Roster Machinations

How did I go from having five solid running backs to having just one? This is the question that I’m asking myself as I prepare for week 5 of the 2021 fantasy football season. Perhaps, you’re in a similar situation. After all, we’re all managing the same small number of NFL players. Four of the five RBs that I drafted on Labor Day are no longer rostered on my home league team. The five were Derrick Henry, Najee Harris, Gus Edwards, Myles Gaskin and Raheem Mostert.

Things started to unravel for me just three days after the draft. Edwards suffered a season-ending torn ACL in practice. Edwards had soared into the top 50 after J.K. Dobbins tore his ACL in the preseason finale. Edwards earned the nickname Gus “The Bus” because of his physical downhill rushing style that reminds us of a bus rolling down a hill. I saw the Dobbins injury as a golden opportunity for him to embrace the role of a bell cow running back in Baltimore.

But The Bus ran off the road before the race ever started. It was a small, dark cloud, I wasn’t discouraged yet because it was only September 9th, and I still had four solid running backs. Or, so I thought. Hours after the Edwards injury, I settled in to watch the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Bucs host the Dallas Cowboys. I had no dog in this fight, so I watched the game and remember congratulating myself for not drafting Ezekiel Elliott, who scored 5.9 fantasy points.

Three days later, Mostert went down with a knee injury in the first quarter of San Francisco’s first game. I had confidently put him in my starting lineup. After all, this is the same Mostert who flashed so much talent in leading the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV. He capped off the 2019 season with a memorable, record-setting performance in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, carrying the ball 29 times for 220 yards and four touchdowns. 

But Mostert was out after two rushes for 20 yards. The initial report was that he had chipped knee cartilage and would be out for about eight weeks. I could live with that, planning to stick him in the IR spot and waiting patiently for him to return. But then the tail back announced on Twitter that after consulting with multiple doctors, he planned to undergo season-ending surgery in order to fully repair his knee. Good for him and bad for me (and all those who drafted him).

Three weeks ago, I wrote about the trials and tribulations of week 1. For me, winning matchups in my two public leagues was small consolation since I scored only 80.98 points in my home league. This was one of the lowest point totals I’ve ever had in a week. Mostert wasn’t the only RB downer for me that week. Harris, my RB2, matched Zeke’s 5.9 total. Even Henry had a subpar day, rushing for only 58 yards and scoring 10.7 points in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Henry more than made up for underproducing in week 1. The following Sunday, he went nuts against Seattle, carrying the ball 35 times for 182 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught six receptions for 55 yards. That added up to 47.7 points in PPR. Henry wasn’t the only back that improved in week 2. Harris put up 19.1 points, helped by five receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown. But he only rushed for 38 yards behind the a terrible Pittsburgh Steelers line.

I purposed on that day to trade Harris while I could still get something for him. I also made a decision after the second game to trade wide receiver Robert Woods. Ol’ Bobby Trees wasn’t awful in the first two weeks, scoring 12.4 and 12.0 points, but Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford clearly preferred Cooper Kupp over Woods. Like Harris, I decided to trade Woods while I could still get something for him. A few days later, I made the trade.

The Woods trade may have been the best trade I’m going to make this year. In return for Woods and Mark Ingram, I received James Robinson and Devin Singletary. On the same day, I traded Myles Gaskin for Stafford, after my starting quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, had looked anything but impressive. Time will tell, but I think this was also a good trade because Gaskin was (and still is) a depreciating asset. The talented Gaskin has had little opportunity to shine in Miami.

But I wasn’t done. The day after making the two above-mentioned trades, I was offered a deal for Harris. I was offering Chris Carson, and I hit the accept button on my phone very quickly. After all, Carson has been a tremendous player in reality and fantasy. In his first full years in the NFL, he rushed for 1,151 and 1,230 yards, before missing some time last year with an injury.   

Carson, who had two solid outings in the first two weeks, had another one in week 3. I was feeling good about having Henry and Carson in my starting lineup, but what about Robinson? He put up more points that week than either Henry, or Carson. The only reason he wasn’t in my flex was because I had added Alexander Mattison from the waiver wire on a hunch that Dalvin Cook wasn’t going to play. Cook was ruled out Sunday, and Mattison put up 23.10 points.

With Cook returning in week 4, Mattison was quickly relegated to a backup role. That was okay because I knew I wanted Robinson in my starting lineup, and he delivered again. Unfortunately, Carson had a terrible game. The usually-reliable back had 13 carries for 30 yards and had only target. Alex Collins took over for Carson in the fourth quarter and looked good. I wasn’t worried about Carson because there was no indication at this point that he had suffered an injury.

The fifth week started before week 4 was in the books. My son, Nathan, approached me about trading for one of my backs. He had lost David Montgomery the previous day, and he said he was desperate enough to trade away Tyreek Hill. At this point, I was convinced that I had enough running back depth with Henry, Carson, Robinson and Mattison all rostered. I had to try for Hill. The trade negotiations started with me offering Nathan Carson and Julio Jones for Hill.

The Hill for Carson and Jones was quickly rejected, and the counteroffer was Hill for Carson and Keenan Allen. I didn’t like that offer at the time. In retrospect, I wish I had accepted it because Hill is a lot better than Allen. What I didn’t know at the time was that there was something wrong with Carson. I rejected the offer, and I pivoted to Robinson. We quickly struck a deal where I sent him Robinson in exchange for Allen Robinson and Mike Davis.

One day after I agreed to trade James Robinson away, I found out that Carson has a neck injury and is likely to miss Thursday night’s game against the Rams. A neck injury can be a serious injury, and this news was chilling. The injury certainly explained why Carson had a subpar performance last Sunday. I put in a claim for Collins and got him as an insurance policy. But I now have a much weaker team than I had a few days ago, and I have only myself to blame.

I don’t blame myself for not knowing about Carson’s injury before the trade because there was no news out there until he missed practice on Tuesday. What I do blame myself for is trading away a solid running back (Robinson) for a marginal running back (Davis) and a good receiver (Allen Robinson) who may be stuck in a bad situation in Chicago. I know that there are a lot more good receivers than running backs, so the decision to trade Robinson was foolish.

If you’re trading players anywhere near as much as I am, you are going to make some bad trades. I started making the trades that I made because I had already lost two backs to season-ending injuries and had a bust (Gaskin) and a player who I had lost confidence in (Harris). I am still not sure about the Steelers tailback. He’s had three solid fantasy games in a row, but he’s never rushed for more than 62 yards. Can he really catch enough passes to continue to be an asset?

In summary, my advice is to look at your team each week and make decisions based on your roster needs. You should always be working the waiver wire because there are a few gems out there. There is also some fool’s gold (like Chuba Hubbard and Ty’son Williams). You should also be looking to make a timely trade if you notice one of your fellow managers has a need. Look for a win-win. But realize that trading is risky, as this story illustrates. 

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Staring into the TE abyss

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In my tight end preview posted on August 15th, I told you about the tight end minefield. My advice was to “go great, or go late.” To go great meant to draft one of the three elite tight ends – Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or George Kittle. The alternate was to wait until late in the draft and pick up a tight end you could quickly drop if he didn’t work out.

I took my own advice. I have Travis Kelce on one public league team and Darren Waller on another.  But I waited and took Jonnu Smith in the 12th round in my home league. Kelce has proved he was worth a first-round pick, averaging 22.3 PPR fantasy points in the first three games to lead all tight ends. Waller is No. 4, averaging 16.1 PPR fantasy points.

But what about Smith? He’s TE26, averaging 6.0 points in the first three games. Fortunately, I dropped him after the first week (when he had a respectable 9.8 points). Last week, he had one reception on six targets for 1.4 points. I liked Smith as a sleeper heading into the 2021, and he has averaged more than five targets per game. But he has just 74 yards and is yet to score.  

I’m actually considering streaming Smith this week because the Patriots are hosting the Buccaneers. This is the long-awaited return of Tom Brady to New England, and the defending Super Bowl champions are seven-point favorites. It’s a safe bet that the Patriots won’t be able to run on Tampa Bay (no one has yet). But opponents can pass on the Bucs, so that puts Smith in play.

At this point, no one can argue against taking Kelce, or Waller, in the first two rounds of the draft. Kittle, who was drafted in the second or third round, has also paid off marginally. He’s TE6, with 11.5 PPG.  There was some concern about Kittle after a dismal week 2 showing in Philadelphia, but he righted the ship last week, snaring 7-of-9 targets for 92 yards and 17.1 points.

So, if you don’t have Kelce, Waller, or Kittle, you might as well be streaming the position. I would actually recommend trading T.J. Hockenson, Mark Andrews, or Kyle Pitts now for what you can get. You should be able to get a good running back, or wide receiver, for Hockenson or even Andrews.  Both are sell-high players (although Hockenson was higher before the Baltimore game).   

Before you call the men in the white coats, let me remind you of something I mentioned in the preview column last month. Although Hockenson was TE9 last year, he only averaged 12.0 PPG. Andrews, who was TE15, averaged 10.6. Meanwhile, Smith, who was a waiver wire add during the regular season, was TE2 with 16.4 PPG. And what about Pitts? He’s simply the pits.  

If you took Pitts in the fifth round, you were betting on the come. That wasn’t the game of craps, it was just pure crap. I warned you against overpaying for an untried rookie, and now you are stuck with a depreciating asset. Everyone likes to buy low and sell high, but I would recommend you sell low here because the Atlanta offense is burning in a giant dumpster fire.

If you’re streaming the tight end position, you will be staring into the abyss each week. You’ll spend a lot of time and energy trying to decide what makes a tight end streamable. For me, it’s some mixture of matchups, projected target volume and the talent of the player and his quarterback. With targets at a premium, you want them to be good targets to a good receiver.

