2021 Fantasy Football Big Board: Updated Rankings for Last Week of NFL Preseason

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystAugust 27, 2021

2021 Fantasy Football Big Board: Updated Rankings for Last Week of NFL Preseason

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    It's almost go time.

    Less than two weeks remain until the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off the 2021 NFL season—and with it another year of fantasy football.

    That means we have just two big fantasy draft weekends left, and this past week has been a lulu for fantasy managers.

    We saw a potential fantasy sleeper emerge in New Orleans in wide receiver Marquez Callaway. In that same game, the Jacksonville Jaguars lost rookie running back Travis Etienne Jr. to a season-ending injury. After backfield injuries of their own, the Los Angeles Rams swung a trade that brought Sony Michel to La La Land—and muddied the team's backfield. The quarterback competition in Denver is over, and the announcement that Teddy Bridgewater will start against the Giants in Week 1 impacts all the Denver skill-position players.

    Every one of those developments impacted fantasy player rankings—and that wasn't all that happened.

    As is the case this time of year, rankings get the snow globe treatment fairly often. But we have sifted through the rubble, sorted things out and put together another point-per-reception big board for managers who are preparing for draft day.


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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    As it so often is, the story of the summer at the quarterback position has been the incoming rookie class. Those youngsters are getting wildly different introductions to the pros.

    The first rookie locked in as a Week 1 starter, Zach Wilson of the New York Jets, has been a pleasant surprise, throwing for 128 yards and two scores in last week's preseason tilt against the Green Bay Packers. Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars was named the Week 1 starter Wednesday, but both he and the Jaguars offense have struggled in the preseason.

    It can be argued that Justin Fields has outplayed Andy Dalton in Chicago, but Bears head coach Matt Nagy has announced Dalton will start the season opener against the Rams. San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan has refused to name a starter for the 49ers in Week 1, but most feel Jimmy Garoppolo will get the nod.

    Still, with neither veteran signal-caller shining in exhibition action, many fantasy managers are spending late picks on Fields and Lance in the hopes they will be on the field by midseason.


    Undervalued Quarterbacks

    Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

    ADP: 100.7, QB12

    My Rank: QB10

    If you are generally one of the last teams in your league to draft a starting quarterback, Hurts should be on your radar. In his four starts last season, Hurts averaged 68 rushing yards per game. Extrapolated over a full 17-game season, that would equate to 1,156 rushing yards—and a whole lot of fantasy points.


    Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

    ADP: 148.5, QB20

    My Rank: QB16

    I have been on the Big Ben bandwagon for most of the summer, and after he lit up the Detroit Lions for 137 yards and two scores in limited action last week, said bandwagon is getting more crowded. Roethlisberger's surgically repaired elbow appears to be fine, and the 39-year-old has no shortage of passing-game weaponry at his disposal.


    Overvalued Quarterbacks

    Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

    ADP: 147.6, QB19

    My Rank: QB29

    If Watson is on the field, he offers top-five fantasy upside. The 25-year-old was fifth in fantasy points among quarterbacks last season. But with Watson facing 22 active lawsuits—which won't see him deposed until Feb. 22—accusing him of sexual misconduct or assault and now an FBI probe, even before the possibility of punishment from the NFL, nothing indicates he will see the playing field anytime soon. This isn't a lottery ticket. It's a wasted pick.


    Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

    ADP: 134.0, QB17

    My Rank: QB25

    After originally coming off fantasy draft boards first among rookie quarterbacks, Lawrence has slipped behind Lance and Fields in redraft formats. Lawrence remains an immensely talented young player with a bright future in dynasty fantasy football leagues, but the Jaguars don't look good offensively…at all.


    Sleeper Quarterback

    Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints

    ADP: 157.9, QB24

    My Rank: QB21

    After torching the Jaguars for 123 yards and two scores on 9-of-10 passing, Winston appears to have settled the quarterback competition with Taysom Hill. He has also demonstrated the ability to be fantasy-relevant. In his last year as the starter in Tampa in 2019, Winston topped 5,000 passing yards and finished fifth in fantasy points at his position.


