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Best Ball Players to Avoid Following the NFL Draft (2021)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
May 10, 2021

The 2021 NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror, and the landing spots of top prospects have started to change the fantasy football landscape. The following four players stand out as ones to avoid best ball drafts.

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James Robinson (RB – JAC): 34.19 ADP in 12-team BestBall10s (All Drafts) from 5/1/21-5/9/21
Robinson was a revelation for fantasy football gamers last year. He emerged from undrafted free agent status to run for 1,000-plus yards, adding 49 receptions for 344 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns. He came onto the scene out of nowhere, and most of the best ball community missed on him entirely while season-long gamers reaped the rewards of claiming him off waivers following a feature-back role in Week 1.

Robinson’s Cinderella story sees him turning into a pumpkin in year two with a new coaching regime. New head coach Urban Meyer has added his guys to the mix, knee-capping Robinson’s workhorse role.

The Jaguars made Travis Etienne the second running back off the board in this year’s draft, taking him 25th overall. That’s significant draft capital, and it’s an indication he’ll be an integral part of the offense, even if Meyer offers coach-speak quotes to the contrary.

Speaking of quotes, his post-draft presser provides further reason for concern regarding Robinson’s 2021 outlook. Additionally, it’s the reason I said the new regime added their guys, rather than saying they added their guy. Meyer explicitly mentioned the addition of free-agent Carlos Hyde.

Robinson doesn’t even appear to be a slam-dunk handcuff if Etienne struggles or is injured. The rookie is the only Jacksonville rusher that I’m interested in selecting. Despite the obvious red flags, he has an ADP inside the top-40 picks in BestBall10 drafts from May 1 through May 9, and his max pick of 57 is still way too rich for my blood.

Melvin Gordon (RB – DEN): 59.33
Gordon had a pedestrian first season with the Broncos. He ranked as the RB26 in point-per-reception (PPR) per-game scoring through last year’s fantasy football season (Week 1 through Week 16), per our Fantasy Football Leaders tool.

His real-life statistics were mediocre, too. According to Pro-Football-Reference, Gordon ranked 18th in attempts per broken tackle, tied for 22nd in yards after contact per attempt, and tied for 20th in yards before contact per attempt among qualified runners. Pro Football Focus graded his running favorably, ranking him 12th at the position in their run grade, but that positive is hardly enough to offset the elephant in the room.

The Broncos not only used significant draft capital on running back Javonte Williams by taking him with the third pick in the second round, but they also traded up to do so. Their actions speak loudly, and I’m listening.

The offense doesn’t look like the type to hang points in bunches, either. Their new answer at quarterback is a competition between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, barring a blockbuster deal for Aaron Rodgers. Yawn.

It’s also worth noting that, according to Spotrac, Gordon has a $2,441,176 roster bonus due at the start of training camp. Gordon will become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Could the team cut him, save the money, and roll with their physical rookie runner and free-agent addition Mike Boone as their top two backs? I wouldn’t feel blindsided or shocked if they did. However, I’m not sure that they’ll go that far.

I’m unwilling to spend a top-100 pick on Gordon. Since his max ADP from May 1 through May 9 is 88, that means I’m not going to end up with him on any of my rosters. Fade him.

Marquise Brown (WR – BAL): 86.70
The Ravens spent a first-round pick on Brown in the 2019 NFL Draft, and he has been good, but not great. The speedy wideout reached pay dirt 15 times in 30 games, but he has averaged an underwhelming 3.5 receptions and 45.1 receiving yards per game. The wideout’s yards per target also took a step back from 8.2 to 7.7 last season.

The dip in his efficiency is especially alarming since his volume, which is already modest in the game’s most run-heavy offense, could be in jeopardy this season. The Ravens have ranked in the basement in the percentage of pass plays attempted each of the last two years, sitting at 46% in 2019 and 45% in 2020, per Sharp Football Stats.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has a lengthy track record of taking the air out of the ball in his seven full seasons as an offensive coordinator (2011-2014 with the 49ers, 2015 with the Bills, and 2019-2020 with the Ravens). His time as an offensive coordinator predates Sharp Football Stats’ play-type percentages, so the following table shows his offense’s ranks in pass attempts, per Pro-Football-Reference.

I’m starting to see some buzz on Twitter in the fantasy football community about the Ravens opening up the offense and allowing Lamar Jackson to throw it more. Maybe they will, but I’d be shocked if they rank in the top half of the league in pass percentage or pass attempts given Roman’s coaching history.

To further elaborate on Brown’s volume shrinkage, the team added Sammy Watkins in free agency. They also spent the 27th pick in the NFL Draft on receiver Rashod Bateman and the 131st pick on wideout Tylan Wallace. The additions should help the offense as a whole, and they boost Jackson’s fantasy football stock. However, they put additional pressure on Brown’s efficiency to carry his value. No thanks, I’ll pass on selecting Brown.

Hayden Hurst (TE – ATL): 165.67
I don’t need to dive in too deep here. The Falcons made Kyle Pitts the earliest selected tight end in the NFL Draft’s history by spending the fourth pick on him. Even if the team trades Julio Jones in an attempt to fix their current salary cap mess, Hurst will remain too far down the pass-catching pecking order to be worthy of rostering. He’s completely off of my draft board.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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