Every season, more than a few players break the hearts of fantasy owners. Be it because of injuries (to them or the players around them), loss of playing time, or simply declining skills, these busts can absolutely sink our teams. It doesn’t matter if they’re “must-have sleepers” or established studs high in the rankings — if you’re counting on them to produce and they flop, you’re going to be disappointed. Some busts come without warning, but others have obvious red flags that need to be highlighted on your draft cheat sheets.
When considering busts, we aren’t talking about obvious, injury-plagued choices like Michael Thomas or someone who’s in the lower tiers of his respective position. Those players won’t cost that much on draft day, so they can only hurt you so much. Rather, we’re going out on a limb by highlighting players who could have explosive seasons but are much riskier than most fantasy owners realize. If you can get any of them at below-market value during your draft, then by all means do it, but it’s not smart to reach for them.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2021 Cheat Sheet
Below, we’ll discuss our 2021 boom-or-bust candidates and dive into some analysis as to why they’re included on the list. All ADPs referenced are courtesy of FantasyPros (standard scoring format).
2021 Fantasy Boom-or-Bust Team
Jalen Hurts, Eagles (QB11 ADP)
Hurts is an exciting young quarterback with upper-tier fantasy potential due to his elite rushing ability. Best-case scenario, Hurts joins Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray as a candidate to rush for 1,000 yards this year, plus adds another 3,000-plus yards through the air. His upside is undeniable. From Week 14 to Week 17 last year, Hurts was the QB7. There’s the case for his “boom” potential.
Now, let’s dive into why he’s just as likely to bust. As of the time of this article, the Eagles’ coaching staff still won’t fully commit to naming Hurts the starting QB despite Joe Flacco and Nick Mullens being his competition. While we surely think he’ll win the starting job, Hurts completed just 52 percent of his passes last season. That’s downright awful. For his rushing upside to even matter, he has to stay on the field. If he doesn’t dramatically improve his passing acumen, he won’t be on the field long. It also doesn’t help that the new regime in Philadelphia has no prior allegiance to Hurts, so he could have a short leash.
Again, he has top-five upside, but the bench could be calling his name early in the season, making him the riskiest pick among the top-12 QBs.
Jonathan Taylor, Colts (RB8 ADP)
Taylor impressed as a rookie behind the fantastic Colts offensive line. He was the RB4 in standard leagues and RB6 in PPR formats, quickly becoming a top-10 dynasty asset. With an RB1 ceiling, his RB8 ADP might feel a little low. It could play out that way, but proceed with caution.
Marlon Mack (Achlles’) returns to the depth chart after being a 1,000-yard rusher in ’19. Additionally, Nyheim Hines is still among the elite receiving backs in the league. If that isn’t enough to concern you, add in the injuries to Carson Wentz (foot) and All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson (foot). Anthony Castonzo retired after last season, and his replacement is Eric Fisher coming off an Achilles’ injury. This will be the shakiest offensive line the Colts have put on the field since the Andrew Luck era.
Some have suggested Wentz’s injury simply means more volume for Taylor. While this sounds logical, it might not happen. With a worse quarterback, like current front-runner Jacob Eason, under center, the efficiency of the offense will dip. This leads to less time of possession, fewer scoring opportunities, and fewer accurate targets to running backs. Defenses won’t respect the pass as much, meaning crowded boxes more of the time.
Josh Jacobs, Raiders (RB17 ADP)
Jacobs has finished no worse than RB14 in his two-year career with the Raiders. Last season, he ranked third in the league in carries. If he remains a bell-cow, he could shatter his current RB17 ADP.
However, the addition of Kenyan Drake spells bad news for Jacobs. While the ADP suggests fantasy owners realize this, Jacobs’ fall might be more drastic than most think. With Drake having success as the primary back in Arizona, he’s going to command a non-insignificant workload. His receiving profile is more impressive than Jacobs’, and he’ll likely be the primary pass-catcher out of the two. Drake also ranked inside the top four in red-zone carries (56) a season ago. Jacobs had the most with 64, but with another capable red-zone threat on the depth chart, we might see fewer goal-line carries from Jacobs this year.
