Fantasy Football Busts 2021
A smart fantasy football player heads into their draft with a list of players they love and want to end up with on their team. An even smarter player looks the other direction – which players are overpriced at their current ADP? Which players will end up being a wasted use of a draft pick? Of course, sometimes players are busts through no fault of their own as season-ending injuries are unfortunately fairly common and inevitable for top draft picks. However, a handful of players will stay healthy and play every game and fail to live up to their ADP. The following are a handful of players I’m concerned could fall into the bust category this season.
*Projections, rankings, and ADP for Half-PPR scoring, ADP sourced from Fantasy Football Calculator
ADP: Round 8, Pick 9 (#95, QB11)
2021 Projections: 3,850.1 passing yards, 21 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 866.4 rushing yards, 6 rushing touchdowns, QB12
Hurts is being drafted as the 11th quarterback off the board by ADP, and my projections have him as the QB12, so it’s not like I’m completely out on the Eagles‘ quarterback. However, he only completed 52.03% of his passes last year and had a minimal sample size of production. In his four games as the starter last season, Hurts averaged 23.8 fantasy points per game – only five quarterbacks averaged more per game. However, much of Hurts’s production came on the ground as he averaged 66.7 rushing yards per game across those starts. It’s unlikely he runs the ball that much again, especially after the team added Devonta Smith in the first round, but Hurts was quite terrible as a passer last year – his QBR of 77.6 was 39th in the NFL. The Eagles’ pass-catching weapons are still uninspiring and unproductive. I can buy into Hurts’s top-ten upside this season, and I’ll happily take him if he falls into the double-digit rounds. However, an ADP in the 8th round warrants consideration that he may fail to live up to expectations with a new head coach and offensive coordinator.
QBs in ADP range I’d take instead: Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill
ADP: Round 5, Pick 11 (#61, QB6)
2021 Projections: 4,942.9 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 272.8 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns, QB8
I don’t love including Justin Herbert here as I’m very excited about the Chargers‘ second-year quarterback moving forward. I’m not necessarily projecting a second-year slump – I still have him comfortably finishing inside the top ten quarterbacks. However, he’s currently being drafted ahead of the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, and I have a hard time getting behind that. Herbert should benefit from the much-improved offensive line in Los Angeles as the team added All-Pro center Corey Linsley, veteran Matt Feiler, and first-round rookie Rashawn Slater. However, the Chargers should also have an improved defense and a more balanced offense, with Austin Ekeler spearheading the run game. There were plenty of aspects of Herbert’s rookie years that appear unlikely to repeat, such as his leading passer rating under pressure and the lowest turnover rate in the NFL. His regression should come on a better Chargers team, but it will limit him from having elite upside in fantasy, and he’s being overdrafted in the fifth round.
QBs in ADP range I’d take instead: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers
ADP: Round 1, Pick 11 (#12, RB9)
2021 Projections: 251 carries for 1,330.3 yards and 12 touchdowns, 35.9 catches for 218.8 yards and 2 touchdowns, RB12
I have had Jonathan Taylor on my bust list all offseason through no fault of his own. The second-year Colts running back is a great talent, but he’s playing in an offense where Frank Reich clearly wants to use multiple running backs as Nyheim Hines, and Marlon Mack will be a thorn in the side of Taylor owners all season. However, with the recent Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson injuries, Taylor has actually dropped to a spot in ADP where I don’t really think he fits under the bust label anymore. I’ve been in best ball drafts where he’s lasted until early in the third round, which makes him a great value. Wentz and Nelson appear to be trending towards being ready for Week 1, which could push Taylor’s ADP back up, so I decided to leave him on this list. The Colts only gave Taylor 232 of their 459 total rushing attempts (50.5%) last season, and that was after Mack’s season-ending injury. Taylor also lost a lot of receiving work to Nyheim Hines as Taylor had just 36 catches while Hines had 63 catches. I understand the appeal of Taylor – he finished as the RB6 as a rookie on the back of a dominant stretch to end the season, but that came against some bad defenses, and Taylor will continue to lose work to others in the offense. There are better options at the end of the first round if he gets back to that range in ADP.
RBs in ADP range I’d take instead: Austin Ekeler, Saquon Barkley, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
ADP: Round 2, Pick 9 (#22, RB15)
2021 Projections: 196 carries for 1,117.2 yards and 9 touchdowns, 29.3 catches for 243.4 yards and 2 touchdowns, RB21
I love the talent of J.K. Dobbins, and I actually have him rushing for 5.7 yards per carry this year, the best efficiency rate in my projections. However, he’s currently being drafted in the second round ahead of guys like Chris Carson, David Montgomery, and D’Andre Swift, all of whom I have ranked considerably higher. Dobbins will get plenty of rushing work behind an improved Baltimore offensive line, and he benefits from the presence of Lamar Jackson with zone-read and option plays. However, Dobbins is unlikely to see a high volume of receptions – over the past two seasons with Jackson as the full-time starter, no running back has seen more than 26 catches. Dobbins only had 18 catches over 15 games last season. Additionally, Dobbins’s touchdown upside is capped with Gus Edwards, a great goalline back, and Lamar Jackson rushing for 7 touchdowns each past two years. Dobbins doesn’t have elite upside in receiving work or the scoring department, and he’s being drafted as if he does. Dobbins is likely to be a serviceable RB2 who pops off for some huge games throughout the season, but that’s not the type of player you draft in the second round.