This week the buzz surrounds Dalton Schultz of Dallas and Tyler Conklin of Minnesota, who were both available on the waiver wire on Tuesday night. In most leagues, they still are. Schultz caught 6-of-7 targets for 80 yards and two touchdowns on Monday night, good for 26 points.  A day earlier, Conklin caught 7-of-8 targets for 70 yards and a touchdown, good for 20 points.

The problem with adding either of them is that they’ve only had one good game (so far). I’m not saying that neither Schultz, no Conklin, are breaking out. One, or both of them might be this year’s breakout. But if you add them this week, you’re chasing last week’s hero. Of course, if one of them goes off again this week, you will be getting in line for a chance to pick up said player.

You can follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

I traded stocks as a financial advisor for more than 30 years. I kept statistics on various companies, while evaluating them for myself and my clients. I would look at a stock’s price-to-book (P/B) ratio, price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio, and dividend yield. I would look at technical trading trends. I did my analysis as I asked whether I wanted to buy, sell, or hold that stock.

As a fantasy manager, you should be evaluating your players and asking the same question each week. Do I want to buy this player (trade for him), sell this player (trade him away), or hold the player – at least for another week. After two weeks, it’s time to take stock and see if a trade might improve your team. This is true, if you are 2-0, 0-2, or 1-1. Never stop looking for a way to make your team better.

Trading is not the only way to make your team better. A timely waiver-wire claim – especially in the early weeks – can make a huge difference in the outcome of your season. In 2017, I added Alvin Kamara to my team in the fourth week of the season. But that kind of situation doesn’t come along very often. Waiver additions are generally not as impactful as trades in improving a team.  

So, let’s look at four players who were all drafted in the first two rounds of fantasy drafts.


The long-awaited showdown between Kamara and Christian McCaffrey never materialized as the New Orleans offense looked terrible Sunday. McCaffrey carried the ball 24 times, gaining 72 yards and scoring a touchdown. He also caught five passes for 65 yards on his way to 24.7 fantasy points (FP). Kamara rushed for five yards on eight attempts and caught four balls for 25 yards. He totaled only 7.0 FP.

When you drafted Kamara No. 3 overall, this is not what you signed up for. The Drew Brees era is over, and Jameis Winston looked bad in week 2. The concern for fantasy managers, particularly in PPR leagues, is that Kamara won’t be the same player in this new regime. After all, his elite fantasy value is due to his ability as a pass catcher, hauling in 81+ receptions in each of his first four NFL seasons.

Kamara has caught only seven passes in the first two weeks. He is only on pace for 60 receptions in the 17-game 2021 season. He’s averaging 12.6 points per game (PPG) after two weeks. He is RB19 in PPR and RB26 in standard leagues. And things don’t get easier for Kamara and the Saints for week 3, on the road in New England. Is it time to trade Kamara before his value plummets? 

Before you offer to trade him for Austin Ekeler, Joe Mixon, or D’Andre Swift, tap the breaks and consider this. After only four seasons, Kamara is already the franchise’s all-time leader for receiving yards by a running back with 2,824. He is just two catches shy of passing Pierre Thomas as the Saints all-time leader in receptions by a running back. He’s running just as many routes as ever.

Kamara has shown that he can take on the load as the team’s primary runner. He is also the best receiver on the team. He is a matchup nightmare for any opposing defense. He’s more than just a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, Kamara can split out wide or come out of the slot and run any route as efficiently as most wideouts. You do not want to trade Kamara away.

Verdict: Make an offer and try to acquire Kamara.


There has been a lot of talk this week in the fantasy community about Tony Pollard being a more explosive running back than Elliott, but I’ll remind you that I’ve been saying this for a year. In my running back preview in July, I told you to fade Elliott in the first round of the draft, adding that “he’s simply not running with the same intensity as he did in his early years.”

Elliott opened the season at Tampa Bay, rushing for 33 yards on 11 carries. He had two receptions for another six yards and a total of 5.9 points. That’s not what you’re looking for from your RB1. He did bounce back in week 2, with 71 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. He caught two passes for 26 yards on the Cowboys’ final drive of the game and finished with 17.7 points.  

However, Pollard also saw 16 touches and outproduced Elliott by a wide margin. Consider that Pollard rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, busting through the line and breaking tackles. He also caught three passes for 31 yards on his way to 23 points. This timeshare is a concerning development for fantasy managers who used a first-round pick on Elliott.

Elliott has been the Cowboys’ clear-cut starter at running back since being drafted in 2016, but he suddenly has to compete for touches. And Pollard has gone from fantasy handcuff to possibly a lot more. Could he replace Elliott as the lead back? If you picked up Pollard from the waiver wire based on this kind of speculation, I think you are going to be disappointed.   

Elliott has played more than 75% of the team’s snaps so far and remains the RB1. The main reason is his exceptional pass blocking. Elliott takes on blitzing linebackers and defensive backs to give Dak Prescott the time he needs to find one of his talented receivers. With that said, if you can trade him for Nick Chubb, or Ekeler, make that deal as soon as possible.

Verdict: Trade Elliott if you can get a decent return for him.


If you think Kamara and Elliott are off to a rough start, consider Barkley is RB46 in PPR leagues after two weeks, averaging 6.3 FPG. If you drafted Barkley, like I did on one of my teams, you’re not feeling too good right now. Honestly, I got Barkley on autopick after timing out on a pick late in the first round of a public league draft. I had no intention of taking Barkley at that point.

Being thin at the running back position in this league, I left Barkley in my starting lineup and was got 3.7 points from him in week 1. Damien Harris, who got 11.7 points that week, was on my bench. He had 100 rushing yards on 23 carries, caught two passes but didn’t find his way into the end zone. I started Harris last week against the Jets, and he put up 13.4 points with a touchdown.

After week 1, I was trying to decide whether Barkley was a buy low or a sell high. I could see both sides. He was a buy low if I believed he still had top-five upside and you could trade a player who was drafted outside of the top 30 (like David Montgomery). He was a sell high if I thought he would finish the season outside the top 20. I decided to hold Barkley and not try to acquire him elsewhere.

It was an easy decision to bench Barkley on Thursday night against Washington. He actually did better than I thought he would, scoring 8.9 points. In a short week, he carried the ball 13 times for 52 yards and brought in two of his three targets for 12 yards. The highlight of the night was a 41-yard run that looked like vintage Barkley and made me think his knee is close to 100 percent.       

If I didn’t own any shares of Barkley, I would consider buying low on him this week because his value may have bottomed out. But I don’t know if I could pull the trigger. There is no guarantee Barkley is 100 percent after multiple ligament tears in his knees suffered a year ago. But even if he is fully healthy, his main obstacle is a substandard offensive Giants offensive line in front of him.

Verdict: Hold Barkley but don’t try to acquire him elsewhere.


I developed a severe case of buyer’s remorse after seeing Harris put up 5.9 points in his NFL debut in week 1. The good news was that he played 100 percent of the snaps in the Pittsburgh backfield. The bad news was that he only managed 45 yards on 16 carries and couldn’t find the end zone. He was targeted three times by Ben Roethlisberger but only caught one ball for four yards.

No one likes to sell low, but I was ready to trade Harris after week 1 to cut my losses. I offered to trade him straight up for Montgomery in my home league. My son laughed at me, which was no way to treat his father. I held Harris for another week, and I was rewarded for my patience. He more than tripled his production, with 19.1 points in week 2. My response was to try again to trade him.

If that surprises you, consider that he rushed 10 times for 38 yards. He did have five receptions and scored a touchdown. Harris ran roughshod in the SEC when he was at Alabama, but that certainly hasn’t been the case in two NFL games. In case you hadn’t noticed, the Steelers offensive line is really bad, and I’ve never seen an NFL running back have great success running behind a bad offensive line.  

I currently have two trade offers open on Harris. I offered him straight up for Antonio Gibson on Monday, but the manager doesn’t appear interested. I made a second offer the next day to another manager for Darrell Henderson and Tyler Higbee (a buy-low opportunity). I threw in Jared Cook, who has less trade value than Higbee. Henderson was injured Sunday but appears to be okay.    

The reason the fantasy analysts fell in love with this rookie running back before he ever played a down of professional football is simple. Volume. I was enticed to take him in the second round in spite of my reservations. I am considering a class-action suit against the analysts because of entrapment and mental anguish. There is no way that I count on Harris delivering RB2 numbers this season.

Verdict: Trade Harris if you can get a decent return for him.

One footnote I want to add about trading. If you’re going to offer a trade to another manager in your league, don’t insult him or her. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have received insulting trade offers from other managers. When I offer a trade, I look at what they need and offer them something that might be appealing. I would suggest that you do the same thing.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Don’t overreact (yet)

Welcome to Week 2 of the 2021 fantasy football season. The Las Vegas Raiders’ upset of the Baltimore Ravens in overtime on Monday Night Football capped a historic opening week in the NFL, as 12 underdogs covered the spread. Nine underdogs pulled outright upsets. Eye-popping fantasy performances were few and far between, though a couple of players put up surprising numbers that are sure to make their fantasy managers happy.

A word of advice – don’t overreact after one week of games. Your opinions of your players shouldn’t change dramatically after months of research, although there’s value in being able to identify where your preseason expectations were just flat out wrong and knowing how to react to that. I want to help you make the right moves and not make the wrong moves. Dropping or trading away a Top-10 running back because he had one bad game is the wrong move.

