20 Players Who Will Move Up Draft Boards (2021 Fantasy Football)
If you’ve ever suggested your league should draft early, you might’ve heard something like, “What if my guy gets hurt? Then I’m screwed for the season.” Let me be clear: If you play with guys/girls who say this, you should be in contention for the championship every single season because they don’t understand the simplicity of injuries and how it affects fantasy. Their stud running back who they drafted in the first round could go down in Week 1. It’s just as easy that one of the other 11 teams had their first-round pick get hurt. That’s simply bad luck. This should not have any impact on when you draft.
The real reason they don’t want to draft early is due to them being unprepared to do so. They’d never want to admit that, but ideally, you draft as early as possible. If your leaguemates said they’d draft today, do it. I said it last year and I’ll say it again – there’s value to be had everywhere for those who are informed. Every news blurb, any article that you’ve read about Najee Harris, every tweet you’ve read, every podcast you’ve listened to… you’ve learned something from every single one. Guess what? Your leaguemates haven’t. I know this because of where the ADP is on players like Harris.
There are some articles I enjoy doing more than others, and most of the time, it’s articles that require tons of research to make me a more informed football analyst. I’m then able to pass that on to my readers in order to help them dominate fantasy drafts. Then there are others, like this one, where I’m able to go back and check my process. I’ve done this article each of the last three years, and while I don’t brag much, the results have been pretty optimal. In 2019, we watched 14-of-19 players (one was injured) rise up draft boards, which was good, but in 2020, 17-of-20 players moved up draft boards. What does this mean? Well, the earlier you draft, the bigger edge you’ll have. It’ll also help you find targets in keeper/dynasty formats who you might be able to target in a trade.
Ryan Tannehill (TEN) Current ADP: QB12, Guess ADP: QB10
This one feels a tad like cheating, but to be fair, Tannehill has been disrespected by the fantasy community long before Julio Jones was traded there. Tannehill became the starter of the Titans in Week 7 of 2019. Since that time, he’s tallied 575.3 fantasy points, which ranks third among quarterbacks, behind only Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. That’s right… despite ranking 16th in pass attempts during that time (26-game sample size), he’s finished with more fantasy points than Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, and Deshaun Watson.
Zach Wilson (NYJ) Current ADP: QB24, Guess ADP: QB19
The Jets liked Wilson enough to draft him over Trey Lance and Justin Fields, which tells you just how high they were on him. Judging by ADP on the entire Jets roster, many are still approaching the team as if they’re run by Adam Gase. Insider info: They’re not. Wilson is locked in as the starter all year long in Mike LaFleur’s offense, and fantasy managers need to know about Wilson’s upside as a rusher. Even Daniel Jones, who threw for 11 touchdowns in 14 games last year and missed two games, finished as a top-24 quarterback due to his 423 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Wilson is going to finish as a top-20 fantasy quarterback in year one.
Kirk Cousins (MIN) Current ADP: QB25, Guess ADP: QB20
I’m not sure many are aware that Cousins has now finished as a top-15 fantasy quarterback in each of the last six seasons, including five top-12 finishes. I get it, he’s not sexy, but with 2QB/Superflex league becoming increasingly popular, the public will learn to covet Cousins as a rock-solid QB2 in those formats. He’s not losing his job without injury, that’s for sure.
Carson Wentz (IND) Current ADP: QB28, Guess ADP: QB21
Through his five years in the league, Wentz’s fantasy finishes have been QB24, QB5, QB23, QB10, and QB22. If the trend holds steady to alternating years, we should have a good one. This is more about the reunion with Frank Reich than it is Wentz’s yearly finishes, as Wentz finished with 54 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions while playing under Reich in 2017 and 2018. He now has what might be the best offensive line in football, which should allow him to get back on track in 2021. His ADP could rise to as high as QB18.
Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) Current ADP: RB8, Guess ADP: RB6
Follow the production in the first round. There’s just one player who’s finished as a top-12 running back five times since 2015. That player is Elliott, and as crazy as it sounds, he wasn’t even in the league in 2015. “But Mike, Elliott tanked last year to RB11.” The entire team sank without Dak Prescott, but in the five games with him, Elliott was the No. 3 running back in fantasy. If he keeps falling until the end of the first round, there will be a lot of championship rosters from that area of drafts.
