Nailing a fantasy draft pick for pick is nearly impossible to do. However, draft mistakes are often quite avoidable. Fantasy football enthusiasts should have been well aware of the risk that came along with highly ranked players last year like Le'Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray, Alfred Morris, Justin Forsett, and Peyton Manning. Despite the risk, all of these players generally went in the first four rounds of drafts.
Drafting one or two risky players (especially later in drafts) isn't always a bad idea. Taking the chance on players like Doug Martin, Todd Gurley, and Brandon Marshall worked out splendidly for fantasy owners last year. Of course risks don't always pan out, which is why it is important to avoid them for the most part. Many players are blatantly risky due to a rich injury history, a bad team situation, age, inexperience, or inconsistency in past seasons.
There will always be a select group of players that a fantasy owner will resent for underperforming by the end of the season. It is unlikely that every single player on this list will end up being on that list, but the risk you took in your draft just isn't worth it with these guys:
20 Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Dez Bryant was one of fantasy football's most consistent season-to-season superstars...until last year. Injuries kept Dez and star quarterback, Tony Romo off of the field for much of last season and it really affected Dez's production. Dez is far more productive with Romo on the field. Without Romo, he caught just 41.9% of his targets while amassing a measly 401 yards and 3 touchdowns over 9 games. Those numbers could have been expected from Dez in 4 or less games in previous years. Tony Romo injured his back once again in the preseason, and the earliest he could return is in 6-10 weeks.
Many football fans are excited about the Cowboys' fourth round selection, quarterback Dak Prescott because he performed tremendously well in the preseason. While Dak has shown that he could be in store for a magnificent career, he is still only a rookie, and he will experience rookie struggles. Rookie quarterbacks rarely eclipse 4,000 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, something Romo has done 4 times. If and when Romo does return, he remains an extremely injury-prone player. If you drafted Dez, get rid of him while his value is still high. In other words, sell high.
19 Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Here are Cam's finishes in the fantasy quarterback rankings in every year he has been in the league:
Not bad, eh? Only one season outside of the top 4, and he's coming off a career year in which he was fantasy football's highest scoring player. So why is he on this list? Because people are expecting him to repeat and/or even improve on last season's spectacular numbers. While Cam is adept at getting to the end zone on the ground, getting 10 rushing touchdowns is not an easy feat for any football player, let alone a quarterback. 4-7 rushing touchdowns seem much more reasonable for Cam, and his passing numbers will likely regress as well. I don't see Cam repeating his performance as the highest scoring quarterback in fantasy, and there are plenty of great quarterbacks coming off of down years (Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, etc.) that could surpass him.
18 Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
Everyone is under the assumption that Jordan Reed is going to be the second best tight end in fantasy this season behind Gronk. He is being drafted about 2 rounds ahead of the consensus 3rd ranked tight end, Greg Olsen, even when Olsen is a much safer bet to finish as a top 5 tight end this season. Olsen has done so in each of the past two seasons and has been one of Cam's favorite targets in the past few seasons.
Yes, Jordan Reed is immensely talented and has a fairly competent (at least for now) quarterback in Kirk Cousins, but their run in the second half of last season is completely unsustainable, and Reed should regress this season. Jordan Reed is also very injury prone and only played in 20 of his first 32 games. If you used your 3rd or 4th round pick to select Jordan Reed, you won't hear the end of it by the end of the season.
17 Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions
Ameer Abdullah is a popular post-hype sleeper in the fantasy football world this season. Last season, he was a major disappointment for fantasy owners as he was expected to be the explosive lead back for the Lions. While the Abdullah will no longer lose touches to Joique Bell, he is still not a complete back.
Abdullah is sort of a one trick pony, with his only real strength being breaking loose for 20+ yard runs on rare occasions. Detroit's offense also revolves around the passing game, which Abdullah did get minimally involved in last year, but not enough to become fantasy relevant. Jim Bob Cooter will likely turn Matthew Stafford back into a 40-45 pass attempts a game kind of guy, and Abdullah will likely not see many of those attempts go his way.
