Fantasy Football 2021: Players Who Should Be Getting Drafted Earlier

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 5, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Players Who Should Be Getting Drafted Earlier

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    Most fantasy football managers never get it quite right on draft night.

    While a lot of these missteps surface with time, some emerge as more obvious mistakes during the draft process.

    Using average draft position (ADP) data from FantasyPros, we have identified three players being undervalued during the talent grab.

Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 56)

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    The cost of fantasy rookies is often inflated by the shiny-new-object tax. It's essentially an increased rate on upside, though it's functionally more of a premium on the unknown.

    But at this ADP, fantasy managers are selling Travis Etienne short. He's a dynamic playmaker with soft hands, elite burst and all kinds of wiggle. He scored an absurd 78 touchdowns across four seasons at Clemson, which might be the best encapsulation of the electricity he can provide.

    Oh, and remember who he worked alongside with the Tigers? Trevor Lawrence, the quarterback Jacksonville just selected first overall. The Jaguars then invested the No. 25 pick in Etienne, which is a significant cost at the position—unless you plan to use that player early and often.

    Jacksonville got a really good season out of James Robinson in 2020, but it drafted Etienne for a reason. Even if he's splitting touches with Robinson, he has the talent to outperform his fantasy cost.

Logan Thomas, TE, Washington Football Team (ADP: 105)

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    Logan Thomas took the long road to fantasy relevance. Initially drafted as a quarterback out of Virginia Tech in 2014, he didn't make a dent on fantasy radars until this past season, having previously switched to the tight end spot.

    Maybe Thomas' lack of track record is working against him. That, or fantasy managers simply forgot how productive he was in 2020.

    He cleared 100 targets. You can count the number of tight ends with that level of opportunity on one hand. He hauled in 72 of his 110 targets for 670 yards and six scores. And he did all of that while catching passes from the likes of Dwyane Haskins, who's out of Washington, and Alex Smith, who's out of football.

    Washington should have a much better offense now with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center and Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries added to the receiving group. Thomas may not get quite as many targets, but he should have more room to operate and better balls coming his way. He could be the fourth-best player at his position without the price tag you'd expect.

Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams (ADP: 57)

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    Cooper Kupp has at least 90 receptions on 120-plus targets each of the last two seasons.

    He's a quarterback favorite for a reason. He is shifty enough to consistently create separation, and his hands are reliable enough to collect most everything thrown his way.

    He had some massive seasons with Jared Goff under center, particularly the 2019 campaign in which he turned 94 receptions into 1,161 yards and 10 touchdowns. Kupp could be even more productive now that L.A. has upgraded to Matthew Stafford at quarterback.

    Goff has twice thrown for more than 4,000 yards; Stafford has cleared that mark in eight of the last 10 seasons—eight of his last nine healthy campaigns—and once put together a 5,038-yard, 41-touchdown masterpiece. Kupp could create some aerial magic with his new signal-caller.