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Fantasy Football: Way-too-early top 5 picks for 2021

New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara
New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara
Mitch Bannon
TOP CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 15 Nov 2020, 14:30 IST
Top 5 / Top 10
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You can plan for a lot in fantasy football — print off spreadsheets, sort through draft rankings, and read up on sleepers — but you can't plan for injuries.

Two of the top three picks heading into the 2020 fantasy football season, Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley, have missed most of the season due to injuries. The third, Ezekiel Elliot, is the 14th-ranked running in standard formats in 2020 due in large part to injuries along the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line.

With seven weeks remaining in 2020, their projects to be some new names in the consensus top five for 2021 fantasy leagues.

Honorable mentions: RB Derrick Henry, RB Josh Jacobs, WR Michael Thomas


5. WR Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers

(2020 Average Draft Position: 11.3)

When the Green Bay Packers selected Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the team received ample criticism for not addressing their biggest need: wide receiver.

Nine weeks into 2020, the Packers passing attack has not suffered. In fact, it has flourished largely because of the emergence of Davante Adams as arguably the best wide receiver in football.

Adams is Aaron Rodgers' primary -- and sometimes only -- target. He averages 11.5 targets per game and 112.5 yards per game. He has eight touchdowns despite playing only six games, and is on pace to break 1,000 yards for the second time in his career.

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As long as Rodgers is playing at an MVP level, and Adams remains his primary target, he will provide the consistency and upside needed to be the first receiver to draft in fantasy football.


4. RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

(2020 ADP: 2.0)

Just 19 carries for 34 yards — not the season stat line of a fantasy football relevant running back, let alone one of the earliest-drafted players. Fantasy football owners who drafted Barkley were crushed in the second week of the season when the Giants running back left the game with a torn ACL and was ruled out until 2021.

Drafting Barkley next season will be a risk, but a necessary risk after the top options are drafted. Barkley posted consecutive seasons of 1,400-plus yards from scrimmage in his first two years in the NFL, including over 2,000 in his rookie campaign. The Giants' reliance on him (which has been made even clearer since his injury) will make Barkley, when healthy, an elite fantasy option.

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3. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

(2020 ADP: 1.0)

While Barkley's season-ending injury crushed many fantasy football owners' dreams of a 2020 championship, McCaffrey's 2020 has been far more frustrating. After playing in the first two games of the season, the Panthers star running back (and primary pass-catcher) missed five weeks with an ankle injury. After returning in Week 9 with 151 yards and two touchdowns, McCaffrey finds himself back on the injury report. While Panthers coach Matt Rhule said CMC would not be out for the season, he will not play in Week 10 and is questionable beyond that.

"We’ll see how he is for next week,” Rhule said.

If McCaffrey was guaranteed to play every game next season, he would be a clear No. 1 draft choice heading into 2021. He dominates standard and PPR formats, as the Panthers primary runner and pass-catcher, and the transition to a new QB, Teddy Bridgewater, and coach, Rhule, has clearly not slowed down his per-game production.


2. RB Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

(2020 ADP: 5.0)

Despite rushing for just the 14th-most yards in the league, the Saints lead back Alvin Kamara is the top-ranked and earning PPR running back in fantasy football. Like McCaffrey and Barkley, Kamara is a fantasy football weapon due to his running stability and his usage in the pass game. He leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,036), with 12 rushes per game and 7.5 receptions per game.

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Even in standard and half-PPR draft formats, Kamara is the second-ranked fantasy football running back in 2020, and is on pace for a touchdown a game. With Drew Brees' arm strength dwindling, Kamara may be expected to play a larger role for the Saints next season.


1. RB Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

(2020 ADP: 4.7)

Drafted halfway through the first round in most 2020 fantasy football draft formats, Dalvin Cook has rattled off a few monster games in Week 8 and Week 9 to vault himself atop the 2021 fantasy football draft board.

Cook, unlike Kamara and McCaffrey, is a carrying fantasy football owners (and the Minnesota Vikings) as a traditional running back. The Florida State product leads the NFL in yards per game (122.6), rushing touchdowns (12) and overall touchdowns (13). He broken 160 rushing yards three times this season (200 in Week 9) and is rushing the ball over 20 times per game.

In standard fantasy football formats, Cook has totaled 33 more fantasy points than any other running back in the league despite missing a game with injury. His standard 26.4 points per game is 7.4 more than Kamara and 4.2 more than McCaffrey's 2019 leading total.

Cook often faces off against some of the best run defenses in the league and regularly faces stacked boxes, but the Vikings offense is now built around him. If Cook continues to get 20+ rushes (and/or 150+ rushing yards) a game for the remainder of the season, he will be the No. 1 pick in all 2021 fantasy football drafts.

Published 15 Nov 2020, 14:30 IST
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