Najee Harris (PIT) Current ADP: RB14, Guess ADP: RB10
I’m going out on a limb here thinking his ADP will rise due to the Clyde Edwards-Helaire tragedy last year, but don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch. You may not realize it, but we had three rookie running backs finish top-12 last year. Harris is walking into a situation where he’s getting 18-plus touches per game. We’ve seen 36 running backs hit 325-plus touches over the last 10 years, and just two of them finished worse than RB7 (none worse than RB10). “The offensive line, though!” You mean to tell me that James Robinson finished as the RB7 last year because he was on a good team with a good offensive line? Volume is what matters to running backs. Drafters will get wise soon.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC) Current ADP: RB19, Guess ADP: RB15
The classic overreaction. Edwards-Helaire was the RB11 over the first six weeks despite scoring just one touchdown during that time. Once the team acquired Le’Veon Bell, Edwards-Helaire netted just 12.7 touches per game and then missed three games at the end of the season. He still finished with 1,100 total yards. He’s still tied to the best offense in football. He was still drafted in the first round. The Chiefs still love him. Dropping him into high-end RB2 territory is fair, but RB19? Nah.
Mike Davis (ATL) Current ADP: RB30, Guess ADP: RB24
Unless the Falcons sign a running back, Davis is extremely undervalued right now. Arthur Smith’s offense ranked 30th and 31st in pass attempts over the last two years, and they just traded away Julio Jones, freeing up plenty of targets in the offense. Sure, Kyle Pitts will see a bump, but so will Davis. He feels a lot like David Montgomery last year; a running back who’s locked into 220-plus carries, and though he may be boring, he’s going to be a fine RB2.
Tevin Coleman (NYJ) Current ADP: RB75, Guess ADP: RB45
Let’s just call it as it is: Coleman is essentially undrafted at this point in the offseason. He’s not great, but he’s going to be the starting running back for the Jets when the season begins. As time goes on, I fully expect Michael Carter to push him for that job (he’s better than Coleman), but Coleman was brought to New York because he knows the offense. A starting running back, even for what might be a short time, should be taken as a top-50 option.
CeeDee Lamb (DAL) Current ADP: WR19, Guess ADP: WR15
This one was surprising to me, as I thought the public would be all over Lamb in early drafts. He finished as the WR24 last year, his rookie season, while dealing with some poor quarterback play. While five games is a small sample size, Lamb was the WR12 with Dak Prescott under center. Now in his second year with a full offseason, Lamb might just finish as a top-10 option.
Courtland Sutton (DEN) Current ADP: WR32, Guess ADP: WR28
Maybe it’s because Sutton essentially hasn’t been on the field in two years, fantasy enthusiasts are forgetting he was able to post 1,112 yards and six touchdowns with Joe Flacco, rookie Drew Lock, and Brandon Allen as his quarterbacks in 2019. I’m torn between Sutton and Jerry Jeudy as the No. 1 option on this team, but we’ve already seen Sutton do it in the NFL, which should give him the nudge as a top-30 receiver. If Teddy Bridgewater starts, they may both be top-30 receivers at season’s end.
Ja’Marr Chase (CIN) Current ADP: WR37, Guess ADP: WR24
Does no one recall D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, Justin Jefferson, Brandon Aiyuk, or CeeDee Lamb finishing as top-30 receivers in their rookie season? You know what they all have in common? None were as good of prospects as Chase, who walks into the NFL with built-in chemistry with Joe Burrow. If A.J. Green managed to get 104 targets in this offense last year, imagine how many Chase might get? His ADP is way too low right now.
Antonio Brown (TB) Current ADP: WR44, Guess ADP: WR36
After taking a year and a half off the game, Brown came to the Bucs with some rust on the wheels, delivering a three-catch, 31-yard performance in his first game, but quickly turned into a reliable fantasy option, scoring at least 13.5 PPR points in five of the next seven games, including a 36.8-point outburst in Week 17. With Mike Evans and Chris Godwin there, it’s going to be tough for Brown to get back into top-12 territory, but WR44? I suspect he moves into the WR3 conversation by September.
