 Steve Smith Sr.: WR Ravens
Steve Smith Sr. will come into the season as Joe Flacco’s top target following the Ravens’ dreadful season that saw both Flacco and Smith go down to injuries. Last year Smith was putting together one of the best seasons of his illustrious career. In only 7 games Smith had 670 receiving yards, averaged 97.7 yards per game, and had 3 touchdowns. If he were able to put up those numbers in 16 games, Smith would have ended up with 1,500 yards for only the second time in his long career. Ravens fans have been drooling the entire offseason looking at the receiving corp. in Baltimore, but they shouldn’t expect much out of Smith this season. Coming off a torn Achilles is a major challenge for any player, but a 37-year-old has an even more difficult battle to get back in shape. If Smith isn’t at 100% week 1 he still will opt to play but become frustrated that he isn’t able to preform at the hall-of-fame level that he is used to. There is also the fact that Breshad Perriman will be playing alongside him, taking away many of Smith’s targets (especially on deep balls). Besides Perriman, Kamar Aiken proved to be a serviceable possession receiver last year so he will get a fair share of targets, and Mike Wallace and Keenan Reynolds both may see productive seasons. Flacco has 3 deadly deep threats, so there is a chance he looks away from Smith, who will often draw the opponent’s best cover corners. Steve’s age added to the depth of receivers in Baltimore equals a poor showing for him in his final season.
29 Eddie Lacy: RB Packers
Everyone remembers that Eddie Lacy played sub-par football after showing up for training camp overweight, a problem that he had to deal with throughout the 2015 season. However, towards the end of the year Lacy had a number of games where he looked like the same player from his rookie season. In games where he ran the ball 15 or more times, Lacy had 14 points per game. However, he also had 6 games where he was expected to get the bulk of the carries, and he scored 2 or less points. So which Lacy are we going to get this year? Well, after an offseason that Lacy treated like a P90X commercial, Packers fans are excited to see that their young back focused on his fitness and will be coming into the season slimmer and stronger than he has ever been. Lacy will have expectations of greatness and be drafted highly (he’s projected as a second round pick). Our advice, avoid Lacy. Yes he lost weight, but that only fixes one of the problems that he needs to fix. His energy was low last year, he gave up on plays early, he ran towards contact far too often, and we still aren’t sure if Mike McCarthy will be starting him over James Starks. If Starks ends up getting the bulk of this year’s carries, then Lacy will be a risky flex player at best.
27 Dez Bryant: WR Cowboys
Last year Dez Bryant was not the Cowboy’s top fantasy receiver, which is obvious considering that he missed 7 games due to injury. However in the 9 games where he was healthy, Dez only scored 9 or more points 3 times, and scored less than 5 points 5 times. Dez and Tony Romo were on the field together for only 3 games during 2015, so it’s pretty tough to get a real feel for how the Cowboys’ star will play this season. One thing that is for sure is that if Dez doesn’t have Romo throwing to him; don’t draft Dez at all. Yes he’s going to be the number one receiver amongst a group of mediocre receivers, but that doesn’t mean much. We aren’t going to assume Romo will be hurt, but he is 36 years old and coming off a season where he broke his collarbone twice. How can one think that he’ll be at his top game? Without Romo, the offensie will be run through Ezekiel Elliot and Alfred Morris. Kellen Moore has shown that he can’t push the ball down the field to find Dez on deep routes, and we aren’t sold on Dak Prescott as an NFL talent.
25 Matthew Stafford: QB Lions
Matt Stafford is a very good QB, but unfortunately he learned the position while throwing to Calvin Johnson. Nothing makes a QB look better than the game’s best receiver. Now that Matt doesn’t have his ultimate safety net, it’s tough to say what he’ll play like. He might be the same Stafford we’ve seen for the past 5 years throwing for 4000+ yards, or he might regress. We are leaning towards the regression because in the seasons where the two men were healthy, Stafford threw to Johnson in about 25% of his attempts. Johnson accounted for 31% of Matthew Stafford's career passing yards and 34% of his touchdowns. How do you just replace a guy with numbers like that? And it’s not like the Lions even tried. We know that Andre Caldwell, Jeremy Kerley, and Marvin Jones are good players, but they’re not a replacement for an All-Pro wide-out. No one else on the team seems like they are ready to take a step up and produce at a higher level than they have before. As good as Taylor Decker and A’Shawn Robinson may be, the fact that Detroit didn’t target a receiver high in the draft is laughable. Much of the offensive pressure will fall on the shoulders of second year running back Ameer Abdullah, who dealt with injuries throughout most of last season, but still put up respectable numbers. Without Johnson, you’d be smart to avoid Stafford.
