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The flip side of succeeding with value players is failing with overvalued players. These players will not put up stats commensurate to their draft spot, and avoiding them is another of the important keys to a successful fantasy team. To point out these players, we asked our staff to look through the Top 150 and identify players that should underperform their draft position.
Here are the players who received the most votes:
And here are all of the payers mentioned and the reasons why.
Player Receiving 5 Votes
Sigmund Bloom: Golladay was overvalued before the hamstring injury; now, he's almost undraftable unless he falls well past ADP. Reports have indicated that he and Daniel Jones aren't establishing chemistry, and now they are losing important practice time. Sterling Shepard is still Jones' favorite target, and this is a crowded and conservative passing game. Jones and play-caller Jason Garrett combined to be one of the least effective red-zone passing combos, further limiting Golladay's upside.
Ben Cummins: Golladay only played in five games last season due to hamstring and hip injuries, and he’s once again dealing with a hamstring injury in camp. In taking a macro-level approach, the Giants just aren’t a team I’m willing to invest a lot in. Daniel Jones was not good last year, and I have little faith in head coach Joe Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Golladay switched teams this offseason, which isn’t necessarily a negative, yet I believe it is in this case.
Andrew Davenport: Before the 2020 season, there were concerns about offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's ability to run an offense after his difficulties in Dallas. This turned out to be a justified narrative as the Giants offense was inept, and Daniel Jones threw for an anemic 11 touchdowns. The return of Saquon Barkley is a step in the right direction, but Golladay's history says that he needs a more potent offensive situation to excel. As a receiver with no seasons over 70 catches and already battling a hamstring injury, none of the offseason changes for Golladay have been positive. Leave Golladay for someone else.
Jordan McNamara: The Giants spent big on Golladay in free agency, but he is already hurt and struggling to integrate with Daniel Jones. The thing that always gave me concern about Golladay leaving in free agency was how the Lions, who had one of the worst receiving corps in the league without Golladay, let him walk in free agency without even using the franchise tag. That has me spooked about his health, and we are seeing that play out now. I'm avoiding him at cost.
Jason Wood: Just because the Giants paid Golladay star money doesn't make him a star. He benefitted from a high-volume passing offense in Detroit with limited competition for targets. Yet he still needs unsustainable touchdown rates to gain fantasy relevance. He goes from Matthew Stafford to Daniel Jones at quarterback, has a much deeper cast of veteran receivers vying for targets, and is banged up already, making it impossible to build rapport with his new quarterback and coaches.
Player Receiving 4 Votes
Pat Fitzmaurice: He's not Minnesota's No. 1 receiver anymore -- that's Justin Jefferson's gig now -- and we know the Vikings prefer to be run-heavy on offense. Thielen has averaged just 53.7 receiving yards per game over the last two seasons. Targets are earned, and after averaging 9.2 targets per game in 2017-2018, Thielen averaged just 6.2 targets per game in 2019-2020. He's simply not a big catch and yardage collector anymore, and Thielen won't come close to equaling the 14 touchdowns he scored last season.
Victoria Geary: All of the stars aligned for Thielen's career-high 14 touchdown season in 2020. Thielen is on a run-first team alongside one of the NFL's hottest up-and-coming wideouts in Justin Jefferson, who should garner more looks this season in the red zone especially. Breakout candidate tight end Irv Smith Jr. will also command more targets in the endzone with the departure of Kyle Rudolph. Touchdown regression is coming, and we shouldn't bet on another top-10 season from Thielen.
Andy Hicks: Sometimes, in fantasy football, it is hard to see a player slide when they have overachieved their entire career. Adam Thielen is a player that is primed for a fall. He will be 31 this year. Justin Jefferson has emerged quickly as the clear No. 1 receiver, and Thielen’s role changed dramatically last season. From being a player who caught a touchdown every 15 catches during the first six years of his career to one who caught one every five catches last year, Thielen was more a red zone threat than a consistent receiver. Those numbers are hard to maintain. Thielen has to be a risk in all but best-ball leagues with a drop in target share and being reliant on touchdowns.
