Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Examining the biggest risers and fallers in best ball ADP following the 2021 NFL Draft

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Mike Davis (28) with the ball in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a lot of auditing to do after the conclusion of the 2021 NFL Draft. I've already retooled my dynasty rankings, identified risers/fallers in best ball formats, evaluated veterans impacted by rookie landing spots and examined first-year players primed for fantasy breakouts/letdowns

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Now it's time to look at how the best ball market has changed after all the reshuffling. Back in March, I looked at how NFL free agency affected Underdog Best Ball ADP. Let's do the same thing armed with the latest May ADP, examining how the 2021 NFL Draft affected the market. This will help us identify players on the rise/fall and unearth potential values.

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Overall Best Ball Risers
Player May ADP March ADP Difference
Mike Davis 51.6 172.4 +120.8
Trey Lance 123.3 199.6 +76.3
Trey Sermon 82.3 155.2 +72.9
Sam Darnold 166.9 213.3 +46.4
Josh Reynolds 156.8 198.8 +42
Kyle Pitts 55.6 97.6 +42
Amon-Ra St. Brown 174.7 213.4 +38.7
Breshad Perriman 152.3 189.1 +36.8
Tre'Quan Smith 169.5 205.5 +36
Michael Carter 95.1 129.6 +34.5
Myles Gaskin 47.1 80.8 +33.7
Darrell Henderson 141.2 173.7 +32.5
Zack Moss 100.3 130.6 +30.3
Devin Singletary 149 177.7 +28.7
Anthony Firkser 148.9 177.2 +28.3
Justin Fields 124.9 152.6 +27.7
James Conner 104.8 130.8 +26
Matt Ryan 101.9 126.4 +24.5
Tua Tagovailoa 136.5 158.2 +21.7
T.Y. Hilton 140.9 162.3 +21.4
Terrace Marshall Jr. 150.5 171.9 +21.4
Jerick McKinnon 195.8 216 +20.2
Ja'Marr Chase 48.3 68.1 +19.8
Jared Cook 172.1 191.8 +19.7
Chris Carson 34.9 54.6 +19.7
Amari Rodgers 196 215.7 +19.7
Gerald Everett 155.4 175 +19.6
Joe Burrow 94 111.8 +17.8

Folks are thirsty for running back production in the best-ball streets. No player has risen more than Mike Davis, who has moved up over 120 draft selections since March. The veteran has gone from CMC’s backup to the presumed starter in a high-powered Atlanta Falcons offense can’t say I’m surprised to see the ginormous ADP bump from the one they call “CMC-LITE.”

With UDFA Javian Hawkins and Qadree Ollison his two top competitors for touches, Big Mike looks poised to be a solid fantasy contributor for a second straight year. In 12 games as the Panthers’ full-blown starter in 2020, Davis averaged 15.4 fantasy points (15th), 16.7 expected fantasy points (10th) and 17.4 touches per game (14th). 

Davis won’t blow anybody away with his explosiveness third-lowest breakaway run percentage (15%) in 2020 but he’s proven he can shoulder a healthy workload, catch passes out of the backfield and be a contributor at the goal line.

Todd Gurley’s exit from the Atlanta Falcons’ offense leaves nearly three-quarters of the team's goal-line touches up for grabs in 2021. Recall that Gurley was the RB6 through the first nine weeks of the season, averaging a full rushing touchdown per game.

Davis was forced to make a ton of plays on his own last season (second-highest missed tackle rate per rush in 2020), so he’s almost guaranteed to benefit from his upgraded situation heading into next season. 

Louisville's Javian Hawkins avoids several Syracuse defenders to score a touchdown on Nov. 23, 2019

The other aspect of the Falcons’ backfield I want to highlight is their UDFA, Javian Hawkins. His undrafted status has him off the grid for most fantasy managers, but don’t sleep on this rookie running back from Louisville. He’s got talent and reportedly fell in the draft because of off-field issues.

Hawkins posted a 30% dominator rating as a junior in his final season and offers home-run ability that the team isn’t going to get from Davis. Although his size surely didn’t help his cause in the draft, his super elusiveness should help him avoid getting banged up at the next level. 

