2021 Fantasy Football Big Board: Updated Rankings Before Week 1 of NFL Season

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystSeptember 5, 2021

2021 Fantasy Football Big Board: Updated Rankings Before Week 1 of NFL Season

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The time has almost come.

    On Thursday, the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will square off in the opening game of the 2021 NFL season. For fantasy managers, that will signal a massive shift of focus, from assembling teams for the season to come to setting lineups and making waiver claims on a weekly basis.

    Go time is almost here—but not quite yet.

    Ahead of that inaugural matchup of the season, quite a few fantasy managers who waited as long as possible to conduct their drafts will sit down to put rosters together for 2021. It's a wait born of wisdom, by holding off until now drafters avoided the sort of preseason injuries or roster shakeups that can shatter a team before the season even begins.

    Just ask folks who spent an early pick on Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins.

    It's for those patient (and prescient) fantasy managers that we present the final preseason Big Board here at Bleacher Report—position-by-position PPR rankings, a top 100 overall and some values to target and potential busts to avoid.


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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    One of the biggest fantasy storylines of the summer was all the different quarterback battles occurring across the NFL. It's a decision that affects not only the signal-callers themselves but also all the skill-position talent around them.

    Among the incoming rookies, the biggest surprise occurred in Beantown, where the Patriots not only named Mac Jones the starter but also released Cam Newton outright. Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson of the Jets will also start for their respective teams in the season opener, but the two highest-ranked rookie quarterbacks on this list (Trey Lance and Justin Fields) will have to wait their turn.

    That they are ranked as highly as they are is indicative of the belief they won't be waiting all that long. The season is a marathon, not a sprint.

    The veteran quarterback battles were a mixed bag for fantasy managers. The installation of Teddy Bridgewater as the starter in Denver likely means quite a few short passes, but it's hard to view Jameis Winston beating out Taysom Hill in New Orleans as anything but a positive for the Saints wide receivers.


    Undervalued Quarterbacks

    Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

    ADP: 100.3, QB12

    My Rank: QB10

    If you like to be patient at the quarterback position, then Hurts is the perfect draft-day target under center. The arrival of Gardner Minshew has depressed Hurts' ADP even more than it already was, but we are talking about a young signal-caller who has the potential to flirt with 1,000 rushing yards—and the top five fantasy upside that comes with those rushing numbers.


    Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

    ADP: 146.4, QB20

    My Rank: QB15

    Yes, Roethlisberger faded badly down the stretch in 2020. But he was also coming off a major elbow injury and a grueling offseason of rehab. The 39-year-old has looked much healthier and fresher in camp in the preseason than he did late in the 2020 campaign, and even in that "down" season Big Ben was still a top-12 fantasy quarterback. There's no shortage of offensive firepower in the Steel City either.

    Overvalued Quarterbacks

    Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

    ADP: 58.8, QB5

    My Rank: QB7

    Rodgers has gone from being undervalued by fantasy managers freaked out he would sit out the 2021 season to overvalued based on last year's MVP campaign. Rodgers' 48 touchdown passes last year was the first time he surpassed 26 scores since 2016. It was also the first time he cracked the top-five in fantasy points at the position since that 2016 season.


    Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

    ADP: 141.5, QB19

    My Rank: QB23

    Fantasy managers appear to have tabled most of their concerns about Lawrence after he lit up the Dallas Cowboys in the preseason finale. But that big outing came against second and third-stringers for a team with one of the worst scoring defenses in the league last year. Lawrence has a bright future to be sure, but the present could be decidedly less pleasant.


    Sleeper Quarterback

    Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

    ADP: 162.7, QB24

    My Rank: QB16

    It's true that taking Cousins late in drafts as a backup quarterback isn't a pick that generates a lot of excitement. But the reality is that he's significantly undervalued. Cousins is a proven veteran quarterback with no shortage of passing-game weapons at his disposal who hasn't finished lower than QB16 in NFL.com default fantasy scoring in any of his three years in the Twin Cities.


