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Joey’s NFL Best Ball End Of Round Picks [Underdog Fantasy – 2021]

Welcome to Joey’s End of Round Picks for the 2021 NFL season. In this article, I’ll outline players that I am looking at taking back-to-back at the end and beginning of each round. Say I have picks 10-12 or 1-3 based on their current ADP, who is available, and what strategies you should be taking at this time based on who is available and who you have already picked. The ADPs are taken directly from Underdog Fantasy on July 26th.

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No Waivers. No Trades. No Setting Lineups. Just Drafting.

First Round Wrap Around

This picture is meant to show the players you will get in an average draft when picking from 10-12. There is always a chance a better player with a higher adp will fall to you at these spots. If anyone with a higher adp appears in your draft make sure to consider them as more of a priority than anyone featured above. The screenshot was grabbed on Monday 7/26/2021, adp may change by the time you have read this.

There are a lot of options of premier talent around the NFL at the end of the first round and the early second round. Let’s just assume everyone with an adp up to 9 is already taken. There are a few guys that stick out to me, that I want to prioritize this round.

Double Running Back:

This is probably the most common route people want to take most seasons, but it is not my favorite strategy this season. The player pool I am looking at for runningbacks is Austin Ekeler and Joe Mixon. Both of these guys have clear paths to RB1 workhorse loads.

Austin Ekeler has seen consistent work in this offense. Over the last two seasons, he is only one of three backs who have seen at least 50 receptions a season; this list includes Alvin Kamara and Ezekiel Elliot. The main issue with Ekeler is the lack of carries he has received inside the 5. This is a huge part of predicting rushing touchdowns. Kalen Ballage led the team in i5 carries but is no longer with the team. This will lead to potentially more i5 carries for Ekeler or just lead to more carries for the second-year power back out of UCLA, Joshua Kelley. Either way, Ekeler is poised for another huge fantasy season and should be considered as one of the best backs in this group.

Joe Mixon is a player I am extremely high on this season. One of the main reasons I am so high on Mixon is the departure of Gio Bernard, who has been a pain to all Mixon owners since he was drafted four seasons ago. Mixon only appeared in six games due to a right foot injury that held him out the remainder of the season. His injury history had been solid up to that point, missing only four games in his first three seasons. Prior to his injury, Mixon’s usage was off the chart, seeing 20 rushing attempts and 4.5 targets per game. The Bengals have shown they are willing to lean on him and give him an extended role, even when he isn’t producing. We saw one game where he had 24 rushes for 59 yards, on top of that, seeing 8 targets. I am seeing chatter about him being taken lower because people think the Bengals will be trailing most games. While this is true, the loss of Bernard means Mixon will be even more involved in the passing game. Meaning a negative game script will lead to more efficient fantasy production out of the backfield.

Since I wrote this, Mixon’s adp has fallen down to 18 and you can now do this strategy with Saquan who I am getting 11th or 12th pick now. There is discussion about his health coming off an ACL tear. He is someone that can win you the BBM2 if healthy he is an amazing value in the late second round but health is a serious concern. Pairing Saquan and Mixon is the highest ceiling you can get at this spot.

Double Wide Receiver:

This is the more contrarian route to take, mainly because you will have slim pickings for running backs later on in the draft, but is something I like to do in bestball drafts. It is always tough going this way but there are three WRs I would take in this order to rationalize making this move.

Stefon Diggs is the first WR I am willing to take off the board. I don’t want to pay too much for Tyreek Hill when there are still RBs I want to take over him. So if I do take a WR early, it is later in the first round. Diggs and the Bills’ offense took a huge leap last season as Diggs made the move to the Bills in one of the fairest trades in NFL history. The Vikings were able to draft Justin Jefferson and the Bills got a now-ready superstar WR to help catapult their passing offense into the top 2 in the NFL, behind the Cheifs who are difficult to overthrow as the top passing offense in the league. Diggs finished the year first in targets, receptions, and yards. He was second only behind another guy I will be highlighting, Calvin Ridley, in 100-yard receiving games. One thing he fell short on, which leaves room for improvement is he finished 11th in TDs with 8. This can be traced down to his lack of endzone targets, with 9, finishing 22nd in the league.

