Zachariason: 10 Players You Should Be Avoiding in Fantasy Football Drafts

Which players are overvalued in fantasy football drafts this year?

"Negativity bias is the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature have a greater effect on one's psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things."

That explains my Twitter mentions when I say something bad about a player or team.

Consumers of content -- people -- are impacted more by negative takes than positive ones. Just last week, for instance, I wrote about 10 players I'm targeting in fantasy football drafts this season. Someone reading the column likely didn't get all that emotional, because the analysis doesn't say to ignore the other 100-plus players you could possibly take in a draft. It just says, "These guys are good values." It says, "Happiness."

Today's not about butterflies and rainbows. It's about players I'm avoiding in fantasy football drafts. So the expectation is that you're going to be mad at me after reading this, and that my social media existence is going to suck after publishing this piece.

Giddy up.

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Ah, yes, the author of The Late-Round Quarterback -- an e-book that was published back in 2012 on the fantasy football strategy of drafting quarterbacks late -- doesn't like the first quarterback dropping off of draft boards. Classic.

To be fair, Patrick Mahomes is my top-ranked fantasy quarterback this season. The market is what's dictating this recommendation.

Spending a third-round pick on a quarterback in 2019 shouldn't happen. The position is by far the most replaceable among the primary ones in fantasy football, and in that round, your opportunity cost is high. When you can get rushing quarterbacks with top-five potential in the late rounds of your draft, there's little reason to reach for a quarterback.

History tells us that it's unwise, too.

In order for a quarterback to finish as the top passer in fantasy, he generally has to have somewhat of an outlier campaign. That's what we saw with Mahomes in 2018. His 50 touchdowns were the third-most in NFL history, and his 8.6% touchdown rate (touchdowns divided by attempts) was fifth-highest ever among relevant quarterbacks.

Usually, numbers like those will regress. In fact, since 2011, of the 12 quarterbacks with a touchdown rate of 7% or higher, none saw their rate increase the following season.

It's just hard to sustain that level of excellence. Regression is real. And it's why we see top quarterbacks from one season rarely finish as the top quarterback during the following one.

Year Previous Yr Top QB Current Yr Finish Top QB in ADP Top QB in ADP Finish
2018 Russell Wilson 9th Aaron Rodgers 6th
2017 Aaron Rodgers 29th Aaron Rodgers 26th
2016 Cam Newton 17th Cam Newton 17th
2015 Aaron Rodgers 7th Andrew Luck 26th
2014 Peyton Manning 4th Peyton Manning 4th
2013 Drew Brees 2nd Aaron Rodgers 22nd
2012 Aaron Rodgers 2nd Aaron Rodgers 2nd
2011 Michael Vick 11th Aaron Rodgers 1st

Some of this is due to injury, but even when you consider health, quarterbacks aren't giving you number-one points per game numbers, either.

And before it crosses your mind, this type of exercise doesn't really work at running back and receiver. When you're making selections at those positions early in drafts, it's OK if they don't finish as the top players at their position. There's more room for error, because you need more of them in your starting lineup.

If you're drafting Patrick Mahomes in the third, he absolutely needs to be a difference-maker. That's the only way he lives up to that cost while playing a position in such low demand like quarterback. And that's hard to do these days with the quarterback competition being so fierce.

With regression expected to hit Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense in some way this year, the big-armed quarterback an easy fade at his average draft position.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

There's a world where the Seahawks throw the ball significantly more in 2019 versus how they ran the offense in 2018, and if that world becomes reality, then Russell Wilson will live up to his QB10 cost. In truth, it's tough to totally fault someone for wanting to draft Wilson, who's as gifted as anyone in the league.

We're playing probability here, though, and there are plenty of things working against him, unfortunately.

The football world expects regression from the aforementioned Mahomes, but it's weird that the same isn't being said as frequently about Wilson. Because, like Mahomes, Wilson had a touchdown rate above 8% last season. And, as you just saw, passers who see touchdown rates at that level tend to always decline the following season.