Let’s start with a recap of Week 1 events that impact the season. The first significant event occurred hours before the defending Tampa Bay Bucs hosted the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night. Baltimore lost Gus Edwards for the season with an ACL tear. This was another big blow for a backfield that had already lost J.K. Dobbins to a season-ending injury. Unfortunately for me, I had selected Edwards in the fourth round of my home league draft three days earlier.  

As soon as I was able to move Edwards to my IR roster spot, I added undrafted free agent Ty’Son Williams, assuming he would be next in line and would start for the Ravens Monday night against the Raiders. I left him on my bench, deciding to take a “wait-and-see” approach. I moved San Francisco running back Raheem Mostert into the flex spot in my starting lineup. This was the right move since my tarot cards didn’t disclose that he would be injured after just two carries.

But back to Williams. Watching the game on Monday night, I thought I had hit the jackpot. The explosive Williams was clearly the No. 1 back in the first half, dominating touches. At one point, he busted through the line for a 35-yard touchdown. What the Ravens did in the second half defied logic. They turned to Latavius Murray, who ended up out-carrying Williams 10-9. Murray looked anything but impressive, gaining only 28 yards (2.8 yards per carry) and not being targeted at all.

I was sure Murray, who had just been signed after being released by New Orleans, would need more than two days to get up to speed and see any action. Williams still ended up with 65 yards on 9 carries. With his touchdown and three receptions for 29 yards, he scored 18.4 fantasy points. Of course, I’d take that production every day and twice on Sunday, but the time-sharing situation is concerning. In addition to Murray, the Ravens have also added Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman to their roster.   

My recommendation is to add Williams if he’s still available in your league. Since he was rostered in 82.7% of ESPN leagues and 79% of Yahoo leagues before waivers ran late Tuesday, he probably isn’t available. My hope is that Williams has earned (or will earn) a bigger snap share with the Ravens. Murray, Bell and Freeman are all past their prime, but the powers that be in Baltimore have to come to that conclusion for him to be fantasy relevant. In the meantime, he stays on my bench.

I previously mentioned what was perhaps the biggest injury in Week 1. It occurred in Detroit when Mostert hurt his knee and was placed on the IR.  The injury to Mostert happened after rookie Trey Sermon was listed as a healthy scratch before the game against the Lions. That was a surprise to the fantasy community, but 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan told us after the fact that another rookie, Elijah Mitchell, and JaMycal Hasty, had outperformed Sermon in training camp.

Mitchell’s late-round draft status and lack of production in preseason games had kept a veil over the former Louisiana-Lafayette running back. With Sermon inactive and Mostert out with a knee injury, the expectation was that Hasty, a second-year undrafted free agent, would have gotten the lion’s share of the workload after he earned most of the preseason work while Mitchell played only in the finale because of a hip injury. Hasty had only one reception and one carry in this game.

Opportunity knocked for Mitchell, and he swung the door wide open, posting 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Mitchell was the No. 1 waiver wire target this past week. I put in a claim for him in my home league, offering $16 of FAB but was outbid. I did add him for free on one of my ESPN teams. The reason I didn’t get more excited was the potential for a committee in San Francisco and the fact that Mitchell wasn’t targeted once on Sunday. I play in a PPR league.     

I’m not saying that a committee dooms the fantasy chances of a running back. Even if Sermon and Hasty are involved, keep in mind that Shanahan wants to run the ball, and the 49ers were No. 6 in rushing attempts last season among just their running backs. San Francisco got 24.8 carries a game from its running backs in 2020. A run-heavy offense can provide enough fantasy points for two running backs to survive and even thrive. Consider Cleveland, with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

Still, I don’t share the sentiment that Mitchell has massive upside. I would think he’ll start in Week 2 at Philadelphia and get the majority of carries against the Eagles, but I expect Sermon and Hasty to also get work. In the short-term, Mitchell looks like a borderline starting fantasy option in all leagues, with his value slightly higher in non-PPR formats. I am starting him as my RB2 on that ESPN team because I don’t have a better option. I benched Saquon Barkley because of workload concerns.

Here are other hot running back targets on the waiver wire that had been rostered below 50 percent:

MARK INGRAM II (22% at Yahoo, 13.3% at ESPN)

It was a surprising development to see Ingram get 26 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown in Houston’s 37-21 win over hapless Jacksonville. He was targeted only once, though, and had zero receptions. The fact that he appears to be a lead back on a run-first team made him the second-highest player added at Yahoo this week. He was my backup option when I put in a claim for Mitchell, and I was able to get him on claim for $1. That’s about what I think he’s worth, but I needed an RB.  

TONY JONES (11% at Yahoo and 8.5 at ESPN)

Jones came on the fantasy radar when he took Latavius Murray’s job away from him in New Orleans. He saw a dozen touches on Sunday and accumulated 50 rushing yards. He looked good in relief of Alvin Kamara, but it will be hard to start him any given week unless we get an injury to Kamara. Like Alexander Mattison and Tony Pollard, Jones is a great stash because he has massive upside if the guy ahead of him is injured. But he lacks stand-alone value.


I made the call on Friday, deciding to start Mostert instead of Julio Jones at flex on my home league team. I just had a feeling that Jones wouldn’t do much in spite of lofty projections for him to score 15 plus fantasy points. In the end, Jones had only three receptions for 29 yards on six targets against Arizona on Sunday. I took Jones in my home league draft because he had fallen into the seventh round and represented a value. I may be a fool, but I’m starting him this week.    


The first week was a mixed bag for me. I easily won both of my matchups in my ESPN public league, scoring 160.94 and 158.36 points respectively. But I only scored 80.98 points in my Yahoo home league. This was the lowest weekly point total I have put up on the scoreboard in two years. I will point out that this is the team where two of my running backs (Edwards and Mostert) have been lost for the season. But I don’t want to make excuses. I am focusing on Week 2.  

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

16 players I like

Your fantasy drafts are done, and it’s time for the regular season to start. If you drafted well, are effective in working the waiver wire and make a few good trades, you can win your league championship. Of course, you’re going to need some luck, too. Injuries and COVID are always a clear and present danger to derail your title hopes. If you didn’t draft well, you have made it difficult on yourself, but it’s not impossible to still win your league championship.

Before the NFL season kicks off on tonight, I want to go on the record and share with you 16 players I drafted on one or more of my three teams. My most important team is my home league team, and that draft was completed on Monday night. These players are listed below, along with several others that I believe were worth drafting. Some are just tremendous players, and others were drafted at a value. Not all of them will pay off, but you will see that unfold in the coming weeks.


Allen was my third pick in my home league draft and No. 24 overall. I drafted him slightly above his ADP, but I wanted him as my WR1. Allen has established himself as a high-volume receiver in a consistently pass-friendly offense. Better yet, his target share has gone from 8.5 per game in 2018 to 9.3 in 2019 to 10.5 in 2020 in exciting. When a good wide receiver sees that kind of bump in targets, that’s something to get excited. Justin Herbert, the Chargers’ young quarterback, had been a boon for Allen.


This rookie slipped down draft boards after playing behind Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson in the first preseason game. But Coleman, the one standing in his way of 15-plus touches, played just 22-of-32 games the last two seasons. On top of that, he’s never been efficient when asked to carry a heavy workload. Carter does everything well, and though he’s undersized, that shouldn’t stop him from getting a lot of work. I drafted him in the 10th round in one of my public leagues.


Davis’ stock has been rising as Jets QB Zack Wilson made him a favorite target during the preseason. This makes me believe he’ll be a high-volume wide receiver – especially with what should be a number of negative game scripts. Negative game scripts mean more pass attempts. Davis has disappointed managers in the past, but he put together a solid fantasy season in 2020. He showed enough flashes in Tennessee to indicate that he could get the job done in a more pass-happy offense.


Gaskin was one of only two players that I drafted on two different teams. In addition to a public league team, I took him with the 57th pick in my home league draft. If Gaskin gets off to a slow start, you might want to target him in a “buy low” trade early in the season (if you don’t already have him). Amassing 47 targets in 10 games, Gaskin was active in the passing and running game in 2020. He will be a mid-round steal in drafts (or trade) if he breaks out of the committee.


Harris was the first running back drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft and he was the first rookie drafted in most 2021 redraft leagues. I took him with the 17th pick in my home league as my RB2. Harris should dominate touches in Pittsburgh after rewriting the record books at Alabama. The Steelers have traditionally been a one-back team when they have one they can trust. The only downsides are Pittsburgh’s shoddy offensive line and their pass-heavy offense.


I took Henry No. 4 overall in my home league draft. He’s an awesome running back who has avoided injury, but I would have taken Alvin Kamara over him in PPR because Henry doesn’t catch very many passes. Every year he’s been in the league, we’ve watched Henry’s rushing yardage go up by at least 250 yards. I’m not too sure he peaked last year with 2,027 yards on the ground, since we’re now going to a 17-game season. The addition of Julio Jones could actually help him.


When Ja’Marr Chase was selected at No. 5 overall, everyone seemed to downgrade Higgins significantly and move him down draft boards. But there’s more than enough volume available for both of these players to be top-24 WRs as early as this season. Higgins might take a back seat to Chase from a targets perspective, but Higgins should also be Burrow’s favorite target in the red zone due to his size. I took Higgins 67th overall in a public league draft, which I think was a bargain.  


On paper, Julio Jones landing via trade with the Titans may seem like a bad fit for his fantasy value, but ultimately the opposite could be true. For starters, Ryan Tannehill has been a more efficient deep-ball thrower and overall QB than Matt Ryan since joining the Titans. Tennessee is an excellent system fit for Jones, who should be able to eat up the. His injury history is concerning, which is why I was able to get him with the 64th pick in my home league draft. That was a bargain!