Jordan McNamara: Adam Theilen had very favorable touchdown scoring last season but is way over-drafted in the top 18 of wide receivers this year. I wrote this about him here: Thielen had 14 touchdowns on only 74 receptions. With 106 targets, Thielen is on the precipice of a significant drop in fantasy scoring when he regresses in touchdown rate. On a positive note, his 22% target share was 14th in the league in 2020, but the Vikings ran designed passes on only 56.9% of snaps, 26th in the league. Thielen represents a volume trap, with a WR3 destiny if touchdowns regress in 2021.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Andrew Davenport: It looks like the Marquise Brown experiment is coming to a crossroads. He did finish as the PPR WR36 last year, which is several spots ahead of where he's being drafted this year. But he was a paltry 47th in points per game, and before a stellar finishing stretch, Brown was the WR54 averaging less than 9 points per game through 11 weeks of the season. Perhaps the end of the season is a harbinger of things to come. Or maybe the body of work should be trusted over a six-game stretch last year. The further concern is whether he can fight off rookie Rashod Bateman who should push for targets and playing time as soon as he's healthy. Brown is overvalued in the Ravens' low-volume passing game.
Ryan Hester: Brown entered 2020 with a hype train that was full steam ahead. He was a major flop as Baltimore continued to be a run-heavy team, and he didn’t show that he could get open enough to receive a WR1 workload. And Baltimore’s offseason shows they don’t believe Brown is that player either. The team signed Sammy Watkins in free agency and drafted Rashod Bateman in the first round. Leave Brown and his low target projection for someone else to pick.
Matt Waldman: Brown must show that he can win in the middle of the field and handle the game's physicality. Otherwise, he's going to have a career as a one-dimensional speedster. The addition of Rashod Bateman is an indication that the Ravens desire a better presence over the middle from its perimeter receivers. Think of Brown as the Ravens' version of Mike Wallace until he proves otherwise. A big year is possible, but it won't happen again without the entire passing offense taking it up a notch.
Sigmund Bloom: Hopkins' production tailed off in the second half of the year after the league adjusted to his very predictable usage in the passing game. The team added Rondale Moore and A.J. Green this offseason to bolster the complementary receiver group. Hopkins doesn't have the upside of players on the upslope of their career arcs like A.J. Brown, Justin Jefferson, and DK Metcalf, and he should be drafted after them.
Jeff Haseley: DeAndre Hopkins has back-to-back top 10 finishes, but he has not topped double-digit touchdowns in the last two years and only had six touchdowns in 16 games in his first season with Arizona. He's still a top-flight wide receiver, but others have overtaken him in fantasy rankings. Add in Kyler Murray's propensity for red-zone touchdowns (11 rushing scores last year), and it points to an uphill battle for Hopkins making a case for 10+ touchdowns.
Ryan Hester: Of all the top-tier WR1s, Hopkins would be the least surprising to fall short of returning value. There are many mouths to feed in Arizona, and after his hot start last year, Hopkins was pedestrian by elite WR1 standards. Other alphas below Hopkins could outproduce him.
Andrew Davenport: The oft-injured wide receiver is already banged up in camp, and he has to sit a game to start the season. On top of that, when he comes back, he'll battle several factors that usually don't equate to fantasy success. He'll have a quarterback who is still developing and hasn't shown much ability to pilot a potent offense. He'll also fight for targets with talented rookie Jaylen Waddle and incumbent Davante Parker. Taking Fuller means counting on all of these factors resolving in his favor. That's not the kind of bet to make with other better options on the board where he's being drafted.
Jeff Haseley: The news is not fully known regarding Will Fuller's foot injury. He has not practiced since July 28th, and some speculate he could have a Lisfranc injury. What do we know about Fuller? He routinely misses time (missed 19 games in the last three years), he is serving one more game of a six-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. If he has another infraction, he'll be suspended for ten games. One last note, Fuller's success to this point has come at the hands of Deshaun Watson under center. We don't know how his level of play will translate with Tua Tagovailoa. Chances are, it's not as productive.
Matt Waldman: A good NFL receiver with impressive route skills and speed, Fuller's injury history is difficult to look past. You can wade into the scummy data pond on injury and make compelling arguments for or against the "injury-prone" label for players in general. The problem is that football has so many variables limited sample sizes that the data can be too malleable or incomplete to capture a lot of dynamics accurately. At the end of the day, productivity begins with availability. Anecdotally, Fuller's issues make him difficult to believe in his availability. If you can get him much later, fine, but not this early.
