Nothing is more exciting than seeing how a football organization is run.  For years HBO has spoiled us with this inside look with their show, Hard Knocks.  The uncensored peek behind the curtain is the first real taste of the football season approaching for many fans.  But does this show influence us too much?

I believe Hard Knocks clouds the minds of fantasy gamers.  They get to see how the sausage is made and certain players step into the limelight and show who they really are.  I know this affects me and everyone I know, as we usually all take time out of our schedules for the show and talk about the guys featured in it every year.  This made me want to see how the show vaults certain players up the ADP ladder and whether those new-found favorite players live up to their HBO expectations.  Let’s look back at the Hard Knocks teams over the last five years and see how those stars faired.

(All ADP data taken from fantasyfootballcalculator.com)

 

2013 – Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals starred in the 2013 Hard Knocks and then-third year wide receiver A.J. Green took center stage.  He was fresh off of his first top-5 finish at the position and Hard Knocks only shined a brighter light on him.

Green was drafted as the third wide receiver off the board that season, and he didn’t disappoint.  He finished fourth in total PPR points among wide receivers with 98 catches, over 1400 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns.  He absolutely paid off his high price for his HBO fanatics.

 

2014 – Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones and the Falcons were the stars of the 2014 Hard Knocks.  Julio had only one 1000-yard receiving season to his name and had just finished 2013 by missing 11 games with a foot fracture, but that didn’t seem to affect people’s love for him.  Perhaps his Hard Knocks spotlight shot him up everyone’s draft board?

Julio was still taken as the fifth receiver in drafts despite the injury woes, and he didn’t disappoint either.  Julio nabbed 104 balls that season for 1593 yards (second in the league) and nine touchdowns.  He finished sixth in PPR points among receivers, another decent return at his Hard Knocks-inflated ADP that season.

 

2015 – Houston Texans

This was really the first year I was into Hard Knocks.  We had one of the most feared men in all of football, J.J. Watt.  We had a nasty young receiver breaking a Pro Bowl DB’s ankles, DeAndre Hopkins.  And we had workhorse Arian Foster fresh off of a top-6 finish.  The Texans seemed loaded all over and were the perfect fit for Hard Knocks with the colorful Bill O’Brien spewing profanity all throughout practice.  But disaster struck early.

Pro Bowler Arian Foster immediately tore his groin.  “The Hard Knocks Effect” took a severe negative toll on his ADP as he plummeted to the 16th running back despite a top-6 finish just a year ago.  Foster missed many games and then tore his Achilles in what would be his final game as a Texan, finishing 67th in PPR scoring among running backs.

Hopkins was a different story.  He was fresh off of a 14th-place finish among WRs after 1210 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 2014.  With Andre Johnson out of the mix, Hopkins was the clear cut #1 for the Texans and was taken as the 13th receiver in most drafts.  He blew the roof off of that draft spot as he saw a massive 192 targets for 111 catches, 1521 yards, and 11 touchdowns.  He dominated throughout the season and finished fourth among receivers in PPR scoring.

 

2016 – Los Angeles Rams

The Rams’ first season in LA was one to forget, but sadly Hard Knocks captured the final moments of the Jeff Fisher era.  And boy was it bad.

For starters, we got to see Fisher extend Tavon Austin contract by adding $100 million despite him never reaching 500 receiving yards in any of his three prior seasons.  His ADP was a great value as the 49th receiver off the board, but still somehow managed to disappoint at that price tag with a 52nd place finish.

Gurley seemed like the lone shining star in the night sky, or at least that’s how drafters saw him.  The Hard Knocks spotlight drove his ADP to the second running back taken in drafts, but he failed to reach 1000 yards and finished 15th among RBs.  This was the first time a team truly sh*t the bed for Hard Knocks, and it really shouldn’t surprise us that it was a Jeff Fisher-led team.

 

2017 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs were a great decision for HBO and the Hard Knocks crew.  The Jameis Winston clown act was on full display and showed us how bizarre of a pick he was over Marcus Mariota.  There was also free agent acquisition, Desean Jackson, and the new alpha receiver in the NFL, Mike Evans.  But just like the Rams in 2016, terrible coaching dampened the surrounding talent.

Winston was drafted as a top-10 quarterback last year and finished as the 22nd.  Mike Evans was viewed to be in the same tier as Antonio Brown and Julio Jones, getting drafted as the fourth wide receiver.  He barely surpassed 1000 yards and crawled to a 17th-place finish.  The Hard Knocks cameras shot the 30-year-old DeSean Jackson up to the 38th receiver, but even he didn’t return value as he finished 45th among receivers.

So now that’s two straight years of Hard Knocks players getting overvalued despite known terrible coaching.  See a trend?

 

2018 – Cleveland Browns

The Browns have terrible coaching.  Hue Jackson could go 15-1 for two straight years and still not have a winning record.  Greg Williams ran one of the worst defensive schemes in football last season and is best known for paying players to injure their peers.  Todd Haley was fired because he had the most talented offensive roster in the NFL the past three years and couldn’t maximize its potential.

We now have Jarvis Landry and David Njoku shooting up draft boards because one guy made a one-handed catch in a practice on Hard Knocks, and the other caught a couple of touchdowns in the preseason against a Giants defense that routinely wins DFS players millions of dollars with their inability to cover tight ends.

Fade the cameras.  Fade the noise.  Fade the overhyped players.  They may be talented, but so was Todd Gurley.  You should absolutely be betting against the coaching staff.  What has happened in the last two seasons that has inspired confidence in these guys?

The only Hard Knocks players that we have seen return value on their inflated ADPs have been the transcendent wide receiver trio of Green, Julio, and Hopkins.  I can’t be the only one hesitant to put Jarvis Landry in that tier.

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