2021 Fantasy Rankings & Strategy: The Only Draft Guide You Need (Feat. Downloadable PDFs)

Getty Images. Pictured: Giants RB Saquon Barkley, Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson

Sean Koerner — the No. 1 fantasy football draft ranker of 2019 — breaks down the final edition of his 2021 Draft Tiers below.

Everyone can read his draft strategy by position, but the tiers and downloadable PDFs of his rankings are part of our Action PRO subscription, which also grants users access to his real-time rankings in our 2021 Fantasy Draft Kit.

2021 Fantasy Draft Strategy

One of the biggest mistakes fantasy managers make when drafting with rankings is using them to a tee. And when you draft using rankings that way, you risk drafting players you could acquire three or four rounds later, destroying the value of those picks.

That’s why outlining my rankings into tiers is a critical part of my draft strategy — and why, before we run through those tiers, I’ll first explain my high-level strategy at each position.

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QB Strategy

My quarterback draft strategy varies between 1QB or 2QB/Superflex formats.

In 1QB leagues, typically only 13-15 QBs are drafted, meaning 17-19 starting QBs will be available on the waiver wire each week. If I miss out on one of the top six QBs in 1QB drafts, I’m likely to skip drafting a QB altogether and instead stream the position in-season — a potential league-winning strategy. In 2020, for example, I was able to stream one of Justin Herbert or Jalen Hurts in leagues that I didn’t draft a QB.

In 2QB/Superflex leagues, however, the QB position is much more valuable (as it should be). And there’s a massive drop-off in projected points right after QB30, making it imperative to draft 2-3 starting QBs in these formats.

RB Strategy

Running back continues to be the most important position in fantasy football.

There are two reasons RBs can decide the fate of your team:

  1. There are fewer workhorse backs in this pass-heavy era, so positional scarcity makes it critical to draft at least two workhorse RBs.
  2. RBs are most likely to miss time due to injury (or to lose their job), paving the way for late-round picks or even waiver wire pickups to emerge as league-winners.

As a result, many draft strategies focus on how many RBs to draft early on.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Zero RB strategy, which I agree with … in theory. It mainly focuses on Reason No. 2, but ignores Reason No. 1 — that’s why I would dub my approach as the RB Surplus Strategy: I aim to draft two RBs before the end of Round 3/4 because, as I mentioned, it’s critical to acquire two who are set to open the season with a reliable workload. Then I target high-upside backs in the middle and late rounds.

WR Strategy

With the depth at this position, it’s easy to convince yourself that if you miss out on certain WRs, there will be more talent to choose from later — but you can’t neglect the position so much over the first six rounds of a draft that you end up with Deebo Samuel as your WR2.

You need to spend significant draft capital to lock in your WRs.

My WR strategy for 2021 drafts include:

  • Draft one WR before Tiers 1-4 are off the board
  • Draft three WRs before Tiers 1-6 are off the board
  • Start building your bench with Tier 7 WRs

TE Strategy

The TE position illustrates why it’s crucial to sort fantasy rankings into tiers in order to build our draft strategy.

Not all positional rankings should be treated equally — the key is to identify how much the position drops off after a player is off the board, and tiers help us do that.

My TE strategy for 2021 drafts include:

  • Target Tier 1-3 TEs based on your draft slot
  • Target Tier 4 TEs based on your draft slot
  • Avoid Tier 5 TEs

Kicker & Defense Strategy

Unless your league requires you to draft a kicker and/or defense, I would skip drafting either, and instead focus on filling your bench with high-upside WRs and RBs.

You can easily stream kickers or defenses week-to-week in-season.

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2021 Fantasy Rankings

With my high-level strategy at each position out of the way, it’s time to finally outline my rankings into tiers.

Note that I’ve included only the list of tiers for each position — and a downloadable PDF featuring the tiers for all six positions in the first table below — but linked to the full stories on each position for anyone interested in reading more.

2021 Fantasy Draft Tiers

» Click here to download a PDF of Sean Koerner’s 2021 Draft Tiers for every position feat. his strategy notes «
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