Hawkins is built pretty similarly to fellow undersized running back Dion Lewis, who previously spent time with Arthur Smith and the Titans in 2019. Before Derrick Henry captured the workhorse role in the second half of the 2019 season, Lewis was routinely playing in the 40-50% snap range and earning five or so touches per game. 

Smith also showed confidence in his smaller back, thrusting him into the starting role when Henry was forced to miss Week 16 of the 2019 season. The ex-Titans’ scatback played 71% of the snaps and commanded 17 total touches. 

We saw Davis’ production fall off toward the end of the 2020 season, and he missed the Week 17 finale. It wouldn’t surprise to see this backfield potentially turn into a one-two punch between Davis and Hawkins as the season progresses. 

Regardless of how Hawkins’ role shapes up with the Falcons, I think we are going to see his fantasy stock soar during the offseason, training camp and preseason. As a veteran, Davis won’t likely get much action in the practice games, which will give Hawkins a golden opportunity to flash his explosiveness when all eyes are watching.

He reminds me plenty of Tarik Cohen and Phillip Lindsay. Both were undersized, lesser-known prospects who flashed in preseason. I bet we get something similar with Hawkins this summer. That makes him more than worth a dart-throw in the 18th round of best ball drafts. 

Overall Best Ball Fallers
May ADP March ADP Difference
Deshaun Watson 176.5 83.8 -92.7
Kenneth Gainwell 176.4 101.5 -74.9
Hayden Hurst 210.3 139.9 -70.4
Chuba Hubbard 173.7 119 -54.7
Cam Newton 207.9 163.4 -44.5
A.J. Dillon 108.9 67.7 -41.2
James Robinson 68.5 28.2 -40.3
Jeffery Wilson 146.9 108.5 -38.4
Todd Gurley 201.9 165.2 -36.7
David Johnson 123.8 91.3 -32.5
Donald Parham 209.4 178.6 -30.8
Allen Lazard 205.6 175.2 -30.4
Derek Carr 191.1 162.8 -28.3
Tarik Cohen 190.3 162.4 -27.9
Hunter Henry 146.3 119.6 -26.7
Mike Boone 215.9 192.6 -23.3
Sterling Shepard 171.3 149 -22.3
Rashaad Penny 163.6 142.2 -21.4
Kenyan Drake 117.3 96.3 -21
Jamison Crowder 166.1 146.7 -19.4
Boston Scott 215.4 196 -19.4
Carson Wentz 156.4 137.8 -18.6
Darius Slayton 192.9 174.5 -18.4
Ronald Jones 93.2 75.1 -18.1
Melvin Gordon 78.4 60.4 -18
Marquise Brown 98.1 80.6 -17.5
James White 201.9 185.3 -16.6
Robert Tonyan 116.7 100.6 -16.1

Kenneth Gainwell’s landing spot with the Philadelphia Eagles hasn't resonated with the market, as he's fallen nearly 75 spots in ADP. At one point, Kenny G was my RB4 among the rookies, but those days are long gone. 

Fifth-round draft capital is not strong, and the comparisons to Nyheim Hines have pushed me off Gainwell entirely. In best ball, he’s a decent value because he is bound to stumble into a few spike weeks due to his receiving production, but those games will be few and far between. 

Gainwell is behind Miles Sanders and would need to beat out Boston Scott even for primary backup duties. Not to mention, RB targets won’t be in any kind of surplus with the mobile Jalen Hurts under center. 

As long as Scott remains cheaper (215 ADP), he’s the superior backup value among Philly running backs. 

When the 49ers traded up to draft Trey Sermon, it was expected to have a negative impact on the other RBs in the San Francisco backfield. Raheem Mostert has rightfully fallen slightly (-2.6), but Jeffery Wilson’s ADP has been nuked. The once highly touted zero-RB option has dropped almost 40 spots.

But when did deciphering the 49ers' backfield become so simple? Sure, Mostert looks like he should be the starter this season, and Sermon should be the one poised to take over if Moster falters. 

Ohio State Buckeyes running back Trey Sermon runs upfield during the fourth quarter of the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

This story has played out time and time again with Kyle Shanahan running the show. The best/safest value almost assuredly is the back with the cheapest ADP. In this case, his last name is Wilson. 

Wilson and Mostert posted nearly identical fantasy production on a per-game basis in 2020, and the former has a nose for the end zone. He scored 10 touchdowns despite only playing three games with a 50-plus percent snap share. In those contests, he averaged 27.7 fantasy points per game. 

