Fantasy News & Analysis

Erickson: 2021 Fantasy Football Rankings for Best Ball Leagues

Nov 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs with the ball in the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

One of the great things about fantasy football these days is that we no longer have to wait until August to dive into fantasy drafts. With Best Ball leagues already up and running across multiple platforms, we can get in on draft action anytime. 

There are edges to be found prior to the NFL Draft and NFL free agency, so savvy fantasy drafters who have been keeping up with potential winners in free agency and studying prospects in PFF's 2021 NFL Draft Guide will be able to find the values. 

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I’ll call out some of these undervalued players — and some of the overvalued guys — at the four major positions according to my first top-300-plus 2021 fantasy football rankings listed below. 

I've included incoming rookies because they present some of the best values in best ball drafts. They'll rise and fall accordingly after the NFL Draft. All ADP is courtesy of Underdog Fantasy. 

2021 Best Ball Fantasy Football Rankings
Rank Player Team Position
1 Christian McCaffrey CAR RB
2 Dalvin Cook MIN RB
3 Saquon Barkley NYG RB
4 Alvin Kamara NO RB
5 Derrick Henry TEN RB
6 Jonathan Taylor IND RB
7 Nick Chubb CLE RB
8 Ezekiel Elliott DAL RB
9 Cam Akers LAR RB
10 Davante Adams GB WR
11 Tyreek Hill KC WR
12 Stefon Diggs BUF WR
13 A.J. Brown TEN WR
14 D'Andre Swift DET RB
15 Travis Kelce KC TE
16 Joe Mixon CIN RB
17 D.K. Metcalf SEA WR
18 Patrick Mahomes II KC QB
19 George Kittle SF TE
20 Calvin Ridley ATL WR
21 Aaron Jones GB RB
22 DeAndre Hopkins ARI WR
23 Austin Ekeler LAC RB
24 Clyde Edwards-Helaire KC RB
25 Justin Jefferson MIN WR
26 Darren Waller LV TE
27 Michael Thomas NO WR
28 Antonio Gibson WAS RB
29 Allen Robinson II CHI WR
30 D.J. Moore CAR WR
31 Amari Cooper DAL WR
32 Josh Jacobs LV RB
33 Mike Evans TB WR
34 Chris Godwin TB WR
35 Courtland Sutton DEN WR
36 Miles Sanders PHI RB
37 Najee Harris ROOKIE RB
38 J.K. Dobbins BAL RB
39 Julio Jones ATL WR
40 Keenan Allen LAC WR
41 Josh Allen BUF QB
42 CeeDee Lamb DAL WR
43 Terry McLaurin WAS WR
44 Mark Andrews BAL TE
45 Diontae Johnson PIT WR
46 Adam Thielen MIN WR
47 Robert Woods LAR WR
48 James Robinson JAC RB
49 Dallas Goedert PHI TE
50 Kenny Golladay DET WR
51 Kyler Murray ARI QB
52 David Montgomery CHI RB
53 Deshaun Watson HOU QB
54 Tyler Lockett SEA WR
55 Brandon Aiyuk SF WR
56 Travis Etienne ROOKIE RB
57 Dak Prescott DAL QB
58 Will Fuller V HOU WR
59 Kareem Hunt CLE RB
60 AJ Dillon GB RB
61 D.J. Chark Jr. JAC WR
62 Tee Higgins CIN WR
63 Odell Beckham Jr. CLE WR
64 Cooper Kupp LAR WR
65 T.J. Hockenson DET TE
66 Lamar Jackson BAL QB
67 Javonte Williams ROOKIE RB
68 Damien Harris NE RB
69 Russell Wilson SEA QB
70 Jerry Jeudy DEN WR
71 Kenny Gainwell ROOKIE RB
72 Noah Fant DEN TE
73 Chase Claypool PIT WR
74 Brandin Cooks HOU WR
75 Ja'Marr Chase ROOKIE WR
76 Myles Gaskin MIA RB
77 Hunter Henry LAC TE
78 Tyler Boyd CIN WR
79 Justin Herbert LAC QB
