Every fantasy football owner has a list of players to target in 2021. Whether it’s first-round studs or mid-round sleepers, we all have our favorites. Similarly, we also all have “Do Not Draft” sections on our cheat sheets. That might be composed of players we think are too high in the rankings or simply bad values according to average draft positions (ADPs). It might also be much less analytical, instead consisting of players we think will be flat-out busts no matter where they’re selected. Either way, overrated players are potential hazards at all points in a draft.
Using half-point PPR as our scoring format to split the difference between and full-point PPR and standard leagues, here are the players we recommend avoiding based on where they’re currently being ranked and selected according to. If they happen to fall, then by all means take a shot, but in general, we’re not fans of the following.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT:
2021 Overrated Fantasy QBs
Lamar Jackson, Ravens (ADP: 44 | Consensus expert ranking: 57)
Last season, which included time missed on the COVID-19 list, Jackson saw a drop-off from his stellar MVP performance in 2019. He was QB10 last season, but he’s going around QB4 in ’21 drafts, sometimes even ahead of Josh Allen or Kyler Murray. His running gives him a nice floor, but even with upgraded weapons, the supplemental passing numbers in a run-heavy offense are a concern without short TDs.
Had Jackson slipped in drafts closer to where he finished ’20, he would have a lot more appeal. There’s nothing discounted about him, to the point he’s caught between the elite options and better values in the true second tier.
2021 STANDARD FANTASY RANKINGS:
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Jalen Hurts, Eagles (ADP: 87 | Ranking: 95)
Hurts has worthy buzz given how well he finished off last season as a dual-threat starter replacing Carson Wentz, but the Eagles will run a more traditional, run-dedicated offense with Nick Sirianni. Philadelphia is also a work in progress with some inexperienced wide receivers, led by consecutive first-rounders Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith (knee), who isn’t healthy during his rookie camp. The offensive line also is in transition, and Hurts will have more challenges developing in Year 2.
He has gone from hot sleeper to being considered a sure-fire starter in fantasy, which is a stretch for someone who’s really on the QB1/2 border. Don’t reach, and draft Hurts as more of a high-upside, mid-round lotto ticket as opposed to a set-it-and-forget-it QB1.
Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars (ADP: 128 | Ranking: 123)
Will Lawrence be the 2021 rookie edition of Justin Herbert? There are some good vibes in Jacksonville, and it makes sense to consider Lawrence a fine QB2 stash. But taking him as a back-end QB1 is too high. The talent, arm, wide receivers, and pass-catching backs are there, but the offense is still expected to follow a run-heavy philosophy under Urban Meyer and Darrell Bevell. Although Lawrence won’t be reined in as a runner or passer, the Jaguars, after throwing the ball more than any other team in 2020 (64.6 percent), don’t want that lack of balance again.
2021 PPR FANTASY RANKINGS:
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Matt Ryan, Falcons (ADP: 131 | Ranking: 125)
The Falcons passed 60.6 percent of the time in 2020. New offensive-minded head coach Arthur Smith, who called runs at 51.8 percent for the Titans last season, will also seek balance, even without a Derrick Henry. Smith also used more 12 personnel (only two wide receivers) than anyone else in the NFL.
While that did add up to big production for Ryan Tannehill off play-action, Tannehill is the one now passing to Julio Jones. Calvin Ridley and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts can be a dynamic new 1-2 punch for Matt Ryan, but he’s pass-dependent. With no rushing production of his own, Ryan also has proved he doesn’t always deliver in a new scheme immediately. Ryan did finish as QB12 last season, but in relation to some new risers at the position, he is overvalued in the top 15.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (ADP: 158 | Ranking: 157)
Roethlisberger needed mass volume to hit QB14 status in 2020. There’s no way he’s getting 600 attempts again, and there will be TD regression from 33 as the Steelers try to re-establish a more defense-complementary running game with dynamic rookie Najee Harris. The Steelers are loaded at wide receiver, but they won’t pass at 63.8 percent again with Big Ben’s obvious arm limitations. He’s going well into the QB2s, but he’s still a low-upside backup and more of a matchup-based streamer.
Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins (ADP: 156 | Ranking: 139)
Consider this a second rookie season for Tagovailoa. He’s now the unquestioned starter with Ryan Fitzpatrick gone, and he’s trying to adjust to a tweaked offense from two coordinators. The plan has been to let Tagovailoa loose as a downfield passer. He needs time, however, to raise his game, and he’s dealing with big wide receiver changes, as the speedy Will Fuller and the speedier Jaylen Waddle are in the mix. Miami still will win games because of its running game (Myles Gaskin) and playmaking defense. There’s nothing that screams for an explosive breakout yet, so drafter beware.
2021 FANTASY AUCTION VALUES (Standard & PPR):
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2021 Overrated Fantasy RBs
Jonathan Taylor, Colts (ADP: 9 | Ranking: 12)
There are many reasons to love Taylor as a reality running back after he made a great transition from Wisconsin workhorse to the NFL. But there’s also the reality of a sudden unknown quarterback situation given Wentz’s latest foot injury. Of greater concern is not having the blocking of Quenton Nelson (foot), the NFL’s best offensive lineman. The Colts’ passing game may be compressed, and defenses can focus on taking away Taylor. He’s not finishing near RB4 again because of all that.
Joe Mixon, Bengals (ADP: 19 | Ranking: 20)
Mixon missed most of last season with a foot injury. The Bengals have worked more to upgrade the offensive line, but it’s by no means elite. This team should have high passing volume with Joe Burrow thanks to a defensive rebuild in progress, also tied to having big-time weapons in receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. There’s also ambiguity over how much receiving down work Mixon will see minus Giovani Bernard. You could try to get rebound production from Mixon, but paying an RB1 price for it is a big mistake.
2021 FANTASY SLEEPERS:
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D’Andre Swift, Lions (ADP: 33 | Ranking: 33)
We have no bad blood for Taylor-Swift, but it’s time to shake them off your cheat sheets. He doesn’t belong with us, given he’s on a bad Lions team with a new offense and could cede more touches than you think to Jamaal Williams. Swift has great individual talent, but the support system is bad, and the early vibes in Detroit with Dan Campbell and Anthony Lynn also are meh.
Miles Sanders, Eagles (ADP: 37 | Ranking: 40)
The Eagles want to commit more to the run with Sirianni, but will the new coaches trust Sanders to be featured when there’s also Boston Scott, former Lions second-rounder Kerryon Johnson, and promising rookie Kenneth Gainwell? The trends and reports from camp sounds like there will be more of a committee approach to support Hurts. Sanders was underused in the final season with Doug Pederson and put up some good numbers when given the chance, but it’s clear he’s not seen in the realm of fellow Penn Stater Saquon Barkley.
2021 FANTASY TIERS & DRAFT STRATEGY:
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Raheem Mostert, 49ers (ADP: 66 | Ranking: 67)
Mostert has been a huge help to San Francisco, transitioning from special teams standout to a speedy, productive back who fits well in the zone-blocking scheme. However, durability has been a major issue, and the 49ers now have legitimate alternatives, with high-upside rookies Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell, veteran Wayne Gallman, and coach favorite Jeff Wilson Jr. once he returns from a knee injury. Mostert is going as a flex, but there are better options at RB and WR to help you more now.
2021 FANTASY CONSISTENCY RATINGS:
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Melvin Gordon, Broncos (ADP: 75 | Ranking: 71)
Gordon was in this space last season and turned out to be a useful surprise going from the Chargers to Denver. But even that was only kind of fun while it lasted. Here comes rookie Javonte Williams to take a chunk of the work away. Follow the trend and take Williams earlier, leaving Gordon for later.
Ronald Jones II (ADP: 73 | Ranking: 71) and Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers (ADP: 82 | Ranking: 86)
Those ADPs and rankings suggest no one knows exactly how the Bucs will split the backfield work as a follow-up to their Super Bowl-winning offense in which both were key contributors at different times. You can do better with flex options where you’re not hoping every week that game flow and matchups go in your favor. And don’t forget about Giovani Bernard.
FANTASY DRAFT STRATEGY:
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David Johnson, Texans (ADP: 99 | Ranking: 102)
Johnson is on a bad team with plenty of wear and durability issues. There’s no more Duke Johnson, but Phillip Lindsay and either Rex Burkhead or Mark Ingram are much bigger threats to cut into his workload, situational or otherwise. Don’t hire this DJ.
