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Early Running Backs and Wide Receivers To Avoid (2021 Fantasy Football)

Mar 31, 2021

A highly important aspect of our fantasy drafts often comes down to avoiding early-round landmines. Today, our writers take an early look at the high-end of our expert consensus rankings. Below are some names to think twice about drafting in 2021.

Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) referenced is using 0.5 PPR FantasyPros consensus ECR

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Q1. Which RB are you least likely to draft at their current rank?

Alvin Kamara (RB – NO) Overall ECR: 4
Kamara singlehandedly won people their leagues last season, going off for six touchdowns in Week 16, but he’s likely someone I’ll be avoiding on draft day this year. No one is saying he’s not a great running back, I know I’m not, but he’s not someone I expect to draft where he’s going at the moment. At RB4, and No. 4 overall in our ECR, Kamara just has too many question marks for me to risk taking him that early. I’d much rather get Jonathan Taylor or Nick Chubb instead, both of whom are in much more certain situations. Whether it’s Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston at the helm, it just feels like the New Orleans offense is in for a lot of change this year, most of which will mean a downturn in production for the 25-year-old Kamara. He’s still a top-10 option at the RB position, no question, but I would just prefer to take others ahead of him where he is predicted to go at the moment. If he is still available in the second round then he’d be a steal, but the odds of him lasting that long are slim to none.
– Andrew Hall (@AndrewHallFF)

Since he entered the NFL in 2017, Alvin Kamara has developed into one of the best dual-threat running backs in the NFL, making him one of the most coveted options in fantasy football. There’s no doubt that the New Orleans Saints are committed to having Kamara be a focal point of their offense after inking him to a five-year, $75 million extension before the 2020 season. But what makes Kamara a risky choice as one of the first running backs off of the board in 2021 is the situation around him in what is going to be a new-look offense for the Saints. Following the retirement of Drew Brees, Kamara is going to have either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston as his new signal-caller. In the four games that Hill started for New Orleans during the 2020 season (Weeks 11-14), Kamara finished as RB11 in that span in half-PPR leagues. And while Winston has never had a running back as talented as Kamara, he’s never had a running back on his roster corral more than 51 catches in a single season. Kamara is one of the best running backs in the NFL and he’s likely going to have weeks where he’s one of the top fantasy performers at his position. However, his current rank as the fourth-best running back on the ECR seems too high for a guy that likely won’t be as consistent as he has been in recent years.
– Skyler Carlin (@skyler_carlin)

Derrick Henry (RB – TEN) Overall ECR: 5
Including the postseason, Henry has carried the ball 782 times since the start of the 2019 season. That is more than any other back in the NFL by a large margin. The next closest in usage is Dalvin Cook with 599 carries. That volume is what makes him so desirable, but it could also cause him to break down sooner than lesser-used backs. Now heading into his age-27 season, Henry has a few other red flags surrounding him, not limited to just his usage and age. Over his first three seasons in Tennessee, Henry never saw more than 215 carries in a single season. His role was split in a timeshare with Dion Lewis or DeMarco Murray. That changed in 2019 when tight ends coach Arthur Smith was promoted to offensive coordinator. He seemed content in relentlessly feeding Henry the rock at a rate that we haven’t seen in nearly a decade. Smith improved the offense so much that he was pulled from Tennessee to coach the Atlanta Falcons in 2021, a move that could jeopardize Henry’s insane volume. In addition to losing an offensive coordinator that loves him, Henry also lost Jonnu Smith in free agency, one of the most athletic and best run-blocking tight ends in the league. Henry is coming off of a historic 2,000-yard season, and his value is sky-high. While it’s not crazy to think that he still has some years left in the tank, the risk seems to outweigh his ADP for me this season. In addition to the previous concerns, Henry saw just 1.9 targets per game in 2020, 59th in the league. That limits his ceiling and gives him a dangerous floor in PPR leagues, making you hope that he’s able to find pay dirt almost every week. I’d feel much more comfortable taking Ezekiel Elliot, Aaron Jones, Austin Ekeler, or Nick Chubb ahead of Henry.
– Dave Kluge (@DaveKluge_FF)