16 Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Travis Kelce is one of the most overrated fantasy tight ends. He is a fantastic football player, but the Chiefs offense simply cannot make any pass catcher an asset in fantasy. In each of the past two seasons, he has had just over 850 yards and 5 touchdowns. Those numbers aren't too bad, but you can easily get the same production out of Antonio Gates or Julius Thomas 4 rounds later. There is also no reason to believe that Kelce will bust out of mediocrity this season.
There is no reason that Travis Kelce should be thought of as a top 5 fantasy tight end. He is more of a low end TE1. In fact, Kelce finished as the 7th best fantasy TE in 2015, and the 9th best in 2014. Not worth it people.
15 Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Much like the Chiefs' offense, Minnesota's offense revolves around the run game. The Vikes don't throw the ball very often, and that will not help Laquon Treadwell in fantasy this year. With Teddy Bridgewater out for the season with a torn ACL, things couldn't get much worse for the Vikings' pass game. Whoever the Vikings decide to start at quarterback will have plenty of mouths to feed with limited attempts. Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, Charles Johnson, and Jarius Wright are all worthy of targets. Treadwell is a phenomenal talent, but he won't really get the opportunity to shine this season.
14 Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers
Kelvin Benjamin is being grossly over drafted. He isn't even solidified as Cam Newton's number one option in Carolina's offense, yet he is being drafted just outside of the top 20 WR's. Benjamin did have a great rookie season, but he missed all of last year with an ACL tear and a lot has changed in Carolina since 2014. The Panthers passing offense thrived without Benjamin, and Cam Newton likely won't lean on Benjamin as much as he did in his rookie year. Cam has great options outside of Benjamin in Ted Ginn, Devin Funchess, and Greg Olsen, and because of this, it is hard to imagine that Benjamin will be more than a low end WR3.
13 Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
Edelman had a nice start to last season. The PPR machine had 61 receptions, almost 700 yards, and 7 touchdowns in just 9 games. The problem is that midway through the season, Edelman went down hard with a foot injury. He is at great risk to re-injure himself and even sprained his ankle in training camp. With Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan now in New England, Tom Brady has more options to throw to. People who drafted Julian Edelman may be expecting WR2 production, but a low end WR3 with a high injury risk is closer to what you are getting with Edelman.
12 Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger may be one of the least consistent players in all of fantasy football. One week he'll get you 40 points, the next week he'll get you 7. Roethlisberger also missed 4 games last year with an MCL sprain. He remains quite an injury prone player and is a risky option, yet he is being drafted as the 6th QB off of the board. With Le'Veon Bell suspended for 3 games, Martavis Bryant suspended for the entire year, and Ladarius Green out indefinitely with an ankle injury, Roethlisberger has a lot less weapons to work with (especially at the beginning of the season).
11 Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Thomas Rawls may have won you a championship last year due to his incredible performances in the second half of the season last year. Unfortunately, Rawls came down with an ankle fracture in week 14. Not good. Rawls is still recovering from his injury, and may not be at full speed by week 1. Because of this, the Hawks will most likely start the year with a committee involving Christine Michael and rookie C.J. Prosise (Mostly on pass catching downs). Rawls' re-injury risk and uncertainty in terms of playing time make him a very risky RB2. His best season may already be behind him at this point.
10 Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
The last time a Chiefs pass catcher got double digit touchdowns was back in Jeremy Maclin's inaugural season. Maclin has actually come the closest to achieving that feat since 2010, finishing with 8 last year. However, the opportunity to be a relevant fantasy player in the Chiefs' passing offense is essentially nonexistent. Maclin was inconsistent last year, and if he is anything more than your WR3, you are not in good shape. You probably drafted Maclin expecting WR2 production, but a stat line of 75-850-6 seems a lot more reasonable. He will most likely not be a weekly starter this season.
9 Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders
3.18. Latavius Murray averaged 3.18 YPC from week 11 and on last season. The Raiders have expressed their dissatisfaction with Murray and validated their concerns by drafting DeAndre Washington in the 5th round of this past year's draft. The Raiders are actively looking for replacements to the unreliable Murray, and Washington just may be their answer.
The only reason that Murray was a decent fantasy producer last season was because of his high workload (266 carries, 41 receptions). Expect him to split carries this season with some sort of combination of Washington, Taiwan Jones, and/or Jalen Richard.