Zack Moss (ADP: 93 | Ranking: 84) and Devin Singletary, Bills (ADP: 107 | Ranking: 105)
The Bills decided to sit on this combination of backs vs. trying to find a potential feature-like upgrade. They are locked and loaded in being an explosive passing team with Josh Allen and don’t need to depend on forcing balance via a committee. Allen also is a problem here because he’s also the best Buffalo red-zone back, a la prime Cam Newton.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT:
2021 Overrated Fantasy WRs
Keenan Allen, Chargers (ADP: 28 | Ranking: 24)
Allen had a great immediate connection with Justin Herbert and produced through his high volume, but with sub-1,000 yards and sub-10 TDs, he could finish as just WR18. The passing game will be more diversified with Joe Lombardi this season, and there shouldn’t be this expectation Allen jumps up to WR9, where he’s currently ranked. If you take him in the early 40s vs. in the top 30, it would make a lot more sense.
Julio Jones, Titans (ADP: 41 | Ranking: 42)
Age (32) and durability issues are two big red flags against Jones as he transitions from Atlanta to Nashville. He’s still a fine reality receiver when healthy, but younger A.J. Brown remains the true No. 1 for a low-volume passing team. Jones is essentially replacing Corey Davis outside. Davis finished as WR29 in his final season with the Titans. Jones is a much better pick as a WR3 vs. a firm WR2.
Adam Thielen, Vikings (ADP: 49 | Ranking: 51)
Thielen defied his age, soon to be 31, to put up a strong WR7 finish in 2020, but consider he had only 74 catches for 925 yards, boosted big time by his 14 touchdowns. Thielen didn’t live up to DND status last season, which makes it more likely he will disappoint in relation to Justin Jefferson in a run-heavy offense with natural scoring regression to his mean this year.
Michael Thomas, Saints (ADP: 72 | Ranking: 119)
Thomas is still feeling lingering effects of his right ankle injury, and he’s slated to miss more time. He’s also not happy about his situation in New Orleans despite his big contract. Plus, he no longer will have Drew Brees passing to him. Just to be safe, don’t touch the former reliable fantasy performer in any format.
MORE 2021 FANTASY HELP:
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D.J. Moore, Panthers (ADP: 53 | Ranking: 43)
Moore is a tempting trap after finishing as WR17 last season, but this year, Christian McCaffrey will go back to his dominant receiving role and Robby Anderson is reunited with his former Jets QB Sam Darnold. It also looks like rookie Terrace Marshall and tight end Dan Arnold will allow the Panthers to spread the wealth more. Moore is also big-play dependent and not a big scorer.
Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (ADP: 51 | Ranking: 47)
Lockett finished as WR11 last year behind teammate DK Metcalf, who was WR5. Lockett hit 100 receptions and 10 TDs, but he’s become more of a versatile possession player than big-play man. He also was very inconsistent in fantasy scoring, and now Seattle will involve more targets for Russell Wilson under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron. He will disappoint a little even as a projected WR2.
Tee Higgins, Bengals (ADP: 70 | Ranking: 59)
Higgins can be quite productive in Year 2 with Joe Burrow, but he shouldn’t be ranked right there with rookie Ja’Marr Chase as a WR3. Chase has WR2 written all over him, while Higgins can underwhelm as the No. 2 given Tyler Boyd will still be a big factor in the slot. Boyd is a much better value in relation to what Higgins will do in a pass-heavy offense.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers (ADP: 76 | Ranking: 77)
Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool? Yes, please. We like their mojo even with Big Ben’s arm limitations because of pure outside route-running and pass-catching talent. As for JuJu, who finished WR22 last season, he’s limited to needing mass volume in the slot, and there’s a chance Pittsburgh implements a lot more 12 personnel to boost rookie Najee Harris in the rushing attack. JuJu is back on a one-year bargain deal and likely headed to being phased out of the Steelers’ passing plans in 2022, right along with Roethlisberger.
