Your first-round pick won’t necessarily win you that fantasy football championship, but they could lose it. Much like the NFL Draft, busts come out of fantasy football every year, and 2021 will be no different. Therefore, prior to your fantasy draft, it helps to gauge players who may deem the unfavorable tag of bust. Whether it’s for lack of production or simply not living up to their ADP, there are various reasons to avoid players in fantasy drafts. Let’s take a look at a few players who may fit that bill in 2021.
Top 9 fantasy football busts in 2021 | Quarterbacks
We’ll start with a player that is undoubtedly an elite NFL quarterback but could prove inconsistent for your fantasy team.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson is, without a doubt, a top-three QB in the NFL. However, I’m a bit more cautious about having Wilson as the lead front for my fantasy team.
The 2020 season was a tale of two halves for the Seahawks QB. From Weeks 1-8, Wilson was electric and served as the QB1 in fantasy football. Over that span (seven games), Wilson averaged 307.3 passing yards and 3.7 touchdowns thrown per game. He averaged 30.29 fantasy points per game during that time, over four points higher than the second-best QB (Patrick Mahomes). With a less-than-stellar defense, Wilson was forced to keep his team in games with his arm and legs.
Seattle had acquired Jamal Adams in a blockbuster deal during the 2020 offseason, but it wasn’t until the team traded for Carlos Dunlap midseason that the defense began to turn things around. Despite being a far cry from their Legion of Boom days, the Seahawks quickly became a formidable defense again. Thus, getting into shootouts with opponents quickly went away.
Moreover, the offense often seemed out of sync in the latter half of the season. Wilson, himself, saw a drastic drop in production in the second half. In Weeks 9-17, Wilson averaged just 229 passing yards and 1.8 total touchdowns. He also lost 4 fumbles — something he didn’t do at all in the first half of the year. As a result, Wilson’s fantasy production fell to 17.86 ppg over that span as the QB11.
Clearly, Wilson is still a QB1 for fantasy football. However, his ADP has him going around QB6 on several platforms. For a player that seems to get out to hot starts but fizzle down the stretch, that’s too high for my liking. It’s even worse in Superflex leagues, where he’s a sure-fire first-round pick. Although Wilson may not finish the 2021 season as a fantasy football bust, he may very well seem like one when it matters most — the fantasy playoffs.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Despite being a rookie tight end, I certainly believe in Kyle Pitts as a 2021 fantasy football breakout candidate. I also believe in Calvin Ridley — and even Russell Gage to an extent — this coming season. I’m just not interested in the player throwing them the ball.
Matt Ryan finished as a weekly QB1 just five times in 2020 and never higher than QB6. And that was with Julio Jones. In truth, there wasn’t much to be excited about with Ryan going into the 2021 fantasy season. Now that Jones has been traded, I’m even less keen on the idea of having Ryan as a weekly fantasy starter.
Ryan did finish 2020 as a QB1, but barely, as the QB12. Consistency is key in fantasy, and Ryan has been anything but over the last couple of seasons. Nevertheless, he continues to finish as a back-end QB1, and therefore, fantasy managers are often willing to take the chance on him as their starter throughout the season.
I personally see this as a mistake. Ryan is now better served as a streaming option in favorable matchups or as a high-end QB2 in Superflex formats. Other than that, I believe this is a down year for the 36-year-old veteran. Thankfully, his ADP somewhat reflects this. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Ryan is currently going off the board as QB14 and 106.1 overall. With the Jones trade still fresh, this could drop even further as we get closer to the season.
If things don’t go well for Atlanta in 2021 as many expect, it could be a long year for the aging veteran. Even with the lowered expectations, don’t be surprised if Ryan finishes the year as a fantasy football bust.
Top 9 fantasy football busts in 2021 | Running backs
Which running backs are leading candidates to finish 2021 as fantasy football busts?
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
The first running back candidate of fantasy football busts for 2021 is Miles Sanders. Although there remains the hope of what Sanders could be for fantasy, there’s not much there to believe he will be.
Sanders has shown in spurts what many believe he can be when given the opportunity. Unfortunately, that’s the problem — opportunity. Despite receiving double-digit touches in 11 of 12 games played in 2020, Sanders only exceeded 20 touches on two occasions. Moreover, he totaled only 6 touchdowns on the year — all on the ground. Nevertheless, Sanders did finish 2020 as a low-end RB2 despite missing four games.
Although Doug Pederson is now out of the picture, I doubt Sanders sees a boost in touches with Nick Sirianni at the helm. After all, the Eagles have a crowded backfield now with the additions of Kerryon Johnson through the waiver wire and Kenneth Gainwell in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Yet, Sanders is still being drafted as the RB17 with an ADP of 29.2. Although that’s a slight dip from where Sanders was going a year ago (RB12), I’d much rather have my choice of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chris Carson, or Najee Harris, who are all currently going behind Sanders in fantasy drafts.
Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos
In 2020, Melvin Gordon outperformed his ADP of RB22 to finish as a high-end RB2 in half-point PPR formats. Gordon had 215 carries, 986 yards rushing, and 9 rushing touchdowns in 2020. He also added 32 receptions, 158 yards receiving, and another touchdown through the air. Gordon finished half of his games as an RB2 or better. However, Gordon is not being treated as an RB2 heading into 2021, and for good reason.
