Post-NFL Draft Best Ball Targets (2021 Fantasy Football)
With the NFL Draft wrapped up, we’ve now passed the preeminent checkpoint of the NFL offseason. The draft is arguably the biggest fantasy game-changer of the offseason as teams are forced to show their hands. Player values inevitably rise and fall based on the addition, or lack thereof, of rookie competition. As dynasty rookie drafts are completed over the next few weeks, Best Ball drafts will soon take center stage as the focal point of the fantasy football world, and we can start taking advantage immediately.
The risers and fallers below are players whose fantasy outlook significantly changed now that the NFL Draft is complete. You won’t see Najee Harris or Kyle Pitts because they were already widely considered the top rookies at their position. Rather, I’ll cover a mix of rookies and veterans that should be viewed higher or lower than they were a week ago in Best Ball drafts now that we know all the rookie landing spots. Let’s take a look.
Matt Ryan (QB – ATL)
Not only did Atlanta forgo selecting their quarterback of the future with the number four pick in the draft, but they also gave Ryan a potentially generational offensive weapon in Kyle Pitts. Now Ryan gets to head into the 2021 NFL season with Calvin Ridley, a presumably healthy Julio Jones, and a freaky athlete at tight end.
The Falcons also decided to exit the draft without a running back. While new head coach Arthur Smith may be known for feeding Derrick Henry, there isn’t anybody even close to his skill level on Atlanta’s roster. All signs point to Ryan airing it out to his elite weapons all season long and having his fair share of week-winning performances, making him a perfect Best Ball quarterback.
Daniel Jones (QB – NYG)
It was odd seeing general manager Dave Gettleman and surprising to see the Giants select Kadarius Toney with the 20th overall pick. Putting aside whether or not it was a great pick for the Giants, one thing is for sure. Toney has big play-making abilities.
Jones is now surrounded by a plethora of big-play specialists. Gifted pass-catcher Saquon Barkley is returning to the Giants backfilled, Kenny Golladay has a history of touchdown production, and though inconsistent, Evan Engram and Darius Slayton put up week-winning performances in the past. Couple these weapons with Jones’s ability to put up points with his legs and you get one of the more intriguing Best Ball quarterback options.
Antonio Gibson (RB – WAS)
Despite all the pre-draft rumors, the Football Team did not select a running back in the 2021 NFL draft. Washington appears set to start the 2021 season with the same backfield they ended with for the 2020 season. That backfield saw Gibson average over 20 fantasy points/game from Weeks 7-12 when he was finally given the workhorse role and before struggling through injuries to finish the season.
Washington has built one of the best defenses in the league and could see their offense explode with gunslinging veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm. Gibson has the skillset to make plays through the air or grind out wins on the ground. He’s already being drafted as RB12 in Underdog’s post- NFL Draft Best Ball drafts but has a ceiling to finish in the top five at the position, making him exactly the type of player you want to target in Best Ball formats where you want to shoot for the moon.
Trey Sermon (RB – SF)
Last month I mentioned Trey Sermon as a pre-draft Best Ball rookie target, and that rings even more true now that the draft is over. Sermon couldn’t have asked for a better landing spot than San Francisco, where head coach Kyle Shanahan has been known to produce high-scoring fantasy running backs, and Raheem Mostert has only played sixteen games once over his six-year career. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Sermon overtake this backfield one way or another by the second half of the season, which could pay of in spades for Best Ball.
Malcolm Brown (RB – MIA)
Myles Gaskin certainly came out as one of the top winners of the NFL Draft when Miami bucked expectations and decided not to select a running back until the seventh round, but let’s not forget about Malcolm Brown. It would appear he’s very much part of Miami’s plans after they singed the former Ram earlier this offseason.
And Miami envisions Malcolm Brown as the team's short yardage, and 4-minute offensive back, asked to gain touch yardage and finish out games with physical runs.
Brian Flores' opinion. Not mine.
— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) May 2, 2021
Brown is a running back that you can get extremely late in Best Ball drafts and could give you a few usable weeks if he’s able to vulture a handful of touchdowns in what should be an improved Miami offense this season.
Rondale Moore (WR – ARI)
Moore is arguably the most dynamic wideout of the 2021 rookie class but headed into the draft, it was a real concern that he could land on a team that wouldn’t properly utilize his skill-set. Now he’s headed to what should be one of the most dynamic offenses in the league led by Kyler Murray. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury should look to scheme the ball into Moore’s hands given the rookie’s superior run-after-catch ability, which should translate to at least a few big performances this season.
Marvin Jones Jr. (WR – JAC)
The Jaguars added some serious offensive firepower through the draft with Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne in the first round, but they didn’t add a wideout until the sixth round. Jones was signed by Jacksonville early in the offseason and is set to see plenty of playing time in the revamped Jaguars offense. He put up five separate top-12 fantasy weeks last season in Detroit, and there’s no reason he can’t hit that mark again in #DUUUVAL.
Josh Reynolds (WR – TEN)
Headed into the draft Tennessee was thought to be a team that would spend high draft capital on a wideout opposite of A.J. Brown. Instead, they didn’t select a pass-catcher until their fifth pick of the draft. They added another in the sixth round, but it appears they trust Reynolds as their second option in the passing game. He may not put up any huge weeks, but he could be a key cog in stacking strategies, as we’ll explore later.
