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4 Players to Avoid (2024 Fantasy Football)

After a certain point in fantasy football drafts, players are selected too late to be deemed busts. It’s disingenuous to deem a mid-round pick a bust. Still, players can and do underachieve expectations for their average draft position (ADP) at all points of fantasy football drafts. The following fantasy football players are ill-advised choices at their respective ADP.

Fantasy Football Players to Avoid

Calvin Ridley (TEN – WR): 69.3 ADP/WR35

Calvin Ridley joined the Titans in free agency on a sizable contract after successfully returning from his gambling suspension with the Jaguars in 2023. Despite the big contract, Ridley wasn’t a top-shelf producer.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), among 71 wide receivers with at least 40 targets, including the postseason, Ridley was 45th in PFF’s receiving grade (72.4) and 50th in yards per route run (1.57 Y/RR). Per Fantasy Life, Ridley was tied for 36th in targets per route run rate (20%) out of 93 wideouts with at least 300 routes in the 2023 regular season. The underlying stats would have been alarming if he’d re-upped with the Jaguars.

The underlying data is even more concerning now that he’s on the Titans. First, the Titans already have a superior wide receiver on their roster. In 2023, DeAndre Hopkins had a higher PFF receiving grade (82.3), more yards per route run (2.09 Y/RR) and a higher targets per route run rate (26%) than Ridley. Ridley is also probably downgrading his quarterback.

While Will Levis showed flashes in his rookie campaign, his 200.9 passing yards per game and 33.2 QBR, per Pro-Football-Reference, were worse than Trevor Lawrence‘s career-low marks in both categories. Lawrence had 214.2 passing yards per game and a 39.1 QBR in his rookie season while playing for the comically inept Urban Meyer. Furthermore, Lawrence had 251.0 passing yards per game in 2023, 50 more per game than Levis.

Ridley shouldn’t be drafted ahead of Chris Godwin (75.0 ADP/WR36), Hollywood Brown (77.0/WR37), Nuk (81.7/WR40) or some others picked after him in half-PPR leagues. Ridley’s boom-or-bust style and attachment to an unproven, inaccurate, rocket-armed young quarterback epitomizes a better-in-best-ball profile.

Evan Engram (JAC – TE): 71.3 ADP/TE8

Evan Engram was the TE2 in half-PPR and the TE6 in half-PPR points per game (10.2) last year. However, he had substantial in-and-out splits for the first 12 weeks when Christian Kirk was healthy and Week 13 through the end of the season when Kirk was hurt (Kirk played one snap in Week 13).

Kirk is healthy again, and the Jaguars added Gabe Davis in free agency and Brian Thomas in the first round of this year's NFL Draft. Engram was only the TE14 in half-PPR points per game when Kirk was healthy in 2023, and Engram's new teammates will also muddy his path to targets. Dalton Schultz has a 121.7 ADP as the TE14 in drafts. Engram is picked closer to his ceiling than his median outcome and should have an ADP much closer to Schultz's, making Jacksonville's starting tight end an easy fade.

2024 Dynasty Fantasy Football Guide

James Conner (ARI - RB): 79.3 ADP/RB24

James Conner is a perfect example of the need to be flexible with player rankings and takes as information changes. I loved and hyped up Conner earlier in the offseason before the NFL Draft. The veteran running back was an efficient workhorse in Arizona's offense last season, and he avoided the Cardinals adding meaningful competition in free agency. Sadly, Conner couldn't avoid competition in the NFL Draft, though.

The Cards picked Trey Benson with the second pick in the third round, making him the second running back prospect selected this year. Benson has the size and speed to add juice to Arizona's backfield. He's also almost certainly an upgrade to last year's motley crew of replacement-level backup running backs. Benson should have a role as a change-of-pace back when Conner is healthy, and he could overtake the veteran on the depth chart if the injury bug strikes and the rookie makes the most of an enhanced role.

It's usually best to avoid speculating about injuries because they're often flukey, random or unpredictable. However, Conner has played in more than 13 games only twice in his seven-year career, playing in 14 games as a rarely-used rookie in 2017 and 15 in 2021. Moreover, rookies frequently emerge later in the season, and Benson cutting into Conner's workload during the fantasy football playoffs would be a nightmare for gamers counting on the veteran running back.

Xavier Worthy (KC - WR): 89.7 ADP/WR42

Xavier Worthy landed in a perfect spot for his long-term outlook. He's paired with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. Mahomes has the arm strength and willingness to fling it deep to take advantage of his speed, and Reid has the play-calling and play-design chops to minimize Worthy's size-related issues and maximize his jaw-dropping speed.

However, playing for Reid is a double-edged sword. His offense is complex, and rookie receivers haven't hit the ground running often. For example, Rashee Rice had only three games with over 10.0 half-PPR points before Kansas City's bye in Week 10 last year, and Tyreek Hill scored fewer than 10.0 half-PPR points in five of his first eight games before exceeding that mark in five of his final eight games and clearing 8.0 in the other three contests.

Both players failed to come out of the gates hot because of a lack of early-season playing time. In 2014, Hill had a sub-20% snap share in his first three games and didn't clear 35% until Week 9. Last season, Rice didn't clear a 60% snap share until Week 8 and fell short of a 50% snap share five times in his first six professional games.

Hill and Rice are also Kansas City's only two draft success stories at wide receiver in the previous decade. Obviously, the Chiefs have been the gold standard in the NFL since Mahomes took the starting reigns in his sophomore campaign. Nevertheless, they're not infallible, and they've had some whiffs in the NFL Draft at wideout. The following table features the 11 wideouts the Chiefs have picked since 2014. Sadly, we don't have half-PPR data for the 2014 season. As a result, De'Anthony Thomas's standard and PPR scoring averages and ranks were included on the table instead of his half-PPR averages and ranks. In addition, Tremon Smith was listed as a wide receiver on Pro-Football-Reference's draft page but had defensive back and returner designation as a pro.

Rice and Hill were the only rookie wideouts on the table who were useful in fantasy. Worthy has a draft-capital edge on everyone on the table since the Chiefs haven't used a first-round pick on a wideout in the past 10 years before trading up to Buffalo's 28th pick to select Texas's speedster.

Still, the Chiefs also added Brown to their wide receiving corps, possibly lessening the need to rush Worthy if he's not ready. Gamers also shouldn't get their hopes up about Worthy being Cheetah 2.0. Instead, DeSean Jackson was the comparison Reid used after the NFL Draft. When Jackson was a rookie playing for Reid and the Eagles in 2008, he had 62 receptions (3.9 per game), 912 receiving yards (57.0 per game), two receiving touchdowns, 17 rush attempts, 96 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown.

Thus, Jackson averaged 9.4 half-PPR points per game. Terry McLaurin and Tyler Lockett were tied for WR42 in half-PPR points per game (9.6) last season, and Brandin Cooks (9.1) was the WR44. The game has changed since 2008, but Worthy must essentially duplicate Jackson's production as a rookie to break even at his ADP.

Worthy is also on the flip side of why Conner was featured in this piece. While Conner's role could diminish as Benson acclimates to the NFL, Worthy's role should increase as he gets used to playing at the NFL level. Worthy can guide fantasy teams to a championship if he has a Rice-like late-season emergence. Yet, if he underperforms early, his late-season fantasy points won't help fantasy teams toiling in consolation brackets. As a result, forward-thinking gamers can consider fading Worthy with the intent to trade for him or add him off the waiver wire if his manager is impatient and dumps him after a slow start. There's a risk that Worthy bucks the trend for Reid's rookie wide receivers and opens the year on a heater, but calculated risks are an essential part of successful fantasy football management.

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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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