The Broncos moved up in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Javonte Williams out of North Carolina. Instantly, the thought process was that this would become a shared backfield, similar to how it was with Gordon and Phillip Lindsay a year ago. Only this time, it’s Gordon who’s likely to take a back seat to Williams at the end of the day.
Originally, I thought that Williams would take over the starting role at some point midseason. Now, we’re hearing reports that he may be the starter come Week 1. Whether that’s the case remains to be seen. At any rate, this news is only going to further jump Williams’ stock in fantasy football and further decline Gordon’s.
I’ve never been very high on Gordon for fantasy in Denver. And with the latest news coming out of Mile High, to quote from Shark Tank — “I’m out.”
David Johnson, Houston Texans
To be clear, David Johnson is just a name to add to the lists of fantasy football busts in 2021 to stay on script. My true answer here is the entire Houston Texans offense. Just stay away altogether.
To be fair, Johnson was a formidable RB2 in 2020. He totaled 1,005 yards and 8 touchdowns on the year to finish as the RB19 overall despite missing four games. Thus, it’s possibly the reason why Johnson’s ADP for 2021 is a mid-level RB3 (RB30 and 69.2 overall).
I’d be shocked if Johnson or any Texans running back finishes as an RB3 or better in 2021. For starters, there are too many of them. Here’s who joined Johnson in the backfield this offseason: Mark Ingram, Rex Burkhead, and the aforementioned Lindsay. That’s a strong RB group on paper, but one that brings no upside in fantasy football.
Even if things were settled down in Houston and we knew the situation with Deshaun Watson, I’d still project Johnson to be a fantasy bust in 2021.
Top 9 fantasy football busts in 2021 | Wide receivers
Two players finished in the top 10 of wide receivers in fantasy football for 2020 but could be busts for 2021. Who are they?
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It seems like every year we think of Mike Evans as a fantasy bust, and yet, he still finishes among the elites. The issue that drives this mentality, however, is the lack of consistency.
In 2020, Evans finished as the WR20 or better on six separate occasions. On the contrary, he had just as many weeks where he finished as the WR47 or worse. Although he ended the season as the WR10 overall, that kind of inconsistency can be detrimental in fantasy, where every week can be crucial.
Evans still has Tom Brady throwing him the ball, and that’s always a good thing. However, even though he led the team in targets (109) in 2020, I doubt Evans does so again in 2021, assuming Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown remain healthy. Keep in mind that Brown only played half a season with the Bucs last year and still had 45 receptions off of 62 targets. Brown could easily exceed 100 targets on that pace this coming season.
Heading into 2021, Evans’ ADP stands at WR14 and 38.5 overall. This, to me, is at his peak. While he may still end the season in that range, there are likely to be too many dud performances to my liking. Therefore, outside of best ball formats, I’m out on Evans for the 2021 season.
Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
Speaking of inconsistency, I introduce Tyler Lockett to the list of fantasy football busts in 2021. Numbers may not lie, but they can sometimes fib. That’s the case with Lockett from the 2020 season.
Last year, Lockett was the fantasy WR9 overall, with an average of 13.5 points per game in half-point formats. However, this is largely due to two monster weeks where he finished as the WR1 overall (Weeks 3 and 7). In these two weeks, Lockett totaled 78 fantasy points, accounting for 36.2% of his 215.4 points on the season.
Overall, Lockett spent five weeks as a fantasy WR1 in 2020. Meanwhile, in seven games, he finished below WR4 territory. That’s not very encouraging for someone who is still going as a low-end WR2.
Top 9 fantasy football busts in 2021 | Tight ends
Which players at the most scarce position in fantasy football should be viewed as potential busts for 2021?
Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers
Robert Tonyan is probably the only player on the list of fantasy football busts that I may still have a few shares of for the 2021 season. That’s because his ADP is down low at the TE15 off the board and 131.4 overall. As someone who finished last season as the TE3, admittedly, I’d be willing to take a chance on lightning striking twice at that range.
Nevertheless, I don’t see lightning striking twice for Tonyan, particularly in the touchdown category. Tonyan had 52 receptions on 59 targets for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. To have 4 more touchdowns than missed targets is just insane.
Then there’s the obvious dilemma between the Packers organization and Aaron Rodgers, and whether or not he’ll even be on the field for them ever again. Should Rodgers wind up not playing for Green Bay again, I could see Jordan Love leaning on his tight end throughout the season as he gets accumulated to the NFL. However, even if that’s the case, Tonyan’s touchdown rate is sure to go way down.
Evan Engram, New York Giants
Evan Engram’s ADP is all over the map on various outlets. However, on Fantasy Football Calculator, he’s going off boards as the TE10 — I don’t get it. I understand it’s a scarce position, but Engram has done nothing of late to warrant even low-end TE1 status.
Although Engram had 109 targets thrown in his direction in 2020, he had just 2 total touchdowns, despite playing a full 16-game schedule for the first time in his career. He’s coming off a TE16 performance, and yet, he is still going ahead of guys like Pitts, Tonyan, Rob Gronkowski, and Jonnu Smith.
Let’s also not forget the Giants added Kenny Golladay to a deal that ensures he will take a chunk of those targets away from Engram.
In truth, Engram has been on the decline of fantasy production since his rookie season. Assuming this ADP holds, Engram would be at the top of the list of fantasy football busts for the 2021 season.