Anthony Firkser (TE – TEN)
Speaking of Tennesse pass-catchers, the Titans didn’t select any tight ends in the NFL Draft and haven’t addressed the position after Jonnu Smith departed via free agency earlier in the offseason. Firkser has had his moments in the past and even finished as the TE1 in Week 4 of the 2020 NFL season. As the top tight end on the team without Smith, expect some more top-12 performances from Firkser in 2021, who could be another piece of the Best Ball stack I alluded to with Josh Reynolds.
Adam Trautman (TE – NO)
The Saints didn’t add any pass catchers in the 2021 NFL Draft. Couple that with the departure of Jared Cook via free agency, and there’s a clear path to fantasy relevance for Trautman as New Orleans’s top tight end. He could end up as one of the most targeted players on the Saints, especially if James Winston wins the starting quarterback job.
Cam Newton (QB – NE)
Newton still makes an interesting Best Ball pick if you want to leverage the field by being contrarian, but he’s extremely risky. With the Patriots spending first-round draft capital on quarterback Mac Jones, Newton is going to have a short leash as starting quarterback. Newton and Jones couldn’t be more different stylistically, and if (when) the change to Jones happens, there’ll be no looking back.
Carson Wentz (QB – IND)
Wentz is getting a shot to revitalize his career in Indianapolis, but the Colts didn’t do him any favors in the draft. He has some interesting weapons in second-year wideout Michael Pittman Jr., veteran speedster T.Y. Hilton, and oft-injured Parris Campbell, but it seems like the Colts would rather win by running the ball with Jonathan Taylor and company behind their stout offensive line. Wentz isn’t likely to have the huge ceiling you’re looking for in Best Ball formats.
Miles Sanders (RB – PHI)
Philadelphia’s offense looks a lot different than it did a year ago at this time when Sanders profiled as a great Best Ball option. Now he has to compete with rushing quarterback Jalen Hurts, and short-yardage specialist Jordan Howard for goalline carries, and rookie pass-catching specialist Kenny Gainwell for receiving work. He can still hit the home run, but he’ll likely have fewer opportunities to do so in 2021.
Melvin Gordon (RB – DEN)
Gordon’s fantasy value took a major hit when the Broncos spent an early second-round pick on Javonte Williams. Instead of being an unquestioned workhorse, Gordon and Williams will more than likely turn into some type of running back-by-committee combination. The landing spot also dashes any hopes of Williams being handed a bell-cow role as a rookie and submarines the fantasy value of the Broncos backfield. I do prefer Williams’s upside if you want to take a shot in Best Ball drafts.
Mike Williams (WR – LAC)
Williams has made his fair share of big plays over his four years of NFL experience, but it doesn’t bode well that the Chargers spent their third-round pick on Josh Palmer, a receiver that will look to compete for targets as a rookie. I still like Williams’s skillset for Best Ball formats, but his value takes a hit with the added competition of Palmer added to the potential growth of Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson in their second season in Los Angeles.
Christian Kirk (WR – ARI)
A few weeks ago, things were looking great for Christian Kirk. Since then, Arizona brought in veteran A.J. Green and rookie Rondale Moore. Whatever your opinions are for Green and Moore, the fact is their presence takes targets away from Kirk. Even with the Cardinals spending plenty of time in four-wide receiver sets, it’s difficult to project a fourth-year breakout for Kirk.
Mike Gesicki (TE – MIA)
While Miami did spend a third-round pick on another tight end in Hunter Long, Gesicki takes a bigger hit from the addition of first-round pick Jaylen Waddle. Gesicki has had his chances to break out over the past two seasons, and while he’s seen slow, steady growth, he’ll likely be overshadowed by the new editions of Waddle and Will Fuller this season. He doesn’t have the type of ceiling you want to shoot for in a Best Ball tight end.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of my favorite post-NFL Draft stacks, considering it’s such a fundamental Best Ball strategy. Here are the stacks I’m targeting now that we know all the rookie landing spots.
I already mentioned that I’m targeting Matt Ryan in Best Ball drafts, so it only makes sense to stack him with some of his pass-catching weapons. It’s completely feasible to start a Best Ball draft with a top-tier running back then adding Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones, and/or Kyle Pitts before drafting Ryan. If he hits his ceiling in 2021, he’ll bring the others along for the ride and carry your Best Ball team.
I mentioned Josh Reynolds and Anthony Firkser above, but if you’re looking to stack the Titans, it starts with A.J. Brown. His big-play ability and clear status as an alpha wideout make him one of my favorite overall Best Ball targets. Whenever I grab him early, I make a point to target Tannehill as my quarterback. At that point, it just makes sense to add Reynolds and/or Firkser to capitalize on any big games they may combine for throughout the season.
The Dolphins may be the most affordable stack in Best Ball. Miami is surrounding Tua Tagovailoa with weapons, and none of them are going to cost you early draft picks in Best Ball. Even though Gesicki’s value took a hit after the draft, selecting him still makes sense when building an upside stack. You can load up on other studs early in your draft before adding some combination of Tua, Will Fuller, Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, and Mike Gesicki.
Whether you’re new to fantasy football or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Football 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with Starting Your Own Fantasy Football League or head to more advanced strategy – like What is the Right Amount of Risk to Absorb on Draft Day? – to learn more.