When the duo was healthy for a four-week stretch toward the end of the season, Wilson out-carried Mostert at the goal line (six versus four) and out-snapped him the red zone. 

Best ball is all about spike weeks, and Wilson has shown that he’s more than capable of producing those in bunches. 

Ronald Jones’ ADP has fallen almost two rounds since March, which is strange considering the only move the Buccaneers have made in the backfield is adding veteran Giovani Bernard. Bernard’s addition to the squad should have zero impact on how we view Jones. 

After last year’s abysmal performance, I can’t see Jones standing a chance of earning pass-catching work anyway. 

But that’s being baked into his suppressed ADP, so drafting him is just a bet on him beating out Leonard Fournette as the team’s primary early-down grinder. Let’s not forget that RoJo was was PFF’s fifth-highest-graded running back (82.8),and ranked fifth in yards after contact per attempt (3.6) and fourth overall in rushing yards (900) 14 weeks into the season. 

It wasn’t until COVID-19 knocked him out that “Playoff Lenny” took center stage. When comparing Fournette’s rushing numbers during his four-game playoff stretch (small sample size) to Jones’ 14-game regular season, there’s no debate as to who was the more productive back rushing the football.

Jones finished the regular season as PFF’s sixth-highest-graded running back (85.0) and was seventh in yards per attempt (5.1) and third in yards after contact per attempt (3.65). During Fournette’s championship run to glory, he graded worse (73.9) and rushed for fewer yards per attempt (4.7) and yards after contact per attempt (2.78). 

For that reason, I won’t be drafting Fournette anytime soon, regardless of whatever puff pieces surface from the mouth of Bruce Arians. 

Additional RB Risers
May ADP March ADP Difference
Alexander Mattison 137.4 153.6 +16.2
Giovani Bernard 198.7 214.2 +15.5
Najee Harris 20 31.8 +11.8
Damien Harris 90.9 102.6 +11.7
Joe Mixon 15.3 25.9 +10.6
Latavius Murray 131 140.3 +9.3
Salvon Ahmed 208.1 215.9 +7.8
Chase Edmonds 61.2 67.1 +5.9
Rhamondre Stevenson 205.3 211.2 +5.9
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 22.7 28.5 +5.8
Gus Edwards 117.6 122.8 +5.2
Malcolm Brown 211.4 215.6 +4.2
Leonard Fournette 91.2 94.4 +3.2
Javian Hawkins 211.4 214.6 +3.2

Too few people are talking about the Chiefs' revamped offensive line when it comes to Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

CEH has moved up slightly post-draft, but he is still routinely available in the third round of best-ball drafts. That’s easy value to scoop up; before the Chiefs brought in Le’Veon Bell, Edwards-Helaire was averaging 21.3 touches per game. His 505 rushing yards ranked second in the league. 

Additional RB Fallers
May ADP March ADP Difference
Jamaal Williams 158.7 143.2 -15.5
Javonte Williams 64.9 49.7 -15.2
Darrel Williams 213.8 199.4 -14.4
Phillip Lindsay 178.2 164.6 -13.6
Anthony McFarland 215.8 203.7 -12.1
Nyheim Hines 132.9 121.6 -11.3
Damien Williams 204.4 193.1 -11.3
Travis Etienne 48.5 38.5 -10
Josh Jacobs 42.1 33.3 -8.8
Ke'Shawn Vaughn 215.7 208 -7.7
Marlon Mack 212.1 205 -7.1
Lynn Bowden 215 209.3 -5.7
J.D. McKissic 157.9 152.4 -5.5
J.K. Dobbins 28.6 23.5 -5.1
D'Andre Swift 24.6 19.7 -4.9
Miles Sanders 31.2 28.1 -3.1
Kareem Hunt 51.5 48.6 -2.9
Raheem Mostert 78.8 76.2 -2.6

Jamaal Williams is a great value — he’s probably going to get more work than anybody invested long-term in De’Andre Swift would care to admit. 

Lions beat reporters have said Swift could end up being the 1A to Williams’ 1B in the backfield. Considering where new head coach Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn draw their coaching roots (offenses where the true RB1 wasn’t an every-snap player, ie. Alvin Kamara and Austin Ekeler), Williams could have a role similar to Melvin Gordon III/Latavius Murray.

