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6 players I will not draft in 2021 fantasy football

I’m making this promise to myself now that I will not draft these players in 2021.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

With the fantasy football season over (if you play a Week 17 championship, you’re a barbarian), it’s officially time to turn our attention to the 2021 season. Personally, I like starting that process with looking over this past season and making a mental note of players who I will not draft in the coming year’s draft.

You may wonder why I find this practice necessary. It’s oh so easy to get wrapped up in an offseason of hype and buy back into a player who has wronged you in the past. So, when the wound is freshest (at it’s most fresh?) I like to write players names down on paper who I will not let myself fall back in love with in the hopes that when I inevitably do fall back in love with these players in 2021, I can look back on my past self telling me this is a terrible idea. Basically I’m Ron Swansoning myself.

I tweeted this question out from the Fake Teams account and it got me thinking of who my answers would be. It’s time to put pen to the paper and beat my future self over the head with the message.

Odell Beckham Jr.

If my list were Avengers: Endgame, Odell would be Captain America, Iron Man, Thanos, Gamora, and Mark Ruffalo’s ghost body all rolled into one. Just call him Capmora Iron Manos’ ghost body. Has a nice ring to it.

Yes, Odell is the headline of this year’s list because I need all the help I can get in not talking myself into drafting Beckham for the third year in a row. That’s right, I have drafted him each of the past two years and each season have been left with disappointment and him no longer on my actual roster.

I keep waiting to see the OBJ of New York emerge in Cleveland but it seems more and more likely that that day will never come. Between the Browns’ emphasis on the ground game, Baker Mayfield looking worlds better this season when OBJ hasn’t been on the field, and Odell’s just general health at this point in his career, I simply do not trust that he will be a reliable WR1 in 2021. He hasn’t even been a WR2 since coming to Cleveland.

I will not let myself get sucked into the “this is finally the year it all clicks” hype.

Joe Mixon

Mixon is the perfect sidekick in my Avengers: Endgame analogy because, just like a sidekick, Mixon is always around but never does anything helpful.

I feel like everyone who drafted at the backend of their fantasy drafts was faced with the prospect of taking Joe Mixon as their RB1. He and Miles Sanders were the poster boys for the ultra elite “probably really an RB2 but could be THE RB1 in fantasy if everything breaks their way” club and in a few of my leagues, I certainly took the bait. (I took the bait in a bunch more of my leagues on Miles Sanders. Didn’t love that pick either.)

I will not fall for the bail ever again. Much like last year, Mixon started slow, posting only one game with over 70 yards rushing through the first six weeks. In 2019, Mixon rushed for 93 yards in Week 5 and then not over 70 yards again until Week 9. However, he made it up to fantasy managers, rushing for over 800 yards and five touchdowns in the final eight weeks of the season.

Unfortunately for Mixon managers this year, Mixon didn’t even last past Week 6 to give you the strong second-half of the season he showed in 2019. Instead, Mixon managers were faced with weekly updates about weither or not Mixon would play until he was ultimately placed on IR, shutting him down for the year. In his stead, Giovani Bernard when on to be the RB15 in .5PPR from Week 6 onward.

I have a lot of trust in the Bengals pass catchers for 2021 — looking at you Tee Higgins — but I will be avoiding their backfield at all costs.

Tyler Lockett

Lockett was being drafted as the WR19 in .5PPR leagues this year and finished the WR13. You, the reader, I’m sure are wondering why I am swearing off a man who clearly outperformed his ADP.

I have two words for you: two games.

In two games this season, Lockett scored 78 .5PPR points. On the season, he’s scored 189 fantasy points (through 15 games). Locket scored 41% of his 2020 fantasy points in two games. If you include his third best fantasy outing — 17.2 points in Week 11 — Locket scored half of his total fantasy points in three games this year. That is not what I’m looking for from someone you’re likely drafting as your WR2.

Add in the fact that Pete Carroll seemingly turned back to letting Russ stew after getting his contract extension, and I don’t trust the Seahawks’ passing game to be able to support both Locket and DK Metcalf to the point in which Lockett is worth drafting.

Todd Gurley

Gurley started the season strong, ranking as the RB6 in .5PPR through the first nine weeks of the season and seeming like a legit fantasy steal for those who’d drafted him. However since then, Gurley has been RB70 in .5PPR, has failed to record even 30 yards rushing, and lost the starting spot to Ito Smith. Not great.

Even during Gurley’s strong start to the year, he only had two games in which he rushed for over 65 yards, with most of his fantasy production coming from consistent goal line usage. He also was a complete non-factor in the passing game all year long.

I had thought that the change of scenery would be good for Gurley and that maybe his knee issues would appear to be not as bad as we thought, but clearly I was way off base. Even if Gurley comes as a supreme discount in 2021, I still just have lost all hope that he can be a reliable RB2 for an entire season anymore.

Kyler Murray

This might come back to bite me in my bottom but I can’t help feel like Murray will follow the same corse as Lamar Jackson did the last two years. Like Lamar did in 2019, Murray has lit up fantasy scored boards this year, leading him to the no. 1 QB spot this year. This will undoubtedly boost his 2021 ADP as it boasted Lamar’s 2020 ADP. My worry is that Murray won’t hit the highest highs that he hit this year and, much like Lamar did in 2020, Murray will fail to live up to his certainly high ADP.

Like Lamar Jackson, it’s Murray’s ability to run that takes his fantasy value to the next level. Murray scored a rushing touchdown in every game but one through Week 10, putting him well atop the QB fantasy leaderboard, averaging over 30 points per game. Since Week 10 however, the rushing part of Murray’s game has decreased: he’s rushed for over 50 yards once — something he did seven times to start the year — and has only scored one rushing touchdown. From Week 11 onward, Murray has been the QB8, averaging a little over 19 points per game.

If Murray’s ADP reflects his second half of the season, then I certainly will be more inclined to draft him. But if he’s going to be going around pick 20 overall (that’s where Lamar Jackson was in drafts this year), that’s way too rich for my liking.

A tight end not named Travis Kelce

I don’t care what it takes but I will draft Kelce in every single one of my leagues next year even if it means taking him 1.01. I’ll do it. Just you watch me.

Much like death and taxes, the fantasy tight end wasteland is one of the only things we know in life for certain, and it was once again on full display in 2020. Of the tight ends drafted as top 10 options, only four of them actually finished a top 10 tight end — Kelce, Darren Waller, Mark Andrews, and Rob Gronkowski. Now obviously injuries played a role — pour some out for George Kittle and Zach Ertz — but the position is way to volatile to draft anyone other than Kelce at the top of your drafts.

I will be treating Kelce as a TE/WR1 hybrid — only Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill scored more .5PPR points than him this year — in 2021 and will be drafting him accordingly. I will not suffer the horror of not having Kelce at my tight end position any longer.