Much like “drafting the right players” is really the simplest way to win in fantasy football, not drafting the WRONG players is also a pretty critical factor. That’s why it’s important to understand which players we’re not so high on as a staff.
Now, there are two critical categories in this article, and we feel it’s important to classify both.
An “OVERVALUE” is a player we don’t necessarily want to avoid at all costs, but his ADP makes him someone we’re going to overlook unless it drops a little bit — we prefer other players at that specific cost.
An “AVOID” is a player we’re almost certainly not drafting at all, unless there’s a major market overcorrection.
The thing that makes this article a little tougher than pointing out players we do want to draft is that there’s almost always a point where every player is worth drafting. But the players in this article are the ones for whom those opportunities are few and far between.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll break it down by position, and put the players in each position in order of ADP. We’ll let you know if that player is overvalued or an avoid based on that ADP, our projections, and any news and notes that have come out.
This article will be constantly updated throughout the preseason.
ADP in this article is based on our ADP tool’s PPR setting, which pulls from NFFC drafts over the last 14 days.
OVERVALUE: Justin Herbert (LAC, ADP QB8, PROJ QB11) — After a stellar rookie season, Herbert enters 2021 as a locked-in top-8 QB by ADP. It’s obviously merited. After Tyrod Taylor unceremoniously lost his job in Week 2, Herbert became one of the most valuable waiver wire pickups of the season. Herbert finished as a QB1 (top-12) in nine of his 15 starts, ending the year with just as many QB1 weeks as Russell Wilson. The bulk numbers are even more impressive. In 15 starts, Herbert ended with the second-most yards (4,336), the most TDs (31), the second-highest completion rate (66.6%), and the third-most fantasy points per game (22.2) by a rookie QB all-time. However, there is some pause for concern. First and foremost, you’ve got to draft Herbert in the sixth or seventh round of drafts right now — usually ahead of Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. While the hype around Herbert is deserved, he is priced near his ceiling because he has limited rushing upside. In the nine games that Austin Ekeler started with Herbert last year, Herbert was much more content to dump the ball off to his back and not scramble. With Ekeler on the field, Herbert averaged just 3.1 rushing attempts per game. For reference, Ryan Tannehill has carried the ball exactly 3.1 times per game over the last two years. Now-Eagles OC Shane Steichen did a phenomenal job mentoring and coaching Herbert last year, but the Chargers are onto a new play-caller in Joe Lombardi in 2021. Lombardi has only called plays in one full season in his NFL coaching career with the Lions in 2014 where his offense finished a mediocre 23rd in points scored per game. Between his price, scrambling concerns, and regime change — we are much lower on Herbert than the market.
OVERVALUE: Matt Ryan (Atl, ADP QB15, PROJ QB20) — Ryan will be Atlanta’s starting quarterback for a 14th season in 2021. Ryan coming back wasn’t a lock at the end of last season when the Falcons finished with a 4-12 record, which landed them the No. 4 pick in a draft with five first-round quarterbacks. The Falcons gave the 36-year-old quarterback a vote of confidence for the near future bypassing the young QB talent, and they even gave him the most exciting young offensive weapon in the draft by selecting TE Kyle Pitts. Unfortunately, he’ll be entering his first season without his partner in crime, Julio Jones, for the first time since 2010. In their decade together, Ryan has averaged 7.8 YPA and 292.6 passing yards per game with 242 TDs and 92 INTs in 134 games with Julio. Ryan has been demonstrably worse without Jones in that same span, averaging 7.0 YPA and 260.1 passing yards per game with 39 TDs, and 25 INTs in 25 games. Ryan at least still has Pitts, who has the highest ceiling for any rookie TE of all time, and last year’s breakout WR Calvin Ridley, who finished as the WR4 playing with Ryan. The bigger concern could be a dip in passing volume for Ryan with Arthur Smith taking over as the head coach and play-caller. Ryan has topped 600+ passing attempts in three straight seasons and in seven of his last nine years while Smith’s Titans’ offenses averaged 466.5 passes per season the last two years. The Falcons will still have one of the worst defenses in the league, which will keep Ryan active, but he’ll need to be way more efficient in his first season without Julio to have any hopes of being a QB1 since he doesn’t bring anything to the table with his legs. The non-mobile passers like Ryan are working up stream to beat out the running QBs.