80 JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT WR
81 Aaron Rodgers GB QB
82 David Johnson HOU RB
83 Laviska Shenault Jr. JAC WR
84 Melvin Gordon III DEN RB
85 Michael Gallup DAL WR
86 Deebo Samuel SF WR
87 Ronald Jones II TB RB
88 Chase Edmonds ARI RB
89 Jaylen Waddle ROOKIE WR
90 Tony Pollard DAL RB
91 Raheem Mostert SF RB
92 Devonta Smith ROOKIE WR
93 Logan Thomas WAS TE
94 Jalen Hurts PHI QB
95 Mike Gesicki MIA TE
96 Jeff Wilson Jr. SF RB
97 Tom Brady TB QB
98 Jarvis Landry CLE WR
99 Kenyan Drake ARI RB
100 Marquise Brown BAL WR
101 Chris Carson SEA RB
102 Ryan Tannehill TEN QB
103 Zack Moss BUF RB
104 Curtis Samuel CAR WR
105 Matthew Stafford LAR QB
106 Jonnu Smith TEN TE
107 Rashod Bateman ROOKIE WR
108 Rondale Moore ROOKIE WR
109 Matt Ryan ATL QB
110 DeVante Parker MIA WR
111 Robby Anderson CAR WR
112 Corey Davis TEN WR
113 Jalen Reagor PHI WR
114 Latavius Murray NO RB
115 Leonard Fournette TB RB
116 Nyheim Hines IND RB
117 Devin Singletary BUF RB
118 Joe Burrow CIN QB
119 Rashaad Penny SEA RB
120 Evan Engram NYG TE
121 Ke'Shawn Vaughn TB RB
122 James Conner PIT RB
123 Henry Ruggs III LV WR
124 Irv Smith Jr. MIN TE
125 Antonio Brown TB WR
126 Christian Kirk ARI WR
127 Kyle Pitts ROOKIE TE
128 Trey Sermon ROOKIE RB
129 Robert Tonyan GB TE
130 Blake Jarwin DAL TE
131 Mike Williams LAC WR
132 Pittsburgh Steelers PIT DST
133 Michael Carter ROOKIE RB
134 Zach Ertz PHI TE
135 Cole Beasley BUF WR
136 Hayden Hurst ATL TE
137 Los Angeles Rams LAR DST
138 Trevor Lawrence ROOKIE QB
139 Tarik Cohen CHI RB
140 Austin Hooper CLE TE
141 Darnell Mooney CHI WR
142 Justin Fields ROOKIE QB
143 Baltimore Ravens BAL DST
144 Baker Mayfield CLE QB
145 Trey Lance ROOKIE QB
146 Carson Wentz IND QB
147 Denzel Mims NYJ WR
148 Derek Carr LV QB
149 Kirk Cousins MIN QB
150 Darrell Henderson LAR RB
151 Tua Tagovailoa MIA QB
152 Mecole Hardman KC WR
153 Rob Gronkowski TB TE
154 Phillip Lindsay DEN RB
155 Jamaal Williams GB RB
156 Gus Edwards BAL RB
157 Marvin Jones Jr. DET WR
158 Indianapolis Colts IND DST
159 Gabriel Davis BUF WR
160 Jared Goff DET QB
161 Tyler Higbee LAR TE
162 Eric Ebron PIT TE
163 Jamison Crowder NYJ WR
164 New Orleans Saints NO DST
165 Sterling Shepard NYG WR
166 Kansas City Chiefs KC DST
167 Chuba Hubbard ROOKIE RB
168 Justin Tucker BAL K
169 Alexander Mattison MIN RB
170 Parris Campbell IND WR
171 Todd Gurley II ATL RB
172 Cole Kmet CHI TE
173 New England Patriots NE DST
174 Buffalo Bills BUF DST
175 Damien Williams KC RB
176 Michael Pittman Jr. IND WR
177 O.J. Howard TB TE
178 Younghoe Koo ATL K
179 Marlon Mack IND RB
180 Preston Williams MIA WR
181 Benny Snell Jr. PIT RB
182 Wil Lutz NO K
183 Elijah Moore ROOKIE WR
184 James White NE RB
185 Tylan Wallace ROOKIE WR
186 Darius Slayton NYG WR
187 Harrison Butker KC K
188 Lynn Bowden Jr. MIA RB
189 Anthony McFarland Jr. PIT RB
190 Dawson Knox BUF TE
191 John Brown BUF WR
192 J.D. McKissic WAS RB
193 San Francisco 49ers SF DST
194 Matt Breida MIA RB
195 Chicago Bears CHI DST
196 T.Y. Hilton IND WR
197 Daniel Jones NYG QB
198 Greg Zuerlein DAL K
199 Allen Lazard GB WR
200 Terrace Marshall Jr. ROOKIE WR
201 Boston Scott PHI RB