    Top 50 Quarterbacks

    Bye week in parentheses

    1. Patrick Mahomes, KCC (12)
    2. Josh Allen, BUF (7)
    3. Lamar Jackson, BAL (8)
    4. Dak Prescott, DAL (7)
    5. Kyler Murray, ARZ (12)
    6. Russell Wilson, SEA (9)
    7. Aaron Rodgers, GBP (13)
    8. Justin Herbert, LAC (7)
    9. Tom Brady, TBB (9)
    10. Jalen Hurts, PHI (14)
    11. Ryan Tannehill, TEN (13)
    12. Matthew Stafford, LAR (11)
    13. Matt Ryan, ATL (6)
    14. Kirk Cousins, MIN (7)
    15. Joe Burrow, CIN (10)
    16. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (7)
    17. Tua Tagovailoa, MIA (14)
    18. Ryan Fitzpatrick, WAS (9)
    19. Baker Mayfield, CLE (13)
    20. Carson Wentz, IND (14)
    21. Jameis Winston, NOS (6)
    22. Trey Lance, SFO (6)
    23. Justin Fields, CHI (10)
    24. Derek Carr, LVR (8)
    25. Trevor Lawrence, JAX (7)
    26. Daniel Jones, NYG (10)
    27. Teddy Bridgewater, DEN (11)
    28. Sam Darnold, CAR (13)
    29. Zach Wilson, NYJ (6)
    30. Deshaun Watson, HOU (10)
    31. Jared Goff, DET (9)
    32. Cam Newton, NEP (14)
    33. Jimmy Garoppolo, SFO (6)
    34. Andy Dalton, CHI (10)
    35. Taysom Hill, NOS (6)
    36. Mac Jones, NEP (14)
    37. Gardner Minshew II, JAX (7)
    38. Drew Lock, DEN (11)
    39. Tyrod Taylor, HOU (10)
    40. Jacob Eason, IND (14)
    41. Marcus Mariota, LVR (8)
    42. Mitchell Trubisky, BUF (7)
    43. Jacoby Brissett, MIA (14)
    44. Taylor Heinicke, WAS (9)
    45. Davis Mills, HOU (10)
    46. Jordan Love, GBP (13)
    47. Joe Flacco, PHI (14)
    48. Chad Henne, KCC (12)
    49. Mason Rudolph, PIT (7)
    50. Sam Ehlinger, IND (14)

Running Backs

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    The worst thing that can happen to fantasy managers who have already drafted is a preseason injury to a prominent player.

    Guess where we're going with this?

    Running back Travis Etienne Jr. was the second of two first-round picks for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021. But in last week's game with the New Orleans Saints, Etienne suffered a mid-foot sprain that was serious enough to land the former Clemson star on injured reserve.

    Just like that, his first season is over.

    The flip side to Etienne's injury is the sizable boost in value it means for James Robinson. The second-year back, who eclipsed 1,400 total yards as a rookie on the way to a top-five fantasy finish, is on the RB2 radar again now that he's back in an unquestioned lead role.

    Robinson has an ADP in Round 4 at Fantasy Football Calculator, but in the three drafts I have participated in since Etienne got hurt, he hasn't made it out of the third round.


    Undervalued Running Backs

    Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

    ADP: 19.2, RB13

    My Rank: RB11

    Finding value at the running back position is incredibly difficult in drafts this year—demand at the position can be dizzying. But Mixon offers top-10 fantasy upside available in the middle of Round 2 on average, If you draft a wide receiver or Travis Kelce in Round 1, Mixon is a solid second pick.


    Zack Moss, Buffalo Bills

    ADP: 81.0, RB34

    My Rank: RB31

    Given the presence of Devin Singletary (and, to a lesser extent, Matt Breida) on the roster and Buffalo's penchant for a committee attack, it can be hard to get excited about Moss' fantasy prospects. But Moss is the best pure runner on a team that should play with a lead regularly. A low-end RB2 finish is within reach.


    Overvalued Running Backs

    Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

    ADP: 12.8, RB10

    My Rank: RB15

    Through three preseason games, Harris has carried the ball 13 times for 42 yards. The former Alabama standout's talent isn't in question. But Pittsburgh's retooled offensive line won't make things easy for him. Last year, Kansas City's Clyde Edwards-Helaire got the rookie hype treatment and went inside the top 10 at his position. Don't fall into the same trap again.


    Michael Carter, New York Jets

    ADP: 74.2, RB31

    My Rank: RB39

    Buzz surrounded Carter earlier in draft season regarding his potential as a "sleeper" running back. But that buzz was predicated on the notion that he would assume lead-back duties for the Jets. That may yet come to pass, but the fourth-round rookie from North Carolina has been sitting third in the pecking order during the preseason for Gang Green.


    Sleeper Running Back

    Tevin Coleman, New York Jets

    ADP: 140.8, RB53

    My Rank: RB44

    Coleman (not Carter) has been the Jets' No. 1 back—and he's looked good in the role. Coleman's title of top back (and the fantasy value that comes with it) may be temporary, but any lead back available in the double-digit rounds is worth a look. In 2018 with the Atlanta Falcons, Coleman averaged 4.8 yards per carry and topped 1,000 total yards. Just sayin'.


