Early Overvalued Wide Receivers (2021 Fantasy Football)
The early average draft position (ADP) gives us an excellent base to work off. We continue to bring in information over these next several months before organized team activities begin. We put it into context for our consumption because, well, what else are we going to do before the NFL Draft?
Taking a look at the FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings, we’re starting to gather some plot points to do our initial research into the 2021 fantasy football landscape. Still, there will be many differences in opinion with some players too high, too low, or whatever the case may be. I’ve taken a look at several wide receivers who I believe the ECR has a bit too high for my liking.
Expert consensus rankings are for 0.5 PPR leagues and can be found here.
Julio Jones (WR – ATL) ECR: WR11
Let’s not get crazy: Julio Jones is a great wide receiver and a future Hall of Famer. If you’re reading this, you know how good Jones was in his peak years with the Atlanta Falcons. In case you forgot, Jones averaged 161 targets, 104 receptions, and 1565 yards from 2014-2019. Those are just absurd numbers, and it’s no surprise that Jones has been one of the staples on fantasy rosters for the last ten years.
So why is Jones “overvalued?”
Well, he’s not going up against a tough cornerback, and he’s not going up against bracket coverage with safety help over the top. His biggest adversary coming up in his age-32 season is “Father Time,” who happens to be undefeated in matters such as age and fantasy production (except against Tom Brady… for now.). As Mike Tagliere researched, only two wide receivers entering their age-32 season attained a top-5 finish in a sample size of 26 players who reached a minimum of at least 50 targets. Let’s also not forget that last season’s WR4, Calvin Ridley, exists in the same ecosystem.
Jones’ numerous foot and toe injuries have derailed Jones but not enough to sideline him entirely over the years. That said, in 2020, Jones missed the most games in a season since his 2013 foot fracture, missing six games. While we may not get Jones’ peak seasons and production, we have to be cautious about where to draft him (or not draft him) in the coming months. His current ECR of WR11 seems very lofty to me, with everything considered. While Jones is a game-breaking receiver while healthy, I still can’t put him as a WR1 right now, knowing he’s likely to be playing through injuries or on the sideline for a portion of 2021.
Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – CLE) ECR: WR22
To get this out in the open before anybody responds: The Odell Beckham Jr. we saw in New York is no more. The “THIS year is the year where Beckham comes back!” talk is just that: talk. Since landing in Cleveland via trade in 2019, Beckham has a WR31 finish and a 2020 season abruptly ended by an ACL injury.
Beckham will turn 29 in mid-November, and while the mercurial-at-times receiver has shown flashes of his former self, the fact is that the Browns offense seemingly ran much better without Beckham in the lineup. Literally. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has four of his best fantasy performances of the 2020 campaign without Beckham in the lineup. Under head coach Kevin Stefanski, the Browns ran the fourth-highest run rate in the NFL in 2020. Beckham still got plenty of chances to provide a return on investment for those fantasy managers selecting him in the third round of fantasy drafts leading up to 2020. At the time of Beckham’s injury in Week 7, Beckham had a 25th-best Weighted Opportunity Rating (WOPR), surrounded by such luminaries as A.J. Green and Julian Edelman.
Currently slotted in at WR22, I don’t think I’ll be drafting much of Beckham as a WR2. Perhaps a change of scenery could be a short-term boost to Beckham’s fantasy profile. Still, as it stands in Cleveland, I’d instead take swings at players with a bit more consistency at quarterback and the offense they play in, such as Amari Cooper or Cooper Kupp.
Tyler Lockett (WR – SEA) ECR: WR24
Drafted as WR19, Tyler Lockett was drafted in 2020, hoping that Russell Wilson could indeed “cook.” Unfortunately for the Seahawks, head coach Pete Carroll didn’t put enough recipes in the book, and by mid-season, Russ was reading the “notes” section at the end of the cookbook. It made both Lockett and D.K. Metcalf very boom or bust for the rest of the season, but that boom or bust nature affected Lockett the most.
From Week 4 until Week 16, Lockett was WR28 in total fantasy points, WR35 in fantasy points per game, and only had two double-digit fantasy outputs in that entire span, with one of those games being his 20 target game where he racked up 200 yards and three touchdowns. Combining his two best performances of the season in Week 3 and Week 7, he scored 41% of his total fantasy output in those two games.
We know Pete Carroll can’t stop himself from running the ball and ruining fantasy managers’ dreams of Wilson’s full-season cooking exhibition. When the Seahawks pass the ball, target number one is Metcalf, so Lockett is there to have his boom or bust game and provide secondary support. Can Seattle continue to support two fantasy-relevant wide receivers? It’s looking pretty iffy as we advance to 2021.
If I need to draft Lockett as a fringe-WR2 to have his services for the 2021 NFL season, I will pass on that price point and select players with more upside at the position. Of the receivers going after him, I’d rather roster Brandon Aiyuk, CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins, or Tyler Boyd than Lockett.
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