202 Kadarius Toney ROOKIE WR
203 Ben Roethlisberger PIT QB
204 Jameis Winston NO QB
205 Tampa Bay Buccaneers TB DST
206 Jason Sanders MIA K
207 Nelson Agholor LV WR
208 Marquez Valdes-Scantling GB WR
209 Adam Trautman NO TE
210 Carlos Hyde SEA RB
211 Los Angeles Chargers LAC DST
212 Emmanuel Sanders NO WR
213 Taysom Hill NO QB
214 Chris Herndon IV NYJ TE
215 Philadelphia Eagles PHI DST
216 Anthony Miller CHI WR
217 Washington Football Team WAS DST
218 Zane Gonzalez ARI K
219 Teddy Bridgewater CAR QB
220 Sony Michel NE RB
221 Duke Johnson Jr. HOU RB
222 Minnesota Vikings MIN DST
223 James Washington PIT WR
224 Salvon Ahmed MIA RB
225 Seattle Seahawks SEA DST
226 Ka'imi Fairbairn HOU K
227 Matt Prater DET K
228 Jake Elliott PHI K
229 Denver Broncos DEN DST
230 Jakobi Meyers NE WR
231 Robbie Gould SF K
232 Kerryon Johnson DET RB
233 A.J. Green CIN WR
234 Khalil Herbert ROOKIE RB
235 Gerald Everett LAR TE
236 Russell Gage ATL WR
237 Jimmy Garoppolo SF QB
238 Bryan Edwards LV WR
239 Julian Edelman NE WR
240 Jason Myers SEA K
241 KJ Hamler DEN WR
242 Tutu Atwell ROOKIE WR
243 Elijah Mitchell ROOKIE RB
244 David Njoku CLE TE
245 Green Bay Packers GB DST
246 Jordan Akins HOU TE
247 Tennessee Titans TEN DST
248 Sam Darnold NYJ QB
249 Tyler Johnson TB WR
250 Michael Badgley LAC K
251 Dyami Brown ROOKIE WR
252 Mason Crosby GB K
253 Javian Hawkins ROOKIE RB
254 Randall Cobb HOU WR
255 Chris Boswell PIT K
256 Le'Veon Bell KC RB
257 Sammy Watkins KC WR
258 Joshua Kelley LAC RB
259 DeSean Jackson PHI WR
260 La'Mical Perine NYJ RB
261 Dan Bailey MIN K
262 Jordan Howard PHI RB
263 Golden Tate NYG WR
264 Van Jefferson LAR WR
265 Harrison Bryant CLE TE
266 Tim Patrick DEN WR
267 Breshad Perriman NYJ WR
268 Cleveland Browns CLE DST
269 Marcus Mariota LV QB
270 Donald Parham Jr. LAC TE
271 N'Keal Harry NE WR
272 Darrynton Evans TEN RB
273 Zach Wilson ROOKIE QB
274 Keelan Cole Sr. JAC WR
275 Jimmy Graham CHI TE
276 Rodrigo Blankenship IND K
277 Ryan Succop TB K
278 Jermar Jefferson ROOKIE RB
279 Dallas Cowboys DAL DST
280 Dede Westbrook JAC WR
281 Tevin Coleman SF RB
282 Amon-Ra St. Brown ROOKIE WR
283 Mark Ingram II ROOKIE RB
284 Hunter Renfrow LV WR
285 Brandon McManus DEN K
286 New York Jets NYJ DST
287 Ian Thomas CAR TE
288 Daniel Carlson LV K
289 Joey Slye CAR K
290 Tre'Quan Smith NO WR
291 Justin Jackson LAC RB
292 Tyler Bass BUF K
293 Giovani Bernard CIN RB
294 Miami Dolphins MIA DST
295 Rhamondre Stevenson ROOKIE RB
296 Quintez Cephus DET WR
297 Josh Reynolds LAR WR
298 Stephen Gostkowski TEN K
299 Zach Pascal IND WR
300 Keke Coutee HOU WR
301 Brevin Jordan ROOKIE TE
302 Houston Texans HOU DST
303 Jaelon Darden ROOKIE WR
304 Jaret Patterson ROOKIE RB
305 Devin Duvernay BAL WR
306 Josh Lambo JAC K
307 Cade Johnson ROOKIE WR
308 Pooka Williams ROOKIE RB
309 Austin Seibert CIN K
310 Jacksonville Jaguars JAC DST
311 Rex Burkhead NE RB
312 Pat Freiermuth ROOKIE TE
313 Andy Isabella ARI WR
314 Rashard Higgins CLE WR
315 Bryce Love WAS RB
316 D'Wayne Eskridge ROOKIE WR
317 Malcolm Brown LAR RB
318 Detroit Lions DET DST
319 Tyron Johnson LAC WR
320 Arizona Cardinals ARI DST