AVOID: Carson Wentz (Ind, ADP QB27, PROJ QB27) — The Colts are hoping that old, timeless adage — “he needs a change of scenery” — comes into play with Wentz, who was part of a collapse in Philly that saw a promising Super Bowl title team in 2017 devolve into nonfunctional spare parts by 2020. Indeed, there are plenty of excuses for Wentz’s abominable 2020 campaign that saw him benched in Week 13 for Jalen Hurts. The scheme, under Doug Pederson, was stale. Wentz had injury and talent issues at OL and WR. The roster was bad. But the tape also showed a QB who had regressed into oblivion, and the stats aren’t much kinder… if at all. Wentz’s accuracy has fallen in, now, four straight seasons when he has a clean pocket (88% on-target in 2017 > 86% in 2018 > 78% in 2019 > 74% in 2020). In fact, Wentz’s 74% on-target throw rate last year ranked dead last out of 38 QBs. On throws of 10+ yards downfield, Wentz was on-target just 52% of the time. That was, by far, the worst rate in the league. Drew Lock ranked second-worst at 56%. Based on the difficulty of the throw, Wentz’s completion rate was -4.1% below expectation per Next Gen Stats. Only Dwayne Haskins (-7.1%) was worse. But, again, the numbers also describe how bad Wentz’s situation in Philly was. His receivers dropped 7% of his pass attempts in 2020, which was the highest rate in the league. Wentz was pressured on 37% of his dropbacks last year (sixth-highest rate). Meanwhile, Philip Rivers, in Indy, was pressured on 24% of his dropbacks (second-lowest rate). Wentz’s receiving corps in Indy isn’t exactly what we’d consider one of the league’s best, but the offensive line is obviously a different story. And we’re burying the lede here, as Wentz’s reunion with coach Frank Reich — his offensive coordinator during his would-be MVP season in 2017 — is the biggest reason to be bullish on his ability to rebound. Very clearly, Reich is going to have to redesign his attack for Wentz, who is much more aggressive and holds onto the ball much longer than did Rivers — per Next Gen Stats, Rivers’ average time to pass release was 2.5 seconds (fifth-fastest). Wentz’s release time was 2.9 seconds (fifth-longest). Wentz’s 8.9 average depth of target on throws ranked 4th among QBs with 400 or more pass attempts in 2020, while Rivers’ 7.3 aDOT ranked 19th (of 22). The Colts clearly believe in Wentz, sending two premium picks to Philly for him (a conditional 1st and a 3rd). But the conditions on the first-round pick also incentivize the Colts benching Wentz if things aren’t going well or if his July foot injury is a problem, as if Wentz plays 75% of the offensive snaps or 70% of the snaps and the Colts make the playoffs, the 2022 first-round pick conveys (it’s a second otherwise). While it’s positive that Wentz has a shot to start in Week 1 after he needed foot surgery early in Training Camp, all of the surrounding arguments we have to make to convince ourselves that Wentz is a worthwhile pick made us squeamish. The latest injury just cements Wentz as a total avoid.
OVERVALUE: Josh Jacobs (LVR, ADP RB21, PROJ RB21) — The Raiders used a first-round pick on Jacobs in 2019 but HC Jon Gruden has been reluctant to give him a true bell-cow role through two seasons — Jacobs has seen just ONE target on third down to start his career. He’s unlikely to be a bell-cow back again in 2021 after Las Vegas gave Kenyan Drake a two-year deal worth up to $11M to be the top receiver in this backfield. The Raiders can say whatever they want, but Drake’s hefty contract shows they don’t have a ton of faith in Jacobs’ ability as a receiver. Also, Jacobs is a hard runner who’s been nicked up a bunch early in his career which likely factored into Vegas’ thinking by signing Drake. Jacobs finished with 273/1065/12 rushing (3.9 YPC) and 33/238/0 receiving to finish as the RB12 with 15.6 FPG in 15 games. The thing is, there is a lot to unpack here because Jacobs’ bulk stats look good on the surface. While it may look like Jacobs finished as a RB1, he was more of a low-end RB2 from a weekly scoring perspective. Jacobs had just four total RB1 finishes in Weeks 1-16 where he finished inside of the top-12 weekly scorers. For reference, Austin Ekeler went right after Jacobs in many drafts and managed the same amount of top-12 scoring weeks (4) despite missing 7 games. James Conner had five top-12 performances despite being, well, James Conner. For his career, Jacobs has been unbelievably game-script dependent because he doesn’t have a role on third-downs. And that lack of work as a receiver has made Jacobs extremely volatile in fantasy from a scoring perspective. When the Raiders win, he’s awesome! Jacobs averages 21.1 fantasy points per game in wins. But when the Raiders lose, he puts up just 10.3 FPG. In fact, 17 of Jacobs’ 19 career TDs have come in wins. What’s more, the Raiders offensive line could have some growing pains after they traded away C Rodney Hudson, OG Gabe Jackson, and OT Trent Brown this off-season. Jacobs is going to need plenty of positive gamescripts to justify his fourth-round draft price, which is a bit worrisome since the Raiders have the league’s seventh-worst season win total sitting at just 7 victories. Jacobs has a scary weekly floor and he doesn’t offer a ton of upside if Drake is going to hog most of the passing-game work in this backfield, which makes him an unremarkable low-end RB2 option.
