Fantasy bust picks impact your fate in pools as least as much as the fun sleepers, if not more. The problem with whiffing badly by taking a player too early: “too early” likely means high in the draft, which means you’re burning a pick on a player who hurts you while other GMs draft highly productive pieces of their team. Reaching on players who can’t possibly live up to their lofty draft slots is the fastest way to doom your team on Day 1. The most common sources of fantasy bust picks, aside from injuries, which can’t usually be predicted: (a) big-name veterans whose skills are declining; (b) players on great real-life teams who get credited for offense they don’t actually produce; (c) players with better real-life skills than fantasy skills, and (d) rookies being projected for unrealistic production.
Bust draft picks can also involve picking decent players but doing so just way too soon when more valuable players are on the board. Conor Sheary is nice little player for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it’s positively absurd to see him being drafted before bankable performers such as Mark Stone and Jaden Schwartz. Those two are locked into scoring roles and have multiple years of reliable production on record, whereas Sheary is completely tied to whatever line he plays on. That’s not to say Sheary is a bad player – just that he’ll go bust if you pick him at the juncture of the draft where rock-solid fantasy options are available.
I define overvalued fantasy picks as come combination of:
1. Players whose production won’t match their average draft positions
2. Players being drafted ahead of players who will outperform them
3. Players with falsely inflated value because of real-life success, playing in popular markets or other emotional attachments
These are my top 10 players to avoid after cross-referencing their Yahoo average draft positions (ADPs) compared to my top 200 rankings.
Thomas Chabot (THN rank: none: Yahoo ADP: 170.4)
Chabot is one of the best five or six prospects in hockey. He projects to become a top-pairing blueliner who can play 25 minutes a night, score 45 or more points and earn some All-Star Game invites. But drafters are treating him like Charlie McAvoy, who already made the NHL last spring in the playoffs, already slotted onto the top pair with Zdeno Chara and already played 26-plus minutes a game. Chabot’s potential matches McAvoy’s, but Chabot isn’t guaranteed the same opportunity with the Ottawa Senators right away. He likely makes the team, but will he play on the top pair with Erik Karlsson after Karlsson returns from injury? It’s more likely to be Dion Phaneuf. We also have to keep in mind that, for a rookie blueliner, a 30-point season would be outstanding. It would also make Chabot less productive than a ho-hum fantasy D-man like, say, Jared Spurgeon.
Michael Grabner (THN rank: none; Yahoo ADP: 164.0)
It’s clear what’s happened here. Casual, uneducated early-September drafters reach the middle to late rounds, run out of names they know, sort the available players list by goals and think they’ve struck gold with Grabner, who had 27 last year. But we know better. We know he’s a third-liner who scored none of those 27 goals on the power play. He posted the highest shooting percentage of his career. He only logs about 14 minutes a night. He’ll probably regress by about 10 goals in 2017-18, which could leave him handy in real life but would shove him off the fantasy draft radar.
Kris Letang (THN rank: 102; Yahoo ADP: 38.9)
Wow. We all love Letang and understand he’s a top-five fantasy blueliner whenever he’s in the lineup – which isn’t often, unfortunately. It’s quite the shock to see his health not priced into his ADP at all. He’s arguably the No. 1 injury risk in the sport today, yet there’s no discount on him whatsoever. He’s off the board as the sixth defenseman right now, before Duncan Keith and P.K. Subban. That’s lunacy. Letang can win you a league when healthy but he’s sadly more likely to sink your season with an injury if he costs you a top-40 pick.
Alex Ovechkin (THN rank: 26; Yahoo ADP: 7.5)
Relax, Caps fans. I’ve still ranked Ovie as the 26th-best player to pick in pools. Not bad for a guy about to turn 32! It’s simply time to accept that Ovie is no longer a first-round pick in fantasy leagues that don’t count hits and shots. He tied for 13th in goals and 20th in points last season. That still puts him in the star tier – but not the elite tier. He’s being drafted ahead of Vladimir Tarasenko, Nikita Kucherov, Brad Marchand and Braden Holtby right now. That’s silly.
