I've written enough about players this summer. I have comments on almost every ranking. The Upside designation for the players in the Draft Dominator and Top 300? I write those.
And, there are all the Gut Check articles from this summer. You should know where I stand with most of these players. Let's put the pieces of the puzzle together.
How the Tiers Work
The tiers are based on 12-team PPR formats. I will not be doing a non-PPR tier.
The Obvious: Each tier is ordered based on the ADPs of players.
- First Tier: Rounds 1-2
- Second Tier: Rounds 3-5
- Third Tier: Rounds 6-8
- Fourth Tier: Rounds 9-11
- Fifth Tier: Rounds 12-15
The No-So-Obvious: The players within each tier are not ranked in the order that I prefer them. They are ranked close to a mid-August Average Draft Position (ADP).
The Significance of "Round?": The Round (Rnd) is either where that player is getting drafted or my calculated "sweet spot" between my value of that player and his ADP. You'll either notice a straightforward number (1 = first round, 2 = second round, etc.) or you will see initials and numbers combined.
- E1 = Early portion of the first round.
- M1 = Middle part of the first round.
- L1 = Late part of the first round.
- M2/L3 = The sweet spot for that player, depending on where you draft is between the middle of the second and late part of the third round.
- Rd 16-20 = The range of the player's ADP is wide enough in the later rounds that you should plan to draft him between rounds 16-20.
These sweet spot estimations are exactly that...estimations. If you value the player as I do or more, you may want to draft him earlier if you look at these tiers and decide you like 2-3 players from one tier and could acquire more of them if you deviate from ADP conventions and build a reach or two into your plan.
After the First Tier, there are tables to the right of the rest of the tiers with names from previous tiers: That's right, these players listed to the right are players from previous tiers whose sweet-spot values are lower than their tier. It means I value these players significantly higher than your ADP and you can get them later.
In other words, it's merely a reminder that these players from higher tiers should earn the highest priority of consideration if you agree or trust my valuation of them.
What about players with "Round" values higher than the tier they're in? These are players where I ranked them slightly lower than their tier but I value their upside enough to keep them off the No-Fly List.
In this case, I'm hoping they fall to me a little lower than my projected round valuation of where to take them. A good example of Dak Prescott. Prescott could get selected as early as the fifth round but I'd prefer not to take him at least until the sixth round.
What's this No-Fly List?
I wrote an article about my 2021 No-Fly List of players that I won't be considering for drafts unless they fall well below I could reasonably project their drop in value. Here's my current list so you can decide whether you want to add them back into these tiers on your own.
The "Rnd" is the round where I would have valued them. "MW" is my exact value. "ADP" is the Average Draft Position. And "Diff." is the difference between my value and ADP.
I create a curve so the deeper we get into the draft, the wider the difference between my value and the ADP had to be for these players to wind up on this No-Fly List.
One Last Thing about the list: I will add many of these players back into my own draft plans based on slight changes to scoring or lineup formats that use more than one quarterback, four receivers, and three running backs. 1.5 PPR scoring for tight ends would also lead me to put the tight ends on this list back into my draft plan.
Players that I will often consider in my draft plans against top competition where I will employ less conventional builds are in bold on this list. My tiers are designed to be safer than the crazy things with my draft plans against fantasy writers or in highly competitive leagues.
Waldman's 2021 No-Fly List
|N/A||RB||Travis||Etienne (And now, injured...)||N/A||N/A||N/A|
As you can see, all of these players in bold are running backs. If you're adopting some form of an Upside-Down/Zero RB strategy, these options should be in your tiers although I'd lean more on considering Taylor and Edwards-Helaire than Barkley.
There are also players I intentionally left off the tiers below. Myles Gaskin is one of them. I appreciate what his value can be for a draft plan and if he fits your specific draft plan, fine. He doesn't fit mine.
What About Players You Especially Like In Each Tier
I will have their row in bold. Just because I have the player's row in bold, it doesn't mean I like them better than great options in the first round. For instance, Antonio Gibson. I'm suggesting you consider him in the late first if you have a draft plan that supports this idea or be thrilled you can get him in the early-to-middle of the second round.
I'm not telling you to draft him ahead of the elite backs.
Wait! There are Players who I think you should consider formulating a plan around!