    Top 75 Running Backs

    Bye week listed in parentheses

    1. Christian McCaffrey, CAR (13)
    2. Dalvin Cook, MIN (7)
    3. Alvin Kamara, NOS (6)
    4. Derrick Henry, TEN (13)
    5. Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (7)
    6. Aaron Jones, GBP (13)
    7. Nick Chubb, CLE (13)
    8. Austin Ekeler, LAC (7)
    9. Saquon Barkley, NYG (10)
    10. Jonathan Taylor, IND (14)
    11. Joe Mixon, CIN (10)
    12. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, KCC (12)
    13. Antonio Gibson, WFT (9)
    14. J.K. Dobbins, BAL (8)
    15. Najee Harris, PIT (7)
    16. David Montgomery, CHI (10)
    17. Chris Carson, SEA (9)
    18. D'Andre Swift, DET (9)
    19. James Robinson, JAX (7)
    20. Mike Davis, ATL (6)
    21. Josh Jacobs, LVR (8)
    22. Miles Sanders, PHI (14)
    23. Kareem Hunt, CLE (13)
    24. Myles Gaskin, MIA (14)
    25. Chase Edmonds, ARZ (12)
    26. Darrell Henderson Jr., LAR (11)
    27. Melvin Gordon III, DEN (11)
    28. Javonte Williams, DEN (11)
    29. Leonard Fournette, TBB (9)
    30. Trey Sermon, SFO (6)
    31. Zack Moss, BUF (7)
    32. Damien Harris, NEP (14)
    33. James Conner, ARZ (12)
    34. Raheem Mostert, SFO (6)
    35. Kenyan Drake, LVR (8)
    36. Ronald Jones II, TBB (9)
    37. Phillip Lindsay, HOU (10)
    38. David Johnson, HOU (10)
    39. Michael Carter, NYJ (6)
    40. Malcolm Brown, MIA (14)
    41. Latavius Murray, NOS (6)
    42. Devin Singletary, BUF (7)
    43. Jamaal Williams, DET (9)
    44. Tevin Coleman, NYJ (6)
    45. Tony Pollard, DAL (7)
    46. Gus Edwards, BAL (8)
    47. Nyheim Hines, IND (14)
    48. AJ Dillon, GBP (13)
    49. J.D. McKissic, WFT (9)
    50. James White, NEP (14)
    51. Alexander Mattison, MIN (7)
    52. Devontae Booker, NYG (10)
    53. Damien Williams, CHI (10)
    54. Giovani Bernard, TBB (9)
    55. Boston Scott, PHI (14)
    56. Sony Michel, LAR (11)
    57. Darrel Williams, KCC (12)
    58. Rashaad Penny, SEA (9)
    59. Salvon Ahmed, MIA (14)
    60. Chuba Hubbard, CAR (13)
    61. Carlos Hyde, JAX (7)
    62. Larry Rountree III, LAC (7)
    63. Marlon Mack, IND (14)
    64. Kenneth Gainwell, PHI (14)
    65. Ty Johnson, NYJ (6)
    66. Darrynton Evans, TEN (13)
    67. Joshua Kelley, LAC (7)
    68. Tarik Cohen, CHI (10)
    69. Rhamondre Stevenson, NEP (14)
    70. Mark Ingram II, HOU (10)
    71. Benny Snell Jr., PIT (7)
    72. Samaje Perine, CIN (10)
    73. Justin Jackson, LAC (7)
    74. Wayne Gallman, SFO (6)
    75. Matt Breida, BUF (7)

Wide Receivers

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Every year, a wide receiver goes from zero to hero—from off the fantasy radar to a trendy "sleeper" pick.

    This year, that player is New Orleans Saints wideout Marquez Callaway.

    With Michael Thomas out indefinitely after ankle surgery, the Saints need a wide receiver to assume the No. 1 role. Reports indicated the second-year pro Callaway was ready to step into that void.

    On Monday night, that talk turned to action. Callaway exploded for 104 yards and two scores on five catches against the Jaguars.

    For every preseason superstar who carries that success into games that count, three don't. But with an IDP in the 11th round, Callaway has become an interesting "dart throw" pick.


