Sleeper Strategy: Guide to the Final Rounds of Your Fantasy Football Draft (2021)
The start of the 2021 NFL season is just around the corner which means it’s time to begin preparing for your fantasy football draft. Everyone has their own way of preparing for a new fantasy season but no matter how you play, who you play with, or what you’re playing for, your draft is going to be the key to all of it.
Many fantasy players will spend most of their prep time worrying about who their first pick will be. Then they will look at the middle rounds to find a few names they like and plan to target but rarely do players focus their prep time on the final few rounds. It’s time for that to change.
Nobody can win their fantasy league in the first round. Even solid drafting through the first few rounds isn’t going to get you through an entire 18-week season. That is why you must start focusing on the final three or four rounds of your draft. At this point in the draft, just about every pick is a crapshoot. There are no guarantees in the double-digit rounds of a fantasy draft, but there is limitless upside if you draft correctly.
The key to “winning” the final few rounds of a fantasy draft is to target players with massive upside even if you don’t feel confident in their floor. Once you are in the double-digit rounds, no player is “safe” so why play it safe? In fantasy football, you have to go big or go home, no one is playing for second place which is why taking risks at the end of your draft could be what sets you apart.
There is one example of this I always like to use because it shows exactly why even your final pick could be the one that wins your league. In 2017, Alvin Kamara was a 3rd string rookie running back on the Saints that few people have heard of. That changed pretty quickly once he began dominating the 2017 preseason. But even still, he was a rookie behind Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram. No one thought he had a chance of seeing the field as a rookie, but I saw his talent in the preseason and said “what the hell” as I drafted him with my last pick in three different leagues. Long story short, I won all three leagues all due to my last pick of the draft so please don’t overlook these final few rounds when preparing for your drafts.
To help give you a bit of a head-start, here are a few high-upside names that everyone should be targeting late in drafts.
Running Back – A.J. Dillon, (GB)
Even with Aaron Jones as the lead back in Green Bay, the Packers have always involved a second runner and with Jamaal Williams now in Detroit, AJ Dillon will fill that role. Keep in mind that Jones has played all 16 games only once in his career and as the backup, Williams saw a minimum of 146 touches over his four years in Green Bay. Regardless of Jones’ health, Dillon is a steal right now at RB40.
Wide Receiver – Mike Williams, (LAC)
Williams is now entering the final year of his rookie contract and knows he needs to perform if he wants to get paid next offseason. Luckily for him, Justin Herbert is looking like a future star at quarterback after throwing an NFL record 31 touchdown passes as a rookie in 2020. Williams is the clear red-zone target with Hunter Henry now in New England and we all know about Keenan Allen’s injury history. At WR42, Mike Williams is an absolute bargain.
Tight End – Irv Smith Jr., (MIN)
Irv Smith Jr. is currently being drafted as the 13th tight end off the board and I do not understand why. The Vikings have always incorporated tight ends into their offense, especially near the goal line. If I wrote this last year, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference, but with Kyle Rudolph now on the Giants, Smith Jr. is going to get every single one of those targets. Never waste your valuable early picks on a tight end when you can grab a starting-caliber one in the final round or two of your draft.
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 a more advanced strategy – like What is the Right Amount of Risk to Absorb on Draft Day? – to learn more.