Colton Parayko (THN rank: none; Yahoo ADP: 117.0)
Parayko sure passes the eye test. He’s a mountain of a defender with a blistering slapshot. But drafters are paying based on his reputation and projecting production that hasn’t actually happened yet. Parayko is a rock-solid all-around blueliner, but he was never expected to become a huge scorer like Shea Weber or Dustin Byfuglien. It’s possible Parayko settles in as a 35- or 40-point guy. That makes him more of a late-round pick in most pools. Right now, he’s going in Round 9 in 12-team drafts, ahead of Tyson Barrie and Ivan Provorov. I’d rather pick the other two guys later.
Zach Parise (THN rank: none; Yahoo ADP: 119.0)
Parise clearly gets legacy treatment in drafts since he used to be a stud in pools. His goals, assists, points, games played and PIM have dipped two straight years. He’s 33 and averages 12 missed games annually over his past four campaigns. He also doesn’t always play on a scoring line in Minnesota anymore, as the Wild have Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund Charlie Coyle as their top four wingers. Parise seems more likely to keep declining than magically improve given his age, health and role.
Corey Perry (THN rank: 135; Yahoo ADP: 63.3)
Here’s another player still getting mileage out of his glory years. Perry was a fantasy monster and regular first-rounder during his peak from about 2008-09 to 2013-14, averaging 37 goals, 82 points and 102 penalty minutes per 82 games. Over his past three campaigns: 30 goals, 60 points and 75 PIM per 82. Even those numbers don’t tell the full story, as he dipped to 19 goals and 53 points last season. Perry is still a useful stat stuffer, but he’s a better depth piece than front-line fantasy player now, especially when he’s no longer a lock to play with Ryan Getzlaf on the first line. Speaking of which: how is Getzlaf’s ADP only 53rd?
Pekka Rinne (THN rank: 105; Yahoo ADP: 36.2)
Rinne has some fantasy appeal, sure. He’s the starting goalie on a team that just went to the Stanley Cup final. He ranks top-five in wins over the past six seasons combined. He’s a safe bet to provide counting stats. But the rate stats are just OK. His save percentage over the past five seasons is .914. He’s treated as an high-end commodity in fantasy – he’s the seventh goalie off the board on average in drafts right now – when his numbers are middle of the pack. Give me John Gibson or Devan Dubnyk or Corey Crawford or Martin Jones over Rinne in pools every day of the week. Each of those guys somehow is being picked after Rinne in Yahoo drafts right now.
Cory Schneider (THN rank: 140; Yahoo ADP: 96.3)
It pains me to dump on Schneider, long one of the game’s most underrated puck-stoppers. But he’s somewhat of a toxic commodity in fantasy pools right now. He plays for what should be a last-place team with arguably the league’s weakest defense corps on front of him. It’s a recipe for more of what we saw last year: the worse season of Schneider’s career. The Devils did make many improvements over the summer – at forward, not on defense. And their best defensive forward, Travis Zajac, is out until February.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (THN rank: none; Yahoo ADP: 141.8)
Real-life Vlasic: one of the game’s premier shutdown defensemen. Fantasy Vlasic: meh. He’s never topped nine goals or 39 points in a season. He’s only crested 30 points once in his past eight seasons. He’s undraftable in all but the deepest of pools. You know exactly what you get with Vlasic, which is why it’s odd to seem him picked ahead of upside guys like McAvoy, Morgan Rielly and Dmitry Orlov.
THE WTF ALL-STARS
Please let me in whatever pools are drafting these guys. Can someone explain it to me? Are the real-life players picking themselves? Are their parents picking them? Feast your eyes on these ADPs:
- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, 144.7 (between Ryan O’Reilly and Chris Kreider)
- Teemu Pulkinen, 149.9 (between Charlie McAvoy and Patrick Marleau)
- Antoine Roussel, 156.9 (between Henrik Sedin and Connor Brown)
- Evan Rodrigues, 158.0 (between Nick Foligno and Morgan Rielly)
- Antti Niemi, 160 (between Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick)
- Brayden McNabb, 160.8 (between Richard Panik and Joe Thornton)