    Undervalued Wide Receivers

    Corey Davis, New York Jets

    ADP: 104.7, WR43

    My Rank: WR36

    Through two preseason games, a couple of things have become evident about the Jets passing game. The first is that rookie quarterback Zach Wilson might be better than many expected. The second is that Wilson likes targeting Davis. If the targets are there for the fifth overall pick of 2017, the first 1,000-yard season of his career may be as well.


    Marvin Jones Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

    ADP: 127.8, WR52

    My Rank: WR37

    Given what we've seen from the Jacksonville offense, it's not easy to get excited about any Jaguars pass-catchers. DJ Chark Jr. also didn't play last week against the Saints. But Trevor Lawrence appears to favor targeting Jones. The veteran has shown the ability to produce in the past and looks like the No. 1 wideout for the Jags heading into Week 1.


    Overvalued Wide Receivers

    Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys

    ADP: 41.1, WR15

    My Rank: WR18

    Cooper is a very good wide receiver, but the red flags around the 27-year-old are starting to add up. Cooper hasn't missed a game the past two years, but he has played banged up a lot and had ankle surgery in the offseason. CeeDee Lamb is an ascending talent many expect to lead Dallas in catches this year. Cooper Kupp of the Rams and Chris Godwin of the Buccaneers offer at least as much upside—with less risk and a lower ADP.


    Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers

    ADP: 60.7, WR24

    My Rank: WR33

    Claypool came screaming out of the gates as a rookie, posting top-15 fantasy numbers among wide receivers over the first six weeks of 2020. But just one of his nine touchdowns came after Week 10 last year, and his touchdown-to-target ratio from last season will be hard to replicate. He's much more a WR3 than a WR2—and a risky one at that.


    Sleeper Wide Receiver

    Jakobi Meyers, New England Patriots

    ADP: 139.7, WR57

    My Rank: WR55

    Meyers has been one of the stars of training camp for the Patriots, and that carried over into last week's blowout win over the Philadelphia Eagles, where he caught all three of his targets for 56 yards and a touchdown. No sure things exist in the New England passing game, but Myers appears slated for a sizable target share.


    Top 75 Wide Receivers

    Bye week in parentheses

    1. Tyreek Hill, KCC (12)
    2. Davante Adams, GBP (13)
    3. Stefon Diggs, BUF (7)
    4. Calvin Ridley, ATL (6)
    5. DeAndre Hopkins, ARZ (12)
    6. DK Metcalf, SEA (9)
    7. A.J. Brown, TEN (13)
    8. Keenan Allen, LAC (7)
    9. Allen Robinson II, CHI (10)
    10. Justin Jefferson, MIN (7)
    11. Terry McLaurin, WFT (9)
    12. CeeDee Lamb, DAL (7)
    13. Chris Godwin, TBB (9)
    14. Cooper Kupp, LAR (11)
    15. Mike Evans, TBB (9)
    16. DJ Moore, CAR (13)
    17. Robert Woods, LAR (11)
    18. Amari Cooper, DAL (7)
    19. Julio Jones, TEN (13)
    20. Brandon Aiyuk, SFO (6)
    21. Adam Thielen, MIN (7)
    22. Tyler Lockett, SEA (9)
    23. Diontae Johnson, PIT (7)
    24. Tee Higgins, CIN (10)
    25. Odell Beckham Jr., CLE (13)
    26. Ja'Marr Chase, CIN (10)
    27. Courtland Sutton, DEN (11)
    28. JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (7)
    29. Kenny Golladay, NYG (10)
    30. Brandin Cooks, HOU (10)
    31. Tyler Boyd, CIN (10)
    32. Jerry Jeudy, DEN (11)
    33. Chase Claypool, PIT (7)
    34. Antonio Brown, TBB (9)
    35. Robby Anderson, CAR (13)
    36. Corey Davis, NYJ (6)
    37. Marvin Jones Jr., JAX (7)
    38. Deebo Samuel, SFO (6)
    39. DJ Chark Jr., JAX (7)
    40. Curtis Samuel, WFT (9)
    41. Michael Thomas, NOS (6)
    42. Jarvis Landry, CLE (13)
    43. William Fuller V, MIA (14)
    44. Michael Gallup, DAL (7)
    45. DeVante Parker, MIA (14)
    46. DeVonta Smith, PHI (14)
    47. Bryan Edwards, LVR (8)
    48. Mike Williams, LAC (7)
    49. Marquez Callaway, NOS (6)
    50. Michael Pittman Jr., IND (14)
    51. Russell Gage, ATL (6)
    52. Jaylen Waddle, MIA (14)
    53. Marquise Brown, BAL (8)
    54. Laviska Shenault Jr., JAX (7)
    55. Jakobi Meyers, NEP (14)
    56. T.Y. Hilton, IND (14)
    57. Henry Ruggs III, LVR (8)
    58. Emmanuel Sanders, BUF (7)
    59. Mecole Hardman, KCC (12)
    60. Darnell Mooney, CHI (10)
    61. Rondale Moore, ARZ (12)
    62. Gabriel Davis, BUF (7)
    63. Sterling Shepard, NYG (10)
    64. Nelson Agholor, NEP (14)
    65. Tyrell Williams, DET (9)
    66. Jalen Reagor, PHI (14)
    67. Christian Kirk, ARZ (12)
    68. Elijah Moore, NYJ (6)
    69. Cole Beasley, BUF (7)
    70. KJ Hamler, DEN (11)
    71. Parris Campbell, IND (14)
    72. Allen Lazard, GBP (13)
    73. Terrace Marshall Jr., CAR (13)
    74. Jamison Crowder, NYJ (6)
    75. Breshad Perriman, DET (9)

