High Risk-High Reward Players
by Alan Seslowsky – Twitter: @Alanseslowsky
Fantasy football players have a difficult time escaping recency bias. It’s a leak in many of our games. We often draft players in the first couple of rounds that do not have long track records of sustained success. We draft with rose-colored glasses on, seeing only the upside. This is not to say we shouldn’t take high risk, high reward swings, rather we need to do better in acknowledging the risks. Below is a list of players getting drafted in the top 50, that have more risk than their average draft position indicates.
Justin Jefferson, WR Vikings (ADP 20)
There is no denying that Justin Jefferson is a special talent. He set the rookie record for receiving yards in 2020. Anquan Boldin previously held the record of 1,377 yards that stood for 16 seasons. Jefferson finished with exactly 1,400 yards. Jefferson will have continuity at quarterback, no threat to his target share, and presumably will continue to improve. The risk is the relatively small sample size. We have seen rookie WRs dominate then fall short of expectations in year two. Most recently JuJu Smith-Schuster, who lit the NFL on fire his rookie season. JuJu was a first round fantasy pick in his second NFL season. JuJu finished outside of the top 50 wide receivers that year. RosterWatch acknowledges Jefferson looks like an outlier talent, but there is a risk that is not being acknowledged by his ADP. RosterWatch endorses Jefferson at the end of the second round, but there may be lean weeks as defenses roll coverage his way in 2021.
Travis Kelce, TE Chiefs (ADP 6)
Understanding that Travis Kelce was a league-winning pick in 2020, we are still running away from him at his 2021 draft cost. Taking Kelce in the middle of the first round assumes he will build on his historic season from last year. The market is projecting that Kelce will be as dominant over the field of TEs as he was last year. First round TE, and especially mid-first round, has a history of poor results. Those who have been playing fantasy football for the last half decade witnessed Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham as first round fantasy picks. Rosterwatch still believes Travis Kelce is in the late peak of his powers, but strongly advises fading him in the middle of the first round. If your strategy is to draft a tight end early; an optimal pivot is Darren Waller in the middle of the second round.
Kyle Pitts, TE Falcons (ADP 48)
There is no bigger elephant in the room than Kyle Pitts. The obvious risk is that rookie tight ends have not historically performed well for fantasy. You would have to go back to Jeremy Shockey’s 2002 season to find a tight end that performed well in year one. Shockey’s final stat line that year was 74/894/2. An impressive rookie season but hardly an all time difference making season. The Pitts touters believe he will be more of a split out wide receiver than an inline hand in the ground player, similar to Calvin Johnson. A quick internet search reveals Megatron’s rookie stats as a modest 48/756/4. Similar to the rest of the players on this list, RosterWatch acknowledges the upside and the high reward that comes with drafting Pitts. We also need to acknowledge there is more risk with Pitts as a fourth round draft pick than his ADP indicates.