Your 2021 Ultimate Fantasy Football Draft Guide
Inside of this Fantasy Football Draft Guide, OwnersBox fantasy football analysts Tyler MacKillop and Jared Hall will provide all of the information you need to dominate your leagues this season. Including rankings of the running back, tight end, wide receiver and quarterback positions. As well as a sleeper, breakout and bust for every position group. Capped off with a key player you should target in each round of your drafts.
If you enjoy this type of content and would like to watch in video form, we have plenty of content like this on the OwnersBox YouTube channel! Be sure to hit that subscribe button.
Before we get into the rankings and position groups, we’ve got a few things you should keep in mind as you look to dominate your leaguemates in draft season.
Three Keys to Winning Your Draft in 2021
Early Round Strategy
Many fantasy football players will tell you that you don’t win your league in draft season. But you can certainly lose it. The running back position is the most important position on your roster and is essential in the first 3 rounds this season. There is a clear drop off in the quality of backs after the 17th (Najee Harris) running back in our rankings. You want to avoid having limited upside running backs like Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders and Chris Carson as your RB2. Make sure you walk away with at least 2 running backs in the first 3 rounds this year.
Remember, there are only 32 starting running backs in the NFL while there are 64+ starting wide receivers. You’ve got plenty of depth to work with in rounds 4 to 8 for your wideouts while the running back position falls off a cliff between those same rounds.
Tight End Strategy
We collectively have a very strong opinion on how you should be approaching the tight end position this season. There is one clear alpha of the group and that’s Travis Kelce, he’s in a league of his own. If you’re drafting in the backend of the first round then go get him, he produces as a WR1 from the tight end position.
The second tier is straightforward as well, Darren Waller and George Kittle are elite fantasy assets. If you see these two in the last few picks of the second round or anytime in the 3rd then if healthy they’ll live up to the draft capital.
Let’s quickly touch on the tantalizing rookie Kyle Pitts. His lofty expectations for 2021 have resulted in an ADP of 48 overall or pick 4.12. Don’t get me wrong, Pitts is a fantastic talent who I believe will be a dominant player in the NFL. In order to be the TE4, which is what his draft value indicates, he will need to put together the greatest rookie tight end season ever. Do I think he can do it? Yes. Am I willing to take him over players like Robert Woods, Chris Godwin or DJ Moore? No.
That leads us to our recommendation in draft strategy this season. If you miss out on Kelce, Waller or Kittle in the first 3 rounds DO NOT PANIC. Don’t overdraft players like Dallas Goedert, Kyle Pitts, TJ Hockenson or Mark Andrews. Leave these players for your leaguemates to take too early. There is tremendous value on the tight end position in the 10th-12 round. Take Tyler Higbee or Robert Tonyan in the 10th or take Adam Trautman in the 11th. These players have all the opportunity that those middle round tight ends have if not more.
A trend we’ve noticed with the top end quarterbacks is that they’re going later than we’ve usually seen in previous years. Guys like Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray are sometimes falling into the 5th round of 1QB leagues. We’ve always been big advocates for waiting on QBs, but if you can get the upside of one of those guys all the way back in the 5th, absolutely take that.
When it comes to the quarterback position in 1QB leagues, you really need to look for high upside guys, as there will be such a high volume of high floor QBs on the waiver wire. Guys like Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Ben Roethlisberger and Derek Carr will give you a decent enough floor each week that if you don’t get a high upside QB with rushing upside, you might as well just wait on the position entirely.
We’re seeing an increasingly high number of dual threat quarterbacks in the league, and as expected, they’re also the most valuable guys in fantasy. That’s why someone like Jalen Hurts is seen as a massive breakout candidate this year, he’s someone who could see 8-12 carries per game.
That’s why we think the optimal strategy is either to get one of the top guys if they fall into the 5th/6th round, like Lamar, Kyler or Dak. Or, grab a riskier high upside QB, like Hurts, Lance, Fields or Watson and pair them up with a safer week to week floor guy like Tannehill or Brady. Either way, upside is what you need to look for in 1QB leagues, so make sure you get it.
