Fantasy Football Roundtable: 6 Early-Round Fades From Our Staff
Every year in fantasy football, leagues are won by hitting your picks throughout the draft (and, of course, superb in-season management). That includes nailing the top of your draft.
That being said, it's also important not to overspend on players who are priced above where they should be. That doesn't mean that certain players are avoid-at-all-cost options or full-on busts, but sometimes, players are just valued at their ceilings due to the surrounding landscape of the position and draft.
With that in mind, which six players do some of our editors view as being fades at their current draft costs (using Bestball10 average draft position)?
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Brandon Gdula: Derrick Henry is my RB7 right now, so let's get that clear. However, Henry is also the seventh overall pick in Bestball10 drafts, with an average cost of 7.55 overall. That puts him at RB6. That would suggest that I'm pretty good with the price, but I'm not. Here's why.
Henry is my 12th-overall player in half-PPR formats, and his maximum pick on Bestball10's average draft position listing is 14th overall. The odds I get him where I value him aren't great. And, yeah, after the top five backs (Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, and Dalvin Cook), I think Henry is the best bet for a top-12 season, but that's kind of irrelevant. I want my first-round pick to have a shot at finishing at the top of his respective position. I don't think Henry has that in 2020.
Henry's lack of receiving is not just a fun tidbit about his play style. It's problematic for his fantasy football ceiling. The RB1 over the past 10 years has averaged 75.9 catches and 704.3 receiving yards. Even a top-five season from running backs comes with around 47 catches and 400 yards through the air. Henry is coming off a career-best receiving season: 18 catches for 206 yards.
Further, the Tennessee Titans converted a touchdown on 75.6% of their red zone trips last season, the highest rate of any team over the past five seasons. The four other teams in that span with a conversion rate of at least 70.0% fell to an average of 46.3% the following season, and none outperformed the five-year average. Rushing scores will be harder to get this year for Henry, and the lack of receiving means I'd rather go with a wide receiver than Henry in the back half of the first round.
Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
In the first half of 2019, Chubb had a monopoly on the Cleveland Browns’ backfield, and he averaged 4.0 targets per game. But in the second half -- after Hunt returned from suspension -- Chubb’s target total was almost halved to 2.1 per game. Given how important targets are for running backs, that’s an impactful dip.
I have Chubb 19th overall in my rankings, so I’m certainly not out on him for 2020. But at the turn of the first round, I’d rather snag a wide receiver or a running back more involved in the passing game.
Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Tom Vecchio: Amari Cooper has an ADP sitting at 33.13 in 12-team leagues, according to Bestball10s -- and that is too high. Cooper is a fade for me at this time for a few reasons, so let’s break them down. The Dallas Cowboys drafting wide receiver CeeDee Lamb from the Oklahoma Sooners is only a part of the reason why you should be worried about Cooper’s draft price.
Is it possible Cooper sees fewer targets due to another wide receiver in the mix? Of course, but that is only the beginning. Teammate Michael Gallup is no slouch, as he finished last season as WR22 in PPR formats.
There are almost too many mouths to feed in the Dallas offense, and that is not what you want from a player being drafted this high. We should also note Cooper’s inconsistencies last year: he ended with 9 targets or fewer in 12 of his 16 games and only 2 touchdowns in his final eight weeks.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Austan Kas: Cooper Kupp is someone I can't stomach at his current cost, which has him going 39th overall (WR14). After the bye last year, the Los Angeles Rams made an offensive change and got their tight ends -- specifically Tyler Higbee -- more involved. That switch was a massive blow for Kupp's output.
Before the bye (Weeks 1-8), Kupp was the overall WR2 by PPR points per game. After it (Weeks 9-16), he was the WR43, with his pre-bye target share of 27.8% dropping to 15.6% from Week 9 on.
This offseason, head coach Sean McVay has said he wants to get Gerald Everett more involved, too. While the loss of Brandin Cooks will help Kupp's target share some, I can't take Kupp in the top 40, and I like basically every other receiver in that price range more than I do Kupp. He's our WR22 and looks way overpriced right now.
A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
Elisha Twerski: A.J. Brown has an ADP of 39.32 since the beginning of May, which is quite high for a guy who ranked 64th in targets in 2019. While he had some explosive performances, Brown failed to reach double-digit points in half-PPR formats nine times. He also garnered 5 targets or fewer in 11 of his 16 contests.
Also, Brown’s 9.5% touchdown rate and 20.2 yards per reception are likely both unsustainable. Of the last 14 wideouts to record 8-plus touchdowns on fewer than 55 receptions, not a single one posted more than 6 the following season.
Brown will need to see a sizable bump in targets in order to live up to his ADP. While that’s not impossible, it’ll be tough to do on a team that ran the third-fewest plays and had the fourth-lowest pass-to-run ratio in 2019.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Kenyatta Storin: Outside of rare, elite exceptions, I've always preferred waiting on tight end in fantasy football. Zach Ertz is not one of those exceptions.
Ertz is going 53rd overall as the TE4 in drafts, but numberFire's projections peg him for a fairly modest 77.3 receptions, 734.8 yards, and 5.8 scores. That might seem especially bearish for someone who was the TE5 in 2019 and TE2 the year prior, but as I noted a few months back regarding Ertz's player prop totals, he looks like strong bet for regression this season.
The reason for that is his volume over the past two campaigns have more to do with the injuries around him than anything else. Last year, DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Nelson Agholor all missed significant time, and in 2018, Mike Wallace pretty much missed the entire year and Jeffery was out the first three weeks.
Although Jeffery is still recovering from injury, and Jackson is always a candidate to miss time, the Eagles have otherwise only subtracted Nelson Agholor while stocking up on 2020 draft pick Jalen Reagor and speedster Marquise Goodwin. Add in tight end Dallas Goedert, who saw an increased role down the stretch last year, and running back Miles Sanders getting his share, too, and there will be a lot of mouths to feed in this offense.
Our projection falls in line with how Ertz performed from 2015-2018, and with him turning 30 near the end of the year, there's a good chance we've already seen his best. As a borderline top-50 pick, you're just not getting enough upside to justify the selection.