Fantasy Football: Scott Pianowski's must-draft players

·5 min read

It’s time to open the playbook and give you the key guys I really like this year. It’s time to wreck the rest of my drafts so I can help yours.

My goal with the player calls is to make them punchy, get to the point quickly. This isn’t even an elevator pitch, it’s a subway pitch.

(Imagine you saw me in New York City as we both waited for separate trains. Your train is approaching, boarding. “Hey man, what do you think of Terry McLaurin?” This is what I’d tell you before we said goodbye.)

Never forget two other basic things:

Any strategy works if you pick the right players (and the converse is also true).

You disagree with some of my takes, or even all of my takes? Always cool with me. That’s why we have a game.

Here are My Guys for Fantasy Football 2021. The list is in no particular order, other than McLaurin being No. 1 on this list.

Terry McLaurin, WR, WFT

His ADP has become a little pricy, but I’ll still elbow others out of the way. He was great in Year 1 and Year 2 with bad quarterback play; now that’s been upgraded and he enters juicy Year 3. He wants to maximize his ability as a technician, too. My favorite roster builds have one anchor back and then a bunch of major receivers, the idea that you want the best receiver room in your league (it’s also much easier to get lucky with a running back than it is a wide receiver). McLaurin fits my preferred build nicely, anywhere in the third round.

DK Metcalf / Tyler Lockett, WRs, Seahawks

I don’t know if OC Shane Waldron will click, but he can’t be much worse than Brian Schottenheimer. The Seahawks still employ a narrow passing tree and enjoy a HOF-trajectory quarterback in Russell Wilson (who doesn’t run as much as he used to). Seattle’s second-half offensive skid is an excused absence. Give them a mulligan.

A.J. Dillon, RB, Packers

He’s probably going to have medium-and-deep league value to open the year, and if Aaron Jones encounters any injury, you landed a monumental difference-maker. Aaron Rodgers surely will regress after an MVP season, but it’s difficult to imagine the Packers having anything less than an excellent offense.

AJ Dillon #28 of the Green Bay Packers
A.J. Dillon has league-winning upside if Aaron Jones was to go down with injury. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Corey Davis, WR, Jets

Sometimes we unfairly discount players when they don’t develop on our preferred timetable. Davis improved every year in Tennessee, but it was partially screened by the detonations of A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry. Davis looks like an obvious target hog in New York, and I suspect rookie QB Zach Wilson will be better than the public believes.

Leonard Fournette, RB, and Rob Gronkowski, TE, Buccaneers

They were strong fades last year; I got one right, the other one was a push, I guess. The NFL is a snow-globe league, every season is different. The Bucs have a crowded set of talent, but Fournette’s skill set meshes nicely with a team likely headed for a cakewalk through the NFC South. Clock-killing carries for the win. Gronk improved significantly in the second half of 2020 and was a star in the playoffs. That tank is far from empty.

Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers

He was fantastic last year despite a lousy offensive line and a suspect coaching staff. What if the Chargers actually fixed those two problem areas? There’s never been a question about the overall talent on this roster.

Nick Chubb, RB, Browns

I suspect the gap between Chubb and backup Kareem Hunt is a lot greater than is commonly held. If Chubb forces a bigger share of the workload (or Hunt gets hurt), you might have a home run. And even if it’s more status quo, you can easily win — the Browns have a strong defense, probably the best offensive line in the league, and finally a head coach who knows what he’s doing. The fact that Chubb for the moment is more floor pick than sexy upside pick does not dissuade me in the slightest.

Jakobi Meyers, WR, Patriots

He probably can’t be a home run, given the quarterback situation. But he’s the likely leader in catches and yards here, and his ADP has never reflected his plausible projection. I get it, you want hair-on-fire picks with your late-round selections. But sometimes it’s okay to grind out a walk or drop a double into the gap.

Jerry Jeudy, WR, Broncos

It kills me that his ADP has risen steadily all summer (we draft early to learn the player pool, and to try to beat the market before it corrects). Courtland Sutton’s summer has been a slow grind, with Teddy Bridgewater reportedly getting the starting job, he probably will click best with Jeudy. Forget the dropped passes from last year; Jeudy can get open and make explosive plays, and that’s what really matters.

Robert Woods / Cooper Kupp, WRs, Rams

Narrow usage tree, running game takes a step back with Cam Akers injury, Matthew Stafford is a seismic upgrade over Jared Goff. Woods and Kupp are in the boring-vet part of their careers, so you don’t have to worry about a buzz tax.

Mike Davis, RB, Falcons

There is a reasonable case against Davis, a journeyman who’s bounced around the league. But I can’t take Atlanta’s running back depth seriously. Davis might maintain a major snap share simply by being better than the alternatives.

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