Tight Ends

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    There's little question regarding the top of the tight end rankings in 2021 with two three-player tiers: Travis Kelce, Darren Waller and George Kittle in Tier 1 and T.J. Hockenson, Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts (in some order) in Tier 2.

    After that, things get muddy—and one of the young tight ends in Tier 3 might have seen his value take a sizable hit.

    The Denver Broncos have made Teddy Bridgewater the team's starter at quarterback over Drew Lock. While that may be good news for wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, it's a problem for tight end Noah Fant.

    As Jeff Mans of SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio said on Wednesday's episode of Elite Sports, there's a wide gap in the percentage of targets to tight ends between Bridgewater and Lock over their respective careers. Bridgewater doesn't target the position as much.

    Fant may be the most athletic tight end Bridgewater has played with, but the third-year pro still fell a few spots in this edition of the big board.


    Undervalued Tight Ends

    T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions

    ADP: 55.6, TE6

    My Rank: TE4

    Yep. That's right. Hockenson again. I'm going to continue beating this drum until someone listens or the regular season starts. Hockenson should lead in targets for a Lions team that will be passing the ball in catch-up mode constantly. He could challenge Waller and Kelce for the league lead in tight end targets. And he was third in PPR points among tight ends in 2020. What's not to like?


    Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers

    ADP: 157.2, TE19

    My Rank: TE10

    Last year, Cook caught 37 of 60 targets, averaged 8.4 yards per target and scored a touchdown every 8.6 targets with the Saints. Hunter Henry was targeted 93 times in 14 games by Justin Herbert. Crunch those numbers, and you wind up with 57 catches for 781 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns—numbers that would slot Cook third among tight ends based on last year's production and those 93 targets Henry received in 2020.


    Overvalued Tight Ends

    Noah Fant, Denver Broncos

    ADP: 85.1, TE8

    My Rank: TE12

    We'll throw out 2020, because when Bridgewater was in Carolina, the Panthers tight ends were, um, let's go with less than imposing. But when Bridgewater started 16 games in Minnesota in 2015, Kyle Rudolph posted a 49/495/5 line on 73 targets. That season, Rudolph posted 128.5 PPR fantasy points and finished a mediocre 15th at the position.


    Adam Trautman, New Orleans Saints

    ADP: 158.7, TE20

    My Rank: TE28

    The good news with Trautman is the second-year pro appears to have avoided a major injury after being carted off the field Monday night. The bad news is he could still miss the start of the regular season, and when he does return, he'll likely be playing with a quarterback in Jameis Winston who doesn't have a reputation for targeting his tight ends a lot.


    Sleeper Tight End

    Anthony Firkser, Tennessee Titans

    ADP: Not Listed

    My Rank: TE19

    The Titans are hardly a pass-wacky offense, but Firkser and Jonnu Smith combined for 118 targets last season. With Smith gone after finishing 13th in PPR points among tight ends last season, the lion's share of those targets will go to Firkser. He's a bargain even if he just matches Smith's numbers. If he can exceed them, the fourth-year pro will be a steal.