OVERVALUE: Kareem Hunt (Cle, ADP RB26, PROJ RB26) — Hunt will once again be the best No. 2 option in any NFL backfield this season, and he gives HC Kevin Stefanski a high-end, starting-caliber back behind stud Nick Chubb. Hunt posted 198/841/6 rushing (4.2 YPC) and 38/304/5 receiving on 51 targets to finish as the RB20 with 13.7 FPG while playing 52% of the snaps in 16 games last season. He’s an intriguing fantasy option since he has standalone appeal as a low-end RB2 next to Chubb, and he has RB1 potential in weeks that Chubb misses action. Hunt averaged 18.8 touches and 81.0 scrimmage yards per game with two scores for 13.6 FPG in four games (Weeks 5-8) without Chubb last season. Hunt actually averaged slightly more FPG (13.7) with Chubb in the lineup thanks to nine TDs, but he saw his touches (13.4) and scrimmage yards (68.3) dip. One concern for Hunt is that Chubb outpaced him as a receiver in the final eight games of last season (playoffs included). Stefanski went out of his way to get Chubb more involved with 19/206/0 receiving in that stretch while Hunt managed just 18/168/1 receiving in the same period. Still, the Browns have their sights set on a deep run this season and Stefanski is going to liberally mix Hunt in behind Chubb to keep both of his backs fresh. The problem is that Hunt isn’t cheap with his fifth round ADP. He’s a fine FLEX option, but you’re not looking for mediocre FLEX scorers in the fifth. Nick Chubb is the “1A” here. Once Chubb returned from an injury in Week 10, Chubb led the duo in snaps (52% to 47%), carries (168 to 100), and fantasy points per game (18.1 to 12.4). Unless Chubb misses considerable time, Hunt is blocked from really crushing.
AVOID: Melvin Gordon (Den, ADP RB32, PROJ RB42) — At his peak, Melvin Gordon was putting up incredible fantasy numbers for the Chargers. He is one of nine players from the last decade to put up 18.0 or more FPG for three straight seasons. He’s never been very efficient, as the four seasons he’s earned a sub-4.0 YPC showcase that he’s been primarily dependent on touches to post big fantasy performances. After signing with Denver ahead of the 2020 season, Gordon was thrust into a full-on committee with Phillip Lindsay, and was far from a dominant fantasy performer in the games they played together. In the 10 games both Gordon and Lindsay suited up, Gordon averaged just 12.8 FPG, which, over the full season, would have been good for a RB25 finish. That 12.8 FPG is likely the best case scenario for Gordon in 2021, though. The writing has been on the wall since the Broncos traded up early in the second round to snag Javonte Williams away from the Dolphins: Melvin Gordon is out as the starter, and Williams is in. Even if he opens the season as the “starter”, Gordon’s upside is entirely dependent upon Williams getting hurt and missing games. Even though the market is warm on Williams — he comes off of the board in the 50-60 overall range in all drafts — that doesn’t make Gordon a good contrarian bet. The Broncos have admitted their mistake with Gordon twice now, by giving Lindsay a big role when he was healthy last year and using significant draft capital on the rookie Williams. With Gordon’s fantasy output likely to wane throughout the year, he’s best viewed as a low-RB2 come Week 1 and a potential drop candidate by Week 8 as Williams’ role grows.
OVERVALUE: Ronald Jones (TB, ADP RB34, PROJ RB38) and Leonard Fournette (TB, ADP RB37, PROJ RB40) — Jones is entering a pivotal contract season with his future with the Buccaneers hanging in the balance. He’s shown incremental improvements through his first three seasons, but the 24-year-old back has failed to break through as the organization imagined he would when they drafted him at No. 38 in 2018. HC Bruce Arians revealed how the coaching staff truly feels about him in the postseason when he took a clear backseat to Leonard Fournette, who took full advantage of his playing opportunities. Jones had by far his best regular season performance to date with 192/978/7 rushing (5.1 YPC) and 28/165/1 receiving on 42 targets to finish as the RB22 with 13.3 FPG while playing 48% of the snaps in 14 games. He averaged a career-best 3.0 YAC per attempt last season and was the better runner than Fournette, but he still doesn’t bring much to the table as a receiver with 20 or fewer receiving yards in 13-of-14 games. The Buccaneers will head into the season without a clear lead runner or a clear passing back. Jones is the favorite to lead Tampa Bay in early-down carries while Gio Bernard is the favorite to handle the most passing-down work, but Fournette established himself as the team’s best back in the playoffs and he will play in all situations this season. While we always want pieces of this Buccaneers attack on our fantasy teams, the problem is that this backfield will be a massive migraine to figure out from a weekly perspective. Fournette’s ceiling is blocked by Bernard’s passing down role while Jones’ ceiling is blocked by both of them. This backfield is a fine investment in best ball formats because you don’t have to figure out when to start them, but we’re not going out of our way to deal with it in managed start/sit leagues unless Jones or Fournette slide a round or 2 past their ADP.
