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Players to Avoid Drafting in 2021

Players to Avoid Drafting in 2021

By Steven Van Tassell (@SteveVT33)

Drafting a Dynasty Owner team is different than drafting a “regular” dynasty fantasy football team. The first way this becomes evident is by looking at the first round of a Dynasty Owner draft. Last week, we looked at some likely affordable first round draft picks in 2021 and who was drafted in the Top 25 in Dynasty Owner last year to see how different. Finding an affordable and productive player in the first round is a critical first step towards building your Dynasty Owner team. In a “regular” dynasty league, salaries don’t matter when drafting, but they do in Dynasty Owner because you need to fit your entire 25-player draft under the anticipated $123.2 million 2021 salary cap.

Another way that Dynasty Owner is different falls at the opposite end of the draft spectrum. Figuring out players who aren’t worth their salaries and shouldn’t be drafted at all. In a “regular” dynasty league or even a redraft league, the only criteria for not drafting someone is thinking that they aren’t going to play well and produce the fantasy points that your team needs to win. That is obviously a consideration in Dynasty Owner, but Dynasty Owners have to draft to win as well as keep their roster under the salary cap.

Which players have salaries that are too high to justify drafting them at all in Dynasty Owner? Ultimately, that will depend on your team’s salary cap situation as you draft your team. For most teams and Dynasty Owners, there will be players who aren’t worth drafting at all for a variety of reasons, including salary. In order to not have to draft all value players, to have salary cap room at the end of your draft to take some chances on moderately expensive players, or just to leave room under the salary cap post-draft to make roster moves, Dynasty Owners should avoid certain players.

All stats are based on the Standard Dynasty Owner scoring system as outlined in the updated Dynasty Owner Constitution. Standard Dynasty Owner scoring gives you .1 points for every yard rushing or receiving, .1 point for every 2 yards passing, 1 point per reception, 6 points for a rushing, receiving or passing touchdown and 2 points for a successful 2-point conversion (rushing, receiving, or passing). Interceptions or fumbles lost cost you 3 points, while a fumble that is recovered by the player’s team is a loss of only 1 point. Bonus points are available for 100-199 yards rushing (2 points), 200 yards rushing or receiving (6 points), 300-399 yards passing (1 point) and 400 yards passing (4 points). There is also a 3 point bonus for clutch scoring, which is a score that results in a lead change in the final two minutes of the 4th quarter or overtime. Kickoff and punt return touchdowns are worth 6 points for the player and kickoff and punt returns are worth 1 point for every 40 yards.

Standard Dynasty Owner scoring for kickers gives you 1 point for every extra point, while a missed extra point will cost you 1 point. It’s 2 points for a field goal of between 0 and 39 yards, 4 points for a field goal between 40 and 49 yards and 5 points for a field goal of 50 yards or longer. A missed field goal of between 0 and 39 yards will cost you 3 points, while a miss of 40 yards or more is a loss of 2 points. For the purposes of this article, all statistics cited are from the full 2020 NFL regular season. The Dynasty Owner regular season stats cited at times are based on Weeks 1 – 13 of the NFL regular season.

Saving Some Green by Avoiding A.J.

In 2020, some players should not have been drafted or appeared on Dynasty Owner rosters because their production didn’t justify their salary. Picking those players just wasn’t worth it as Dynasty Owner could have found a player with similar production and paid far less.

For example, A.J. Green (WR – CIN) played all 16 games in 2020 and scored 111.3 Dynasty Owner fantasy points, or just under 7.0 points per game. That was good enough for him to be the #183 overall player and #69 WR in Dynasty Owner for the 2020 season, which wasn’t far off his 2020 ADP of 173.8.  In a “regular” dynasty or redraft league, the team that owned Green would have gotten a fair return for selecting Green. In Dynasty Owner, he was an absolutely terrible value as he cost you $17.97 million in salary, or $161,465 per point, as well as a 14th or 15th round draft pick on average.

For comparison sake, Dynasty Owners who drafted Josh Reynolds (WR – LAR) were able to get him a full three rounds later in the middle of the 17th round on average (ADP 210.3) and only pay him $762,005 in salary. Reynolds scored 123.9 Dynasty Owner fantasy points (7.7 points per game) to cost only $6,150 per point.