2021 Fantasy QB Tiers

Tier Players
1 Patrick Mahomes (KC)
Josh Allen (BUF)
2 Kyler Murray (ARI)
Lamar Jackson (BAL)
3 Dak Prescott (DAL)
Russell Wilson (SEA)
4 Aaron Rodgers (GB)
Tom Brady (TB)
Justin Herbert (LAC)
Jalen Hurts (PHI)
5 Ryan Tannehill (TEN)
Matthew Stafford (LAR)
6 Trevor Lawrence (JAX)
Matt Ryan (ATL)
Baker Mayfield (CLE)
Joe Burrow (CIN)
Tua Tagovailoa (MIA)
Kirk Cousins (MIN)
Justin Fields (CHI)
Trey Lance (SF)
7 Daniel Jones (NYG)
Derek Carr (LV)
Ryan Fitzpatrick (WAS)
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)
Carson Wentz (IND)
Sam Darnold (CAR)
Zach Wilson (NYJ)
8 Mac Jones (NE)
Jameis Winston (NO)
Jared Goff (DET)
9 Teddy Bridgewater (DEN)
Tyrod Taylor (HOU)
Deshaun Watson (HOU)
10 Taysom Hill (NO)
Jimmy Garoppolo (SF)
Drew Lock (DEN)
11 Davis Mills (HOU)
Andy Dalton (CHI)
Cam Newton (FA)
Taylor Heinicke (WAS)
Jacob Eason (IND)
Gardner Minshew (PHI)
Jacoby Brissett (MIA)

2021 Fantasy RB Tiers

Tier Players
1 Christian McCaffrey (CAR)
2 Dalvin Cook (MIN)
3 Alvin Kamara (NO)
Derrick Henry (TEN)
4 Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)
Nick Chubb (CLE)
Austin Ekeler (LAC)
Aaron Jones (GB)
Saquon Barkley (NYG)
5 Jonathan Taylor (IND)
Joe Mixon (CIN)
6 Antonio Gibson (WAS)
Najee Harris (PIT)
Chris Carson (SEA)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC)
James Robinson (JAX)
D’Andre Swift (DET)
7 Josh Jacobs (LV)
David Montgomery (CHI)
8 Miles Sanders (PHI)
9 Gus Edwards (BAL)
Mike Davis (ATL)
10 Darrell Henderson (LAR)
Myles Gaskin (MIA)
Chase Edmonds (ARI)
Kareem Hunt (CLE)
Damien Harris (NE)
11 Javonte Williams (DEN)
Trey Sermon (SF)
Melvin Gordon (DEN)
Raheem Mostert (SF)
Leonard Fournette (TB)
Ronald Jones II (TB)
A.J. Dillon (GB)
James Conner (ARI)
Kenyan Drake (LV)
Michael Carter (NYJ)
Zack Moss (BUF)
Devin Singletary (BUF)
Jamaal Williams (DET)
12 Tony Pollard (DAL)
Sony Michel (LAR)
Nyheim Hines (IND)
James White (NE)
Latavius Murray (NO)
J.D. McKissic (WAS)
Alexander Mattison (MIN)
13 Phillip Lindsay (HOU)
David Johnson (HOU)
Carlos Hyde (JAX)
Malcolm Brown (MIA)
Tevin Coleman (NYJ)
Rhamondre Stevenson (NE)
Rashaad Penny (SEA)
Damien Williams (CHI)
Giovani Bernard (TB)
Boston Scott (PHI)
Justin Jackson (LAC)
Darrel Williams (KC)
Salvon Ahmed (MIA)
14 Devontae Booker (NYG)
Marlon Mack (IND)
Chuba Hubbard (CAR)
Ty’Son Williams (BAL)
Qadree Ollison (ATL)
Darrynton Evans (TEN)
Justice Hill (BAL)
Kenneth Gainwell (PHI)
Adrian Peterson (FA)
Benny Snell (PIT)
Ty Johnson (NYJ)
Mark Ingram (HOU)
Tarik Cohen (CHI)
Jaret Patterson (WAS)
Samaje Perine (CIN)
Chris Evans (CIN)
Jerick McKinnon (KC)