AVOID: David Johnson (Hou, ADP RB38, PROJ RB37) — David Johnson has never gotten close to recreating the 25.5 FPG (18th-most all-time) he averaged in his sophomore season in 2016 with the Arizona Cardinals. Even so, his 2020 season with Houston was the 3rd-best fantasy season of his career (15.0 FPG), and he recorded a career-high 4.7 YPC, so it’s clear the 29-year-old Johnson still has something left in the tank. Johnson actually dominated the Texans’ backfield last year, as he averaged an 81% snap share and 16.2 FPG if you exclude Week 9 — which he left after seven snaps due to injury. He’s the favorite to lead the backfield again this year, but the Texans did add Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay, and Rex Burkhead to their RB room, a significant increase in competition for David Johnson, who only had to fend off Duke Johnson for reps last year. That makes this a very difficult backfield to navigate for fantasy purposes. Johnson will lead the way for fantasy, but by how much is anyone’s guess. He certainly won’t see the snap or touch volume he did last year, and a recent ESPN report suggested he’ll play mostly on passing downs with Lindsay taking the majority of the early-down work. Gross. The only player on the Texans we’re remotely interested in drafting is Brandin Cooks.
AVOID: James Conner (Ari, ADP RB40, PROJ RB43) — Conner joins Arizona after four injury-plagued seasons in Pittsburgh. He missed 14 games in those seasons, which quite frankly may be fewer games than you might think based on his reputation. But injuries — ankle, quad, shoulder among them — have limited Conner’s fantasy production over the years, and last season he had to deal with a pitiful Pittsburgh offensive line and non-existent run game overall. Conner still managed to finish as a top-12 fantasy RB in five of his 13 games, and as a top-24 fantasy RB in three more. He touched the ball 204 times in 13 games (15.7 per game), and he’s been a reliable receiver in his career as well. Unfortunately, Conner’s star has faded since 2018, when he was a true bell cow for the Steelers and finished as the RB7 in total fantasy points. That and his injury history have pushed him into the 9th-10th round range in drafts, as the expectation is he’ll be working as the less productive member of a committee with Chase Edmonds. The thing is, not only will Conner have to compete for snaps with Edmonds, his TD potential is capped by Kyler Murray. Last year, Murray scored 9 TDs on carries inside of the 10-yard line. With Edmonds primarily playing the more valuable passing downs and Murray highly involved when the Cardinals get within scoring range, we don’t see how Conner is anything more than an expensive handcuff who will be reliant on an extended absence from Edmonds to really pay off.
OVERVALUE: D.J. Moore (Car, ADP WR18, PROJ WR19) — Moore established himself as one of the best receivers in football in 2020, despite playing with a QB in Teddy Bridgewater who once again proved he’s better served as a backup in the NFL. Moore finished as the overall WR25, which is probably a bit of a disappointment, but that shouldn’t take away from how well he played overall in a new role. New OC Joe Brady wisely used Moore much more as a downfield target in 2020 compared to previous years. Moore’s average depth of target traveled 13.7 yards downfield — which ranked 14th-highest among WRs and, for context, was right behind Chase Claypool (13.8) and D.K. Metcalf (13.9). (Moore’s aDOT in 2019 11.4 yards, per SIS). His 1,193 receiving yards were 9th among WRs, and his 18.8 yards per reception were by far the highest among WRs with his fantasy profile — no receiver above him in total finish had more than even 16.0 YPR (Justin Jefferson), and you’d have to go down to Nelson Agholor (19.7) at WR34 to find one who averaged more. Indeed, Moore’s YPR were easily the most among any receiver with 50 or more catches. Still, the deep-threat role and limitations at QB held Moore’s ceiling and consistency back — he had just 4 top-12 finishes and 8 finishes inside the top-36. Sam Darnold is a massive question mark at this point and Moore now has to deal with more competition for targets overall with Christian McCaffrey back and Terrace Marshall added. While his talent is not in question, Moore’s role is — especially in the touchdown department. Moore has scored just 10 TDs in 46 career games mainly because he has just 11 career targets inside of the 10-yard line. For reference, Tyler Lockett had 8 inside-10 targets last year alone. His lack of touchdown upside combined with the Darnold factor leaves us lower on Moore than the market. We’d rather just target his teammate Robby Anderson 2-3 rounds later.