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Players Receiving 2 Votes
Anthony Amico: Chark recently had surgery to fix a broken hand. While it may not impede him from being on the field in Week 1, it likely will cost him valuable time learning the offensive system and building rapport with his new (and inexperienced) quarterback. The Jaguars have a promising second-year player in Laviska Shenault and the veteran Marvin Jones -- who played for OC Darrell Bevell in Detroit. Chark could be on the outside looking in for the target pecking order.
Jason Wood: D.J. Chark was a top-20 receiver in 2019, leading many to project greatness in Year Three (2020). Unfortunately, injuries derailed the season and left Chark with two forgettable seasons in a three-year career. With a new head coach, new play-caller, new quarterback, and a new front office, it's hard if not impossible to feel good about Chark being force-fed a lead role again. With reports of Laviska Shenault Jrstanding head and shoulders above everyone in camp, Chark banged up again, and Marvin Jones looked spry. Drafting Chark as an every-week fantasy starter is risky.
Sigmund Bloom: Understandably, Chase has a lot of optimism around him for a rookie wide receiver because he was reunited with his college quarterback. They had one of the most efficient connections in college football. However, he shouldn't be going ahead of ascendant teammate Tee Higgins and target magnet Tyler Boyd. Joe Burrow can support three fantasy-relevant wide receivers, but Chase should be ranked third of the three.
Chad Parsons: Chase is being pumped to the relative moon for a rookie wide receiver. Like Chris Godwin, Chase sits on a depth chart where he could easily be third in targets with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, both quality producers through their respective career arcs. Will Joe Burrow take a big enough step forward to fuel multiple top-24 receivers? The answer likely needs to be yes, and Chase needs to out-target Higgins or Boyd to be a neutral or positive draft return.
Phil Alexander: Cooper had right ankle surgery in the offseason, tried to run at OTAs, and immediately irritated the injury. He's since been activated from the physically unable to perform list, but following a longer-than-expected rehab, it's easy to envision the problem popping up again during the season. Cooper has piled up a lengthy list of lower-body injuries since 2019 (ankle, quad, knee, hamstring, ankle again), and we know he's at less than 100% to start the year. 'Don't draft players you already know are hurt' is a fantasy football axiom for a reason.
Pat Fitzmaurice: Cooper is a terrific receiver, but CeeDee Lamb looks like a superstar, and Michael Gallup is a good receiver, too. But I'm less worried about target competition than I am about Cooper's slow-healing foot. He's back in camp now, but Cooper's recovery was so prolonged that it's fair to wonder whether his foot will be an ongoing problem.
Phil Alexander: Landry had a single top-12 weekly finish in 2020. And that was with Odell Beckham out for most of the year. His cumulative stats might give the impression he's a solid WR3, but Landry's complete lack of a ceiling makes him a player to avoid at his current ADP.
Ryan Hester: Landry is a classic example of why counting stats can be misleading. He plays every week and ends up with stats that make him look like a WR3. But his ceiling is so low. He’s not going to finish as a WR1 in very many weeks. And with Odell Beckham returning, Landry’s outlook is even worse.
Ben Cummins: I think McLaurin is a very good player, but his ADP has gotten too expensive as he currently gets drafted ahead of Allen Robinson, CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, etc. Ryan Fitzpatrick should definitely upgrade the quarterback position, but he is 38 years old, which is a concern. Additional concerns: Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries were signed this offseason, Dyami Brown was drafted, Antonio Gibson projects to receive additional work in the passing game in Year 2, and Logan Thomas and J.D. McKissic aren’t going away. Add in a great defense in Washington, and I can’t pay the premium on McLaurin.
Chad Parsons: A top-12 positional price tag for a wide receiver who has a career-high of WR20 aPPG in his career is a tough player to target. Washington has added to their passing game with Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Adam Humphries, and John Bates at positions where the team was tremendously thin a year ago. Ryan Fitzpatrick will raise the tide of the passing game, but competition for targets is much higher. Considering there are true alpha receivers at a lower cost than McLaurin, he is a full fade for 2021.