The crazy part is, Wilson wasn't even that strong of a fantasy football asset last year despite the touchdown rate anomaly. You can reference the fact that, over his career, he's always finished as a top-10 passer in fantasy football. It's true. But -- and this is appropriate for recent seasons especially -- much of that has to do with being healthy and playing a full 16 games. On a points per game basis last season, Wilson ranked 12th. In 2016, he was 15th.

Let's stop pretending Russell Wilson is always a high-end asset in fantasy football.

The reason for Wilson's relative lack of effectiveness with such a high touchdown rate in 2018 was due to the new Brian Schottenheimer offense in Seattle.

Year OC Pass to Run Ratio Pass to Run Ratio (+/- 6)
2012 Darrell Bevell 0.76 0.92
2013 Darrell Bevell 0.83 1.09
2014 Darrell Bevell 0.86 1.11
2015 Darrell Bevell 0.98 1.14
2016 Darrell Bevell 1.41 1.67
2017 Darrell Bevell 1.36 1.38
2018 Brian Schottenheimer 0.80 0.84

Last season featured the second-lowest pass-to-rush attempt ratio that a Wilson-led offense has seen during his NFL career. When in neutral game script situations -- when games had a scoring margin within six points -- the Seahawks were the most run-heavy of his seven seasons. And no team in the league ran it at a higher rate than Seattle did last year.

Is it just a coincidence that this all happened when run-first coordinator Brian Schottenheimer entered the picture?

We know the answer to that one.

Now, you may be wondering how Wilson was able to be so fantasy relevant in run-first offenses in the past. And the answer to that is his rushing ability. The problem is, under Schottenheimer last season, Wilson saw the lowest rushing share mark of his entire career.

Year Team Rush Attempts Wilson Rush Attempts Rush Share
2012 536 94 17.5%
2013 509 96 18.9%
2014 525 118 22.8%
2015 500 103 20.6%
2016 403 72 17.9%
2017 409 95 23.2%
2018 534 67 12.6%

Maybe the thought is that he'll regress positively as a runner in 2018. To be fair, he should find the end zone once or twice this season after failing to tally a rushing touchdown last year. But with fewer overall pass attempts came fewer scrambles for Wilson, hence the low rush attempt total.

Year Wilson Rush Attempts Designed Attempts Scrambles
2012 94 43 51
2013 96 45 51
2014 118 66 52
2015 103 43 60
2016 72 37 35
2017 95 40 55
2018 67 37 30

As you can see -- and thanks to Pro Football Focus for the "designed attempts" data -- Wilson scrambled just 30 times last year, a career low. If the run-friendly offense continues, even though it may seem like it would benefit Wilson's rushing totals, it actually hurts them.

The Seahawks are probably going to be a little more pass-heavy this year, at least. Since 2011, there've been 28 teams with next-season data that have had a pass-to-rush attempt ratio at or below 1.00 in a single season. Or, to put this another way, 28 teams who have run the ball as many times as they threw it in a season.

Of those 28, just 3 saw their ratios decrease the following year, and the average increase was 0.23.

The Seattle defense looks worse on paper than it did last year, as well, and there are positive reports that Schottenheimer is trying to utilize his running backs more in the passing game. Those are things that could lead to more passes in 2019.

So, quite simply, if you're a believer that Wilson can see 500 or 510 pass attempts this season -- an increase of about 80 year over year -- then you're probably drafting him at his current cost. There's nothing wrong with that. Evidence just seems to suggests that regression is going to hit, and given Schottenheimer's tendencies, it's tough to be bullish on Wilson, at least as someone who has an easy path to top-five upside. And that's what we should care about in single-quarterback formats.

Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Similar to Mahomes and Wilson, fading Todd Gurley this year has nothing to do with talent. For Gurley, it's about his knee.

A healthy Gurley would be the consensus top pick in fantasy football drafts this year. But there are concerns. A lot of them.

The Rams' offseason saw them make two pivotal moves at the running back position. They matched a Malcolm Brown offer sheet back in March, and then during the NFL Draft, they traded up and selected Darrell Henderson in the third round.

