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Kyle Yates’ Players To Avoid (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Kyle Yates | @KyleYNFL | Featured Writer
Jul 9, 2021

Every single year, there are players that I find myself enamored with and believe that they are absolutely worth drafting at their current ADP until I do my team-by-team projections. After taking this objective look at each team and eliminating biases from the equation, I realize that my feelings have changed on those aforementioned players.

Projections aim to determine the most likely outcome. While a certain player can absolutely buck the trend and outperform expectations, it’s a risky game to play when you’re betting on that happening and drafting them at a premium price. The players I’m going to mention below are absolutely options that I would love to have on my fantasy roster. However, when I assess their surrounding situation and evaluate what price I’m going to have to pay for them in my draft, it causes me to approach them with caution.

I’m not telling you to avoid these options at all costs because they’re going to be complete busts. They’re absolutely going to be fantasy relevant throughout the season, but this is all about the cost of acquiring them versus what their most likely outcome is set to be.

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If you’re on the clock and considering drafting one of these options, I’d recommend turning to players that don’t carry as much risk.

Jalen Hurts (QB – Philadelphia Eagles)

While Hurts was a solid addition to fantasy rosters off of the waiver wire last year due to his rushing ability, he didn’t necessarily shine as a passer. With just a 52% completion rate and a 6:4 TD to INT ratio, Hurts is going to have to be sensational as a mobile QB this season to justify the hype that he’s getting. While he has the talent to be very good on the ground and pick up rushing yards, NFL defenses are now going to be able to game plan for Hurts’ skillset with an entire off-season to study tape. If defenses can work to limit his mobility and force him to beat them from the pocket, we could see his fantasy output take a hit. As a streaming QB, Hurts is worth taking the shot on to see if he can overcome these potential obstacles. However, there’s the potential that we see his ADP get to the point where he’s being drafted as a top-8 QB and that’s just simply too much risk.

Matt Ryan (QB – Atlanta Falcons)

Ryan did have some appeal earlier on this off-season, but with Julio Jones now out of town, I’m staying completely away from the veteran QB. With a WR corps that lacks proven depth, it’s difficult to find a path for how Ryan finishes as a top-12 QB. He might be able to provide you with a solid floor each week, but the path for upside simply isn’t there. He’s a fine QB2 for your Superflex formats, but I’m willing to look elsewhere at the position in my 1QB leagues.

Saquon Barkley (RB – New York Giants)

From a talent perspective, Saquon Barkley is the best RB in the NFL when he’s on the field. Unfortunately, the issue has been staying on the field the past two seasons. Barkley has played 15 out of a possible 32 games, which makes him a very risky investment at the top of your draft. For fantasy managers to have a shot of competing deep into their playoffs, they need their top draft pick to pull their weight all season long. As the RB3 in ECR right now, that’s too high of a cost for Barkley that doesn’t take into account his injury history whatsoever. As a late first-round draft pick, the risk is worth the reward. A top-3 pick in your fantasy football draft might be a little bit too rich.

Cam Akers (RB – Los Angeles Rams)

Is Akers a very talented and dynamic RB? Yes. Is he going to see 29 carries in a game like he did at one point last year? Almost certainly not. With the expansion to a 17-game season, I believe we’re going to see more and more NFL coaches look to involve multiple RBs in their game plan to avoid players wearing down. From Sean McVay’s perspective, he’s going to be thinking about how he needs Akers to be fresh for their deep playoff run and loading him up with touches like he did towards the end of last season isn’t going to be sustainable for an entire season. Darrell Henderson is going to be involved in this offense enough to take some pressure off of Akers, which negatively impacts his fantasy value. I love Akers as a mid-range RB2 this year with incredible upside, but it’s tough to logically get to the place that I feel comfortable putting him inside my top-10. If he ends up being drafted around that range, I’m not going to have many shares of Akers in 2021.

D’Andre Swift (RB – Detroit Lions)

Based on pure talent, Swift already belongs in the top-12 RB conversation in the NFL. Unfortunately, it’s hard to have faith that Swift will finish in that range this year for fantasy purposes. While he could see plenty of targets in the passing game, the scoring opportunities on this bad Detroit Lions team probably aren’t going to be very plentiful. Additionally, he now has Jamaal Williams in this backfield to compete for touches with and Anthony Lynn has been vocal about his love for utilizing a committee approach. Swift is going to be a safe RB2 for your roster this season because of the floor he’ll bring you week in and week out. However, due to the offense he’s in, there’s virtually no upside. Think about it this way…would you have been as excited about Swift last season if he were on the New York Jets or Jacksonville Jaguars and in a near 50/50 time share? That could be the exact situation we’re looking at this season in Detroit.

