The Biggest Fantasy Risks for 2021

Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett is a high risk profile

By Calvin K (Twitter: @Calvin_SGF)

The fantasy season is nearly here, and now that it’s later in August, most redraft leagues are finally getting started. The weeks leading up to the NFL’s opening games are always an exciting time, as tidbits of training camp and preseason news flow into social media feeds constantly throughout each day. As usual, there are many players that carry a lot of risk in redraft leagues this year. Below are three who pose difficult decisions for fantasy managers.

1. Tyler Lockett (WR, Seattle Seahawks)

Lockett finished as fantasy’s #9 receiver last year, yet he recorded just three top-10 fantasy weeks. His overall finish was drastically inflated by those weeks, and because of that, he likely wasn’t performing for your fantasy team at a WR1 level overall. Lockett’s first seven weeks were solid, as he had two blowup games and a couple of others where you probably weren’t mad about starting him. However, from Weeks 8-16, Lockett was disastrous for fantasy, posting just one week as a top-30 fantasy receiver. In that stretch, managers were likely starting him for many of those games due to his early-season production. Lockett’s Week 17 blow-up was obviously not counted in most fantasy leagues due to the season having ended, but anyone who played in that week likely didn’t start him then either.

To be fair to Lockett, Russell Wilson’s second-half performance in 2020 was very bad, and whether it was due to the play-calling, decision-making, or something else, that undoubtedly affected Lockett’s stock in a major way. However, Seahawks HC Pete Carroll has committed to reemphasizing the running game, something that could cause efficiency for Wilson, but major inconsistency from Lockett. Lockett is almost certain to be the second option in this offense behind D.K. Metcalf, and the additions of TE Gerald Everett and second-round WR D’Wayne Eskridge only hurt his potential. Lockett is almost certain to provide multiple great weeks again next year, but if he remains inconsistent, it’ll be maddening trying to predict when he’ll be startable.

2. Chase Claypool (WR, Pittsburgh Steelers)

Claypool is an amazing talent and a freak athlete, but like Lockett, consistency struggles could end up plaguing his fantasy performance this year. Claypool finished as the overall WR19 last year, but he put up top-36 WR numbers in just half his games. Part of that could be attributed to his acclimation period as a rookie, but three of his first five weeks had top-12 finishes, so that line of reasoning doesn’t make much of a difference in where he should be valued. Claypool could certainly see a second-year bump in production, but he could also struggle to gain targets with Pittsburgh retaining Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster again.

Claypool’s main target competition from 2020 will return again this year, but on top of the WR duo mentioned, there will be additional mouths to feed in Pittsburgh’s offense. First-round running back Najee Harris will likely command a major carry workload in year one, making Pittsburgh more run-heavy than it has been in the past. On top of that, Harris should also compete for receptions, further cutting into Claypool’s potential passing work. The addition of tight end Pat Freiermuth may only be a hindrance to the short-yardage work that Smith-Schuster specializes in, but even so, adding another capable pass-catcher to the offense certainly doesn’t help Claypool’s status. To reiterate, Claypool is a very talented receiver and a great athlete, however, the pass-catching room may end up being too crowded to make him a consistent starter.

3. Trey Sermon (RB, San Francisco 49ers)

Sermon is a fine late-round flier, but the multitude of options in this 49ers backfield makes it difficult to trust anyone in it, let alone the third-round rookie. Raheem Mostert is expected to lead this backfield in Week 1, but the hope of fantasy players is that Sermon takes over later in the season. It’s certainly possible that he grabs the starting role eventually, but with so many other options available on the team, the 49ers shouldn’t feel a need to give him a big workload in year one.

Along with Mostert, there are many other options in this backfield. Jeff Wilson is currently injured, but like in 2020, he should be a factor in the offense when healthy. Wayne Gallman also produced solid numbers last year with the Giants, and he could siphon away touches from Sermon as well. On top of that, it’s hardly a guarantee that Sermon surpasses Mostert for the lead role at all this year, as Mostert’s speed and explosiveness allow him to be a very efficient rusher. At cost, Sermon isn’t a terrible investment. However, fantasy managers need to be aware of the risk that he carries, and because of that risk, he could easily be seen as a bad draft-day value when the year is over.

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