Every year there are players we stay away from in fantasy football. Whether it be for fear of injury or the player being on a bad team, there are reasons for all of these decisions.
Of course, not all of these decisions work out for us. Sometimes a player we think will bust ends up busting out instead. But I am still taking a stand. Unless the ADP of the players I’ve listed here drop, they will not find a place on my fantasy teams this season.
Amari Cooper, WR, CLE — We know Cooper has skills. You aren’t picked in the first round of the NFL draft without having talent. The reason Dallas traded him for a bag of balls is to clear money to sign others … like Michael Gallup. This was made easier for the Cowboys to swallow as Cooper was coming off his worst season — 68 receptions, 865 receiving yards, eight TDs. With young star CeeDee Lamb under control for at least four more seasons and Gallup, although coming off a major knee injury, still cheaper than Cooper, it made sense for the Browns to go after him. By doing so, they have paired him up with new quarterback Deshaun Watson to start another rebuild of the Cleveland offense.
But how long will Watson sit if he does get suspended? This is the key factor in not wanting to pay the top 20 WR price for Cooper. If Watson does miss a large chunk of time, Cleveland will count on Jacoby Brissett to lead the offense, and he’s proven to be less than inspiring. This will mean the team relies even more on the run game of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The team rushed on 46 percent of offensive plays in 2021, and with Brissett behind center, this could climb above the 50 percent threshold. If this happens, and if the Browns lean more heavily on newly high-paid TE David Njoku, there is not much meat left on the bone for Cooper to thrive.
Cooper, pending a shocking trade or signing, is the WR1 for the Browns. But with the uncertainty at the QB position, what is this really worth in 2022? Not a pick in the first four rounds.
JK Dobbins, RB, BAL — With Dobbins and Gus Edwards both missing the 2021, season, the Ravens went from a run-first team in 2020 (55 percent run), to a pass-first team in 2021 (43.6 percent run). With both players back, and hopefully healthy, the Ravens should get back to their bread and butter. But this also means more rush work for Lamar Jackson, who also took a step back in rush production in 2021 while concentrating on the pass game due to the injuries in the backfield.
As a rookie in 2020, Dobbins had what was seen to be a good rookie season. In 15 games, I have compiled 805 rush yards and nine TDs on 134 rushes. But a lot has changed since then. LT Ronnie Stanley has been injured again and LT Orlando Brown Jr. was dealt to Kansas City. Although Marquise Brown has been the WR1 for Baltimore and is now in Arizona, TE Mark Andrews has also taken a leap forward in production for the team.
With Edwards, Dobbins and Stanley all coming back from major injury, the run game will look a bit different than it did in 2020, the last time all three were on the field together. And this is the hesitation I feel in taking Dobbins in the beginning of Round 3 of drafts. I might get there. But it will take a while for him to get there. By the time he does, you could have gotten him from his disgruntled manager, while drafting someone else in the third round.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DF — The past two seasons for Elliott have been the two worst of his career. After having a career-low 244 carries and 979 yards in 15 games in 2020, Elliott finished with 237 carries and 1,002 rush yards in 17 games in 2021.
While an iron man to start his career, nagging injuries have also begun to catch up with Elliott. As a result, the team has started to transition to more of a committee with Elliott and Tony Pollard, who is seemingly more explosive at this stage.
While Elliott only averaged 4.2 YPC in 2021, Pollard was able to average 5.5 on 130 carries. His career average of 5.1 YPC is also a full half yard higher than the career mark of Elliott.
With Dallas no longer having the top offensive line in the NFL, it will be incumbent on the running back behind it to be elusive. This more fits the mold of Pollard. Elliott will be there. His bloated contract from him makes it a certainty. But Pollard could see more work. At RB14 and with an ADP at the end of the second round, this is just a bit too high for my liking, especially considering the other options at this point of the draft.
Travis Kelce, TE, KC — Kelce has been the best tight end in the NFL since the career fade of Rob Gronkowski. There have been contenders in recent years in George Kittle, Andrews, and Darren Waller, but Kelce has been able to hold them all at bay. This might just be the year where things change a bit.
While Kelce is still great, at 32, he is on the older end of the spectrum when it comes to elite playmakers. To add to this, Tyreek Hill was traded to Miami. This means teams will be able to focus more on Kelce than in previous years. Even with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling joining the fray, Kelce will still be the first option for Patrick Mahomes. And unlike previous seasons, he will also get the coverage commensurate with this level of attention.