If they are in bold with an asterisk (*), I think they are significantly underrated in their tier and worth a small-to-moderate reach and building your strategy around. This means knowing how to balance your team around these guys. If you just grabbed them without thinking this through, that's on you.
Here's the list and their ADP Round so you can look at these tiers with these players in mind to help you formulate a plan to acquire them.
- Tyreek Hill
- Mike Evans
- Tom Brady
- Antonio Brown
- 1-2 of Rob Gronkowski/Jared Cook
- Cleveland Browns Defense
- Bryan Edwards
Why are some players in italics?
Players who I am not sold on due to their situation and track record but not on the No-Fly List are in italics. I suggest limiting how many of these options are on your team. They are talented, but may not be in a great situation for a strong year.
I like drafting from the back turn in serpentine formats. So a lot of these players I have in bold in this tier are players I'd pair together at the back turn (picks 10-14). If you're drafting in the middle or at the front end, I'd also consider at least one of the players in bold. My favorite combos:
- Drafting from the top: Four of the first five backs that are not in italics and either Hopkins, Jefferson, or Brown.
- Drafting from the middle: Hill and Gibson.
- Drafting from the back: Hill and Gibson, Chubb and Gibson, or Chubb and one of Diggs/Hopkins
|I||1||RB||Christian||McCaffrey||Safe choice, scheme independent, high upside.|
|I||1||RB||Dalvin||Cook||I love the talent, supporting cast, and volume potential. Not in love with his durability history.|
|I||1||RB||Alvin||Kamara||High-volume back with highs and lows with a greater boom-bust value due to his quarterback(s) and surrounding talent. I'm a little more skittish about him.|
|I||1||RB||Derrick||Henry||A strong supporting cast, high upside, more scheme independent than folks think. One of the safest backs on the board.|
|I||1||RB||Ezekiel||Elliott||I think he rebounds and earns enough touches despite the fears that Mike McCarthy will cap his volume too low for RB1 value. His OL and QB are healthy enough.|
|I||1||WR||Davante||Adams||Volume and quarterback make this skillful option an elite producer.|
|I||1||TE||Travis||Kelce||Safest early option at the position due to offense and rapport with a great quarterback.|
|I||L1||RB||Aaron||Jones||If you can get the Jones-A.J. Dillon handcuff combo and have K.J. Hill high on your early-season waiver-wire list, I'd do it.|
|I||L1||WR||Tyreek||Hill*||The best wide receiver in the league when considering big-play athletic ability, route running, offense, elite complement in Kelce, and quarterback.|
|I||L1/E2||RB||Nick||Chubb||Kareem Hunt doesn't concern me. Rock-solid, safe choice. Nice pick at 1/2 turn.|
|I||2||RB||Austin||Ekeler||Ekeler is capable of top-12 PPR value but I'd prefer a better runner between the tackles or a top WR.|
|I||L1/E2||RB||Jonathan||Taylor||While still officially on my No-Fly List, I'm coming around on the potential for the OL to be fine.|
|I||2||WR||Stefon||Diggs||An excellent route runner in an offense that optimizes his best skills and his quarterback's strengths.|
|I||2||RB||Najee||Harris||Skilled and likely to earn the volume necessary for solid-to-strong RB2 production, but not enthusiastic about the Steelers' line.|
|I||L1/E2||WR||DeAndre||Hopkins||The fear of dragons at the edge of the fantasy ageists' flat world has been allowed to creep into the world of a great 29-year-old receiver. Exploit that ignorance.|
|I||2||WR||Calvin||Ridley||Ridley is a fine talent but I'd rather see how he handles coverage rolled to his side on a consistent basis without Julio Jones before investing in him this early.|
|I||E2/M2||RB||Antonio||Gibson||The exception to the rule when considering that backs need to have refined skills with setting up blocks. Gibson was raw last year and still excellent.|
|I||M2/L2||WR||D.K.||Metcalf||Excellent option but I expect Tyler Lockett to offer more for his value in this new Seahawks offense.|
|I||L2/E3||QB||Patrick||Mahomes||If you're an early-quarterback drafter, I'll never chide you for taking prime Mahomes.|
|I||M2/L2||WR||Justin||Jefferson||The AC Joint injury has depressed his value slightly. I'll still take my chances. He and Brown are my two favorite young receivers.|
|I||M2/L2||WR||A.J.||Brown||Julio Jones is going to open a lot up for Brown. Expect a dominant fantasy season soon--including the possibility of this year.|
|I||E3||TE||Darren||Waller||While I prefer waiting on tight ends Waller is a fine option in an offense that should be better on the outside and make Waller more efficient in 2021.|
I am a big fan of J.K. Dobbis, Terry McLaurin, and CeeDee Lamb but if you're buying into my Buccaneers' stack, they won't likely fall to you. If you're not buying into the stack, or only partially buying, you can incorporate one of them into your plan.