    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. Joe Burrow, CIN (10)
    15. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (7)
    16. Kirk Cousins, MIN (7)
    17. Tua Tagovailoa, MIA (14)
    18. Ryan Fitzpatrick, WAS (9)
    19. Baker Mayfield, CLE (13)
    20. Jameis Winston, NOS (6)
    21. Trey Lance, SFO (6)
    22. Justin Fields, CHI (10)
    23. Trevor Lawrence, JAX (7)
    24. Derek Carr, LVR (8)
    25. Daniel Jones, NYG (10)
    26. Zach Wilson, NYJ (6)
    27. Carson Wentz, IND (14)
    28. Mac Jones, NEP (14)
    29. Teddy Bridgewater, DEN (11)
    30. Sam Darnold, CAR (13)
    31. Deshaun Watson, HOU (10)
    32. Jared Goff, DET (9)
    33. Jimmy Garoppolo, SFO (6)
    34. Andy Dalton, CHI (10)
    35. Taysom Hill, NOS (6)
    36. Drew Lock, DEN (11)
    37. Tyrod Taylor, HOU (10)
    38. Jacob Eason, IND (14)
    39. Marcus Mariota, LVR (8)
    40. Mitchell Trubisky, BUF (7)
    41. Jacoby Brissett, MIA (14)
    42. Taylor Heinicke, WAS (9)
    43. Davis Mills, HOU (10)
    44. Jordan Love, GBP (13)
    45. Joe Flacco, PHI (14)
    46. Chad Henne, KCC (12)
    47. Mason Rudolph, PIT (7)
    48. Sam Ehlinger, IND (14)
    49. Gardner Minshew, PHI (14)
    50. Brian Hoyer, NEP (14)

Running Backs

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Well, thank God the preseason is over.

    Had there been another week of games who knows how many more running backs we would have lost.

    With J.K. Dobbins of the Baltimore Ravens (ACL tear) joining Cam Akers of the Los Angeles Rams (Achilles) and Travis Etienne (foot) on the shelf for the season, quite a few fantasy managers have already seen massive holes blown in their rosters.

    There is also some concern that D'Andre Swift (groin) of the Detroit Lions may not be ready for Week 1 because of a core muscle injury.

    Such are the perils of holding fantasy drafts earlier than absolutely necessary.

    Injuries aren't the only developments that have clouded the ranks of fantasy's most important position. There are committee attacks everywhere from San Francisco and Denver to Houston and New York. The latter two may not actually matter much, but there could be fantasy value to be had in managers choose wisely with the first pair.

    The names may change at running back. But one thing does not.

    It's a position that keeps fantasy managers on their proverbial toes.


    Undervalued Running Backs

    Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team

    ADP: 15.3, RB12

    My Rank: RB11

    Gibson admittedly isn't undervalued in 2020 so much as he's a player I wanted to highlight in the last big board as a potential breakout candidate. Gibson was a top-10 back in DVOA last year among running backs at Football Outsiders, and if he can earn some more passing-down work he could crash the ranks of the elite players at the position in 2021.


    Mike Davis, Atlanta Falcons

    ADP: 42.6, RB21

    My Rank: RB18

    After averaging just 3.9 yards per carry in Carolina last year, Davis has all the sizzle of a popsicle as a fantasy pick. But the seventh-year pro also topped 1,000 total yards last year and finished as a top-12 fantasy option in PPR scoring systems. It's not that often that you can get a running back with legit top-15 fantasy upside halfway through Round 4, and after the Falcons claimed Wayne Gallman that ADP will probably drop even farther.


    Overvalued Running Backs

    D'Andre Swift, Detroit Lions

    ADP: 34.5, RB18

    My Rank: RB22

    Frankly, this ranking of Swift feels too high at this point. There are just too many potential problems piling up. Swift is already battling what could be a lingering injury. The Lions have talked up Jamaal Williams from the moment he got to Motown. And Detroit doesn't impress as a team that will be playing with many leads in 2021.


    Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers

    ADP: 67.5, RB30

    My Rank: RB34

    From a talent perspective, Sermon remains an intriguing prospect whose running style fits the 49ers offense to a tee. He's one Raheem Mostert injury away from being a fantasy breakout. But it was Sermon who missed time in camp with an ankle injury, and for now at least it appears that Mostert's role as San Fran's lead back is safe.


    Sleeper Running Back

    Tevin Coleman, New York Jets

    ADP: 139.5, RB53

    My Rank: RB39

    It's understandable that neither Coleman (who averaged less than two yards a carry in limited action in 2020) or the run game for the Jets generates much excitement from fantasy managers. But we have seen Coleman post over 1,000 total yards in a similar offense (with Atlanta in 2018) and he presently sits atop the depth chart for Gang Green.


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

Wide Receivers

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    Matt Durisko/Associated Press

    It cannot be denied that having an elite wide receiver like Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers or Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs on a fantasy roster is a good thing.

    But it also can't be denied that it is a lot easier to find value later in the draft at the wideout position than in the backfield.