Kelce led the Chiefs in receptions and yards in 2020, which is no small accomplishment with Tyreek Hill on his team. Don’t expect Kelce to repeat his record-breaking 20.9 PPR points per game he had in 2020. But remember that he averaged 17.9 PPR points in 2018 with a healthy Patrick Mahomes and was a few points down from there in 2019 when Mahomes missed time. I was surprised that Kelce was still on the board in the second round of my public league draft. I took him with the 13th pick.  


Mixon is the Rodney Dangerfield of running backs. Here is a three-down back who should see plenty of volume. He has a reputation of an oft-injured player, but he has actually played more games than Dalvin Cook since they both came into the league in 2017. When Mixon is on the field, he’s going to receive one of the heaviest workloads in the entire league. I almost fainted when Mixon was available when I made my 28th pick in a public league draft. I considered that an early Christmas present.   


When he’s been healthy Mostert has given the 49ers offense a jolt of explosiveness that the rest of the roster has difficulty matching. Unfortunately, the 29-year-old has struggled to stay on the field throughout his career, including a half-season lost in 2020. The 49ers improved their depth, including adding two rookie running backs. Matching the 13 carries per game Mostert had last year could prove to be difficult, but getting him in the 8th round was too good to pass up.  


When Smith signed with the New England Patriots for a massive deal in free agency, I wondered if he would be a top-5 option at the TE position. But Hunter Henry signing a day later put an end to that speculation. It also deflated his ADP, which I took advantage of by drafting him in the 12th round of my home league draft. With a lackluster WR corps in Foxboro, there’s a strong possibility this electric tight end could still be gold. FYI, Smith might be on your waiver wire right now.


It’s been a while since we’ve seen Sutton on a football field, but let’s not forget how good he can be when he’s fully healthy. Despite inadequate QB play, Sutton’s thrived the past few seasons and has displayed his talent on multiple occasions. While he does have a crowded offense to worry about now, Sutton should be the favorite to lead this team in targets in 2021. If that is the case, Sutton’s absolutely going to return value on where I drafted him (84th overall).


The Dolphins spent the No. 6 overall pick in the NFL Draft on Waddle, and he looked great during the preseason. He’ll compete with DeVante Parker, Will Fuller and Mike Gesicki for targets, but Waddle has a history with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa from their time together at Alabama. Waddle was impressive for the Tide. On just 133 collegiate targets, Waddle produced 1,999 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns on 106 catches. I took a flyer on him in the 13th round.


Waller is a consensus top-three fantasy tight end with every analyst. He has now posted back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons. He had a strong finish in 2020, totaling 765 yards and five touchdowns in the final seven games. At that pace, he would have a chance to break every receiving record for a tight end in a 17-game season. With his guaranteed workload, plus his chemistry with QB Derek Carr, it’s hard to see how Waller is a bust. I was happy to get him with the 27th pick in a public league draft.  


Woods was the other player I drafted in two leagues. I drafting him No. 37 overall in my home league draft and gladly took him when he slipped to No. 48 in a public league draft. It appears that Woods gets an upgrade at QB to Matthew Stafford. Consider that the 7.1 air yards per target Woods saw in 2020 was the 10th-lowest mark among wide receivers. But Stafford likes to push the ball down the field more than Jared Goff. He may not be flashy, but Woods is a solid WR with a high floor.  

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Quarterback preview

In the past few weeks, I have previewed running backs, wide receivers and tight ends as we prepare for the NFL and fantasy football season. There is a lot of important information in these columns, so I encourage you to circle back and read them. There are two parts on running backs, two parts on wide receivers and one part on tight ends. This brings me to the final preview – quarterbacks. Quarterbacks are last and least most important to your success.

The reason I say least is because I don’t I believe quarterbacks are important to your success – unless you overpay for them. For instance, if you use a third-round pick on Josh Allen, you may have just cost yourself a shot at your league championship. If you draft Kyler Murray in the fourth-round pick, you have made a big mistake. I’m not saying these quarterbacks will have a bad season. What I’m telling you is that you are overpaying for a quarterback.

The reason why I am so emphatic about not overpaying for a quarterback in fantasy is the opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is defined as the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when a certain alternative is chosen. If you draft Allen in the third round, you are passing on the likes of D’Andre Swift, CeeDee Lamb, Allen Robinson and Chris Carson. You might even have missed out on Terry McLaurin and David Montgomery, who might still be on the board.   

In discussing the subject of overpaying for quarterbacks, I have intentionally skipped over Patrick Mahomes, who will be the first quarterback off the board. Mahomes is an outlier in this discussion. If Mahomes was still on the board in the third round, I might take him there. But I know he will be gone by then. In 2020, Mahomes completed a career-high 66.3 percent of his passes for 4,740 and 38 touchdowns. He added 308 yards and two touchdowns with his legs. 

I drafted Josh Allen in the 10th round on one of my teams last year, and he helped me win a league championship. He was valuable because I didn’t have to pass on a plethora of good fantasy players to get him. The same could not be said if I were to select him this year. A similar example would be Lamar Jackson. In 2019, using a late-round pick to take Jackson was savvy. But in 2020, taking him in the second, or even in the third round was nothing less than foolish.     

You can spot a novice fantasy football player when he gets excited about drafting a quarterback. The seasoned player knows not to take a quarterback early in the draft. Granted, Allen, Murray, Jackson, and even Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers have a higher upside than other quarterbacks. But quarterback is a deep position, and you can get a good fantasy quarterback in the later rounds. I have never taken a quarterback earlier than the 10th round in a draft.  

As you can tell, I am a strong proponent of the Late Round Quarterback strategy. Last year, in my home league, I took my quarterback in the 12th round, my running back handcuff in the 13th, my defense in the 14th and my kicker in the 15th. And I will readily drop everyone except the handcuff when bye weeks, or matchups dictate. Do you understand how freeing this is? There is never the need for me to pick up a second quarterback, and this frees up a roster spot for RBs and WRs.  

Okay, if you’re not convinced about taking your quarterback in the late rounds, you can stop reading this column. There are plenty of other quarterback previews that will provide coverage on Mahomes, Allen, Murray, Jackson, Prescott, Rodgers and Tom Brady. Again, I’m not going on the record to say that any of these quarterbacks are bad. All of them are capable of producing good fantasy numbers. But here are six  QBs to consider with an ADP greater than 80 according to NFFC.   


Stafford had an ADP above 100 heading into last year’s draft. But this is a new era for the former Lions quarterback. The Rams spent a lot of draft capital during the offseason to bring Stafford to Los Angeles, and he is set up for a career year. Stafford was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Playing for dismal Detroit, he was QB 5, QB 10, QB6, QB17, QB9, QB7, QB6, QB20, QB29 and QB15 over the last ten years. With his weapons in LA, he should be lock for a top-10 finish in 2021.


There is no more divisive late-round quarterback than Hurts, who seems to have an equal number of advocates and detractors. I find myself on the fence. Consider his 52% completion rate and 6:4 TD to INT ratio. On the other hand, consider Hurts scored 20, 43 and 19 fantasy points in his first three starts after taking over from Carson Wentz. He was on pace for 4,517 passing yards, 27 and 11 interceptions. And he was on pace for 1,269 rushing yards and five touchdowns over 16 games. 


Burrow is another quarterback available later in the draft with top-five upside but plenty of risk. The second-year QB has one of the most talented receiving corps in football, and it’s likely that Cincinnati will be playing from behind a lot. But his inexperience and recovery from a torn ACL are risk factors. Burrow was on pace for 4,400 passing yards in his nine complete games, but his touchdown rate (3.2%) hurt his fantasy value. I drafted Burrow with the 107th pick in a recent draft.


If you are willing to embrace the Late Round Quarterback strategy, consider a quarterback who will be available two round later than Burrow. Lawrence enters the league with hype, ending his Clemson college career with 10,098 passing yards, 90 TDs and only 17 interceptions. The Jaguars earned the right to take him No. 1 overall after going 1-15 last year. Lawrence will have some weapons to throw to in Jacksonville, but rookies don’t often make good fantasy quarterbacks.     


Ryan is going even later in the draft than Lawrence, and track record would indicate an ADP of 127 is good value for him. He’s been a good fantasy producer for the past few years, but he’s put up big numbers based on high volume. And he had Julio Jones as his WR1. Jones is now in Tennessee, and the Titans former offensive coordinator is the head coach in Atlanta. It’s safe to bet that the passing volume

Will come down, and this is the reason why Ryan’s ADP is so high.


Are you looking for the next Patrick Mahomes? I’m not saying Fields is it, but there are some analysts who are convinced he’s the real deal. Fields showed me in the first Bears preseason game that he has the potential to be something special. He won’t start the first game, and I don’t know when we’re going to see him on the field as a starter. But he has top-five fantasy upside.


I am not comfortable drafting any of these quarterbacks, but I could see myself adding one or more of them as streamer options throughout the season. Note: Deshaun Watson is QB24 and is unlikely to play this season. If he were cleared to play, he would be the steal of the draft. Baker Mayfield, QB17; Kirk Cousins, QB18; Ben Roethlisberger, QB19; Trey Lance, QB20; Jameis Winston, QB21;  Tua Tagovailoa, QB22; Derek Carr, QB23; Watson, QB24; Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB25.

You can follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

TE Minefield

“Danger. Minefield” are two words with the power to stop you in your tracks. Some estimates suggest there are as many as 110 million landmines buried in 60 or more countries today. Fantasy Football has its own minefield – the tight end minefield. Every fantasy manager needs to draft at least one tight end, so this is not a minefield you can avoid. But you’d better step lightly because there are a number of mines out there, and you don’t want to be a casualty on the tight end battlefield.   

