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2021 Best Ball Targets: Rise or Fall Fantasy Football

If you have followed any of my work, whether it be written content or my weekly podcast on The Hot Take, you have heard me preach about tier-based rankings. Tier-based rankings lump players into a group, your own personal collection of players in an area where you think they should live.

For example, Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, and Deandre Hopkins are firmly in my tier one wide receivers. Typically, this means I can gauge the value of wide receivers remaining on the board. So if three are gone but Hopkins remains, I have effectively maximized value if he ends up being my WR1.

This strategy is especially important in best ball, which is a format that populates your “best” lineup on a weekly basis. My intention, in this format, is to balance strength across all positions, wherein redraft I am perfectly fine sacrificing positional strength at quarterback and tight end.

Let’s take a peek behind the curtain into my rankings and sift through some 2021 best ball targets.

2021 Best Ball Targets

Lamar Jackson & Kyler Murray – Elite Rushing Quarterbacks

In most cases this offseason, if I can help it, I am walking away from best ball drafts with either Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray. These are the elite rushing quarterbacks in the NFL. Jackson will be looking for his second straight 1,000 rushing yard season and Kyler will be looking to follow up his 819 yards on the ground in 2020.

Having that kind of baseline for Fantasy Football is essentially a cheat code at the quarterback position. It is this reason why Murray is my QB2 and Jackson is my QB3 for my personal rankings. It is no coincidence that they are being drafted two spots apart early in the fifth round according to Underdog ADP.

For redraft purposes, it is unlikely either of these guys will be on my roster. I love to wait for a quarterback in 12 team leagues and scoop up running backs and wide receivers. Yet, in the fifth round of best ball drafts, time after time I am hammering draft with either one of these players. 

For Murray, he is going to be responsible for a good portion of the Cardinals’ offensive production. Arizona’s third-best 67.7 plays per game, with Murray’s league-best 691 passing and rushing attempts combined, give the third-year quarterback the most perceived volume at the position. Safe floor with the highest of ceilings for Murray makes him one of the most viable 2021 best ball targets.

Lamar Jackson will look to bounce back from a down year following his MVP season. It is unbelievable that this down year saw Jackson rush for 1,000 yards while scoring 33 times, but here we are. Yet, it is clear that the Ravens want to pass more as they drafted Rashod Bateman and added veteran Sammy Watkins.

Lamar Jackson is one of the 2021 best ball targets for Fantasy Football.

Photo Credit: Baltimoreravens.com

With second-year J.K. Dobbins making the leap to starter, passing more and Jackson running just as frequently seem likely. But it is Jackson’s rushing that truly separates him from the rest in best ball formats. Jackson is a threat to score with his legs every time the Ravens enter the red zone, which Baltimore had a respectable 3.7 visits inside the 20-yard line in 2020. Jackson rushed 30 times for 115 yards and four scores in this area of the field.

These two quarterbacks are tier breakers for me, with Josh Allen and Dak Prescott right behind. Allen is being drafted ahead of the two, and Prescott a little later. With elite rushing, and yet to be realized potential throwing the ball, Jackson and Murray are my favorite 2021 best ball targets at the quarterback position.

D’Andre Swift – Elite Pass Catching Running Back

My insatiable want to pound the “draft” button on wide receivers is being muddled with D’Andre Swift’s undeniable opportunity to be one of the best pass-catching running backs in the NFL.

Last season Swift had 57 targets in only 13 games. This was 13th in the league. When you take into account it was Swift’s rookie season and was competing for touches with walking Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, this is impressive. Matthew Stafford has always peppered his running backs with targets, and Swift was no exception earning 4.3 targets per game. Swift’s new quarterback, Jared Goff, is no stranger to feeding his running back with passes, as he provided Todd Gurley with 5.7 targets per game from 2017 to 2018.

I know what you’re thinking, “Steven, how could Swift be one of your 2021 best ball targets if he’s just a pass-catching specialist?” What if I told you that one of the best pass-catching running backs in football was also one of the most efficient rushers inside the 20-yard line? All of Swift’s eight rushing touchdowns were in the red zone on only 19 attempts.

With Peterson’s 156 carries gone, and Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay moving on as well, Swift is firmly the best offensive piece on the Lions’ roster. While the Lions do not project to be good by any means this season, the volume and opportunity combined with the talent of Swift justify an RB15 price in drafts. The elite pass-catching makes Swift one of the best players at his position for 2021, and one of my 2021 best ball targets.

Kenny Golladay – Elite Touchdown Upside

I would not touch Golladay if he were still at his 2020 ADP of 3.02 (WR7). His perceived low reception total is not what you want in a WR1. Yet, just a year removed from WR1 status, we are able to draft the new Giants wideout at WR21. According to Underdog ADP,  he is the WR26, going in the fifth round in best ball drafts.

The Giants paid Golladay WR1 money, four years for $72M. With Saquon Barkley looking to not be 100 percent to start the season, Golladay should see a 25 percent target share for the majority of the season.

In 2018 and 2019 Golladay received 119 and 116 targets respectively with Marvin Jones serving as a 1B in the Lions offense. In 2019 he led all wide receivers with 11 touchdowns. I am viewing Golladay as a guy who can receive 130 targets in 2021 and he is being drafted as a mid-tier WR2.

While Daniel Jones did not get better in year two, the offense around him was BAD without Barkley on the field. Golladay is important for Jones showing improvement, but it is not to say he hasn’t already had success. In 2019 he threw 24 touchdowns starting in only 12 games. Don’t let Jones scare you, he provided Darius Slayton with eight touchdowns in 2019 which is telling of what he can do with a player as talented as Kenny Golladay.

The “build” really suits adding Golladay in best ball drafts. He is usually my WR3 and that is how I prefer him. I enjoy double-tapping on high-volume/high upside receivers early and adding Golladay for the touchdown upside. It is that ceiling play that wins you weeks and makes Golladay one of my 2021 best ball targets.

Note: ADP’s based on Fantasy Football Calculator

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