Honestly, I could make the case for anyone to be a bust in Fantasy Football.
Christian McCaffrey's 13-game absence last year will mean his coaches will limit his touches! Dalvin Cook is overdue to miss playing time with a substantial injury (plus look how well Minnesota threw the ball last year)! Alvin Kamara will turn to dust without Drew Brees! Derrick Henry is human and has had over 400 touches in consecutive years! Travis Kelce cannot possibly be the top tight end in PPR leagues for a sixth straight season, can he?!
See? It's fun!
Actually, it's not fun. Telling you why to not draft certain players is gloomy. It involves casting doubt on professional athletes who work extremely hard at their craft just for a chance to achieve the pinnacle of greatness in their field.
But we've got our own greatness to chase -- our league championships.
And so I must highlight those players I am nervous to draft, be it because of a high consensus via Average Draft Position or because a player won't do as well as he did the year before (surprise, it's usually both).
Draft safely. Don't take these guys unless it's when I would take them.
Note: players are listed in order of Dave Richard's PPR rankings as of late July.
Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
How realistic is it for Evans to repeat the 13 touchdowns he had last year? Statistically, he scored once every 5.4 receptions and recorded 32% of his total 2020 PPR points on touchdowns, the second-highest of any receiver with at least 40 receptions. Repeating that will be difficult, especially since Tampa Bay's offense is absolutely loaded with red-zone choices. Evans also must stay healthy, which sounds like a funny nitpick since he played 16 games last year, but he literally had one injury per month that he had to play through. That contributed to Evans posting three-year lows in targets per game (6.8), yards per catch (14.4), average depth of target (14.1), average route depth (9.97), yards per route run (1.74) and yards per target (9.2). Admittedly, those numbers are mostly great, but they're down from previous years for the big man. Final point: If you include the playoffs, Evans had five 100-yard games, but was below 80 yards in his other 15. His numbers would have been disastrous if not for his touchdowns. Can he do it again? You better hope so if you take him at his early Round 4 ADP.
Late July NFC ADP: 38.2
I'd take him: After 50th overall in PPR, closer to 45th overall in non-PPR
Travis Etienne, RB, Jaguars
No one can deny Etienne's talent -- he's a slippery back with very good receiving skills. It's a matter of how many touches the Jaguars will give him as a rookie. As long as they have James Robinson, the Jaguars may not feel pressed to lean on Etienne like a typical feature running back. In fact, Urban Meyer's offenses have usually featured a physical back like Robinson while also finding touches for X-factor playmakers like Etienne. That may very well mean Etienne sees limited carries from week to week. The larger uncertainty is his passing-game work; he could end up in an Alvin Kamara-like role where he sees as many as 10 targets per week, or Jacksonville's offense could resemble a spread system that gets many players involved, capping Etienne's upside. Players with this many unknowns aren't worth reaching for in Round 4, even if they're as athletically inclined as Etienne. If he were a better pass protector, and if there weren't concerns about him holding up to the physical rigors of the NFL, Etienne would probably be a preferred pick before Round 4. But the Jaguars don't have to rush him. You're taking a leap of faith by drafting Etienne no matter the round, so you shouldn't do it unless it's a little later than what his ADP suggests.
Late July NFC ADP: 42.61
I'd take him: Early Round 6
Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders
The Raiders coaches basically telegraphed their feelings for Jacobs this offseason when they agreed to a rich two-year deal with Kenyan Drake. There's no way Drake is the better talent, but his physical running style last year combined with his pass-catching skills displayed prior to 2020 were probably the traits that attracted the Raiders. Jacobs had already been minimized in passing situations, owning a career 2.6 target per game average and seeing six fewer third-down snaps than Jalen Richard last season. Jacobs also was worse converting downs of 3 or fewer yards (50.8%) than Drake (57.4%). But wait, there's more: Las Vegas' offensive line lost four of its five highest-graded run blockers from the past year and might be worse than they were. And then there's the schedule, which opens with the Ravens and Steelers to start the season and does not let up much from there. It just feels like nothing went Jacobs' way this offseason, so Fantasy managers shouldn't look his way.
Late July NFC ADP: 42.61
I'd take him: Early Round 6 in PPR, early Round 5 in non/half-PPR
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Chase Edmonds, RB, Cardinals
Edmonds might finally get the chance to lead the Cardinals' run game, but it's hard to believe he'll have a decisive edge in playing time, touches and touchdowns unless (until?) James Conner misses some time. Through three seasons, Edmonds has watched as his team clung to David Johnson, then replaced him with Kenyan Drake for a year and a half. In the 45 games Edmonds has been involved in, he's had 10-plus touches nine times (six last year) and has earned one career carry inside the 5-yard line. There's definitely been some hesitancy about leaning too heavily on Edmonds except in special circumstances when Arizona had no other option. In four such games where Edmonds found 60% or more of the snaps, he posted over 100 rushing yards once (with three touchdowns), over 100 total yards twice and was under 90 total yards with no scores twice. Last year Edmonds racked up 850 total yards, 53 receptions and five touchdowns while playing 48.5% of the snaps. While everyone expects his playing time to ultimately rise, helping him achieve over 1,000 total yards, odds are he won't become a bellcow who will threaten to score a lot of rushing touchdowns. Taking him before 70th overall is just too risky, especially in non/half-PPR formats.
Late July NFC ADP: 66.78
I'd take him: Early Round 7 in full PPR, early Round 8 otherwise
Odell Beckham, WR, Browns
Every year there's at least one bust call that I root to be wrong on. Last year it was Beckham; this year it is also Beckham. Look, I love the guy and want him to regain his form. But it's been four years since he's resembled anything close to a dominant playmaker. After his arrival in Cleveland, Beckham has had seven touchdowns, six games with more than five receptions, two 100-yard games and two surgeries (core muscle, torn ACL). After he posted career-lows in catch rate, receptions per game and yards per game in 2019, he fell even further and set new worsts in those categories in 2020 before his season ending knee injury in Week 7. The Browns play smart football and won't veer from their run-first nature (52% pass plays in 2020 ranked fourth-fewest). It still feels like people are taking Beckham for the kind of upside he hasn't shown since 2016.