    By the time you get outside the fifth round, the dependable running backs are all but gone. There are injury concerns. Time shares. Plenty of players to make you reconsider not only your draft strategy but the entirety of the multiverse.

    In that same area of the draft though, there is still all kinds of wide receiver talent on the board. Like youth and rising talent? Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals could be your man. Want a proven veteran option? Can I interest you in a gently used Antonio Brown of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

    This isn't to say high-end wide receivers don't have a valuable place on fantasy rosters.

    Just know that while the first couple of rounds are all about running backs, in the middle rounds the value lies with the wide receivers.


    Undervalued Wide Receivers

    JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

    ADP: 81.6, WR33

    My Rank: WR28

    Every year there are players who (for whatever reason) fall from favor with fantasy managers. This year, Smith-Schuster is one of those players. Smith-Schuster isn't going to repeat his gaudy 2018 numbers this year (or probably ever), but we're still talking about a receiver who caught 97 passes (on 128 targets) with a career-best nine scores in 2020.


    Marvin Jones Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

    ADP: 125.5, WR51

    My Rank: WR37

    This isn't a position held by the majority of fantasy pundits, but I expect Jones to emerge as the most valuable fantasy receiver in Jacksonville this season. Jones isn't the youngest receiver for the Jaguars, nor is he the most explosive. But he's a reliable veteran who has shown he can consistently produce. Trevor Lawrence is going to appreciate that consistency.


    Overvalued Wide Receivers

    Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints

    ADP: 71.3, WR28

    My Rank: WR63

    Stop it, fantasy drafters. Just stop it. Even after the news broke that Thomas would start the season on the PUP list, he is still being drafted as a higher-end WR3. As it stands now, Thomas will be sidelined for at least the first six weeks of the regular season, and even once he is back there's no guarantee that 2021 won't be a repeat of last year's injury-marred mess.


    Laviska Shenault Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

    ADP: 83.8, WR34

    My Rank: WR45

    Don't get me wrong—Shenault is an explosive young talent who could see quite a few targets working from the slot now that Travis Etienne is out for the season. But the hype around Shenault has steamrolled since that injury, to the point that he's coming off the board ahead of both D.J. Chark and Marvin Jones. It's a classic example of a player being drafted at his fantasy ceiling.

    Sleeper Wide Receiver

    DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins

    ADP: 164.7, WR66

    My Rank: WR51

    William Fuller V is the vertical threat brought in in free agency. Jaylen Waddle is the first-round rookie who played with Tua Tagovailoa in college. Parker has become the veteran afterthought. Still, as recently as 2019 the 28-year-old topped 70 catches and 1,200 receiving yards with nine touchdowns on the way to a top-12 fantasy finish. As dart throws go, you could do worse.


    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, 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. D.J. 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. Jerry Jeudy, DEN (11)
    27. JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (7)
    28. Kenny Golladay, NYG (10)
    29. Brandin Cooks, HOU (10)
    30. Tyler Boyd, CIN (10)
    31. Chase Claypool, PIT (7)
    32. Courtland Sutton, DEN (11)
    33. Antonio Brown, TBB (9)
    34. Ja'Marr Chase, CIN (10)
    35. Robby Anderson, CAR (13)
    36. Corey Davis, NYJ (6)
    37. Marvin Jones Jr., JAX (7)
    38. Deebo Samuel, SFO (6)
    39. D.J. Chark Jr., JAX (7)
    40. Jarvis Landry, CLE (13)
    41. Curtis Samuel, WFT (9)
    42. Will Fuller V, MIA (14)
    43. Michael Gallup, DAL (7)
    44. Michael Pittman Jr., IND (14)
    45. Laviska Shenault Jr., JAX (7)
    46. DeVonta Smith, PHI (14)
    47. Bryan Edwards, LVR (8)
    48. Mike Williams, LAC (7)
    49. Marquez Callaway, NOS (6)
    50. Jakobi Meyers, NEP (14)
    51. DeVante Parker, MIA (14)
    52. Russell Gage, ATL (6)
    53. Jaylen Waddle, MIA (14)
    54. Tyrell Williams, DET (9)
    55. Marquise Brown, BAL (8)
    56. Henry Ruggs III, LVR (8)
    57. Amon-Ra St. Brown, DET (9)
    58. Emmanuel Sanders, BUF (7)
    59. Mecole Hardman, KCC (12)
    60. Darnell Mooney, CHI (10)
    61. Rondale Moore, ARZ (12)
    62. Parris Campbell, IND (14)
    63. Michael Thomas, NOS (6)
    64. Gabriel Davis, BUF (7)
    65. Sterling Shepard, NYG (10)
    66. Nelson Agholor, NEP (14)
    67. Jalen Reagor, PHI (14)
    68. Christian Kirk, ARZ (12)
    69. Elijah Moore, NYJ (6)
    70. Cole Beasley, BUF (7)
    71. K.J. Hamler, DEN (11)
    72. T.Y. Hilton, IND (14)
    73. Terrace Marshall Jr., CAR (13)
    74. Jamison Crowder, NYJ (6)
    75. Sammy Watkins, BAL (8)

