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Running Backs + Tight Ends To Avoid (2021 Fantasy Football)

Jun 2, 2021

Offseason practices are underway, which means that it’s time for a lot of the fantasy football community to start diving back into the swing of things. Below our writers share some running backs and tight ends who they aren’t likely to draft based on their current ranking. Note that readers can find our 0.5 PPR expert consensus rankings (ECR) by clicking here.

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

Alvin Kamara (RB – NO) ECR: RB5
Ever since Kamara burst onto the scene in 2017 he’s been an absolute stud in PPR fantasy football leagues. The dynamic back who has one of the best aesthetics in the league has hauled in 81+ receptions in each of his first four seasons, and he’s accrued a total of 58 touchdowns in that span. While Kamara hasn’t shown any signs of a decline in his talent, the situation around him is about to be drastically altered in 2021. For the first four years of his career, Kamara benefited from having Drew Brees, who would consistently allow Kamara to make plays on short-to-intermediate passes. But with Brees hanging up his cleats for a microphone in the upcoming season, Kamara is going to have either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston operate the offense for the New Orleans Saints. In the four weeks we saw Hill fill in for Brees in 2020 (Weeks 11-14), Kamara saw his usage decline, making him RB11 in half-PPR formats in that four-week span. If I’m selecting a running back within the top five at his position, I’m looking for consistency, and it’s hard to envision him having the same production he’s had in previous years. Passing on Kamara at his current ADP and rank is something that I’m comfortable doing given his current situation.
– Skyler Carlin (@skyler_carlin)

This seems like a crazy pick since Kamara finished as the RB1 last season, but there are multiple factors working against him this season. First, he doesn’t have Drew Brees throwing him the ball. Either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston will be playing quarterback this season, and that is obviously a downgrade. The thing that is very worrisome is that his target totals dramatically decreased with Hill at the helm. From Weeks 10-13, Kamara’s targets in each game was the following: 1,2,3,10. This was a huge decrease from when Brees was at quarterback. The best case scenario is having Winston, who loves to push the ball downfield and won’t run as much as Hill would. Although, the most targets an RB has received when playing with Winston is 70. This was Charles Sims back in 2015. Kamara’s also splitting carries with Latavius Murray, so the rushing upside will be difficult to come by. He is currently ranked RB5 in Half-PPR, which is too rich for me. Some RBs I’d rather have are Ezekiel Elliot, Jonathan Taylor, or Austin Ekeler.
– Connor Rigg (@ConbonNFL)

Miles Sanders (RB – PHI) ECR: RB18
There’s a strange phenomenon occurring with Sanders. Fantasy gamers often discuss fading him due to the misconception that the Eagles never feature a single back. That’s not the case. Sanders is definitely the lead back in Philly. The reason to fade him is because he’s not good. Sanders is fine. I don’t mean to say he’s terrible or anything like that. There just also seems to be this perception that he’s a higher end talent. He’s replacement level, perhaps slightly above. Sanders has finished as the RB21 and RB18 in his two NFL seasons. The Eagles are committed to Jalen Hurts, at least for 2021, which will likely lead to a reduction in Sanders’ 12.3% target share as well as his touchdown total. While none of the Eagles’ other backs are threats to Sanders, the fact that they feel the need to constantly bring in additional competition certainly isn’t a positive. Sanders isn’t losing his job or anything, but at the price of RB18, he’s being drafted very close to his ceiling. I just see little upside here and will be taking other running backs or pivoting to wide receiver at the spot where Sanders typically goes, resulting in me not rostering him anywhere in 2021.
– Jason Katz (@JasonKatz13)

Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG) ECR: RB4
The Giants have struggled offensively for several years now and are consistently towards the bottom of total offense in the NFL. Last year they were second to last in offensive yards per game, which even with a healthy Barkley may not have changed a ton. He played in 13 and 16 games in the two years prior and the Giants were still towards the bottom in total offense. The offensive line has been a major focus for Dave Gettleman after taking three OL pieces in the first, third, and fifth rounds of the Draft. Even after these additions, PFF ranked the Giants as 31st OL in the league in 2020. I love the talent of Barkley, but investing heavily in this offense makes me nervous. Especially in redraft leagues, Barkley is someone I likely won’t own many shares of as the RB3 off the board with guys like Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, and Ezekiel Elliott going after him.
– Aaron Schill (@aaron_schill)

