Fantasy Football draft prep 2021: Players to target and avoid in each of the first 15 rounds based on ADP – CBSSports.com
The third week of preseason action was overshadowed by injuries. J.K. Dobbins (ACL) was lost for the season, and T.Y. Hilton (neck), Irv Smith (knee) and Evan Engram (calf) were also banged up. I’m curious about how these injuries are going to impact the CBS Sports Average Draft Position over the next several days.
This past weekend saw many Fantasy leagues hold their drafts, and the majority of leagues will draft this coming week and into Labor Day weekend. For those of you still in draft-prep mode, we want to make sure you’re ready.
So using the latest CBS Sports ADP, I wanted to go round-by-round and show you the best and worst picks for some players to target and avoid this year in 12-team, PPR leagues. We’ll go 15 rounds and hopefully find some winners to target and players you should probably avoid.
It’s hard to argue with any of the players listed here in Round 1, but Ekeler stands out as the best value given his upside. He averaged 18.1 PPR points per game last year in eight games with Justin Herbert. If Ekeler stays healthy he could easily be a top-five PPR running back this season.
Worst player to target: Mahomes
Imagine calling Mahomes the worst at anything, but this is about value. And I don’t think any quarterback is worth drafting in Round 1 in a one-quarterback league. He should once again be awesome, but draft him in Round 2 at the earliest and not at No. 10 overall.
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I dropped Barkley in my rankings, but he’s still a Round 1 pick. And I still think he has league-winning upside if everything goes right for him and the Giants. But it’s hard to have complete faith in Barkley coming off a torn ACL, along with the Giants potentially being one of the worst teams in the NFL. There’s a reason he’s slipped into Round 2, but he should be a steal at this cost.
Worst player to target: Kittle
I love Kittle this year, but I would rather draft him in Round 3 instead of No. 23 overall. And I’d rather have Darren Waller over Kittle this season as the No. 2 tight end behind Kelce. Kittle has the most competition for targets than he’s ever had with Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, and we’ll see what happens with Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance at quarterback. Wait on Kittle a little bit here if you plan to draft him.
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Note: We won’t include Dobbins in this analysis. The second-year Ravens RB was lost for the season due to an ACL injury in the third preseason game.
Best player to target: Brown
I would draft Brown in Round 2, so getting him in Round 3 is somewhat of a steal. He should remain the No. 1 receiver for the Titans ahead of Julio Jones, and hopefully Brown is healthy for most of the season. He’s scored at least 15 PPR points in nine of his past 13 games, and he has top-three upside heading into this year.
Worst player to target: Swift
Swift is trending toward Round 4, and rightfully so. He’s going to share work with Jamaal Williams, and he’s still battling a groin injury, which could linger into the season. The Lions also could be terrible, and Swift might not have a huge year as I originally hoped prior to the start of training camp. Swift is a No. 2 running back in all leagues, but take him in Round 4 at the earliest. Also, Dobbins is listed here, and this is where he was going prior to getting hurt.
There’s a lot to like about this round, but Woods could be considered a Round 3 pick based on his upside with the addition of quarterback Matthew Stafford. That should help Kupp also, but Woods has a higher ceiling given the additional production you’ll get from him on the ground. He could be a top-10 PPR receiver this year.
Worst player to target: Herbert
The CBS ADP takes into account all of our drafts, so hopefully Herbert’s listing here is a result of where he’s being selected in two-quarterback and Superflex leagues. I like him as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback this year, but he’s being taken ahead of guys like Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson, which would be a mistake if that happens.
*Note: Etienne suffered a season-ending injury in preseason.
Best player to target: Lockett
Lockett was frustrating last season with six games of at least 17 PPR points and seven games with eight PPR points or fewer. Still, he remains a primary target for Wilson and actually had three more targets than Metcalf last year (132-129). Hopefully, Seattle’s revamped passing attack under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron will help Lockett be more consistent, and he has top-10 upside in all leagues.
