Undervalued Best Ball Players (2021 Fantasy Football)
A veteran receiver coming off of a bounce-back season is the headline player in this piece — and he’s the only one with a top-100 average draft position (ADP) in 12-team BestBall10 leagues. A rookie running back, the latest unheralded back who has succeeded in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and a wideout coming off of a head-turning first season comprise the other selections.
Brandin Cooks (WR – HOU): ADP – 88.5
Cooks rebounded from a forgettable 2019 season and returned to the form he exhibited from 2015 through 2018. He ranked 20th in targets (119), 22nd in receptions (81), 12th in receiving yards (1,150), tied for 29th in touchdown receptions (six), and tied for 19th among qualified receivers in yards per target (9.7), according to Pro-Football-Reference.
He did a ton of his damage during the fantasy season (Week 1 through Week 16), finishing as WR27 in point-per-reception (PPR) scoring. Cooks also ranked 31st in fantasy points per game. Gamers are drafting him as the WR42 despite his excellent season and track record of success.
Presumably, drafters are skeptical of how he will play if (or perhaps when) the Texans trade superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson. I believe they are overreacting by letting him fall outside the top-35 receivers. He will look like a steal if the Texans can patch things up with Watson. If they do not, the Texans will probably have to play catch-up often in 2021, pushing Cooks’ volume upward.
Kenny Gainwell (RB – FA): ADP – 109.8
Gainwell opted out of the 2020 college football season. However, he did plenty to impress by rushing for 1,459 yards at 6.3 yards per carry, 13 rushing touchdowns, snagging 51 receptions at 12.0 yards per reception, and adding three receiving scores in his redshirt freshman season at Memphis in 2019, per Sports-Reference.
Our Kyle Yates ranks him 46th on his Big Board 2.0. He writes, “Gainwell might be the most versatile running back in this entire draft class,” lauding his vision, ability to accelerate, and calling him a “phenomenal pass-catcher.” The following highlights illustrate Gainwell’s skills.
Man, Kenny Gainwell is legit. Equips excellent vision to make the right reads and follow his blockers upfield. He won’t kill you with crazy speed, but he is so light on his feet allowing him to make decisive cuts through the defense. Reference this clip from the Cotton Bowl. pic.twitter.com/RwsQdkAJu4
– Nick Lamattina (@lamattina_nick) May 18, 2020
Only a couple plays into Kenny Gainwell’s tape and oh my goodness ???? pic.twitter.com/5DEUlo5IYL
– Jared Feinberg (@JRodNFLDraft) June 5, 2020
– Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) January 13, 2020
– Mason (@BarnBurnerSlim) November 23, 2019
If Kenny Gainwell played exclusively at wide receiver, I’d have no problem with it. Dude has some good ball skills and body control for a running back. pic.twitter.com/9pozvBoSnL
– Jared Feinberg (@JRodNFLDraft) June 5, 2020
Gainwell’s receiving skills bode well for an immediate impact regardless of what team drafts him. He will provide a massive return on investment as just the RB40 in ADP if he lands on a team willing to utilize him a bit on the ground.
Jeff Wilson (RB – SF): ADP – 111.7
Injuries ravaged the roster of the 2019 NFC Champion 49ers, and starting running back Raheem Mostert played only eight games. His absence helped open the door for Wilson to show us what he can do. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry en route to 600 rushing yards. He also added 133 receiving yards and scored 10 total touchdowns.
He showcased bell-cow ability at times, as he toted the rock 20 or more times over the last two weeks of the season for a staggering 259 yards. He also rumbled for 112 yards on 17 carries in Week 7 against the Patriots.
Shanahan isn’t shy about using the hot hand at running back, which makes it perplexing that Wilson is being selected 45 picks after Mostert (66.3 ADP). Rostering a running back in this offense can be maddening in traditional leagues, but scooping up Wilson on the cheap is appealing in best-ball formats.
Gabriel Davis (WR – BUF): ADP – 156.4
The Bills struck gold when they took Davis in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He forced his way onto the field in four-receiver packages when all of the wideouts were healthy and stepped up when John Brown was hurt.
Davis secured 35 receptions for 599 yards at a whopping 17.1 yards per reception, and he had a nose for the end zone with seven touchdown grabs. He tied the previously-highlighted Cooks and seldom-used tight end, Dan Arnold, for 19th in yards per target at 9.7.
Breakout star Josh Allen trusted his 6-foot-2 and 216-pound receiver, as evidenced by Davis earning the third-deepest average depth of target among receivers and tight ends targeted at least 60 times at 15.1 yards downfield, according to Sports Info Solutions. He was a sure-handed pass-catcher, dropping only one of 44 catchable targets. Further, the team succeeded when targeting Davis, resulting in a 115.4 Passer Rating on throws to him.
His role should grow in year two, but it could swell if the Bills opt to save $7.9 million by cutting Brown. Even if the team and Brown agree to a restructured deal, Davis offers enough weekly upside in the Bills’ pass-happy offense to be worth drafting ahead of his ADP.