Fantasy football overvalued players: Wide receivers

by Bryce McRae and Tim Heaney on September 8, 2010 @ 12:41:00 PDT's analysis of fantasy football overvalued players for the 2010 season will be updated weekly throughout the offseason. We have separated our busts and overvalued players this year, so be sure not to confuse the two.

Busts are also overvalued players in some cases, but the latter usually has a hype machine inflating his perceived value. We have a keen eye for these players and have a strong track record of identifying them. No one likes doing the dirty work, so let do it for you! Be sure to check for weekly updates.

Note: All average draft position (ADP) figures are based on 12-team, non-PPR leagues unless specified otherwise.

Wide receivers

Larry Fitzgerald | Arizona Cardinals | ADP: 16th overall

Steve E. Smith, WR, New York Giants
Last year wasn't the norm

Arizona is expected to transition into more of a power-running offense under quarterback Derek Anderson. Fitzgerald's 2009 11.3 yards-per-reception average was the lowest of his career, which came with Kurt Warner at the helm. Fitz has never been known as a deep threat and has battled a sprained MCL this preseason; he will probably wear a knee brace in Week 1. That has cut into his time developing chemistry with Anderson.

The loss of wide receiver Anquan Boldin will allow Fitzgerald to be the full-fledged primary target in the offense on a week-to-week basis, which isn't all good. He'll see more double coverages than ever before. Wideout Steve Breaston should start opposite Fitzgerald, but he's no Boldin.

Fantasy value: We don't expect Fitzgerald to completely fall off the fantasy map, but he is being overvalued with his average selection placement of the 13th player drafted. That makes him the third receiver taken, on average. His skill set matches this, but there is downside that even Fitz can't overcome. Considering fantasy owners' love for him this year, likely based more on name recognition than sound evaluation, you probably won't be able to draft him in a position that dampens the risk enough to make it worthwhile. Expect low-end No. 1 production, which certainly isn't worthy of a first-round pick.

Steve E. Smith | New York Giants | ADP: 5th round

Count Smith among the breakout candidates from '09; he finished the campaign with 107 receptions for 1,220 yards and seven scores. Those surpassed his 2008 totals of 57 receptions for 574 yards one score.

Over his three years, Smith has established himself as quarterback Eli Manning's favorite target. However, he has also established himself as largely a possession guy. He averaged only 11.4 yards per catch last year and just 10.1 the year before.

Smith is unlikley to continue at his 2009 pace, especially with an emerging Hakeem Nicks and the presence of Mario Manningham, Kevin Boss, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. All those guys need their touches, when healthy.

Also, Manning enjoyed a career year in 2009. His completion percentage was 5.3 points higher than his career average. He threw three more TDs than his previous career high. Any regression would likely drag down Smith's numbers, too.

Fantasy value: Drafting Smith as a No. 2 can pay off. He can be a boon in point-per-reception leagues, and he'll probably be Manning's favorite target again. However, make sure you don't put too much stock into his breakout year; it's probably unlikely he'll match those totals. We don't think the fifth round is an unfair placement for Smith in your draft, but this is more of a warning to temper your expectations.

Hakeem Nicks | New York Giants | ADP: 5th round

A promising rookie season (47-790-6 in 14 games) has Nicks high on many a wish list. The 6-foot, 215-pound Nicks has quality speed and is a big-play threat (16.8 yards per reception last year). He is challenging for the No. 2 job but appears to have the upper hand in the competition with Mario Manningham, who is best suited for a slot role.

The Giants are a power-running team at heart, but injuries forced their offense to evolve into a pass-friendly system in '09. We don't expect New York to completely give up on their newfound passing success of a year ago, but Nicks will probably have to once again do a lot with little.

Fantasy value: We like Nicks quite a bit, just not enough to make him our WR2 or a fifth-round pick. If you subscribe to going heavy on wideouts early in your draft he could be your third, but we're not crazy about that strategy, either. If he somehow falls to the seventh round, you have mitigated most of the risk in selecting him. He is a better choice in non-PPR leagues due to his likely low volume of receptions and big-play prowess.

Pierre Garcon | Indianapolis Colts | ADP: 5th round

Indianapolis Colts WR Pierre Garcon
Talent isn't everything

The Mount Union product was a top KFFL sleeper last year, and this season he's on the other side of the coin. Injury problems are fairly common with Garcon. He is one of several very capable weapons in the Colts' prolific passing game, so expecting large increases in his statistics is unrealistic.

Battling Anthony Gonzalez (knee) and Austin Collie for the starting job, Garcon isn't even a lock for full-time play. He is an all-or-nothing receiver and didn't show a knack for finding the end zone in 2009.

Fantasy value: Garcon has talent, but expecting a major uptick in his production is foolish. Spending a fifth-round pick on him is overly optimistic thinking. His risk is drastically lessened if you can land him closer to the seventh round as a low-end third receiver.

Steve Breaston | Arizona Cardinals | ADP: 7th round

Due to Arizona's stellar offense at the hands of quarterback Kurt Warner, Breaston has been one of the more attractive NFL third wideouts to own in fantasy for the last few years. He has tallied 77-1,006-3 and 55-712-3 in the last two seasons, respectively, as the No. 3 receiving option behind Larry Fitzgerald (knee) and Anquan Boldin. Breaston often took advantage of Boldin's absences throughout his career; the former logged at least four catches in nine of his 15 contests last year.

Now that Warner and Boldin are gone, though, can Breaston carry the remaining weight as their new No. 2 receiver? Heck, will there be much of an aerial game to assume? Does Breaston have significant room to growth entering his fourth season?

Despite being a polished route runner with decent hands, Breaston isn't that explosive; he registered just one catch of 40-plus yards in '09. With Derek Anderson taking over behind center, the Cards likely will take more steps to become a more conservative, run-focused squad, with Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower toting the rock often. 

Fantasy value: With the Cards' offense evolving (devolving?), you can't just assume Breaston will pick up the slack of Boldin's production. The system is no longer a crutch for anyone outside Fitzgerald. Maybe a more conservative offense will aid Breaston's PPR stock, perhaps retaining value as a low-end No. 3 there. That's too many maybes to reach for him. If you make him your No. 3 in non-PPR, prepare to be disappointed; you'll probably be looking at his production falling closer to 2009 than 2008.

Devin Aromashodu | Chicago Bears | ADP: 8th round

We like what Aromashodu did at the end of the 2009 season, scoring four touchdowns in his final five games. In this time, he caught 22 passes for 282 yards. Our sources told us last summer that Aromashodu had the best chemistry of any receiver on the team with quarterback Jay Cutler. It was all about an opportunity to see playing time.

This year, fantasy owners are all about Aromashodu. We caution that he'll likely be third on the depth chart most of the year, and he has to learn a new system. The Bears hired Mike Martz to direct their offense, and his system isn't conducive to productive bigger possession receivers like DA (6-foot-2). The system is built for small, speedy players that excel in creating yards after the catch.

Our guess is that in three- or four-wide sets, Aromashodu will move outside so the team can shift Devin Hester into the slot. If the playing time for the fourth-year Auburn receiver materializes, he could be a legitimate fantasy contributor. Until then, count on mediocrity.

Fantasy value: Targeting a sleeper and going after him is one thing, but overvaluing an unproven commodity this high is a waste of a pick. Aromashodu is worth a flier pick as a fourth or fifth receiver in the 11th round or so. You won't get him unless you cave in and pony up for his overvalued price tag.

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Also See:
Sleepers: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Busts: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Undervalued players: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Overvalued players: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT

About Bryce McRae

Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.

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