Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Favorite late-round dart-throws for 2021 best ball leagues

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) throws during warm ups prior to kickoff against the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Best ball leagues can be won in the final few rounds of drafts. Late-round picks like James Robinson and Cole Beasley made huge impacts last season, and there are bound to be others like them selected late this year.

In the late rounds of best ball drafts, you can’t go wrong picking rookies. Running backs from the last few rounds of the NFL Draft are typically available, as well as mid-round wide receivers. Each year, rookies are the biggest mystery, giving them the widest range of possible outcomes.

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The following are my favorite players to snatch up in the late rounds of best ball drafts (along with rookie backs and receivers). For more best ball strategy, including guides on how to play and rankings, check out PFF's 2021 Best Ball Draft Kit.

QB Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints

Winston is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward fantasy quarterback for 2021. We last saw Winston as a starting quarterback in 2019 when he finished as QB3 over the season. 

Part of the reason he finished so high was his style of play. His 10.9 average depth of target ranked second on the season. Higher aDOTs typically lead to more fantasy points. That might decrease a little in New Orleans with passes to Alvin Kamara, but Winston should remain well above league average. He also probably won't lead the league in dropbacks, as he did with Tampa in 2019. It will be difficult for Winston to reclaim top-three fantasy status, but if all goes well he has the talent around him to rank in the top 10.

The downside with Winston is that he might not even win the starting job. Taysom Hill could either see the majority of snaps at quarterback or take at least a few snaps at QB per game. Winston is ideal if you plan to pick a third quarterback or want to stack him with Michael Thomas or Hill.

Honorable Mention:

Zach Wilson, New York Jets
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Sep 20, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (26) carries the ball during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

RB Tevin Coleman, New York Jets

Most starters and key backups are off the board by the late rounds. Coleman is an exception. He has a decent chance of being the starter in New York and is more likely to reach 15 or more carries in a game compared to other backs taken in the late rounds.

Coleman has been reunited with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who was an offensive assistant in Atlanta and the passing game coordinator in San Francisco when Coleman was at each stop. The Jets drafted Michael Carter in the fourth round, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Carter will see significant playing time right away. Only five fourth-round running backs have seen at least 400 snaps as a rookie in the last decade, and none of them topped 550.

Coleman was frequently the lead back in San Francisco before Raheem Mostert emerged and maintained the role when Mostert was injured. Coleman had a four-game stretch in 2019 with 309 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 65 carries. He followed that up with a 22-carry performance in the playoffs. Coleman should have a similar role until the Jets are ready to turn to Carter.

Coleman isn’t the most accomplished running back, but he doesn’t need to be. In fantasy football, volume is king, and he has a clear path to volume. If Carter is ready sooner than later, then Carter won’t provide much value. If Carter ends up like most fourth-round backs, Coleman will be a steal.

Honorable Mention:

Damien Williams, Chicago Bears
Phillip Lindsay, Houston Texans

Jan 16, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard (13) runs after a catch for a touchdown during the second half of an NFC Divisional Round playoff game. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

WR Allen Lazard, Green Bay Packers

Lazard remains the second-best outside receiving option catching passes from the league’s MVP. He emerged as a starter midway through the 2019 season and kept that role to begin 2020 when he caught 13 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns in three games. Lazard was WR9 when he suffered a core muscle injury.

He returned in late November, and the Packers eased him back into a full-time role. Lazard started to look like himself in the playoffs when he caught seven passes for 158 yards and a touchdown over two games. It’s been a limited sample size, but Lazard presents a ton of upside, especially in best ball. 

There are two clear concerns that could prevent Lazard from reaching his potential. Aaron Rodgers could be traded. Green Bay also drafted Amari Rodgers in the third round. The rookie should mostly cut into the playing time of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but he could also take some of Lazard's. Those risks are worth taking this late in the draft.

Honorable Mention:

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants

Oct 18, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet (85) with the ball as Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Jeremy Chinn (21) defends in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

TE Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

Bears tight ends as a unit ranked top-12 in terms of receptions and touchdowns. A lot of that production came from Jimmy Graham, but Kmet took over as the starter late in the season. He is primed for a big Year 2.

Kmet should benefit from better quarterback play this season regardless of the starting QB. The Bears' wide receiver and tight end rooms are nearly identical to last season, so Kmet should see plenty of targets.

The biggest concern is that Kmet didn’t necessarily grade well in his rookie season. Still, several notable tight ends were drafted highly and didn't play well in limited roles as rookies, like Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson and Mike Gesicki. All three of those players are now top-10 fantasy tight ends.

Honorable Mention:

Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns
Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers


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