(image credit: Crissy Froyd/USA Today)
By: Jett Rosenstein
All summer long, fantasy football managers everywhere have been doing all the necessary research to get themselves ready for their upcoming fantasy football drafts. Now that draft season is officially upon us, fantasy football managers will be determined to nail each one of their picks. Whether you are a casual who plays in 1 or 2 leagues or a die-hard who plays in 4+ leagues, this article is a great cheat sheet to have at your side come draft day. I will go round-by-round detailing my favorite picks based on a player’s current ADP. All ADPs courtesy of FantasyPros.com and based on a 12-team PPR league.
Round 1: Ezekiel Elliott (RB-DAL) ADP: 7.2
When you are making a selection in the first round, you want your pick to be as safe as possible because you can definitely lose your league here. After the “Big 4,” are coming off the board, if your plan is to target a RB, the best option is Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke is a great value in drafts as he is going off the board in the middle of round 1. Zeke has been consistent as anyone in fantasy over the years. He has finished as no worse than the RB12 and has maintained a clean bill of health throughout his career. With Zeke looking lean as ever and the Dallas offense ready to roll, Zeke should bounce back and hand in another top 5 finish.
Round 2: Austin Ekeler (RB-LAC) ADP: 11.3
After a subpar 2020 campaign, people seem to be forgetting about what Austin Ekeler brings to the table. He finished as the RB4 in 2019 and is extremely undervalued in fantasy leagues right now. There is a lot of speculation on whether Ekeler will be that bell-cow back, but frankly, that's not who he is. He makes his money in the receiving game and will be efficient with his touches. With that being said, he has a very good shot at 100 targets which would transfer to immediate fantasy production. If Ekeler can stay healthy, he has top 5 upside and will lead fantasy owners to the promised land.
Round 3: Keenan Allen (WR-LAC) ADP: 28.8
The Chargers' offense will be really good once again in 2021 and Keenan Allen will be front and center. Allen and Herbert developed a nice connection in year 1 together. I expect that to only get stronger. These last 4 seasons, Allen has stayed healthy and has turned in, no worse than a WR14 finish. Allen is one of the more advanced route runners in the league and he will look to put his skills on display once again in 2021. Don’t be surprised if he finishes in the top 5.
Round 4: Amari Cooper (WR-DAL) ADP: 43.7
Throughout this offseason, all of the buzz has flown to fellow wideout CeeDee Lamb. While it is rightfully warranted, we cannot forget about the number one on this team, Amari Cooper. Cooper is still Dak’s go-to guy. He’s reached the 1000 yard mark each of the last 3 seasons. Lamb may be taking away some of Cooper’s upside, but I will take him all day as my WR2.
Round 5: Cooper Kupp (WR-LAR) ADP: 52.3
Cooper Kupp is one of “my guys” heading into the 2021 season. After a down year in 2020 where he only mustered 3 TDs. I believe Matthew Stafford and company will elevate him back up to WR2 status. If he continues to see a similar target share and sees positive touchdown regression, he is a sure bet to return value.
Round 6: Darrell Henderson Jr. (RB-LAR) ADP: 64.7
Here we have a fellow LA Ram, Darrell Henderson Jr. Ever since Cam Akers went down with a season-ending Achilles injury, Henderson has slowly risen up draft boards. While Henderson may not be the bell-cow back, he will be the lead back for an explosive offense. If the Rams do not bring anyone else in for carries, Henderson has top-10 upside.
Round 7: Michael Carter (RB-NYJ) ADP: 85.8
Michael Carter, a 4th round selection for the NY Jets has already made waves in training camp. He also has a very good chance at taking hold of this backfield sooner rather than later. We have seen plenty of RBs ball out in year 1 and Carter may be next in line.
Round 8: Ryan Tannehill (QB-TEN) ADP: 92.3
Once again, Ryan Tannehill is being disrespected by the fantasy community. Currently off the board around QB10. This is after him finishing as the QB7 in 2020. Now, with the addition of Julio Jones, Tannehill will have another weapon at his disposal. Why take a QB early on when you can get similar production at this point in the draft?
Round 9: Antonio Brown (WR-TB) ADP: 102.0
Not too long ago, Antonio Brown was a consensus first-round pick in many leagues. However, that is no longer the case. But, Brown is seemingly a great value in 2021. There are many mouths to feed on this TB offense, but Tom Brady seems to like throwing the ball to AB. I much rather have Brown over his counterparts on the TB offense. He could end up having very similar numbers which would make him a steal.
Round 10: Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR-JAC) ADP: 113.3
After a putrid performance as a rookie in year 1, the outlook for Laviska Shenault is much brighter in year 2. First and foremost, he will have an upgrade at QB with Trevor Lawrence taking the helm. While Marvin Jones and DJ Chark may have seniority over Shenault, Shenault is the most talented of the bunch and could be a league winner if one of those two were to go down. With a team that will be throwing the ball a ton, he is a great upside pick at this point in the draft.
Round 11: Jonnu Smith (TE-NE) ADP: 135.3
Some argue you gotta leave your draft with a top-3 TE while others beg to differ. I am firmly a believer in waiting on a TE and hoping for a potential breakout. Jonnu Smith could very well be one of those guys. Smith figures to be a focal point of the NE offense in 2021. He has the talent, but a change of scenery may be all that's missing in his hopes of being in the top 10 at his position.
Round 12: Corey Davis (WR-NYJ) ADP: 141.3
If you had a chance to watch the first NY Jets preseason game, you would know that Zach Wilson looked Corey Davis’ way a lot. 4 targets in limited work. Davis is slated to be the number 1 guy on a team that figures to air it out a ton. This NY Jets WR corp is young and inexperienced, but Davis, now a veteran, figures to be the one constant all year and will eat up plenty of targets.
Round 13: Tua Tagovailoa (QB-MIA) ADP: 159.2
There has been plenty said about Tua Tagovailoa’s underwhelming rookie season. The year 2021 presents a golden opportunity to put the haters to bed. He will now have two new weapons at his disposal, Waddle, and Fuller to go along with the returning supporting cast. He will be on the streaming radar in the early portion of the season with a chance to crack your lineup on a weekly basis if everything goes as planned.
Round 14: Adam Trautman (TE-NO) ADP: 167.7
When looking at the New Orleans Saints offense for the 2021 season, there are a ton of questions. With Alvin Kamara locked in for his normal workload, what other player or players will step up and carve out a bigger role? I think one of those answers will be Adam Trautman. He has the potential to see a ton of volume in year 2 in the NFL. He very well could flop due to his lack of experience but for those willing to take a stab at a TE late, Trautman is your guy.
Round 15+: Bryan Edwards (WR-LVR) ADP: 224.8
Coming into his rookie season, Bryan Edwards was touted as a potential sleeper candidate in fantasy football 2020. Unfortunately, injuries derailed his rookie season. Now, in 2021 the sleeper spotlight is back on him. People around the Raiders have flaunted comparisons such as Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. Yes, a little bit absurd, I know! However, the Raiders are looking for someone to solidify themself as the true #1 on the WR depth chart. Edwards could be that guy. If he is and is able to develop a connection with Derek Carr, he could prove to be a game-changer. No harm in taking a shot on someone who could return huge dividends.