Worst player to target: Hunt
Hunt is a solid flex option, but he’s being drafted as the No. 24 running back here, which is a little dicey. He likely needs Chubb to miss time to be a consistent Fantasy option. Last year, Hunt averaged 11.3 PPR points per game when Chubb was healthy, which is more in line with what to expect this season if both play the majority of 17 games than his season average of 13.6. Also, Etienne’s ADP is continuing to slide following his injury, but this is where he’s fallen as of now.
I’m torn on several players to list here, including Johnson, Harris and Jeudy, but I went with Hockenson given his price tag compared to guys like Andrews and Pitts. In PPR, Hockenson might be the best of this trio given his expected target share in Detroit. If you want the last of the Super Six tight ends (Kelce, Waller, Kittle, Andrews, Pitts and Hockenson) then you can wait until Round 6 to get one of my favorite breakout candidates this year.
Worst player to target: Mostert
I don’t mind Mostert in Round 6, but when you realize he’s going 20 spots ahead of Trey Sermon, it does become problematic. If that’s true of most drafts then I’d rather just wait for Sermon at the end of Round 7. The 49ers are going to use Mostert and Sermon in tandem, and Sermon could emerge as San Francisco’s best running back sooner rather than later. Mostert is the one to target first now, but not at this price compared to Sermon.
Sutton made his return to the field in Denver’s third preseason game against the Rams after missing last season with a torn ACL. He looked good and finished with two catches for 27 yards and a touchdown on three targets. Hopefully he’s healthy all year, and he should form a top tandem with Jeudy. And Sutton could easily be the Broncos best receiver this season.
Worst player to target: Fournette
We’ll ignore the Rams DST for this argument, but please don’t draft a DST in Round 7 unless the scoring is crazy in your league. Also, please don’t draft Fournette here if Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard are healthy. Fournette and Jones will share rushing work, and Bernard will play on passing downs. This is a messy backfield, and Fournette won’t have the same impact he had in the postseason when he helped Tampa Bay win the Super Bowl.
I was going to make this co-best picks with Anderson and Boyd, but I didn’t want to cop out on picking just one player per round for this category. Anderson could be Carolina’s best Fantasy receiver this year, and you’re getting him 29 picks after Moore, which is amazing value. Last year, Anderson led the Panthers in targets (136) and receptions (95), and he’s the one with the established rapport with Sam Darnold from their days with the Jets. Anderson is a steal here in PPR.
Worst player to target: Chark
Again, we’ll ignore the DST in this round and go with a player being drafted too soon. I wouldn’t be shocked if Chark is the best Jacksonville receiver this season, but right now I’m drafting him after Laviska Shenault and Marvin Jones. Chark is working his way back from a finger injury, and he could take time to re-establish his rapport with Trevor Lawrence. If Chark falls to Round 10 or later then I’ll be excited about him, but I don’t love this ADP in Round 8.
This isn’t the most exciting round, and I would have put Smith in this category prior to his knee injury. But let’s go with Cooks instead and hope he’s the lone bright spot on what could be a miserable Texans offense this season. If Tyrod Taylor, who is the likely Houston starter, peppers Cooks with targets then he could emerge as a potential starting Fantasy receiver in all leagues.
Worst player to target: Tonyan
All of the tight ends are overvalued in this round, but Tonyan is my least favorite. He was fantastic last year, but you’re chasing his 2020 stats if you’re drafting him this soon. While he scored 11 touchdowns, he only had 59 targets. That’s not sustainable, and Tonyan is a bust candidate if he’s being drafted in Round 9.
I’m cheating here because Edwards won’t be available in Round 10 any time soon with Dobbins out, but I wanted to mention him since he should be a Round 4/5 pick in PPR or 0.5 PPR and a Round 3/4 pick in non-PPR leagues. As the new lead running back in Baltimore, Edwards should have the chance for a huge season, with hopefully around 15 total touches a game. We’ll see if the Ravens add another veteran to this backfield, but Dobbins’ injury could make Edwards a potential star.