RBs in ADP range I’d take instead: Chris Carson, David Montgomery, D’Andre Swift
ADP: Round 4, Pick 4 (#41, RB22)
2021 Projections: 152 carries for 699.2 yards and 7 touchdowns, 21.6 catches for 177.4 yards and 2 touchdowns, RB37
I’ll be the first to admit that the Jaguars drafting Clemson RB Travis Etienne was disappointing for a few reasons, mostly the clear impact it has on James Robinson moving forward. Robinson finished as the RB7 in half-PPR scoring as he racked up over 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns from scrimmage. The new head coach in Urban Meyer and a rookie quarterback in Trevor Lawrence should improve the Jacksonville offense over a unit that saw Mike Glennon and Jake Luton play significant snaps at quarterback last season. However, Robinson will surely not see the same volume this year. Travis Etienne is more of a receiving, per-touch back in the mold of Alvin Kamara, but he’s still going to eat into Robinson’s work. The Jaguars also brought in Carlos Hyde, who’s likely better than any non-Robinson back on the team last year. Jacksonville will be a better team overall, but the defense should still be below-average, and I’m expecting the Jaguars to rank near the top of the league in passing attempts. All that contributes to less volume on the ground for Robinson and a diminished role in the passing game. He’s a clear bust in the fourth round, and I’ll never draft him there.
RBs in ADP range I’d take instead: Myles Gaskin, Darrell Henderson, Travis Etienne
ADP: Round 7, Pick 5 (#78, RB33)
2021 Projections: 129 carries for 554.7 yards and 5 touchdowns, 27.3 catches for 267.1 yards and 1 touchdown
In his first season with the Texans, David Johnson was a very serviceable RB2 as he finished as the RB19 in half-PPR scoring overall and RB15 in per-game scoring. As the centerpiece of the DeAndre Hopkins trade, Johnson was solid in his debut season in Houston. However, the new Texans’ regime wasn’t satisfied as they added Mark Ingram, Philip Lindsay, and Rex Burkhead in free agency. I was still confident about David Johnson rising above the rest of the crop to be the leader in touches, but that confidence was shaken this week when the Texans released their first unofficial depth chart with Ingram and Lindsay ahead of Johnson. Houston is going to field one of the worst offenses in the NFL, so it’s not even like the starting running back role on this team is going to be particularly valuable in fantasy football. However, the possibility of a true RBBC on an awful offense has me shaking my head. If you’re insistent on getting a Texans’ running back on your roster, go with Lindsay in the 10th round over Johnson in the 7th every time.
RBs in ADP range I’d take instead: Ronald Jones, Zack Moss, Leonard Fournette
ADP: Round 4, Pick 4 (#40, WR14)
2021 Projections: 76.3 catches for 1,167.1 yards and 9 touchdowns, WR17
It pains me to put Julio Jones here because he’s been a consistency freak and a model of sustained excellence, as, before last year, he had 80+ catches for 1,390+ yards in six straight seasons. However, Jones missed seven games last year and is now 32 years old. Durability and age are major concerns for the future Hall of Famer. Jones will also be playing in a Tennessee offense that had the third-fewest passing attempts in the NFL last year. Jones still produced last year when healthy – his 16-game pace was 90 catches for 1,369 yards and 5 touchdowns. However, there’s a lot of tread on his tires, and the injury concerns often have me looking in a different direction in the fourth round. I wouldn’t be shocked if Jones finishes as a top-15 wide receiver this year and continues to play elite football with his new team. Still, there’s a distinct possibility that this is the beginning of the end for a player who has been one of the best receivers of our generation.
WRs in ADP range I’d take instead: Mike Evans, Amari Cooper, Robert Woods
ADP: Round 5, Pick 2 (#52, WR19)
2021 Projections: 76.7 catches for 966.7 yards and 8 touchdowns, WR27
In his 30-year-old season, Adam Thielen boosted the “age is just a number” narrative as he finished as the WR8 in half-PPR leagues. However, Thielen finished with just 74 catches for 925 yards, both outside the top 25 in the league and significantly behind rookie teammate Justin Jefferson. While Jefferson caught 88 balls for 1,400 yards and 7 touchdowns in one of the best rookie seasons of all time, Thielen saved his fantasy value with a career-high 14 receiving touchdowns. Before 2020, Thielen had topped out at 9 receiving touchdowns in a season and only had 25 touchdowns over the course of his six seasons in the NFL. Last season makes Thielen an obvious candidate for negative touchdown regression. The Vikings improved their defense this offseason and will likely see reduced passing volume overall this season. Thielen will turn 31 before the start of the season, and I’d rather be a year too early than a year too late on his eventual decline, especially with the highly talented second-year Jefferson on the team.