    Top 50 Tight Ends

    Bye week in parentheses

    1. Travis Kelce, KCC (12)
    2. Darren Waller, LVR (8)
    3. George Kittle, SFO (6)
    4. T.J. Hockenson, DET (9)
    5. Mark Andrews, BAL (8)
    6. Kyle Pitts, ATL (6)
    7. Logan Thomas, WFT (9)
    8. Dallas Goedert, PHI (14)
    9. Robert Tonyan, GBP (13)
    10. Jared Cook, LAC (7)
    11. Tyler Higbee, LAR (11)
    12. Noah Fant, DEN (11)
    13. Mike Gesicki, MIA (14)
    14. Irv Smith Jr., MIN (7)
    15. Jonnu Smith, NEP (14)
    16. Rob Gronkowski, TBB (9)
    17. Evan Engram, NYG (10)
    18. Hunter Henry, NEP (14)
    19. Anthony Firkser, TEN (13)
    20. Austin Hooper, CLE (13)
    21. Gerald Everett, SEA (9)
    22. Blake Jarwin, DAL (7)
    23. Zach Ertz, PHI (14)
    24. Eric Ebron, PIT (7)
    25. Hayden Hurst, ATL (6)
    26. Cole Kmet, CHI (10)
    27. Jordan Akins, HOU (10)
    28. Adam Trautman, NOS (6)
    29. Dawson Knox, BUF (7)
    30. Mo-Alie Cox, IND (14)
    31. Chris Herndon, NYJ (6)
    32. Dan Arnold, CAR (13)
    33. O.J. Howard, TBB (9)
    34. C.J. Uzomah, CIN (10)
    35. Jimmy Graham, CHI (10)
    36. Pat Freiermuth, PIT (7)
    37. Tyler Conklin, MIN (7)
    38. Harrison Bryant, CLE (13)
    39. Will Dissly, SEA (9)
    40. Juwan Johnson, NOS (6)
    41. Jack Doyle, IND (14)
    42. Kyle Rudolph, NYG (10)
    43. Dalton Schultz, DAL (7)
    44. David Njoku, CLE (13)
    45. Albert Okwuegbunam, DEN (11)
    46. James O'Shaughnessy, JAX (7)
    47. Drew Sample, CIN (10)
    48. Maxx Williams, ARZ (12)
    49. Donald Parham, LAC (7)
    50. Tyler Kroft, NYJ (6)

Kickers and Defenses

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    When it comes to drafting a fantasy defense, the smartest play is living the stream.

    The so-called "advantage" you gain by drafting an elite defense really isn't one. The No. 1 defense in 2020 (Pittsburgh Steelers) outscored the No. 12 defense (the New Orleans Saints) by less than four points per game.

    Investing picks on depth at wide receiver, "handcuff" running backs and upside fliers is a much better use of draft capital.

    I have long been a proponent of "streaming" defenses. Find a team with a good Week 1 matchup and take it late. Once that tasty matchup passes, toss it to the waiver wire in favor of a team with a more favorable Week 2 matchup.

    So on and so forth. By playing the matchups, you can easily finish with top-10 defensive production. The top five is a real possibility.

    Then, in the last round, draft your kicker. Never before. Never, ever before.


    Undervalued Defenses and Kickers

    Denver Broncos Defense

    ADP: 161.8, DEF11

    My Rank: DEF6

    I'm not high on the Denver defense solely because there's talent in the Mile High City on that side of the ball—although there is at all three levels. The Broncos are a streamer's dream in 2021. Denver opens the season with trips to face the Giants and Jaguars before the home opener against the Jets. Those teams combined to win nine games in 2020.


    Greg Zuerlein, Dallas Cowboys

    ADP: 147.7, K6

    My Rank: K2

    There's a lot to like about "Legatron" in 2021. Zuerlein will be kicking indoors in 10 games. He has a career success rate on field goals north of 80 percent and 94 career field goals from 40 yards or more. Zuerlein also led the NFL with 41 field-goal attempts last year, and the Cowboys have ranked in the top five in that regard each of the past three years.


    Overvalued Defenses and Kickers

    Buffalo Bills Defense

    ADP: 156.2, DEF10

    My Rank: DEF12

    The Bills are a good team, and the defense is decent. But that's all it is—Buffalo was 14th in total defense in 2020, 16th in scoring defense, 15th in sacks and 14th in fantasy points. The Bills open the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers and also have a Week 5 matchup with the Chiefs looming.


    Younghoe Koo, Atlanta Falcons

    ADP: 139.3, K3

    My Rank: K8

    Koo was the highest-scoring fantasy kicker in the NFC last year after connecting on almost 95 percent of his 39 field-goal attempts. But both of those numbers could be hard to back up given the changes offensively in Atlanta and the year-to-year volatility of the kicker position. Of all the positions you don't want to draft at their respective ceilings, kicker tops the list.


