To the average person, asking someone if they play fantasy football may be expected to induce a binary “yes or no” answer. However, for hardcore enthusiasts, this is not the case. Do you play PPR, half-PPR, or with multiple quarterbacks? Auction drafts, snake drafts, or linear drafts? What other scoring and roster setting quirks does your league have? There are so many intricacies when it comes to playing fantasy football that make it so exciting to participate in.
However, the #1 method to create a more complex fantasy football format is to run a dynasty league. In this format, the players on your roster remain with you for as long as you please- it can be for their entire career! Think of this similarly to how NFL front offices run their teams; you are forced to make tough decisions that you might not have to make in redraft league. Should you go all-in on a championship and trade future draft picks? When to get younger? How do you make sure you maintain enough depth at critical positions? Can you create a clear window/path to contention? All of this is pivotal when it comes to building a successful dynasty team, which is why it is my personal favorite format.
With that, I am excited to publish my 2021 fantasy football top-400 dynasty rankings! We’ve already looked at the top-300 players in redraft formats, yet there are clear difference when it comes to the rankings. With us trying to forecast production beyond this year, age/time in the league obviously plays a major role. Meanwhile, consistent volume is less of a future guarantee, meaning that the quality of the player matters much more- this is another benefit of participating in dynasty leagues. Thus, as opposed to redraft leagues, which remain more popular, there are much more ways to gain an edge in dynasty leagues, especially with player evaluation playing a much greater role in the process. We’ll start with the top-400 rankings, before taking a deeper look into each position- we’ll try to identify where the value is. Without further adieu, let’s get right into it!
Note: To create overall rankings regardless of position, I utilized xADP, which is introduced in the redraft rankings. All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
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For Redraft Quarterback Rankings Click HERE
- The top five of the quarterbacks remain the same when converting from redraft to dynasty, though I do believe the gap between Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the pack greatness. Still only 25-years-old, there’s little to suggest his situation changing any time soon, and there are much more questions about the overall quality of the player with Allen, Murray, and Jackson. That said, I’d always be careful attacking the quarterback position.
- Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow each had strong rookie seasons, increasing optimism that they can be building blocks for years to come in fantasy. Herbert likely offers more of a rushing floor than Burrow, though the Bengals’ signal-caller performed much better from a clean pocket and is a relatively safe option to bank on for the future. That said, the obvious safe option is Russell Wilson, though the 32-year-old’s fantasy value could take a hit- there are questions about how his high-sack play style ages in the future and it’s reasonable to expect his rushing production to eventually diminish.
- Then, there are the rookies. As someone who broke all of Pro Football Focus’ accuracy records and is also a dynamic runner, I’m very convinced that Justin Fields should be considered the rookie QB1. The debate, however, between Trey Lance and Trevor Lawrence is much greater. While Lawrence is the better bet to be the superior “real-life” quarterback, it’s very hard to be a premier fantasy quarterback without consistent rushing prowess, which Lance offers. Zach Wilson, meanwhile, definitely lags behind the rest with less upside as a runner in addition to same small reasons to not be 100% confident in his qualities of a passer enough to make up for that. Also, please don’t rush to the proverbial podium to draft Mac Jones, a clear pocket passer with any noticeable big-play ability, before the other rookie quarterbacks have been taken.
- Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa might seem strangely ranked, considering I have Hurts as the much better fantasy quarterback this season. The key here is draft capital. The Dolphins are invested in Tagovailoa after selecting with the 5th overall pick, increasing the likelihood he’ll get every chance to succeed; hence, them signing Will Fuller and drafting Jaylen Waddle to improve his receiving corps. Hurts, meanwhile, is a former second-round pick who did not perform well in several advanced passing metrics last season. With Philadelphia owning three first-round picks in next year’s draft, I think it’s likely a different quarterback is starting under center for them in 2022.
- Perhaps Jordan Love will see his value increase if Aaron Rodgers were not to play for the Packers this season, though Love didn’t provide much as a runner at Utah State, nor was his 76.8 PFF passing grade as a junior impressive for a small-school quarterback. I wouldn’t overreact to him potentially getting the starting quarterback job a year early.
