Late August. The air starts to feel crisper. Schools are back in session. And regular season football is right around the corner.
But late August also brings a fever every year to fantasy players everywhere. A fever that can’t be cured with more cowbell. It’s camp hype fever. And unfortunately, even after dealing with this for years, there is still no cure.
This fever has made fools out of many of us. Believing Terrace Marshall was about to be the best rookie wide receiver. Thinking Antonio Gibson was going to have a career identical to Christian McCaffrey. Trusting Anthony Miller to be a WR1. And let’s not even get into the toll Bryan Edwards had on owners everywhere.
And now, in 2022, the fever is rising again with a new set of players: Romeo Doubs, Dameon Pierce, and Isaiah Likely. Three players at three different positions are all getting tons of hype. But before you break the bank to buy any of these players, take caution. You may be paying for them at the height of their value.
Romeo Doubs, WR GBP
The Packers took Romeo Izziyh Doubs at pick 132 in the 2022 NFL draft. Fourth-round picks have found success before, so that shouldn’t stop us from believing in him, but there is certainly reason for pause.
The Past is Against His Success
First off, Doubs was the 19th wide receiver taken in the draft. Again, this isn’t a death sentence, but there is a reason 18 receivers went ahead of him and why every team passed on him at least once. His profile is certainly not the top from an athletic standpoint. His 4.55 40-yard dash time was already not very impressive, but it also came at his Pro Day, where times tend to be slightly inflated.
Second, Doubs was a four-year college player. Yes, getting an education is great and something to be proud of, but for fantasy purposes, the history of wide receivers who did not declare for the draft early is not very encouraging. Yes, you can retort with “Cooper Kupp” or “Deebo Samuel,” but a vast majority of the top wide receivers in the league were early declares.
Being an early declare tells us that the player has already dominated and played well enough at the college level that teams want to draft him before even seeing a Senior year. They have been so successful in college that they are ready for the pros before many others at the same level.
Tied to a Hall of Fame QB
Lastly, Doubs’ hype is tied directly into who his quarterback is and the players around him in camp. If Aaron Rodgers was not Doubs’ quarterback and the Packers still had Davante Adams, there would be virtually no hype around Doubs.
And yes, it is acceptable to be excited about a player having the opportunity in an offense with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Still, historically, Rodgers does not love his young wide receivers. They make mistakes. They run the wrong routes. And Rodgers throws to who he can trust.
Take, for instance, Adams. He is one of the best wide receivers in football. But he had to work hard to get to that level. And when he first joined the Packers, Rodgers wasn’t searching for him as a primary target. He totaled 38 catches, 446 yards, and three touchdowns in his rookie season. His sophomore campaign saw 50 catches, 483 yards, and a touchdown.
Adams grew and became a star in the game, but it took time, dedication, and continuing to work with a Hall of Fame quarterback. Doubs has that same quarterback, but who knows for how long? Who knows if their chemistry will work out when the real games start? We don’t even know if Doubs is better than fellow rookie Christian Watson, who the Packers took before him in the draft.
Yet, real trades are happening now like the following one I found in the DynastyNerds Trade Browser:
Maybe Doubs is an absolute superstar that every team passed on, and 18 receivers went before in the draft. Perhaps he will immediately mesh with Rodgers and have an enormous rookie year. Or maybe the hype has gotten a little out of hand, and you need to put an ice pack on that forehead.
Another player, another fourth-round pick, is getting big hype. The Texans drafted Dameon Pierce with the second pick of the fourth round in the 2022 NFL draft. Even in an age where running backs don’t typically get drafted early, Pierce was still the seventh running back taken, after every team would have had the opportunity to take him and did not.
Pierce is 5’10” and 224 pounds and comes into the league with rather average athletic scores.
Yet, Pierce is getting a lot of hype as we get closer to the season. And this seems to be specifically because he looks like he is in line to be a starting back. He has not been named a starting back. He has only played one preseason game. And the team he would be starting for is the Houston Texans. This is enough to believe Pierce is worth this.
But let’s stop and think for a moment. Let the fever cool for just a second. What are the reasons to still be cautious about Pierce?
Is the Starting RB for the Texans Worth Targeting?
First, winning the starting job in the Texans backfield isn’t a badge of honor. For Pierce to be named the starter, he must beat Marlon Mack, Rex Burkhead, Dare Ogunbowale, and Royce Freeman. Not precisely a pool of running backs that are stopping anyone from winning a starting job.
Next, look at the Texans’ running backs a year ago: Burkhead, Mark Ingram, David Johnson, and Phillip Lindsay. If we combined the top two of these running backs last year (Burkhead and Ingram), it would be a back with 214 attempts, 721 yards, and four touchdowns. Add on 32 catches and 210 yards receiving, and this fantasy player would have scored 133.1 fantasy points. That is good enough for RB31 on the year.
Even if you believe in Pierce’s talent, which is suspect based on his athletic score and draft position, the Texans are not a premier rushing offense, and being the starter there isn’t saying a lot. Believing in Pierce based almost exclusively on the fact that he will be a starter is an excellent way to get you in a bad spot. Save those picks you want to move to acquire him and look for something a little more reliable and proven.
Lastly, we have one of the biggest risers over the last few weeks—Baltimore Ravens rookie tight end Isaiah Likely. The fever got an even higher grade this past week. Likely caught eight passes on eight targets for 100 yards and a touchdown on Sunday in Arizona.
But here I am to bring all of you cloud-floaters back to Earth. Betting on Likely right now is like mining for gold in San Francisco in 2022. It’s doubtful you are going to strike.
I’ll start by passing on his relative athletic score. Spoiler alert: it’s not all that great.
Athletes graded poorly have found success in the past. Why shouldn’t we expect Likely to produce?
Early Production is Un-Likely
Tight ends take several years to start racking up the fantasy stats. Get Kyle Pitts, an anomaly athletically, out of your head. Of the other nine tight ends not named Pitts that finished in the top-ten in 0.5-PPR leagues a season ago, only one of them had over 100 fantasy points in their rookie season: Rob Gronkowski. Five of the top-ten tight ends in 2021 didn’t break 100 fantasy points in Year 2: Dalton Schultz, Zach Ertz, Dawson Knox, Hunter Henry, and Dallas Goedert.
Producing at a high level usually doesn’t start until year two or three in fantasy football. You may think, “that’s not a problem because this is dynasty football.” Well, that would be true if it weren’t for that Likely is also a Raven. And if you know anything about the Ravens, they have one of the best tight ends in the league already rostered ahead of Likely.
Mark Andrews was TE1 in every format a season ago. He has been a favorite target of Lamar Jackson or any other quarterback behind center in Baltimore. He is only turning 27 in a few weeks, meaning he is still very much in his prime.
If you are betting on Likely to overtake Andrews on the depth chart, you are delusional. Likely may see some snaps. He may get some looks in certain situational offenses. He could produce a bit if Andrews gets hurt, though he has only missed three games in four years.
But, from a fantasy perspective, it is more likely that Likely will not play a factor in fantasy for the extent of his entire rookie contract. We play in dynasty leagues where we can hold players, but do you want to wait four years to see where Likely ends up in free agency should he continue to show talent as a backup in Baltimore? Would you even want to consider moving a top-ten tight end from 2021 and a second-round pick for Likely? Well, someone did.
Jump in a cold shower. Take some medication. Let that fever die down. Don’t make a mistake in August because you get too excited about rookies that are getting too much camp hype.
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