Davante Adams jumps right back up to overall WR1 consideration now that we know Aaron Rodgers will be back with the Packers for one “Last Dance”. Adams was the top WR last year while only suiting up in 14 games. He averaged 21.6 fpts per game, this was two points more than second place, where Tyreek Hill averaged 19 Fpts per game. The reason Adams saw such an advantage over the field was his touchdowns. He had 18 receiving touchdowns, which only eight players had 10+ receiving touchdowns last season, with second place getting 15. By the time this article comes out or you are reading it, Adams could see his ADP rise out of the “Wrap-around” range but I will leave him in this section if that isn’t the case.

Calvin Ridley is the darkhorse WR1 this season. With the departure of Julio Jones, we could see Ridley take the next step into stardom this season. Jones missed seven games last season here are the splits.

Games Tar/game Rec/game Yards/game 100+ games TDs/game Fpts/game
With Julio 8 7.8 5 76 3 0.75 17
Without Julio 7 10.5 7.1 109 5 0.42 20

As you can see all the numbers went up without Julio, except touchdowns which are not very predictable. His RedZone work actually increased without Julio only slightly but should mean increased chances for touchdowns next season. This is why he has potential for overall WR1 numbers.

After the news that Rodgers was going to be with the team this season, Adams is now being drafting 8-10 with an adp of 12. I still like the double WR strategy but now you have to pair Diggs or Adams with Ridley. You no longer can get Diggs and Adams together outside maybe pick 12 if you are lucky. Although, normally both do not fall. only one does.

One Running Back, One Wide Reciever:

Depending on the backs available I love this route too. Grabbing one of each of the players mentioned above can put you in a great spot to have top talent RB and WR headlining your team. How drafts normally go, this is how I would play it personally. Grabbing Diggs or Adams then Mixon in the second round.

How I am prioritizing these players: Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, Austin Ekeler, Joe Mixon, Calvin Ridley.

Second Round Wrap Around

 

This picture is meant to show the players you will get in an average draft when picking from 1-3. There is always a chance a better player with a higher adp will fall. If anyone with a higher adp appears in your draft make sure to consider them as more of a priority than anyone featured above. The screenshot was grabbed on Monday 7/26/2021, adp may change by the time you have read this.

This is where having a higher pick comes in handy. Obviously, if you are picking in the late second round wrap around this is where you make your money on the harder choice; compared to round one. With your first pick, I assume you picked a running back, so next you will look to round out your running back core, especially if someone from the first round wrap around falls to you. On top of that, you will be anxious to get the passing game rolling with your WR1 on your team. These next few rounds are more draft-specific because the further you get down the more variance of players you will be able to draft.

Should I pick a TE?

I am seeing Darren Waller and George Kittle going in the late second or early third rounds. Normally, I have always been against drafting TEs and QBs early in drafts but these TEs come with upside that other TEs you will draft don’t. If I had to choose between the two I would select Darren Waller only if he falls past his current adp and you can grab him in the third round. I would make sure to grab an RB or WR first before selecting him.

Games Tar/game Rec/game Yards/game 100 yard TDs/game Fpts/game
Darren Waller 16 8.75 6.7 74.75 5 0.56 227
George Kittle 8 7.8 6.0 79.25 2 0.25 101

Here is a more advanced look:

aDOT RZ tar/game EZ tar/game % RR % RR on passing downs % Slot % Wide % Inline
Darren Waller 8.09 2.5 0.68 52% 86% 21.80% 4.70% 71.80%
George Kittle 7.92 0.75 0.25 56% 88% 15.60% 18.90% 64.20%

The main perk to getting one of these guys is they are a hybrid TE/WR, especially Waller, who takes 34% of his snaps as a WR, compared to Kittle’s 25%. Waller also has the advantage of Redzone and Endzone work that Kittle does not.

Najee Harris or Clyde Edwards-Helaire

When we get to the late second-round early third-round wrap around you are really only left with two runningback options, Najee Harris and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Now if another running back falls or you have the 4th or 5th pick and you can snag one of those RBs that are supposed to go early-to-mid second round, of course, grab him. I have actually seen Joe Mixon drop to 2.8-2.9 so depending on where you are drafting you could get a steal. Harris and Edwards-Helaire both have upsides to but who is the better pick?