Mike Williams (LAC) Current ADP: WR56, Guess ADP: WR46
How often can you find a wide receiver being drafted outside the top 40 who’s capable of posting WR1-type numbers? Williams fits that bill. He already has a 1,000-yard season on his resume. He also has a 10-touchdown season on it. He also happens to have one of the brightest young stars as his quarterback with little else on the depth chart outside of Keenan Allen. Health has been the biggest question mark for Williams, but once you’re outside the top-40 wide receivers, there’s hardly guaranteed production on the board, so take the upside. He’s going to move up draft boards.
Elijah Moore (NYJ) Current ADP: WR65, Guess ADP: WR50
This is based on me predicting that Jamison Crowder won’t be on the roster much longer. The Jets would save $10 million by releasing him, and after snagging Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, and Moore to pair with Denzel Mims, it’s a crowded receiver corps. Based on all the reports coming out of New York, Zach Wilson and Moore seem to be establishing a bond almost immediately while Crowder has been a no-show.
Parris Campbell (IND) Current ADP: WR85, Guess ADP: WR60
Whenever a receiver gets hurt early in the year, it’s easy for drafters to forget about them. Campbell had nine targets, six receptions, and 71 yards in the one game he played last year. Do you know how many times Michael Pittman (who’s being drafted as the WR49) can say he hit those numbers? Once. Both former second rounders have a ceiling depending on who Carson Wentz favors, but it’s not built into Campbell’s price. If Wentz keeps doing what he did in Philadelphia, that’s targeting tight ends/slot receivers over the middle of the field, which is primarily where Campbell lines up.
Kyle Pitts (ATL) Current ADP: TE7, Guess ADP: TE5
The ADP hasn’t caught up with the hype just yet, but it will now that Julio Jones is officially out of town. I’m fully expecting Pitts to be the TE4 or TE5 in final ADP, potentially surpassing Mark Andrews. It’s crazy to me, considering tight ends typically take a long time to acclimate to the NFL. Heck, even Vernon Davis, who had a very similar athletic profile to Pitts struggled out of the gate, but eventually became one of the best in the game. By drafting Pitts in the third or fourth round (where I believe his ADP will end up), you NEED him to have a breakout rather than hoping he will, but the uncertainty at the position will tempt many into drafting him there.
Dallas Goedert (PHI) Current ADP: TE10, Guess ADP: TE7
It’s bananas that Goedert is falling to TE10 in early drafts considering the lack of options in Philadelphia. Sure, we have a change in the coaching staff, but are we going to pretend Nick Sirianni didn’t come from Frank Reich’s tutelage? All indications are that Zach Ertz will not be on the team, so when you factor in the competition he has for targets, it’s easy to make the case that he should be going anywhere from the TE5 to TE7 off the board.
Jonnu Smith (NE) Current ADP: TE18, Guess ADP: TE14
The Patriots didn’t give Smith $50 million to sit around and do nothing. Any time Bill Belichick was asked about Smith, he referred to him as one of the best tight ends in the game. It’s clear he believes Smith’s talent was not put on display nearly enough with the Titans, as he never saw more than 65 targets in a single season. Despite that, he finished as a top-12 tight end in 2020. The Patriots were aggressive, signing him the first day of free agency, which tells us all we need to know: They aren’t going to hide him. After the departure of Julian Edelman, he might very well be the No. 1 option in this offense.
Irv Smith Jr. (MIN) Current ADP: TE19, Guess ADP: TE13
This is one where the public just hasn’t caught up to analysts just yet. The truth is that I believe there’s a middle ground here. Analysts believe Smith is a legit top-10 breakout because of Kyle Rudolph‘s exit, but in 2020, a year the Vikings passed the ball more than normal, Smith and Rudolph combined for 80 targets, which is hardly a number for a true breakout tight end, and that’s assuming he gets all of Rudolph’s vacated targets. Smith is going to have a much bigger role in 2021 and deserves to be drafted as a top-15 option. It’s only a matter of time before the public catches up.