Anthony Amico: Smith is already a total outlier considering his age, weight, early college production, and the dominant final year leading up to his draft position. The confidence interval on him is vast as a prospect. The Eagles rotate their receivers generously, and it is unclear how much potential Jalen Hurts has as a passer. Even if Smith is talented, he could struggle to pay off this price for that reason. And we aren't really sure just how good he is yet.
Matt Waldman: I understand why Smith is seen as the best receiver from Alabama in this class. Casual fans and many analysts will lump Smith alongside Jaylen Waddle as high-impact rookie receivers in 2021, thanks to Smith's Heisman victory and draft status. Of the rookie receivers, Smith has the biggest question mark at quarterback. As good of a route runner as he is with breaks and telling a story, he's slight and falls prey to patient and physical corners when pressed. Expect a promising season from Smith from an NFL perspective, but not as productive for fantasy players.
Ben Cummins: Thomas averaged 7.86 targets per game in Weeks 1-16 last season and has a chance to be a target monster in 2021, thanks, in part, to a weak wide receiver corps in New Orleans. So adding Thomas here makes me nauseous, but at this point, I can’t get behind investing any decent draft capital in a player who had surgery to repair ankle ligaments in June, could miss half the season, will be playing without Drew Brees, and who is currently feuding with his franchise.
Ryan Hester: It's unclear when he'll play. It's unclear how smoothly his return will be when he can play. And it's unclear which quarterback on his team will be playing. And those are just the on-field concerns. Thomas and the Saints are in a less-than-happy place after Thomas didn't return the team's calls all summer long and delayed his surgery rather than having it months earlier and rehabbing for the start of the season. Let someone else take on this drama.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Jordan McNamara: I like A.J. Brown, but I worry his only out to a top 10 season is very high per target efficiency, and that is never a bet I want to make. There is a chance of a scheme change with a new offensive coordinator, but it is hard to predict big volume growth with Derrick Henry and Julio Jones in the offense. I think the risk is greater for Brown than Keenan Allen and Allen Robinson at a discount.
Andy Hicks: You will get sucked into thinking Antonio Brown is back and a good value draft pick. Don’t be fooled. His rank in the pecking order is not what it was in Pittsburgh. He has turned 33, and his known personality issues could shut his career down in an instant. While his price isn’t what it was a couple of years ago, losing a draft pick in the first 10 rounds still hurts. Brown does have value if one of Mike Evans or Chris Godwin falls, but he is best in short bursts at this stage of his career.
Victoria Geary: Claypool's athleticism and talent are undeniable, but his ADP is much too high for the 2021 fantasy season. With teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster coming back to the Steelers on a one-year deal, Claypool remains third on the totem pole. The success of Claypool is highly linked to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his declining arm strength for downfield targets, where Claypool thrives. Not to mention Roethlisberger's favorite wide receiver target last season was Diontae Johnson. Expect Claypool to be more efficient with his targets and to have some big fantasy weeks, but taking him as your WR2 will likely result in disappointment due to a lack of week-to-week consistency.
Ben Cummins: Cooks is a very good player who has been productive for years. I understand why many are investing in him: a large projected target share on a poor team that will have to throw a lot. Yet, I can’t do it. My macro-level approach to football will not allow me to invest any valuable draft capital at all in the Houston Texans. They’re going to be one of the worst teams in NFL history, and the value of Cooks’ targets will be low coming from Tyrod Taylor, Davis Mills, and Jeff Driskel. No thanks.
Matt Waldman: Gage is a competent slot receiver with little upside working for him. However, the logo scouts love his LSU background and the metrics folks appreciated his speed and quickness, so the breakout must be imminent, correct? I'm not there. I've been covering Atlanta's games for over a decade. While Gage is a solid contributor in the receiving rotation, look for Calvin Ridley, Kyle Pitts, and Hayden Hurst to be the top three options because Pitts will essentially be a detached receiver more often than advertised. Olamide Zaccheaus is a far more explosive player with better skills after the catch and has shown, for two years, that he can win deep. The rotation and Zaccheaus will take a lot of air out of the Gage ranking.