Josh Jacobs (RB – LV) Overall ECR: 31
Jacobs is coming off a solid second year, finishing as the RB8 in both scoring formats. He was averaging 0.85 fantasy points per attempt in 2020, good for the 43rd (FantasyData.com) among qualifying running backs. The Raiders just added Kenyan Drake and released center Rodney Hudson while losing Gabe Jackson and Trent Brown. This offensive line won’t be nearly as good as it’s been in the past years. Drake has shown flashes in the past and has two seasons with 50+ catches. He is also signed on a two-year deal worth could be worth near $15 million, which is significant money being spent on a backup. Jalen Richard has potentially had that pass-catching role in the past and will be back as well. Let’s not forget that Jacobs did get booked on a DUI, but didn’t get charged earlier this year. He may not have gotten charged, but could potentially be a reason for the Raiders investing so much money in Drake. He’s being drafted as the RB17 right now and the way things are looking I’d expect him to be a low-end RB2 and have a short leash moving forward behind a much worse offensive line.
– Aaron Schill (@aaron_schill)

Joe Mixon (RB – CIN) Overall ECR: 24
There are four things that have me low on Mixon, who has not been a very consistent player the last two years. He has 10 games where he has averaged 3.0 YPC or less out of 22 games. It is very hard to excel at the running back position with that little efficiency. Second, he has not been great around the goal line, failing to score a touchdown in 13 of those 22 games. Third, he played only six games with a foot injury last year and Joe Burrow is not guaranteed to open the season as the starter coming back from his ACL injury. Finally, the Bengals had the 30th ranked offensive line in 2020 by Pro Football Focus and they have to upgrade that position if Mixon is going to improve his touchdowns and yards per carry. Mixon is still the 24th ranked player with that baggage and if his ranking stays that high, it is going to be hard for me to see the value of taking a player with that many question marks at that point in the draft.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)

Q2. Which WR are you least likely to draft at their current rank?

D.K. Metcalf (WR – SEA) Overall ECR: 16
Metcalf’s current ranking as WR5 is way too rich for my blood. It seems like just yesterday he was being touted as the WR1 by many analysts, but the backend of his 2020 season was a lot worse than most people realize. Over the first eight games of the season, Metcalf was unstoppable and looking like a league-winner given his fifth-round ADP. He was averaging 8.5 targets, 5.4 receptions, and 98.5 yards per game with eight total touchdowns. Those numbers came out to being WR2 at the season’s midway point, behind only Davante Adams. However, the second half of the season told quite a different story as he became the defense’s focal point. His target share didn’t change too much, but his efficiency fell off a cliff. Over the final eight games, Metcalf averaged 7.6 targets, 5.0 receptions, and 64.4 yards per game with just two touchdowns, making him the WR39 over that stretch. I believe that Metcalf is one of the most exciting and athletic players in the league. Still, that type of production over an eight-game span makes it impossible for me to think about drafting him in the second round over guys like Travis Kelce or Calvin Ridley. I’d even opt for a high-use RB2 like Cam Akers Joe Mixon before thinking about drafting Metcalf. Another concern is that he could not separate as the clearcut top pass-catching option on the Seahawks last year. He was out-targeted by Tyler Lockett over the season! I’d actually prefer to wait for Lockett at WR25 than I would like to reach for Metcalf at WR5. In addition to the volatility concerns, Russell Wilson has expressed his desire for a trade, possibly causing some locker drama. Metcalf’s ceiling is undeniable, but there’s a lot of risk associated with someone who is getting drafted in the early second round.
– Dave Kluge (@DaveKluge_FF)