My lean is Harris but you really can’t go wrong with either. The Steelers parted ways with James Conner this offseason, giving free rein to the Steelers’ first-round pick. There is always a rookie runningback that shines in fantasy and Harris is it this season. He is coming off an insane college season where he put up 1400 yards, 26 rushing touchdowns at Alabama. As well as, being used heavily in the receiving games, hauling in 43 receptions. This brings his total touchdowns to 30 after adding in his four receiving touchdowns. His 26 rushing touchdowns put him at the 21 most rushing touchdowns in a season college football season. The Steelers normally rely on one running back to carry the load for them offensively. This has led to short careers in Pitt for these running backs, but that doesn’t matter for someone we are getting fresh for his rookie campaign. The Steelers love how mature Harris looks in training camp and are looking to give him an everyday role. The main downside of this pick, which is why he isn’t being selected higher, is how bad the Steelers’ offensive line is this season.

Which Wide Receiver should I take?

If you are someone who likes solid backs, after picking that top 5 running back with your first pick you should look at taking Najee Harris then grabbing a top tier WR to pair with him. If Harris and Clyde are both taken by the time you draft this would be the time to grab two WRs and depending on your draftings spot, potentially looking at Waller if you have a later third-round pick and he falls to you. The WRs I will be prioritizing at this stage is in order on the adp outside of switching McLaurin and Lamb. Even though, you can’t really go wrong with either of them.

DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, and Justin Jefferson are by far the best three WRs in this range. These guys all have the potential for overall WR1 status or at least the lead the league in receiving yards. The guy I am highest on is AJ Brown. The Titans receiving core has changed drastically since last year. Gone are Corey Davis, Adam Humpheries, and Jonnu Smith, who accounted for three of the top five target shares on the team. Also, Smith and Davis led the team in RedZone targets. While the RedZone offense heavily relied on Derrick Henry, this skyrockets Brown’s touchdown upside as they only added Julio Jones who is not known for his RedZone usage. For this reason, I lean Brown as my favorite of the trio followed by Metcalf.

Third Round Wrap Around

This picture is meant to show the players you will get in an average draft when picking from 10-12. There is always a chance a better player with a higher adp will fall. If anyone with a higher adp appears in your draft make sure to consider them as more of a priority than anyone featured above. The screenshot was grabbed on Monday 7/26/2021, adp may change by the time you have read this.

This round depends on how your went about drafting your first round wrap-around. There were the three different strategies I showed: Double Runningback, Double Wide Receiver, and one of each.

Post Double Runningback

In this strategy, you are overcome with amazing runningbacks. This puts you in the easiest situation. If a great runningback falls to you, I still like taking that third running back to fortify your backfield. Just remember, you are only starting two RBs with a flex so don’t grab more than three in the early rounds. This gives you a great runningback to put in your flex, but also helps you during bye weeks. I don’t like grabbing four running backs in the first four rounds, but I am still a fan of going three running backs in the first four rounds. It is all preference which is why I am making this article more free-forming than telling you exactly who or how to draft because every draft is different as well as every drafter has a different preference. No draft is ever the same.

Post Double Wide Receiver

This is where you hope you get the runningbacks to fall to you. Basically, the player pool you are looking at is D’Andre Swift, JK Dobbins, Chris Carson, David Montgomery, and Miles Sanders. You want to grab at least one running back at this stage. It is not optimal to skip out on a running back, but you can run with the zero-runningback strategy and try to wait on some, personally, I am not a fan of this. You would then be looking at Travis Etienne, Javonte Williams, Kareem Hunt, Trey Sermon, and Chase Edmonds, or hope DeAngelo Henderson becomes a huge part of the Rams offense. So there is a path where you can skip out on a running back but I would try to grab one on the following wrap-around. It just gets a lot riskier. I don’t want any of these guys as my RB1 but I love it as an RB2 then getting some handcuffs later on that could turn into every-down backs with injuries.

Out of that group of long-shot running backs, I lean Henderson and Edmonds as the highest ceiling guys. Reports came out that the Rams wanted to limit Henderson this season to a third-down back only to monitor his health, but then of course Cam Akers tore his Achilles so that plan is thrown out the door. Right now it is looking like Henderson will be an every-down back and be on the field for 60% or more. Although, the dark horse out of that backfield Xavier Jones. He is starting to impress the coaching staff which could lead to Jones sliding into Akers’ role with Henderson going back to the third-down role.