Again, this isn’t as much of a knock on Swift’s outlook as it is a praise for Williams. 

The former Packer played well enough to keep Aaron Jones from seizing an 80% snap share and possesses a three-down skill set that would translate should Swift miss any games. 

Then there’s Javonte Williams, who fantasy gamers don’t seem thrilled to have seen land with the Denver Broncos in a committee with MG3. What the public is missing here is that in all likelihood Williams and Gordon will start the season in a 40-60 split; that’s how the team operated when Lindsay was healthy last year. But once they get a taste of how great Williams is on even limited touches, he’ll supplant Gordon as the lead back. 

After all, Williams spent nearly his entire collegiate career playing in a committee, so he’s more than up for the challenge. 

The same can be said for Travis Etienne, who for some reason is falling down draft boards after landing in Jacksonville. We are getting too wrapped up on the James Robinson/Carlos Hyde RB debacle and not zooming out enough to see the big picture. Etienne is attached to his college QB Trevor Lawrence, who he connected with for 100 receptions at Clemson.

Like Urban Meyer said, Etienne is going to be the third-down back. He’s going to be involved heavily in the passing game, and we cherish that in PPR formats. But his role isn’t going to stop there. Based on his 49 career carries inside the 5-yard line since 2018 (highest in the class), I fully expect ETN to win the goal-line back role outright. 

Robinson and Hyde can split early-down work to their heart’s desire while Etienne is peppered with high-value opportunities.

Additional Wr Risers
May ADP March ADP Difference
Jaylen Waddle 93.3 107.7 +14.4
DeVonta Smith 80.2 94.6 +14.4
Antonio Brown 105.1 119.4 +14.3
Mecole Hardman 124.3 137.9 +13.6
K.J. Hamler 199.5 211.9 +12.4
Nelson Agholor 138.3 149.7 +11.4
Demarcus Robinson 204.9 214.9 +10
Mike Williams 109.2 118.2 +9
DeSean Jackson 198.5 207.2 +8.7
Sammy Watkins 203.3 211.7 +8.4
Tyler Lockett 51.2 59.4 +8.2
Darnell Mooney 128.4 135 +6.6
A.J. Brown 16.4 22.7 +6.3
Jerry Jeudy 83.6 89.6 +6
Marvin Jones 118.8 124.6 +5.8
Parris Campbell 165 170.7 +5.7
Jakobi Meyers 206.3 211.4 +5.1
Julio Jones 39.9 44.3 +4.4
Nico Collins 211.1 215.3 +4.2

The Houston Texans boast arguably the worst group of pass-catchers in the league sans Brandin Cooks. The team traded up to draft Michigan contested-catch fiend Nico Collins, and somehow his ADP has barely risen. It’s not a stretch to envision Collins rising to the No. 2 WR chair. And as a rebuilding franchise, the Texans have all the incentive in the world to get their young players as many reps as possible. 

Collins is a vastly superior rookie value to the likes of some other Day 2 receivers like Elijah Moore, Dyami Brown and D’Wayne Eskridge who might have a more difficult time commanding targets in Year 1. 

The QB play is going to be bad, which has probably kept Collins’ ADP from rising, but no one is going to be perfect in the 200-plus draft range

If QB-turned-WR Terrelle Pryor can top 1,000 yards playing for an awful 1-15 Browns squad, surely Collins can put up 700-800 receiving yards through volume alone. 

Additional WR Fallers
May ADP March ADP Difference
Christian Kirk 164 148.1 -15.9
Brandin Cooks 97.2 81.4 -15.8
Tyler Boyd 80.1 64.4 -15.7
Rashod Bateman 127.7 112.2 -15.5
DeVante Parker 116.6 101.3 -15.3
Tylan Wallace 215.3 200.3 -15
John Brown 173.5 160 -13.5
Marquez Valdes-Scantling 192.1 178.9 -13.2
Tee Higgins 61.5 48.4 -13.1
Gabriel Davis 130.8 119.1 -11.7
Chase Claypool 67.9 56.7 -11.2
Tyrell Williams 203.4 192.3 -11.1
Van Jefferson 209.4 199 -10.4
Henry Ruggs 146.1 136.1 -10

The hype around Ja’Marr Chase is making both Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins great buy-low candidate in best ball formats. Both incumbent Bengals receivers have seen their ADP dip by a full round since March. I will be purchasing them at a discount all summer long.

