Fantasy Football: Overrated and Underrated in the Early Rounds

The most important selections you make in your fantasy draft are the first few ones. It is very difficult to overcome poor selections in the first couple rounds. The players you select in the first three or so rounds should be stalwarts, who you are consistent and reliable. For that reason, a swing and a miss with your first or second pick can spell doom for fantasy owners. Whether a player is underrated or overrated depends on where he is being picked. For example, I believe DeMarco Murray is overrated. In ESPN drafts, he is being taken 7th right now, and that’s too high for my liking. I would not take him inside the top 20 – I’d rather take one of the top tier WRs: Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, or Demaryius Thomas for example. If Murray was available (he would not be) in the mid-20s, I would have no problem taking him. This is all to say, a player being deemed overrated does not mean “Avoid player at all costs.” I am simply measuring a player’s value, price, whatever you want to call it.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys – Overrated (selected 7th)
Everyone knows the knock on Murray is not ability. It is durability and workload. For the longest time, Murray couldn’t stay healthy for a full season. Last season he did, he had nearly 400 carries, and won the rushing crown by almost 500 yards. He was as good as it gets last year, regularly exceeding the century mark. But the historic workload does not fare well for Murray’s durability this year. It was nothing short of a miracle that Murray made it through last season unscathed. It’s difficult to envision another fully healthy season, off the heels of the bone-crushing toll Murray took last year. What’s more, Murray is in a new system, and while Chip Kelly’s offense is very fantasy friendly, it is still unclear how much fellow incomer Ryan Matthews will be used. Murray is the much more talented back, but the Eagles could bring Matthews in for third-down duties to preserve Murray.

Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears – Overrated (selected 9th)
Coach Marc Trestman is gone, and that should decrease Forte’s receptions. Forte had yet another impressive fantasy season, but that had to do more with the quantity, and not quality, of his touches. He was the only RB who finished in the top ten of rushing yards, without gaining at least 4 YPC, a fairly average number. This is an average offense, with a heavily turnover-prone QB, and an ultra-conservative coach in John Fox.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills – Overrated (selected 15th)
Raise your hand if you believe in Rex Ryan offenses. It seems like an eternity ago that McCoy was being selected first or second overall in most drafts. After a disappointing season, McCoy finds himself in a situation full of playmakers and no QB. McCoy, Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin… not many teams have those types of playmakers. Too bad Matt Cassel or (GASP) E.J. Manuel will be behind center.

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers – Underrated (selected 6th)
How can you be underrated when you’re being taken sixth overall, you ask? There’s a case to be made that Brown could be the first or second pick in the draft. We’re still in an era where RBs take up the majority of the picks in the first round. I understand that RBs are often safer because the good ones receive 20+ touches per game, so they are very reliable. Even the best WRs usually don’t get more than 10 targets per game. That’s changing. Now, most RBs split time, except for the very best RBs. Nowadays, the best WRs get just as many yards as the best RBs. Antonio Brown is no less reliable than Jamaal Charles or Marshawn Lynch. He is a virtual lock for 1500 yards and 10 TDs. That type of production usually merits discussion for the top overall pick.

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants – Underrated (selected 16th)
The concerns here, I guess, have to do with injuries, since he missed the first four games of his career with a hamstring injury. If you believe in his production last year though, and aren’t expecting some sort of sophomore slump regression, then he should be going much higher. In fact, if you think the second half of the season, the part of the season when he was presumably the closest to actually being healthy, was indicative of how he’ll fare next year, then there would be a case for him going first overall. He averaged around 110 yds/game. If he continues that type of production, he’d be right up there with Antonio Brown at the top of the league in receiving yards. A more likely concern is the return of Victor Cruz takes away some of the targets Beckham saw. That could slow him down a tad. But other than that, there is no reason to believe he will slow down this year. He is supremely talented – arguably the most natural, explosive athlete in the entire league, who also has the precision and polish to his routes that you would expect only out of the most accomplished vets.

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