Josh Jacobs (RB – LV) ECR: RB21
The Raiders made multiple decisions to negatively affect Jacobs’ fantasy value this offseason, starting with trading Pro-Bowl C Rodney Hudson and then signing Kenyan Drake to soak up touches in the backfield. The 23-year old running back enters his third year with Jon Gruden and OC Greg Olson returning as the play-callers yet they’re seemingly unwilling to increase Jacobs’ targets. He averaged only three targets per game in 2020 despite playing on a team that finished 32nd in wide receiver target share percentage at 45.5 percent. Henry Ruggs III was a first-round pick and drew only 43 targets, a number that is guaranteed to rise in 2021. Derek Carr and Gruden will focus on incorporating the talented deep-threat into shorter route trees to decrease the absurd 17.4 yard ADOT he saw during his rookie season. Darren Waller tied Travis Kelce in targets (145) among all tight ends and returns as the team’s alpha weapon, having contributed to the Raiders finishing first in tight end target share at 33% in 2020. Drake comes into Las Vegas with the opportunity to be the featured receiving back, replacing Jalen Richard and continuing to limit Jacob’s opportunity for an increased role as a pass-catching back. Drake’s 6’1″, 211-pound frame and sure hands were on display at times in Arizona and are ideal assets to utilize near the goal-line, further devaluing Jacobs at his current ECR as RB21. Myles Gaskin (RB22) and Travis Etienne (RB24) are two running backs with better value available in the same range of half-PPR redraft leagues based on their situation and upside.
– Matt MacKay (@Matt_MacKay_)

Joe Mixon (RB – CIN) ECR: RB12
Mixon gives me pause for 2021 at his current ranking for three reasons. The first is that he has a very mediocre yards per carry over the last two seasons. In 2019, he had six games where he averaged less than 2.40 yards per carry and he had only five games where he averaged over 5.0 yards per carry. The second issue is his offensive line. The Bengals had the 30th ranked offensive line by Pro Football Focus in 2020 and instead of investing their fifth pick in upgrading that unit, they spent the it on Ja’Marr Chase. Their line is likely to be below average again, unless Jackson Carman and D’Ante Smith end up making major contributions in their rookie seasons. Third, Mixon is coming off a season where he played only six games due to a foot injury. Mixon has too many games where he has dreadful rushing numbers, he is coming off a foot injury that caused him to miss a lot of games last year, and his offensive line is very below average. I just cannot see using the 19th pick in a fantasy draft on a player with all of those factors working against him.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)

Check out our Consensus Dynasty Rankings here >>

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

Kyle Pitts (TE – ATL) ECR: TE6
When someone finds out I have him ranked at TE5, they typically gasp. “That’s ridiculously high for a rookie tight end!” I know! Given that I’m even further above consensus on the most hyped rookie tight end of all time, how can he be someone I’m going to avoid? Pitts may be my TE5, but I am not taking my TE5 in the fifth or sixth round, which is what it will likely cost to acquire Pitts in redraft leagues. The reality is once Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and George Kittle are gone, I’m just going to wait or stream the position. This is less about where Pitts ranks relative to other tight ends and more about what Pitts costs relative to other positions. As a result, I don’t see myself rostering Pitts much, if at all, in his debut season.
– Jason Katz (@JasonKatz13)

The hype around Pitts has gotten out of control. Don’t get me wrong, he’s easily the most talented tight end we’ve seen come out in years — possibly since Vernon Davis was a prospect back in 2006. At any rate, the likelihood that rookie tight ends jump in and immediately produce fantasy numbers isn’t great. Even if Julio Jones is gone, there’s little to no chance I’ll own and shares of Pitts at his cost in redraft leagues and I’m perfectly fine with that. If I miss out on one of the top three tight ends, I’ll be waiting and snatching up a couple of late-round options and there’s plenty of wide receivers and running backs I’d take ahead of Pitts.
– Aaron Schill (@aaron_schill)