Top 36 Quarterbacks – Jared Hall
Top 36 Running Backs – Tyler MacKillop
Top 60 Wide Receivers – Jared Hall
Top 20 Tight Ends – Tyler MacKillop
Sleeper: Sam Darnold – Carolina Panthers
There is no other way to put this, the Sam Darnold/Adam Gase partnership in New York went about as poorly as it could have possibly gone. The question is whether or not Darnold’s game can improve with a change of scenery.
Last season Darnold threw a career low 9 touchdowns on 364 passing attempts, which resulted in a pedestrian 2.5% touchdown percentage. Well below the league average. His best play last season wasn’t even a passing play, it was a 46-yard touchdown run against the Broncos.
Darnold is in Carolina now after an off-season trade. The 2018 3rd overall pick is now surrounded with a fantastic coaching staff and group of weapons. He’s got the supporting cast to surprise everyone this season. He’s reunited with Robby Anderson, has the most versatile running back in the NFL with Christian McCaffrey and another proven receiver in DJ Moore. Not to mention the addition of LSU WR Terrace Marshall Jr in the draft.
Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady, at the age of 31, is one of the top offensive minds in football. In just one season at LSU he transformed what was an inefficient, old-school offense into the greatest offense in college football history.
Brady has always been a proponent of spreading out the defense and getting the ball to his speedsters and playmakers in space. Last season he was hindered by Teddy Bridgewater’s inability to push the ball downfield. The offense was forced to spread the ball more horizontally than vertically. Entering 2021 the offense has all those playmakers and a healthy Christian McCaffrey. With the difference being Darnold, who has the arm strength and willingness to throw the ball deep which will make the offense a more vertical threat.
One positive note we can take from Darnold’s 2020 season is his success in a clean pocket, his clean pocket completion percentage ranked 6th in the NFL at 77.5%. With improved play calling from Brady he’s sure to see more clean pockets and more success in 2021. The best part being that in superflex leagues you can grab Darnold in the middle of the 8th round as the 25th quarterback off the board.
Breakout: Jalen Hurts – Philadelphia Eagles
We touched on the importance of high upside at the quarterback position, especially for those of you in 1QB leagues. With the duality of his play as both a passer and rusher he’s a great fit as the 12th quarterback off the board in the 8th round.
Hurts doesn’t have the same athletic abilities and profile as a runner that Lamar Jackson does but he’s certainly capable of handling a rushing workload. Last season Hurts averaged 16 rushing attempts and 89 rushing yards per game. To put this in perspective, Lamar Jackson averaged 67 yards on 11 attempts per game last season. This is of massive importance to fantasy owners. It projects Hurts at a safe floor even if he doesn’t sustain the rushing totals in a 17 game schedule.
New Eagles OC Shane Steichen ran a lot of play action with the athletic Justin Herbert last season. This will help open up the offense for Hurts in 2021. We know what he’s capable of as a runner but his 52% completion percentage wasn’t where it needed to be last season. With the addition of rookie sensation DeVonta Smith he’ll have a reliable target to look for on every play. Something this offense was desperately missing last season.
The Eagles also head into the season with the league’s easiest strength of schedule. With the teams they are playing having a combined 2020 win percentage of .430. Get Hurts on your fantasy rosters as he has the upside to be a top 6 fantasy QB this season.
Bust: Justin Herbert – Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers now sophomore quarterback set an extraordinary amount of records in 2020 as a rookie. This was on the back of some really poor coaching and play calling with Shane Stiechen (OC) and Anthony Lynn (HC). Which made his fantasy finish as the QB9 even more impressive.
The Chargers gave up the 10th most points per game in 2020, with opponents scoring 26.6 points per game. This led to Herbert ranking 3rd in the NFL in passing attempts per game. He had plenty of opportunities to produce fantasy points in 2020 and he delivered.