Keep in mind, this all happened after Gurley missed the final two games of the regular season and ceded backfield touches to free agent C.J. Anderson in the playoffs.

Throughout the offseason, stories have popped up about Gurley's potential workload in the LA offense. One report noted that his bell-cow days are over. If that's the case, then that means Gurley's fantasy upside is capped. There's a limit to his potential.

Does that matter? Even when you take a percentage of what Gurley did a season ago, he still provides a ton of fantasy value.

Percent of Production Gurley Points Per Game Points Per Game Rank
100% 26.6 1st
90% 23.9 4th
80% 21.3 8th
70% 18.6 9th
60% 16.0 11th
50% 13.3 19th

This is where game theory kicks in.

Yes, Gurley can still produce RB1 numbers with a weakened workload. But we now know there's a touch limit. In other words, you're drafting a player in the early second round who's unlikely to have the backfield share of a typical high-end RB1 in fantasy football. An argument can be made, then, that you're drafting Gurley at his ceiling.

And what if Gurley isn't as efficient as he was per touch last season? Is that not possible? After all, Anderson out-attempted Gurley in the red zone during the playoffs last season 15 to 2.

What if the Rams -- a team projected to be one of the best in football -- decide to rest Gurley when they've got big leads? Over Sean McVay's two seasons as the Rams' head coach, no team has run more plays with a double-digit lead than the Rams. In turn, no team has had as many rushing attempts with that sort of lead. And only Kareem Hunt has more rushes than Todd Gurley over this time when his team has led by 10 or more points.

For Gurley, those touches alone accounted for 21.5% of his rushes and 8.9% of his targets.

What if those disappear?

Gurley's game-to-game touch count could be unpredictable. His knee could be worse than we think, especially as we get into the latter parts of the season. Considering what the Rams did at running back this offseason along with most of the news surrounding Gurley's potential workload, he's a very risky selection in the early portion of your draft.

Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

There seems to be little doubt about Derrick Henry's availability for Week 1 after hurting his calf, but avoiding him in 2019 goes beyond an injury.

There's some recency bias playing into Henry's current price, which is in the third and fourth rounds of drafts. No running back ended the 2018 season quite like Henry -- over the final four weeks of the year, he averaged slightly more than 26 PPR points per game. No one's expecting that type of production this season, but there are signs pointing to Henry not coming close to it.

Over the last two years, Henry's played in all 32 regular season games for Tennessee. Even with that in his favor, there've been 20 running backs with more top-24 performances in PPR leagues.

Henry hasn't exactly been consistent, and that was no different in 2018, when his totals were really buoyed by the previously mentioned final stretch of games.

Split Att/G Y/G YPC TD/G Tar/G
First 12 Games 10.7 39.5 3.8 0.4 1.3
Final 4 Games 21.8 146.3 7.2 1.8 0.8

So what changed during those games for Henry and Tennessee?

Well, for Henry specifically, his final three contests of the season -- Weeks 15, 16, and 17 -- were the only three where he saw a snap share above 50%. When a running back is on the field, there's a higher chance for him to see volume, hence the massive split in attempts per game in the chart above.

Making an assumption that Henry can just carry that type of workload into 2019 could be considered a little foolish, though. Tennessee was 3-1 over their final four games last season, resulting in more positive game scripts than they'd seen across the first three quarters of the season. In fact, in Henry's "bad" split, the Titans ran an average of 39.3 plays per game while trailing. When they were rolling at the end of the year, that number dropped to 26.

A player who hasn't proven to have a pass-catching skillset -- in three seasons, Henry's single-season career high in targets is just 18 -- is going to lose snaps when the offense is facing a negative game script. When Tennessee trailed by seven or more points last year, teammate Dion Lewis had 15 fewer attempts than Henry while being targeted 15 more times. Targets are more valuable than attempts for running backs in fantasy football (even in a standard league). So much so, in fact, that over the last five seasons, only three top-10 running backs (6%) in PPR formats had fewer than 40 targets.

Henry has 50 targets in 47 career games.