DeVonta Smith, WR, Eagles (ADP: 86 | Ranking: 100)
Smith should have a special career in time, as his Heisman-winning dominance from Alabama translates well to be a long-time, versatile No. 1. He’s had a good first camp, but an immediate knee injury is a little concerning. Smith’s inclusion ion this list has more to do with not trusting Hurts and this passing game vs. Smith’s talent level.
MORE 2021 FANTASY RANKINGS:
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Deebo Samuel, 49ers (ADP: 83 | Ranking: 88)
Samuel is a great fit for San Francisco’s offense with his amazing after-the-catch skills, but he carries some significant durability concern early in his career. He’s also not the No. 1 option, with Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle being 1A and 1B. Even though the 49ers are loaded with receiving skills, they’re a running team at heart. Someone will let down fantasy owners, and should Aiyuk and Kittle stay healthy and go off as expected, Samuel will fall short of WR3 expectations.
Marquise Brown, Ravens (ADP: 123 | Ranking: 126)
Brown is now in a bigger crowd at wide receiver, with rookie first-rounder Rashod Bateman (now dealing with a groin injury) and Greg Roman-favorite Sammy Watkins being the most notable new additions. The “Hollywood” role as a speedy field-stretcher for Jackson doesn’t change, but it’s hard to get excited about drafting such a player who barely squeezed out WR3 return.
Brandin Cooks, Texans (ADP: 97 | Ranking: 87)
Cooks has produced everywhere he’s been, including the Saints, Patriots and Rams. He’s one of those sneakily steady fantasy football stars and finished as WR16 with Deshaun Watson last year. But with Houston’s QB situation and offense as a whole shaky, Cooks doesn’t have much appeal or upside to be worth the risk.
Will Fuller, Dolphins (ADP: 103 | Ranking: 98)
The idea of Fuller feels good, but the execution is bound to underwhelm playing with Tagovailoa instead of Watson. He’s starting the season with a one-game suspension, and staying healthy, especially avoiding soft-tissue injuries, has been a struggle throughout his career. On top of that, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, and Waddle are still the best bets to be Tagovailoa’s top options.
2021 Overrated Fantasy TEs
Mark Andrews, Ravens (ADP: 52 | Ranking: 54)
There are two ways to look at Andrews. Baltimore’s extra wide receiver help and dynamic backfield with JK Dobbins could open things up more in the middle of the field for Jackson’s favorite target. On the other hand, he could also see less receiving work overall and meet a TD regression. Either way, there’s no value in taking him as a TE5 with bigger upside options available later, such as T.J. Hockenson, Kyle Pitts, Dallas Goedert, and Noah Fant.
Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers (ADP: 109 | Ranking: 130)
The Buccaneers’ backfield is confusing; so is tight end with O.J. Howard (Achilles’) set to return with Gronk and Cameron Brate already there. There’s also Antonio Brown in tow for a full season. Tom Brady can pick his poison and spread the ball around everywhere. With a greater comfort level in the Bucs’ receivers, he won’t be force-feeding Gronk enough to make him a sure-fire, back-end TE1.
Robert Tonyan, Packers (ADP: 98 | Ranking: 96)
Tonyan won’t be scoring 11 touchdowns for a consecutive season. He also won’t have the same crazy catch rate (52 catches on 59 targets) from last season. He still is a key target for Aaron Rodgers, but the quickly changing tight end landscape says he should drop more into TE2 status.
Jonnu Smith (ADP: 150 | Ranking: 117) and Hunter Henry, Patriots (ADP: 152 | Ranking: 132)
Leave it to the Patriots to take a couple of good fantasy assets and ruin them by a spending spree and subsequent committee. Smith and Henry could be the busiest targets in the passing game with frequent 12 personnel, but they might also be more in blocking mode to help what should be a run-heavy approach to supplement Cam Newton. Smith finished as TE9 starting for the Titans. Henry, however, was TE15 in a letdown season with Herbert. Now Henry is dealing with a shoulder injury, and Smith has his own spotty durability history.
Evan Engram, Giants (ADP: 154 | Ranking: 120)
Stop thinking Engram is a sneaky TE2 selection after finishing as TE18 last season. Now, he’s sharing the position with Kyle Rudolph, and the Giants invested a lot in wide receiver between hot free agent Kenny Golladay and first-rounder Kadarius Toney. The mild Engram hype is gone for good, so stop going for him.