Week 8 Fantasy Football Drop List: Cutting the Underachievers

Look for better options on your waiver wire than these under-performing players.

Week 7 is now in the books, and it’s come to the point where, for the most part, we know what each player brings to our roster. With every team playing at least six games, the likelihood of a major turnaround for an under-performing player is declining.

We’ve had some surprises that keep performing almost every week -- here’s looking at you Gary Barnidge and Rishard Matthews. All in all, this season has been light on fantasy difference makers coming from free agent additions. 

What this season hasn’t been light on is players failing to meet expectations. Underachieving stars are all around us. High draft picks that have failed to produce are mucking up our rosters. It may be time to free yourself from the constraints of these chronic roster drains and add some fresh faces to your lineup.

This week's list looks at players who have gotten targets, carries, and receptions but have failed to turn those touches into consistent fantasy production.

These players are not must-drops. These are players who have produced disappointing results to this point and are in situations that do not appear to be changing. Most of these drops will depend on how many teams are in your league, how your team is constructed, and what free agent players are available.

The waiver wire is getting thinner by the day, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some quality options available in most leagues.

You’ll see  Net Expected Points (NEP) referenced many times; NEP quantifies how a player performs, and it indicates how many points above or below expectation-level he adds to his team's expected scoring output. The higher the score, the more positive impact a player has. 

Alfred Morris, Running Back, Washington Redskins

Yahoo Ownership: 73%
ESPN Ownership: 83%

Once the apple of Mike Shanahan’s eye, Alfred Morris has fallen far from his dominant rookie season. His carries and yards have gone down in each of the last three seasons, and he hasn’t scored double digit fantasy points since Week 1 of this year. He is on pace for 208 carries but fewer than 700 yards. Morris is also yet to find the end zone. If his pace doesn't improve, Morris' projected finish would have placed him 47th at running back in standard scoring leagues last season.

Morris does have more carries and yards than rookie Matt Jones, but neither have done much outside of one good game apiece. Morris has struggled with a Rushing Net Expected Point per attempt of -0.12. Jones hasn’t been much better, posting a -0.11 Rushing NEP per carry.

Watching the two, Jones looks to be the more complete back and possible future for the Redskins. Although inactive this week, Chris Thompson has claimed passing down work, making the running back picture murkier than before. Morris played just 10 snaps Sunday against Tampa Bay.

With the running back position extremely volatile, it may be difficult to outright cut Morris. There is likely a wide receiver worth starting over him for most owners. Morris shouldn’t be anywhere close to a starting fantasy lineup anytime soon.

Golden Tate, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions

Yahoo Ownership: 89%
ESPN Ownership: 86%

Through seven games, Tate has reached 80 receiving yards just once. He’s been held under 50 yards four times and scored only one touchdown.

It isn’t that surprising to see Tate’s numbers drop from his career year of 1,331 receiving yards last season. Tate amassed 599 of those receiving yards in three games Calvin Johnson missed and two in which Johnson was injured and saw just three targets.

What is surprising is the middling stats from Tate on such a high number of targets. Tate is 14th in the NFL with 62 targets on the year, but he has been unable to turn those targets into fantasy production. Out of 51 players with at least 40 targets on the season, Tate ranks last in Target NEP (-10.86) and last in Reception NEP per target (0.33). Normally in fantasy football, you want players getting targets, but in Tate’s case, the targets have not helped his fantasy value.

Tate will post the occasional good game and possibly end the season with decent statistics, but his ceiling is limited,and he lacks consistency of other wide receivers. In deeper leagues, Tate is a hold, but owners in shallow leagues should see who else is available.

Terrance Williams, Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboys

Yahoo Ownership: 48%
ESPN Ownership: 49%

When all-world receiver Dez Bryant went down in Week 1 with a broken bone in his foot, Terrance Williams was expected to step into the lead receiver role for the Cowboys. He was one of the top pickups in Week 2, with visions of a top 25 receiving option for fantasy owners.

The hype didn’t last long for Williams. A week after Bryant’s injury, franchise quarterback Tony Romo suffered a broken collarbone, shelving him for multiple weeks. 

The quarterback situation has been beyond horrific with Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel as the Cowboys’ current options. Williams has been targeted 40 times on the season, but has caught just 18 of those targets for 293 yards and 2 touchdowns.

The Cowboys have the fourth worst Adjusted Passing NEP per play, and it's safe to say Williams likely would’ve produced better numbers in Bryant’s absence had Romo been able to stay on the field.

With Bryant hopefully returning within the next two weeks, Williams’ fantasy prospects will be even lower. Williams has not been able to turn the occasional big play into consistent fantasy production over two NFL seasons.

Ameer Abdullah, Running Back, Detroit Lions

Yahoo Ownership: 79%
ESPN Ownership: 78%

Preseason standout Ameer Abdullah was expected to be the big play threat for Detroit at running back and eventually take a majority of the workload from Joique Bell by season’s end. Bell has struggled through a variety of injuries all season, but Abdullah has failed to capitalize on his absence.

Ball protection issues and a struggling team around him has limited Abdullah from reaching the lofty preseason expectations in his first year.

As the Lions find themselves in passing mode because of frequent deficits, Theo Riddick has found a large role in the offense. The running game for Detroit has floundered, ranking ninth in Adjusted NEP per rush as a team.

Abdullah has contributed to these rushing woes with a Rushing NEP per carry of -0.11. Producing below middling results, no Detroit running back has been able to stake claim to the job.

Player Total Touches Rushing Yards Receiving Yards Total Touchdowns
Ameer Abdullah 75 222 113 2
Theo Riddick 48 46 318 2
Joique Bell 30 43 55 1
Zach Zenner 19 60 11 0

Losing Zach Zenner for the season removed one running back option from the picture, but touch distribution questions remain. Riddick led the team in snaps Sunday with 30, while Bell and Abdullah each played 12.

As long as the Lions are stuck in catch-up mode, the snap distribution should remain in Riddick’s favor.

Like Alfred Morris, it will be difficult to drop Abdullah because of the sheer ineptitude from the running back position for many teams. In shallow leagues, Abdullah could be dropped if an owner finds himself in a bye week pinch, though trying to trade him is also a possibility, provided that the other owner is bullish on the new offensive coaching in Detroit.

Larry Donnell, Tight End, New York Giants

Yahoo Ownership: 46%
ESPN Ownership: 57%

Larry Donnell’s ownership percentage is startlingly high compared to the fantasy results he’s produced to date. Donnell ranks as the 26th overall tight end in standard scoring leagues based on per-game average at under five fantasy points per game.

His season fantasy totals rank him number 16 at the tight end position. Donnell’s hands are questionable and he offers very little after-the-catch ability. If his speed were rated like a hot wing sauce he would score on the opposite end of blazing.

His Reception NEP per target is 0.37, ranking him second worst, behind only the aforementioned Golden Tate, out of 51 players with at least 40 targets on the year. Donnell isn’t a player that offers much upside.

Based on the matchup, Donnell may be a low end option for tight end streamers but shouldn’t be locked into weekly lineups. He falls squarely in the TE2 category and can be safely dropped.