Five Key Players You May Want to Wait On

Rob Gronkowski – Expert rankings have him going in the first round, while the average draft position (ADP) have him slipping slightly to 14 overall. I have no doubts as to his athleticism and ability. I do, however, have doubts as to who might be throwing him the football for one-third of the fantasy season.

If Tom Brady’s suspension holds up, then that means Jimmy Garoppolo will get 4 starts through week 5. (The Patriots bye comes in week 4.) Everyone assumes that Gronk will have equal productivity with Garoppolo – a QB who has (count ‘em) zero NFL starts and 27 career pass attempts. He’s not Brady.

It may be risky to draft Gronk so high as the centerpiece of your team. Particularly if he may not start contributing like an elite player should until week 6 of the fantasy season.

Jimmy Graham – Experts have him as a late third round selection while ADP has him as an early third rounder. Graham goes from a pass-happy Saints team (ranked 3rd in passing in 2014) to a pass-challenged Seahawks team (ranked 27th in the pass game).

Graham had 889 yards and 10 TD last season with Brees. The best receiver on the Seahawks, Doug Baldwin, had 825 yards and 3 TD and probably was not even owned in most leagues. Do you really want to burn a third round pick for that kind of production?

Everyone assumes that Graham will put up Saint-type numbers. Maybe he will. Maybe the Seahawks will pass more with Graham. But passing, when they shouldn’t have, also ended their season last year.

Amari Cooper – Both the experts and ADP have him ranked 44-45 overall. That means he’s being drafted as a WR2 in the fourth round.  Like most rookies, Cooper is viewed as freakishly, Goliathly great and his ceiling is through the stratosphere in preseason. But he’s still unproven.

One thing that can be easily overlooked is that Cooper plays for a team with the worst NFL offense in 2014. No Raiders receiver made it to the 700-yard plateau.  Even if Cooper turns out to be an above average player, yardage only gets you so far in fantasy. The Raiders were ranked 31 in points scored. Sometimes a lack of TD scores doesn’t hit home until the season is over and an owner reflects on what went wrong?

Arian Foster – Optimistic reports are now pointing to a possible return in week 2 or 3. Because of these reports, Foster is climbing up the rankings. Experts have him at 93 (RB-34) which is the 8th round. ADP is much more aggressive, ranking him at 63 (RB-24) which is early in the 6th round.

I owned Rob Gronkowski in 2013, the year that he had a serious forearm infection. Preseason prognostications had him playing in week 3. Didn’t happen. Then week 5 looked like a possibility. Nope. Finally he played in week 7 and did fantastic. Unfortunately my fantasy season was half over! It was tough to make up the ground I had lost – It was a nightmare.  I certainly could have used that fifth round spot for a healthier contributor.

I see the same scenario playing out with Foster. If he lingers on the board until after your key starter positions are filled then grab him, but you could be in for a headache if you pull the trigger on him any sooner.

Ben Roethlisberger – Experts have him as the QB6 in the 5th round (55 overall); ADP gives him a bump to the 4th round at 42nd overall. Let me preface my comments by saying that Ben has always been fairly consistent as a fantasy contributor in his 11 seasons, but he is generally on the low-end of the QB1 spectrum – hovering in the QB2 (backup) territory.

If you take his best 8 years prior to 2014, his career passing average is 3637 yards per year. So last season he was 1300 yards above his average. 1300!! If you scale his best years down to the top 6 (about half), his passing average bumps a little to 4072. Which is still nearly 900 yards below last season. I think 2015 was an anomaly.

That doesn’t mean Ben can’t pass for over 4K, but getting close to 5K again? I tend to lean more toward his career history than one impressive season. Call me skeptical for a repeat performance.


If you decide to wait on these players, chances are you will miss out on drafting them. But it may be a blessing in disguise.

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Joe Mica

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Joe has been passionate about fantasy football since 2001. He has experience as an owner as well as a commissioner in H2H, auction, redraft and IDP leagues. He has written fantasy football columns since 2010. Submit any fantasy football questions you may have to me on twitter @JoeFMica

8 thoughts on “Five Key Players You May Want to Wait On”

  1. Have to say, Joe, I can’t find one sentence to argue with you. Nail on the head! I have Gronk in a keeper, but I was left with nothing else. I’d grab Graham after about the top 20. Not touching Cooper at that price.