- Early Spots (3rd/4th/5th):
- Evans / Godwin / Brady (if shooting for greatness).
- Evans / Lockett / Brady (if want to graze greatness -- a little diversification)
- Evans / Kupp / Brady (if you want to be a little more conservative)
- Middle Spots:
- Evans / Godwin / Brady
- Evans / Brady / Thielen
- Evans / Brady / Hunt, Davis, or Robinson
- Late Spots:
- Evans / Woods / Brady
- Evans / Jacobs / Brady
- Evans / Lockett / Brady
|II||E3||WR||Keenan||Allen||The only issue with Allen has been occasional durability concerns. Safe pick.||Justin||Jefferson||WR||I||L2||See above.|
|II||E3||TE||George||Kittle||The likely quarterback change could hurt Kittle some, but not enough to overlook him if you like taking TEs early.||A.J.||Brown||WR||I||L2||See above.|
|II||L3/E4||RB||Gus||Edwards||If you know you can get Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp, or Tyler Lockett in the late part of the 4th round, consider Montgomery, Carson, or Jacobs who will be central figures in their offenses. Edwards has equal TD upside, but lower yardage upside.|
|II||3||RB||David||Montgomery||Montgomery was good without a strong offensive line last year. Expect him to be better even if the OL isn't much better because the threat of Justin Fields' legs will open bigger creases.|
|II||3||WR||Terry||McLaurin||I like safe picks early. McLaurin is a great route runner and reliable pass catcher and has proven his value without a lot of weapons around him. Easy/safe pick.|
|II||3||QB||Josh||Allen||Allen had some issues with zone coverage last year but his improvement has been notable. If he falls to the mid-fourth, I'd consider him there.|
|II||3||WR||CeeDee||Lamb||Lamb is could easily have a season on par with A.J. Brown and Justin Jefferson. Safe pick with PPR upside.|
|II||3||WR||Allen||Robinson||Robinson's talent isn't the issue. I'm more concerned about Matt Nagy's offense, Justin Fields' early rapport with Robinson. Upside, but a hidden trap door for his downside.|
|II||M3/E4||RB||Chris||Carson||Solid RB2 in an offense that could help him generate RB1 value if the OL gels in this outside zone system.|
|II||M3/L3||WR||Mike||Evans*||I don't get the hate for Evans. He was hurt most of 2020. When he wasn't, he was a stud. The Buccaneers could have a record year, I'm all-in on stacking this offense.|
|II||L3/E4||RB||Josh||Jacobs||The OL will be a better running unit and the improvements with the perimeter passing game should also help Jacobs on the ground. Solid floor despite Kenyan Drake.|
|II||E4||WR||Robert||Woods||If you took Chubb and Antonio Gibson 1-2, Evans/Woods 3-4 is awesome! Do it.|
|II||4||RB||Miles||Sanders||Sanders has improved as an NFL player but I have concerns with the efficiency of this offense. Still, if you are targeting an RB2 here with RB1 upside he's not a bad choice.|
|II||4||QB||Kyler||Murray||Because you can get Tom Brady cheap, I prefer waiting on a quarterback a little longer.|
|II||4||WR||Amari||Cooper||A solid player with great upside who I'd also pair with Evans or stack with Lamb.|
|II||4||QB||Lamar||Jackson||I almost put Jackson in bold, but If you've waited this long, get Brady.|
|II||4||WR||Chris||Godwin||Godwin was also nicked up last year. If you can get 2-3 of the Buccaneers' passing game, you're shooting for fantasy greatness this year.|
