A couple caveats before I proceed to the list. First, there’s virtually no player I wouldn’t own in some format at some price, but the odds of me getting any of these in any format in which I play are close to zero. Second, had I done one of these for baseball, Felix Hernandez would have been on it. I think it’s important to remember and publicize your misses in these exercises because we all have them every year, and it’s easy to pose as a voice of expert authority when really you’re just another experienced fantasy owner doing your best to make sense of the available evidence. That out of the way, here are the guys I will not own:
1. Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots – Last year Edelman had 105 catches on 151 targets for a team that lost Rob Gronkowski for seven games, Shane Vereen for eight, Aaron Dobson for four, Danny Amendola for four and Kenbrell Thompkins for four. All five players project to be healthy for Week 1, and both Dobson and Thompkins are second-year players, the point at which receivers typically break out. The team also brought in Brandon LaFell from Carolina and just traded a Pro Bowl guard for tight end Tim Wright. It would not surprise me if Edelman’s targets were cut in half.
Of course, one could argue he has the rapport with Tom Brady, and so the Patriots will find a way to get him the ball despite having so many other bigger, faster and more skilled options. It’s possible, and the Patriots did sign Edelman to a contract with $8 million guaranteed. But when you look at Edelman’s actual production, 7.0 yards per target (YPT), it’s low even for a possession wideout. Consider the man whom he replaced, Wes Welker, averaged more than eight yards per target in a similar role over five years (excluding his 2010 ACL-recovery season) and other top possession receivers like Randall Cobb (9.2 YPT) and Percy Harvin (8.1) were far better as well. For the Patriots to devote more than 100 targets to Edelman despite his meager per-play production likely speaks more to their injury-fueled desperation than Edelman’s performance.
Finally, until last year, Edelman had never received more than 59 targets in an entire season and was even used as a defensive back on occasion. While in 2013 he largely slotted into Welker’s former role, the better comp in my opinion is one-year wonder Mike Furrey, who came out of nowhere to go 98-1086 for the Lions in 2006 and never eclipsed 65 catches or 700 yards again.
2. Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions – my dislike of Stafford isn’t news for the few who tolerate our videos (at the 11:00 mark):
To recap: Stafford’s not a very good real-life quarterback. His YPA over the last two seasons is 7.1, the same as the league average, and this despite playing with the most physically-gifted receiver of all time in an indoor home venue. He’s also thrown 36 interceptions over that span. Stafford is therefore dependent on volume, and over the last three years he attempted the fifth, first and 17th most throws in NFL history, a tendency that cannot get better under new head coach Jim Caldwell and coordinator Joe Lombardi and will likely get worse.
Finally, even assuming Lombardi – who came from Sean Payton’s Saints – is exactly as good as Payton (rarely do disciples of iconic offensive and defensive coordinators actually have the same success as their mentors), is Stafford good enough to execute a new offense that entails going through progressions and spreading the ball around? That Drew Brees is able to master it means little for Stafford who might actually be better off chucking it down the field to Calvin Johnson most of the time.
It’s true Stafford will have some new weapons, notably Golden Tate and rookie tight end Eric Ebron. But last year Reggie Bush was supposed to open things up for the offense, and Stafford still managed only 7.3 YPA in ideal playing conditions. Moreover, rookie tight ends rarely pan out, and remember Brandon Pettigrew was once a first-rounder and more heavily involved in the offense too. It’s not like he was able to boost Stafford’s pedestrian per-play output, either.
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It’s possible Tate, Bush and Ebron combined with a new system that throws slightly less often but to a wider variety of players is just what Stafford needs to find himself in Year 6. But I wouldn’t bet on it.
3. Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints – He has value in PPR, but not the sixth-round ADP he’s carrying in NFFC leagues. As fast and explosive as he is, he’s not big enough to be a factor in the red zone, isn’t likely to carry the ball often and so must make all his money catching short passes. But what’s the ceiling for such a player when Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston will see more targets, and the Saints will spread the ball around to six or seven players regularly, including frequent screens to Pierre Thomas? It’s hard to see more than 80 catches or seven scores, numbers for which players in his range like Colston and Tate are routinely projected.
4. Pierre Garcon. WR, Redskins – Garcon is a decent receiver with above average size and speed, but that he got 181 targets and 113 catches was due largely to the lack of complementary options around him last year. With DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts around and Jordan Reed healthy, that won’t be the case. Garcon could easily lose 40-50 targets, and even with all those looks he’s not much of a red-zone weapon. Nonetheless, his NFFC ADP is 37, ahead of players like Michael Floyd and Victor Cruz.
[Update: I actually forgot I do own Garcon this year, but that was a very strange auction where he went for $10 out of a $200 budget, a price at which I couldn’t pass him up]
5. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts – I’ve been down on him for years and have usually been more wrong than right only because he always managed a ton of volume even in the face of declining efficiency and skills. This year, though, he’s 35, coming off ACL surgery and part of a crowded receiving corps. His ceiling for targets is far lower, and we already know there won’t be big plays or many touchdowns. Yet, Wayne is going at No. 77 overall, ahead of high-upside players like Terrence Williams, Sammy Watkins and Kelvin Benjamin.