Chad Parsons: The Buccaneers are loaded on offense. I see Tom Brady benefitting the most, and the rest are all sporadic weekly pop producers more than an elite play at their respective positions. Will Godwin see more targets than Mike Evans OR Antonio Brown? The fact that it is a legitimate question should push drafters off Godwin in the top-20 of the drafted position.
Andrew Davenport: Aaron Rodgers isn't riding into town to save this passing game. That means either Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater will be under center for the Broncos in Week 1. Jeudy had a nice rookie season, and there's no denying he could make a second-year leap. But he's being taken ahead of proven veterans like Tyler Boyd, Brandin Cooks, and Deebo Samuel. Passing on those players to take Jeudy in a questionable offense with mediocre quarterbacks seems like a poor idea at his current ADP.
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Jason Wood: Something is amiss. No one wants any part of Ben Roethlisberger in drafts this year, but somehow there are three fantasy-worthy wide receivers? That mathematically cannot happen. In cases like this, the smart play is to avoid the situation if you can, and the second-best strategy is to draft the cheapest of the trio. Johnson is going multiple rounds ahead of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool, making him an easy fade.
Jason Wood: The adage, "It's better to be a year early than a year late," has never been truer than in the case of Julio Jones' 2021 fantasy outlook. Ask yourself how many receivers over 30 years old end up being top-20 fantasy assets when they change teams? It's a concise list. Meanwhile, Jones shows disturbing signs of breaking down, another condition of older football players that rarely reverses course. He missed seven games last year and was a decoy playing less than 50% of snaps in another handful. As if that weren't enough, he lands on a team that will be in the bottom 10 of the league in pass attempts.
Andy Hicks: Ten touchdowns in 2019. Three in 2020. That is the dilemma of selecting Cooper Kupp. Adding to the issue is the development of second-year man Van Jefferson and rookie Tutu Atwell. While the theory is that the pie will be bigger following the arrival of Matthew Stafford, the reality may be different. If I had to choose who is more vulnerable to fantasy variance between Robert Woods and Kupp, I would view Kupp as the riskier.
Victoria Geary: Seeing that Lockett finished his 2020 season as the PPR WR8 looks good on the surface, but his game log will show that he was a weekly boom-or-bust player. Lockett finished outside of the top-45 receivers nine times last season compared to having only five top-24 performances. Lockett's extremely low-floor games have the potential to derail your entire fantasy matchup for the week. Will head coach Pete Carroll ever give Russell Wilson a full season to "cook?" With the draft capital needed to invest in him, you're better off letting your league-mates deal with the start-or-sit Lockett headache this season.
Sigmund Bloom: The oft-injured Parker started camp on the PUP list and isn't giving us faith that he'll be able to stay healthy this year. Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller were added in the offseason, casting doubt on whether Parker will even be in the top two on this team in snaps or targets. If you are going to target any Dolphins wide receiver, Parker should be last on your list.
Andy Hicks: Addition by subtraction does not always occur in fantasy football. Sure Julio Jones has been traded, but Calvin Ridley will face more attention this year than ever before. He is one of the most promising wide receivers in the NFL, but I would be cautious with a new coaching staff and Matt Ryan at the end of his career. Additionally, the lack of a strong running game is highly likely. I want to see this coaching group perform before my high draft picks touch this team. Ridley’s touchdown numbers have been phenomenal to date, but any deterioration here and his fantasy numbers dive significantly. Ridley is a player that is highly likely to have a drop in production. His upside is non-existent at his current draft price.
Pat Fitzmaurice: It's such a shame that JuJu didn't go somewhere else in free agency. After signing a one-year deal to stay in Pittsburgh, he'll spend another season sharing targets with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool -- and Smith-Schuster gets the lowest-value targets of the three by far. Last season, his average depth of target was only 5.5 yards, and he averaged 8.6 yards per catch. Those numbers aren't even respectable for a tight end. It's hard to see how Smith-Schuster could earn a profit on a sixth-round ADP.
Chad Parsons: Sutton's career-best finish is WR28 in aPPG, and he is going around that range in 2021 drafts. However, that peak year was a different circumstance, with Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant possessing higher draft pedigree and hitting their Year 2 and Year 3 strides this season, respectively. Denver also has quarterback question marks and could be one of the lowest output depth charts in the NFL to thwart any wide receiver from being a top-36 option, let alone Sutton.