Now, make no mistake, it's easy to recognize the upside. The Titans should have an improved offensive line. Tennessee has a new offensive coordinator. And it's hard to not be somewhat infatuated by Henry's gaudy numbers from the end of last season.

This is more about opportunity cost. Over the last week or so on DRAFT, Henry's been selected right after Devonta Freeman and Leonard Fournette, and he's going ahead of wideouts like Julian Edelman and Brandin Cooks. It's not that the running back ranking is horrifically wrong with Henry -- I have him at RB22, and he's listed at RB19. It's that there are some running backs -- Chris Carson, for instance -- with similar outlooks who are being drafted later, so the cost to snag Henry is a little high.

Tarik Cohen, RB, Chicago Bears

Tarik Cohen is electric. He's fun as hell to watch. And he's the type of running back that brings value to today's NFL.

But he's still worrisome in fantasy football.

Almost 18% of Chicago's pass attempts went Cohen's way last season. That share was sixth-highest at the running back position, behind only Christian McCaffrey, James White, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, and Ezekiel Elliott.

That receiving workload also came during a season in which Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller were banged up, and Jordan Howard was Cohen's main competition out of the backfield. Among the 73 running backs with 50 or more targets over the last three years, Howard's per-target efficiency, according to numberFire's expected points model, ranks in the 20th percentile.

Relying so heavily on receiving numbers at running back is risky even when you dismiss competition. As Sharp Football Analysis' Rich Hribar pointed out this offseason, the last back to finish in the top-24 in fantasy points per game in back-to-back seasons while having more than 70% of his fantasy production come from receiving was Darren Sproles. That happened all the way back in 2011 and 2012.

Last season, roughly 74% of Cohen's fantasy points came through the air.

Cohen also did some unsustainable things on the ground, too. He finished the year with over 7% of his rushes going for 20 or more yards, which was the best rate in football among all runners with 50-plus attempts. We've seen only 11 instances of a rate that high since 2011. That may be considered a good thing, but of those 11 occurrences, none are duplicates -- they're all different players.

When pushing that benchmark down to 5% -- so, 5% of a player's runs resulting in 20 or more yards -- there are 43 instances. Among the 43, only two players appear on the list more than once.

It's really hard to maintain that type of effectiveness.

So, then, what exactly is the ceiling for Cohen in what should be a fairly run-heavy offense? It's tough to project him for a target share close to what he saw last season with a healthier wide receiver group and David Montgomery in the mix. (Montgomery, by the way, had a top-10 final-season reception share among the running backs in this year's draft class.) And Cohen's bound to regress as a runner in 2019.

Cohen can live up to his RB27 draft cost. That's doable. Becoming something significantly better than that for fantasy purposes isn't probable, though, given the current situation in Chicago. That's why he's someone to avoid.

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos

Only three players maintained a 5.4 yards per carry average while toting the rock 100-plus times last season: Aaron Jones, Kerryon Johnson, and Phillip Lindsay.

It's good that they were efficient, but it's bad because they're likely to regress.

Since 2011, we've had 41 running back seasons where a rusher had 100 or more attempts and a 5.0-plus yards per carry average. A solid 10 of those occurred last season, giving us 31 players with next-season data. Of that group, only two were able to increase their yards per carry rate the following season. And those same two -- C.J. Spiller in 2012 and Jamaal Charles (on limited attempts) in 2014 -- were the only ones who were able to hold a 5.0 yards per carry average.

We should bet on Lindsay being less efficient this season.

Now, the difference with Lindsay versus Aaron Jones and Kerryon Johnson is that the latter two are set to see -- or potentially see -- more work in 2019. Lindsay's not. After out-attempting running back teammate Royce Freeman 192 to 130 last year, reports out of Denver say that the Broncos are going to use more of a committee this season. A week and a half ago, Yahoo's Charles Robinson noted that the Broncos "are hoping to finally establish the true split-touch situation that they envisioned between Freeman and Phillip Lindsay last season. They feel like that plan is fully on track for 2019."