When speaking about the most freakishly athletic wide receivers in the NFL, D.K. Metcalf definitely comes to mind. Metcalf has burst onto the scene in his first two seasons as he’s caught 141 passes for 15.6 yards per reception. The former Ole Miss product has also contributed 17 receiving touchdowns in his first two seasons, becoming a reliable target for Russell Wilson. During the 2020 season, the Seattle Seahawks finally let Russ cook and it allowed Metcalf to record 229.8 fantasy points in half-PPR leagues, which was seventh-most among wide receivers. After Seattle’s offense began to sputter in the latter part of the regular season and in the playoffs, Pete Carroll made it clear that the Seahawks want to focus on pounding the rock more in 2021. The decision to re-sign Chris Carson in free agency reiterates Carroll’s stance on the offense moving forward and the pass-catchers on the Seahawks are poised to see a decline in production. With how talented Metcalf is, he’s still going to have explosive plays that make him an intriguing choice in fantasy football drafts. Though, with Metcalf sitting as WR5 in the Expert Consensus Rankings, it’s hard for me to believe that he’ll outperform his production from a season ago in an offense where he could see fewer opportunities.
– Skyler Carlin (@skyler_carlin)

Michael Thomas (WR – NO) Overall ECR: 21
Thomas was drafted as pretty much the consensus WR1 overall in 2020, and managers were very disappointed after he played in just seven games. During that time he caught 40 passes for 438 yards and zero touchdowns. That’s an average of just 12 PPR points per game and now the Saints will be without Drew Brees. Whether Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston is starting next year, it seems highly unlikely that he’ll see the type of volume he has in the past. Unless the Saints unleash Winston and he goes back to slinging the ball all over the field, I don’t see Thomas getting that consistent volume and fantasy production. We saw the drop-off for Alvin Kamara without Brees, but Thomas did see two games with 100+ yards and double-digit targets in Weeks 11 and 13 at least. Those were his best games of the year, but both were against Atlanta who gave up the fourth-most passing yards of any defense in the league last year. Thomas could very well end up being great for fantasy purposes again, but more than likely I’ll be drafting a high-volume running back here instead of drafting a wide receiver like Thomas. You can grab a tight end like George Kittle around the same spot you’ll need to draft Thomas if you want him. A few other players like Miles Sanders, D’Andre Swift, or even Joe Mixon are also being drafted right around Thomas. You’ve also got Justin Jefferson, Julio Jones, and Chris Godwin being drafted after him, all of which have similar upside in 2021.
– Aaron Schill (@aaron_schill)

Kenny Golladay (WR – NYG) Overall ECR: 42
According to the latest ECR, Kenny Golladay is going 42nd overall as WR16. Given all of the changes he’s in for, that just feels too high for me. Golladay is a prototypical stud at the WR position, but going from Matthew Stafford to Daniel Jones will have a definitive impact on his output. Not only that, but it could take a few weeks for him to get up to speed with the young signal caller. Those first few weeks can make or break your fantasy season as injuries and byes become more of a headache down the road. That being said, I do think Golladay finishes as a solid WR2 option in most formats but I would rather draft more secure players in the third round like Amari Cooper or DJ Moore, who are currently ranked behind him. I’d rather be wrong about Golladay struggling and see him succeed elsewhere than be wrong about him producing well as my WR2 and lose those early weekly matchups. Therefore, at least for this season, I’m probably not drafting Golladay unless he falls to me a round or two later.
– Andrew Hall (@AndrewHallFF)

Allen Robinson II (WR – CHI) Overall ECR: 29
I love Robinson II as a receiver, as he is as talented as any wide receiver in the league. He played with a combination of Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles last year and he still had 150 targets, 102 receptions, 1,250 yards receiving, and six touchdowns. The problem is Chicago did nothing to upgrade the quarterback situation by signing Andy Dalton. He is another journeyman QB who has little to no upside at this point in his career. Dalton was very mediocre in Dallas posting 2,170 yards passing, 14 touchdowns, and eight picks in 11 games. Two numbers that jump off the page to me are YPA of 6.5 and a sack percentage of 6.7. I think the quarterback situation is going to sabotage this offense and Robinson II is ranked 29th among all players and 10th at wide receiver. I think he is pretty much ranked at his ceiling right now. Andy Dalton is going to handcuff his ability to make big plays or score lots of touchdowns. He will likely be off the board by the time I am willing to draft him.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)

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