I never like making the fantasy football bust series. I really don’t. I want everyone to be good, and I want everyone’s sleepers to hit, and I don’t want anyone to be a bust. Unfortunately, fantasy football doesn’t work that way. That means we have to take a look at some bust wide receiver candidates for 2021 fantasy football. There are no criteria here except for the ol’ gut. Generally, I looked for guys getting drafted at or above their perceived ceiling for 2021 fantasy football. Let’s dive in.
Bust Wide Receiver #1: Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
(ECR WR2, 11 Overall)
Spare me your “Aaron Rodgers is mad” speech. I’ve heard that speech basically every year of Rodgers’ career. If Elon Musk had focused on powering Teslas with Aaron Rodgers’ spite, then he would have really created a 100% clean vehicle. I don’t care if he’s mad; Aaron Rodgers is the Bruce Banner of the NFL: he’s always mad.
So, let’s just look at touchdown regression, instead.
Aaron Rodgers owns one of the best touchdown rates of all time; that is, his passes end in touchdowns at one of the highest rates in history. In Rodgers’ career with Adams, 6.2% of Rodgers’ passes end in touchdowns. In Davante Adams’ previous double-digit touchdown run (2016-2018), it was… 5.6%. So, that is to say, that Rodgers’ touchdown rate is (somewhat) stable, even if he absolutely locks in on a receiver enough to get them double-digit touchdowns. Last year, Rodgers’ touchdown rate was 9.1%.
We’ve had five seasons since 2000 where a QB had a touchdown rate above 8%. In the following year, it dropped an average of 2.9%. Given Rodgers’ 9.1% TD rate in 2020, that would come out to a 6.2% TD rate in 2021, on average. If everything else is equal to Rodgers’ 2020 numbers, this reduces his touchdowns from 48 to 32. If Adams saw a corresponding drop, this would bring him down to about 12 touchdowns. The loss of 36 fantasy points from his 2020 numbers would drop Adams from WR1 with 358.4 PPR fantasy points to 316.4 (assuming the lost touchdowns are not completions). This drops him down to fourth place.
Take a running back (or Travis Kelce!) here and get another tier one wide receiver in the second round, instead.
Bust Wide Receiver #2: Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
(ECR WR19, 44 Overall)
Prior to 2020, Adam Thielen’s career-high in touchdowns is 9. His career-high in any two seasons combined was 15 touchdowns. Last year, he had 14 touchdowns. He also did this on the lowest yards per target since his 2016 breakout. Thielen was due for a bounceback from his disastrous 2019 injury-marred season. But, his targets per game dipped to about 7 (down from about 9 targets per game between 2017 and 2018), and he went from a touchdown in about 60% of his games in 2018 and 2019 to nearly a touchdown per game.
Sure, he had more ten zone looks, which generally lead to touchdowns. But, his touchdown rate is completely unsustainable down close: 13 targets, 11 catches, 10 touchdowns. Only Davante Adams had a higher catch rate in the ten zone among those boasting double-digit targets. Not only was his catch rate an outlier, but his targets were an outlier, as well. He had 5, 8, 8, 3, 13 ten zone targets over the last five seasons. It’s easy for me to see which numbers to toss away as outliers: 13, and 3. Getting fewer red zone targets, and fewer touchdowns, will deflate his value greatly.
Bust Wide Receiver #3: Odell Beckham Jr, Cleveland Browns
(ECR WR24, 55 Overall)
Maybe I’m just tired of Odell Beckham. In fact, I know that’s exactly what it is. But at this point, he might just be a souped-up DeVante Parker. He has two seasons in his career where he played all sixteen games and has as many games missed over the last three years (13) as receiving touchdowns (13). He also has just 7 touchdowns in 22 full games with the Browns.
It’s not just that, either. Since he joined the Browns, we’ve been searching and hunting for games that we can point that say that we are still dealing with the Giants’ Odell Beckham. I’m here to say that in all likelihood, we aren’t. Since joining the Browns, he has two games with more than 90 receiving yards, one game with multiple receiving touchdowns, and averages just 4.4 catches for 62 yards per game with the Browns. That comes out to 985 yards across a full sixteen-game season. And it isn’t like he doesn’t get the targets; he averages 8 per game with the Browns.
So, Odell Beckham no longer has boom games, he no longer has a high-end floor, and he doesn’t bail you out with touchdowns. With all that in mind… why is he ranked as a WR2 in fantasy football?
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[Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8a/Odell_Beckham_Jr._2020.jpg under CC BY SA 2.0]