Should You Believe the Hype? (2021 Fantasy Football)
It is easy to form opinions about fantasy players based on coach speak, news coming out of camps, or the buzz on social media. While it can help provide some insight, the hype isn’t always the most reliable predictor of a player’s success. Whether the hoopla is warranted can depend on additional factors. The following contains information on several players receiving the most hype and whether you should buy into it.
Buy the Hype
When Joe Burrow went down with an ACL tear last year, he was sitting as the QB 16 in the fantasy rankings. If you extrapolated his average points over a complete season, he would’ve finished his rookie campaign as the QB12. And that’s without an offseason or a preseason. The Bengals offense has a ton of potential since adding another weapon in wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, along with the healthy returns of running back Joe Mixon and tight end C.J. Ozomah. Chase is a stud Burrow set records with at college who, along with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, form one of the most formidable receiver trios in the league. It’s also encouraging that the Bengals have made strides to improve their offensive line. If they can keep Burrow upright, he undoubtedly has QB1 upside in this pass-happy offense. New offensive line coach Frank Pollack should be instrumental with that, as he allowed less than 2.5 sacks per game when he was with the team in 2018.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a disappointing rookie campaign for someone being drafted in the first round, finishing as the RB22 in fantasy. Although he averaged 113.7 yards per scrimmage over the Chief’s first six games, that number fell to only 59.7 per game over the rest of the regular season. The decline in production was more about a decrease in workload rather than him becoming less effective. The drop-off coincided with the acquisition of running back Le’Veon Bell. Once the team added him, Edwards-Helaire’s average carries dropped from 17.8 to 10.6 per game. Bell and Damien Williams, who opted out last season, are no longer in the picture, and the depth pieces now behind Edwards-Helaire aren’t likely to threaten his role. At 5’8″ and 209 pounds, Edwards-Helaire might not be a true bell-cow or goal-line back, but he has a versatile skill set and plays on a prolific offense. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins has since moved on, which should also open some targets in the passing game. The clincher – Edwards-Helaire has a third-round ADP (RB18), which is a more reasonable and attainable expectation over last year.
It typically takes longer for tight-ends to develop at the NFL level, but Kyle Pitts can be an exception. Since Atlanta’s roster is now void of Julio Jones, Pitts will likely be the second option in a pass-heavy offense. The Falcons’ plan to use him at receiver gives him a significant positional advantage. Because of his traits and size, he’s fundamentally a wide receiver with a tight-end designation. In just eight games at Florida in 2020, Pitts scored 12 touchdowns while gaining 770 yards on 43 receptions. With the tight end rankings being extremely top-heavy, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Pitts doesn’t crack the Top 5.
Darnell Mooney rose out of a deep receiver class for a promising rookie campaign in 2020. Mooney made plays early and often, catapulting past Anthony Miller in usage. Mooney’s 98-targets ranked fifth among rookies and 34th among all wide receivers. He’s the clear favorite for starter snaps alongside Allen Robinson. With his top-end speed, Mooney saw 23 deep targets last year, the 11th-most in the league. With Andy Dalton or Justin Fields under center and Mooney’s big-play ability, it could unlock next-level production in his second year. He’ll easily out-produce his current ADP of WR55.
Beware of the Hype
Drafting Jalen Hurts as a QB1 in his first season as the starter might not be the most prudent move for fantasy. While Hurts could develop into a good NFL quarterback, he’s far from a proven product. It’s a small sample size since he only started four games last year, but he did struggle, completing only 52 percent of his pass attempts. He needs to work on getting rid of the ball and eliminating turnovers. During his brief playing time, Hurts registered four interceptions, nine fumbles and allowed 13 sacks. Instead of improving with each game, he appeared to get worse. What Hurts lacks in accuracy he does make up for in mobility. He ran for 354 yards and three touchdowns in just a little more than four games of work. The question is will Hurts have a Lamar Jackson rookie year-type season? Or will defenses contain him and force him to throw and make mistakes?
Yes, David Montgomery finished last season as the RB4 in fantasy. In the wake of Tarik Cohen‘s early season-ending injury, he saw a spike in snaps and passing game involvement. And yes, the Bears intend to keep him more involved this season. But what’s hard to ignore is that the bulk of Montgomery’s production came over a ridiculously soft schedule during the last six weeks of the season. Montgomery averaged 5.2 yards per carry during that stretch, but before that, his average was just 3.51, and he was only the RB20.
On top of that, Cohen’s impending return, and Damien Williams’ arrival especially, could adversely affect the volume Montgomery saw last season. Williams knows Matt Nagy’s system from their time with the Kansas City Chiefs and is already impressing in camp. It’s easy to forget that Williams was averaging 4.5 yards per tote and was the Super Bowl hero in 2019 before opting out last season. There is also a real potential for better quarterback play, and Justin Fields could steal a few carries, too. Montgomery’s 2020 season could easily be an outlier when factoring everything in.
Laviska Shenault Jr. appeared positioned to make a sizable leap in his second year. That was before the Jaguars drafted running back Travis Etienne. Shenault Jr. seemed situated to play H-back as he runs like a running back once he catches the ball. But Etienne, an elite pass-catcher, is priming for the role.
The H-back is a position used in new coach Urban Meyer’s preferred style of offense which utilizes the spread formation. It’s a hybrid role that plays both wide receiver and running back. These chess piece-type players will often flex out wide or go in motion behind the line. Meyer had success with this type of player when he coached Percy Harvin at the University of Florida. Shenault Jr. could still play H-back when Etienne lines up as a traditional tailback. However, if Meyer has his sights on primarily using Etienne this way, it would mean fewer touches for Shenault.
The Elijah Moore hype may die down a little for season-long leagues as he no longer will immediately assume the slot role with Jamison Crowder remaining with the team. It’s a pretty crowded receiver corps right now, and it’s hard to gauge how prolific the rookie can be if he isn’t a starter. It also won’t help that he’ll be working with a rookie quarterback in Zach Wilson.
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