Too much is being made about Chase’s impending alpha status in the offense; it’s more likely he becomes the tide that lifts all ships. There’s a significant total of targets and air yards remaining after A.J. Green left — Chase can capture those without damaging the fantasy value of either Boyd or Higgins. 

Las Vegas Raiders offensive players continue to plummet down draft boards, and it’s not because of who they added this offseason. It’s because the market is down on the team’s offensive outlook as a whole, which I tend to agree with. 

Still, somebody has to catch the ball in the offense, so WRs like John Brown and Bryan Edwards are easy players to target in the later rounds. Both are cheaper than Henry Ruggs

Additional TE Risers
May ADP March ADP ADP Difference
Tyler Higbee 109.8 123.7 13.9
Blake Jarwin 154 167.7 13.7
Adam Trautman 170.7 181 10.3
Mo Alie-Cox 203.9 214.2 10.3
Christopher Herndon 198.3 205.5 7.2
T.J. Hockenson 70 76 6

I’m drafting T.J. Hockenson in the sixth or seventh round in every best ball draft this summer, and I suggest you do the same. The Lions added Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman and a fourth-round rookie to their receiving corps, yet Hockenson has moved up only half a round in ADP since March. 

With Kyle Pitts (ADP 55.6) jumping Hockenson, I'm sad to announce that I will have no more  shares of the generational rookie tight end on Underdog Fantasy. Instead, I'll opt for Hockenson; he’s entering Year 3 and  also boasts top-eight overall draft capital and should see tons of targets in this barren passing game.

Adam Trautman has risen almost a full round, but I’d argue the second-year tight end still isn’t earning the respect he deserves from the masses. Jared Cook, who led the team in end-zone targets the past two seasons, signed with the Los Angeles Chargers this offseason, opening the TE1 door for Trautman.

Touchdowns are essential for tight ends to be fantasy relevant, and those opportunities give Trautman a chance to break out in Year 2. Trautman flashed his receiving ability during his rookie season, leading all tight ends in catch rate (94%) and finishing third in yards after the catch per reception (7.7). He’s a stellar value in the 14th round and beyond.

Additional TE Fallers
May ADP March ADP Difference
Eric Ebron 173.4 157.7 -15.7
Zach Ertz 191.9 177.7 -14.2
Austin Hooper 176.6 167.7 -8.9
Mike Gesicki 116.7 110.2 -6.5
Irv Smith 119.5 113.4 -6.1
Darren Waller 26.2 20.8 -5.4
Dan Arnold 213.9 208.8 -5.1
Mark Andrews 60 55.5 -4.5
Noah Fant 92.3 87.9 -4.4
George Kittle 21.7 17.4 -4.3

The hate for Raider Nation has even impacted last year’s second-best fantasy tight end, Darren Waller. His ADP has fallen into the third round, making him a value. Drafting a high-end tight end in best ball is a tried-and-true approach to ensure your roster provides a weekly edge. 

As long as the competent Derek Carr remains under center and the Raiders’ defense remains bad, Waller will be the featured option in the Las Vegas passing offense.  

Additional QB Risers
May ADP March ADP Difference
Zach Wilson 163.5 178.7 15.2
Ryan Fitzpatrick 154 167.4 13.4
Jalen Hurts 76.5 84.7 8.2
Kyler Murray 50.7 58.5 7.8
Russell Wilson 71 77.1 6.1
Dak Prescott 56.9 62.6 5.7
Lamar Jackson 54.9 59.9 5
Justin Herbert 66.4 71.3 4.9
Additional QB Fallers
May ADP March ADP Difference
Ben Roethlisberger 178.7 164.8 -13.9
Ryan Tannehill 119.3 106.1 -13.2
Aaron Rodgers 91.2 78.8 -12.4
Jimmy Garoppolo 215.1 204.8 -10.3
Andy Dalton 216 209.2 -6.8
Kirk Cousins 135 129.2 -5.8
Teddy Bridgewater 215.1 209.8 -5.3
Matthew Stafford 101.8 97.5 -4.3
Baker Mayfield 143.7 140 -3.7
Jameis Winston 188.6 185.4 -3.2

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