|II||4||WR||Cooper||Kupp||Woods could lead the team in yardage, but Kupp won't be far behind and may contend for the lead in targets and TDs.|
|II||L4/M5||WR||Julio||Jones||I covered the Falcons for 10 years at this site. Jones is still elite when on the field, but the breakdowns have been more frequent. If you've been safe up to this point, go ahead w/your shot.|
|II||L4/E5||TE||Tyler||Lockett||Lockett has enough skills to mimic what Robert Woods brings to Sean McVay's offense but with more vertical upside. He's a high-ceiling/high-floor option.|
|II||E5/M5||QB||Tom||Brady*||You can probably get Brady in the early sixth in many leagues, but he's the linchpin of my drafts, and his floor is easily the fifth round. League-winner potential.|
|II||L4/E5||WR||Adam||Thielen||It's as if the fantasy world has forgotten about how good Thielen is when healthy. Easy choice here if you want a third or fourth WR with WR1 upside/WR3 floor.|
|II||5||WR||D.J.||Moore||I love the talent, but not sold on Sam Darnold supporting Moore's upside until I see them in the regular season.|
|II||5||WR||Diontae||Johnson||A solid young player who could make the leap to WR1 territory if conditions are right, but not completely sold they are.|
|II||5||RB||Mike||Davis||The doom and gloom that Davis was a fluke last year is my bed that those folks don't understand what makes a good RB. Davis is a skilled RB2 and if this OL clicks? :)|
|II||5||TE||Mark||Andrews||Safe, smart, and productive.|
|II||5||RB||Kareem||Hunt||Would I take Chubb and Hunt? You bet I would but I doubt you'll get him if you take Brady. But if you took a QB earlier or wait until later? Sure.|
|II||5||QB||Aaron||Rodgers||If you're not taking Brady here you might as well wait for another 4-6 rounds for your first passer.|
|II||5||RB||James||Robinson||Robinson is a better RB at this stage of his career than Travis Etienne would have been this year. I feel for Etienne but am happy the Jags get this right by happenstance.|
|II||5||QB||Russell||Wilson||See notes on Rodgers.|
|II||5||QB||Dak||Prescott||See notes on Rodgers.|
|II||5||WR||Brandon||Aiyuk||A good young talent, but quarterback switches have unpredictable results for young receivers and this is likely to happen in San Francisco this year.|
|II||L5/E6||TE||T.J.||Hockenson||The last of the early-round tight ends with the safe volume you can lean on.|
My recommendation is to mix and match receivers and promising backs here. Odell Beckham Jr and Antonio Brown may appear to have capped upsides, but I think they'll outplay their draft position. Trey Sermon, Raheem Moster, A.J. Dillon, and Damien Harris have RB2 floors if they earn opportunities to lead their backfields.
- Early Spots:
- Ultimate upside: Odell Beckham Jr / Trey Sermon / Antonio Brown / A.J. Dillon
- If you need receivers: Beckham / Boyd / Brown / Jaylen Waddle
- If you need backs: Damien Harris or Henderson / Sermon / Brown or Dillon / Jamaal Williams or Devin Singletary
- Middle Spots:
- Ultimate upside: Beckham / Sermon / Brown / Dillon
- If you need receivers: Beckham / Boyd / Brown / Waddle
- If you need backs: Harris / Sermon / Michael Carter II / Williams
- Late Spots:
- Ultimate upside: Beckham or Jeudy / Harris or Sermon / Brown or Shenault / Shenault or Waddle
- Receiver-heavy: Same as ultimate upside.