OVERVALUE: Julio Jones (Ten, ADP WR20, PROJ WR24) — The Titans made a huge splash after losing Corey Davis in free agency by trading a couple of draft picks for the expensive and disgruntled Julio, who is trying to add a Super Bowl ring — one he should already have — to his illustrious career. Tennessee has 224 vacated targets, 92 of them from Davis, so there should be plenty of opportunity for Julio to make an immediate impact here, so long as he can stay on the field. Julio played just nine games last year, but he was just as explosive and efficient as he’s always been. He finished six of those nine games as a top-24 fantasy WR, including three times as a top-12 WR. In 2020, Julio ranked 4th in yards gained per route run after ranking 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 5th in his previous five seasons. And just like we’ve seen for years, Julio remained effective on deeper targets. Per SIS, Jones was 4th in EPA (expected points added) per target when he saw throws of 15 or more yards downfield. Only Curtis Samuel, Emmanuel Sanders, and Justin Jefferson were better. Over the past four seasons, Julio leads the NFL in yards gained per route run on play-action passes, and — at least under former OC Arthur Smith — the Titans were one of the NFL’s most play-action heavy teams. It’s also possible that new OC Todd Downing, who comes from a pass-heavy 11 personnel background, could try to coax 3-4 more pass attempts per game out of Ryan Tannehill this year, which should help. Still, we’d expect a dropoff in targets, as Julio has averaged 9.6 targets per game over the last five seasons. In games together last year, AJ Brown averaged 7.8 targets per game to 6.5 for Davis. Julio’s career low in targets per game came as a rookie, with 7.3. This is, after all, a run-first offense. Of course, the biggest issue for Julio in recent years has been availability. The Titans have zero incentive to push Julio during the summer, as it’s also possible his presence is a luxury for them, giving AJ Brown perhaps the NFL’s most lethal sidekick. Julio is indeed in the twilight of his career, but is in a position where he should be able to age gracefully. That said, there is risk to him as a WR2, which is where the market has settled. He’s likely to be much less frustrating to roster in best ball formats, where the games in which Julio leaves gimpy early don’t have nearly the nuclear effect on your lineup as they do in start/sit leagues.
AVOID: Kenny Golladay (NYG, ADP WR26, PROJ WR31) — Golladay has been one of the best outside receiving threats in the NFL since entering the league in 2017. Among WRs with over 200 targets, Golladay’s 16.8 career yards per reception ranks first over the last four years. He’s been able to accomplish that impressive mark, at least in part, by running some of the deepest routes down the field in the league. Golladay has a career aDOT of 14.6, and in his best season ever (2019), Golladay’s 16.1 aDOT led all receivers. 2020 didn’t go as planned for Golladay, as he played just 5 games due to hamstring and hip injuries. That ended his tenure in Detroit, with Golladay choosing to sign a $72 million deal with the Giants in March. That’s WR1 money, and there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that Golladay will step into that WR1 role now that he’s in New York. While going from Matthew Stafford to Daniel Jones is a downgrade, it’s not as bad as you might think. Jones was actually one of the league’s best deep ball QBs last year, recording a 95.6 PFF passing grade (3rd) and 132.5 passer rating (1st) on his throws of 20 or more yards. We’re much more concerned about Jason Garrett’s ability to get all of these pieces working efficiently. Will The Clapper improve after orchestrating a bland Giants attack with more weapons? Or will he stay conservative and continue to hand the ball off on 1st and 10 a ton again? Garrett’s play-calling combined with Golladay’s latest hamstring injury have us much lower than the market. We are actively targeting receivers like Chase Claypool, Jerry Jeudy, and Deebo Samuel over him.
OVERVALUE: Odell Beckham Jr. (Cle, ADP WR28, PROJ WR32) — OBJ is looking to get his once promising career back on track at 28 years old after he played in just seven games before an ACL injury ended his 2020 early. Odell has received rave reviews for his recovery this off-season and he practiced without a knee brace in minicamp so he appears to be on track for Week 1. He was easily off to the worst start of his career last season with 23/319/3 receiving on 42 targets in his six full games, which is a pace of 61/851/8 receiving over a full season. To be fair, the Browns’ offense struggled in the early going last season as they learned Kevin Stefanski’s offense before they took off in the second late in the year. The big question this season is can Baker Mayfield and company replicate their late-season passing success with a healthy OBJ back in the mix since he’s been prone to force-feed OBJ targets — he’s seen 8.3 targets per game in his 21 healthy contests with the Browns. OBJ is entering his fifth season removed from his torrid three-year stretch to start his career in 2014-16, and his ADP is reflecting his current standing in the game as a WR3. The problem is that Beckham has been a shell of his former self in fantasy with the Browns compared to his heydays with the Giants. In 59 career regular season games with the Giants, Beckham averaged 20.5 FPG and finished as a WR2 or better (top-24) in weekly scoring in a fantastic 75% of his games. With the Browns? Beckham has averaged 12.6 FPG and finished as a WR2 or better just 26% of the time across 23 starts. He certainly has the talent to outpace his ADP but it shouldn’t be expected since he’s coming off yet another major injury in a run-heavy offense with limited targets to go around after Mayfield attempted just 30.3 passes per game a year ago.