Last year, I was blown up when I stepped on a landmine named Tyler Higbee. Everyone loved Higbee after he finished strong in the 2019 season. I drafted him as TE7 off the board. After week 3, I thought I was a genius. He was TE1 that week by a huge margin, helped by three touchdowns. But he didn’t do better than TE20 in the two weeks before or next several after, and I dropped him. I spent the remainder of the season trying and failing to find a decent TE on the waiver wire.

While I was putting up a series of single-digit numbers in the tight end column, the winner of my home was watching Travis Kelce put up record numbers. I was watching, too, as Kelce averaged 20.9 PPR points per game in 2020. In my last fantasy football column wrapping up the season, I shared some New Year’s resolutions. One of my resolutions was to draft Kelce in 2021. His ADP is 8.59, so I will have to use a first-round pick to do it. There are only four players that I would take ahead of Kelce. 

You may think I’m crazy for considering a tight end in the first round. But if you played fantasy football last year, you know this position was a black hole of despair for those who didn’t have Kelce or Darren Waller last season. Waller averaged 17.4 PPG. Robert Tonyan and Logan Thomas tied for third with 11.0. George Kittle was expected to be in the top two, but he got hurt last year and missed half of the season. So, there’s a case to be made for drafting your tight end early, and I’m making it.   

Here’s my case for Kelce being a first round player. He’s was not only the top tight end last year, but there were only three wide receivers with more fantasy points – Devante Adams, Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs. Suffice it to say that the wide receiver position is a lot deeper than the tight end position. While Kelce is in my top TE tier, I would put Waller and Kittle in the second tier. Waller, ADP 23.1, usually goes in the second round, and Kittle, ADP 30.3, will be taken no later than the third round.

After the Big Three are gone, you will reach your first TE cliff. There are three tight ends in the third tier – Mark Andrews, T.J. Hockenson and rookie Kyle Pitts. They all have ADPs in the 60s and will likely be selected in the fifth or sixth round of drafts. I put Thomas, Dallas Goedert and Noah Fant in my fourth tier. Tonyan, Irv Smith, Mike Gesicki and Higbee are in my fifth tier. My sixth tier includes Evan Engram,  Rob Gronkowski, Jonnu Smith and Adam Trautman.   


In addition to what’s been mentioned, Kelce led the Chiefs in receptions and yards in 2020, which is no small accomplishment with Tyreek Hill on his team. Don’t expect Kelce to repeat his record-breaking 20.9 PPR points per game he had in 2020. But remember that he averaged 17.9 PPR points in 2018 with a healthy Patrick Mahomes and was a few points down from there in 2019 when Mahomes missed time. Kelce did leave practice a couple of weeks ago due to back and hip tightness so this is worth monitoring.


Waller is a consensus top-three fantasy tight end with every analyst. He has now posted back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons. He had a strong finish in 2020, totaling 765 yards and five touchdowns in the final seven games of last season. At that pace, he would have a chance to break every receiving record for a tight end in a 17-game season. With his guaranteed workload, plus his chemistry with QB Derek Carr, it’s hard to see how Waller is a bust barring an injury. There are no second-round picks that are safer.


Kittle missed half of last season, but he’s still in the elite tier. When he did play in 2020, Kittle was good for 14.9 PPR points per game, third-best among tight ends in all formats. Better yet, those averages weren’t far from his 2019 numbers (15.2 in PPR). Expectations remain high in 2021 for Kittle, even with the Niners eventually breaking in rookie QB Trey Lance. In fact, he’s even more popular because dependable tight ends are hard to come by, and shrewd drafters will take him in the second round.


Andrews didn’t have as productive of a season last year as he did in 2019, with the Ravens offense taking a step backward. Andrews still finished within the top-5 at the TE position, and he has a safe floor with limited upside. Heading into 2021, the Ravens have addressed some key needs at the WR position, which should only help Andrews and open things up for this offense. He still should be the number one target for this offense but must be weighed against other players available in the fifth or sixth round.


Hockenson could lead the Lions offense in targets, which is a good thing. But the scoring opportunities are going to be essentially non-existent for this team and we could see them at the bottom of the league in overall plays ran. Even if Hockenson soaks up targets this season, his upside is limited. I also expect the small number of touchdowns will disappoint his fantasy managers. Like Andrews, he seems to have a reliable floor – especially in PPR leagues – but I wouldn’t draft him at his current ADP.


Pitts is the third-tier tight end with the most upside. While Andrews and Hockenson have solid floors, the 20-year-old has a high ceiling and is being drafted fourth by many fantasy managers. The argument for Pitts is that the ball has to go somewhere in this offense and the Falcons are going to be committed to getting the ball in his hands. With that said, it would be the definition of an outlier if he finished as a top-5 option in his first season.  The opportunity is there, but you risk overpaying for this rookie.  


If you miss out on one of the elite tight ends, I would recommend Thomas as a value at his current ADP of 90. At this the thin position, there’s still a player or two who breaks out to be a viable fantasy option. Last year, Thomas was the waiver wire pickup of the year at the TE position. He went on a tear to finish the season and ended up as the TE6. Heading into 2021, Thomas certainly has a bit more competition for targets this time around, but he’s proven that he can get the job done for fantasy.


Goedert is a very talented receiver, which we’ve seen that on display since he came into the league in 2019. Also, Philadelphia doesn’t have the most dynamic receiving corps, and Goedert could easily lead the team in targets as the No. 1 option for QB Jalen Hurts. However, Zach Ertz is still on the roster, and a time share puts a cap on his targets and what Goedert can do from a fantasy perspective. If Ertz is traded or released, I would feel better about drafting Goedert at his current ADP around 80.


Expectations were high for Fant when he came into the league two years ago, but he has yet to deliver the consistent production we were hoping for from him. The QB play has certainly hurt him and he has several other receiving weapons to worry about this year. It’s difficult to find a path for Fant to match his 93 targets from last year, so I don’t see how he returns value on his current ADP of 86. He has the talent, but if he doesn’t get the targets necessary to be a viable fantasy asset, it doesn’t matter.


Like Thomas, Tonyan was a waiver-wire gem last year, with an absurd 88% catch rate and 11 receiving touchdowns. With his talent, all Tonyan needs is enough targets from Aaron Rodgers to return value. Don’t cannot expect that high of a catch rate again, and you’re also likely to see negative regression on his touchdowns. But is you’re drafting him outside the top 100, you should expect some volatility. Tonyan is going two rounds later than Goedert and Fant in most drafts, and he’s a far better value.


I’m higher than most on Smith and have him as a top breakout candidate. The 22-year-old will no longer be sharing targets with Kyle Rudolph, which gives him a higher ceiling. He’s draftable as early as Round 9 as a borderline top-10 tight end. He just needs targets in this run-first offense. Six times in his short career he’s received at least five targets in a game. In those games he averaged 11.6 PPR fantasy points.  Like Tonyan, he can return significant value if you are able to draft him outside the top 100.


Gesicki has had his moments in his three years in the NFL, and he’s in the top-12 conversation at the TE position due to his opportunity and athleticism. However, I can’t imagine drafting him and expect to see him on the waiver wire during the season (like last year). There are more mouths to feed in Miami this year, which pushes Gesicki into a secondary role in the offense. If you wait on tight end, you’re better off taking Tonyan or Smith in this range, or taking a flier on Adam Trautman three rounds later.


Fool me once, shame on you. Higbee is my unlucky TE13. I shared my experience with Higbee last year. The fantasy community seems to have a shorter memory than me because he’s being hyped again in spite of being a bust in 2020. Analysts point to the departure of Gerald Everett and the possibility of finding lightning in a bottle with Matthew Stafford. But Higbee’s targets never stabilized after his late 2019 breakout, leaving him as nothing more than a touchdown-or-bust tight end. I’ll pass.


I drafted Engram on one of my fantasy teams last year, and he was a bust. His value has dropped, and his ADP is currently 131. Some will be encouraged by the words of Giants head coach Joe Judge who said Engram will be featured in the offense, but that doesn’t move the needle for me. Engram saw 10 targets in four separate games during the 2020 season but finished with 63 receptions for 654 yards and just one receiving touchdown. The fourth-year tight end also had frequent dropped passes last season.


Gronkowski got off to a slow start last year as he was working his way back into football shape, but he still finished the season as TE8. With his involvement in this offense, plus chemistry with QB Tom Brady, Gronk’s a solid bet to return value at an ADP close to 140. The return of O.J. Howard and three talented wide receivers will reduce Gronk’s target share, but he’s still a favorite red-zone target for Brady. If you have waited late in the draft, you can take Gronk with confidence that he won’t be a bust.


Smith signed a big contract with New England Patriots in March, but then the Patriots signed Hunter Henry a day later.  Go figure. With a lackluster WR corps, there’s still a possibility that Smith leads the team in targets. He’s an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands, and Bill Belichick is smart enough to find creative ways to get him the ball near the line of scrimmage and create something after the catch. However, the Patriots figure to be a pretty low-volume passing attack overall.


Cook, 34, was selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, and 11 years later he’s still finding ways to put up TE1 fantasy numbers. Now, he steps into an offense that has a huge hole at the TE position following Hunter Henry’s departure and a QB that is only going to grow from here on out. I believe Cook’s age has pushed his ADP down to 160, which is too low. If you want to wait on TE and grab Cook with one of your last picks, he’s got an excellent chance of returning value in this situation.