As things stand right now, the backfield could easily shape up to be a 1A/1B approach, which caps Jacobs’ ceiling.
Mike Evans, Buccaneers (WR13 ADP)
Evans has been a fantasy superstar since the moment he entered the league in 2014. He has produced seven straight 1,000-yard seasons and is always among the elite in red-zone touchdowns.
However, drafting him at WR13 is drafting him at his highest ceiling. In 2021, Evans greatly benefited from Chris Godwin’s and O.J. Howard’s injury issues (four and 12 missed games, respectively), and Antonio Brown not emerging until late in the season (season debut in Week 9). Still, he saw career lows in receptions/game (4.4) and receiving yards/game (62.9) He was also heavily touchdown-dependent for his fantasy production (44.8 percent of total fantasy points were from touchdowns.) In six games last year, he grabbed three of fewer receptions, and in three contests, he had fewer than 11 yards.
As mentioned, Godwin, Brown should be ready to go in Week 1, with Howard likely following shortly after. With all that being said, there’s a good chance Evans drops to a low-end WR2 or even a WR3.
Adam Thielen, Vikings (WR17 ADP)
Thielen emerged from nowhere to be a fantasy star over the past few seasons. Just last year, he finished as the WR7 in standard formats with 925 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.
But the regression is likely coming. Thielen will enter the season at the age of 31, and Justin Jefferson will be the WR1 right from the start (assuming his sprained AC joint isn’t anything more serious).
With touchdowns being difficult to project, you don’t want to draft Thielen simply based on last year’s numbers. The touchdowns accounted for 46.6 percent of his total fantasy points. The passing volume should come down in head coach Mike Zimmer’s ideal world, and with TE Irv Smith Jr. poised to take a step toward a heftier target share, it’s hard to pencil in Thielen for an extreme number of targets again.
Will Fuller, Dolphins (WR40 ADP)
Fuller has been a boom-or-bust candidate throughout his entire career. He’s shown flashes of WR1 upside, but with a combination of injuries and lack of consistency, he hasn’t been a reliable option. Do you know who looks like a Fuller clone? His own new teammate, Jaylen Waddle. Is there really room on the field for two players with nearly identical profiles? They’re both dynamic, big-play machines who don’t command impressive target shares.
At his WR40 ADP, you might feel OK drafting him, especially if he’s your WR4, but go in with the prior knowledge that he’s going to leave you feeling cheated every other week (especially Week 1 when he’ll be serving the last game of his six-game PED suspension). In a Miami offense with a deep receiving corps and unproven QB, Fuller is riskier than ever.
Dallas Goedert, Eagles (TE7 ADP)
Goedert’s ADP has been quickly rising along with his offseason hype. This has been mostly due to the assumption Zach Ertz would be traded, but that’s looking unlikely now.
Last season, Ertz out-targeted Goedert, albeit by just seven. Goedert had 10 more catches, 189 more yards, and two more TDs, but Ertz likely won’t completely fall out of the rotation if he’s on the Week 1 roster. If Goedert can’t dominate the snap share, how can we justify drafting him inside the top 10 at the position? And, as mentioned earlier, the quarterback plays feel awfully shaky in Philadelphia.
Defense/Special Teams Boom-or-Bust
Saints (D/ST10 ADP)
The New Orleans defense/special teams cracked the top seven in fantasy a season ago, but there’s a good chance it sees a drop-off in fantasy production even if it plays well.
It all has to do with the Saints’ offense. Can we go ahead and assume the Saints offense will be less efficient with Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston running the show for 16 games? A less efficient offense means a few things for a defense/special teams — worse field position (more points given up), fewer leads (less pass-rushing opportunities, INTs), more fatigue (more big plays allowed), and fewer kickoffs (less chance for return touchdowns). Do those factors sound like a good recipe for fantasy success? You can decide.