The Must, Bust, and Lust List for 2021
Don’t look now, but we are in the heart of the fantasy football draft season. It felt like only yesterday that Tom Brady was lifting up his seventh Vince Lombardi trophy, and here we are. In the following week, the majority of fantasy managers will be drafting, hoping that all the research and analysis they have done over the last few months will give them the edge to come out on the other side of the draft with a team ready to make a run at a fantasy football championship. As you head into your drafts I want to mention some players that are a part of the Must, Bust, and Lust List for 2021. Hopefully, these players will be a guide and help you hoist your own fantasy football championship at the end of the year.
The must-list are players that you should be targeting in your drafts that should be solid contributors for your fantasy squads this season. Anyone can recommend drafting Christian McCaffrey with the 1.01, so I’m going to go a little deeper in the draft and let you know when to pounce on these must-have players. As for the bust, these are players that you should be steering away from and avoiding at all costs in your drafts, especially at their current ADP. Normally bust players will be the catalyst that will drag your team down the toilet bowl in a hurry. Then we have the lust list, which are the players that most fantasy managers are desiring to draft onto their teams and that have a little hot sleeper vibe to them heading into draft day. Let’s get this party started right with the must-list.
The Must List
Antonio Gibson, RB - Washington Football Team
In his rookie campaign, Antonio Gibson illustrated when healthy and given the opportunity, the running back can come through for fantasy owners like nobody’s business. In games when Gibson received 13 carries or more, he averaged 17 fantasy points per contest in PPR formats. Throughout training camp, we had heard nothing but great reports coming out of Washington camp and maybe Gibson can find his inner CMC and really take it to the next level. If Gibson is there in the mid-to-late second round he can be an excellent RB1 or RB2 depending if you took a running back in the first round.
Najee Harris, RB - Steelers
When Pittsburg pulled the trigger to draft Najee Harris in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft you knew that the Steelers had finally found what they have been looking for over the last couple of years. Coach Mike Tomlin loves giving the rock to a bell cow if possible and ever since the Le'veon Bell fiasco, the Pittsburg’s running game has not been the same. If the preseason is any indication of what’s to come fantasy managers should draft Harris in the second round because he is sure to be in store for one helluva year for the Black and Gold.
Calvin Ridley, WR - Falcons
Now that Julio Jones is no longer in the ATL, fantasy managers should have Calvin Ridley queued up in the second round. As I previously discussed in this article The Julio Jones Ripple Effect, Ridley has proven that he can shine with or without Jones by his side. Ridley is another player to target in the late second round.
Cee Dee Lamb, WR - Cowboys
Most may think that Amari Cooper is the Dallas Cowboys’ WR1, but after this season Cee Dee Lamb will be Dak Prescott’s go-to receiver. Prior to Dak’s injury last year Lamb was averaging six receptions and 82.8 yards on 8.5 targets per game. That’s pretty impressive for a rookie. If Prescott can prove to be healthy, which recently has been cleared to not be on a pitch count anymore, the Cowboys could continue where they left off last year before Prescott’s leg injury and that was being the league’s number one scoring offense. Lamb should be targeted in the mid-third round.
James Robinson, RB - Jaguars
After the first round of the NFL Draft, there was no way in hell that James Robinson would have sniffed the must list for 2021. That's when the Jaguars selected Travis Etienne in the first round to pair him up with his college teammate, number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence. Unfortunately for Etienne he recently suffered a foot sprain injury (Lisfranc Injury) that will cause him to miss the entire 2021 season. That news now brings us to Mr. Robinson. Last year’s undrafted rookie darling rushed for 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns and hauled in 49 receptions for another 344 yards and three touchdowns. Robinson’s ADP is soaring up the draft board and should be every fantasy manager’s target in the mid-to-late fourth round. Oh, and by the way, the arrival of Trevor Lawrence doesn’t hurt either.
Antonio Brown, WR - Buccaneers
Please pinch me because I must be dreaming. At this time last year, there was serious doubt if any team would ever give Antonio Brown another chance to play football again after all his off-field issues. But somehow Tom Brady used the Jedi mind trick and convinced Coach Bruce Arians to give Brown one chance to play for the Buccaneers and see if he can stay in the right state of mind and be a contributor to the team. After joining the team in Week 9, AB progressively started building chemistry with Brady in the second half of the season. Over the last four games of the regular season, Brown averaged eight targets a game and totaled 25 receptions 315 yards, and four touchdowns. Now that these two future Hall of Famers have had an entire offseason to practice together, there is no telling how high Brown’s total will be this year but at his current 96.2 ADP, I’m willing to take that risk and you should too.