Is that a wise plan? Honestly, Lindsay was (probably) the superior player last season. His Success Rate, or the percentage of positive expected point runs made by a running back, was 48.4%, which was the fifth-best in the league among higher-volume backs. Freeman's was just 36.9%, a bottom-11 number. Lindsay had the better yards per carry average, the better expected points added per rush rate -- the list goes on and on.

Numbers-wise, these rate stats don't tell you everything, though. We've got to point out that Freeman faced eight men in the box on over 36% of his carries, second-highest in the NFL, while Lindsay ran against stacked boxes on just 14.1% of his carries. And Lindsay actually didn't rank very well within Pro Football Focus' elusiveness rating -- Freeman's 53.7 rating was much stronger than Lindsay's 30.0.

Maybe you see a large talent discrepancy between Freeman and Lindsay, and there's always a chance that leads to less of a split than we think. But Freeman was dealt a tough hand last season, and there are plenty of non-box score numbers that suggest he wasn't so bad.

If there's a larger split of the work in 2019, that obviously hurts Lindsay. It could really hurt him in the touchdown column, too, a place where regression was already coming.

Player Rush Yards Rush TD Should Have TD Difference
Phillip Lindsay 1,037 9 7.03 1.97

I'll sound like Captain Obvious here, but there's a pretty good correlation between yards and touchdowns. That means anytime a player deviates from the norm -- anytime he has way too many yards for the number of touchdowns he's scored or vice versa -- you've got to analyze the situation a little further.

A running back with Lindsay's rushing total last year would've been expected to score, based on the last eight years of rushing data, about seven touchdowns. Lindsay had nine.

What's even more troubling is that 24 running backs had more goal-line rushes than Lindsay, and 22 had more within the 10. ESPN analyst Mike Clay has a metric that adjusts for all of this called opportunity-adjusted touchdowns (oTD), and of all backs last year, only Kareem Hunt, Todd Gurley, Kenyan Drake, Aaron Jones, and Melvin Gordon outperformed in the touchdown column more than Lindsay did.

So, in sum, Lindsay has efficiency- and touchdown-related issues that could hit this year. All the while, Royce Freeman should see a heftier workload in the backfield. Lindsay's another one of those players who should provide a decent enough floor, but the upside is questionable.

Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Making an "avoids" list and putting only late-round targets on it is a cowardly way of doing this type of analysis. That's just my opinion, of course. I'm under the assumption that you want to see good players to avoid, not obvious ones.

And Adam Thielen is another good player to avoid.

The average draft position discrepancy between Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen shouldn't exist. But it does. It's there. According to DRAFT's data, since the start of August, Thielen's being selected nine spots ahead of Diggs.


2018 Tar/G Rec/G Rec Yards/G TD/G FP/G
Adam Thielen 9.69 7.06 85.81 0.56 19.20
Stefon Diggs 10.00 6.80 68.07 0.60 17.80

Sure, Thielen averaged more fantasy points per game last year, but the peripherals weren't totally far off from one another. And that's particularly true when you look at what happened across the first half of the season versus the second half.

Split Tar/G Rec/G Rec Yards/G TD/G FP/G
Thielen First Half 12.0 9.3 115.6 0.8 25.3
Thielen Second Half 7.1 4.9 56.0 0.4 13.2
Diggs First Half 10.6 7.3 73.4 0.5 18.3
Diggs Second Half 9.1 6.3 62.0 0.7 17.1

Thielen was the best wide receiver in fantasy football through 10 weeks last season, but things really started to come crashing down statistically after Week 8.

Part of the dip was due to regression (there's that word again) after hitting 100 yards receiving in each of those first eight contests. Part of it was that Thielen saw his slot snap rate drop by about 10% across the second portion of the season, per Pro Football Focus, which led to a lower percentage of targets in that fantasy-friendly area of the field (25.9% of his targets came from the slot in the first half of the year, 18.5% in the second half).