For redraft running back rankings, click HERE
- With the top-three running backs intact, the first major change is the fall of Ezekiel Elliot. In redraft, the likelihood he is the workhorse back for a successful offense and benefits from positive regression cannot be overlooked. Yet, with five straight seasons with a major workload and lackluster numbers after contact, he could be hit by the aging curve hard- he also only has only two more guaranteed years under contract with Dallas. Thus, it makes more sense to bet on Jonathan Taylor’s youth and Alvin Kamara’s dual-threat ability.
- The second-year running backs, outside of Taylor, are all clustered quite closely to one another. Cam Akers has the best chance of having the greatest workload in the future, though he might offer the least amount of dual-threat prowess. Those players are as interchangeable as it gets.
- It was very difficult to rank Nick Chubb, Austin Ekeler, and Derrick Henry. In the end, I combined the quality of the player with their age. Chubb (career 4.03 yards/after contact) might be the best pure runner in the NFL, making him relatively situation-independent, and he’s yet to have a massive workload- we’d feel better about his future had he already signed a long-term deal with Cleveland. Given his receiving ability and the fact he hasn’t commanded a heavy workload to be productive in the past, I feel very confident also in Ekeler being very consistent in PPR past his prime. Henry, on the other hand, is someone I’d look to fade in dynasty. He’s already likely to see regression with his efficiency and touchdown numbers, but also could see less of a workload in the past and is entering the dead zone (27-years-old) for workhorse running backs. Without any production as a receiver, this definitely is a profile that could be on the downslope soon.
- Many will be surprise to see Najee Harris so high, yet I don’t get the hesitation? Running backs undergo a very low learning curve from college to pro, as other factors play a much larger role in production. What should matter much more is that he has first-round capital attached to him, contributes in all facets, and plays for an organization with a history of strongly preferring to have just one running back featured in their offense. Being able to extract that value for the entirety of his rookie contract is incredibly enticing. I do think Travis Etienne and Javonte Williams were superior prospects, but we can’t be sure they’ll ever grow into the role Harris already has. It’s very close later on between Trey Sermon and Michael Carter, meanwhile. Carter is, in my opinion, the more complete prospect, but Sermon simply might be more appealing for fantasy in an offense that consistent enables such strong running back success.
- I’d generally want to have my building-block running backs before relying on players already with limited roles. Later on, though, AJ Dillon, Zack Moss, and Tony Pollard all qualify as quality players who could see much greater workloads in the future. Damien Harris is another name to keep an eye on as well if New England’s running back pecking order ever settles completely.
- My favorite “sleeper” running back? Elijah Mitchell. The 49ers’ sixth-round pick earned PFF grades of 84.7 or higher in three straight seasons at Louisiana and was fantastic after contract. Draft capital is not something that has played a role in Kyle Shanahan’s running back preferences in the past, and there’s too much to like in the quality of the player to not take a shot on.
For redraft wide receiver rankings, click HERE
- Of the top redraft receivers, only one offers the combination of consistent big-play ability (less reliance on targets) and quarterback/offense stability that Tyreek Hill has. It’s unclear who Davante Adams will be catching passes from, while the other top receivers in redraft formats (D’Andre Hopkins, Stefon Diggs) are a bit more target dependent
- In my opinion, the clear premier ascending receivers to target in dynasty are Justin Jefferson, AJ Brown, and Calvin Ridley. Jefferson and Brown are entering their second and third seasons, respectively, and finished in the top three in both PFF receiving grade AND yards/route run. They are currently competing with a veteran receiver for targets, but both have an incredibly bright future that I would want to be on. Ridley, meanwhile, is the current top fantasy receiver of the bunch, though is also older and isn’t QUITE as efficient as the other two. DK Metcalf, meanwhile, is a clear step behind this trio when it comes to his efficiency metrics. A major third season could be coming, yet I’d be careful putting him on the “elite” tier the other three are already at.
- When factoring in his intriguing redraft fantasy outlook with his prospect profile, CeeDee Lamb is certainly a player I’ll look to target, while Michael Thomas’ overall quality as a receiver seems to have been completely forgotten from one injury-riddled season. The same also could be said about Chris Godwin, who was PFF’s most valuable receiver in 2019 and could ascend back into an elite fantasy option with greater target clarity in the future.