DeVonta Smith, WR - Eagles
There’s plenty of rookie wide receivers to draft this year but the one that has caught my attention so far is Devonta Smith. His last two seasons at Alabama were phenomenal, including his ridiculous senior season when he compiled 117 receptions for 1,856 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns. That’s right that not a typo of 23 touchdowns from a receiver. The Crimson Tide product has a chance to be the Eagles WR1 this fall. Smith is currently the WR33 coming off the board with an ADP of 84, making him an excellent WR3 for your fantasy teams to select in the seventh round.
Sam Darnold, QB - Panthers
Now, this last must-have is for deeper leagues or two-quarter/super-flex leagues. Sam Darnold has finally left that mess of an organization of the New York Jets and head coach Adam Gase’s wandering eyes. Darnold’s quarterback growth seemed to be in quicksand as it never looked like he had any development under Gase. After the Jets traded away the former first-rounder to the Panthers for a fresh start, the one thing that anyone cannot deny is that the weapons that Darnold has inherited in Carolina are top-shelf talents. Check out this list of talented skilled players he has to work with; Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, former teammate Robby Anderson, hotshot rookie Terrace Marshall Jr., and new huge tight end red zone target Dan Arnold. The quarterback is free with his 213.4 ADP, so if you decide to wait on the quarterback, need a second or third quarterback in a super-flex league, or living that quarterback streaming life, Darnold is your man to target late in drafts.
Gerald Everett, TE - Seahawks
Once the top three tight ends are off the board I tend to wait until at least the 10th round to even consider a tight end. Most tight ends after that tend to be average at best, and fantasy managers hope to find the next break-out star. The tight end I am targeting now late in drafts after my previous tight end sleeper Irv Smith suffered an injury, is Gerald Everett. Everett is an athletic freak that has been sharing targets with Tyler Higbee the last few years with the Los Angeles Rams and now is in Seattle ready to make a splash with Russell Wilson throwing him the ball. Furthermore new Offensive Coordinator Shane Waldron is familiar with Everett from their time with the Rams, so the tight end will be comfortable in the new offensive scheme. So if you wait late to draft a tight end you may want to target Everett in the fifteenth round in most drafts.
The Bust List
Michael Thomas, WR - Saints
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The once indestructible wide receiver that only missed one game in his first four seasons in the NFL did not only missed nine games last season, but Thomas is out for at least four months after undergoing surgery to repair ligaments in his ankle and torn deltoid in early August. Unless you have an IR spot in your league so you can stash him, don’t bother drafting Thomas at his 71.8 ADP this year as he will miss a minimum of six games this year.
Marquise Brown, WR - Ravens
Marquise Brown has already missed time during training camp and preseason due to a hamstring injury. Seems like he always missing time with some kind of injury. These types of injuries tend to linger for some time and can be reaggravated at any moment. Couple that with the boom/bust type of player that Brown is, and I will do a hard pass on his services this year. At his current ADP of 121.6, I will pass on Brown there and would rather draft Marvin Jones, Darnell Mooney, or Mecole Hardman that are all going after him at that current ADP.
Brandin Cooks, WR - Texans
Brandin Cooks is not falling on this list because of his play but because of his quarterback situation. Due to Deshaun Watson’s off-field troubles, Cooks will be stuck with Tyrod Taylor throwing him the ball, which is not good for business. We’ll start off that Taylor has never played a full 16 game season and has only attempted 380 passes or more three times in his 10-year career. Cooks’ current ADP is 92.6 which is mid-to-late seventh round. At that price, I’d much rather select Antonio Brown, Laviska Shenault Jr., or Corey Davis that are all going at the beginning of the eighth round.
Javonte Willaims, RB - Broncos
Now this one is a tough one because I really like Javonte Williams as a player and believe that he will be a stud for the Broncos soon if not this year. But with Melvin Gordon still in Denver, Gordon will still be heavily involved in the offense and that will limit Williams’s production for 2021. Both running backs are going in the fifth round with Gordon’s ADP rising as he was going two to three rounds later earlier in draft season.
Kenny Golladay, WR - Giants
Last season Kenny Golladay had a train wreck of a year in 2020 due to an injury-plagued season. Now he gets a fresh new start since he signed with the New York Giants during the offseason. For now, it looks like the injuries have poured into this season as Golladay has missed value time to be blended into the offense due to a hamstring injury. The time to build chemistry with Daniel Jones before the season has come and gone, so expect Golladay to have a slow start to the season. The wide receiver is currently going at the end of the fifth round which is too rich for my blood and I’d much rather have Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith, and Courtland Sutton who are all going in the sixth round of fantasy drafts.
