There are few scenarios that lead to players being overrated on fantasy boards. A player could trade on a big name and big talent, leading fantasy owners to forget his crappy situation. A player could capitalize on a late-season run, creating a highlight reel that overshadows the inconsistency he displayed over the course of the year. A player could move teams, causing fantasy owners to excite themselves with the promise of better prospects in a new offense. I’ll discuss a few of each type here and explain why they are overrated in the majority of 2012 fantasy football rankings. It doesn’t mean I don’t think these players will all have bad seasons. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t take one of them at the right price. It just means that they are currently being drafted too high for my taste. Players are listed with average draft position. For alternative choices in any given round, check out my list of receivers to target.
Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals – Early Second Round
This applies mostly to auction leagues. As I said in my 2012 fantasy rankings, I believe that there is not too much difference between receivers 2 and 7. In a draft, you need to one of them first that can’t be helped. Should he go a full round before AJ Green and Roddy White? No, but these receivers can’t be drafted as a tie. So I have no problem with selecting him at the beginning of the second round. But in auctions, Fitz is currently going for 7$ more than Greg Jennings. His average price is closer to Calvin Johnson than it is to White. Would you rather have Fitzgerald for $44 or Green for $25? That’s mind-blowing. If I’m spending that much, I’ll pay the extra $4 for Megatron. Fitzgerald is one of the most talented and most consistent receivers in the league, but I don’t see what has happened that will lead to Fitzgerald performing significantly better in 2012. Could he get a larger share of the touchdowns in Arizona, sure, but he still has the same quarterbacks throwing him the ball.
Brandon Lloyd – New England Patriots – Late Fifth/Early Sixth Round
We have seen this before. Ochocinco. Deion Branch. Combining the veteran receiver with Tom Brady’s arm was supposed to lead to a fantasy boom for the wideout. In the end, Brady has largely ignored them. We’ve also seen highly drafted flankers disappear in the New England offense. Lloyd could be different. He could be the exception. That’s a big if. To me, it’s much too big a risk to draft someone who will likely be a fourth option on his own team. He was better off being the number one guy in St. Louis for 2012, than at number three guy at best. Make no mistake, tight end Rob Gronkowski and slot guy Wes Welker eat first for the Pats. Aaron Hernandez can do a bit of both those roles and with the exception of Randy Moss, those are the positions that have thrived in New England. I look at Brandon Lloyd and I see a guy with in great year, one decent year and seven years (on four teams) in which he did little and often couldn't get off the bench. Was the great year with current coordinator Josh McDaniels? Yes, but he was also the number one option in Denver. He won't be that here. It's possible that Brandon Lloyd finally got it together with the right coaches in his eight year. But looking at his career as a whole, 2009 sure looks like an outlier. Would I take a late round flier on a guy who could be a star with Brady? Absolutely. But in the fifth round? Not me.
Robert Meachem – San Diego Chargers – Late Eight Round
The speedy Saints wideout is coming off the board in the early 8th round. He is being drafted as a low end number three receiver. This is absurdly high for a guy who could be the number three receiver on his own team. Meachem would not be the first receiver to statistically suffer after waving goodbye to the frozen ropes of Drew Brees. We’ve seen former Patriots and Colts disappear into the fantasy nether regions. Meachem should seem like an even more obvious candidate for fantasy bust if you have ever seen Phil Rivers play. Rivers has had his best results with big receivers that go up and get the lofty passes he throws. He doesn’t throw bullets to streaking flashes like Meachem. This is one long shot that makes no sense. Give me Vincent Brown in round thirteen. If you want a reliable Charger, Malcolm Floyd is available a round later than Meachem is and we have seen him have success in this offense.
Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons – Third Round
The love being shown for Julio Jones going into the 2012 season is stupefying. He had a nice run of six touchdowns in four weeks at the end of last year and a few highlight reel catches. But if you get a season like Jones had from your top receiver, you won’t be in the fantasy playoffs to take advantage of it. This is a guy who is not the top receiver on his own team. Jones and Roddy White cannot both be top-ten wideouts. That offense is not good enough. Matt Ryan is not good enough. One of the two will disappoint. For my team, I’ll take the guy that has put up 1150+ yards for five straight years over the guy who has yet to finish in the top twenty fantasy players, at his position. I might take Jones in the seventh, maybe. If anyone is seriously considering him in the early 4th, ask yourself what has happened that will lead to that big of an improvement from Jones.
Victor Cruz – New York Giants – Early Fourth Round
Let’s not get carried away here. I remember the season Steve Smith had for the Giants in 2009. Hakeem Nicks deservedly draws a lot of attention to his side of the field and that fact certainly played a part in Cruz’s amazing run. I don’t think Cruz will fade as quickly as Smith did, but as fantasy owners we have to be wary of possibilities. For a number one wideout, I like to see a pattern of success. Whereas Nicks increased his output from 800 yards as a rookie, to 1050 and then 1200 this year, we have only the single season of work from Cruz. As I mentioned about the Falcons, it is not likely for a team to have two top ten receivers. If you are picking one of them to finish on top, you are best served by picking the guy with the track record of success. I like Victor Cruz in the fifth round. I would expect him to be a solid number two. But the early fourth round is just too high.
Marques Colston – New Orleans Saints – Fifth Round
Colston is still the receiver to own in New Orleans. Drew Brees has always spread the ball: four targets caught between six and eight touchdowns last season. The problem for Colston in 2012 is that the Saints could a step back. Without Sean Payton, I would not be surprised if the offense is less potent. That would mean those four targets could end up with 4-6 scores each. If Colston combined those scores with another thousand-yard season, that would be a fine year for most receivers, but not for a guy that is taken in the fifth round. And while Colston is the best wideout on the team, tight end Jimmy Graham is now the go-to target for Brees. In the sixth round, I’d consider Colston in a pinch. It would take another injury to keep him from 6+ touchdowns.
Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers – Fourth Round
This seems strange. Last year Nelson was the second best fantasy receiver. He is currently going off the board as the 13th or 14th wide receiver. Still, I think he is being drafted too high. Part of the reason can be surmised from comments on Julio Jones and Victor Cruz. Regardless of his totals from last season, Nelson is no better than the second receiver on the Packers and I dislike drafting secondary targets that early. But there are a few other reasons I’m down on Nelson. First, I shy away from expecting the spectacular to repeat itself. And Aaron Rodgers was so good in 2011, that I don’t think he can play that well again this year. Many of Nelson’s big receptions were thrown through windows that are narrow enough that an inch to the either side would have resulted in an incompletion. Second, Rodgers loves to spread it around. Greg Jennings will always get his: I don’t think Nelson is guaranteed as many chances. Third, Jermichael Finley can’t possibly drop as many balls as he did last year. So Nelson is not just a second target in that offense in 2012. He is a second target at best.