I’m not indicating that a sophomore slump is imminent, it’s really quite the opposite from a football perspective. I think the Chargers are in store for a great bounce back season, Brandon Staley is a fantastic defensive mind who will certainly improve their play. As well, the coaching staff they brought in for the offense has worked with some very successful minds like Kyle Shanahan and Sean Payton. The coaching staff and players have indicated that this new Chargers offense will mimic that of the Saints and 49ers.
The Saints and 49ers really emphasize getting the ball to their backs, something the Chargers struggled with when Ekeler missed time. That’s why Herbert constantly had the ball in his hands. Herbert scored 5 rushing touchdowns in 2020, due in part to the fact that the predominant ball carriers were Kalen Ballage and Joshua Kelley. Herbert was 6th in the NFL in passing yards last season, but without those 5 rushing TDs he would have finished as the QB12.
The Chargers are going to be a more successful team in 2021. This doesn’t necessarily mean Herbert will give you a better fantasy output, his current ADP is telling you it will. The offense will be in more positive game scripts this season and as a result run the ball more frequently. Herbert will not have the same volume in 2021 that he did in 2020 and in fantasy football volume is king.
Sleeper: Damien Harris – New England Patriots
Bill Belichick has been a running back by committee kind of guy for a long time now. We’ve seen quite the revolving door of guys, that seemingly changes every year. This year it looks like Damien Harris is up. Reports have come out saying Harris is the surefire number 1 option. Sony Michel might get cut, and Harris has been reported to have a decisive edge on rookie Rhamondre Stevenson.
James White is still there to take away receiving work, which would limit Damien’s upside, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him get a 70-75% carry share.
Harris showed flashes of greatness last year in the games he was able to play in, and had a yards per carry of over 5. This was while having the highest average defenders in the box (7.4) and 2nd highest stacked box rate (42.3%) in the league.
The big question comes with who is in at quarterback for the Patriots this season. Having Mac Jones behind center is a big plus for Harris, as Cam Newton played a massive role on the goal line last season, essentially becoming the full time goal line back. Cam had a massive 19 rushes inside the 5, which was 4th in the entire league, while Harris only had 3. So I am worried about the touchdown upside should Newton be the starter. With Mac Jones however, the goal line role is wide open. Jones has no rushing abilities whatsoever, so Harris would immediately become the favourite to lead the team in goal line carries.
Somehow Damien Harris has an ADP of 110, or RB39 per Sleeper ADP right now, which is absolutely absurd to me. He’s someone I’m definitely going to be targeting late in drafts as a more than capable RB3. Without the receiving upside I don’t see him having that true RB1 upside, but we could easily see him get enough carries and rushing yards to be a solid RB2.
Breakout: D’Andre Swift – Detroit Lions
I really think Swift has Christian McCaffrey type breakout potential this season. Not that absurd 2019 season but his 2018 one. Last season Swift put up 879 all purpose yards and 10 TDs, similar to the numbers CMC put up in his rookie season (1086 yards and 7 TDs) and is poised to lead that backfield in all categories in 2021. The situation around him is also very similar to McCaffrey’s from 2018, as the Lions released AP and brought in Jamaal Williams. The Panthers had released veteran Jonathan Stewart and brought in C.J. Anderson to split time with CMC. As wild as it sounds, there was a belief amongst many that this would be a split backfield, but once the season started, that was clearly not the case.
There’s no denying that D’Andre Swift is a very talented back and has what it takes to be among the league’s elite. Just take a look at how good he was when he was given a decent role:
When he had 10 or more carries in a game his numbers were absolutely elite. Involved in the receiving game, goal line role and over 5 yards per carry. This Detroit team won’t be very good to put it lightly, but the offensive line will be. They already had a pretty solid line last season, plus now Penei Sewell was added with the 7th overall pick. So it’s not like Swift will consistently be met in the backfield every play.