OVERVALUE: JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pit, ADP WR29, PROJ WR40) — JuJu hit free agency for the first time at the tender age of 24 — he’ll turn 25 in late November — but he found an ice-cold market for WRs with the salary cap shrinking for the 2021 season. JuJu decided to run it back for at least one more season with Ben Roethlisberger and the only franchise he’s ever known, turning down similar offers from the Chiefs and Ravens. Smith-Schuster became the youngest player to reach 2,500 receiving yards after he posted 111/1426/7 receiving during his second season as the No. 2 WR behind Antonio Brown in 2018. He recorded 97/831/9 receiving on 128 targets last season to finish as the WR23 with 17.7 FPG while playing 84% of the snaps in 16 games. JuJu ran 85% of his routes from the slot and he averaged a horrific 8.6 yards per reception on an average depth of target of 5.7 yards with Big Ben constantly throwing short. For reference, that 5.7 aDOT ranked dead-last out of the 86 WRs to see 50 or more targets last season. Furthermore, JuJu was actually a distant fourth on the team in deep targets of 20 or more yards. Claypool led the team in deep targets with 31 in his rookie season, Diontae Johnson had 20 deep targets while James Washington had 16. JuJu had just 7. This year, he’ll once again primarily man the slot while Diontae Johnson has jumped to the top of the pecking order and it may not be long until Chase Claypool catches and passes Smith-Schuster as the No. 2 option. Last year, Johnson led the group at 9.6 targets per game, JuJu averaged 8.0 T/G, while Claypool was at 6.8. All three WRs have the potential to be top-40 options once again since Big Ben has averaged 614.7 passes per season in his last three healthy campaigns, but the Steelers are expected to make more of a commitment to the run in 2021 after drafting Najee Harris. JuJu will need Big Ben to build back his arm strength this off-season and he’ll need Matt Canada to call a more creative offense to unlock the upside he showed in 2017-18. Because he’s stuck in a low-upside slot role running nothing but shallow routes, we’ve got JuJu (WR40) projected as a distant third-best option in Pittsburgh’s trio with Johnson at WR20 and Claypool at WR25.
AVOID: Michael Thomas (NO, ADP WR31, PROJ WR55) — Thomas is coming off a frustrating 2020 in which he failed to score a touchdown and he played in just seven games because of a nagging high-ankle sprain. He also comes into the 2021 season with an uncertain quarterback situation after Drew Brees announced his retirement this off-season. It wasn’t too shocking then that his ADP had sunk to its lowest mark (in the third round) since his rookie season in 2016…and that was before we learned he’ll miss the first 1-2 months of the season after undergoing ankle surgery in June. Thomas suffered the innocuous-looking injury at the end of the 2020 season opener when Latavius Murray clipped the back of his legs, and Thomas would never be the same the rest of the season. He made two different appearances on the injured reserve for the issue on his way to finishing with career-lows in receptions (5.7), receiving yards (62.6), and targets (7.9) per game. When Thomas is eventually healthy enough to play this year, he’ll be teaming up with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill — two quarterbacks he has little chemistry with and won’t have time to build until the regular season because of his latest ankle surgery. On a promising note, he held a healthy 37% target share and he averaged 7.5/85.8 receiving on 9.3 targets per game in the four contests started by Hill last season. Thomas should remain among the league leaders in target share when he’s in the lineup as the Saints have one of the weakest receiving corps with the likes of Adam Trautman and Tre’Quan Smith as his top lieutenants, but the biggest question is when Thomas will return. He’s now in his second year dealing with this injury and the Saints are apparently irate with Thomas after he ignored the medical staff for months regarding his ankle. This situation is nuclear and, because he’s the WR31 off of the board still, you’re not getting enough discount to deal with the headache.
OVERVALUE: Courtland Sutton (Den, ADP WR34, PROJ WR43) — Sutton’s first two seasons in the league were about as good as you could ask for from a young, outside WR. He’s dominated on deeper routes, recording the 8th-highest yards per reception (15.9) and the 8th-most receiving yards (701) on routes of 20 or more yards from 2018-2019. That dominance didn’t translate to 2020, as Sutton unfortunately tore his ACL in Week 2. Reports from camp suggest Sutton will play in a limited capacity in the preseason and should be ready for Week 1. The Broncos desperately need him back, as their deep passing took an obvious hit in Sutton’s absence. As a team, the Broncos had the 2nd-worst passer rating (48.9) on throws of 20+ yards last year. While Sutton is an undeniable talent, the emergence of Jerry Jeudy casts Sutton’s status as the Broncos WR1 into doubt, and additional competition from Noah Fant, Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler surely limits his target ceiling in 2021. Teddy Bridgewater is a “see-it, throw-it” passer who isn’t aggressive at all, which is another concern for Sutton who wins with contested catches and deep targets. We believe Jeudy’s play style meshes better with Bridgewater.
