(image credit: Kevin Hickey/USA Today Sports)
By: Austin Geller
Ladies and gentlemen, it is about that time of year. Draft day is approaching quickly (thank god) and many are preparing for their 2021 fantasy football draft. In my experience, I have learned (the hard way) that having a bad draft makes a manager’s life so much more difficult throughout the course of the season. I had the worst draft in my league last season, and that set me back a lot. I had to climb out of a deep hole; through constant free agency acquisitions and trades that took more time out of my day than anything else, I was able to win my league with a 6-7 record after starting off 1-5. I am here today to help you all avoid digging yourself into a hole after one day. There are three players that I urgently warn you to avoid in your drafts based on their ADPs. Keep in mind, this is all for PPR formatted leagues.
1. Jonathan Taylor (RB / Indianapolis Colts) - ADP of 7.4
Jonathan Taylor was drafted as the 41st pick in the 2020 draft by the Indianapolis Colts. There was a lot of hype surrounding the former Wisconsin running back heading into the 2020 season, especially with the loss of Marlon Mack before the season even began. A sluggish start through the first 10 weeks of the season saw Taylor averaging a measly 10.7 PPG in PPR formats.
What a turnaround to end the season! From weeks 11-17, Taylor averaged 20.8 PPG in PPR formats, about double his average from the first 10 weeks. Due to his excellent display to end his rookie campaign, Taylor’s ADP in PPR formats heading into this season is basically valued as a 1st round pick.
The Colts replaced Philip Rivers with Carson Wentz this past offseason. Not only did they acquire him, but Wentz is back with his former offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, who coached Wentz during his MVP-caliber season in Philly back in 2017. Carson Wentz has faced a lot of criticism the last couple of seasons.
Now, he is ready to prove his doubters wrong after being shipped from Philly this offseason. With arguably the best offensive line in the NFL and his former OC, I expect Carson Wentz to be throwing the ball a lot, as well as running a lot. I expect Taylor’s touches are going to diminish, as well.
In addition to Jonathan having to deal with Wentz being a more ball-dominant player, Taylor is also going to have to deal with a running back committee. Ladies and gentlemen, Marlon Mack is back. He has already shown he can start on any team. He is a hard runner who can also add value with his catching abilities.
Not to mention, Nyheim Hines is still there. He has been an excellent 3rd down back, able to stretch the defense with his pass-catching abilities, as well. Frank Reich is going to have to figure out how to go about his three-headed monster at running back, which means Taylor’s touches are at a larger risk to diminish even more.
Jonathan Taylor is a stud, and there is no doubt about it. But a first-round draft pick should be a player that can lead a team to a championship and has the guaranteed volume. Jonathan Taylor is facing too many obstacles to be a top 10 draft pick. Yes, there may be some weeks he will have a big game, but he is not someone that can be relied upon each week to put up big numbers.
My advice: either wait to see if he falls to the 2nd round, or do not draft him at all. Please, do not be that person that falls into the trap of Jonathan Taylor!
2. Aaron Jones (Running Back / Green Bay Packers) - ADP of 12.6
Aaron Jones has turned into one of the NFL’s best running backs over the past few seasons. Yet, there are a few concerns in regards to Aaron Jones’ production heading into the 2021 season.
The Green Bay Packers are a mess right now with Aaron Rodgers, former Super Bowl Champion and 2x league MVP. After months of firing back and forth, the Packers offered Rodgers a contract extension that would have made him the highest-paid player in the NFL. Ultimately, Aaron Rodgers declined. Why he declined remains unknown. What we do know is at this moment, Jordan Love, the second-year man out of Utah State, is the starter for Week 1.
According to multiple reports, Jordan Love has looked very inconsistent at minicamp. Assuming he is the starter for Week 1, Love’s lack of experience and inconsistency could make defenses’ lives a lot easier, which could tarnish Aaron Jones’ production. Even if Aaron Rodgers returns, he would still have to get acclimated to playing again. Without a training camp and much time to practice, it would most likely take time for Rodgers and the offense to get in sync, which is another obstacle in Aaron Jones’ way.
Aside from the Aaron Rodgers situation, Matt LaFleur has to also handle second-year man AJ Dillon, who came on very strong at the end of last season. We have seen LaFleur utilize former backup Jamaal Williams a lot since LaFleur joined Green Bay in 2019. As a manager who recently owned Aaron Jones, I could not begin to express my frustrations with him because of Jamaal Williams.
AJ Dillon has a lot of potential in the NFL, a lot more than Jamaal Williams ever did. Now that AJ Dillon is filling the backup role, it is a serious possibility that Dillon and Jones split touches more evenly than Jones did with Williams. This is yet another obstacle in Aaron Jones’ way this season.
Aaron Jones’ ADP in PPR formats makes him an early/mid 2nd round pick. I understand that he has had astronomical weeks, but he has also had weeks that he put up duds. He has shown to be very inconsistent. From a skills point of view, he is an incredible talent. Regardless, his fantasy value is below his skill level.
With the quarterback situation being a concern paired with the rise of AJ Dillon, Aaron Jones should be taken either late 2nd round or early 3rd round.
3. Juju Smith-Schuster (Wide Receiver / Pittsburgh Steelers) - ADP of 75.8
The Steelers were a disappointment in 2020. After a hot 11-0 start, Pittsburgh crumbled down the stretch, with their season ending in a disappointing Wild Card loss to the Cleveland Browns. Do you know what else was disappointing? Juju Smith-Schuster.
Since the departure of Antonio Brown, Juju has had major struggles stepping into the role of WR1 on his team. His struggles are not going anywhere anytime soon. As of right now, he is still going to be lining up against every team’s best cornerback.
In addition to having to handle getting open against star players like Denzel Ward, Marcus Peters, and Jimmy Smith 4 times a year, Juju is on an offense that has two other weapons that have easier matchups. Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool both had great seasons in 2020. Even though Juju led the team in receptions last year, Juju had the least amount of yards between all three wideouts. This means that Juju being swarmed all game by opposing defenses’ best defenders resulted in small amounts of yards. Juju may catch 8 balls, but may only go for 40 yards. His inefficient production is harmful to fantasy owners.
Let’s not forget the addition of Alabama star Najee Harris. Najee is the definition of a workhorse. He runs as hard as anybody and can add value with his hands. Because the Steelers had no production from James Conner, they were forced to throw a lot last year. With a much better running back in Harris, expect the Steelers to force their workhorse the ball, further diminishing Juju’s value.
Finally, there is no reason to trust a 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger that couldn’t even beat a corpse in a race. In addition to lacking athleticism at his old age, his offensive line can’t even block a chair. Ben cannot move, he cannot extend plays, and he does not even have time to make a good read. How is Juju going to make plays when his quarterback doesn’t even have time to throw?
Juju’s ADP has him being drafted in rounds 7 or 8. There are much better options to choose from in those rounds. For example, I am a huge fan of Courtland Sutton, DJ Chark, and Robby Anderson.
The list goes on and on. Juju should be going in rounds 9 and 10. The only Steelers receiver that can be trusted in PPR formats is Diontae Johnson.
RECAP: Every year there are multiple players that do not live up to the hype. Last year, the player I think of was Michael Thomas. Now with a new season on the horizon, there will be a new set of players ready to disappoint. If there is one lesson to take away from today, know this: Go with your gut instinct, not even just in fantasy football but in life. It is good to be open to other people’s opinions, but ultimately, you need to do what is best for you. It may not always work out the way you want, but at least your fate won’t be in someone else’s hands.