Michael Thomas (WR – New Orleans Saints)

It’s going to be very difficult to get past the pain that fantasy managers endured last season with drafting MT. After being drafted as the consensus WR1, Thomas went on to finish with exactly zero receiving touchdowns in the regular season! He obviously missed a lot of time, which certainly affects those numbers, but that stung fantasy players bad last year. Now, Thomas doesn’t have Drew Brees to throw him the ball time and time again and we’re entering into a bit of unknown territory on how to view Thomas for fantasy football. In my opinion, Thomas should still soak up targets in this offense and he’ll bounce back. With that being said, I don’t believe that he’s going to truly bounce back to consensus WR1 levels. Thomas is the perfect addition to your roster as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 that should provide a safe floor week after week. However, the days of him soaking up 185 targets may very well be behind us.

Kenny Golladay (WR – New York Giants)

There’s a lot of hype right now surrounding Kenny Golladay and it’s easy to understand why that’s the case. He’s an incredibly talented receiver and he just signed a massive contract with the New York Giants in free agency. However, once you sit down and really assess the situation around him, it’s difficult to get too excited. Golladay now joins an absolutely crowded offense with a lot of mouths to feed, which instantly puts a cap on his projected ceiling. With Saquon Barkley, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney, Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, and Devontae Booker all in the mix for targets, Golladay is going to have to be ultra efficient with his opportunity to make an impact for fantasy football. In my opinion, Golladay is more of a low-end WR2 than anything else. You’re buying into Daniel Jones taking a massive step forward if you trust Golladay as anything more than that.

Mike Evans (WR – Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

What Evans has done throughout his career is no small feat. In his seven seasons in the NFL, Evans has never finished with less than 1,000 receiving yards in any given year. With that being said, he’s a roller coaster to have on your fantasy football roster. Last season, Evans had numerous games where he only had one to three receptions, but he was able to come down with a touchdown on several occasions to save his fantasy output. Evans brings some massive upside based on his size, skillset, and talent. However, fantasy managers need consistency from their WRs if they’re being drafted at a premium price. There’s a possibility that we see Evans move up into the top-12 WRs in ADP by the time draft season rolls around. He’ll provide you with some of those week-winning performances, but that’s too steep of a price for me to get on board with that unpredictability.

Tyler Lockett (WR – Seattle Seahawks)

If you’re looking for a boom-or-bust WR, look no further than Lockett. While his 2020 stats look great, there’s a greater context that doesn’t come across when looking at the fact that he finished with 1,054 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last season. The majority of Lockett’s production came in three games last year, which is extremely concerning for fantasy managers that are playing in weekly redraft leagues. He absolutely comes with week-winning upside, but there’s the potential that he can hurt your fantasy lineup if he doesn’t come through with a huge performance. This all comes down to Lockett’s value point and where you’re able to get him in drafts. If you’re able to secure him as a WR3 on your roster, this is enough of a discount to where you can live with the potential range of outcomes. However, if you’re needing to rely on him as a WR2 or a consistent producer to keep your lineup in matchups, this is a strategy that can lead to a lot of heartache. We know what Lockett can be for fantasy, so he’s still worth selecting in your drafts this year. However, it’s going to all come down to his ADP and what it settles out at by the time drafts start happening.

TJ Hockenson (TE – Detroit Lions)

Is Hockenson incredibly talented? Yes. Is there a case to be made that he can lead this Lions offense in targets? Absolutely. However, the expectations for Hockenson right now are sky high and it’s hard to see how he returns value. The scoring opportunities are going to be essentially non-existent for this team and we could see them at the bottom of the league in overall plays ran. Hockenson can soak up targets this season, but if he doesn’t score plenty of touchdowns, he’s going to disappoint fantasy managers that drafted him as a top-5 TE. He’s being drafted at his absolute ceiling right now and that’s something I simply can’t get on board with, unfortunately. I’m avoiding Hockenson this season if his ADP remains around where it is right now.

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Kyle Yates is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Kyle, check out his archive and follow him @KyleYNFL.

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