AVOID: Curtis Samuel (Was, ADP WR41, PROJ WR52) — After a breakout season (77/851/3 receiving; 41/200/2 rushing), Samuel got paid in March to join Washington via free agency. The Samuel-to-Washington connection runs deep. Apparently, HC Ron Rivera tried to trade for Samuel last season, but the Panthers balked. Rivera drafted Samuel in Carolina and Washington’s OC Scott Turner was a part of game-planning for that offense back in 2018-19 when his dad Norv Turner was OC of the team. And finally, Terry McLaurin were college running mates at Ohio State (in 2015-16). Interestingly, Samuel was completely miscast as a deep threat in 2019 under the old Panthers staff. Samuel’s average depth of target was 14.8 yards in 2019, and that ranked 11th-highest out of 75 WRs. Under Joe Brady, Samuel was used way more as a slot receiver and his aDOT dipped to 7.5 yards (9th-lowest out of 77 WRs) last year. Has Turner learned from his mistakes and will he use Samuel in the slot in 2021? That is the question. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen Samuel on the practice field yet. He’s dealing with a groin injury and had a stint on the COVID list. Even though he’s familiar with the coaching staff, we’ve dropped Samuel in our ranks because of all this missed practice time.
AVOID: Will Fuller (Mia, ADP WR45, PROJ WR52) — Fuller opted to take a one-year deal to hit the open market once again next season after he failed to get the payday he was looking for in free agency. Fuller’s market could have been suppressed a bit because of his extensive injury issues (which have already popped up in camp) and because of the six-game suspension he received at the end of November. Fuller had an outstanding season as a first-time No. 1 WR before he got popped for PEDs after Week 12. He actually stayed healthy last season but he still missed at least five games for the fourth straight season for his suspension — he’ll finish up his suspension by missing the 2021 season opener against the Patriots. Fuller still posted career-best numbers with 53/879/8 receiving on 75 targets to finish as the WR8 with 17.2 FPG in 11 contests. Fuller finished seventh in yards per route run (2.28) and he had only two drops last season, which was once a big concern of his coming out of Notre Dame. Fuller, along with rookie Jaylen Waddle, will bring some much-needed speed and big-play ability to Miami. The Dolphins had no downfield presence last season, but it’s yet to be seen if Tua Tagovailoa will be able to take full advantage of Fuller’s speed after Tua was on target on just 52% of his passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield last season. That 52% on-target rate on deep throws ranked 31st-of-35 qualified QBs. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson’s passes of 15 or more yards downfield were on-target 67% of the time (8th-best). Fuller did show off a more complete route tree in his first season without ball-hog DeAndre Hopkins, and he should be a good complement to DeVante Parker, who is a contested-catch specialist like Nuk. The Dolphins got a great bargain with Fuller and his field-stretching ability is going to open up things for the offense as a whole. Still, he’s being overvalued as a fringe WR3 in fantasy drafts since he’ll have way more competition for targets while the quality of those targets will be going down switching from Watson to Tua — and he’s missed all but the first two days of training camp with a foot injury. No thanks.
OVERVALUE: Dallas Goedert (Phi, ADP TE7, PROJ TE9) — While Zach Ertz is an all-time great Eagle, Goedert is likely the better player at this stage, and at 26-years-old, Philadelphia likely wants to build around their younger and more athletic tight end. That’s why — in addition to money issues — Ertz’s name has popped up in trade talks all off-season. But as of publication, the Eagles have not been able to move Ertz, and for now they’re acting as if the vet will start the 2021 campaign in midnight green. That’s a bummer to Goedert’s upside. Goedert played in 11 games in 2020, missing five games with a variety of leg injuries. His 10.6 FPG tied him for 9th among TEs, however (with Mike Gesicki), but he also averaged 12.3 fantasy points per game in games that Ertz missed and 9.6 FPG when Ertz played. That 12.3 FPG rate would have ranked him 4th over the full season, behind only Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and George Kittle. Over the last three seasons, Goedert also ranks 6th according to PFF in yards gained per route run (1.63) behind only those “Big Three,” Jared Cook, and Mark Andrews. Goedert averaged 1.8 YPRR in 2020, compared to an abysmal 1.0 for Ertz, who was ahead of only Drew Sample and Tyler Eifert among TEs with 50 or more targets. We’d love to push Goedert more, but the Ertz elephant is one that is making us shy away. With one roster move, Goedert’s projection would shoot up, and for what it’s worth multiple Eagle beat writers still expect Ertz to be moved. Of course, we’ve been expecting that for about six months now.