“But this passing offense is so bad the defense will expect the run every play”. That doesn’t matter. One of the more absurd stats I found was how good Swift was against stacked boxes:
Swift's YPC vs stacked, base and light fronts is still baffling to me.
Vs stacked front (8+ defenders): 6.2 ypc
Vs base front (7 defenders): 4.4 ypc
Vs light front (6- defenders): 3.5 ypc https://t.co/9jRYd7aOJs
— Jared Hall (@sexypats) July 21, 2021
“But they’re going to be losing every game he won’t get enough touches”. Swift will be heavily involved in the receiving game anyway. He had 46 receptions as a rookie, a number that got bigger as the year went on. Over the last 5 games he averaged 4 receptions per game, for a 16 game pace of 64. Now that Golladay and Jones are both gone that number should get even higher. There’s no reason Swift shouldn’t have similar reception numbers to Alvin Kamara.
“But Jamaal Williams will be the goal line back”. Will he though? Swift had 9 goal line carries to Peterson’s 12 last year, while Jamaal Williams only had 5 with the Packers. Despite being labeled as more of a grinder than Swift, they’re very similar in size. Swift is 5’8”, 212 pounds with an 88th percentile BMI. While Williams is 6’0”, 212 pounds with a 21st percentile BMI. D’Andre has also been very efficient with his goal line touches, as he scored 6 TDs on his 9 carries inside the 5 last year, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t have the goal line role.
All this considered, I’m confident that Swift will outperform his ADP and truly has league winning upside. There’s very few better 2nd round picks than this man next year.
Bust: Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals
While there’s few better 2nd round picks than Swift, I highly recommend you don’t use your 2nd round pick on Joe Mixon. Mixon has been hyped up every single year since he broke out in 2018. He never truly lives up to the hype, but there’s always something that changes in the offense to make people believe he’ll be good again. The two big points this year are the departure of Giovani Bernard, and his 16.6 fantasy points per game average before going down with an injury.
Everyone has always wanted Mixon to be more involved in the passing game, wondering why Bernard always went out there on third downs. The issue with that point is Bernard was so rarely used already with both of them in the lineup. In the 22 games both of them played over the past 2 years, Bernard has averaged 2.1 receptions and 2.9 carries per game. People are really getting excited about those 5 touches opening up? Mixon won’t even get them either. While he’ll definitely have a very sizable role, he’s not going to have CMC type usage. Chris Evans, Samaje Perine and Trayveon Williams will each have an opportunity to have the backup role, and it’s safe to assume some combination of them will get 5 touches per game. Mixon has always had a very large role, the issue has always been his efficiency. With no big additions to the offensive line, I don’t see that improving in 2021.
The other point, Mixon’s points per game still being high (10th highest in 2020), can easily be attributed to 1 thing. Week 4 against the Jaguars. He had 42.1 PPR points that week, which was 43% of his total points throughout the season. In his 5 other games he only averaged 11.9 PPR points on a whopping 22 touches per game. So it’s not like he wasn’t getting the volume, he was just terrible with it.
That’s not the kind of player I want with my 2nd round pick. I don’t trust Mixon to get consistently high numbers like some of the other guys going around him. For that reason, I’m out on Mixon in 2021.
Sleeper: Mike Williams – Los Angeles Chargers
Mike Dub has proven his versatility over the course of his NFL career. In 2018 he put up 10 touchdowns and in 2019 he amassed over 1000 yards. With Brandon Staley and the new coaching regime stepping in, the former National Champion is primed for a breakout. The best part is, you don’t need to draft him until the 10th round right now!
New Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi brings with him a lot of schematic similarities to New Orleans, where he served as the quarterbacks coach for the last 5 seasons. What sticks out the most when you think about the Saints passing offense? Michael Thomas. He was the X-reciever in the offense and this is the role Lombardi has made clear that Williams will fill. This receiver is typically on the line of scrimmage and flexed out wide.
