EARLY 2021 BEST BALL TARGETS AND FADES 6/17/21
Our 2021 NFL Best Ball series continues with a look at perceived ADP value early on in the drafting process. It is now June 17th and some information is starting to trickle out to the public as we get to hear early reports out of training camps and teams are just wrapping up the OTA phase of the preseason so there are still more questions than answers out there. Drafting this early in a big tournament like Underdog or DraftKings million dollar contests gives us an opportunity to load up on our favorite breakout candidates before the rest of the field catches on (or we completely whiff and end up overpaying for practice squad players). Today we’ll look at some potential breakout players I believe are undervalued or overvalued relative to ADP.
One thing to keep in mind is many fantasy analysts tend to jump on players and develop a hive mentality on those players touting them as potential values or busts. A perfect example of this is pushing the same players their analytics insist are on the verge of breaking out year in and year out. These types of players I like to fade and let someone else step on the land mine. I’ll move them way further down my pre-draft rankings so I’m not even tempted to draft them. Reducing your exposure by taking stands on guys while drafting 150 teams is a good way to narrow down your player pool and give you a better shot of getting a larger number of your teams through to round 2. Here are some of the players I am fading this season. If I’m wrong, I don’t think they will break out hard enough for it to hurt me too much but I just don’t want any part of these players based on their ADP right now.
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Waller feels like this year’s hyped up TE who gets drafted super-early but ends up busting. I like Waller as a player but I’m just not going to draft him at his current ADP when guys like Tyler Higbe and Logan Thomas are available in the 10th round. Right now Waller is being drafted as the 2nd overall TE with an ADP of 22.8 on Underdog. For a player on a bad offense like Oakland I just can’t pull the trigger on him that early. Waller could easily regress this season with extra attention from defenses knowing that he is the go-to receiver this year. I understand the point advantage from grabbing an elite tight end early, but there is no guarantee that Waller will have an elite season and I’d rather take a receiver instead and take a TE later in the draft.
Swift is another player I actually like but I just don’t trust the coaching here to justify the early 3rd-round price tag. We’re getting early indications that he will splitting backfield touches with Jamaal Williams who we can acquire way cheaper in drafts. Williams is a player that impressed Green Bay enough to keep him active in their backfield tilting Aaron Jones owners who cursed out the coaching staff weekly. Now he’s been hand-picked by Detroit’s new coaching regime (including new OC Anthony Lynn) to be the “A back”. That may just be coach speak, but it’s enough to have me fading Swift at his current 28.2 ADP. I do scoop him up when he falls to the 4th round though.
Moore is another guy who isn’t a bad player, but I just don’t like his situation. There are a few things keeping me from drafting him at his current 42.4 ADP. Moore’s got yet another new QB this season with Sam Darnold joining the Panthers. Darnold has been pretty bad so far and while I think a lot of that has to do with the Adam Gase effect, a lot also has to do with his lack of accuracy. Moore will also be competing with Robby Anderson for targets. Anderson had a great connection with Darnold in their time together with the Jets. This is a reunion that I’ve heard surprisingly little talk about in the fantasy world which makes it seem a little sneaky and at a current ADP of 71.8 (30 spots lower than Moore) I would prefer to take Anderson at the better value.
Lots of analysts are talking up Matthew Stafford again this year. I understand the excitement of him joining a new team with better coaching, but Stafford is a 33 year old QB who hasn’t finished above QB15 since 2017. He’s had decent weapons over that span as well including guys like Kenny Golladay, T.J. Hockenson, Marvin Jones, and last year’s addition D’Andre Swift yet has consistently underperformed for a few years now. So far this year he is being drafted as the QB11 ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Tannehill and several others I would rather wait on. If you think the coaching and situation had been holding him back, then by all means draft him, but he might just be a dusty player and I would prefer to fade him.
Now that I’ve covered some buzzy players I’m fading this year, here are some guys I am trying to draft as often as possible.
He’s really the only RB I’m interested in drafting if I fall to the back half of round 1. Usually if I fall past pick 7 I’m shooting for a Zero RB type of strategy unless Ekeler falls to me in rd 2 in which case I’ll pivot to a “Hero-RB” mentality where I take one RB in the 1st 2 rounds and then load up on WRs for the next several rounds (unless another great RB value falls to me). The Chargers are a team on the rise with an improved O-line, new coaching (including OC Joe Lombardi who helped guide Alvin Kamara to fantasy-stud status), and a young QB in Justin Herbert who lit it up as the Rookie of the Year last season and has the ability to fuel a high-powered offense which should present plenty of scoring opportunities. Add in that there is really no proven competition for touches and Ekeler could get a monster workload this season. Grabbing him at current ADP (12.4) could be the best value we’re going to find in the first couple rounds.