QUARTERBACKS

MATT RYAN, ATLANTA FALCONS

Matt Ryan is currently the 16th quarterback off the board, but that draft slot is entirely too low for a player who led the NFL in attempts and completions last season. Fantasy gamers might be down on Ryan after he finished the season as the QB16 in points per game despite all the volume, but his grading hardly suggests a steady decline.

Ryan earned his highest PFF passing grade (82.1, ninth) since 2017. The issue the last two seasons has been his high of 26 touchdowns.

I could see his overall efficiency improving if new head coach and former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith utilizes play-action. Under Smith, Ryan Tannehill led the NFL in play-action throw percentage (36.4%) in 2020. Ryan has ranked 22nd (26%) and 28th (21%) the last two seasons 

Ryan led the league in play-action throw percentage (28%) in his best season. He's being drafted at his floor without consideration for his upside as one of the league's best passers.

TREVOR LAWRENCE, CLEMSON

Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is being drafted at QB15 (110 overall) — the first rookie quarterback off the board in best ball. We all know Lawrence is the most highly regarded quarterback to enter the NFL in recent memory and is a lock to be drafted No. 1 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. But I’m not sure if fantasy drafters are getting the best value by taking Lawrence this early when some of the more mobile rookie quarterbacks, like Justin Fields (QB20, 140 overall) and Trey Lance (QB28, 180 overall), are available.

Lawrence will continue to be the first rookie QB off the board because we know he'll he a starter from Day 1. But as I learned from drafting way too much Tyrod Taylor over Justin Herbert in best ball last season, the highly drafted rookies are going to start sooner than later. 

RUNNING BACKS

RASHAAD PENNY, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Seattle doesn't seem likely to retain free agent Chris Carson, which means the team could turn the backfield over to former first-round pick Rashaad Penny

Penny was recovering from a torn ACL last season, so it's no surprise that he didn’t exactly light the fantasy world ablaze. Players are rarely 100% healthy the first year back after major knee surgeries. 

But we can’t forget how he was electric with the ball in his hands in 2019. Penny saw at least eight carries in four different games that season, averaging 6.8 yards per attempt, 3.6 yards after contact per attempt and 16.1 fantasy points per game while forcing 10 missed tackles.

Penny led all running backs in PFF’s breakaway percentage during the 2019 regular season (43%).

The potential for Penny to take over the Seahawks’ run-heavy offense is hardly being factored into his price tag at RB45. 

