As Sir Richard Branson once said, “Your brand name is only as good as your reputation.” That’s just as applicable in fantasy football as it is in business.
As I’ve written about before, you have to be careful with how much stock you put into a brand name player. Peyton Manning was a brand name last year and underwhelmed with just 2,249 yards and a 67.9 QB rating. He was also drafted as one of the top 5 quarterbacks last year.
Here are some players who have an instantly-recognizable brand name but that we must make a concerted effort to try and separate the hype from reality.
Alshon Jeffery, WR – Chicago Bears
When he’s on the field, he’s freakishly talented. If he can stay healthy, he’s a lock for 1,000 yards receiving, but considering that he has only played a full season one time in his career, the “IF” is an important distinction here. The Bears didn’t put up the kind of money that Alshon was asking for – perhaps due to injury concerns. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be a beast, but on draft day, you’re paying for the brand name.
Josh Gordon, WR – Cleveland Browns
Josh Gordon was one of the most dynamic wide receivers that the league has ever seen. His suspension is up for review with the league, and if he is reinstated and allowed to play, there will be people in leagues across the country who will reach for him in their drafts. They will do this because they remember his 1,646-yard season in 2013. We don’t know what kind of wide receiver he’s going to be…if he’s even allowed to play. This situation has “brand name” written all over it. There’s upside depending on where you draft him assuming that he can stay out of trouble.
DeSean Jackson, WR – Washington Redskins
DeSean Jackson is a feast or famine kind of player. When he’s feasting, he’s hauling in big points. The problem is that he’s only fantasy-relevant in those situations. During his 2 years in Washington, he has pulled in essentially the same number of receptions (86) as his last year in Philly (82). He’s at the top of the WR depth chart in Washington, but he’s not worth paying WR1 value for in fantasy. He is a brand name built on big plays.
Jonathan Stewart, RB – Carolina Panthers
If you plan on going the trendy WR-WR in your drafts this year, you may find yourself in a position where starting Jonathan Stewart every week as your RB becomes a real possibility. Stewart has only managed to reach 1,000 yards once in the last 8 years. Over the last four seasons, he has rushed for just 10 scores. That’s 2.5 TDs…per season. With an average of just 1 catch per game in last year’s amazing Panthers‘ season, Stewart isn’t much help in PPR formats either. If Stewart can’t be more productive on a team that is easily one of the most explosive in the NFL, he’s an easy one to mark in the overrated column.
Frank Gore, RB – Indianapolis Colts
Gore missed the 1,000 yard mark for just the 3rd-time in his career last season. To be fair, everyone tanked in Indy last year, but Gore is still a brand name. Sorry folks, but his glory days are behind him. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and just doesn’t have the same step in his game as he used to. San Fran saw it when they released him. With 260 attempts last season, Gore was able to muster up just 3.7 yards per carry. Don’t overpay for this brand name.
Michael Floyd, WR – Arizona Cardinals
There’s plenty of receiving yards to go around in the desert, but Floyd seriously underwhelmed us last year. Hauling in just 52 receptions for 6 scores leaves some room for improvement. Looking at the wide receiver fantasy football rankings, Floyd is sandwiched by John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald. All three are literally right next to each other in the rankings meaning that even for guys like Fitz, you’re going to be paying brand name pricing.
Tony Romo, QB – Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas defense is what makes Tony Romo fantasy-relevant, because when they find themselves behind on the scoreboard, it’s up to Romo to bring them back into the game. That frequently means going to the air. Guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady made their receivers look better than they were. Romo looks better because of guys like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. I’m not knocking Romo – he’s talented, but if he’s your starting fantasy QB, you’re in trouble. He hasn’t started a full 16 games since 2012 and it would seem reasonable that he’ll miss some time again this year.
Randall Cobb, WR – Green Bay Packers
When Jordy Nelson went down last year, it was assumed that Randall Cobb would step up and be the #1 WR on one of the most passing-prolific offenses in the NFL. Well, that didn’t happen. He’s the kind of receiver that is better when Jordy is on the field spreading the defense. On draft day, be aware that some folks are going to remember 2014 and expect those numbers to magically reappear. Cobb is a great player, but he’s not a WR1 for the Pack and he’s not a WR1 for your fantasy team either.