By Neil Dutton, Player Profiler
Special to Yahoo Sports
Fantasy Football drafts are all about finding the right players for your team at the right price. Owners need to be aware that the cost of a particular player is not necessarily equal to the value of said player. Such knowledge can be particularly helpful late in drafts, where hidden gems can be had for the price of a doughnut when they are worth their weight in diamonds, however, the reverse is also true. There are players who seem to be sparkling brightly in the eyes of the drafter, with low average draft positions to prove it. But when we look closely, we can see that not all that glitters is truly gold.
Here are three scary players who the advanced stats and metrics suggest should be avoided at their current average draft positions.
LeSean McCoy (ADP 38.5, RB16)
Putting the prospect of McCoy being disciplined depending how his legal situation plays out aside, there are a number of on-field factors that make him too big a gamble at his current price.
On paper, it would seem to be something of a bargain to land a workhorse at the beginning of the third round in 12-team drafts. McCoy did, after all, account for 58.9% of the Buffalo Bills rushing attempts last season, as well as seeing 14.7% of the team targets. The advanced metrics suggest McCoy delivered the bare minimum with his copious 2017 opportunities, evidenced by a -10.9 Production Premium, which ranked No. 54 among qualified running backs, and 0.73 fantasy points per opportunity (No. 74).
There is little doubt that the Bills are in for a difficult season, especially on offense. After making the playoffs last season, the Bills will be tackling a second-placed schedule and the most difficult running back schedule to begin the 2018 season:
Facing stout run defenses and negative game scripts is tough enough, but when you factor in the mystery surrounding the identity of the Bills starting quarterback, the loss of three key offensive linemen (Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood, and Richie Incognito) and the fact that McCoy is entering his age-30 season, ambiguity soon turns to nightmare.
In the three seasons in which McCoy has been a Bill, no team has more rushing attempts (1485) than Buffalo, while no team has attempted fewer passes (1416). Their investment in a quarterback early in the NFL draft would suggest that they want to throw the ball more, and if their early-season schedule is anything to go by they might be forced to do just that as the season goes on. In that case, McCoy’s volume becomes a concern, even with his work as a pass catcher (59 catches) last season in mind.
As good as McCoy was last season, there is a worry that the Bills may have asked him to do far too much. Only once has McCoy had more touches in a single season than the 346 he was entrusted last season. Never before in his career has he averaged fewer yards per touch than the 4.6 he posted a year ago. At his age, it is hard to rebound from such a heavy load. Between 2008-2017, 12 running backs have seen a similar workload to McCoy’s 2017 (58% of team carries, 14% of team targets). Only two have managed a repeat the season after, namely Ray Rice in 2010-2011 and Le’Veon Bell in 2016-2017. Those running backs were 24 and 25 respectively in those seasons. One more time for emphasis, McCoy is 30.
Tyreek Hill (ADP 28.3, WR11)
Hill smashed all expectations with a WR9 PPR finish in 2017, but his major contributions to the fantasy score sheets came on splash plays, not by dominating the target share. Of the top-10 receivers in PPR leagues from a year ago, Hill’s 20% Target Share is by far the lowest. He didn’t see the majority of the targets on his own team either, but he converted deep touchdowns at a historic rate last season. Hill shocked the football world by scoring all seven of his receiving touchdowns on 30-plus yard receptions. Think about that.
Expecting Hill to repeat this feat, even with the rocket-armed Patrick Mahomes under center, stretches to the outer limits of plausibility. He would need to see an uptick in targets to repeat fantasy WR1 status, which became a lot less likely when the Chiefs signed Sammy Watkins to the largest contract offered to a receiver this offseason. Hill will score the occasional deep touchdown this season, but after seeing just four red zone targets in 2017, he is a prime touchdown regression candidate. Without the splashy touchdowns, and unless injuries lead to Hill assuming a larger role in the offense, his current WR11 ADP pegs Hill to his ceiling.
Josh Gordon (ADP 51, WR20)
If we are lucky in life, we will one day find ourselves a partner as loyal to us as gamers are to the notion that Gordon is a fantasy league winner. Yes, there is a prospect of a player who once led the NFL in receiving in just 14 games is available 50 picks into a draft. What a bargain! Now recall that Gordon achieved his singular feat back in 2013, and an awful lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then.
Since his WR1 season five years ago, Gordon has played in ten of the Browns’ 64 games. Five of these came in 2014, and five last season. According to the efficiency metrics, Gordon didn’t impress in either stint. All told, in his last ten NFL games, Gordon has caught 42 of 89 targets for 638 yards and a single score, which equates to 63.8 yards per game and a sub-50% Catch Rate. In these games, he was targeted inside the red zone just five times, catching a single touchdown pass. There is also the danger of his not gelling with Tyrod Taylor, given the QB’s unwillingness to go deep. Taylor attempted less than four deep balls per game last season. He doesn’t strike me as the type of passer who can unlock Gordon’s fantasy potential.
While Gordon understandably focused on his addiction recovery program for the majority of Browns training camp, Jarvis Landry established himself as the team’s alpha receiver. Conversely from Gordon, Landry has not missed a game in four years in the league.
An upside argument could be made that, should Gordon’s ADP fall significantly, he would be an excellent stash weapon to be unsheathed mid-season as he fully shakes off the rust and hits his stride. But Gordon’s draft stock isn’t trending that way, even with a hamstring injury that could limit him in Week 1. But either way, when Gordon gets on the field, the 2013 version isn’t walking through that tunnel.