AVOID: Mike Gesicki (Mia, ADP TE12, PROJ TE14) — Gesicki is entering a make-or-break season in the final year of his rookie contract. He’s set to hit free agency for the first time next off-season, and the Dolphins started to potentially prepare for life without Gesicki when they drafted Boston College’s Hunter Long in the third round. Gesicki is coming off a career after posting 53/703/6 receiving (13.3 YPR) on 85 targets. He finished as the TE8 with 10.6 FPG while playing 63% of the snaps in 15 games. While those bulk stats look impressive, Gesicki was extremely volatile last season once we look under the hood. Gesicki was the definition of feast or famine last year, finishing inside of the top-5 a solid four times and scoring 23 or more points three times. However, he finished outside of the top-12 in his other 11 weeks. So, basically Gesicki either smashed or was completely unusable. Yikes. Gesicki has seen the sixth-most TE targets in the last two seasons with 174, but his path to maintaining his 5.6 targets per game in that span got a lot tougher this off-season. The Dolphins had just two receivers to see 55 or more targets last season — DeVante Parker was the other at 103 — and Gesicki was the only healthy receiver at Tua Tagovailoa’s disposal in the final two games of last season. He’s now the No. 4 option in this passing attack after the Dolphins signed Will Fuller and drafted Jaylen Waddle sixth overall. Gesicki is also more of a wide receiver than a tight end as he ran the vast majority of his routes from the slot (67.4%) and out wide (19.7%) compared to inline (12.9%). Gesicki has never topped a 65% snap share and he could lose some opportunities to line up as a WR with Waddle and Fuller now in the mix. His career-best aDOT of 11.1 yards could also dip this season with the more conservative Tagovailoa taking over full time for the aggressive Ryan Fitzpatrick. Gesicki is being drafted as a fringe TE1 but he has a lot more landmines to dodge to finish as a top-12 TE again with Fuller, Waddle, and Long (who is dinged up, to be fair) added to the mix and with Tua taking the reins of the offense.
AVOID: Evan Engram (NYG, ADP TE14, PROJ TE15) — Evan Engram took a significant step back in 2020, seeing his FPG fall from 12.3 (in his first three seasons) to 8.8 last year. Engram managed a top-12 (TE1) weekly performance in 6-of-16 weeks last year with just two “elite” (top-5) performances. Now, to be fair, Engram got extremely unlucky in the touchdown department last year. How bad was it? Well, since 2000, only two tight ends have seen 100 or more targets and scored just 1 TD: Chris Cooley in 2008 and Engram in 2020. For reference, tight ends that get 100 targets average 6.3 TDs per season. Engram’s decrease in fantasy output was at least due in part to the Lisfranc injury he suffered in 2019. FantasyPoints’ very own injury expert Edwin Porras warned us last year, “Lisfranc injuries reduce NFL offensive players’ on-field production by an average of 21% in the first season following surgery. This production seemed to level off after the second year and returned to baseline.” Now, Engram should be close to his pre-Lisfranc form and is a safe bet to score more in 2021, but his target share is a massive concern since he has to compete with Kenny Golladay, a healthy Saquon Barkley, first-rounder Kadarius Toney, and Kyle Rudolph for looks from Daniel Jones. We like other mid-round TEs like Tyler Higbee, Robert Tonyan, and Jonnu Smith significantly more.
AVOID: Hunter Henry (NE, ADP WR17, PROJ WR23) — New England pulled off a shocking pair of moves by signing the top two available tight ends in the open market in Henry and Jonnu Smith. HC Bill Belichick has long admired both tight ends and has spoken glowingly of both in press conferences over the last two years. Belichick spoke last December about how he’s followed Henry’s career since he played for legendary Arkansas high school football coach Kevin Kelley — he’s famous for never punting. Henry hasn’t quite ascended to stud status at the position as most expected after he scored eight touchdowns during his rookie campaign in 2016. It didn’t help that he tore his ACL in May 2018, which forced him to miss the entire regular season. He’s had availability issues in each of his first five seasons and he’s yet to play a full 16-game season, and he’s dealing with a shoulder injury already this summer. Henry posted 60/613/4 receiving on 93 targets to finish as the TE10 with 10.4 FPG, and he posted career-worst marks in YPR (10.2) and catch rate (64.2%) switching from Philip Rivers to Justin Herbert. Henry disappointed with just one top-5 TE performance last season but he was at least consistent with eight top-12 finishes. Belichick and Josh McDaniels will look to recreate the Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez combination from the early 2010s after Patriots TEs saw a league-low 33 targets last season. Henry is expected to play more in Gronk role as the inline player while Jonnu will play more in the Hernandez role as the move TE. Targets could be scarce in the offense for as long as Cam Newton is in the lineup after the Patriots attempted the second-fewest passes (440) last season. Henry and Smith will also cannibalize each other a bit but at least the Patriots still have one of the weaker WR corps in the league. Henry doesn’t have nearly the same ceiling or floor he once had with the Chargers, and it’s tough to get too excited about Henry as anything more than a mid- to low-end TE2 option, especially given the time he’s missing with a shoulder injury.