Tight Ends

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The tight end position hasn't been hit as hard as the running backs, but there have still been a couple of injuries that have shaken up draft boards ahead of the final weekend of draft season.

    In Minnesota, the breakout season that some saw coming from third-year pro Irv Smith Jr. is over before it even started. Per ESPN's Courtney Cronin, Smith is expected to miss the entire 2021 season after tearing his meniscus in the Vikings' final preseason game.

    Smith wasn't the only tight end who went down in his preseason finale. Evan Engram of the New York Giants also suffered a calf injury, and while the Giants haven't ruled him out for Week 1 Engram's status for the opener against the Denver Broncos is absolutely in question.

    With two of the more appealing upside options in Tier 3 possibly falling by the wayside, it strengthens the argument for the wisdom of making an investment in one of the top five or six reliable weekly fantasy starters at the position on draft day.


    Undervalued Tight Ends

    T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions

    ADP: 55.8, TE6

    My Rank: TE4

    If you are tired of listening to me bang the drum for Hockenson in fantasy drafts, then you can take solace in the fact that this will be the last time. However, when Hockenson explodes for a huge season as the top passing-game option for a Lions team that will be playing from behind constantly, don't say you weren't warned.


    Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers

    ADP: 163.3, TE21

    My Rank: TE10

    Cook is the only player in fantasy football I have touted this season more than the aforementioned T.J. Hockenson. Yes, he's 34 years old. Yes, the Chargers are his sixth team. But if he gets close to the target load that Hunter Henry did last year and performs at the same level he has the past few years, Cook could easily crack the top 10 tight ends in 2021.


    Overvalued Tight Ends

    Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons

    ADP: 40.3, TE4

    My Rank: TE6

    Pitts' talent isn't in question—there's a reason why the former Florida standout was drafted earlier (No. 4 overall) than any player at his position in NFL history. But Pitts is being drafted as though a rookie breakout is a foregone conclusion. Even the best first-year tight ends take a while to acclimate to the NFL though, making Pitts a risky fantasy pick given his lofty ADP.

    Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    ADP: 132.2, TE14

    My Rank: TE20

    Yes, Gronkowski had a huge game in Super Bowl LV, hauling in six of seven targets for 67 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But there were eight games during the regular season last year where Gronkowski had two or fewer catches, and just one from Week 9 on in which the 32-year-old had more than five catches. Gronk is no more than a so-so bye week fill-in or depth option.

    Sleeper Tight End

    Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys

    ADP: Not Listed

    My Rank: TE17

    Jarwin's 2020 campaign ended in the season opener compliments of a torn ACL, and the Cowboys passing game is admittedly crowded with receiving options. But take out Week 1 and Dalton Schultz was a top-12 fantasy tight end last year, and that was with Dak Prescott out. Top-15 fantasy numbers from Jarwin aren't out of the question, and he can be had quite cheaply.


    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 Jr., GBP (13)
    10. Jared Cook, LAC (7)
    11. Tyler Higbee, LAR (11)
    12. Noah Fant, DEN (11)
    13. Mike Gesicki, MIA (14)
    14. Jonnu Smith, NEP (14)
    15. Hunter Henry, NEP (14)
    16. Anthony Firkser, TEN (13)
    17. Blake Jarwin, DAL (7)
    18. Gerald Everett, SEA (9)
    19. Evan Engram, NYG (10)
    20. Rob Gronkowski, TBB (9)
    21. Austin Hooper, CLE (13)
    22. Zach Ertz, PHI (14)
    23. Eric Ebron, PIT (7)
    24. Hayden Hurst, ATL (6)
    25. Cole Kmet, CHI (10)
    26. Jordan Akins, HOU (10)
    27. Adam Trautman, NOS (6)
    28. Tyler Conklin, MIN (7)
    29. Dawson Knox, BUF (7)
    30. Mo-Alie Cox, IND (14)
    31. Dan Arnold, CAR (13)
    32. O.J. Howard, TBB (9)
    33. Chris Herndon, MIN (7)
    34. C.J. Uzomah, CIN (10)
    35. Jimmy Graham, CHI (10)
    36. Pat Freiermuth, PIT (7)
    37. Tyler Kroft, NYJ (6)
    38. Kyle Rudolph, NYG (10)
    39. Harrison Bryant, CLE (13)
    40. Will Dissly, SEA (9)
    41. Juwan Johnson, NOS (6)
    42. Jack Doyle, IND (14)
    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. Cameron Brate, TBB (9)