Post One of Each

If you implemented this strategy, it opens your drafting to more possibilities. This doesn’t make it the best but it will give you the most options come the third-round wrap around. You can go double running back, I am ok with all three runningbacks shown. Miles Sanders is not shown but he is another guy with a similar adp to David Montgomery you can consider. For wide receivers, there are enough options to choose only guys present, unless someone drops with a higher adp.

Fourth Round Wrap Around

This picture is meant to show the players you will get in an average draft when picking from 1-3. There is always a chance a better player with a higher adp will fall. If anyone with a higher adp appears in your draft make sure to consider them as more of a priority than anyone featured above. The screenshot was grabbed on Monday 7/26/2021, adp may change by the time you have read this.

Fortify your Runningbacks:

There is one running back I am targeting in this range and he is one of my most drafted players this season. Todd Gurley has one foot out the door, potentially leaving Mike Davis as the only running back in the rotation with the chance to put up similar numbers as he did last season. Davis was a league winner coming in for Christian McCaffrey after CMC only played three games last season. In his 12 starts, he averaged 13.5 fpts per game, which would have put him at RB13 among RBs that played 10+ games last season. Atlanta should also be trailing in a lot of games this season. Which normally is a bad thing for runningbacks but Davis learned well from CMC; seven of his 12 starts last season resulted in 5+ targets. Look for another breakout season for Davis as Atl looks to find an identity this season.

Should I Select a Quarterback?

I normally do not like picking a QB this early in the draft, but these three players possess a similar fantasy archetype, something that Mahomes does not offer. All three of these players have flashed rushing upside to a degree that seems unsustainable but with the way their offenses work there is a path to sustainability in different ways.

Both Josh Allen and Kyler Murray are basically their respected team’s RedZone back. Resulting in some of the most efficient Redzone offenses in the league last season. Both Allen and Murray had 25 rushing attempts in the RedZone, while Allen had 11 and Murray had 8 inside the 5. Those numbers only trailed Cam Newton for both categories and Lamar Jackson for RedZone carries. One interesting thing to note is, Herbert was tied with Murray for rushing inside the 5. He had 8 with 5 TDs.

Lamar Jackson produces his rushing fantasy numbers in a different way which makes the Ravens offense one of the best in the league, keeping defenses guessing all game. With Jackson, you are basically getting QB 2-3 numbers through the air, but then they get supplemented with RB 2-3 numbers. This is the only early QB I don’t feel like you need to stack with a pass catcher because he is someone who can get you 80-100 yards on the ground with a touchdown while passing for fewer than 200 yards and no touchdowns in that same game.

The value over replacement player for QBs is not enough for me to draft them high unless there is rushing upside involved which is why I am considering them. Rushing numbers helps raise their ceiling to carry you through the plays. While you can stack up average QBs that will consistently get you through the season with 16-20 fpts a game, these players can get you 25-30 fpts throughout the playoffs to help win you the best ball mania when it comes to playoffs.

Stack another Wide Reciever:

At this point in the draft you have a top RB, complimented with either another top RB or two top WRs. This is where you end up getting that key WR to solidify that starting lineup either finishing up the trio or grabbing your flex player.

There are two guys that stick out to me more than others. Diontae Johnson and Kenny Golladay. These guys are in two different situations. Johnson is trying to improve his role in the Steelers offense and Golladay is trying to fit in with a new team with a developing QB.

Johnson barely missed out on 100 yards receiving last year, he and Juju were the only two WRs to not eclipse 1000 yards receiving but were targeted in the top 15 in the league. The reason, they both had two of the lowest aDOTs in the league. Johnson coming in at 8.50 and Juju with 6.02. Part of the reason was Ben Roethlisberger had an aDOT of 7.4, ranking 25th among QBs that played at least 10 games. The Steelers really did not trust the running game, they did not have an identity running the ball leading to short passes in the middle of the field.

Golladay dropped from a second-round pick last year to a 5th round pick this season. This is mainly due to injury history and joining a new team. Joining a new team does not bother me because there really isn’t anyone on the Giants to compete with as the true WR 1. Plus, the Giants should be losing a majority of the game. Playing from behind will result in more passing plays. The Giants passing game is one of the more undervalued components in this draft and I will take advantage of that. They are undervalued for good reason, Daniel Jones has not shown he can be an efficient QB to make the plays needed to help guys like Golladay and Engram to be successful. This is a prove-it season for Jones, I have heard a lot of good things about his progression this offseason, but that could just be noise.

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