McLaurin is another player who finds himself in a much better position this season than last year. After a breakout rookie season, McLaurin had a respectable 2020 season despite a shitty QB situation. Now he’s got Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing to him, and we’ve seen the effect that Fitzmagic has had on his past receivers like Brandon Marshall, Mike Evans and most recently DeVante Parker who all had monster seasons with Fitz at QB. Now Terry McLaurin has his opportunity to be the gun slinger’s top target and has the talent to thrive in a Fitz-led offense. Washington plays a lot of strong offenses this year including the AFC West so while their defense may be great, they’ll still likely need to put up points so expect them to start games aggressively with McLaurin playing the alpha role.
Higgins is a guy I’m targeting as a 2nd-year breakout candidate. Higgins formed an instant connection with Joe Burrow last season before his QB went down with a season-ending knee injury mid-way through the season. Higgins still finished up a productive rookie year with 900 yards and 6 TDs. Now he gets Burrow back and because the Bengals drafted Ja’Maar Chase in the first round of the 2021 draft, people seem to be writing off Higgins. I love Higgins at his current ADP value (57.3) and have been getting him as late as the 6th round since I started drafting in May. I’m a big fan of the Bengals passing game this year so I’ve been taking Chase and Tyler Boyd a lot too and stacking 2 of the 3 with Joe Burrow pretty frequently.
I’m drafting most of the 49ers currently. I have been fading George Kittle just because I don’t like taking him at his current 2nd round cost. He has been falling in price recently with people jumping on the Waller train so if lands in the 4th round I’ll be interested. Otherwise I’m focused on the following players:
Brandon Aiyuk – 61.7 ADP
Deebo Samuel – 78.3 ADP
Raheem Mostert – 80.4
Trey Lance – 121.6
Eli Mitchell – 213.6
I’ve been largely fading rookie RB Trey Sermon at current ADP of 72.8 since I’m not buying that he’s going to take over the lead role from Mostert at this point which makes Mostert a good value 8 spots later. Eli Mitchell is a fellow rookie RB who’s been getting some buzz early and he’s pretty much free in the final rounds. Shanahan RBs are much like Belichick RBs in that you know they are going to be effective but I don’t want to take the 1st one off the board since it is unpredictable how the workload will be distributed. That being said we do know they will get a ton of work so it’s good to have exposure to at least one of them and I prefer to take my stand on the proven Mostert over the unknown Sermon especially since I’m drafting my main RBs late.
As for Lance, he is probably my highest drafted QB up till this point since I’ve been able to grab him after the 10th round frequently. I’m drafting him largely as my QB2 since there is still a cloud over when he will actually be starting games. I tend to grab a 3rd QB late on my Lance teams for insurance. The way I draft I generally take 2-3 QBs, 4-5 RBs, 10 WRs, 2-3 TEs.
I like both receivers at their current ADPs but have been taking Samuel more than Aiyuk since there are other WRs I’m higher on in that range.
Hurts is another QB I’m trying to get a decent amount of exposure to. He’s tough to stack guys with since DeVonta Smith is pretty expensive at his 75.5 ADP and I don’t want to pay up for him. Hurts’ ADP is 77.8 so he and Smith have to be drafted really close to each other meaning you have to reach for one of them generally if you want the stack. I prefer to target Jalen Reagor at his 132.2 ADP. Reagor was hurt in the 2020 preseason with a dislocated shoulder and later a torn ligament on his thumb so he came out of the gates limping as a rookie and never got it going. I’m willing to take a flyer on him in Hurts stacks at his current value. Goedert is tough to stack with Hurts as well at his 83.3 ADP, but I try to make it work when I can. It doesn’t kill me to run Hurts naked though with no stacking partners if things don’t work out.
Shenault is a guy who is generating some good buzz early on in training camp. He is one of my favorite guys to draft at his current ADP (92.1). I’m very high on Shenault this season and love that analysts are writing him off as a gadget receiver whose role is going to be diminished because of Travis Etienne. I don’t think that at all and I’m frequently drafting them together in Jags stacks with QB Trevor Lawrence. I actually think Shenault can out-perform DJ Chark this season as well and have much more Shenault exposure (40% exposure vs 17% for Chark) although I like the entire Jags offense this season at current ADPs.
Next article we’ll look at some cheap stacks which are easy to put together or some late round pick ideas. In July we will be introducing some Best Ball video content as well so stay tuned and sign up for RunPureSports premium content today using the promo code: RPSHEATER25 to know 25% off your first payment on a monthly subscription.