8 Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
People assume that Jordy will be the same Jordy from two seasons ago, but there are many reasons for concern regarding the 31 year old WR. For one, he's 31! While we've seen receivers succeed in this league past the age of 30, it is quite rare. Nelson also tore his ACL in the preseason last year and has an extensive injury history. Expecting Nelson to not only play a full season, but do it at an elite level like he previously did is far too optimistic. Jordy is an extremely risky receiver that you probably drafted as your WR1.
7 Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
After failing to reach 825 yards or 6 touchdowns in 4 seasons, Doug Baldwin exploded onto the scene last year with 714 yards and 12 touchdowns in the last 8 games of the season. While his incredible stretch was fantasy gold for owners last year, that pace was simply unsustainable. With a more balanced running game, Seattle will likely return to throwing the ball less and that means less targets for Baldwin. Tyler Lockett also seems to be emerging as an exciting, young player for Seattle, and they should utilize him quite often. Doug Baldwin will return to being an occasional flex play this year.
6 Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Justin Forsett has had an interesting last couple of weeks to say the least. First, he was cut by the Ravens, but he re-signed with Baltimore shortly afterwards. His ownership in fantasy football leagues has fluctuated quite a bit in the past week or so, but even though he is back in Baltimore, he is simply not worth rostering. Forsett is going on 31, and had an injury-riddled 2015 season in which he underperformed considerably. He also has competition in the Ravens' congested backfield with Buck Allen and rookie Kenneth Dixon. If you are expecting any sort of consistent production out of Forsett this season, you will be disappointed.
5 Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Much like baldwin, Russell Wilson experienced a progression in which he went from being a very low end QB1 for his entire career to one of fantasy's best QBs the second half of last season. Wilson had never topped 26 passing touchdowns until last season, and prior to week 11, he was only on track to finish with about 18 passing touchdowns. The Seahawks notoriously don't throw the ball very often and Wilson saw a career high in pass attempts last year with 483. That number should plummet back down to the low 400s this year and Russell Wilson will most likely not be the top 5 QB that you were expecting him to be.
4 David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
It's time to pump the brakes on the David Johnson hype train. I get it. DJ is a young, versatile back that proved that he can produce when given the opportunity. However, Bruce Arians has not always been the most fantasy friendly coach for running backs in the past. Last season, Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington received playing time and performed fairly well. While nobody is questioning that David Johnson is the most talented running back on the Cards' depth chart, Arians spreads the ball around on the ground. Johnson should be a solid fantasy player this year, but I just don't see him producing at the level of a first round draft running back.
3 Matt Jones, RB, Washington Redskins
Matt Jones is not an every down back. In 8 games that Jones had at least 10 carries last season, he averaged over 3.5 YPC just twice. Jones is a fairly decent big play threat coming out of the backfield, but he is nothing more. In his last three games of the season last year, he averaged 15.3 carries per game and just 46.3 yards per game with no touchdowns. That seems like a fairly accurate preview of what will happen this year, and the Redskins probably won't keep him as the starter for long with that kind of production. Having Matt Jones as your RB3 or better is beyond risky.
2 T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
If T.Y. fell to you in the 7th round, you can consider yourself a lucky fella, but unless you're in a 6 team league, he didn't. The reality is that 43.2% of T.Y. Hilton's total fantasy points in the past two seasons have come from six outstanding games. Six games.
Hilton excels at putting up huge numbers in certain games, but you will never know which weeks Hilton will be a top 3 WR and which weeks he won't even be a top 20 receiver. Most of the time, it is the latter for Hilton, who is really just a deep threat for Andrew Luck. With the presence of Donte Moncrief, Dwayne Allen, Phillip Dorsett, and Josh Ferguson, Hilton will probably have a tough time improving on his consistency.
1 Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
I know I am not the first one to say it, but Devonta Freeman's incredible season last year was a fluke. Devonta Freeman wasn't even named the starter for the Falcons at the start of last season, and his play late last season proved exactly why. After being one of the most prolific fantasy players in the early-mid season, Freeman tapered off in the second half of the year.
Now, with former starter Tevin Coleman back from injury, they should be in a timeshare together. Devonta Freeman will definitely not reach the heights that he reached last season, and if you are expecting RB1 production, you are terribly mistaken.