Late July NFC ADP: 64.8
I'd take him: After 80th overall
Trey Sermon, RB, 49ers
When Sermon transferred to Ohio State, he watched Kyle Shanahan's offense to better understand how the zone running scheme worked in preparation for playing with the Buckeyes. Now he's in the real version of it. Does that mean he'll thrive? Maybe, but the better question is whether or not he'll get the chance to. Shanahan hasn't fielded a running back who's accounted for over 200 carries since 2017. Last year, none of his running backs had even 150 touches. It's hard to be useful in Fantasy for more than a couple of weeks if you're not getting the ball. And if that's not enough, try this: Shanahan hasn't had a rookie running back on any of his teams earn over 200 touches in any year from 2014 through 2020. You're waiting for Raheem Mostert to miss time if you're hoping for Sermon to be a breakout for the 49ers, and even then, there will probably be someone else taking important touches away from the rookie (like Wayne Gallman, which is gross). If you draft Sermon, you must be willing to be patient, and you must be willing to accept him being good for only a few weeks at a time. You can't do that with players taken before Round 8.
Late July NFC ADP: 74.78
I'd take him: Round 8
Melvin Gordon, RB, Broncos
Gordon may have five straight seasons with 75-plus total yards per game and nine-plus total touchdowns, but at age 28 he's more of a depreciating talent than a workhorse. Why else would the Broncos spend a little money on explosive back Mike Boone and a lot of draft capital on rookie Javonte Williams? The Broncos also made it clear they intend to use multiple backs, every week, no matter what. So that means Gordon, who had 15-plus PPR points in just six of 15 games in 2020, will be hard-pressed to post consistent numbers since he likely won't see an overwhelming majority of touches. If there's a plus, it's that he'll probably be the main running back to open the season, making him a Zero RB candidate. It doesn't mean he'll be in the same role by midseason, however.
Late July NFC ADP: 79.28
I'd take him: After 90th overall
Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
I didn't expect Thomas to be on this list, but the horrible combination of his ankle surgery, the state of his team and his ludicrous ADP makes him an easy fade. We already are expecting Thomas to miss at least the first month of the regular season. That timetable turns into a seven-week absence if he begins the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list (the Saints have a Week 6 bye). Let's say he returns in Week 8 and is ready to play a full slate of snaps -- how effective will he be with either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill at quarterback? They're both capable of getting him the ball, but neither one is Drew Brees. Thomas may still see a lot of targets but if more passes are off-target, his catch rate and efficiency are sure to suffer. The whole situation stinks and comes with no promises of Thomas' return or Thomas' success. To sink a selection before 100th overall into him makes no sense to me unless it's a full PPR format and it's a league with at least seven bench spots. If you have to stash him with five or six bench spots, you're putting your roster in a crunch, and if you're not getting a full point per catch, you're eliminating the best part of Thomas' appeal. Truth is, the better plan might be to let someone else draft Thomas, then acquire him via trade in mid-October.
Late July NFC ADP: 69.9
I'd take him: After 100th overall, potentially as late as 120th overall
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Fantasy managers have done well fading recent MVPs like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. They should do it again with Rodgers. No doubt, he was outstanding in 2020 with a ridiculous 29.1 Fantasy points per game, a number that annihilated what he did in 2019 (19.9) and 2018 (21.8). In fact, it was Rodgers' best per-game Fantasy output since 2011 (30.0) and his seventh year finishing as a top five Fantasy quarterback on a per-game basis in his past 10. But the bet here is that he doesn't come anywhere close to repeating it. While Tom Brady kept his Super Bowl winning crew together, Ryan Tannehill inherited Julio Jones, Matthew Stafford moved to the Rams and Joe Burrow got wunderkind Ja'Marr Chase, Rodgers asked for and received ... Randall Cobb. The offensive line in front of Rodgers lost quality center Corey Linsley while starting left tackle David Bakhtiari is sidelined to start training camp after tearing his ACL last New Year's Eve. And a real issue is a tougher schedule that includes an improved Vikings defense, the entire NFC West, the entire AFC North plus Washington and Kansas City. That's far from the cupcake schedule Green Bay took advantage of in 2020 (AFC South, NFC South, and a depleted NFC North). Rodgers will certainly finish as a top-12 quarterback on a per-game basis, but you don't have to draft him like a top-five quarterback anymore, especially since there are better Fantasy quarterbacks available later.
Late July NFC ADP: 63.8
I'd take him: After 100th overall
Logan Thomas, TE, Washington
Thomas finished as TE5 in PPR points per game on the strength of short-area targets from gun-shy quarterbacks. No joke, his average depth of target was 7.0, tied for 18th among tight ends, despite ranking third in tight end targets. His 6.9 target-per-game average is set to dip with Ryan Fitzpatrick taking over in Washington. He's traditionally been a cut-loose passer with a tendency to over-target his top wide receiver, not check-down to his tight end. In fact, the best any tight end has done with Fitzmagic in a season was 571 yards and six touchdowns (Scott Chandler, 2012). Washington added Curtis Samuel and may have something low-key special in rookie Dyami Brown, taking more targets away from Thomas. Drawing the Chargers, Giants and Bills to start the season even takes Thomas out of the running as a dreamy streaming option.
Late July NFC ADP: 98.43
I'd take him: After 120th overall in PPR, 140th in non-PPR