Worst player to target: Tucker
Please don’t draft a kicker, any kicker, prior to the last two rounds in your league. I know most of you know this already, but some of you might be playing Fantasy Football for the first time this season. Tucker is awesome and consistent, but you can find a kicker potentially just as good in Round 14 or later.
I’m excited for Hardman this season as the new No. 2 receiver for the Chiefs. He has competition for the role from Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson, but Hardman should start opposite Tyreek Hill and hopefully become a third-year breakout receiver. I love drafting him in Round 10 or later.
Worst player to target: Ryan
There’s a lot to dislike with this round, but Ryan stands out, mostly because of the quarterbacks being drafted after him. If you’re going to draft a second quarterback in most one-quarterback leagues then target guys like Fields and Lance for their upside. I also prefer other veterans to Ryan, including Jameis Winston and Ben Roethlisberger, among others. Ryan is a fine option in two-quarterback and Superflex leagues, but don’t draft him here in one-quarterback formats.
With Hilton out for an extended period of time, Pittman should now emerge as the No. 1 receiver for the Colts. He might have been in that role anyway if Hilton was healthy, but there’s a lot to like about Pittman in his second season. Now, you have to hope the Colts have a healthy Carson Wentz (foot), as well as a healthy offensive line, but Pittman’s arrow is pointing up with Hilton hurt.
Worst player to target: Johnson
It’s a little hard to fathom what’s happening in Houston’s backfield, but Mark Ingram and Phillip Lindsay appear to be in better standing with the new coaching staff than Johnson. We’ll see what happens during the season, but Johnson could be third on the depth chart and relegated to passing-downs work. He’s been among the biggest fallers in ADP this year.
Mooney is a steal in this spot, and he’s one of my favorite sleepers this year. While he hasn’t played in the preseason, he will start opposite Allen Robinson, and Mooney closed last season with at least 15 PPR points in two of his final three games. Hopefully, Fields or Andy Dalton will lean on Mooney a lot, and he could emerge as a high-end No. 3 Fantasy receiver this year.
Worst player to target: Cohen
I was excited for Cohen to return from last year’s torn ACL, but that doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon. And he could open the season on the PUP list, which would keep him out for the first six weeks. Montgomery should benefit in a big way if Cohen is out, and Damien Williams becomes more attractive as a late-round flier. We’ll see what kind of impact Cohen makes this year, if he does at all, but it’s hard to justify drafting him in this spot while he’s hurt.
He should be New England’s No. 1 receiver this year, and he’s the best value of anyone so far given this price tag. In 2020, Meyers started seeing significant playing time in Week 7, and over his final 11 games he scored at least 11 PPR points five times. Whoever starts at quarterback for the Patriots this year should lean on Meyers a lot, and he’s worth drafting as early as Round 8 or 9 in PPR.
Worst player to target: Ebron
Watson could be the worst pick in this round if he doesn’t play this season, and Murray could also fall into this category if he’s replaced as the No. 2 running back for the Saints behind Alvin Kamara for Tony Jones Jr. I went with Ebron for now since he could lose playing time to rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth, who caught two touchdowns from Roethlisberger this preseason.
While Davis has emerged as the best receiver for the Jets with a strong preseason, Moore could still end up as the No. 1 option in the passing game this year. Prior to suffering a quad injury, Moore looked like the favorite target for Zach Wilson in training camp. I continue to buy a lot of stock in Moore, especially at this amazing price.
Worst player to target: Trautman
I was so excited about Trautman prior to training camp, but that excitement quickly went away once the preseason games started. First, Trautman spent more time blocking than running routes. Then, in the second preseason game, he injured his ankle, which could linger into the regular season. Hopefully he’s healthy and plays at a high level, but it’s hard to trust Trautman as a potential starter heading into the year.