Last year in the Hollywood and Hardwood’s NFL Fantasy Draft, Le’Veon Bell was ranked as the second best player to draft period. This is before we all learned that he would be sitting out the year. After the first guy went off the board the next guy up commented in the chat “Well, I guess I have to take Bell”. In my head I was screaming “NO, you can pick ANYONE else!” I had the 4th overall pick and had Bell still been there at 4 I wouldn’t have picked him. Now it’s easy for me to make those comments in hindsight but with that said there are any number of reasons to not pick up players and I’m going to help you understand why some of the top fantasy projections might not do as well as they did last year.
1. Patrick Mahomes – Never has a list been so easy/hard for me to start off. Mahomes is THE standout star from the NFL last year. He stood so far from every other QB it’s almost laughable that he could be anything less than a top 5 this year. The flip side though is that other teams now have a year a tape on him and after how the Patriots shut him down in the first half of their playoff game there is at least the basis for a formula.
2. Aaron Rodgers – Rodgers has been a top 5 QB for at least the last 5 years. So why shouldn’t you take him? There is the ongoing feud with new head coach Matt LaFleur. There is the loss of Randel Cobb. There is the continued decline of Jimmy Graham and the inconsistent play at running back coupled with an unsure offensive line. Did I mention that Rodgers is 35 and potentially in some of his final playing years?
4. Deshaun Watson – In his first full season Watson put up great numbers. He’s a tremendous dual threat both running and passing, and the supporting cast is more than good enough to help keep defenses honest. The concern here is how other teams adjust to him now that there is tape. Specifically playoff tape from the Colts who made him look very average.
4. Baker Mayfield – A shiny new Odell Beckham has catapulted a solid rookie campaign into insane projections for Mayfield. Assuming games were on paper I’d agree. The thing is Mayfield needs to get some kind of rapport with his new toy, and that is of course assuming there is no ego/drama battle and teams haven’t been able to study the tape from last year and the new head coach doesn’t change things to a point where Baker can’t keep up.
1. Saquon Barkley – One of the best dual threat backs in the game. The only reason not to take him is that Eli Manning is horrible, the offensive line is horrible, and with OBJ gone it means teams can double Saquon on every play with no worry of repercussions.
2. Ezekiel Elliott – Currently Elliott isn’t at training camp because of a contract dispute. Assuming he comes back at all what sort of shape will he be in?
3. Christian McCaffrey – Really the only knock here is the sophomore slump. With teams now having a year of tape can they find a way to contain this receiver who happens to start in the backfield.
4. Alvin Kamara – The double edged sword of Mark Ingram leaving is that while it means potential more work for Kamara, especially around the goal line, it’s an increased workload that might create a higher issue for injury. Also if Thomas isn’t on the field teams will be able to key on Kamara more with constant doubles.
5. Le’Veon Bell – Anyone convinced of the caliber of player Bell will be after sitting for a year and in a new system where he doesn’t have Big Ben under center or a guy like Antonio Brown on the outside? If you are than you need to have your head checked.
1. DeAndre Hopkins – The knock here is actually a prop to the players around him. When Watson came into the league he was a limited in terms of being able to progress through route options. Now that he’s a little more mature guys like Fuller and Coutee are seeing more balls come their way, which means less options for Hopkins.
3. Julio Jones – Did you know that Julio Jones has never, not EVER, had more than 10 touchdowns in a season? Did you know that he’s only had over 100 catches 3 times in his NFL career? Did you know Matt Ryan is 34 years old? Now you know.
4. Michael Thomas – Thomas is currently holding out and the standard issues of “IF he comes back what sort of player is he?” remains perfectly valid until proven otherwise.
5. Odell Beckham Jr. – On paper Beckham is poised to have his best year ever. The game isn’t played on paper. Can he keep out of trouble and find common ground with Mayfield quickly enough to make an impact?
1. Travis Kelce – Kelce was an all pro when Alex Smith was the QB and went other-world when Mahomes came onto the scene. The only real concern here is can teams replicate how effective the Patriots were through three quarters.
2. Zach Ertz – Ertz has two major concerns. The first is Dallas Goedert, who is quickly becoming more utilized in Philly and who might take his job if the Eagles decide they don’t want to absorb his massive cap hit for the next few years. The second issue is the health of Carson Wentz. With Foles gone the success of Ertz is far less guaranteed if Wentz goes down.
3. George Kittle – Kittle put up over 1,300 yards on a team that didn’t have Jimmy Garappolo for the majority of the season. So the issue here is would Kittle be as much a factor on a team with a viable starter at the helm?
4. Hunter Henry – Henry was supposed to be the breakout star last year, before he got hurt and Gates saved everyone at the Chargers by coming out of retirement and pickup up exactly where he left off. Can Henry do the same? Something tells me he will need time to adjust to the speed of the NFL level, and develop some chemistry with Philip Rivers.
5. Evan Engram – Engram has flashed at times, but never really been the star the Giants were hoping for. With Beckham gone Engram is the only real threat outside of Saquon, and that is an issue. Teams can key on him without giving up protection elsewhere. Eli Manning being in his twilight playing years doesn’t help either.
– Kickers in general don’t fluctuate the way teams do. So in general these are going to be team criticism.
4. Harrison Butker – Mahomes could have an off year as teams figure out what it is that makes the Chiefs work.
1. Chicago Bears – The Bears were dominant last year, as teams scrambled to figure out how to deal with the new addition of Khalil Mack. They’ve had a year now, and some of the deficiencies in that defense are known.
2. Los Angeles Rams – The Rams lost a few pieces from their defense, and while they may not have been key contributors the super bowl hangover is real and this team is not going to be as good this year.
3. Baltimore Ravens – Adding Earl Thomas helps, but it doesn’t make up for all the losses on defense.
4. Houston Texans – The Texans lost a couple of key contributors this offseason. They will still be good, but can they force turnovers the way they used to?
5. Los Angeles Chargers – The Chargers are a team that always seem to choke the hardest on the biggest stage. The team is bringing back a solid group of guys, I’m just not sold on their ability to put up fantasy points every week.