Carlos Hyde is also a free agent, but he has a decent chance of returning because he isn’t likely to command as much money on the open market as Carson. Hyde was solid filling in as the starter for the Seahawks last season. He is free in drafts as the RB92. 

CHUBA HUBBARD, OKLAHOMA STATE

When I first glance at the best ball ADP, I was shocked to see Chuba Hubbard going so high. His draft price was RB39 — way too high for a player that the PFF 2021 Draft Guide has projected going in the sixth round of the real NFL Draft. 

There are many better running back options in that draft range, like Damien Harris, Tony Pollard, Zack Moss, Gus Edwards, Ke’Shawn Vaughn. And several rookie backs offer similar upside, such as Javian Hawkins, Khalil Herbert and Elijah Mitchell.

All of those players can be taken with your last pick.

WIDE RECEIVERS

COURTLAND SUTTON, DENVER BRONCOS
D.J. MOORE, CAROLINA PANTHERS 

Last week, I listed both of these players as “buys” heading into the 2021 fantasy season. They are great trade targets in dynasty formats because the cost of acquisition simply doesn't compare with what we should expect of them in 2021.  

Their same value has carried over to best ball formats, as both Moore (WR19) and Sutton (WR29) are going way later than they should be. Both are the established No. 1  receivers in their offenses and have the ability to post “boom” weeks because of their vertical prowess. 

Plus, the Broncos and Panthers appear to be involved in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, which would shoot each of their ADPs to the moon. 

From a rookie wide receiver perspective, I don’t think Purdue’s Rondale Moore is getting nearly enough recognition by Best Ball drafters. He’s expected to be a late-first-round pick in the NFL Draft, which means he has a high chance of landing with a good quarterback. 

He is currently listed at WR57 around players like Cole Beasley, Darnell Mooney, Jalen Reagor, Mecole Hardman and Gabriel Davis

Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore is also being slept on but to a much larger extent — he doesn’t have an ADP at all. As the WR6 overall in my rookie wide receiver rankings, I’ll be taking him with my last pick all day every day. 

MARQUISE BROWN, BALTIMORE RAVENS

Most wide receivers are price pretty close to where I have them ranked, but Marquise Brown seems too high at WR35 (77 overall). Brown finished 2020 as the WR41 in expected fantasy points per game (11.9) and 47th in fantasy points per game (11.4). 

I understand that Brown consistently posted WR2 numbers after Week 11, but it came with a 32% target share. That’s going to be tough to repeat with the Baltimore Ravens almost certainly adding another pass-catcher either through the draft or free agency.

TIGHT ENDS

DALLAS GOEDERT, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Maybe the masses are still waiting for a Zach Ertz trade to become official because Dallas Goedert is way too cheap. He’s currently being drafted as the TE7 (88 overall), but he has so much upside once Ertz is out of the picture. 

With Ertz out from Weeks 8-12, Goedert finished as fantasy’s No. 2 tight end (12.3 fantasy points per game) behind only Travis Kelce. He averaged nearly 38 routes run per game.

Drafting Goedert in the eighth or ninth round of best ball drafts gives you a player with top-three upside at the position without the cost associated. 

ROBERT TONYAN, GREEN BAY PACKERS

Tonyan is being drafted in a similar range with Godert — TE9, 97 overall — and I’m not sure there’s an easier fade in all of fantasy football. The Green Bay tight end is a prime candidate to see touchdown regression in 2021, as no tight end scored more fantasy points over expectation (52.2) than Big Bob. 

Aaron Rodgers’ 9.1% touchdown rate in 2020 was the highest of his career and will almost certainly come down back toward his career 6.3% rate.

Rookie Kyle Pitts will also likely be overvalued as the hot-ticket rookie with first-round draft capital. But using a top-100 best ball selection on a player who might not produce fantasy until much later in the year might not be worth the price of admission. 

There are plenty of other tight end options going after Pitts, like Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith and Irv Smith Jr., that seem like much safer bets to pay off their ADPs. 

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