- Back-heavy: Harris / Mostert / Sermon, Carter or Dillon / Williams or Singletary
|III||6||RB||Darrell||Henderson||Sony Michel is a quality talent when healthy, but that's hard to predict. Henderson is also and that's easier to count on. He's also a better big-play threat.||Tom||Brady*||QB||II||E5/M5||See above.|
|III||6||QB||Justin||Herbert||Herbert was great for fantasy teams last year but as PFF's Dwain McFarland and I noted in last week's RSP Cast, Herbet has shown signs of a trap-door floor.||T.J.||Hockenson||TE||II||L5/E6||See above.|
|III||6||WR||Tee||Higgins||Higgins should approach 800-1,000 yards this year.|
|III||6||WR||JaMarr||Chase||Chase has high-end WR2 upside, but he has been off to a slow start in camp. Expect ups and downs. Give me Jaylen Waddle this year.|
|III||6||WR||JuJu||Smith-Schuster||Capable fantasy starter with WR2 upside, but more likely capped as a good WR3.|
|III||6||WR||Chase||Claypool||I'm still waiting to see if Claypool can win with coverage rolled over to him and making him the priority. His production suffered when this happened last year.|
|III||M5/L5||TE||Kyle||Pitts||Pitts has a decent shot of WR2 fantasy value as a TE1 operating more like a receiver in this offense. But as a fourth-round pick? Too many good receivers available for me to go there.|
|III||E/M6||WR||Odell||Beckham||Beckham might be the best combination of safety and upside as an early pick in the sixth round. I'll buy it.|
|III||L6/E7||RB||Raheem||Mostert||The 49ers have an excellent ground game and Mostert could be a more refined Tevin Coleman to Trey Sermon's Devonta Freeman, but the trap-door is Sermon taking over.|
|III||L6/E7||WR||Jerry||Jeudy||Jeudy should be ecstatic about Teddy Bridgewater earning the starting job because their skills mesh best for Jeudy's upside.|
|III||L6/E7||RB||Damien||Harris||If you're an Upside-Down/Do-the-Opposite/Zero-RB drafter, Harris is an excellent target. If not, he's still a bargain RB2.|
|III||7||WR||Robby||Anderson||The player with whom Sam Darnold should have the best rapport.|
|III||L7||RB||Melvin||Gordon||Capable talent and while many are down on him due to the potential of Javonte Williams, you can get both if you went strong with your passing game early.|
|III||7||TE||Logan||Thomas||Thomas could build on a strong 2020 campaign but I prefer other options.|
|III||E7/M7/L7||RB||Trey||Sermon||I'll take my chances on Sermon at any point in the seventh round and hope he takes over completely for the best rushing unit in football west of Cleveland.|
|III||7||QB||Ryan||Tannehill||Upside and surrounding talent if you miss on Brady and don't trust the rookies.|
|III||M/L7||WR||Tyler||Boyd||If you need a receiver, Beckham and Boyd are the safest picks in PPR in this tier. Even so, make room for Antonio Brown in the early eighth.|
|III||8||WR||Brandin||Cooks||Consistent as a fantasy producer, but will he have the consistent QB play. At this late juncture, you can take the chance but I like other options more.|
|III||8||RB||Michael||Carter||By year's end, Carter should see the field a lot but he's probably lagging behind Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson as a pass protector right now.|
|III||8||WR||D.J.||Chark||Chark hasn't had an inspiring camp, but the ability is there. His floor is lower than Marvin Jones Jr and Laviska Shenault Jr's, but his ceiling is almost as high.|
|III||8||WR||Deebo||Samuel||See thoughts on Aiyuk.|
|III||E8/M8/L8||WR||Antonio||Brown*||Brown has dominated Buccaneers camp and we've learned he needed surgery for 3 years and is healthy. Go for WR1 upside in the 8th round.|
|III||M8||QB||Matthew||Stafford||If you already got Evans and Godwin and Brown is just too much for you or you missed on Brady, Stafford has weapons (and scheme) for top-five QB play.|
|III||9||QB||Jalen||Hurts||Hurts has the legs and vertical passing potential for a QB1 season.|
|III||9||TE||Dallas||Goedert||Skilled enough for TE1 production but will the volume be consistent with the developing Hurts?|
|III||M8/L8||WR||Laviska||Shenault||Shenault has been excellent this summer and should lead the team in combined touches and targets|
|III||9||TE||Robert||Tonyan||Great quarterback and has a good scheme for his improving player who should build on his TE1 campaign from 2020.|
|III||9||WR||Jarvis||Landry||Don't know what to do? Landry is safe although not exciting. A high-ceiling pick if you need some safety.|
|III||9||WR||Jaylen||Waddle||Waddle is one of my top two candidates to follow A.J. Brown and Justin Jefferson as the top rookie producer at his position.|
|III||9||RB||A.J.||Dillon||Dillon has league-winning upside as a difference-maker if Aaron Jones gets hurt.|
|III||M9/L9||TE||Tyler||Higbee||Higbee is the first of a few tight ends I'd wait to take as my starter.|
|III||L9||RB||Devin||Singletary||A skilled runner with a lower ceiling than you'd like as an athlete who seems destined for a timeshare but if teammates falter, he could have a career year.|
|III||E9/M9/L9||RB||Jamaal||Williams||D'Andre Swift has a hidden floor and Williams is a solid back with skills between the tackles and in the passing game. He has an RB2 ceiling.|
There are still some valuable starters here, including Michael Gallup, Marvin Jones Jr, Jared Cook, Rob Gronkowski, and DeVante Parker. If you get three of these five, you're doing well — especially if you took shots on some rookies earlier and they underwhelm. If you feel great about your team heading into the ninth round and selected your starter (Brady or an early-round option), Trey Lance and Justin Fields are excellent high-upside picks. If you prefer a higher floor because they have the starting job right now, wait for Tua Tagovailoa or Ben Roethlisberger to begin your fifth tier. Tagovailoa is also a good late-round QB selection.