If you’re looking for a deep sleeper TE that could break out this season, look no further than Trautman in New Orleans. Drafted 105th overall in 2020, Trautman needed some time to adjust to the NFL level after coming out of Dayton. But analysts mostly agree that he has big time talent that flashed in his limited opportunities last season. With Jared Cook now out of the picture, and Michael Thomas out for at least several games, Trautman just needs to step up. Adam, that knock on the door is opportunity.


Hunter Henry, TE19; Gerald Everett, TE20; Zach Ertz, TE21; Blake Jarwin, TE22; Anthony Firkser TE23; Cole Kmet, TE24; Austin Hooper, TE25; Eric Ebron, TE26: Tim Tebow, TE27; O.J. Howard, TE28; Hayden Hurst, TE29; Christopher Herndon, TE30; Dallas Knox, TE31; Dalton Schultz, TE32.  

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter.

WR Preview: Part 2

In part one of my wide receiver preview, I told you that I believe the wide receiver position is extremely deep. That’s why I plan on rostering six wide receivers on my fantasy football teams. For example, I just completed a mock draft, and here’s who I drafted: DeAndre Hopkins (22nd pick), Robert Woods, (39th pick), Kenny Golladay (59th pick), Ja’Marr Chase (79th pick), Brandin Cooks (102nd pick) and Antonio Brown (122nd pick). In my opinion, every one of these receivers has a high ceiling.

We’ve already discussed my top 12 wideouts: Devante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Hopkins, Calvin Ridley, D.K. Metcalf, Justin Jefferson, Allen Robinson, Keenan Allen, Terry McLaurin, A.J. Brown and CeeDee Lamb. These are my WR1 receivers, but there’s no big cliff between this tier and the next one for me. Robert Woods is my 13th WR, and I like him a lot and find myself drafting him in nearly every mock draft. The only reason I like Lamb more is because there is more upside.


Woods already has a couple of 1,000-plus seasons under his belt, and he just got a big upgrade at quarterback with Matthew Stafford. The Rams’ running game is a question mark following Cam Akers’ injury, and Woods could be poised for his best season yet. He has been getting more than 120 targets per season and some rushing attempts. Woods should see more catchable targets and be more efficient with Stafford throwing him the ball.


Evans is continually undervalued by the fantasy community, with at least 1,000 yards of receiving yards in seven straight seasons with a handful of different quarterbacks. He quickly became Tom Brady’s favorite red zone target with six TDs in the first five games of 2020. The volume may not tick up, but there’s a good chance Brady takes a step forward in his second year playing in the Bruce Arians system. Evans’ red zone role provides him an excellent floor.


Age and injuries have been catching up with Jones, and that led to Atlanta trading him away. He’s now in Tennessee with a huge opportunity. The Titans lost some key receiving weapons in free agency this offseason, and Jones should get a significant target share. While it might not be as much as it was in Atlanta due to the overall offensive philosophies and state of the teams, it’s still going to be plenty. The injury concerns are there, but so is the upside.


Cooper is another wide receiver with a solid track record. Even if Lamb is the WR1 on the Cowboys, Cooper is going to see 8-10 targets per game. Through Week 5 last year, Cooper was the WR13. He’s currently on the PUP list with an ankle injury, but reports from training camp indicate he’s in good shape. After having ankle surgery in January, and he’s not expected to practice until after the team’s second preseason game. However, he should be ready for the regular season.


Including the playoffs, Johnson played 13 full games with Ben Roethlisberger, averaging 11.8 targets per game. He saw double-digit targets in all but two of those games. The caveat is that Johnson has only a 61% catch rate, as he struggled mightily with drops in his second year. Since the Steelers have no shortage of receivers to throw to, there is no guarantee Johnson will still be a target hog in 2021. And they may throw less after drafting Najee Harris in the first round.


I’m higher than most on Moore in spite of the fact that he’s failed to live up to expectations after being drafted in the first round three years ago. He’s my WR18 because I like the addition of Sam Darnold at QB for Carolina. Darnold is known for targeting his slot receiver a lot, and I expect Moore to line up there more than any other wideout. Moore, who had 118 targets in 15 games last year, should exceed that number in 2021 and be the target leader for the Panthers.   


Godwin took a step back in 2020 with Brady taking over from Jameis Winston, being targeted only 84 times in 12 games. That’s only seven targets per game, compared to 8.6 in 2020. But Godwin is efficient, catching a career-high 77.4% of his targets last year. If he stays healthy, he could see more targets from his quarterback. Tampa Bay is not a run-first offense, and they don’t have a running quarterback, which means that Brady will be throwing the ball a lot.   


Like Godwin, I expect Kupp improve significantly this year with Matthew Stafford taking over for the dreadful Jared Goff at quarterback. Kupp still managed to finish 26th in fantasy scoring for wide receivers despite scoring just three touchdowns. The season before he had 10 touchdowns with Goff at the helm, so he should benefit from positive regression in 2021 in that important category. If he slips below his current ADP of 55, you should scoop him up.


There’s no denying that some rookie wide receivers are making an impact in the NFL (and fantasy). Consider D.K. Metcalf a couple of years ago and Justin Jefferson last season. Chase has just as much skill as either of those WR1s, and he’s landed in a great spot. The LSU star, drafted No. 5 overall is being reunited with his college QB. Chase and Joe Burrow had great chemistry in college, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue as professionals.


If you’re looking for a boom-or-bust WR, Lockett is your man. While his 2020 stats look great, there’s a greater context that might not be obvious when looking at the fact that he finished with 1,054 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last season. The majority of Lockett’s production came in three games, which is extremely concerning for fantasy managers that are playing in weekly redraft leagues. This talented receiver does come with week-winning upside.


If you look at his total fantasy points last year, you might overlook the fact that Thielen had 14 receiving touchdowns. His other six seasons were all single-digit totals, so tell me if you think he’s a candidate for negative regression? He was incredibly efficient in the red zone, catching eight touchdowns on only 12 targets. With Jefferson stepping up and assuming the WR1 role in a run-first offense, this makes Thielen a risky investment for fantasy in 2021.


Golladay is my WR24, which means he’s at the bottom of my WR2 tier. In other words, he’s the last one I would trust as a WR2 in my fantasy lineup. There’s a lot of hype right now surrounding Golladay and it’s easy to understand considering that he just signed a massive contract with the New York Giants in free agency. But Golladay joins a crowded offense with a lot of mouths to feed. He may still be the Giants’ WR1, but his upside depends on Daniel Jones taking a step forward.


There’s plenty of upside for Aiyuk, who was the W15 from Weeks 4-16 in his rookie year. Of course, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle being in and out of the lineup certainly helped him reach that status.  Heading into 2021, the 49ers could see a change at QB at some point. With Trey Lance’s skillset, Aiyuk could potentially break out in a big way, but he’ll have to do it with high efficiency, as he’s unlikely to see the high target volume that other receivers in the league will.


It doesn’t seem that long ago that Beckham was being drafted in the first two rounds of every fantasy draft. But the years and the injuries have taken their toll, which makes him more difficult to select. With that said, he’s now coming at enough of a discount that it’s not going to significantly damage your team if Beckham misses time yet again. The upside is still there for someone of Beckham’s talent and he has the potential to be a very reliable asset for your lineup if he stays healthy.


With all of the hoopla surrounding Chase, Higgins’ value has been pushed down on many draft boards. That’s good news for the value-based drafting approach. If you take him with the 70th overall pick, he could exceed expectations – especially if Chase isn’t successful in his rookie season.  Even if Higgins takes a back seat to Chase in targets, there’s going to be enough volume to support both of them as top-24 WRs. And Higgins should be Burrow’s favorite target in the red zone due to his size.


Claypool was taken No. 94 overall in a recent mock draft, and that surprised me because this is another wideout with a high ceiling. He came out of nowhere in his rookie season in 2020, and had a few big games but was hot and cold throughout the season due to the offense’s struggles. If Johnson keeps dropping balls, Claypool could benefit. And his big play ability is going to lead to some fantastic fantasy performances even if he doesn’t become a target hog in Pittsburgh.    


It’s been a while since we’ve seen Sutton on a football field, but let’s not forget how good he can be when he’s fully healthy. Despite inadequate QB play, Sutton’s thrived the past few seasons and has displayed his talent. The quarterback position is still a weakness, but Sutton should be the favorite to lead this team in targets in 2021, although there’s plenty of competition in Denver. He has the talent to deliver you some huge performances all season.


If you’re looking for a value add to your roster in the middle rounds, consider Anderson. He’s being overlooked by many but had 136 targets, 95 receptions and 1,096 receiving yards last season. Those were career highs. Anderson will lose some target share with the return of McCaffrey, but he already has established chemistry with Darnold from their Jets days. I find myself drafting Anderson in nearly every mock draft because of the upside.   


After a depressing 2020 season, Chark gets a massive upgrade at QB with Trevor Lawrence. He has also taken some steps to improve. Chark played last year at 197 pounds and is now listed at 210. He was challenged by Jacksonville coach Urban Meyer to get stronger and play bigger and the fourth-year pro accepted that challenge. Chark is in a contract year, which should add motivation. As a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 on your roster, Chark is worth drafting at pick 90, or later.


The rookie out of Alabama has incredible talent and would be ranked higher than my WR32 if he had found a better landing spot. For Smith to return value, quarterback Jalen Hurts needs to take a big step forward as a passer from what we saw last season. In an offense that doesn’t project to pass the ball much, Smith is going to have to be very efficient to crack the top-30 at the WR position this year. If the Eagles turn to Joe Flacco to replace Hurts, Smith’s stock will rise.   


Taking wide receivers in the middle and late rounds boils down to finding value. I believe there is value to be found with Samuel. After a promising rookie year, injuries limited Samuel to playing in only seven games in 2020. But keep in mind that Samuel is one of the best in the game in getting yards after the catch (YAC).  He frequently gets the ball behind the line of scrimmage and takes off. Samuel had 401 yards after the catch in 2020, but finished with only 391 receiving yards.


