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Jahnke: 2021 Best Ball Tiered Rankings

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs the ball in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Best ball season is in full swing. The draft is more important in best ball than any other season-long format because it’s the only time players can be acquired. An OK draft in a re-draft league can be saved with enough good waiver wire additions and trades; an OK best ball draft is throwing money away.

So, in preparation for the 2021 fantasy football season, here are my top 250 players for best ball. The players are broken into tiers so that it’s easy to see how many similar players at the same position can be found within the same tier; that way you can draft a player knowing which positions you should be able to get at a value in the upcoming rounds. The rankings are based on a 12-team league.

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For more information on strategy to prepare you for your best ball drafts, check out the PFF 2021 Best Ball DraftKit. And find more 2021 best ball rankings broken down by either round or positional group by PFF analysts Andrew Erickson, Ian HartitzJarad EvansBen Brown and Kevin Cole.

Last Updated: July 7, 2021 

Tier 1

Rank Position Name Team Position Rank
1 RB Christian McCaffrey Panthers RB1
2 RB Dalvin Cook Vikings RB2
3 RB Alvin Kamara Saints RB3
4 RB Derrick Henry Titans RB4
5 RB Austin Ekeler Chargers RB5
6 RB Jonathan Taylor Colts RB6
7 TE Travis Kelce Chiefs TE1

The start of any best ball draft will include a run on running backs. Each of the top six backs has the talent to be RB1 for the entire season, but each comes with his own set of red flags.

After finishing as the top fantasy back over the 2018-2019 seasons, Christian McCaffrey missed the majority of the 2020 campaign. As is often the case with players returning from serious injury, there is a chance he takes a step backward when he returns.

Dalvin Cook is the safest bet among the top picks. The Vikings running back finished second in fantasy points for running backs last season despite missing two games. The main concern with Cook is that he’s yet to play a season without missing some games through injury.

Derrick Henry doesn’t provide the same receiving value as the other elite backs and is the oldest of the group. Meanwhile, Alvin Kamara and Jonathan Taylor both have new quarterbacks who are more likely to hurt their fantasy value than help them. Still, all three of these backs ranked in the top six last season, so the concerns for 2021 could be overblown.

Austin Ekeler is the best receiving back in the NFL — he has put up a PFF receiving grade of 94.6 over the last three seasons, leading all running backs. He was RB4 in 2019 and RB7 during both stretches of the season he was healthy in 2020. He has a lot of potential with new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who helped Kamara reach new heights in recent seasons. He is also unlikely to see the number of carries as the other backs in the top tier.

If you’re picking in the top half of the draft and the top running backs are off the board, you can’t go wrong with Travis Kelce. Kelce has hauled in at least seven passes in each of his last 11 games, and he has scored nine touchdowns over that span. Because there aren’t many consistently great tight ends, the ADP of the league's best gets driven up and the gap between Kelce and the rest of the tight ends is large. Drafting Kelce in the first means you also need to hit on some running backs later, but it also allows you to ignore tight ends until the end of the draft.

Tier 2

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