PlayerSalaryPointsPoints per GameCost per Point
A.J. Green$17,971,000111.36.96$161,465
Josh Reynolds$762,005123.97.74$6,150
Swipe for more on mobile.

In a “regular” dynasty league or redraft league, there wasn’t a lot of difference between Green and Reynolds on a points per game basis, but in Dynasty Owner, Reynolds’ value is so much more than Green’s because of his much lower salary. Drafting Reynolds instead of Green would have given Dynasty Owners over $17.2 million more in salary cap space to devote to other players.

Players to Avoid in 2021 Dynasty Owner Drafts

Fortunately for Dynasty Owners who drafted him in 2020, A.J. Green had only one year left on his contract and now they don’t have to keep him on their roster in 2021 on pay him another $17.97 million. However, there are still players out there who have large contracts that are still in effect for the 2021 season, and in some cases, even longer. All of these players are also currently owned in over 50% of Dynasty Owner leagues (as of January 29th) meaning that despite their high salaries, current Dynasty Owners thought they would be worth owning in 2020 and the future.

Here’s my list of players, in order, who should be avoided in 2021 Dynasty Owner drafts:

1. Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – CLE) – Sorry Browns fans, but OBJ is the undisputed top player to avoid drafting in your 2021 Dynasty Owner draft. His current contract costs Dynasty Owner a total of $18 million per year for three more years. His salary is tied with Tyreek Hill’s as the 6th highest currently among WRs.

Before getting injured in Week 7 against Cincinnati, OBJ had scored 87.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in 6 games (14.5 points per game). Projected over a full 16-game season, he would have been tied with Brandin Cooks as the #16 WR with 232.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points. Unfortunately, full seasons are few and far between for OBJ as he has only played more than 12 games in a season three times in his seven year career. The last time was in 2019 when he finished with 200.3 Dynasty Owner fantasy points (12.5 points per game) to finish as the #25 WR.

A close comparison to OBJ in terms of performance over the past two years has been Marvin Jones (WR – DET). Jones had 193.9 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in only 13 games in 2019 (14.9 points per game) and 227.8 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in 2020 (14.2 points per game). For very similar production, Jones would have only cost $8 million in salary, or a full $10 million less than OBJ.

PlayerSalaryPointsPoints per GameCost per Point
Odell Beckham Jr.$18,000,00087.014.50$206,897
Marvin Jones$8,000,000227.814.24$35,119
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OBJ will be in his 8th season in 2021 and coming off an ACL injury. Dynasty Owners could also pay Tyreek Hill the same $18 million or spend $1.5 million less on Mike Evans and his $16.5 million salary if they want to spend their salary cap on a top WR. However, they shouldn’t spend that much on OBJ.

2. Austin Hooper (TE – CLE) – I’m not picking on the Browns (really Paul and Tim, I’m not), it’s just that they have two very large contracts on their books with players who aren’t worth their salaries for Dynasty Owners. Hooper is scheduled to be the 3rd highest paid TE in 2021, behind only George Kittle and Travis Kelce with his $10.5 million salary. Just like OBJ, his contract is valid for three more years.

For that salary, his Dynasty Owners only got 113.5 Dynasty Owner fantasy points. He played in 13 games, so his average was 8.7 points per game. He turned it on in the final three games of the year with 42.9 Dynasty Owner fantasy points (14.3 points per game). When his Dynasty Owners needed him, in the Dynasty Owner regular season, he scored only 70.6 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in 10 games.

There are a couple of other TEs who scored points at a similar level during the 2020 Dynasty Owner regular season, but their salaries were, a little over $1.5 million and $660,000 respectively. While neither Gerald Everett (TE – LAR) nor Anthony Firkser (TE – TEN) are signed for the 2021 season, neither is likely to command a salary even close to as high as Hooper’s.

In terms of production, a comparable player would be Dallas Goedert. Both are 26 years old and finished with a similar number of Dynasty Owner fantasy points in 2020 (Goedert – 116.4 points; Hooper – 113.5 points), but Goedert played in two fewer games, so his per game average was higher (10.6 for Goedert vs. 8.7 for Hooper). Dynasty Owners can draft Goedert and his salary of just over $1.4 million in their 2021 draft and save $9 million over drafting Hooper for roughly the same production.