The casual fantasy manager will select Smith-Schuster in the seventh or eighth round and think they have a bargain. Don’t be fooled. There’s a reason why JuJu has taken a free fall down draft boards in the last two years. After what appeared to be a breakout season in 2018, he failed to deliver in 2019 and 2020. This looks like another down year with the addition of Najee Harris. If the Steelers take a more balanced approach with Harris, JuJu may be an afterthought in this offense.


Like Anderson, I find myself drafting Fuller late in many mock drafts because of the upside he brings. He’s the epitome of a boom-or-bust wideout. While he can put up huge numbers when he’s healthy, avoiding injuries is tough for Fuller. With his big play explosiveness, plus the potential for an increased target share if Devante Parker struggles with injuries again, Fuller has the potential to smash his ADP. He will miss the first game of the season as he completes his suspension. 


After dealing with an injury for the majority of last season, Thomas underwent surgery in June to fully fix the issue. It’s a bit of a mystery right now as to exactly how long he’s going to be out, and that doesn’t bode well. If I project him to miss just the first five games of the season, Thomas drops from WR12 in my projections to WR36. I’m willing to let someone else in my league deal with the potential range of outcomes unless he falls to a ridiculous value point in my draft.


Jerry Jeudy, WR 37; Brandin Cooks, WR 38; Antonio Brown, WR 39; Tyler Boyd, WR 40; Curtis Samuel WR 41; Jarvis Landry, WR 42; Laviska Shenault, WR 43; Michael Pittman Jr., WR 44; Marquise Brown, WR 45; Michael Gallup, WR 46; Mike Williams, WR 47; Jaylen Waddle, WR 48; Devante Parker, WR 49; T.Y. Hilton, WR50.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter.

Golden age for WRs

While the main focus for many fantasy managers is running backs, wide receivers will have just as much impact on your team. The good news is that they are plentiful in what I will call the golden age of wide receivers. I don’t recall a time when there was more depth at the wide receiver position. The NFL has become a pass-happy league, with some team starting three fantasy-relevant wide receivers. Consider that both the Steelers and Panthers had three wide receivers with more than 200 fantasy points (FPTS) last season, and neither team had above-average quarterbacks.

The depth at the position did not happen by accident. Twenty-six teams have drafted at least one wide receiver in the first four rounds in the last two drafts. It’s not an exaggeration to say that every team has at least one wideout with high upside. The trick is to know which receiver to draft and in which round. There are different ways to determine this, but my method leans heavily on expected volume. Catches produce points, and catches result from targets. Therefore, my favorite wide receivers in each round are the ones who are expected to receive the most targets.

One of the keys in life is managing your expectation. Let me help you by stating that wide receiver is the most inconsistent position in fantasy. Calvin Ridley, who finished last season as the No.4 receiver, had weeks with 4.2 FPTS, 2.6 FPTS, and even a 0 FPTS week. It’s simple, just accept that bust weeks will occur. The focus however needs to be on high target volume players. Touchdowns are difficult to project on a weekly basis. But you give yourself the best chance at multi-touchdown games with players in a position to see the ball thrown their way often.

Another note before we jump into a breakdown of the top 12 wide receivers, based on my rankings. I have been successful drafting a team full of talented wide receivers each season. I often use them as trade bait to acquire other positions. The wide receiver position is where I try to find my value picks. Only elite wideouts are consistent. The WR position is very matchup/game script-dependent beyond the Top 10. In my view, you’re more likely to win your league drafting solid RBs than you are taking elite wide receivers early. Be patient at this position.


Adams is being drafted behind Tyreek Hill in most fantasy drafts but I rank him No. 1. Last year, Adams led the league with an average of 10.6 targets per game (TPG). He has been a WR1 in 22 of his last 41 games (53.7 percent), which is historically good. During that time, he’s scored fewer than 11.1 PPR points just four times, and once was due to leaving with an injury. With the disgruntled Aaron Rodgers reporting to training camp, Adams is a safe first-round pick.


Hill was actually only 10th in TPG but second in wide receiver fantasy points because he found his way into the end zone 15 times. He did see 10-plus targets in seven different games. Those numbers, coupled with his efficiency, makes him an elite player. Travis Kelce is going to be 32 years old, Sammy Watkins is gone, and they brought in no big-name wide receivers who are guaranteed much of anything. Hill’s worthy of a first-round pick in fantasy drafts.


To say that Diggs exceeded expectations in his first season in Buffalo is the understatement of the year. He set new career-high and league-leading marks in targets (168), receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,535). Diggs’ 29% target share was a new career-high, and his third-place finish in fantasy points for wide receivers marked his first season better than 10th. Diggs is usually the third WR off the board in drafts, going early in the second round for good reason.


Hopkins was one of only four wideouts who averaged 10 plus TPG last year, but consider that he’s now seen at least 150 targets in six straight seasons and has finished as a top-five receiver in five of them. He saw at least seven targets in 15 of 16 games in 2020 and has now handled a target share of at least 26% and air-yard share of at least 34% each of the past seven seasons. He only scored six touchdowns last year, so positive regression could be in the cards in 2021.


Ridley finished as the No. 4 wide receiver with Julio Jones on the team in 2020, and that was while missing one full game. Just how much better can he be with Jones gone? Some worry about Ridley becoming the focus of shadow coverage and seeing all the top cornerbacks focusing on him. But we’ve already witnessed that in the games Jones missed. In the eight games Ridley has played without Jones, he’s averaged 11.1 targets, 7.3 receptions, 107.0 yards.


Metcalf is ranked as high as WR4 by some analysts, but he’s my WR6 only because his target share is lower. He finished 11th among WRs in 2020, his second year in the NFL, with 131 targets, or 8.1 TPG. He did also finish sixth in routes (577), and his 15 end zone targets ranked third in the NFL. Metcalf’s elite efficiency makes him one of the best receivers in football anyway. He has slipped into the third round in some fantasy drafts, and he has real value there.


Speaking of elite efficiency, Jefferson is another one who made the most of his 125 targets. In his rookie year, he finished with 1,400 yards on just 125 targets. Jefferson caught 70.4 percent of his targets, averaging 15.9 YPC and finished sixth in fantasy points for all wide receivers. I expect negative regression in Jefferson’s second season. No other wide receiver has totaled 1,400 yards on 125 or less targets. He’s talented, but don’t take him before the third round.  


Despite Robinson’s lackluster quarterback play, he’s been able to finish as a top-12 receiver in back-to-back seasons. The upgrade to Andy Dalton helps, but if the Bears play Justin Fields, it could be even better for Robinson. Based on opportunity alone, Robinson should have finished as the WR4 in each of the last two seasons (that’s based on how many targets he saw and where he saw them). I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be a top-five receiver in 2021.    


Allen had the second-highest TPG average among wide receivers last year, so why is he only my WR9? The problem is depth of routes. Allen failed to record 1,000 yards last season despite seeing 147 targets (5th in NFL). His 992 yards was only 17th among wide receivers. The good news is that Justin Herbert clearly found his “go-to” guy, targeting Allen 10-plus times on 10 separate occasions. He’s an extremely safe WR2 based on volume alone, but the short routes limit him.


Despite playing with Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith, Kyle Allen, and Taylor Heinicke the last two years, McLaurin has managed to produce 2,037 yards and 11 touchdowns. Enter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has supported many fantasy wide receivers throughout his years, and he’s been willing to target them relentlessly. McLaurin is the clear-cut No. 1 option in Washington, and he should be targeted 140-plus times in 2021. Draft him in the third round with confidence.


A.J. Brown is frequently the seventh wide receiver off the board, but I rank him behind McLaurin and Robinson as my WR11. Let me make my case for fading him. Brown has defied the rule of regression. Based on the targets he saw last year and where on the field he saw them, he was supposed to finish as the No. 30 wide receiver. He finished 12th. The year before that, he was supposed to finish No. 49, but finished as No. 15. The addition of Julio Jones further limits his target ceiling.


Lamb rounds out my top 12 wide receivers – the last WR1 on my list. He enjoyed a successful rookie season, racking up 1,017 yards and six TDs on 85 touches, but it could’ve been even better. Lamb posted a 29-433-2 receiving line and was WR11 in fantasy in Dak Prescott’s five starts. The good news is that Prescott is back and appears healthy for 2021. With Amari Cooper starting the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, I expect a fast start from Lamb.  

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

The best of the rest (RBs)

In part 1 of my running back preview, I presented information on my top 15 running backs – Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Austin Ekeler, Aaron Jones, Nick Chubb, Najee Harris, Jonathan Taylor, Joe Mixon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and David Montgomery. In part 2, I will provide insights on the best of the rest. This will include sleepers like Michael Carter of the Jets that may return huge value but are more risky in terms of steady production.

If you decide to use the controversial Zero-RB strategy, you will be especially interested in some of these names. The Zero RB strategy is where you draft only one running back in the first five runs and focus on rostering three wide receivers and an elite tight end like Travis Kelce. The advantage of this approach is that you can draft elite wide receivers like Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Devante Adams (if Aaron Rodgers is back in Green Bay) and DeAndre Hopkins. You might also select Patrick Mahomes in an early round.


Some people are expecting Dobbins to have an increased role in the Baltimore offense this year, including the passing game. He had an efficient rookie season, averaging 6.0 yards per carry, but he barely reached 800 total yards. He played less than 43 percent of his team’s snaps and never saw double-digit carries until the seventh game. His lack of involvement in the passing game was the real drag on his fantasy value. If that all changes, there’s a path for him to be a top-10 running back.


