While I reserve the right to change my mind as the summer goes on, here are five prominent players in whom I’m not currently intending to invest this season:
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFFC ADP: 7) – Evans had a big fantasy year in 2016, but it was supported more by volume (173 targets, 1st) than skill (7.6 YPT, 28th among the NFL’s 41 100–target WR). Evans’ volume will almost certainly decline this year with free–agent addition DeSean Jackson and rookies O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin in the fold. Evans is a good receiver, and his size makes him a good bet for double–digit touchdowns, but he’s not at the A.J. Green/Julio Jones/Odell Beckham Jr. level in real life, and he’s priced as though he is. Don’t expect him to earn his cost unless he leads the league in targets again.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills (NFFC ADP: 8) – He’s getting drafted this high on account of his 50 catches and stellar 5.4 YPC last year, and if he were to repeat those numbers, he’d be well worth it. But McCoy averaged 4.4 and 4.2 YPC, respectively, the two years prior and now has 1,898 career carries during a career dating back to 2009. In other words, his best days are more likely to be behind than ahead of him, and I’d rather bow out a year too soon than a year too late. Moreover, he was sometimes pulled at the goal line for Mike Gillislee last year, and Jonathan Williams could serve as the team’s goal-line back in 2017.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers (NFFC ADP: 9) – Nelson’s recovery from a torn ACL at age 31 was remarkable, but he’s not the same player he was a few years ago before the injury. Nelson averaged at least 15.0 YPC and 10.0 YPT from 2011-2015, but last year managed only 13.0 and 8.3, respectively. Nelson’s value was driven largely by his 32 red-zone targets, the most in the NFL by a mile, resulting in 14 TDs. While Nelson is still among the favorites to lead the league in red-zone looks, he’s unlikely to lap the field by such a large margin (Odell Beckham and Nelson’s teammate Davante Adams were tied for second with 23 in a year where Packers backs combined for just six rushing TDs.) At 32, and having lost a step, Nelson still has a high floor, but isn’t worth a first-round pick.
Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints (NFFC ADP: 13) – Thomas has a nice floor, but he’s on the slow side (4.57 40), won’t run many downfield routes (only one catch of 40-plus yards last year) and isn’t likely to see massive volume even with Brandin Cooks gone. That’s because since he became a Saint in 2006 Drew Brees has always spread the targets around, with the high men being Marques Colston (143 in 2007) for a wideout and Jimmy Graham (149 in 2011) for a tight end. Last year alone, nine receivers had 150-plus targets, more than anyone during Brees’ tenure. And that’s despite Brees racking up far and away the most pass attempts and yards over that span. As such, Thomas is an underdog to crack 140 looks, and for a wideout who averaged a modest 12.4 YPC, that limits his upside.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans (NFFC ADP: 22) – He made this list last year, and while his second-round price is better in 2017, I don’t think he’s dropped enough. For starters, Hopkins is a playmaker and quality receiver, but he’s not an athletic freak like A.J. Green or Julio Jones. Second, while the quarterback play can’t but get better than Brock Osweiler 2016, the combination of Tom Savage and rookie DeShaun Watson might only be marginally so. Finally, Hopkins is neither an elite red-zone target nor a field-stretching deep threat, meaning he’s not a good bet for more than seven or eight TDs on a below-average Texans offense. There’s likely some target-driven floor here, but I’d like more ceiling in my second-round pick.