With the NFL Draft well into the rearview mirror, 2021 fantasy football best ball drafts are firing up. While your early picks make your team look flashy on paper, deciphering who the top sleepers for 2021 best ball fantasy football leagues is where you can differentiate yourself from the pack. Here are our updated 2021 best ball fantasy football rankings for both 1QB and superflex formats and a few intriguing sleeper names to keep an eye on come draft day.
What makes a best ball fantasy league different from other formats?
Perhaps you clicked on this article by mistake through the magical rabbit hole that is the internet and are confused about what a best ball fantasy league even is. Let me give you a brief rundown, as it is quickly becoming the preferred way to joining dozens of leagues without a splitting headache (or for beginners to dip their toes into the water).
The best part of fantasy football is the draft. For best ball formats, this is where it begins and ends. There is no lineup setting, waivers, or even trades. Simply draft and let the cards fall where they may. Whatever platform you choose to play on, it takes care of the lineup for you based on who scored the most points in a given week. We all know the frustration of seeing a player have a blow-up week as he sits on your bench. Fret no longer — they are automatically added to your lineups as the season progresses.
Due to this, selecting players with a high ceiling despite their low floor could be an advantageous strategy. Even if they fizzle out, they won’t be in your starting lineup. With roster decisions and maintenance a hands-off experience, it’s easy to see why best ball fantasy football formats have taken the landscape by storm.
Does best ball sound like something you might be interested in? Well, let me help you get a jump start on your league-mates with five 2021 sleepers hiding in best ball fantasy football rankings.
Five 2021 Best Ball fantasy football sleepers
With value in mind, these players could easily outperform their current best ball rankings in 2021.
Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Entering his fourth season, Gus Edwards has seen over 133 carries and 700 rushing yards in each of his three years in Baltimore. In 2020, he faced a stacked box (eight-plus defenders) the sixth-most times at 34%. Additionally, Edwards played second fiddle to J.K. Dobbins and Lamar Jackson, and he split reps with Mark Ingram. Regardless, Edwards finished the season 21st in rushing yards (723).
What I don’t think people realize is how well Edwards played last year. From Week 6 on, Edwards was the RB26 in PPR scoring with 9.9 ppg. In fact, Dobbins was trailing him in fantasy points heading into Week 17 until the rookie went off for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns.
I’m by no means saying Edwards is better than Dobbins. Still, he’s better than being given credit for and should have a solid 2021 campaign. He is currently being selected as the RB39 (109 ADP) on Underdog Fantasy and will have no issue outperforming his best ball rankings in 2021.
Jamaal Williams, RB, Detroit Lions
Cover your ears, D’Andre Swift fans. You might want to tune out for this one.
Jamaal Williams has produced in a No. 2 role throughout his career, having rushed 500 carries for 1,985 yards and 10 touchdowns in 60 games (20 starts). He also has 122 catches for 961 yards and 8 touchdowns. He has never had less than 460 yards rushing, 210 receiving yards, and 3 TDS in a season.
While he has never seen over 42% of the snap share, Williams has finished as an RB4 or better in all four seasons, including twice as an RB3 (2017 and 2019). Just last season, when Williams saw 12 or more opportunities in a game, he finished inside the top 20 four out of five times. Furthermore, Williams has finished as an RB3 or better in 69% of his career games in PPR formats, including 11 RB1 finishes.
Since 2016, running backs in Anthony Lynn’s offense have averaged 28.3% of the team’s targets and never less than 24.1%. Williams is a more than capable pass catcher and should wind his way into a consistent role in the Lions’ backfield. On Underdog, Williams is going as the RB45 with an ADP of 133. While I still believe this is Swift’s team, Williams has sneaky upside in 2021 and is a value in best ball rankings,
Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears
Darnell Mooney is the real deal and one of my favorite breakout players for fantasy football in 2021. However, I still am not sure why people have not caught on to him yet.
He played on 73% of the offensive snaps in his rookie year and accumulated a respectable 631 yards and 4 touchdowns on 61 receptions (98 targets). But, if you watch his games, all you can think of is “what if?”
Mooney was routinely open on explosive plays, and both Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky could not deliver an accurate ball. Combined, they were 22 of 70 on deep attempts, according to Sports Info Solutions. Of Mooney’s 98 targets, only 68 passes (69%) were deemed catchable. This means Mooney caught 89.7% of his catchable passes while maintaining an 11.4 aDOT.
It is a matter of when, not if, Justin Fields takes over at quarterback for the Bears in 2021. Andy Dalton can be seen as a slight up-grade at QB or a lateral move until that point. Mooney is going in drafts as the WR49 (112 ADP) but has top-36 potential.
Gabriel Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills
As one of the conductors of the hype train last season, I am more than ready to wear the hat again this season and push Gabriel Davis propaganda your way.
After entering his 2020 rookie campaign with little fanfare, Davis was a consistent threat to score touchdowns. He posted 35 receptions on 62 targets for 599 yards and 7 touchdowns. He was on the field more than many expected, largely aided by the injury to John Brown. Davis played on 73% of the snaps, including 88% over the final six weeks.
While he finished as the WR56, Davis was the WR44 from Weeks 9-17. This stretch also included four games as a WR22 or better. Davis was already expected to be the WR3 on the Bills depth chart following the exit of Brown and will be the deep threat on the offense (15.0 aDOT).
He is currently an afterthought in drafts as the WR60 (135 ADP) but could have weekly WR3 upside in 2021 best ball rankings.
Cole Kmet, TE, Chicago Bears
The tight end position in fantasy football is a wasteland, and even the best sleeper candidates for 2021 are nothing more than dart throws. Luckily enough for us, we can use best ball to our advantage and look beyond some players’ abysmal floors.
At any rate, one player who is still going under the radar with high-end TE2 upside is Cole Kmet. In 2020, before Week 9, Kmet topped out at 47% of his team’s snaps. However, from Week 12 on, Kmet played at least 78% of the snaps while taking the TE1 role over from Jimmy Graham. During this time, Kmet saw 33 targets and caught 21 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown. On a 17-game pace, that is 93 targets and 59 receptions.
Tight ends naturally take longer to develop, so the hopes are high for Kmet in 2021. If you remember back to 2020, about halfway through the season, Graham was leading the NFL in red-zone targets. He ended the season with the fifth-most (19), including 12 inside the 10-yard line.
If those now go to Kmet and with a boost from Fields, the breakout is happening. Kmet is currently the TE23 (172 ADP) on Underdog and is arguably, my favorite tight end sleeper in fantasy, not just best ball formats.
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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.