|IV||M8-M9||WR||Michael||Gallup||High-floor, high-upside player this late. Easy pick if you shy away from rookie WRs or older guys like Brown.||Jaylen||Waddle||WR||III||9||See above.|
|IV||9||TE||Mike||Gesicki||A skilled player for what he does well but he's not an instant mismatch at his position. Best with jump-balls and seam routes.||Tyler||Higbee||TE||III||9||See above.|
|IV||M9/E10||WR||Marvin||Jones||Jones could easily lead the Jaguars in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns. Injuries are his hidden floor.||Jamaal||Williams||RB||III||E9/M9/L9||See above.|
|IV||10||TE||Irv||Smith||The hidden trap-door with Smith is the underrated and unsung Tyler Conklin. Still, I'd take my chances with Smith if you're rich everywhere else.||A.J.||Dillon||RB||III||9||See above.|
|IV||10||QB||Trevor||Lawrence||There's still a great opportunity for Lawrence to deliver strong fantasy production as a garbage-time producer.|
|IV||10||RB||David||Johnson||It will be a three-headed committee in Houston, but Johnson has the best receiving skills of the runners projected as part of the rotation.|
|IV||10||WR||Curtis||Samuel||Samuel is a talent but is he truly a refined talent? The hype for him has been strong for three years and he hasn't lived up to it.|
|IV||10||WR||Mike||Williams||Herbert spreads the ball around well and Williams could easily be the third or fourth option despite his reputation placing him higher in the order.|
|IV||M10-M12||TE||Jared||Cook*||Excellent choice here. High ceiling and high floor.|
|IV||M10/M11||WR||Henry||Ruggs||Ruggs has shown improvement in camp, but will it translate to the season? I'm betting on Waller and Bryan Edwards as the top two options.|
|IV||L10/M11||WR||Marquise||Brown||I need to see proof that he can play in the middle of the field and is more than a deep threat.|
|IV||L10/E11||RB||Gus||Edwards||Solid handcuff or reserve with routine playing time who can double as a consistent flex.|
|IV||M11/M12||QB||Matt||Ryan||I don't believe this young receiving corps sans Julio Jones will come through for Ryan to earn QB1 value.|
|IV||11||RB||Nyheim||Hines||Solid PPR option with a flex floor.|
|IV||11||WR||Darnell||Mooney||Improving young receiver in a questionable scheme but with upside potential, if he connects with Justin Fields.|
|IV||L11/L12||WR||Michael||Pittman||An industry favorite on a team with a quarterback who can make receivers look bad.|
|IV||E11/E12||RB||Tony||Pollard||See Gus Edwards' commentary, especially if Mike McCarthy truly limits Elliott beyond reason.|
|IV||E12||QB||Trey||Lance||If you took an early-round QB, Lance could be a strong upside pick later and performs well enough for your early-round guy to be trait bait.|
|IV||E11||RB||Phillip||Lindsay||Lindsay could lead the Texans' backfield, but with that OL, it may not be a valuable thing for fantasy players beyond flex totals.|
|IV||M12-M13||RB||J.D.||McKissic||See Hines' commentary but Gibson could give McKissic a lower floor than Hines.|
|IV||12||QB||Justin||Fields||Solid QBBC play with standalone upside.|
|IV||12||WR||Cole||Beasley||Flex with PPR WR3 upside.|
|IV||L11/M12||DEF||Baltimore||Ravens||Smart scheme with an excellent mix of veterans, playmakers, and disruptive forces.|
|IV||12||QB||Baker||Mayfield||There's Kirk Cousins-like upside as a QB1 due to his surrounding talent. The floor is low though, especially with such an easy schedule last year hiding it.|
|IV||M11/M12||WR||Elijah||Moore||If Zach Wilson has to be a check-down artist, Moore could have WR2 upside.|
|IV||L12||QB||Kirk||Cousins||Cousins has QB1 upside due to his talent but he needs his line to play well enough to access that ceiling.|
|IV||L/12||TE||Jonnu||Smith||I'd bet on Hunter Henry's savvy over Smith's athletic ability if picking between the two TEs in NE.|
