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.
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
|18||Patrick Mahomes II||KC||QB|
|29||Allen Robinson II||CHI||WR|
|58||Will Fuller V||HOU||WR|
|61||D.J. Chark Jr.||JAC||WR|
|63||Odell Beckham Jr.||CLE||WR|
|83||Laviska Shenault Jr.||JAC||WR|
|84||Melvin Gordon III||DEN||RB|
|87||Ronald Jones II||TB||RB|
|96||Jeff Wilson Jr.||SF||RB|
|123||Henry Ruggs III||LV||WR|
|124||Irv Smith Jr.||MIN||TE|
|137||Los Angeles Rams||LAR||DST|
|157||Marvin Jones Jr.||DET||WR|
|164||New Orleans Saints||NO||DST|
|166||Kansas City Chiefs||KC||DST|
|171||Todd Gurley II||ATL||RB|
|173||New England Patriots||NE||DST|
|176||Michael Pittman Jr.||IND||WR|
|181||Benny Snell Jr.||PIT||RB|
|188||Lynn Bowden Jr.||MIA||RB|
|189||Anthony McFarland Jr.||PIT||RB|
|193||San Francisco 49ers||SF||DST|
|200||Terrace Marshall Jr.||ROOKIE||WR|
|205||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||TB||DST|
|211||Los Angeles Chargers||LAC||DST|
|214||Chris Herndon IV||NYJ||TE|
|217||Washington Football Team||WAS||DST|
|221||Duke Johnson Jr.||HOU||RB|
|245||Green Bay Packers||GB||DST|
|270||Donald Parham Jr.||LAC||TE|
|274||Keelan Cole Sr.||JAC||WR|
|282||Amon-Ra St. Brown||ROOKIE||WR|
|283||Mark Ingram II||ROOKIE||RB|
|286||New York Jets||NYJ||DST|
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.
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.
Justin Fields aka the fantasy football league-winning late-round QB in 2021 ????
book it ????pic.twitter.com/Qu8HAgFDBo
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) February 5, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.