Best Ball Free Agency Frenzy (2021 Fantasy Football)
Welcome to the next phase of the NFL offseason. At this point, we know the free agents, we know who has (and hasn’t) been franchised tagged, and we have a good idea of how much money teams have to spend on free agents. We even know that Aaron Jones will be back in Green Bay, and Drew Brees is retiring. The league’s legal tampering period begins on Monday afternoon, and players can officially agree to contracts on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 17. Between now and then is a great time to dive into best ball drafts and take advantage of the unknowns associated with free agency. I hesitated to even write this article because, let’s face it, by the time you read it, there could be a lot that’s changed. Even so, going through the mental exercise of targeting players that stand to benefit from the pending free agent moves is beneficial as we navigate the early offseason. Here are some situations to target in best-ball drafts before free agency landing spots are known.
*Each player’s average draft position is taken from Underdog best ball drafts.
Jameis Winston: ADP QB29
This one is pretty straightforward. Drew Brees officially announced his retirement Sunday afternoon, and shortly thereafter, we learned the Saints signed Taysom Hill to a cap-friendly extension. There are already reports of Winston being the preferred starting quarterback for the Saints in 2021, but until the deal is signed, you can still get him at a discount. His ADP of QB29 in Underdog best ball drafts is absolutely too low. Even if he doesn’t become the next starting quarterback in New Orleans, that would only mean he took a starting deal elsewhere. It was just two short years ago that Winston finished as the QB3 overall, and his “chuck and pray” playstyle lends itself perfectly to best-ball formats where you’ll have another quarterback or two to take his place when he inevitably puts up multi-interception dud performances.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: ADP QB36
Winston’s former Tampa Bay teammate has signaled that he doesn’t plan to ride off into the sunset just yet. He’s riskier than Winston, but his cost couldn’t get any lower. You can likely select him with the last pick in your draft as the third quarterback on our roster. Over the past three seasons, he’s posted 15 top-ten fantasy weeks in just 32 games played. Even if he doesn’t land a starting job, Fitzpatrick has a habit of finding his way onto the field. In best-ball leagues, you can reap the benefits of any big weeks he posts in 2021 without having to worry about trying to predict when they’ll come.
A.J. Dillon: ADP RB23
Aaron Jones shocked everybody by re-signing with the Packers Sunday, effectively tanking Dillon’s fantasy prospects for the foreseeable future, but hear me out. As his ADP inevitably comes crashing down over the coming weeks, I plan on scooping up Dillon to round out the running back position on my best ball rosters. First of all, he’ll be one of the most valuable backups in the NFL. If Jones misses any time, Dillon will still be in line for some huge games. Beyond that, there is a scenario where both Jones and Dillon are viable fantasy options. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt were both top-10 fantasy running backs in 2020. Back in 2018, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram were both top-12 fantasy running backs. A similar scenario is within the realm of possibilities in a high-scoring, Aaron Rodgers-led, Green Bay offense.
Jamaal Williams: ADP RB44
Speaking of the Aaron Jones signing, it all but guarantees that the Packers won’t be bringing back Jamaal Williams. He isn’t likely to lead a backfield, but whatever team brings him in will have a plan for him. No, he isn’t going to be a top-ten fantasy running back on the season, but he could be an ideal change of pace, pass-catching back if he lands on the right team. In best ball drafts, I like to lock up two or three stud running backs early, then throw a few darts near the end of the draft. Williams 2021 makes an ideal dart through in my eyes, especially while his destination is still unknown.
Adrian Peterson: ADP RB85
As his ADP reflects, nobody is going to be targeting Peterson in his fifteenth NFL season, but he’s another playing worth adding to the end of your roster. He won’t be a top-scoring running back on the season, but he could be for a few individual weeks. Wherever Peterson signs, it won’t be to sit on the bench. He’s publicly stated that he wants to play until he’s 40 and break Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record, which he’ll need 3,535 yards to accomplish. He finished as a top-30 fantasy running back seven different times last season, which he should be able to replicate in 2021 and is a perfectly adequate output from your last best ball running back.
Will Fuller: ADP WR32
Maybe this one is obvious, as Fuller has been a favorite of best ball drafters in recent seasons. He was the WR16 last season before his suspension, so his current ADP should be considered a discount. His ADP will probably climb once his landing spot is known, but we still may get a discount given his one-game suspension to start the season and his injury history, neither of which bothers me in best ball. He’s averaged a touchdown nearly every other game of his career, and we’ve seen his week-winning ceiling. Wherever he lands, he’s somebody I’m going to want on my best ball rosters in 2021.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: ADP WR34
The JuJu hate seems to be at an all-time high, even though he’s coming off a career-high nine touchdowns in 2020. It wasn’t that long ago that he racked up over 1,400 receiving yards playing the supporting role alongside Antonio Brown in 2018. At just 24 years old, whoever signs JuJu will surely have plans to utilize him as a key part of their offensive scheme. I expect him to finish as a top-24 wideout wherever he signs, and even if he doesn’t, he’s still bound to but up some big weeks.
Marvin Jones: ADP WR56
Jones is another free agent that’s showed week-winning upside over his fantasy career. That upside should only increase now that he’s likely getting out of Detroit. If he signs with a proven quarterback in a high-octane offense, perhaps reuniting with Matthew Stafford on the Rams or giving Aaron Rodgers another receiving option in Green Bay, he’s another player whose ADP will skyrocket over the coming weeks. Getting in on the veteran playmaker now can pay off in a big way later this fall.
Jonnu Smith: ADP TE16
Tight end is a position that’s easy to punt in best-ball drafts. Currently going at TE16, there isn’t much risk in selecting Smith as the first tight end on your best ball roster. He profiles as one of the most athletic tight ends in the entire NFL and is poised to be unleashed by whatever team that signs him in free agency. His combination of athleticism and likely opportunity should give him a chance to be a top-ten fantasy tight end every week, which is all you can ask for from a late tight end selection in best ball.
Anthony Firkser: ADP TE31
Smith’s former teammate, Anthony Firsker, could stand to benefit from his departure. He’s seen his receptions and yardage increase each of his three seasons and is the incumbent tight end for the Titans, even if they’re likely to add to the position sometime this offseason. He makes a fantastic stacking option if you draft Ryan Tannehill as one of your quarterbacks.
Mo Alie-Cox: ADP TE35
Alie-Cox is another dart throw, but with Carson Wentz’s arrival in Indianapolis, it’s a good idea to target his potential top tight end. Trey Burton is a free agent, and Jack Doyle has been less than impressive in recent seasons. Alie-Cox is a restricted free agent, so there’s a strong chance he’s back with the Colts in 2021. I love taking a late shot on the towering red zone target. Much like Firkser and Tannehill, I prefer adding Alie-Cox for the stack if I’ve already taken Wentz earlier in the draft.
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