2021 Fantasy WR Tiers

Tier Players
1 Davante Adams (GB)
Tyreek Hill (KC)
2 Calvin Ridley (ATL)
Stefon Diggs (BUF)
DeAndre Hopkins (ARI)
D.K. Metcalf (SEA)
3 Justin Jefferson (MIN)
4 A.J. Brown (TEN)
5 Keenan Allen (LAC)
Terry McLaurin (WAS)
Allen Robinson (CHI)
CeeDee Lamb (DAL)
Amari Cooper (DAL)
Mike Evans (TB)
Chris Godwin (TB)
Tyler Lockett (SEA)
Robert Woods (LAR)
Cooper Kupp (LAR)
Adam Thielen (MIN)
Julio Jones (TEN)
D.J. Moore (CAR)
6 Diontae Johnson (PIT)
Tee Higgins (CIN)
Ja’Marr Chase (CIN)
Brandon Aiyuk (SF)
Odell Beckham Jr. (CLE)
Chase Claypool (PIT)
7 Robby Anderson (CAR)
Jerry Jeudy (DEN)
Kenny Golladay (NYG)
Laviska Shenault (JAX)
Juju Smith-Schuster (PIT)
Deebo Samuel (SF)
Courtland Sutton (DEN)
D.J. Chark (JAX)
Mike Williams (LAC)
Tyler Boyd (CIN)
Jarvis Landry (CLE)
Brandin Cooks (HOU)
Michael Gallup (DAL)
Will Fuller (MIA)
8 Corey Davis (NYJ)
Marvin Jones (JAX)
Marquise Brown (BAL)
Devonta Smith (PHI)
Marquez Callaway (NO)
Michael Pittman Jr. (IND)
Curtis Samuel (WAS)
DeVante Parker (MIA)
Michael Thomas (NO)
Antonio Brown (TB)
Jaylen Waddle (MIA)
9 Elijah Moore (NYJ)
Cole Beasley (BUF)
Darnell Mooney (CHI)
Mecole Hardman (KC)
Henry Ruggs (LV)
Russell Gage (ATL)
Nelson Agholor (NE)
Jakobi Meyers (NE)
Rondale Moore (ARI)
Jalen Reagor (PHI)
Gabriel Davis (BUF)
Sterling Shepard (NYG)
Tyrell Williams (DET)
10 Terrace Marshall (CAR)
Bryan Edwards (LV)
Amon-Ra St. Brown (DET)
Tre’Quan Smith (NO)
Emmanuel Sanders (BUF)
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (GB)
Christian Kirk (ARI)
Nico Collins (HOU)
Jamison Crowder (NYJ)
11 Zach Pascal (IND)
K.J. Hamler (DEN)
Josh Palmer (LAC)
Byron Pringle (KC)
Sammy Watkins (BAL)
A.J. Green (ARI)
Parris Campbell (IND)
Kendrick Bourne (NE)
Randall Cobb (GB)
Hunter Renfrow (LV)
Darius Slayton (NYG)
Van Jefferson (LAR)

2021 Fantasy TE Tiers

Tier Players
1 Travis Kelce (KC)
2 Darren Waller (LV)
3 George Kittle (SF)
4 Mark Andrews (BAL)
Kyle Pitts (ATL)
T.J. Hockenson (DET)
5 Noah Fant (DEN)
Logan Thomas (WAS)
Tyler Higbee (LAR)
Robert Tonyan Jr. (GB)
Mike Gesicki (MIA)
6 Dallas Goedert (PHI)
Jonnu Smith (NE)
Hunter Henry (NE)
7 Evan Engram (NYG)
Anthony Firkser (TEN)
Gerald Everett (SEA)
Jared Cook (LAC)
Austin Hooper (CLE)
Rob Gronkowski (TB)
Cole Kmet (CHI)
Zach Ertz (PHI)
Blake Jarwin (DAL)
8 Eric Ebron (PIT)
Hayden Hurst (ATL)
Adam Trautman (NO)
Tyler Conklin (MIN)
Dawson Knox (BUF)

2021 Fantasy Defense Tiers

Tier Teams
1 Washington Football Team
Los Angeles Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pittsburgh Steelers
2 San Francisco 49ers
Cleveland Browns
Buffalo Bills
New England Patriots
Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins
Baltimore Ravens
New Orleans Saints
Indianapolis Colts
Seattle Seahawks
Denver Broncos
3 Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings
Los Angeles Chargers
Arizona Cardinals
Philadelphia Eagles
Chicago Bears
Tennessee Titans
New York Jets
New York Giants
Dallas Cowboys
4 Jacksonville Jaguars
Carolina Panthers
Atlanta Falcons
Las Vegas Raiders
Cincinnati Bengals
5 Detroit Lions
Houston Texans

2021 Fantasy Kicker Tiers

Tier Players
1 Harrison Butker (KC)
Justin Tucker (BAL)
Greg Zuerlein (DAL)
Tyler Bass (BUF)
2 Jason Sanders (MIA)
Matt Gay (LAR)
Ryan Succop (TB)
Younghoe Koo (ATL)
Brandon McManus (DEN)
3 Graham Gano (NYG)
Tristan Vizcaino (LAC)
Jason Myers (SEA)
Quinn Nordin (NE)
Rodrigo Blankenship (IND)
Chris Boswell (PIT)
Matt Prater (ARI)
4 Daniel Carlson (LV)
Robbie Gould (SF)
Josh Lambo (JAX)
Dustin Hopkins (WAS)
Matt Ammendola (NYJ)
Cairo Santos (CHI)
Ryan Santoso (CAR)
Chase McLaughlin (CIN)
Cody Parkey (CLE)
Mason Crosby (GB)
Sam Ficken (TEN)
Greg Joseph (MIN)
5 Jake Elliott (PHI)
Ka’imi Fairbairn (HOU)
Austin Seibert (DET)
Saints Kickers

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