23 Rams Defense
There is a lot of love for the Rams Defense in the Fantasy world. They’re expected to be a top-6 fantasy defense. It’s easy to understand why when they have a defensive line that features 5 first round picks and a slew of other talented players backing them up. However it is tough for us to look at the Rams and say that you should rely on them for your fantasy squad this year. During this offseason the Rams lost Rodney McLeod who was their special teams captain, they lost Janoris Jenkins who was their best cornerback, and they cut Chris Long and James Laurinaitis who were the team’s emotional leaders. Those are not players you can easily replace. Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn are going to be super stars in LA, but we are not sold that Marc Barron or Alec Ogeltree will be able to pick up the slack left by their ex-teammates. On the other side of the ball, the Rams will be looking at either starting Case Keenum or the rookie Jared Goff, so either way there’s a strong possibility that the Rams defense will be on the field a lot (this means that you should expect injuries). The team also doesn’t have an elite kick returner, so don’t expect the special teams to score very much either. The Rams have a good defense, but you should look elsewhere for your fantasy squad.
21 Demaryius Thomas: WR Broncos
Demaryius Thomas had some good games last year. Except the classic overtime win against New England last year, Thomas scored 5 or more points a game, and put up double digits in 8 of the 16 games. He ended up with a very respectable season scoring 154 total points despite switching between an untested Brock Osweiler and an ancient Peyton Manning. However, 154 is a far cry away from the 230 points he put up in 2014 and 229 from 2013, and the regression will only continue this year. Demaryius Thomas is one of the best receivers in the NFL, but that doesn’t really matter when you have no QB to deliver the ball. A lot is being made about the fact that Denver will probably start Mark Sanchez at QB to begin the season, and for good reason. Sanchez isn’t as bad as many people believe, and may be able to play at an adequate level in 2016, but adequate will not be enough to secure the job. All season long there will be fans booing the USC product and the demands for Paxton Lynch to start will be overwhelming if Sanchez has even one bad game. Lynch may be the future, but he isn’t ready to thrive in the NFL yet. Thomas is good, but the lack of a starting QB will hurt his numbers. We expect to see Thomas put up the worst stats of his career in 2016.
19 Julius Thomas: TE Jaguars
Believe it or not, Jacksonville’s offense is stacked this year. Blake Bortles really came into his own last year throwing for over 4000 yards and 35 touchdowns. He was fantastic, but don’t forget the rest of his team. There was a lot of love for the “Allen Brothers” (Hurns and Robinson) as collectively they scored 24 touchdowns and 372 fantasy points. Rookie running back TJ Yeldon had a good rookie season and Denard Robinson also had some games where he put up big numbers. The team decided to sure up the running back position and signed Chris Ivory from the Jets, who was a top-10 fantasy back last year. They are also expecting Marqise Lee to play a full season, and all the reports are that he’s ready to take a step up and be a leader for the Jaguars. So with all these great weapons, it’s inevitable that someone doesn’t get targeted as much as expected. We think Julius Thomas will be the one to suffer. The weakest players on Jacksonville’s roster right now all play on the offensive line. Thomas will be asked to block on a number of plays to help make up for the lack of talent in front of the QB. Thomas will be effective in the red zone, but with the number of weapons that Bortles has to play with we don’t see Thomas getting many yards. He will be a player who relies on getting touchdowns to be viable in fantasy. With Chris Ivory and Allen Robinson also getting a ton of looks in the red zone, we see Thomas producing top-20 numbers amongst tight ends, which does not warrant a draft pick.
17 Devonta Freeman: RB Falcons
Yea we saw what Freeman was able to do last year as he shockingly led running backs in fantasy points. However, much of that came from a very early hot streak when Freeman scored 121 points from week 3-6. After week 6, Freeman scored only 4 touchdowns (only 2 rushing). Tevin Coleman is expected to take a step up and share a significant percentage of the carries with Freeman this season, which (if he’s effective) will lead to Freeman seeing about half the carries he had last year. Not only that, but a lot of players on the Falcons’ O-Line are coming from different teams and may take a few weeks to learn the offense and gel. An offensive line needs to play well together, or every running back has a high risk of getting hurt, and Freeman has a history of injuries so this worries us. Freeman and Coleman will both put up good numbers this year, but Freeman is expected to be a first round pick. Taking Freeman early spells out trouble for fantasy teams, we cannot imagine that he builds on last season especially after seeing the drastic fall in production after week 6, and his injury risk.
