Best Ball Players to Target Following the NFL Draft (2021)
If you’re looking for players to avoid following the NFL Draft, you can find them here. This piece tackles the players to target following last month’s NFL Draft. My focus is chiefly on the players who are targets because they benefited from their respective team’s actions in the draft.
Myles Gaskin (RB – MIA): 56.21 ADP in 12-team BestBall10s (All Drafts) from 5/1/21-5/20/21
For the second year in a row, the Dolphins demonstrated no interest in using valuable draft capital on a running back. Last year, they didn’t draft a running back. This year, they waited until their last selection (pick 244 overall) to select Gerrid Doaks.
The only addition they made in free agency was Malcolm Brown. The former Ram could carve out a committee role and provide value in short-yardage and goal-line situations, but Gaskin is a smart bet to be the team’s feature back.
He was healthy for 10 games last year and entrusted with a lead-back role. His season-low for touches was 11 in the team’s Week 17 blowout loss to the Bills, and he touched the ball 13 or more times in his other nine contests.
By seemingly every measure, Gaskin is JAG. Out of 63 running backs with a minimum of 75 carries, Pro Football Focus graded Gaskin’s running work 42nd. According to Pro-Football-Reference, he ranked tied for 34th in yards before contact per attempt, tied for 27th in yards after contact per attempt, and 44th in attempts per broken tackle out of 51 qualified runners.
He’s not a special talent no matter how you slice it, but volume is king in fantasy football. Further, his 4.1 receptions per game for 38.8 receiving yards per game enhances his value immensely. Also, Pro Football Focus was a fan of his receiving work, giving him the 11th highest receiving grade out of 47 running backs targeted a minimum of 25 times. He’s a volume-driven RB2.
Mike Davis (RB – ATL): 68.26
Davis is going later than Gaskin, but I like Atlanta’s new back a pinch more (they’re literally back to back in my rankings). The Falcons have a new head coach, Arthur Smith, and I’m always interested in seeing the player acquisitions for a new regime. Davis was brought in as a free agent, and the club also added returner/former receiver/part-time running back Cordarrelle Patterson.
They didn’t draft a running back. Although, they did sign undrafted free-agent Javian Hawkins. Regardless, the lack of draft capital spent at the position bodes well for Davis’s outlook in 2021.
Pressed into action when Christian McCaffrey was injured last year, Davis proved to be a fantasy asset. According to our Fantasy Football Leaders tool, from Week 3 through Week 16 in point-per-reception formats (PPR), Davis ranked sixth among running backs in points and 14th in points per game among the backs who played at least five games that stretch.
Unlike Gaskin, Davis had a couple of eye-catching metrics on his resume. He ranked tied for 12th in yards after contact per attempt and first in attempts per broken tackle. Davis is also a capable pass-catcher, hauling in 3.9 receptions per game for 24.9 receiving yards per game and ranking 13th among backs with a minimum of 25 targets in Pro Football Focus’s receiving game. As a result, I’m targeting him as a mid-tier RB2.
Breshad Perriman (WR – DET): 203.35 & Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET): 211.29
The Lions enter the 2021 season with one of the worst, if not the worst, wide receiver groups in the NFL. Perriman is someone they added in free agency, and St. Brown is the only receiver they selected in the NFL Draft, popping him with the seventh pick in the fourth round. The duo will have a chance to be integral pieces of the passing game on a team that’s likely to be in negative game scripts often in 2021.
FanDuel Sportsbook lists the Lions with the second-lowest team win total at only five wins. Playing catch-up throughout the season should yield some high-end performances from some of their pass-catchers, and Perriman and Brown are my two favorite selections.
Perriman’s already showcased the ability to pop off. As a member of the Buccaneers, Perriman finished 2019 on a heater. According to the Fantasy Football Leaders tool, Perriman ranked as the overall WR3 in point-per-reception (PPR) scoring from Week 13 through Week 17. Last year was largely a disappointment with the Jets, but the Jets were a roaring tire fire, and Perriman flashed his potential. The following table shows his weekly finishes in PPR formats to finish the 2019 season and during his best weeks in 2020.
Perriman’s tailor-made for best ball formats. He’s a field-stretcher. According to Sports Info Solutions, among players targeted a minimum of 50 times in 2019, he had the third-highest average depth of target (16.0 yards). Last year, he tied for the fourth-deepest average depth of target (15.1 yards). The vertical usage is prone to volatility. However, that plays perfectly in best ball.
Our Kyle Yates comped St. Brown to fellow USC receiver Robert Woods, and he highlighted his ability as a chain-mover as part of his NFL Draft profile. NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein said he has “a chance to become a starting slot in the future.” He’s a very different receiver than his new teammate, Perriman. His underneath and intermediate usage should lend itself to high target totals, though, making him a PPR asset. Best ball is a PPR format, so he’s a fantastic target a bit earlier than his average draft position (ADP).
Jared Cook (TE – LAC): 186.08
I highlighted Cook as a TE with top-five potential back in late March. His ADP was 226.73 then, so it’s risen substantially since then. He’s still a steal now.
I analyzed his usage and stats that intrigue me within that linked piece. I also pointed out the Chargers’ new coaching staff is familiar with Cook, having previously coached him, and they recruited him in free agency. Check out the link for more details on those things.
Since then, the path has remained mostly clear for a sizable role in the offense. They didn’t make any big splashes in free agency at tight end or receiver, and they waited until the third round to add to those position groups, selecting receiver Josh Palmer at pick 77 and tight end Tre’ McKitty at pick 97.
Keenan Allen is the top option in the passing attack. Still, Cook should have some weeks where he out targets the other secondary and tertiary pass-catching options like Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, Palmer, and fellow tight ends Donald Parham and McKitty. He’s a top-notch TE2 target with big upside.
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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.