WRs in ADP range I’d take instead: Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp, Diontae Johnson
ADP: Round 6, Pick 2 (#63, WR23)
2021 Projections: 62.4 catches for 1,047.8 yards and 8 touchdowns
I was finally starting to come around on Kenny Golladay, the new Giants receiver, despite some concerns. Still, he suffered a hamstring injury that severely hampers his ability to participate in training camp with his new team. Now, he’ll have less time before the season to establish chemistry with Daniel Jones. Golladay is playing in a poor offense that is expected to be below-average in passing volume metrics. I also have serious ongoing doubts about Jones’s ability to support a consistent, high-level top-24 wide receiver for fantasy. Golladay is a beast who finished as the WR6 in half-PPR scoring two years ago, but I don’t love this landing spot for him. The unimaginative and predictable offensive approach of Jason Garrett doesn’t help matters, and the Giants have some decent incumbent talent that will keep the ball out of Golladay’s hands, including Saquon Barkley, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, and rookie first-overall pick Kadarius Toney. I still have Golladay as the most productive receiver on this team by a decent margin – just follow the money here – but the combination of the presence of target competition in a low-volume passing offense helmed by Daniel Jones and a hamstring injury is enough for me to be out on Kenny G.
WRs in ADP range I’d take instead: Tyler Lockett, D.J. Moore, Brandon Aiyuk
ADP: Round 6, Pick 2 (#71, WR27)
2021 Projections: 76.4 catches for 1,008.5 yards and 5 touchdowns, WR36
Chase was the clear top selection at wide receiver in this year’s draft, and the LSU product should benefit from working with Joe Burrow again. Burrow was Chase’s quarterback in 2019 when the receiver had 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns as LSU won the National Championship. Chase didn’t play any football last year, and early reports are concerning as the rookie is having difficulty getting separation against the Bengals‘ defensive backs. That wouldn’t be so concerning if the Bengals’ starting cornerbacks weren’t Chidobe Awuzie and Trae Waynes, two underwhelming players. Chase and Burrow have a bright future, but Chase’s rust and Burrow’s injury recovery could make the connection a bit lagged early in the season. Cincinnati also has some real talent in place at wide receiver with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. All three players can be very productive this season. Still, Chase is currently the top receiver from this offense off the board in fantasy drafts, and I have him projected for fewer fantasy points than Tee Higgins and just about tied with Tyler Boyd.
WRs in ADP range I’d take instead: Chase Claypool, Odell Beckham Jr., Tee Higgins
ADP: Round 4, Pick 8 (#45, TE4)
2021 Projections: 67.7 catches for 758.6 yards and 6 touchdowns, TE7
I love the talent, and I love the situation for Kyle Pitts, but I just can’t justify his current ADP as the fourth tight end off the board. Pitts is an exhilarating prospect for the Falcons who could become one of the best tight ends in the NFL in short order, but he would need to have basically the best rookie season by a tight end of all time to justify his current ADP in the fourth round. He’s currently being selected ahead of Mark Andrews and T.J. Hockenson, two proven high-level tight ends. Even players like Tyler Higbee, Mike Gesicki, Dallas Goedert, and Noah Fant could conceivably leap in front of him in fantasy scoring. Only two tight ends have finished as top-12 fantasy tight ends since 2010 – Rob Gronkowski and Evan Engram. Gronk is one of the best tight ends of all time, and Engram benefited massively from Odell Beckham Jr. missing all but four games during his rookie season. I wouldn’t be shocked if Pitts finishes as a top-four tight end this season, but ignoring the potential downside in the fourth round would be a mistake. I’d much rather wait for a round or two and scoop up Andrews or Hockenson.
TEs in ADP range I’d take instead: Mark Andrews, T.J. Hockenson, Tyler Higbee
ADP: Round 7, Pick 8 (#84, TE8)
2021 Projections: 57.5 catches for 534.8 yards and 5 touchdowns, TE15
Logan Thomas is coming off an exciting breakout season as he had 72 catches for 670 yards and 6 touchdowns. That production came from out of nowhere as the 29-year-old former quarterback turned tight end had just 35 catches for 317 yards and 2 touchdowns in three seasons at the tight end before last year. Perhaps Thomas is just a late bloomer, which makes sense with the late-career position change, but I don’t buy into him as a top-ten tight end for fantasy football this season. The addition of Ryan Fitzpatrick will lead to way more downfield passing than any of Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, or Kyle Allen were capable of last year. Smith, in particular, heavily utilized Thomas as a short-area target with his limited mobility following his gruesome leg injury. The additions of Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries give the offense more proven pass-catchers, and Thomas will see a smaller share of the target volume. I don’t have Thomas’s stats regressing too far from last year, and I certainly believe the jump is real for him, but I just don’t see the upside with his likely role in the Washington offense.
TEs in ADP range I’d take instead: Noah Fant, Dallas Goedert, Mike Gesicki