    One thing I will say is that Ben is just a different QB now under Haley. So I take his history with a grain of salt. That said, only scored 20 points once when Martavis was not playing last year. First two games missing two huge talents, then two more for Bryant. Not on my list at that price.

    Great list!

  2. As usual, Joe brings his good stuff here. He focuses on real players that carry value versus depth players. Love the insight Joe keep it up! I am with you about Big Ben. He is a big guy that likes to hold onto the ball at times which brings extra risk and he is missing key teammates for multiple games this year due to both injury and suspension

  3. The other thing to keep in mind with Roethlisberger is the state of the Steelers’ defense. In the past, Tomlin has always utilized a mostly conservative offensive game. I am not going to call Big Ben a game manager because he was always better than that, but his role never allowed him to post numbers anywhere near the elite QBs.

    Prior to 2014, Ben only exceeded 500 pass attempts 3 times. Before 2013, his career high was 513 attempts. Only Aaron Rodgers is good enough to post elite QB numbers with so few attempts. For perspective, Drew Brees has not been under 650 attempt for the past 5 seasons. The last two seasons, Ben has totaled 584 and 608 attempts.

    What has changed in Pittsburgh? Quite simply their defense is terrible now. They can no longer afford to play conservative football, they need to outscore their opponents. That means loads of attempts and a guaranteed top 5 QB finish if he and his weapons can stay relatively healthy.

    I understand not wanting to reach for him in the 4th round (I will reach for him there in many formats), but do not make the mistake of assuming last year was a fluke. This is a different team than past Steelers’ units and Ben is extremely well positioned for fantasy glory.

    1. If I’m going to consider drafting a QB before round 5 or 6, that QB better have a consistent history as an elite QB. Maybe Big Ben is, as you said, “well positioned for fantasy glory.” But his 11-year history isn’t consistent. So to pull the trigger any earlier than round 5 or 6 is a gamble in my opinion.

  4. I hope my comment did not come off as being argumentative. We will obviously agree to disagree on this one. Jut wanted to put the alternative view out there. I do agree there is some risk involved in taking Roethlisberger before round 5, but at that point of the the draft you have two options:

    1) high floor, low ceiling
    2) High ceiling, low floor

    There are no surefire studs in round 4. Compared to the WRs and RBs I am looking at there, I like Ben’s odds of reaching his ceiling. Of course, the flip-side is that you will find good, safe QB values later. I generally prefer to play it safe early and chase the high ceiling players in the middle rounds. I actually think Ben’s floor is relatively high here too.

  5. 12 team .25 PPR keeper league. How’d I do? Rbs and qbs went early and often
    Qb romo (5th)
    Rb hill (10 keeper)
    Rb foster (3rd)
    Wr Thomas (1)
    Wr cooks (2)
    Flex d. Martin (4)
    Te Walker (7)
    D Baltimore (15)
    K Crosby (16)
    Bench rb t Coleman (6)
    Bench rb David Johnson (9)
    Bench wr m Wallace (11)
    Bench wr devante Parker( 12)
    Bench qb bridgewater (13)
    Bench wr jordy Nelson (14) can keep in (13) next year
    Bench te Austin sef Jenkins

    1. John, you should know that I generally prefer not to give out grades or analyze drafts. The truth is no one knows for sure what will transpire in fantasy in a single season.

      With that disclaimer highlighted, I will mention that it seemed like you were reaching on a lot of players that you could have waited on. Foster in the 3rd for example. (Did you read my column above about him?) Doug Martin in the 4th.

      You also seemed to load up on unproven rookie talent which may not be too bad in the long run, but many of them have undefined roles at this point in preseason which is risky to take them so high. Coleman did nothing to win the job from Freeman in Atlanta. And the same could be said for David Johnson, so much so that the Cards went and invested in a broken down Chris Johnson.

      Perhaps in a keeper league, the future may look brighter for rookies, but established veterans can still provide consistency and depth just in case the young guns end up shooting blanks.

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