When it comes to drafting a fantasy team, the goal is to form a good base and work from there. Of course, you do not win the championship at the draft-- a common sentiment and a true one. But the key is to do the best job you can to avoid making many significant moves during the season. Yes, injuries happen. It comes with the territory, and no one can predict them. But making sure to get depth during your draft allows you to, hopefully, weather the storm.
We all have certain players that we would love to walk away with every year--Our Guys. So instead of just listing a few of my guys for 2021, I went over the ADP from 12-team leagues in August and found players you can draft at different segments of your draft that will provide a solid return on investment. It would be my perfect draft if you could land them all, but even a few of these players would be ideal for filling any holes in your roster.
Taking the best player available in the early rounds of your draft is almost always the best strategy. Although this means different things to different managers, I try to load up on running backs and wide receivers. I also do not take quarterbacks early, so you will not find Patrick Mahomes II or Josh Allen on my rosters.
- RB Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
- RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs
- WR Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
- WR Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams
Even in PPR leagues, the lack of receiving work given to Nick Chubb is not a concern. He is the primary rusher in a good Cleveland offense. He is also playing with a quarterback not known to run much, thereby limiting the missed opportunity for rushing touchdowns. You should be pleased to take Nick Chubb as your first running back in any draft.
After 125 yards in his first game as a rookie, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was less stellar than expected for the entire season. Despite this, he plays on the best offense in the NFL, allowing him to remain a valuable running back. It also makes him worth a chance as your RB2, behind a solid number one like Chubb.
My goal is to secure two running backs early, so I’m good to go if I landed Chubb and Edwards-Helaire. If you did decide to add a third, it should be Chris Carson. Instead, I'd target Allen Robinson. Despite a career full of bad quarterbacks, Robinson does nothing but perform. He is guaranteed 150 targets and will be an excellent WR1 with that type of volume.
Finally, to end the early rounds, try to get Robert Woods. All Woods does is catch passes. Even though his touchdowns may not hit double digits, he is on a high-octane offense with questions at running back. With Matthew Stafford in town, the passing game will kick it up to an even higher volume. Woods is more of a downfield threat than teammate Cooper Kupp. The yardage that comes with that role makes him an attractive pick to pair with Robinson as your first two wide receivers.
You should now concentrate on building depth in the middle rounds after starting the draft with a solid base of running backs and wide receivers. In these rounds, you'll focus on the same positions as before. The goal is to fill out the final wide receiver position and gather players to use in your flex position with high upside potential.
- RB Mike Davis, Atlanta Falcons
- WR Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
- WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
- QB Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
- RB Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens
Avoid early and middle tight ends if you're not getting Travis Kelce or Darren Waller. With the steep drop-off coming soon at the running back position, instead, try to grab a player who has the potential to be a top-10 running back in fantasy. Mike Davis has the rushing and receiving ability to be a skillful player in any PPR format. I love getting him here.
After grabbing two steady wide receivers, I’d like to have a bit of a wild card for my WR3. The 49ers found a lot of ways to get Brandon Aiyuk the ball as a rookie. When Trey Lance and his big arm get into games, he will find even more ways to do so down the field. You want a piece of that action. With the other options around him being less exciting, take the upside of Aiyuk on a rebounding San Francisco offense.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is currently the third of the Steelers’ wide receivers in fantasy drafts but getting him here is excellent. Despite the perception of a down season in 2020, Smith-Schuster had 97 receptions and nine touchdowns. He also re-signed with Pittsburgh for a reason--Ben Roethlisberger loves him. If his yardage numbers improve, you’ll love him too, especially as your flex option.
Although I usually wait a little longer for a quarterback, the value Ryan Tannehill currently offers at his ADP is too much to ignore. He was the fantasy QB7 in 2020 with a run-heavy offense led by Derek Henry. Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is now in Atlanta and, as a gift to Tennessee fans, he traded Julio Jones to the Titans. An elite receiver on a team that already has talented A.J. Brown on the others side. The Titans will not allow their money or that trade to go to waste. Jones will perform nicely, so will Brown, and it will all be coming from Tannehill.
While J.K. Dobbins and Lamar Jackson may get the publicity, Gus Edwards does the challenging work. At 235 pounds, Edwards is the goal line running back in Baltimore, and he gets plenty of work there. The Ravens are consistently top-three in the NFL in rush attempts, so getting the back likely to get double-digit touchdowns for them is a nice grab at the end of the middle rounds.
After securing a starting quarterback and solid depth at multiple starter positions in the middle rounds, you can now concentrate on a tight end and bench depth in the late rounds. Although most would prefer not to take a defense or kicker and pick one up right before the season, I will still list my guys to target with your last two picks. So, you'll end your draft with a tight end, more depth, a kicker, and a defense.
- TE Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
- WR Marvin Jones Jr, Jacksonville Jaguars
- RB James White, New England Patriots
- PK Rodrigo Blankenship, Indianapolis Colts
- New England Patriots defense
The urge to go with running back or wide receiver is tempting here, but the fact is that you still need a tight end. Since coming out of Penn State, Mike Gesicki has been disappointing to his fantasy managers, but it has finally looked like he has something going. Tua Tagovailoa had a real connection with Gesicki to finish 2020, and you should take a chance on his breakout coming to fruition. This late in the draft, he’s worth a swing, and you may end up streaming the position anyhow.
Marvin Jones Jr Jr. is going to be the veteran presence in the Jaguars locker room. Urban Meyer has already made his displeasure with D.J. Chark Jr known, and now he had surgery to repair his finger. Jones is another downfield threat who catches touchdown passes from his quarterbacks. Plus, he’s already finished as a top-12 receiver in Detroit. So, it is not out of the question for a top-24 finish in Jacksonville in 2021.
You always want to have more running backs than you need. Unfortunately, the running back position seems to get hurt more than others, and it is a bit more challenging to find a replacement. However, James White is one of the best receiving backs in the NFL. In any form of PPR league, this makes him a viable late-round target. He is undoubtedly one of my favorites and worth your last positional pick.
Based on ADP, a lot of kickers and defenses may have already gone. That is alright, as they are a dime a dozen anyhow. My goal when choosing a kicker and defense is to find on with the latest bye week. This way, you do not have to drop someone early. In this case, it worked out great. Rodrigo Blankenship was the highest-rated kicker left and has a Week 14 bye, and I like the Patriots’ defense to bounce back in 2021. They also have a Week 14 bye, so you will not be forced to find a new team defense or kicker for a long while.