15 Jonathan Stewart: RB Panthers
Jonathan Stewart had a career resurgence last year as he ran for the highest yard and touchdown total since his sophomore season. He was also an integral part in Carolina’s run to the Super Bowl. From weeks 6 and 14 Stewart scored 116 fantasy points and looked like he was on track to score even more as the last 3 weeks were filled with sub-par run defenses, but then he got hurt. It’s impossible to say if Stewart would have played through his sprained foot last year if the Panthers hadn’t already secured a playoff spot, but what is easy to say is that throughout his whole career Stewart has battled numerous injuries. Every year he has a bad knee, or ankle, or foot, or back. It’s a shame that such a great player has been so hampered by injuries, but there is no reason to believe that he’ll be able to play 16 games this year considering he hasn’t done it since 2011. Last year Stewart started more games than at any other year in his career, and it was the only time he participated in more than 1 playoff game. We see Stewart playing 10 games and ruining some fantasy owners’ season.
13 Alshon Jeffery: WR Bears
Alshon Jeffery is the best player on the Bears, and we even named him to be the Bear’s 2016 MVP in an earlier article. In that article we predicted him to gain 1000 yards and score 6 touchdowns, but that’s if everything goes right. For the number 1 offensive player on a team, those numbers aren’t great, we just really trust no one on the Bears this year. We’ll assume Jay Culter plays well, Kevin White is a serviceable receiver, and Jeremy Langford won’t cave under the pressure of being a featured back; but we have very little to confirm this. Langford has never shown that he can carry the ball 15 times a game (he only had that many attempts 3 times last year), Cutler has a lot of injury concerns and it feels like he is one more concussion away from retiring, and White has yet to play a down in the NFL. All of these factors work against Jeffery because defenses will be able to stick to him like Velcro and not worry too much about the other offensive threats. It’s a contract year for Jeffery, so he will be pushing himself to the limits; we just hope that doesn’t end with Jeffery on IR.
11 AJ Green: WR Bengals
Go look at our reasoning for why Julius Thomas will ruin your team. AJ Green has the exact opposite problem. For a defensive coordinator, seeing the Bengals on your schedule must be lovely. The offensive line isn’t great, the running backs are fragile and fumble prone, and the QB falters when he’s forced to spend a lot of the game on his back. Part of what made Dalton so good the past few seasons was that when the pass rush gets to him, he has the ability to stay poised and dump the ball off to one of his great possession receivers. That skill allowed him to kill teams later when he would find AJ Green on deep passes. However the Bengals were forced to let 2 of their 3 possession guys (Mohammad Sanu and Marvin Jones) walk away, as other teams over spent for them, and the Bengals didn’t replace them with anything. Assuming Tyler Eifert stays healthy, he will be the leading pass catcher for the Bengals because teams will consistently double cover AJ Green and constantly blitz Dalton. The Bengals are going to have to win using their defense this year or they may find themselves at the bottom of the league.
9 Gary Barnidge: TE Browns
Call us crazy, but we really don’t trust a career backup playing for the Browns who had his breakout season at the age of 30. The situation reminds us too much of Peyton Hillis in 2010. The Browns probably won’t be great this year because they don’t have anyone they can trust on the offensive side of the ball. It’s hard to imagine that Robert Griffin III will play well following his time in Washington, so we can’t assume he and Barnidge will click immediately. Also it’s worth noting Barnidge had drastically worse numbers when the Browns used a mobile QB last year, though to be fair last year Johnny Manziel was that QB. The system that RG3 ran in Washington didn’t utilize the tight end effectively and Barnidge is an unproven talent despite putting up 1000 yards last year, so there is no reason to believe the Browns would change their game plans get him involved. Even if they do plan to use Barnidge; how is he going to get open when the defense crowds him every play because they recognize him as the only viable target on the field? Andrew Hawkins can be dangerous in space, but he couldn’t get on the field last year. Corey Coleman is a rookie and has a lot to prove before coordinators have to plan for him. Losing Travis Benjamin means that there isn’t a real threat to stretch the secondary in Cleveland, so teams shouldn’t have much trouble shutting down Barnkowski in 2016.