PlayerSalaryPointsPoints per GameCost per Point
Austin Hooper$10,500,000113.58.73$92,511
Dallas Goedert$1,406,068116.410.58$12,080
Swipe for more on mobile.

3. Sterling Shepard (WR – NYG) – There are several WRs who will be paid roughly $10 million in salary for the 2021 Dynasty Owner season. There’s Tyler Boyd at $10.75 million, Tyler Lockett and Sterling Shepard at $10.25 million, Robby Anderson at $10 million and Jamison Crowder at $9.5 million. Out of the five of them, Shepard had the fewest Dynasty Owner fantasy points in both 2019 and 2020.

During the 2020 Dynasty Owner regular season, Shepard played in eight games and scored an average of 11.4 Dynasty Owner fantasy points per game, which was lower than Lockett (17.7 points per game), Crowder (15.1 points per game), Boyd (15.0 points per game) and Anderson (14.8 points per game). The eight games that Shepard played was tied with Crowder for the fewest of the group as well.

Shepard’s production for the entire 2020 season was very similar to his entire career. In 2020, he averaged 13.5 Dynasty Owner fantasy points per game (162.5 points in 12 games) compared with 14.2 Dynasty Owner fantasy points per game in 2019 (141.8 points in 10 games). In his three seasons before Dynasty Owner existed, he averaged 11.4 points per game (2018), 12.9 points per game (2017) and 11.5 points per game (2016) using the Standard Dynasty Owner scoring system.

After five years in the league, it’s pretty clear that Shepard is destined to average around 12 to 14 Dynasty Owner fantasy points per game, which would make him a low-end WR2 or WR3 on your Dynasty Owner team, at best if he played all 16 games. If he plays 13 games in 2021, which is his average, he’d be a WR3 or WR4. That’s not worth $10.25 million in salary in 2021 or the next two years.

4. Sam Darnold (QB – NYJ) – It’s not the same as having two Browns, but with Sam Darnold in fourth place on this list, we do have two New York players back to back. In contrast to most of the players on this Players to Avoid list, Darnold’s contract for 2021 isn’t outrageously high for a player at his position ($7.56 million to rank 25th in QB salary for 2021 right now) or extend for multiple years past 2021.

Darnold appears unlikely to be the starter for the Jets in 2021. Even if he does start the year as the starter over the rookie QB that the Jets are inevitably going to draft, just like Ryan Fitzpatrick did in Miami and Tyrod Taylor did in Los Angeles last year, his production likely won’t be worth it based on past performance.

Darnold played in 12 games in 2020 and scored only 158.8 Dynasty Owner fantasy points, or 13.2 points per game. His highest scoring game in the 2020 season was 25.9 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in Week 4 versus Denver. To put his 2020 season into context, a total of ten starting QBs had point per game averages higher than Darnold’s best game of the season. Even in 2019, he averaged only 18.1 Dynasty Owner fantasy points per game and ranked as the #27 QB in Dynasty Owner.

The lure of his “low” salary for a QB will entice some Dynasty Owners to take a chance on him. After all, he’s still owned in 98% of Dynasty Owner leagues at this point. Don’t be that Dynasty Owner! If you need a cheaper QB, then go ahead and draft Nick Foles and his $8 million salary instead. Foles is only around $44,000 more expensive (albeit for two seasons instead of just one), but produced more Dynasty Owner fantasy points than Darnold on average (17.1 points for Foles versus 13.2 points for Darnold) last year.

5a and 5b. David Johnson and Duke Johnson (RB – HOU) – Since we had two Browns, then two New York players, let’s go with a pair of Houston Texans RBs named Johnson in fifth place among players who Dynasty Owners should avoid drafting in 2020. Let’s start with David:

David Johnson had the second highest RB salary in Dynasty Owner in 2020 at $13 million, behind only Ezekiel Elliott at $15 million. Even with all of the new contracts given out to RBs during the 2020 season, Johnson is still ranked fourth right now behind Christian McCaffrey ($16.015 million), Elliott and Alvin Kamara ($15 million). In 2021, David Johnson will cost more of your Dynasty Owner salary cap than Dalvin Cook ($12.6 million), Derrick Henry ($12.5 million) or Joe Mixon ($12 million). Fortunately, his contract is only valid for one more year.