In studies done researching lost targets, those targets have been shown to not go to other receivers. In most cases, the beneficiaries of lost targets are running backs. So, while Clyde Edwards-Helaire may be in line for more work and finally a breakout season, Kelce might be in line for his standard season. While his 2021 numbers of 92 receptions, 1,125 yards and nine TDs are great, they might be just a bit too high for what he will get in 2022. Taking this at the beginning of the second round, where his ADP projects, is too rich for my blood. I would rather pass on him for a similar production level further down in drafts. This way I can focus early on the RB and WR positions.
DK Metcalf, WR, SEA — With Russell Wilson in Seattle, Metcalf had an elite down-field thrower to pair with his elite down-field abilities. With the wildly inconsistent Drew Lock (or Geno Smith) trying to get him the ball, things do not look good. And this is coming from a blind guy.
The Seahawks, for the first time in many years, are a bad team. The Seahawks have tried to fix the offensive line by adding Charles Cross in the NFL Draft. But the rest of the team has gotten significantly worse since the final game of 2021. With the limited route-running repertoire of Metcalf, expect Tyler Lockett to be the main threat in this offense. Metcalf finished as the fantasy WR11 last season. In 2022, he will be lucky to finish top 20.
Darnell Mooney, WR, CHI — Mooney has skillful hands and great speed. Speed to burn in fact. But he has never been the No. 1 in an offense. This is not the offense you want to have to attempt such a feat.
Allen Robinson has departed to the Rams, and Jimmy Graham has just … well, disappeared. Cole Kmet will need to make a large leap forward and David Montgomery will also be counted on to finish as a top 5 running back like he did in 2020 (RB4). Outside of Mooney, Kmet and Montgomery, there’s not much left for inexperienced QB Justin Fields to work with. In his second season, Fields will also have a new head coach, new offensive coordinator and new offensive scheme to learn. All while trying to get comfortable with a new set of players.
The death of surrounding talent to go with all these changes will affect Fields. But it will also affect Mooney, who will find it a challenge to get open downfield for the big play for which he is known.
This is a tough situation all around in Chicago. From quarterback to offensive line to wide receiver, the 2022 season is going to be a learning process. Let someone else get angry while they try to figure it out.
Kyle Pitts, TE, ATL — The highest-drafted tight end ever, Pitts was anything but a tight end during his rookie season. With Julio Jones traded to Tennessee and Calvin Ridley missing games for personal reasons, Pitts spent much of his time as a wide receiver, something that, at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, he was uniquely qualified to handle. Although he only managed one TD, his 68 receptions and 1,026 yards both ranked among the top 3 for a rookie TE in NFL history.
In Year 2, things could be far different. He will once again be the No. 1 target for the Atlanta offense, one which is no longer run by former MVP Matt Ryan. After a failed attempt to lure Deshaun Watson, the team was forced to trade Ryan to Indianapolis. With this move, it left the Falcons in desperate need of a replacement. They ended up settling for Marcus Mariota. Although his best seasons of him came in Tennessee with Arthur Smith as his offensive coordinator, he no longer has a similarly talented rest to lean on.
Pitts will be counted on to do far more in 2022 than he was as a rookie. With not only Ridley missing the season but Russell Gage now in Tampa Bay, Pitts is the clear top option. Cordarrelle Patterson was a remarkable story in 2021, but until he can prove himself for more than one season, expectations must be tempered that he can repeat.
During his Pro Bowl rookie season, Pitts was on the field for 74 percent of the Falcons’ offensive snaps. This is a lofty number for a tight end in today’s NFL. Even the best tight end in the NFL, Kelce, was only on the field for 77 percent of snaps after being on the field for 81 percent in 2020. This means the on-field activity for Pitts will need to increase without an increase in snap count. On top of this, after appearing on the field in 774 snaps in 2021, Pitts is likely to be on the field less in 2022 just based on the talent on the Falcons. There will be more three-and-out possessions and less sustained drives behind Mariota. With all of these factors in play, Pitts makes a dangerous selection in Round 4 of a fantasy draft. Similar to my take on Kelce, I would rather take a high-end wide receiver or RB2 in this spot.
(Photo: Kyle Terada/USA Today)