    Sleeper Defense

    Carolina Panthers Defense

    ADP: Not Listed

    My Rank: DEF23

    No one is going to confuse the Panthers defense with the 1985 Bears, although pairing free-agent signing Haason Reddick with end Brian Burns and tackle Derrick Brown could give the team a formidable front seven. But the scheduling gods were kind to the Panthers to open the season. After hosting the Jets in Week 1, the Panthers draw another excellent matchup with the Texans in Week 3.


    Top 25 Defenses

    Bye week in parentheses

    1. Washington Football Team (9)
    2. Pittsburgh Steelers (7)
    3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9)
    4. Los Angeles Rams (11)
    5. Baltimore Ravens (8)
    6. Denver Broncos (11)
    7. San Francisco 49ers (6)
    8. Indianapolis Colts (14)
    9. Miami Dolphins (14)
    10. New England Patriots (14)
    11. Cleveland Browns (13)
    12. Buffalo Bills (7)
    13. New Orleans Saints (6)
    14. Chicago Bears (10)
    15. Arizona Cardinals (12)
    16. Kansas City Chiefs (12)
    17. Los Angeles Chargers (7)
    18. Seattle Seahawks (9)
    19. Green Bay Packers (13)
    20. New York Giants (10)
    21. Minnesota Vikings (7)
    22. Dallas Cowboys (7)
    23. Carolina Panthers (13)
    24. Philadelphia Eagles (14)
    25. Tennessee Titans (13)


    Top 25 Kickers

    Bye week in parentheses

    1. Justin Tucker, BAL (8)
    2. Greg Zuerlein, DAL (7)
    3. Harrison Butker, KCC (12)
    4. Ryan Succop, TBB (9)
    5. Tyler Bass, BUF (7)
    6. Jason Sanders, MIA (14)
    7. Matt Prater, ARZ (12)
    8. Younghoe Koo, ATL (6)
    9. Jason Myers, SEA (9)
    10. Robbie Gould, SFO (6)
    11. Matt Gay, LAR (11)
    12. Mason Crosby, GBP (13)
    13. Mike Badgley, LAC (7)
    14. Daniel Carlson, LVR (8)
    15. Rodrigo Blankenship, IND (14)
    16. Brandon McManus, DEN (11)
    17. Chris Boswell, PIT (7)
    18. Dustin Hopkins, WFT (9)
    19. Tucker McCann, TEN (13)
    20. Nick Folk, NEP (14)
    21. Wil Lutz, NOS (6)
    22. Chase McLaughlin, CLE (13)
    23. Joey Slye, CAR (13)
    24. Jake Elliott, PHI (14)
    25. Josh Lambo, JAX (7)

Top 100 Players Overall

6 of 6

    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    Rather than give my usual dissertation on how you shouldn't use this list of the top 100 players overall as a "draft by numbers" list (you really shouldn't), I'll go into a little draft strategy.

    One of the tenets of the "Zero RB" strategy (passing on backs for the first several rounds in favor of receivers) is that running backs have a higher "bust rate" than wideouts.

    This is true—for the most part.

    But there's a reason running backs fly off draft boards early. Per Matt Dunleavy of Player Profiler, a study from 2016 to 2020 showed that running back bust rates are lower than wide receiver in the early rounds, and the gap is at its widest in Round 1.

    However, when you hit Rounds 5-8, the script flips—in a major way. The bust rate for wide receivers in those rounds is almost 12 points lower than at running back, and pass-catchers continue to be safer picks through Round 12 (at which point every pick is a dart throw).

    This isn't to say you shouldn't draft a high-end wide receiver. Or an elite tight end. Or even a top-five quarterback (although the value at that position lies in being patient).

    But if you don't have at least two relatively dependable running backs rostered by the end of the fourth round, the numbers won't be in your favor.