|IV||M12/E13||WR||T.Y.||Hilton||Hilton can erase bad targets and he may need to do this a lot with Carson Wentz, but a neck injury will limited his playing time.|
|IV||E12/M12||TE||Rob||Gronkowski*||Many in our hobby never learn that elite TEs stay elite in production even if they lose a step athletically. Gronkowski has a TE1 floor, too.|
|IV||M12/L12||WR||DeVante||Parker||Fairly underrated here, but his past inconsistencies with a slow development curve and injury give him this rep.|
|IV||M12/L12||RB||Alexander||Mattison||Like Dillon and Pollard, a league-winning piece if Cook gets hurt but doesn't have as high of a floor.|
Tua Tagovailoa is a strong value as a QBBC you can pair with Derek Carr or Ryan Fitzpatrick if you waited this long. I'm happy to roll with Gronkowski and/or Jared Cook as my starters. Hunter Henry is worth a look with Mac Jones as the starter, but his ceiling and floor are too unstable compared to my recommendations.
The real winner in New England after the Sony Michel trade and Mac Jones winning the starting job might be James White. I love Rhamondre Stevenson's talent but as someone who studied his tape and touted him for months, the preseason tape is fluff and the box score analysts have joined the bandwagon for wrong reasons and are trying to steer it off course. Stevenson probably isn't ready yet. He might be by midseason or if forced into a role, but he's likely the No.3 to begin the year.
If you miss on White, Bernard could have a great opportunity to deliver like White in Tampa but with more red-zone upside. He's a great hedge if you stacked Buccaneers receivers as directed and injuries strike. The more Brady's starting corps gets hurt, the more likely Bernard becomes an RB1 in PPR. That's a good late-round insurance policy.
Moore has WR2 upside as a Tyreek Hill type of player in terms of role even if his ability isn't quite the same for those who watch more than the Red Zone channel and highlights.
If you're worried about your receivers, Moore, Emmanuel Sanders, A.J. Green, and Brian Edwards are excellent late-round options. It may seem unlikely, but I could see all four of these players delivering top-36 value at their position. All four have top-24 upside.
|V||M11/M13||TE||Hunter||Henry||The savviest route runner of the two starting tight ends in New England. Expect a good rapport with Mac Jones.||Rob||Gronkowski||TE||IV||M12-M13||See above.|
|V||M12/M13||QB||Tua||Tagovailoa||Tagovailoa is every bit the prospect Joe Burrow is and has a more veteran receiving corps with an equally dynamic rookie.||T.Y.||Hilton||QB||IV||L12/L13||See above.|
|V||12||WR||Marquez||Callaway||Callaway has made plays all summer, but he hasn't proven that he's a primary option with his route tree and facing top corners.||Alexander||Mattison||RB||IV||M13/M14||See above.|
|V||12||QB||Ben||Roethlisberger||Expect a short passing game in Pittsburgh with occasional play-action forays deep but the OL is suspect.||DeVante||Parker||WR||IV||L13/M14||See above.|
|V||M12-E13||TE||Jared||Cook*||Cook is still playing in his scheme that was brought to L.A. from New Orleans. He'll have better QB play this year.|
|V||E11-M12||RB||Sony||Michel||Health permitting, Michel has top-15 upside but expect him to serve as the RB2 in LA to Henderson.|
|V||M12-E13||RB||James||White||With Michel gone and Mac Jones the starter, the real winner could be White in this NE backfield. PPR upside.|
|V||13||WR||Jakobi||Meyers||Meyers should challenge for the reception lead but not yardage or touchdowns due to his lack of vertical prowess.|
|V||13||QB||Derek||Carr||I see a scenario where Carr could have a career year but the talented receivers are too unproven to count on it. Solid QB2.|
|V||13||QB||Deshaun||Watson||Watson's off-field situation and relationship with his team is a mess. Good luck counting on his immense talent to come through for you in 2021.|
|V||M13||RB||Giovani||Bernard||Bernard has a real shot to earn the role of "NFC James White," but with more red-zone upside.|