“As much as this offense will resemble New Orleans, he plays the ‘X’ and the ball has always kind of found the ‘X’ receiver in this offense. I think that there will be some natural production that comes his way because of the nature of the offense. If I were a betting man, I’d bet on nice numbers coming from him on the stat sheet, that’s for sure.”
Some people are worried about where Williams falls in his progressions with Justin Herbert. After a shortened off-season in 2020 with no preseason games, Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson ate into Williams deep targets. Look no further then the schematic fit of him in the new look offense to ease your mind. If you need anymore convincing then take a look at his splits last season when he played without Hunter Henry:
Yes, it’s 2 games without Henry last season but it was important to only focus on last season with the change in quarterback play from Rivers to Herbert. In those games he saw an increase of nearly 3 targets per game and two more receptions. Not to mention the 16.1 fantasy points per game out of the split. Henry’s replacement, 34-year old Jared Cook, is in the twilight of his career and has consistently seen his target share decrease over the last 3 seasons. Cook will not take over all of the targets from Henry’s departure, there is going to be more opportunity for Williams in 2021.
Williams is playing 2021 on a team option and could be up for a big pay day if he breaks out this season. He led the NFL in yards per reception in 2019 and is undoubtedly one of the best deep ball receivers in football. There is so little risk at his current ADP, he has the upside to be one of the biggest steals of 2021 in fantasy football.
Breakout: DeVonta Smith – Philadelphia Eagles
I’m targeting DeVonta Smith this season as a player that I believe can vastly outperform their ADP. Smith is currently going in the middle of the 6th round. Right in the middle of that running back dead zone we discussed earlier.
I took a look through the wide receiver position for rookies the last 5 seasons. Since 2016, at least two rookie wide receivers have finished inside of the top 24. At the time of writing, the only 2021 rookie with an ADP inside of the top 24 is Ja’Marr Chase of the Cincinnati Bengals.
DeVonta Smith has all the makings of a breakout rookie. He was a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft and there is a desperate need in this offense for a number 1 option. In 2020, 10 (TEN!) wide receivers or tight ends exceeded 100 receiving yards on the season. 2020 first round pick Jalen Reagor did not live up to expectations. In the first game of his career he had 1 catch for 55 yards, that was the highest yardage total he would have in a game for the entire season!
Smith is coming off a Heisman trophy winning season and arguably the best season we’ve ever seen from a college wide receiver. Not to mention the fact he did it while playing in the SEC, the highest level of play in college football. He matched up against the likes of Jaycee Horn, Eric Stokes, Tyson Campbell and Kelvin Joseph. All of which were taken in the first 2 rounds of this year’s draft. In his conference only schedule, he put up 1856 receiving yards on 117 receptions in 12 games. This resulted in a 34.6% target share while sharing the field with Jaylen Waddle and John Metchie. Smith has a 96th percentile college dominator rating on Player Profiler.
Volume is king in fantasy football, if you want to break into that WR1 category 100+ targets are mandatory. The same is true for Smith, in order to ensure he crushes his average draft position he will need at least 80 receptions. In the last 10 seasons, wide receivers who see 80+ catches have only finished outside the top-24 four times.
Devonta Smith is a complete wide receiver who has proven at Alabama that he is ready for that volume. People will point to his weight but that’s it. His route running, his ball skills, his releases, his body control, his speed, it’s all elite. The top teams in the nation knew he was getting the ball and he closed out the season with lines of 15/184/2, 7/130/3 and 12/215/3. Smith has the rare rookie combination of high floor and high ceiling.
Bust: DK Metcalf (Seattle Seahawks)
In 2020 D.K. Metcalf finished as the WR7 in PPR formats. The Seahawks came out guns-a-blazing to start the season, with DK scoring 19+ fantasy points in each of the teams first 3 games. He cooled down a little bit in the fantasy playoffs, scoring 9.3 points in week 15 and 11.9 in week 16.