- It’s not surprising to see Ja’Marr Chase stand out from the pack in terms of rookie receivers. He, quite honestly, is the most complete receiving prospect in some time and has ridiculous fantasy potential. Meanwhile, it’s very tight between Alabama rookies De’Vonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. My pre-draft work suggests Waddle was the better prospect, but Smith is more likely to command a greater target share and be less volatile on a week-to-week basis. I also am a major fan of Elijah Moore and Rashod Bateman, who each had absurdly strong college production, while Rondale Moore and Terrace Marshall Jr. each have a clear path to wide receiver #2 roles in their offense. That’s less of a guarantee with Dyami Brown and Ka’Darius Toney, however, while Amon-Ra St.Brown doesn’t offer much big-play ability.
- My favorite rookie target? Nico Collins, who posted dominant athletic testing numbers, worked a vertical route tree in college, and was hampered by poor quarterback play. He’s definitely the non early-round receiver I’d want to invest in, with Tylan Wallace also standing out simply based on his prospect profile.
- Onto the second-year receivers! Tee Higgins, Brandon Aiyuk, and Chase Claypool are all very similar in that they produced as a rookie and should only have improved roles in the future, especially Claypool; they’re interchangeable, though a step down from Jefferson and Lamb. The one player, though, that I want to bank on is Jerry Jeudy. Assuming he gets better quarterback play in the future and sees positive regression from his drops, his elite separation abilities will be put on display, and there’s a reason he was such a highly-regarded prospect. I’m less optimistic about Henry Ruggs III, Michael Pittman Jr., and Jalen Reagor, though; Pittman likely doesn’t offer enough down the field, while Ruggs and Reagor are trending more towards being secondary targets as opposed to those commanding a very high target share.
- In general, invest in players whose numbers aren’t reliant on a high amount of targets. That’s what makes me a bit less optimistic about Diontae Johnson, DJ Chark Jr., and Keenan Allen in dynasty, whereas Laviska Shenault Jr., Michael Gallup, and even Juju Smith-Schuster might offer more value here than in redraft.
- I’m always going to be enticed by Mecole Hardman, who has a chance to be a key contributor in the Chiefs passing game and earned a target/route run at almost the same rate as Tyreek Hill. He’s been efficient int he past and offers a lot after the catch, so keep a close eye on him.
For redraft tight end rankings, click HERE
- Travis Kelce remains the top tight end here even at age of 31, while George Kittle goes ahead of Darren Waller considering how less target-dependent he is; his efficiency is significantly better.
- Kyle Pitts is someone I’m cautious of in redraft formats considering the learning curve tight ends go through at the NFL level, but his ridiculous fantasy upside beyond this year cannot be ignored. Also, be prepared for a major third-year leap for TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant, though one could make the argument they’ve already shown enough from the second season based on their underlying numbers.
- I definitely want to secure a top-8 tight end in dynasty startup drafts. If not, I guess take a gamble on Irv Smith Jr., who is still 22-years-old, or Mike Gesicki? That said, this is definitely the “dead-zone” for tight ends both in redraft and dynasty.
- Of the second-year tight ends, I think there’s a bit too much hype for Cole Kmet in redraft formats given how poor his rookie season was even when he got a larger opportunity and his middling college production, though at least there’s athleticism and youth to bank on. That said, Adam Trautman looks to have been the superior prospect and also has a) a better immediate role and b) a better situation.
- OJ Howard is a decent dynasty stash as a super efficient tight end that could either be on another team or benefit from Rob Gronkowski out of the picture soon. Meanwhile, this was a relatively thin tight end class outside of Pitts; Pat Freiermuth, Hunter Long, Tommy Tremble, and Brevin Jordan all come with noticeable question marks that make me don’t convinced they grow into starting tight end options.
The beauty of dynasty rankings is that, unlike in redraft formats, they are of great importance at all times. Remember, ever waiver move, trade, or any transaction you make can have massive implications on your team’s future well being, so having an idea about the value of the players on your roster is significant- these rankings aren’t just useful in startup drafts.
Are you going to go all-in on veterans? Looking to build a team full of youth to peak at the right time? There are so many different strategies you can use to build your dynasty teams. In fact, that’s the beauty of this format in general! I wish you the best of luck in not only building an immediate winner, but one for years to come as well!