7 Drew Brees: QB Saints
Drew Brees is 36 years old and coming off his worst season since 2010. Despite it being a bad season for Drew Brees, it was still a pretty great season where he threw for 4,870 yards and 32 touchdowns. No matter what you think of those numbers, it shows a bit of regression from the Pro-Bowl QB, and something the Saints should have paid closer attention to this offseason. If you were to take out his ridiculous game against the Giants where Brees threw 7 touchdowns and 505 yards, his stats aren’t so strong. No matter how good Brees was he led the Saints to a losing record for the second straight year. New Orleans’ front office seems to be divided on whether they want to rebuild, or see if they can still win with Brees, but they won’t make a decision. Instead of putting more established pieces around their aging QB, the Saints signed Coby Fleener and drafted Michael Thomas; two guys who have yet to prove they can play well in the NFL. Brees has the ability to turn any receiver into a star, but he is at the age where he needs to stop teaching rookies to play and be given established players. If Brees plays 16 games, he’ll throw for 5,000 yards, but there’s a good chance he hurts himself this season because he will overexert himself while trying to turn his young and unproven teammates into stars.
5 Russell Wilson: QB Seahawks
We all saw that the Seahawks are not so scary last year. The Cardinals won the division, Minnesota was a missed field goal away from knocking Seattle out of the playoffs, and then they were stomped by the Panthers. It looks like the Seahawks years of dominating the NFC are coming to an end. Russell Wilson will be losing Marshawn Lynch, and his offensive line is a work-in-progress. Seattle has a tough schedule and is playing some of the best pass rushers in the league, and they all will be planning to hit Wilson as much as possible. Russell is a good QB, and will be around for years to come, but we expect a down year for him. For the first time in his career, defenses will see Wilson as the biggest threat on the field, and with a weak line and receivers who are average at best, we smell trouble for the Wisconsin alumi. The pass rush will be strong and constant, and Wilson’s size will come into play because he won’t be able to see over the bull rushing monsters to find his targets. The Seattle defense had been shakier last year than we had seen from them, so unless they rebound in a big way, Wilson will have nobody to take the pressure off him. Don’t bank on what happened last year, Wilson has a worse line which means he will not lead the NFL in QBR and will not be a top 10 fantasy QB.
3 Matt Forte: RB Jets
Despite missing 3 games, Matt Forte was a top 10 Fantasy running back last year on a Bears team that was actively trying to take the ball out of his hands. There’s few reason to believe that he won’t be a top 10 back again this year, except for the fact that he just turned 30, and that he moved to a new team. But those are 2 huge We’ve seen so many running backs turns 30 and then hit the metaphorical wall. Ahmad Green, Jamal Lewis, Shaun Alexander, Steven Jackson, and many more have been victims of this curse, and Forte may be joining them. Many have discounted this in recent years seeing guys like Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore put up big numbers after they turned 30, but Forte has an uphill battle to join them. Forte will be playing in a brand new system as he makes the change to the New York Jets. In that system Bilal Powell will continue to get a bulk of the receiving yards out of the backfield and players like Khiry Robinson and Zac Stacy will steal some touches in the redzone. At 31 years old, it may not be simple for Forte to learn a new system and the Jets may choose to explore other options at the position to protect their lead back’s longevity, leading to a poor fantasy season for Forte.
1 Kirk Cousins: QB Redskins
We are not sure how Cousins was so good last year. He was a top 10 QB by the end of the season, but that’s despite having 6 games where he earned less than 13 points. To put that in perspective; Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson combined to have 5 games with less than 13 points. Cousins was blessed to play many of his games against some of the worst passing defenses in the NFL, and that’s why his stats were so inflated. This year Washington’s schedule is tougher than it was in 2015, so we expect Cousins to regress. Teams also have more film on him and so they’ll be able to properly plan for him. Cousins is a startable QB in the NFL and is better than any of the Redskin’s alternatives, but that doesn’t mean he will replicate what he did last year. Kirk reminds us greatly of Nick Foles and we worry that he will follow Foles’ career trajectory. On the plus side; he’ll have a better receiving corp. than he had last year, and Matt Jones will have a year of experience under his belt, so Cousins is in a position to succeed. However, Cousins is too up-and-down to really excel, and we just can’t expect him to play consistent ball this year against a tough schedule. If he gets off to a rocky start again this year, he won’t be able to recover.