    Top 100 Players Overall

    Bye week in parentheses

    1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR (13)
    2. Dalvin Cook, RB, MIN (7)
    3. Alvin Kamara, RB, NOS (6)
    4. Derrick Henry, RB, TEN (13)
    5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL (7)
    6. Aaron Jones, RB, GBP (13)
    7. Nick Chubb, RB, CLE (13)
    8. Travis Kelce, TE, KCC (12)
    9. Austin Ekeler, RB, LAC (7)
    10. Tyreek Hill, WR, KCC (12)
    11. Saquon Barkley, RB, NYG (10)
    12. Jonathan Taylor, RB, IND (14)
    13. Davante Adams, WR, GBP (13)
    14. Joe Mixon, RB, CIN (10)
    15. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, KCC (12)
    16. Stefon Diggs, WR, BUF (7)
    17. Calvin Ridley, WR, ATL (6)
    18. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, ARZ (12)
    19. Antonio Gibson, RB, WFT (9)
    20. DK Metcalf, WR, SEA (9)
    21. J.K. Dobbins, RB, BAL (8)
    22. A.J. Brown, WR, TEN (13)
    23. Najee Harris, RB, PIT (7)
    24. Darren Waller, TE, LVR (8)
    25. Keenan Allen, WR, LAC (7)
    26. David Montgomery, RB, CHI (10)
    27. Allen Robinson II, WR, CHI (10)
    28. Justin Jefferson, WR, MIN (7)
    29. Chris Carson, RB, SEA (9)
    30. Terry McLaurin, WR, WFT (9)
    31. George Kittle, TE, SFO (6)
    32. D'Andre Swift, RB, DET (9)
    33. James Robinson, RB, JAX (7)
    34. Mike Davis, RB, ATL (6)
    35. CeeDee Lamb, WR, DAL (7)
    36. Josh Jacobs, RB, LVR (8)
    37. Chris Godwin, WR, TBB (9)
    38. Cooper Kupp, WR, LAR (11)
    39. Patrick Mahomes, QB, KCC (12)
    40. Mike Evans, WR, TBB (9)
    41. Miles Sanders, RB, PHI (14)
    42. Josh Allen, QB, BUF (7)
    43. DJ Moore, WR, CAR (13)
    44. Robert Woods, WR, LAR (11)
    45. Amari Cooper, WR, DAL (7)
    46. Julio Jones, WR, TEN (13)
    47. Kareem Hunt, RB, CLE (13)
    48. Lamar Jackson, QB, BAL (8)
    49. Myles Gaskin, RB, MIA (14)
    50. Brandon Aiyuk, WR, SFO (6)
    51. Chase Edmonds, RB, ARZ (12)
    52. Dak Prescott, QB, DAL (7)
    53. Adam Thielen, WR, MIN (7)
    54. Tyler Lockett, WR, SEA (9)
    55. T.J. Hockenson, TE, DET (9)
    56. Darrell Henderson Jr., RB, LAR (11)
    57. Diontae Johnson, WR, PIT (7)
    58. Kyler Murray, QB, ARZ (12)
    59. Melvin Gordon III, RB, DEN (11)
    60. Mark Andrews, TE, BAL (8)
    61. Tee Higgins, WR, CIN (10)
    62. Russell Wilson, QB, SEA (9)
    63. Kyle Pitts, TE, ATL (6)
    64. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, CLE (13)
    65. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, CIN (10)
    66. Javonte Williams, RB, DEN (11)
    67. Courtland Sutton, WR, DEN (11)
    68. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT (7)
    69. Aaron Rodgers, QB, GBP (13)
    70. Kenny Golladay, WR, NYG (10)
    71. Brandin Cooks, WR, HOU (10)
    72. Tyler Boyd, WR, CIN (10)
    73. Leonard Fournette, RB, TBB (9)
    74. Trey Sermon, RB, SFO (6)
    75. Jerry Jeudy, WR, DEN (11)
    76. Justin Herbert, QB, LAC (7)
    77. Chase Claypool, WR, PIT (7)
    78. Antonio Brown, WR, TBB (9)
    79. Zack Moss, RB, BUF (7)
    80. Logan Thomas, TE, WFT (9)
    81. Robby Anderson, WR, CAR (13)
    82. Damien Harris, RB, NEP (14)
    83. Tom Brady, QB, TBB (9)
    84. Corey Davis, WR, NYJ (6)
    85. Marvin Jones Jr., WR, JAX (7)
    86. James Conner, RB, ARZ (12)
    87. Deebo Samuel, WR, SFO (6)
    88. Raheem Mostert, RB, SFO (6)
    89. Dallas Goedert, TE, PHI (14)
    90. Kenyan Drake, RB, LVR (8)
    91. Jalen Hurts, QB, PHI (14)
    92. Ronald Jones II, RB, TBB (9)
    93. DJ Chark Jr., WR, JAX (7)
    94. Malcolm Brown, RB, MIA (14)
    95. Robert Tonyan, TE, GBP (13)
    96. Phillip Lindsay, RB, HOU (10)
    97. David Johnson, RB, HOU (10)
    98. Curtis Samuel, WFT (9)
    99. Michael Carter, RB, NYJ (6)
    100. Michael Thomas, WR, NOS (6)


    ADP data of Fantasy Football Calculator.

    Scoring data courtesy of My Fantasy League.

    Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @IDPSharks.