But part of it was also the result of a coaching change. Across the final three weeks of the season, which makes up about 38% of the second-half sample above, Kevin Stefanski took over for a fired John DeFilippo as offensive coordinator for Minnesota. And things weren't pretty for Thielen during those contests. Under DeFilippo, Thielen had a target share above 27%. That dropped to under 15% with Stefanski. Thielen went from averaging almost 103 receiving yards per game to just 46.

Yeah, yeah, small sample size and all of that. I get it. At a higher level, what's probably more alarming with Stefanski is that Minnesota is likely to be a more run-heavy team, which will lower the target totals for the team's pass-catchers. Head coach Mike Zimmer consistently repeated the notion that the Vikings needed to run the ball more last season, and in three games under Stefanski, Minnesota's pass-to-rush attempt ratio in neutral game scripts was 1.21. With DeFilippo, it was 1.68.

All of this -- the drop in slot snap rate, the drop in overall production, the offensive philosophy shift -- makes me nervous about Thielen this year. He'll provide some production, but it's hard to envision that output coming close to the numbers he posted a season ago.

Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans

Let's look at the pros for Corey Davis first.

He's a good wide receiver. Entering the NFL, he had a 96th percentile dominator rating, a 76th percentile speed score, an elite breakout age, and the draft capital to back it all up. He's shown flashes in the NFL, including what many thought was a multi-touchdown breakout game against New England in the playoffs two years ago.

Davis can also demand a high target share. As a sophomore in the league last season, only six wide receivers saw a higher percentage of their team's targets.

Sadly, for fantasy purposes, none of this may matter all that much.

Talent can and will drive opportunity, but that opportunity needs to be worthwhile in order for a player to become a plug-and-play starter in fantasy football. And that's where Davis could have trouble.

Despite Davis' high target share last season, he still finished with only 112 targets. He was just 38th in PPR points per game among wideouts who played at least five contests. That rank, with that high of a target share, is lower than his current WR36 price tag on DRAFT.

A lot of that had to do with the Titans' run-first mentality on offense, something that's been consistent in Tennessee since Ken Whisenhunt was fired as head coach back in 2015. Over the last three years, the Titans have ranked 30th, 26th, and 31st in pass-to-rush attempt ratio. Fewer pass attempts, obviously, leads to fewer looks through the air.

It's probably safe to assume that the proportion of targets going Davis' way is going to drop this year, too. In 2018, the number-two receiver on Tennessee volume-wise was running back Dion Lewis. This year, Delanie Walker is back after missing almost all of last season, the Titans signed Adam Humphries during free agency, and they drafted A.J. Brown. Banking on a top-10 target share for Corey Davis wouldn't be smart.

Humphries could end up being the biggest problem for Davis. Last season, according to Pro Football Focus' slot data, only three wide receivers scored a higher percentage of their fantasy points from the slot than Humphries did. That's because Humphries had one of the highest slot snap rates in the league.

Among the top-50 wide receivers in target share last year, Davis was 24th in percentage of fantasy points scored from the slot, 26th in percentage of receiving yards that came from the slot, and 27th in slot snap rate. Three of his four touchdowns last season occurred while being lined up in the slot. With Humphries in the mix, all of those numbers are likely to go down, forcing Davis to line up in less friendly areas of the field.

We can feel confident that Tennessee's going to be a bottom-half team in football this year in rush frequency. And we can feel confident that Corey Davis has more competition for targets, which will lower his target share in the offense. Those two things alone are enough to see that his upside isn't all that attractive, even if the talent is there.

Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

Failing to embrace Zach Ertz's average draft position this season has made me feel like I'm on an island. While fantasy managers are gobbling him up in the third round -- sometimes the second -- I've been valuing him more as a fourth-rounder.

Make no mistake: Ertz was great last season. Some would've called him a fantasy football difference maker. But his 2018 season was pretty unique compared to the rest of his recent career.

Year Games Targets Team Attempts (Active Games) Target Share (Active Games)
2015 15 112 623 18.8%
2016 14 106 609 19.5%
2017 14 110 564 22.7%
2018 16 156 599 24.4%

Last year, Ertz saw over 40 more targets than he's seen in any other season of his career. Even when you factor in the 16 games played, his target share was still the highest it's ever been.

