The draft is extremely important in fantasy football leagues, but it’s certainly not the be-all and end-all. Unless, of course, you’re in a keeper league.
We’re obviously exaggerating a bit, but keeper formats — in which fantasy owners maintain a roster from year to year and can keep players they’ve drafted in previous seasons — place an extra onus on finding the right players at the right time.
So while it’s important to find the ideal young stud who can help your team for years to come, it also pays to steer clear of others who come with red flags and could be no more than dead weight on your club.
The players to avoid in keeper leagues usually are aging veterans with major injury concerns — we hope you didn’t draft Peyton Manning last season — but players of all ages come with “buyer beware” this year.
Let’s examine 10 players you should avoid in your keeper league.
DeMarco Murray, Running Back, Tennessee Titans
Murray had his worst season as a pro last season with the Philadelphia Eagles. We’re all for fresh starts, but not when it’s with the lowly Titans, who had one of the worst rushing offenses in the NFL (92.8 yards per game) last year. He’s not worth the risk.
Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills
In all honesty, this could backfire, as Watkins put up 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns last season and has star potential. But there are just too many injury concerns surrounding the 23-year-old as he attempts to return from offseason foot surgery. Besides, the Bills ranked 29th in the league last season in total receiving yards.
Jonathan Stewart, Running Back, Carolina Panthers
Stewart had a solid 2015 campaign, but there are causes for concern. At the top of the list: His 242 rush attempts last season were a career high, and with his 30th birthday approaching next March, we’re not sure how much tread is left on the tires. There are safer bets.
Demaryius Thomas, Wide Receiver, Denver Broncos
When you go from a future Hall of Famer to Mark Sanchez/Trevor Siemian/someone else as your starting QB, your stock is going to take a hit. Thomas still will get his, and he’s worthy of a spot on someone’s roster. But he shouldn’t be reached for, especially in keeper formats.
Melvin Gordon, Running Back, San Diego Chargers
Full disclosure: We pegged Gordon as a top keeper option ahead of last season. He certainly proved us wrong with an underwhelming 2015 campaign, and while the jury certainly remains out, the Chargers are enough of a mess to suggest 2016 won’t be his breakout season. Or we could just be wrong again.
Matt Forte, Running Back, New York Jets
Yes, the Jets are a run-first team, but Forte’s days as a consistent producer — even in PPR leagues — appear in the past. He’s on the wrong side of 30, likely will split reps with Bilal Powell and had just four rushing touchdowns last season.
Jared Goff, Quarterback, Los Angeles Rams
In keeper leagues, drafting a rookie quarterback who develops into a star is like hitting the lottery. But we’re not buying the hype on Goff, who only went No. 1 by virtue of this year’s relatively weak QB class. Even if he pans out, it might be a few years.
Carson Wentz, Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
Did we mention this year’s QB class wasn’t great? Wentz has a chance to start this season ahead of mediocre Sam Bradford, but we’re just not sold on either Goff or Wentz. If you’re looking for a young arm, check out Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota instead.
Gary Barnidge, Tight End, Cleveland Browns
Barnidge had a huge 2015 season, but there’s a very good chance that could just be a flash in the pan, mostly for reasons out of his control: The Browns recently named Robert Griffin III their starting quarterback, and his backups are Josh McCown and Austin Davis. Not good.
Laquon Treadwell, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings
Rookie receivers are prime keeper candidates, and we’d love to take a chance on Treadwell. Some of us believe he’s a sleeper in regular fantasy football formats. But the talented Ole Miss product is stuck on a Vikings team that finished 31st passing yards last season. Until they show more commitment to the passing game, look elsewhere for your rookie wideout sleeper.
Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images