WASHINGTON — Fantasy football season is approaching and that means it’s almost time for your drafts. Who are some guys that you should avoid, based on where they are currently being drafted?
QB Deshaun Watson
(QB#2 ADP on FantasyPros)
Obviously, if you were an owner of Deshaun Watson last year in season-long, you know how spectacular he was from a fantasy standpoint. He went bonkers during a two-game stretch where he accounted for 5 TDs on Oct. 1 against the Tennessee Titans, and followed it up the next week with a 5 TD passing performance against the Kansas City Chiefs. His final game, before tearing his ACL on a noncontact play in practice Nov. 2, was against the Seattle Seahawks, in which he chucked four TD passes, finishing his short season with 19 total TD passes while adding two scores on the ground.
The unfortunate ACL tear was the second of his football career (Watson tore his left knee ACL his freshman year at Clemson — this time it was his right knee). I just don’t know how you justify taking him less than a year after that injury in the Top 2 or 3, even if many QBs in the league, including the GOAT Tom Brady, have bounced back.
ESPN’s Sarah Barshop wrote a piece about how QBs fared after tearing their ACL. Brady and Carson Palmer did just fine, but there are guys like Donovan McNabb and Robert Griffin III who, from a fantasy standpoint, did worse the next year. Barshop points out that McNabb’s yards per run went from an average of 6.6 to 4.7 the year following his ACL injury in 2006.
In RG3’s Rookie of the Year campaign, he threw 20 TD passes and just 5 INTs, but in his sophomore campaign he threw four fewer touchdown passes and seven more interceptions. He also averaged over a yard less per carry.
Finally, and probably most importantly, we need to look at who’s protecting Deshaun Watson on the Texans offensive line. Jim Sannes of NumberFire ranks the Texans OL as the worst in the NFL, classifying their pass blocking as “poor” and their run blocking as “below average.” When you’re trying to build your confidence back up after a second ACL tear, wouldn’t it feel good to have solid protection around you?
If he stays healthy, Watson is certainly a strong candidate to be a fantasy difference maker and propel your team to the playoffs. But I’d like to see him play some regular season games before I justify taking him ahead of Brady or Cam Newton.
WR Josh Gordon
(WR #22 ADP on Fantasy Pros)
The Cleveland Browns are in the spotlight thanks to HBO’s Hard Knocks, but you won’t find wide receiver Josh Gordon in the storyline (at least through the first two episodes). Series coordinating producer Ken Rodgers does not believe that Gordon is being shielded from the constant cameras on his road to recovery. However, it is a bit curious as to why Gordon isn’t out there building rapport with new QBs Tyrod Taylor and No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield.
And now that I mentioned those QBs, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that they are significant upgrade to Deshone Kizer. Despite having the most deep ball attempts last year, Kizer finished with 32.5 percent deep ball completion percentage, which ranked 20th in the league. He also finished No. 1 in interceptable passes and danger plays.
Taylor was working with a Bills WR corps that ran the third-worst 1.14 yards per route, so Charles Clay led the team in reception yards almost by default with just 558. Even without Coleman, the Browns WR corps is an upgrade, plus now Taylor has last year’s first round pick TE David Njoku at his disposal. The former Miami Hurricane showed the ability to get up the field in his rookie season with the fourth-best average depth of targets (11.6 yards), and he had over a 90 percent catch rate.
Baker Mayfield already looks great, albeit in the preseason against second team players, but his ability to throw into tight windows on the run is one of his strongest attributes and a big reason he was selected over guys like Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen.
The problem isn’t the QB — it’s too many weapons in this offense to utilize, despite the fact that Coleman (who scored 5 TDs and accrued 718 receiving yards in two years) was traded to the Buffalo Bills.
Jarvis Landry is a YAC machine who led the league in receptions last year, and the RB corps is loaded with Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson and rookie Nick Chubb. Johnson could see a lot of time catching passes out of the slot and Hyde proved he could catch the football last year in San Francisco, hauling in 59 passes which was the seventh most among running backs. The Browns invested high draft capital in Chubb (second-round pick) and sunk a good amount of money into Hyde (3 years, more than $15 million) and Johnson (3 year extension worth $15.6 million).
Antonio Callaway, the team’s fourth-round pick out of Florida, could be in jeopardy of missing regular season games due to off the field trouble and now former Cowboys WR Dez Bryant intends to visit the team on Thursday.
Let’s not forget the Browns’ Head Coach is Hue Jackson, who is 1-31 in his two-year career with the team. Even if Todd Haley is calling the plays based on the track record under Jackson, I’m not ready to say that all of the pieces in Cleveland’s offense will function as a proverbial well-oiled machine.
Back to Gordon — he appeared in five games last season catching 18 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown. Before those five games, Gordon had not appeared in an NFL game since 2014. That year he played just five games due to an initial 10-game suspension, and then another suspension in the final game of the year for violations of team rules.
In your drafts, it’s important to minimize high risk, and I’d much rather draft guys like Golden Tate or Chris Hogan who are getting selected after Gordon, according to FantasyPros latest ADP.
Finally, let’s go back to Taylor. Granted, he had a near dismal WR corps for the Bills last year, but Charles Clay led the team in reception yards with just 558. Taylor also did not throw for over 300 yards once. Yes, it’s a new offense and I do believe he can help this Browns team win games (and he’s obviously an upgrade over Kizer), but from a fantasy standpoint, all of this history scares me.