Your fantasy draft isn't the only key to success in your fantasy league, but it can help. Eventually, you will decide to improve your roster by dropping underperforming players for the next best option on the waiver wire. That's how teams improve. That's how you evolve and adapt. That's how you win. If you can minimize the level of uncertainty and possible failure on your roster from the start, you'll be in much better shape in the long run. Follow along as I try to pinpoint players in the top 150 that you may want to stay away from at their current ADP, or in some cases, altogether. Let someone else deal with the heartache.
WR Kenny Golladay, New York Giants
The Giants signed Golladay this offseason to a four-year, $72M contract. He comes to New York with two top 20 finishes in four years with Detroit, including a #3 finish in 2019 consisting of 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns. His follow-up season in 2020 started with a hamstring injury and was later met with a hip injury that all but folded his season. He played five games total and was targeted in four games. He didn't play another snap for the Lions and cashed in on a long-term deal with the Giants in the offseason. So why not Golladay? He's moving from Matthew Stafford to Daniel Jones. The Giants (and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett) traditionally isn't a high-pass attempt offense. They had 514 pass attempts in 2020 (the 27th fewest in the league). In addition to volume concerns, the Giants have several targets to choose from—Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Darius Slayton, and Saquon Barkley. To make matters even worse, Daniel Jones had zero 300-yard games last season and seven 0-touchdown pass games. The offense in New York isn't exactly a juggernaut. One last concern, Golladay received his $40M guarantee. He reached his goal. Will he be motivated to be all he can be? You hate to think that, but we've seen it happen before, even unintentionally. Then there is the injury risk. Is he fully healed from his hip injury? He has a history of soft tissue injuries as well. There are too many yellow flags and maybe even some red flags. Unless he drops considerably, he is not someone I am targeting in drafts as the 65th overall selection this season.
RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
It's easy to succumb to the notion that Saquon Barkley is one of the best running backs in the league. He showed elite promise in his rookie year and followed it up with a top 10 season despite a high ankle sprain limiting his ascension. The next season, he hit bottom with a knee injury that damaged his ACL, MCL, and meniscus. We've seen running backs repeatedly return from severe knee injuries, but they rarely return the following year and have a memorable fantasy season. There are a few exceptions, but it's not the norm. In Week 16 of the 2011 season, Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and returned as the #1 overall running back in 2012. Jamal Lewis rushed for nearly 3,400 yards in the first two seasons back from his ACL tear. As for examples on the other side of the spectrum - Terrell Davis, Edgerrin James, Reggie Bush, Rashard Mendenhall, Jamaal Charles, and recently, Dalvin Cook all took over a season of play to return to form if they did at all. Barkley is a workhorse. He's a workout warrior - I get that, but whether or not he recovers immediately from this injury is yet to be seen, and because there is a doubt, he's someone I am avoiding at nearly all costs. There is also the threat of a compensatory injury coming into play because he has to adjust the way he runs and cuts, thus putting pressure on other areas of his body that are not used to the strain and usage. The psychological aspect of not fully trusting his knee is another obstacle. It's not easy to mentally overcome a severe injury like this, especially for a running back who constantly makes cuts to evade tackles and juke defenders on a route. The safe play is to avoid Barkley and let someone else deal with the lack of production. He may be the same player with the same verbal intentions, but the Barkley we saw before his injuries may never be seen again, and if we do, it might not be until 2022.
WR Will Fuller V, Miami Dolphins
Like Kenny Golladay, Will Fuller V left his team via free agency and landed a substantial contract. In Fuller's case, it was a fully guaranteed one-year deal worth $10 million. What's not to like about Fuller? There is plenty to mention, starting with this lack of durability and reliability. He has never played a full season and has missed 27 games in five seasons. He has played in 66% of all possible games. He has had hamstring injuries, an ACL tear, a groin injury that required surgery, and he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. On top of all of that, the other side of Fuller's success, Deshaun Watson, is no longer in the picture. We don't know how he will adjust to playing with a new quarterback, on a new team, with a new coaching staff. Fuller will have increased competition for targets in Miami that he didn't quite have in Houston, especially after DeAndre Hopkins left. Perhaps the biggest detractor is a preseason foot injury of unknown severity that kept him out of practice for an extended time. That's not exactly the best news for a player on a new team trying to learn the offense. In addition, Fuller will not be eligible to play until Week 2 due to his suspension. Like Golladay, there are too many yellow and red flags to feel confident in selecting Will Fuller V at his current ADP of 82 overall.
RB James Conner, Arizona Cardinals
My gut says that the best games are behind James Conner, and usually, when that happens for running backs, it happens quick and fast. He signed a one-year deal $1.75M deal with Arizona. He'll have an opportunity to prove he can still be a viable threat, but the size of that contract means if he isn't as advertised, he could be outright released if the team isn't impressed. Looking back at Conner's history, he's been through a lot. He developed Stage-2 Hodgkins-lymphoma in college, which he overcame. He has had multiple MCL injuries, a high ankle injury, concussion, a shoulder injury, and he re-injured his shoulder after returning too soon. It's possible that he rises to the occasion with his new team and carves out a role, but it's also possible that he is outright released. The Cardinals are somewhat high on second-year back Eno Benjamin. If there is a back that could emerge in Arizona, Benjamin is on my shortlist. Chase Edmonds is a good player, but I don't see him as an every-down, carry-the-load type of back. Conner may have some value earlier in the season, but like last year, don't be shocked if he struggles at some point, likely after a minor injury comes into the equation. If the season were eight games, Conner would be higher on my list of players to target.
WR Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
You can most likely draft Michael Thomas as your WR4 or even WR5, but is he worth it? The recovery time from the ankle surgery he had performed in June is four months at a minimum, putting a return to practice at some point in October. If all goes well, he might be back by Week 8 or 9. Even then, would you play him in his first game back? Maybe not. In many cases, the recovery for this procedure is closer to six months than four. If he needs six months, you can forget about him carrying any weight this year. It does not make sense to draft a player who won't be available until the second half of the season, at the absolute earliest. Even upon his return, don't expect him to be fully recovered and healed, performing at a level that we're accustomed to seeing. If you are convinced that Thomas can be an effective piece to your playoff push, pick him up in waivers after he is dropped by the person who does decided to draft him. Why draft a player who you can't play? My advice, stay away from Thomas. Draft Marquez Callaway after the 30th wide receiver is off the board, and perhaps earlier if your league has sharp minds. Callaway is the Saints wide receiver to roster this season.
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