I’m higher than most on Gaskins, ranking him as my RB17. Like Dobbins, he has a path to be a top 10 back. In 2020, Gaskin was among the best waiver wire additions in all formats. He had eight games with at least 12 PPR points. In the 10 games he appeared in, and he had six games with at least 19 total touches. Keep an eye on what happens with the Dolphins backfield prior to training camp, but Gaskin could return real value as your RB2 if you draft him late in the fourth or early in the fifth round. 


There were flashes of what could be a great three-down back with Swift last year, but the Lions added Jamaal Williams in free agency. Then, they drafted Jermar Jefferson. Then, they brought in Todd Gurley on a free agent visit. While they didn’t sign him, it’s not promising for Swift’s outlook, as this smells like a timeshare. Without a lot of scoring opportunities in Detroit, there is a risk of Swift being a bust. Swift is a talented football player, however, and should get enough work to be a low-end RB2.


Throughout Carson’s career, he’s produced RB2 or better numbers in 60 percent of his games and has been consistently underrated. Although he figures to remain the primary rusher for the Seahawks, his carries per game sunk from 18.5 in 2019 to 11.8 in 2020. As such, Carson had just four games out of 12 with 15-plus carries and seven with 15-plus touches last year. Injuries have also been a problem, but when he’s on the field, he’s a reliable RB2 who will provide a decent floor if not a high ceiling each week.  


Fantasy managers were drafting Sanders as early as the first round last year, in spite of my warnings against such foolishness. He’s delivered RB2 or better numbers in just 14-of-28 of games (50 percent). To be fair, he hasn’t been used in a workhorse role, totaling more than 15 touches just 11 times over that span. Will the departure of Doug Pederson allow him to shine, or will Nick Sirianni implement a timeshare as well? I’m expecting a timeshare, and the Eagles quarterback “hurts” his fantasy value.


Jacobs was being drafted in the second round last year and failed to meet fantasy expectations. Now, the Raiders have decided to pay Kenyan Drake a lot of money to come in and share the workload with Jacobs. Understandably, this has caused Jacobs’ stock to plummet. But the question is whether it has fallen too far. Running backs being drafted in the middle rounds are usually in timeshares. With lower expectations, taking Jacobs in the fifth round as your third back could prove to be a shrewd move. 


The fantasy world was a buzz about Henderson a week ago with the year-ending injury to Cam Akers. While the injury opens a door of opportunity for Henderson, I want to sound a note of caution. Over the whole of 2020, Henderson averaged slightly more than 10 carries per contest, and I don’t think that will change. I expect the Rams to bring in someone to compete with Henderson for the starting job. There were rumors of someone flying around LA with a cape that looked like former superhero Le’Veon Bell.


At first glance, Davis should be ranked higher than RB23 since he has a clear path to 15-plus touches per game. There have been 144 running backs who’ve hit that mark over the past 10 years, and none have finished worse than RB28. The vast majority have finished higher than RB23. There are two things that are working against Davis in becoming a solid RB2 on a fantasy team. First, the Falcons aren’t very good and will be playing from behind a lot. Second, there’s a chance a free agent could be added in Atlanta.


Like Gaskin, I’m higher on Mostert than most because I know what he’s capable of. When he’s healthy and on the field, he’s a beast. He’s turned 282 career carries into 1,590 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 49ers traded up to draft Trey Sermon in the third round, but I believe that’s because they want a quality backup for Mostert. If you want a shot at upside, draft Mostert in the 6th round. He tallied at least 14 carries in 5-of-8 starts last year, which is more than enough to get into RB2 territory – if he stays healthy.


All of the running backs you’re reading about now are in time-sharing arrangements, but some are better than others and Hunt is one of the best. He finished as a top-10 running back last season when Chubb missed four games. He’s a handcuff plus RB. He has a secure role as a pass-catching back, but he’s capable of being a top-five back if Chubb gets injured again. The worst-case scenario is that Hunt will be a strong RB3/flex option, and the best case is a back with 20-touch upside in a run-first offense.  


With Kenyan Drake gone, Edmonds is the lead running back for the Cardinals. The team added James Conner, but we know he can’t stay healthy. Edmonds will line up for passing situations (he averaged 3.3 receptions per game last year) but should see a lot of early-downs work as well. So why is he only RB26? Edmonds only has four career starts and nine career games with 10-plus touches (six in 2020). The wild card is Kyler Murray. If he runs a lot – especially in the red zone – that will hurt Edmonds’ productivity.


At the risk of repeating myself, I’m higher on Carter than most. One of my top sleepers, the Jets quietly took him in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, and he has the chance to be their starter. Though he’s undersized, he does everything well including catching passes. The only player standing in the way of him securing 15-plus touches each week is Tevin Coleman, who’s always injured. Carter is being taken around No. 80 overall in mock drafts, and he is one of the best late-round values in fantasy football.


Robinson was one of the biggest surprises last year, coming out of nowhere to become a top 10 back in fantasy. He was a bell cow back, averaging 4.46 yards per carry, 5.73 yards per target, and scoring 10 touchdowns. Enter Urban Meyer, who said they wanted to add depth/competition at the running back position. After adding Carlos Hyde, the Jaguars drafted Travis Etienne in the first round. Go figure. A timeshare knocks Robinson’s value way down, but it’s still possible he surprises everyone again.


There are some who want to make Williams the lead back in the Broncos backfield, but Melvin Gordon is still there for another year. So, the Denver backfield is likely to be a time share. If you draft the 21-year-old rookie, you’re hoping Gordon fades away early in the season, leaving Williams as the last man standing. Don’t reach for Williams, but take him if he falls to you around the 75th pick overall. Williams is likely to fill the Phillip Lindsay role initially, but if anything happens to Gordon, Williams has big upside.


If Robinson wasn’t in Jacksonville, Etienne would be higher than my RB30. Etienne is a big-time playmaker in all facets of the game, averaging 7.2 yards per carry and 11.3 per reception at Clemson. He’ll be lining up next to his college QB, Trevor Lawrence, and that combination could be especially fruitful in the passing game, which is likely where Etienne will have to make his impact, at least at first. If Robinson were to get traded (think LA Rams), or sustain an injury, Etienne’s value would skyrocket.


Leonard Fournette had a strong finish to the 2020 season while Jones was hurt, but don’t forget Jones averaged 5.14 yards per carry and nearly hit 1,000 rushing yards despite finishing with just 192 carries. There are just eight running backs in the post-merger era who’ve finished with as many yards as Jones did with 192 or less carries. He’s not going to be heavily utilized in the passing game, which caps his upside, but Jones is the Bucs best ball carrier and could be a boon to managers if Fournette is injured.


When the Broncos signed Gordon to a two-year, $16 million contract, I assumed he would have a big role. That didn’t happen as he found himself in a timesharing arrangement with Phillip Lindsay. Gordon’s pedigree will cause some to draft him too early in 2021. The Broncos favor a multi-back approach, so Gordon will now be sharing time with Williams, instead of Lindsay. Gordon has hit 15-plus PPR in just 11 of 29 games over the past two seasons, so you certainly don’t want to overpay for him in the draft.


As previously stated, I’m a big Raheem Mostert fan. He’s the 49ers’ starting running back if he stays healthy. But he’s injured too often to ignore the fact. Why do you think Kyle Shanahan traded up into the third round to get Sermon? The skeptic in me says it’s not a question of if Mostert gets hurt but when. The 49ers have one of the softest schedules in the league among running backs, which is a plus for all of their backs. Sermon should be viewed as one of the best bench stashes in fantasy football.


I’m one of the few analysts that ranks Fournette behind Jones. Yes, Fournette had a good run in the playoffs last year, but don’t let a couple of games cloud the picture. He had a mediocre season, finishing with more than 52 rushing yards just once all year. His primary source of fantasy points in 2020 was via the passing game, as he saw 47 targets in 13 games. But the Bucs added Gio Bernard, who’s a much better receiver out of the backfield. There’s just too many question marks surrounding Fournette.


It wasn’t long ago, that the fantasy community saw Connor as a borderline elite running back. He looked like it after he took over from Le’Veon Bell in 2018. But Connor’s body just couldn’t stand up to a workhorse role in Pittsburgh. Now, he’s in Arizona in a timeshare with Edmonds. He’s my RB35 because I assume he is the No. 2 back for the Cardinals, There’s a reason the Cardinals signed him in free agency, so he will have a role. The question is “how big?” He’s only worth a late-round pick in drafts.


Like Connor, it seems Drake’s best days are behind him as he leaves Arizona and heads for the desert. The Cardinals experiment proved that Drake was no bell cow. His new role with the Raiders is uncertain – playing second fiddle to Josh Jacobs. Drake was considered a solid third-down back early in his career with the Dolphins and had two seasons with 50-plus catches. It’s tough to see him eating into Jacobs’ carry totals a whole lot, but he should offer low-upside flex value due to his work in the passing game.


David Johnson, RB 37; Damien Harris, RB 38; Zack Moss, RB 39; A.J. Dillon, RB 40; Nyheim Hines, RB 41; Devin Singletary, RB 42; Tony Pollard, RB 43; Gus Edwards, RB 44; Jamaal Williams, RB 45; J.D. McKissic, RB 46; Alexander Mattison, RB47; Latavius Murray, RB48; James White, RB49; Phillip Lindsay, RB50. These last 14 players are not expected to have much fantasy impact, but this list includes Pollard and Mattison. Both are talented athletes who are a key injury away from being top 10- or even top-5 backs.  

You can follow Thomas L. Seltzer on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.