Fast forward to 2020, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was let go due to “philosophical differences”. Pete Carroll is a defensive-minded, risk-averse head coach who believes time of possession, turnover differential and elite defense are the ways to win a football game. It was even noted by Carroll himself that he believes an increase in running the football will lead to more success in 2021.
This means we should expect to see a more run-heavy offense this season, similar to the teams of 2019 and 2018 that averaged the 3rd and 2nd most rushing attempts per game respectively. To put it in perspective, the Seahawks ranked 18th in this category last year. They’ve only ranked lower in this statistic once before in the last 10 seasons, that was in 2017. The Seahawks missed the playoffs in 2017 and finished 21st in rushing attempts per game. Carroll is going to point to this exact scenario as his reason to run the ball more in 2021.
How does this affect D.K. Metcalf? Well, in the 2019 season when the Seahawks were one of the most run heavy teams in the NFL he finished as the WR33. The easy way to explain this finish away is the fact that this was his rookie season. But let’s get into the type of targets D.K. sees on a game to game basis. In 2020 Metcalf finished 2nd in the NFL with 1783 total air yards. So we know that his targets are of high quality. This correlates with his 31 deep targets in 2020 which ranked 3rd overall. This is what people are hanging their hats on when they’re drafting him as the 4th wide receiver off the board.
The issue is the quantity of his targets. Last season Metcalf was targeted 124 times. In the last 10 seasons, of the 50 wide receivers that finished inside the top 5 only 2 of them were able to accomplish this with 124 targets or less. Metcalf isn’t even safe to sustain the same target amount in 2021 with as much as Carroll has emphasized running the football.
The bottom line is that you’re drafting D.K. Metcalf at his ceiling with his current ADP being what it is. I’d much rather take Calvin Ridley who has all the high value targets Metcalf does but is ensured an even higher quantity. Metcalf will not be able to meet his fantasy football draft capital in 2021.
Sleeper: Tyler Higbee – Los Angeles Rams
The tight end room in Los Angeles has featured the same cast of characters for the last 4 seasons. Those three players are Johnny Mundt, Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee. Fast forward to 2021 and Gerald Everett is now a Seattle Seahawk. He leaves with him 41 receptions, 417 yards and 1 touchdown from 2020.
Last season Tyler Higbee ran routes on 56.7% of the Rams passing plays. This led to just an 11.3% target share, ranking 29th at the position. Gerald Everett maintained the same target share last season along with 46.7% route participation. In the last two seasons there have been 126 and 156 targets to the tight end position.
Now let’s look at what Tyler Higbee has done in games without Gerald Everett. Since 2017, Higbee has played 8 games without Everett and has averaged 15.7 PPR points per game and over doubled his target share from 3.5 to 7.3 a game. Everyone remembers that stretch in 2019 when Everett got hurt and Higbee completely took over. Over those 5 games, he had 7+ receptions, 84+ yards and 18.6+ PPR points in every single one. Yes you heard that right, he was absolutely dominant. Now I’m not saying he’s going to be that good in 2021, but now the opportunity is definitely there.
What’s even more exciting for Higbee’s outlook is the addition of Matthew Stafford. This offense is going to be much more successful in the passing game this season and Higbee will be the benefactor in the red zone. Goff hadn’t been the same since that incredible 2018 season, and really hindered that offense’s ability to have consistent production. Stafford on the other hand, has been with a terrible organization his entire career, and now finally is going to be given a great head coach and weapons around him.
You can get Higbee in the 11th round of your fantasy drafts and is a great option to pick up if you’re unable to get one of the big 3 guys.
Breakout: Irv Smith – Minnesota Vikings
The most common tight end breakouts are easily 3rd year breakouts. Irv will only be 23 years old coming into the 2021 season, and was a 2nd round pick for the Vikings. They just let go of their long term TE1 in Kyle Rudolph, clearly showing they want to get Smith more involved. He’s a very athletic tight end, having a 87th percentile 40 yard dash time (4.63) and 71st percentile speed score.