Defenses and Kickers

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Last year, the Los Angeles Rams fielded fantasy football's No. 1 defense, averaging about 10.7 points per game. The New Orleans Saints were the No. 12 defense, averaging just under 8.1 points per game.

    Even if you did know with absolute certainty who the top defense would be in 2021 (no easy feat given how much can change for a defense in an offseason), the "edge" obtained by grabbing them is less than three points per week.

    It's a similar situation with kickers. The top fantasy kicker in the league (Younghoe Koo of the Atlanta Falcons) averaged 11.9 points per game. The No. 12 kicker (Seattle's Jason Myers) averaged 9.2 points per game. Again, even if you knew with certainty which kicker would lead the league in fantasy points (And again, good luck with that), the "advantage" gained is less than three fantasy points per game.

    Wait until the final two rounds of your draft to target a team defense with favorable matchups to open the season and a kicker. Use your other picks on upside plays, handcuff running backs and late-round sleepers.

    Any other play is a waste of draft capital.


    Undervalued Defenses and Kickers

    Denver Broncos Defense

    ADP: 153.9, DEF9

    My Rank: DEF6

    The Broncos have seen their ADP increase as the regular season nears. That's probably because fantasy managers have had a chance to see the offensive lines of the Giants, Jaguars and Jets (Denver's first three opponents) in "action" in the preseason. Gotta love that matador blocking technique the G-Men used in the preseason finale. Ole!


    Robbie Gould, San Francisco 49ers

    ADP: 167.0, K12

    My Rank: K9

    After talking up Greg Zuerlein of the Cowboys over the last month, it appears fantasy drafters are listening—his ADP has moved inside the top-five at his position. However, Gould isn't a bad last-round Plan B—he's an accurate veteran kicker with a strong leg who was seventh among all kickers in fantasy points per game in San Fran's march to the Super Bowl two years ago.


    Overvalued Defenses and Kickers

    Pittsburgh Steelers Defense

    ADP: 104.7, DEF1

    My Rank: DEF2

    The Steelers are an excellent defensive team to be sure. But that defense will be without an important piece to open the season with defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt on injured reserve. Pittsburgh plays in one of the league's toughest divisions and has ugly out-of-division matchups with Buffalo, Green Bay and Seattle over the first six games of the 2021 season.


    Younghoe Koo, Atlanta Falcons

    ADP: 138.0, K2

    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 given all that has changed in Atlanta since the 2020 season ended, both of those numbers could be hard for Koo to back up in 2021. It's a classic example of fantasy managers drafting based on what happened the year before and not what will happen in the season to come.


    Sleeper Defense

    Carolina Panthers Defense

    ADP: Not Listed

    My Rank: DEF23

    Are the Panthers a great defensive football team? Nope, although there is some talent in Charlotte in players like edge-rusher Brian Burns and safety Jeremy Chinn. But what makes Carolina a solid late-draft pickup is an opening week tilt against a rookie quarterback making is first career start in Week 1 followed by a trip to face the woeful Houston 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. Robbie Gould, SFO (6)
    10. Jason Myers, SEA (9)
    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 Overall

6 of 6

    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    Before we unveil the final top 100 of fantasy draft season for 2021, a couple of quick notes.

    First, this top 100 is not a "draft by numbers" list. There are things that need to be taken into consideration while drafting, including league setup, draft flow and the proclivities of your league-mates.

    In most drafts, you are going to want at least two running backs in the first four rounds—and ideally the first three. It's a lot easier to find startable, dependable talent in wide receiver in Rounds 5-8 than in the backfield. For the most part, the smart play at quarterback is to be patient—it's the deepest position in fantasy, with quality starters available after the eighth round. There's also something to be said for making that investment in a top-five (or six) tight end—once they come off the board, the waters become awfully muddy awfully quickly.

    Now, a note about Week 1.

    One of the most common mistakes I see fantasy managers make is to get cute in Week 1 with their starting lineups based on what are perceived as strong (or weak) matchups.