That high of a target share may be tough to repeat in 2019. There's more competition. And while really good players won't see their volume change dramatically with more able bodies in an offense -- Odell Beckham, for instance, is still going to demand a huge target share in Cleveland this year -- we did see Ertz's volume change when Golden Tate joined the Eagles last year.

Split Targets/G Target Share
Pre-Tate 10.5 27.4%
Post-Tate 8.7 24.0%

Remember, Alshon Jeffery was banged up to start last season for Philadelphia. Dallas Goedert was just a rookie. So without Tate, who became an Eagle in late October, Ertz was very easily the best option for Carson Wentz and Nick Foles to throw to.

That helped lead to a high target share. When Tate was active, though -- and these numbers include the playoffs -- the share dropped by over three percentage points.

And the splits look even worse in games where Tate played a significant number of snaps.

Split Games Targets Target Share
Tate 0%-29% Snaps 1 16 36.4%
Tate 30%-39% Snaps 3 31 27.7%
Tate 40%+ Snaps 6 40 19.5%

Golden Tate's no longer an Eagle, but DeSean Jackson is. And Alshon Jeffery's healthy. And Dallas Goedert's got a year of NFL action under his belt. Considering how added competition influenced Ertz's target rate last season, shouldn't we assume it'll affect things in some way in 2019?

The Eagles also threw the ball 599 times in 2018, finishing the year with the 10th-highest pass-to-rush attempt ratio in football. When Philly won the Super Bowl two years prior, their pass-to-rush ratio ranked 22nd, and they had 35 fewer pass attempts. That was thanks to game script -- the Eagles ran the 11th-most plays while trailing last year, when in 2017, they ran the third-fewest.

FanDuel Sportsbook has the Eagles with the fifth-best odds to win the Super Bowl this year, and their over/under win total is listed at 9.5. If you're a believer that they'll be good this year (and perhaps more consistent than last season), then there's a decent chance we see fewer pass attempts from the offense in 2019.

Those two factors -- competition and passing volume -- are why Ertz is riskier than most may think early in drafts. He's still my third-ranked tight end, but the expectation for Ertz should be that he's going to produce similar numbers to his 2017 season, not his 2018 one. And to draft a "onesie" position like tight end in the early rounds, you absolutely need that player to post more significant numbers.

Eric Ebron, TE, Indianapolis Colts

Eric Ebron was one of the biggest touchdown overachievers in 2018. Per oTD, he had four more scores than he should have last year. That'll happen when you find the end zone 14 times.

No one's expecting that big of a season from Ebron this year, but with an average draft position in the seventh round in some places, fantasy managers are at least expecting another strong season from the Colts' tight end.

I'm not quite there.

The most important 2018 split to highlight for Ebron was his performance with and without an active Jack Doyle, his tight end teammate.

SplitTargets/GTarget ShareRoutes Run/G
With Doyle3.710.30%16.8
Without Doyle8.620.70%34.8

The numbers here are kind of shocking. Ebron's volume-related statistics were essentially more than twice as strong when Doyle was out of the lineup. He averaged about five more targets per game, saw his target share double, and according to Pro Football Focus, ran more than twice the number of routes per contest.

The crazy thing is, Ebron had seven touchdowns in six games with Doyle. He had seven receiving scores in the 12 games (includes the playoffs) without him.

That shouldn't necessarily be a selling point, though. During those six contests with Doyle, Ebron tallied six red-zone targets. He had 21 red-zone looks in the regular season, so he actually averaged more targets in that area of the field when Doyle was sidelined. He just happened to convert when Doyle was healthy.

Now, logic tells us that Ebron probably played himself into a bigger role here in 2019. The Colts wouldn't use him like they did when Doyle was healthy last year after seeing what he was able to accomplish last year, right?

Sure, but Indianapolis also drafted Parris Campbell, added Devin Funchess, and tight end Mo Alie-Cox is expected to play a bigger role this season. For someone with obvious downside, Ebron's upside doesn't look all that attractive this season, either.