All the players you need to win your 2021 fantasy football league


Jackson McCrae '23, Sports Editor

With the NFL preseason wrapped up and the regular season fast approaching, it’s the perfect time for fantasy football drafts. While trades and free agents will shake up your roster a little throughout the year, who you take on draft night is the base of your roster, so it’s vital to get it right. As always, there’s hidden gems and land mines all over the draft board, and knowing who to take and who to avoid will be the difference between winning your league and missing the playoffs


The Hidden Gems

Chase Claypool, WR, Steelers: Claypool is coming off a solid rookie campaign, especially in the back half of the season when he really started to show his talent. With more consistent targets coming his way in year two, he is primed to have a big year. ESPN currently has him ranked as the 29th wide receiver in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues, so he should be available toward the middle rounds.

Zach Moss, RB, Bills: Moss is a second year back coming off an injury-plagued rookie season, but his potential is limitless. While he is sharing a backfield with Devin Singletary, he is much larger and much more elusive than Singletary and will receive the majority of the carries. The Bills were also in the redzone the most out of any team in the NFL last season, at 4.1 times per game, which means lots of scoring chances for Moss. ESPN currently has him as the 32nd ranked RB, which means he will be available in the late middle rounds.

Elijah Moore, WR, Jets: Moore is in his rookie year, so he is a risky player to have on your team. However, due to there being basically no receiving core for the Jets, Moore will get plenty of touches. Moore has also been heavily endorsed by other NFL wide receivers, with former Ole Miss teammate and current Titans WR AJ Brown boldly stating Moore will win rookie of the year. In addition, Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. said that Moore could be All-Pro as a rookie. While his peers are heavily praising him, ESPN isn’t as excited, placing him as the 60th WR, which will mean he will be available late in the draft.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Titans: Most hidden gems are young guys, but 33-year-old Tannehill is somehow still a hidden gem every year. He’s ranked as the 11th QB by ESPN, which is ridiculous. Over a 24-game stretch, Tannehill is comparable to only Patrick Mahomes. His QBR and completion percentage are both better than Mahomes’, and he threw for five more touchdowns. Obviously Mahomes is the better QB, but with the Titans adding Julio Jones alongside AJ Brown, Tannehill has the weapons to be a very dangerous QB this year.

Cole Kmet, TE, Bears: Kmet is a second-year player who was featured very little in his first year in Chicago. However, with an aging Jimmy Graham as his only real competition in Chicago, he should see plenty of touches in 2021. Kmet is a massive redzone target at 6’6”, and Justin Fields has a history of heavily targeting TE’s in the redzone. Ranked as the 19th TE in the draft, he is a player you can get in the late rounds of the draft, or depending on league size, someone you can pick up in free agency.

Quez Watkins, WR, Eagles: Watkins is the ultimate sleeper pick – most casual (and even some more intense) fans have never heard of the sophomore receiver. However, Watkins is set to explode in 2021 after being labeled as the best receiver in the Eagles training camp and preseason. Watkins has routinely dominated defenders in joint practices, and in the limited preseason time he’s had, he took a screen 79 yards for a touchdown. Watkins is the 1021st ranked player so you don’t even need to draft him. Watkins is so criminally underrated you can get him anytime, and he will be a great WR for you to have on roster.


The Land Mines

Josh Jacobs/Kenyan Drake, RB, Raiders: Jacobs has always been a solid RB, but he showed troubling signs last year. On carries inside of the three-yard line, he only scored on 5/16 attempts, which is a terrible for a running back ranked as high as him. He also has a weak offensive line, which running backs are dependent on. Furthermore, he’ll have to share a backfield with Kenyan Drake, who is a very talented RB and a much more skilled pass catcher which will take snaps (and points in PPR leagues) away from Jacobs. Since Jacobs is more talented, he will still get more touches than Drake, but it will be hard to take either of them considering how much they both eat into each other’s workloads.

Kareem Hunt, RB, Browns: While Hunt is a skilled player, he just hasn’t been the same since his return from suspension. Pair that with the fact that he’s the second RB behind a talented Nick Chubb on a pass heavy Browns team, picking him is a recipe for disaster. While Hunt is a solid player, and one who you can rely on if you’re in a pinch and need to pick up a running back, drafting him just is not a good move.

Anyone on the Broncos: Very rarely do you need to avoid a whole team but any Bronco you take will derail your team. First, the starting QB Teddy Bridgewater just isn’t good enough to draft, and he isn’t reliable enough to give consistent volume to a WR or TE from the Broncos. WR Jerry Jeudy would be a good pick if you can get him late, but picking him up in the early to middle rounds would be a wasted pick. Melvin Gordon is a talented RB, but with a lackluster offensive line and no passing game to spread the field for him, it will be hard for Gordon to be a productive fantasy running back

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers: Smith-Schuster will see reduced fantasy points with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool both taking a large amount of his touches away. Smith-Schuster is ranked as the 30th WR, just behind Claypool, and honestly that’s not enticing with two Steelers right in front of him, and more enticing prospects behind him. Smith-Schuster can be a good bench WR but shouldn’t be someone you take in the early to middle rounds.

Dallas Goedert/Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles: Goedert is a very talented TE, and this is a painful section to type, but he’s a player to avoid. Despite a down year last year, Zach Ertz is still going to take snaps away from Goedert, and Ertz is set up to bounce back this year. Goedert would be a good TE2 if you can manage to get him in the middle to late rounds, but he won’t be consistent enough to be a solid first tight end option.

Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys: Gallup is talented, but he’s simply not talented enough. CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper are both flat-out better receivers than him and they will take away the majority of the touches. Gallup somehow always ends up getting drafted despite being unimpressive most of the time, and with CeeDee Lamb primed to take a huge step forward in his second year, Gallup will see his production drop considerably.

Finally, just some basic simple drafting tips:

  • Don’t be a homer and pick all your favorite players.
  • Go with your gut. If you’re stuck between two players go with the one you feel better about.
  • Don’t just pick based off the numbers on the screen. Do your own research and make your own decisions about players.
  • Never reveal who you want to pick before you pick him because there is always that one guy who will take your player to make you mad.
  • Finally, don’t feel the need to trade after the draft. Lots of people trade just for the sake of trading and it ends up hurting their team.