    The fact is that we don't know how this year's matchups stack up yet. There are going to be teams that exceed expectations and just as many that fail to meet them.

    This isn't to say that matchups shouldn't play a role in making decisions on a third starter at wide receiver or in a flex spot. With San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert taking on a woeful Detroit Lions team that allowed almost 135 yards per game on the ground in 2020, he looks the part of a good RB2 or solid "Flex" play out of the gate.

    But that doesn't mean you should consider starting Mostert over Ezekiel Elliott just because the Cowboys face the Buccaneers and their No. 1 run defense from last season.

    You took certain players in the early rounds of your draft for a reason. Don't get cute out of the gate.


    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. Antonio Gibson, RB, WFT (9)
    15. Joe Mixon, RB, CIN (10)
    16. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, KCC (12)
    17. Stefon Diggs, WR, BUF (7)
    18. Calvin Ridley, WR, ATL (6)
    19. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, ARZ (12)
    20. DK Metcalf, WR, SEA (9)
    21. JK 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, 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. James Robinson, RB, JAX (7)
    33. Mike Davis, RB, ATL (6)
    34. CeeDee Lamb, WR, DAL (7)
    35. Josh Jacobs, RB, LVR (8)
    36. Chris Godwin, WR, TBB (9)
    37. Cooper Kupp, WR, LAR (11)
    38. Gus Edwards, RB, BAL (8)
    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. D.J. Moore, WR, CAR (13)
    44. D'Andre Swift, RB, DET (9)
    45. Robert Woods, WR, LAR (11)
    46. Damien Harris, RB, NEP (14)
    47. Amari Cooper, WR, DAL (7)
    48. Julio Jones, WR, TEN (13)
    49. Kareem Hunt, RB, CLE (13)
    50. Lamar Jackson, QB, BAL (8)
    51. Myles Gaskin, RB, MIA (14)
    52. Brandon Aiyuk, WR, SFO (6)
    53. Chase Edmonds, RB, ARZ (12)
    54. Dak Prescott, QB, DAL (7)
    55. Adam Thielen, WR, MIN (7)
    56. Tyler Lockett, WR, SEA (9)
    57. T.J. Hockenson, TE, DET (9)
    58. Darrell Henderson, RB, LAR (11)
    59. Diontae Johnson, WR, PIT (7)
    60. Kyler Murray, QB, ARZ (12)
    61. Melvin Gordon III, RB, DEN (11)
    62. Mark Andrews, TE, BAL (8)
    63. Tee Higgins, WR, CIN (10)
    64. Russell Wilson, QB, SEA (9)
    65. Raheem Mostert, RB, SFO (6)
    66. Kyle Pitts, TE, ATL (6)
    67. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, CLE (13)
    68. Jerry Jeudy, WR, DEN (11)
    69. Javonte Williams, RB, DEN (11)
    70. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT (7)
    71. Aaron Rodgers, QB, GBP (13)
    72. Kenny Golladay, WR, NYG (10)
    73. Brandin Cooks, WR, HOU (10)
    74. Tyler Boyd, WR, CIN (10)
    75. Leonard Fournette, RB, TBB (9)
    76. Justin Herbert, QB, LAC (7)
    77. Chase Claypool, WR, PIT (7)
    78. Courtland Sutton, WR, DEN (11)
    79. Antonio Brown, WR, TBB (9)
    80. Zack Moss, RB, BUF (7)
    81. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, CIN (10)
    82. Logan Thomas, TE, WFT (9)
    83. Robby Anderson, WR, CAR (13)
    84. Tom Brady, QB, TBB (9)
    85. Corey Davis, WR, NYJ (6)
    86. Marvin Jones Jr., WR, JAX (7)
    87. James Conner, RB, ARZ (12)
    88. Deebo Samuel, WR, SFO (6)
    89. Trey Sermon, RB, SFO (6)
    90. Jamaal Williams, RB, DET (9)
    91. Dallas Goedert, TE, PHI (14)
    92. Kenyan Drake, RB, LVR (8)
    93. Jalen Hurts, QB, PHI (14)
    94. Ronald Jones II, RB, TBB (9)
    95. D.J. Chark Jr., WR, JAX (7)
    96. Phillip Linsday, RB, HOU (10)
    97. Tevin Coleman, RB, NYJ (6)
    98. Robert Tonyan, TE, GBP (13)
    99. Malcolm Brown, RB, MIA (14)
    100. Jarvis Landry, WR, CLE (13)

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