|V||M13/M14||WR||Rondale||Moore||Moore has the skills, surrounding receiver talent, the versatility of role, and quarterback to be my third-favorite rookie WR in 2021.|
|V||14||WR||Jalen||Reagor||The Eagles staff misused Reagor last year, but does he have the quarterback to rebound?|
|V||14||TE||Zach||Ertz||I'm essentially staying away from Eagles players despite their individual talents.|
|V||14||QB||Ryan||Fitzpatrick||I'd take Tagovailoa and Fitzpatrick as my late-round QBBC.|
|V||E14-L14||WR||Terrace||Marshall||Marshall has a lower floor than Waddle, Chase, and Moore, but I like his skills and upside provided you have any optimism about Darnold.|
|V||15||RB||Chuba||Hubbard||Hubbard is a high-effort speedster with a lot to learn to become a good starter, but volume and opportunity could make him look better than he is right now.|
|V||15||WR||Nelson||Agholor||Agholor will drop the ball but I think the Patriots are ready to deal with it enough that he'll contend for the lead in receiving yards.|
|V||15||QB||Zach||Wilson||Expect some Mayfield-esque ups and downs for Wilson this year.|
|V||15||RB||Tevin||Coleman||He'll deliver big plays couched between a lot of underwhelming touches. That's good enough for strong fantasy weeks while he remains the starter.|
|V||15||TE||Adam||Trautman||If he can return to healthy early in the year, and signs point in that direction, expect Trautman to lead the Saints' TE room in yardage and receptions.|
|V||L14/E15||RB||Rhamondre||Stevenson||I love his upside and he could take over this backfield if called upon but the buzz is built on preseason fluff. He'll begin as the No.3 option.|
|V||15||RB||Rashaad||Penny||Great athletic upside but must stay healthy, beat out Alex Collins, and show he can run zone plays. All three are minor-to-major question marks.|
|V||15||WR||Sterling||Shepard||A medium-floor, medium-upside player.|
|V||M14/E15||WR||Emmanuel||Sanders||Easily capable of fantasy WR2 value in the Bills system and underrated due to age, injury, and bad QB play the past two years. He still has "it."|
|V||M14/E15||WR||A.J.||Green||If Green still has "it" as reported, he's a steal here. The fact he's been told he can switch routes with Hopkins is promising.|
|V||15||DEF||Cleveland||Browns*||Expect the Browns to be playing with leads and earning a lot of turnovers.|
|V||16||WR||Amon-Ra||St. Brown||Sterling Shepard-like with potentially more upside.|
|V||16||TE||Austin||Hooper||Hooper is projected to lead the tight end room in Cleveland, according to the team. He's underrated because the industry doesn't like his athletic ability.|
|V||16||WR||Rashod||Bateman||A.J. Brown and Odell Beckham Jr had strong minicamps as rookies, got hurt in August, and exploded during the season. Batemen has that ability.|
|V||16||RB||Malcolm||Brown||Durability and underrated runner who offers late-round value.|
|V||16||WR||Tyrell||Williams||Might be the top target in Detroit.|
|V||L14/E15||WR||Bryan||Edwards*||He's had a strong camp for the second straight year and he's starting. He's a terrific athlete and underrated among his peers from a great WR class.|
|V||R18-20||WR||Christian||Kirk||Kirk has high upside but a borderline reserve's role.|
|V||R18-20||QB||Jameis||Winston||Has he matured? Let him prove it to you from afar.|
|V||R18-20||RB||Damien||Williams||Capable RB2 if called upon.|
|V||R18-20||RB||Mark||Ingram||RB1 talent and ability but not the supporting cast.|
The players I'm targeting often are in bold, but this also serves as an excellent waiver-wire list for Weeks 1-3
- RB Boston Scott
- RB Justin Jackson
- WR Sammy Watkins
- WR Denzel Mims
- RB Carlos Hyde
- WR Allen Lazard
- WR DWayne Eskridge
- QB Mac Jones
- RB Chris Evans
- RB Qadree Ollison
- TE Hayden Hurst
- WR DeSean Jackson*
- WR Byron Pringle
- WR Keelan Cole
- WR Josh Reynolds