Logan Thomas (TE – WFT) ECR: TE9
Thomas was one of the bright spots for the Washington Football Team in 2020, and he helped plenty of fantasy football players — who target tight ends in later rounds — see success. Due to the lack of firepower outside of Terry McLaurin, Thomas saw his role in Washington’s offense expand exponentially, especially when Alex Smith was the starter. However, Thomas’ fantastic rapport with Smith is exactly why he could disappoint many in 2021. Smith is no longer in Washington, which means that Thomas won’t have a quarterback that feeds him dump-off passes that result in productive outings in fantasy football. Outside of an uncharacteristic game against a putrid Detroit Lions defense, in which he had an aDOT of 14 yards, Thomas had a mediocre aDOT of 5.2 yards with Smith under center. That being said, Thomas finished as TE7 from Weeks 10-14 with Smith targeting him. Fast forward to now and Ryan Fitzpatrick is the quarterback in Washington, which means the offense will be taking a more aggressive approach. While Thomas has shown he can be a talented tight end, the addition of Fitzpatrick paves the way for more usage from McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and Antonio Gibson. People can chase Thomas for a top-10 finish again in 2021, and I’ll happily pass on him for Irv Smith Jr., or I will wait until later rounds to snatch a tight end.
– Skyler Carlin (@skyler_carlin)

Robert Tonyan (TE – GB) ECR: TE10
Tonyan had a fantastic season for the Packers. He finished as the TE3 in fantasy and outproduced some big names like Mark Andrews, T.J. Hockenson, and Noah Fant. He caught 52 passes on 59 targets for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. The problem with Tonyan is that he’s due for touchdown regression. Catching 11 touchdowns is amazing, but doing that on 52 catches is bound to regress. The Packers also drafted Amari Rodgers and still have superstar Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the roster. Combine this with Aaron Jones getting more looks in the passing game and it spells trouble for Tonyan. He’s currently going as TE10 and that seems way too high for someone who was so touchdown dependent. A few tight ends who I like more are Tyler Higbee, Cole Kmet, Blake Jarwin, and Adam Trautman.
– Connor Rigg (@ConbonNFL)

Mark Andrews (TE – BAL) ECR: TE5
The Ravens have been one of the most run-centric teams in the league during the three-year emergence of Lamar Jackson in OC Greg Roman’s system. Andrews has been the biggest beneficiary of the RPO-styled offense, providing a 6’5″ security blanket across the middle or down the seam for Jackson to hone in on while under duress. However, with a completely revamped receiving corps heading into 2021, expect Andrews’ targets to take a marginal decrease. Veteran wideout Sammy Watkins signed a one-year, $5 million deal to join the Ravens this offseason, adding experience and speed to the perimeter. In the draft, John Harbaugh and Roman opted to use their first-round selection on University of Minnesota wideout Rashod Bateman, who caught 147 receptions for nearly 2,400 yards and 19 touchdowns across three seasons. The team didn’t stop at Bateman, using a fourth-round draft pick to sign sure-handed speedster Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State University. J.K. Dobbins and Jackson will both continue to see the bulk of carries as a primary function of Roman’s run-heavy offense, however, there is little chance Jackson finishes with just 376 pass attempts in a 17-game season. An upgraded receiving corps also allows Jackson to see less stacked boxes due to their ability to vertically stretch the field, which is yet another reason why I’m fading Andrews at his current ECR of TE5. If you want to acquire a tight-end this early in redraft leagues, T.J. Hockenson is currently valued as the ECR TE4, as he is poised for a breakout season in Detroit and can be drafted in the same round as Andrews with a much safer floor and higher upside.
– Matt MacKay (@Matt_MacKay_)

T.J. Hockenson (TE – DET) ECR: TE4
The Lions have no help at wide receiver. They have Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams, and Kalif Raymond vying for their top three wide receiver positions. Furthermore, Jared Goff is taking over for Matthew Stafford and Goff is a below-average quarterback that is going to be trying to revive his career in Detroit with one of the worst wide receiver groups in the NFL. While that means Hockenson should see plenty of targets, it also means he is going to be the player that defenses try to take away. I liked Hockenson coming out of Iowa and I think he is a fantastic tight end who will put up fantasy viable numbers at a position that lacks impact players. I think it is a lot to ask of him to be a top-five fantasy tight end with that supporting cast. He does not have enough upside for me to burn a sixth-round pick on him when I can find plenty of options with more upside who have a much lower ADP.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)

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