Every year some players will surprise us and others that will disappoint. Going into the draft, especially early on, there are many players that we have aspirations for that will lead us to a fantasy championship. However, not every high draft pick will work out the way we think. That includes the first-round picks. You know, the guys who are generally thought of as the best of the best. While this is a scary thought, what you need to do is just know who to avoid selecting at their current average draft position and ultimately avoid stepping on a metaphorical landmine.
What is important to note is that any player highlighted in this article is not a player I would hate to have on my team. I just wouldn’t want them on my team based on where they are going in drafts. In fantasy football, we don’t hate players, but rather their ADP. I’ve highlighted one player in each of the first 8 rounds (top 100 ADP players) that I would avoid. Generally, this will be due to players going around the same spot that I would rather have.
Round 1: Jonathan Taylor, Colts
Jonathan Taylor was a second-round pick in 2020 who had high aspirations for fantasy. An injury to Marlon Mack in week 1 opened an immediate path to a starting job. He ended the year as the RB 6 in half-point PPR scoring formats. Headed into 2021, Taylor is the clear RB1 on this team. However, that does not mean there is no competition for touches. Last year Taylor saw 46.8 percent of his team’s snaps while trying to earn the starting role. There is reason to believe that this number should increase. Behind him, other notable running back snap percentage includes Nyheim Hines who saw 35.9 percent, and Jordan Wilkins who saw 16.7 percent of the snaps.
If Taylor’s overall workload could increase, why would he be a fade? In recent weeks there have been some injuries to his teammates that will directly impact Taylor. Carson Wentz, the Colts starting quarterback suffered a foot injury and could be out anywhere from 5-12 weeks. Colt’s best offensive lineman, Quenton Nelson, also suffered a foot injury with an uncertain timetable as well. With two key pieces to the offense out for a significant amount of time, the offense should take a step back and present Taylor with fewer scoring opportunities.
With the snap percentages listed above, the Colts decided that they still had room to re-sign Marlon Mack. Coming off an Achilles injury there shouldn’t be any concern for Mack to take a significant workload. However, it could be enough to take some carries away from Taylor. Taylor is still one of the most talented backs in the league and could find a way to overcome his situation. Instead of taking a risky pick in the first, take Austin Ekeler or Antonio Gibson who I believe have high floors and will player in better offenses.
Round 2: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes took the league by storm back in 2018 against the Chargers in the first week, tossing four touchdowns, and has never looked back. In both 2019 and 2020, he had an ADP of 2.10 and 2.09 respectively. Those seasons, he finished as QB8 and QB4. While I agree Mahomes should be the first QB off the board because of his talent and offense, I don’t believe he should be taken in the second round either. In his two seasons after finishing as the QB1, he hasn’t repeated this since. If you’re taking someone first off the board at their position, you would ideally like them to finish there as well.
In single quarterback leagues, there is just so much depth at the position that you can take a quarterback much later (almost un-drafted) where you can find production that will keep you competitive. This fade argument is not centered around why Mahomes won’t be as productive as some may think, but rather a case for other players that will prove more valuable.
In 2020 Mahomes scored 380 points and was on average, taken in the 2nd round of drafts, while Tom Brady was on average taken in the 9th round and scored 349 points. This is only a difference of 2 points a week on average. Ultimately, if Mahomes keeps falling in your draft to the late 4th or early 5th, that would be a great spot to grab him. Otherwise, I’m looking at Calvin Ridley or Clyde Edwards-Helaire at this pick instead.
Josh Jacobs was one of my favorite players headed into the 2020 season. I thought there would be a big workload on the horizon for him and an opportunity to outplay his ADP. He was taken as the 8th running back off the board, so it looks like the fantasy had him properly valued. He finished as the RB8 despite having the third most touches at 306. Perhaps what was most disappointing was all the talk of Jacobs improving as a pass-catcher only to come away with 33 catches which were tied for 24th among running backs. Headed into 2021, the Raiders signed Kenyan Drake to a 2 year/$11 million dollar deal. Drake finished the season for the Arizona Cardinals’ 9th in total touches. While I don’t believe Drake will touch the ball more than Jacobs, getting 306 total touches again feels like a pipe dream even in a full 17 game season.
A few more quick notes on Jacobs. He was very dependent on a positive game script. This means that when the Raiders were winning, Jacobs was getting the ball and scoring a ton of fantasy points (21.1 points on average). When they were losing, he had some very disappointing weeks (10.3 points on average). There was not much done to address their defensive woes and the offensive line was stripped down and sold for parts. If you draft Jacobs, I believe you will be asking for some easily avoidable heartache. Instead, take David Montgomery or Kennan Allen.
Adam Thielen has had a heartwarming story accompanied by fantasy relevance since 2016. Last season, he exploded for 74/925/14. While neither the receptions nor receiving yards are particularly notable, his 14 touchdowns were good enough for third among wide receivers. On average, receivers accumulate about 150 receiving yards per touchdown they score. This would mean in an average season he would have scored about 6-7 touchdowns. While this is just an average to which there are always outliers, 14 touchdowns was an outlier for Thielen as well.