There’s some speculation that Tyler Conklin will share the TE1 role with Irv, but to me, the roles seem pretty obvious between the two. Smith will be the receiving tight end, with Conklin being used more so as a blocker. There will be plenty of 2 TE sets however, giving both the opportunity to be on the field.
We already got sort of a preview of what’s to come last year, when Irv Smith got 4 weeks without Rudolph in the lineup. This is how it went:
His receptions doubled, targets doubled, yardage doubled and touchdowns tripled. Averaging 12.8 PPR points per game, that would’ve made him the TE3 last season. I do believe he has that upside to potentially finish right after the big 3 in fantasy points. Obviously there’s a few worries, mainly revolving around Conklin getting involved in the receiving game as well. However, he’s going pretty late in drafts right now as the TE10. If you see him available in the 9th round and you still need a tight end, he’s a great guy to pick up as a low cost weekly starter.
Bust: Kyle Pitts – Atlanta Falcons
This will definitely be a pick some don’t like and it has nothing to do with Pitts as a talent or his potential in the long term. The hype for Kyle Pitts has gone way too far. He’s a rookie tight end and he’s going in the 4th round of redraft leagues. It doesn’t matter how good of a prospect he is, he’d have to break rookie TE records to return value at that ADP. I’m not saying he doesn’t have that ability, because I think he definitely has the talent and potential to have the best tight end season ever, but that’s not something I’m willing to bet on.
In the super bowl era, the best tight end rookie season was 12.7 PPR fantasy points per game. So essentially Pitts needs to beat that to be worthy as the TE4. 81 receptions, 869 yards and 6 touchdowns was the stat line to beat. That doesn’t sound too hard to hit, but clearly for rookie tight ends it is.
For reference, some wide receivers going around the same spot as Pitts are Chris Godwin, CeeDee Lamb, Robert Woods and Amari Cooper. A bunch of guys who have high upside to finish as WR1s.
Another factor we can’t just ignore is that Hayden Hurst is still there. This team paid a 2nd round pick to acquire him last offseason and they’re not just going to stop using him. He definitely won’t keep Pitts off the field, but it could increase 2 tight end sets and maybe see a split between the two for designed passing plays thrown to the TE position.
All that being said, Kyle Pitts will likely be very successful in the NFL. He just doesn’t have the upside any of Kelce, Waller or Kittle have as a rookie so there’s no reason to be drafting him so close to them.
Best Pick By Round
Unsure of who you should be targeting in each round? Here’s our favourite pick in rounds 2-13, excluding round 1 as that will be entirely based on where in the first round you’ll be drafting. Like obviously take Christian McCaffrey no matter what, but most teams won’t have that opportunity just based on luck. Just make sure the guy you take in the first is a running back. That being said, here’s our favourite picks by round:
Round 2: D’Andre Swift – Detroit Lions
As mentioned in the RB breakout portion, I believe Swift has very high upside this season. Yet somehow he’s not being taken until the back half of the 2nd round, and sometimes even the beginning of the 3rd. To get that kind of league winning player as your RB2, take that every day of the week.
Round 3: Terry Mclaurin – Washington Football Team
Mclaurin is one of the biggest WR steals in the 3rd round of drafts. There’s finally a starter worthy QB in Washington, the first time Terry has had one in his career. He truly has top 5 wide receiver upside and if you follow through with our early running back strategy, he’s a great WR1 for your team. Get him with confidence anywhere in the 3rd round.
Round 4: Robert Woods – Los Angeles Rams
Robert Woods has been one of the most consistent players in fantasy football since 2018. His PPR finishes the last 3 years are WR13, WR14 and WR11. On the back of 129, 139 and 130 targets. Now he gets an upgrade in quarterback play with the addition of Matthew Stafford. This is the exact receiver you need if you’re running back heavy in the first few rounds.
