2021 Fantasy Football Buyer Beware

Saturday, Aug 7, 2021 at 5:06 pm ET

At the end of every draft, fantasy owners are left either feeling confident in their chances or anxiously crossing their fingers and hoping for some good luck. As the old cliche goes, hope is not a strategy. There will be guys on the draft board that look enticing, but we'd rather be confident (especially with the first couple of picks) than hopeful.

The Fantasy Nerds team analyzed the current ADP values and compared them with the our weighted, consensus draft rankings looking for players who we might have some buyer's remorse come draft day should we decide to hit the Draft button. Injuries happen, and while we identify the injury risk for every player, they're near impossible to predict. If you had Christian McCaffrey, Dak Prescott, or Saquon Barkley last season, you know exactly what we mean.

Here are the guys that we're cautioning you to give additional thought to this season.

Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
Saquon BarkleyIt's never a good thing to hear about a player ranked inside the consensus Top 10 not being ready for Week 1. NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported this week that Saquon may not actually see the field until Week 3. Even when he gets on the field, it would be surprising to see the Giants rush him back into a heavy workload. October is a more realistic timeframe for his production to kick in.

ProFootball Focus has the Giants offensive line ranked 32nd this year - dead last. The Giants have continually ranked at the bottom in terms of pass blocking and run blocking over the past few seasons. According to PFF, the younger guys on the Giants' O-line need to mature fast & the veterans need to have a career season just to finish in the middle of the NFL pack. That's not likely to happen.

An awful offensive line is hard enough to contend with, but the Giants also need to contend with the fact that their QB does not strike fear into the hearts of any defensive secondary. Daniel Jones failed to throw for 3,000 yards last year, and he threw almost as many interceptions as he did touchdowns. What defensive coordinator isn't planning on stacking the box here?

Depending upon format, his ADP fluctuates between the 5th and 7th player off the board. That's entirely too high of a price for a first round pick given that we're really looking for safety and consistency in that first round.

Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
Michael ThomasTwo years ago, Michael Thomas was a legitimate fantasy stud. Last year he failed to find the endzone at all and was a contender for Bust of the Year given his first round draft status. He'll miss several games this season after undergoing ankle surgery, and when he does finally suit up, does anyone really believe that he won't be on a snap count? As a fantasy owner, I would probably keep him on my bench for at least the first game back just to see what he's going to be able to deliver.

Let's not forget that even when he returns, it's a different situation. Drew Brees is gone. That means we're hoping for chemistry and Brees-like consistency from either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston. Ugh...

Thomas is being taken between the 4th and 6th rounds in recent drafts. That means that there are fantasy owners out there taking him as their WR1/WR2. His ADP has him as the 42nd player off the board in Standard formats and 45th in PPR. The Fantasy Nerds rankings have him as the 95th-ranked player in both Standard and PPR formats. If someone wants to take Thomas in the 4th round, smile and quietly put guys like Amari Cooper, Chris Godwin, D.J. Moore, and Adam Thielen into your draft queue.

If you're willing to give up a roster spot, look for Thomas in the later rounds of your draft. Otherwise, if your league has an IR spot, put him there and grab another WR to fill in bye weeks until the question marks surrounding Thomas are answered.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Jonathan TaylorIt was only a few weeks ago that Jonathan Taylor was being taken within the first 6 picks of most drafts regardless of format. Since then, QB Carson Wentz announced his foot surgery which will sideline him for several games. This week, we learned that stud Guard Quenton Nelson will also need foot surgery. That does not bode well for Taylor whose ADP has slipped a bit.

There are honestly a lot of mixed feelings here. Taylor showed his potential in the second half of last season, so we know what he's capable of. We do worry a bit about Nyheim Hines continuing to take 3rd-down work, and the return of Marlon Mack to eat into his workload (although not enough to be significant). Like Saquon above, an RB1 flourishes when the offensive line and the guy under center are legitimately good enough to keep defenses honest and out of the backfield.

Taylor is still likely to be taken in the first round of most drafts. I certainly wouldn't draft him ahead of guys like Zeke, Nick Chubb, or Aaron Jones. If you're drafting from the 10th, 11th, or 12th spot & Taylor is there AND you're comfortable with the items above, then welcome him onto your team. If not, then Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams seem like safer picks at that spot.

Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Kyle PittsKyle Pitts has been called a generational tight end. That's not surpising given that he's the highest-picked TE in NFL draft history. This kid is big (6'6", 245 lbs), fast (4.44 40-time), and talented. There's little doubt that he'll be a top tight end in fantasy for many years to come, but there's only been one rookie tight end to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in his first year. That was Mike Ditka back in 1961. Yards are just one stat to consider of course. In fantasy, touchdowns contribute quite a bit to tight end production. To that end, only three guys have managed to score at least seven touchdowns in their rookie season since 1966.

Of the 100+ tight ends drafted over the last 15 years, only 10% have managed to deliver at least 100 fantasy points on the season - a key metric for today's fantasy football managers and a reasonable expectation for a tight end being drafted at the start of the 5th round.

We share these stats to highlight the historical difficulty in projecting Pitts to completely obliterate the history books. It can certainly happen, but it's not going to be easy, nor is it something that you should bank on.

Rookie tight ends rarely end the season in the Top 5, and that's perhaps the biggest takeaway here.

Fortunately, there are a number of factors in Pitts' favor that need to be mentioned. First is the fact that he'll be a big part of the offense. Calvin Ridley can definitely spread the secondary and will command attention. Julio's targets will need to go somewhere and Russell Gage isn't going to take all of them. The Falcons are likely to remain inside the top 10 in terms of pass attempts, so there's plenty of targets to go around - especially to a TD magnet like Pitts.

Perhaps the biggest thing to focus on for positive vibes is the fact that the TE position is once again a fantasy wasteland. Once Kelce, Waller, Kittle, and Andrews are off the board, we're really only talking about T.J. Hockensen in contention for the 5th TE. The dropoff is quite stark after that with several rounds of no tight ends coming off the boards. When you look at it like that, Hockensen is the safer play, but Pitts has just as much upside for those optimistic fantasy owners.

In either event, the players listed above carry a Buyer Beware caution label. Don't overspend and don't overreach.

Join the Discussion

Christopher Szymanski CommentedAug 9, 2021 6:23 am


Christopher Szymanski CommentedAug 9, 2021 6:28 am


Nerd CommentedAug 9, 2021 9:58 am

We have a poll running on Twitter with this question


Jack Wirth CommentedAug 10, 2021 1:31 pm

Hockenson id going to see more targets than Pitts. Lions are short on WR.

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