For the entire 2020 season, David Johnson averaged just under 15.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points per game after averaging 11.6 Dynasty Owner fantasy points per game during the Dynasty Owner regular season. That regular season production is similar to that received by the Dynasty Owners who had Chase Edmonds (12.0 points per game; $728,090 salary in 2021) on their roster.

PlayerSalaryPointsPoints per GameCost per Point
David Johnson$13,000,000104.311.59$124,640
Chase Edmonds$728,090144.012.00$5,056
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David’s backup in Houston is Duke Johnson who also has one year left on his contract for a little over $5.2 million. Duke played in 11 games in 2020 and scored 81.4 Dynasty Owner fantasy points (7.4 points per game). In the four games that David Johnson missed due to injury, Duke only improved on that average somewhat with 8.95 points per game.

Another backup with a slightly lower salary is Latavius Murray, who will make $3.6 million for the next two seasons to back up Alvin Kamara in New Orleans. Murray was better in 2020 in points per game (9.1 for Murray) for less salary. In terms of points per game, Johnson cost $63,923 per point compared to only $26,239 for Murray.  Dynasty Owners might have to draft Murray earlier than Johnson (ADP 133.8 for Murray vs. 173.8 for Johnson), but the higher production and lower salary will be worth it.

PlayerSalaryPointsPoints per GameCost per Point
Duke Johnson$5,203,33381.47.40$63,923
Latavius Murray$3,600,000137.29.15$26,239
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7. Jake Elliott (K – PHI) – You need to draft kickers in Dynasty Owner, so you might as well draft smart and avoid ones who are going to cost you way too much of your salary cap.  At the top of the list of kickers to avoid is Jake Elliott and his $3.86 million contract. Not only is his contract expensive for 2021 (11th most expensive for 2021 right now), but he is the only kicker signed through the 2024 NFL season.

Elliott isn’t just expensive, he’s not a very good Dynasty Owner kicker. In 2019, he finished with only 85.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points (5.3 points per game on average) to rank 20th overall. Things got worse in 2020, as he only scored 54.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points, or 3.4 points per game, to rank as the 30th best kicker in Dynasty Owner.

There was another kicker with exactly 54.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points this past season. It was Matt Gay (K – LAR) who played in only 7 games versus all 16 for Elliott. Gay’s salary was also $3.15 million less at $711,443. Elliott’s salary was so bad that a Dynasty Owner could have rostered all three New York Jets kickers (Sam Ficken – $675,000, Sergio Castillo – $610,000 and Chase McLaughlin – $585,000) and spent nearly $2 million less than Elliott and scored 3.0 more Dynasty Owner fantasy points.

Six out of the top 10 kickers in 2020 had salaries under $1 million and scored double the points that Elliott did for a fraction of the cost. If the Eagles offense is better in 2021, Elliott could score more Dynasty Owner fantasy points, but there are plenty of better, or cheaper options (or both) out there.

Conclusion

There are plenty of other players to avoid drafting in 2021, not just the players highlighted here. Many of those players make more, such as several QBs making over $30 million in salary in 2021 or WRs and TEs making just under $10 million, but none of them were not widely drafted or owned in 2020 and there’s no reason to think things will be different in 2021.

Let’s keep the discussion going on Twitter and YouTube. Are there any players who you plan to avoid drafting in 2021? Send me a tweet (@SteveVT33) or post in the comments section for the video on YouTube and tell your fellow Dynasty Owners who they should avoid drafting this year.  

My articles and videos on getting you ready for your 2021 Dynasty Owner start-up league team will be out on Fridays throughout the off-season. Keep an eye out for new articles and videos from the rest of our team of Dynasty Owners writers as well. On Mondays, Nate Christian (@NateNFL) will break down rookies in his Prospect Preview. Matt Morrison – The Jerk (@Dynastyjerk) is back for another year and will do a deep dive into contracts on Wednesdays. Jay Pounds (@jaypoundsnfl) has his articles and videos on how to rebuild your Dynasty Owner roster on Thursdays. Read all of their articles, watch and like all of their videos on YouTube (and all of the other available formats, such as Spotify) and follow the four of us plus Dynasty Owner (@Dynasty_Owner) on Twitter. Thanks for reading! Hope this article helps you to think more about the players who you want to avoid in your 2021 Dynasty Owner draft.

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