Round 5: Tee Higgins – Cincinnati Bengals
Ever since the Bengals drafted Ja’Marr Chase, the Tee Higgins hype has died down significantly. Great news for us true Higgins truthers who believe in this guy’s talent undoubtedly. People forget Higgins had 14 PPR points per game in his 14 full games last year, half of which not even with Burrow. If he can do that as a rookie, imagine the upside as a sophomore. Higgins is one of my favourite WR2/3s in drafts.
Round 6: Javonte Williams – Denver Broncos
Williams is a player that could really start to ascend up draft boards as we get closer to the start of the season. But so far Gordon has been the one getting the first team reps in training camp. The Broncos traded up to take the UNC standout, so you know they believe in the talent. Javonte is very versatile as a runner, he can make you miss or run you over. The rookie has late season league winner written all over him.
Round 7: Damien Harris – New England Patriots
There’s no other running backs you can take this late in drafts that has the floor Damien Harris will have. Plenty of reports have come out saying he’s the lead back, and will likely demand 15-20 touches per game. He won’t be involved in the receiving game though and the touchdown upside could be capped with Cam under center, but he’s still a great week to week flex play.
Round 8: Trey Sermon – San Francisco 49ers
Another late round rookie RB with high upside. The 49ers also traded up to get the former Buckeye. Mostert is already dealing with a knee issue, he didn’t participate in OTA’s as a result. Even so, Sermon doesn’t need all the rushing volume to be of value. His size makes him the perfect fit as the goal line back with the necessary skill set to be the leader..
Round 9: Antonio Brown – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brown is going way too late in comparison to his teammates, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. When all 3 of them played together last season, the targets and fantasy points per game were very close between them, yet the ADP doesn’t show that accordingly. Because there’s so many mouths to feed on this team, production might be a little inconsistent from everyone, but Brown will definitely have his boom weeks. He’s another great weekly flex play with week winning potential.
Round 10: Ryan Tannehill – Tennessee Titans
The Titans quarterback finished as the QB7 last season and it’s very clear that the fantasy community isn’t buying it as you can get him in round 10 as the 13th quarterback off the board. What’s changed from 2020 to now? Arthur Smith has departed but the team made an internal promotion of Todd Downing as OC so the scheme shouldn’t change. The team also added Julio Jones to pair with the ascending AJ Brown. Tannehill is a slam dunk in the 10th round.
Round 11: Elijah Moore – New York Jets
Rookies usually don’t start producing until the 2nd half of the season, and we might see the same with Elijah Moore, but I’m willing to take a shot anyway. When you get this late in drafts, you need to look for those high upside guys, as you’ll likely be dropping most of them at this point anyway. Someone like Moore has had nothing but great news coming out about him this offseason and he’s got the talent to immediately come in and produce. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him emerge just a couple weeks into the season and take over that WR1 role.
Round 12: Trey Lance – San Francisco 49ers
There is a lot of uncertainty with Trey Lance at the NFL level, he played just one game in 2020. He also played against FCS competition. But the fantasy upside cannot be denied if he gets the opportunity. He profiles as both a better runner and passer than Jalen Hurts and he’ll get to work in Kyle Shanahan’s system. Take him with one of your last picks as a flier.
Round 13: Adam Trautman – New Orleans Saints
Trautman was a second round pick out of Dayton in 2020. He has the size and hands to immediately dominate inside the red zone for the Saints. Jared Cook saw 17 red zone targets last year and caught just 8 of them. He still recorded 6 touchdowns! Not to mention the fact that the pass catcher situation is incredibly murky without Michael Thomas. Someone has to step up and Trautman is that guy.
If you like this article, be sure to check out more of our fantasy football content! Also, we are launching our new Weekly Tournament game for NFL this season so be sure to look out for that. We will be doing free-rolls and large prize pools all season!