Ben Roethilisberger, QB - Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger has had an excellent career and many productive fantasy seasons for fantasy managers but unless you’re in a two-quarterback league Roethlisberger should be left undrafted or let someone else draft him. With Najee Harris now in town and the Steelers having a great defense, look for them to have the game script that will allow them to run the ball to control the game. Roethlisberger may be useful for streamers but take a chance on Jameis Winston who has finally been named the starter for the Saints and is a gunslinger and is going two rounds later.
Dallas Goedert, TE - Eagles
Early pre-season darling, Dallas Goedert was on everyone’s radar as a possible break-out tight end this year. That was due to the assumption that Zac Ertz would be on another team at some point during the summer but that never came to fruition. With Ertz still on the Eagles roster look for both tight ends to cause fantasy managers headaches on whether to start them or not. Goedert has a current ADP of 95.8 which is towards the tail end of the seventh round. There are still some quality wide receivers available in that portion of the draft that you should draft instead, and then draft Tyler Higbee who is going three rounds later.
The Lust List
Kyle Pitts, TE - Falcons
The next big thing is here, and that is the hype that is surrounding rookie Kyle Pitts heading into the 2021 season. With a huge void left by the Julio Jones trade during the off-season, there are plenty of targets up for grabs that Pitts is sure to capitalize on. Pitts’s ADP is rising at an alarming rate and is now around the 4/5 turn in drafts. If you think that he will meet these expectations as many do be sure to pull the trigger in that area of the draft because he will not last much later than that.
Trey Sermon, RB - 49ers
The drumbeat for rookie running back Trey Sermon has steadily gotten louder over the course of the summer. Although Raheem Mostert is listed as the starter expect Sermon to be heavily involved in the offense as he is the more talented of the two running backs. Mostert is going at the end of the fifth round and Sermon is going two rounds later making the rookie a bargain in drafts.
Laviska Shenault, WR - Jaguars
Last season Laviska Shenault Jr. should flashes from time to time even though the quarterback play was below average at best and he was adapting to the NFL game. Last season in 14 games the wide receiver totaled 58 receptions for 600 yards and five touchdowns. This year so far in camp and preseason games he looks to be taking that next step forward in his game, with the arrival of Trevor Lawrence. Shenault is coming off the board at the end of the ninth round so be sure to be ready to pounce on him around that time.
Trevor Lawerence, QB Jaguars
Speaking of Trevor Lawrence he definitely makes the lust team as not only is he a threat with his arm but he can beat you with his legs as well. Even though he lost one of his weapons in the pre-season when Travis Etienne suffered a Lisfranc injury, Lawrence still has plenty in his arsenal with the aforementioned Shenault Jr., D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones, and James Robinson. His college resume speaks for itself with 10,098 yards passing, 90 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions, and he rushed for 943 yards and 18 touchdowns in his three-year collegiate career. If you decide to wait on drafting a quarterback, Lawrence should be available in the 11th round of most drafts, so draft him accordingly.
Mecole Hardman, WR - Cheifs
Another player that has shown flashes in a limited role over the last couple of years is Mecole Hardman. Some of the limitations were due to Sammy Watkins being on the roster. Now that Watkins is playing for the Ravens, the door is wide open for Hardman to be more involved in the Chiefs offensive machine. The wide receiver should be third in line to receive passes from Patrick Maholmes behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. With defenses focusing on trying to stop those two, Hardman will be able to capitalize with the softer coverage he will be receiving. The third-year receiver has an ADP of 129.3 which is in the mid-eleventh round.
Marquez Callaway, WR Saints
With Michael Thomas out of the Saints line-up due to his injuries and surgery, the one receiver that has shined in his absence has been Marquez Callaway. Callaway has been the talk of Saints training camp and appears to be in store for a major role with New Orleans and new starter Jameis Winston. His ADP has been on the rise all summer and is clearly a player to add to your roster from the eleventh round forward.
Darnell Mooney, WR - Bears
Another wide receiver who is being drafted in the same range as Callaway is Darnell Mooney. Mooney has recently been commended for his route running by coach Matt Nagy which is always a plus when the coach is giving a player some praise. The good news for the wideout is that Allen Robinson should garner most of the defensive attention in the secondary allowing Mooney to go to work on the other side. Mooney is another excellent choice for fantasy managers to draft in the late rounds of the draft to round out their wide receiver depth and he has definite flex appeal.
Elijah Moore, WR Jets
If you want to go deeper in the draft with a flyer wide receiver pick, look no further than rookie Elijah Moore, who is being drafted as WR 60. The Jets rookie receiver recently suffered a slight quad injury that caused his ADP to drop a little, which makes him an excellent receiver to target in the thirteenth round and beyond.
Hopefully, this will help you in your upcoming draft. Remember to always be sharp, be ready to adjust your plan as every draft is different, and take values when they fall to you in the draft. If you would like to further discuss this or have any fantasy questions please reach out to on Twitter @smooth1074.