Since 2017, his touchdown totals per year have been 4, 9, 6, and 14. This is a difficult number to reach for any player let alone someone who has only done this once. Another concerning number from Thielen’s 2020 season was his 108 targets in 15 games. Even though Justin Jefferson took over as the primary receiver, he was very quiet for the first two weeks. Coming into the 2021 season, Jefferson is poised to take on an even larger role, leaving Thielen to rely on being efficient rather than on volume. While you can never say never, he is an easy negative touchdown regression candidate and without yards or receptions to make up for it, I will not be targeting Thielen in upcoming drafts. Instead, I will look for Robert Woods or Amari Cooper.
I will say of all the players in round 5, it was difficult to pick which player I liked the least. DJ Moore Is a real-life star. Since Moore has entered the league, his 3,156 receiving yards are the 12th highest overall. his yards per reception in this time is 15.2 which means he’s been a legit deep threat. The problem is not with his ability, but rather his quarterback play. Moore has failed to connect with a signal-caller that has provided him the opportunity to score enough touchdowns. This doesn’t mean he isn’t fantasy relevant, but due to his lack of touchdowns, his floor and ceiling are not worthy of a 5th round selection.
There is a new sheriff in town at the quarterback position, which could lead to Moore’s best season yet. However, Sam Darnold may not provide an immediate upgrade compared to what Moore has already played with. Last year, Teddy Bridgewater’s touchdown percentage was a flat 3%. This was the 30th highest percentage of all quarterbacks. One of the few quarterbacks behind him was Sam Darnold. While this Carolina offense should certainly be an upgrade overall, he has not shown he can be even an average quarterback, which in turn will negatively impact Moore’s production yet again.
Moore may see an uptick in touchdowns, especially because that bar is set low. I don’t believe however that this number can increase drastically. With Christin McCaffery returning and Robbie Anderson and Terrace Marshall taking targets away as well, I just don’t see the upside. Instead, I will draft Diontae Johnson and Darrell Henderson.
Chase Edmonds RB1’s status lasted a total of a few weeks. Between Kenyan Drake signing with the Las Vegas Raiders and James Conner signing with the Arizona Cardinals, there was a brief moment in time where Edmonds stock began to rise. The signing of another running back however should be a surprise to nobody. Even if Edmunds increases his 150 touch total in 2020 questions marks are surrounding his ceiling.
All offseason the Cardinals have talked about how this is Edmonds backfield, but the truth may be more of a 1a/1b scenario. In his career, Edmonds has seen a total of 1 carry at the goal line. This is strictly due to the role the Cardinals have carved out for him. James Conner, however, saw 25 over the last 4 years. Even if these goal-line carries are split more evenly, Kyler Murray will still steal some of these touchdowns as well.
Last year, Edmonds finished as the RB30 while seeing the most touches he has in his career. With an uptick in touches, Edmonds shouldn’t be viewed as anything more than a situational flex. Instead Draft Brandon Aiyuk or Javonte Williams.
Dallas Goedert is a better football player than he will be a fantasy asset in 2021. With the Eagles surrounded by trade rumors for Zach Ertz there was more optimism for a higher target volume for Goedert. As the off-season has continued to progress it seems more likely that Ertz will remain with the Eagles for 2021.
Even with an aging Ertz, there are no established weapons on this Eagles offense. Now the offense is changing play callers and quarterbacks to start the season. Comparing Goedert’s career highs, 58/607/5 would have placed him as the TE 13 in 2020. Coming from the Fank Reich system, Nick Siriani may look to get his tight ends involved on a per-game basis. Trey Burton led the Colts in tight end targets last year at 3.6. Ertz and Goedert are a better pool of talent for Siriani to work with but without an increased target share, it is difficult for Goedert to see an increase in overall production.
If Goedert received more targets he would absolutely be in the conversation for one of the better fantasy tight ends in the league. That year just may not be in 2021. Rookie DeVonta Smith will also command more targets in an ideal offense. Look for Michael Carter or Jalen Hurts instead.
It’s been a thrilling offseason for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They have added one of the most exciting young quarterback prospects in nearly a decade. This unfortunately will not guarantee an increase in production for Chark. He had a target share of only 16% as the team’s WR1 in 2020. This was a decrease from 21% in 2019.
For Chark to maintain his WR1 status for the Jaguars he will have to compete for targets against two other receivers on the depth chart. Marvin Jones was brought in who excels in the same areas that Chark does on the outside. Laviska Shenault Jr. is expected to take a step forward as well as a receiver. Even if Chark is the most talented, there are notable weapons on this roster that may not help Chark’s notable consistency issues.
Even if Trevor Lawrence is the savior of the Jaguars’ offense, it should be noted that rookie quarterbacks struggle to produce a WR1. Even if you’re drafting Chark as a wr3 he will have to compete against other receivers that will decrease his floor and ceiling. Instead, look for Robby Anderson and Jerry Jeudy.