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Low-Risk First-Round Draft Picks in 2021 Fantasy Leagues

Low Risk First Round Draft Picks
by Alan Seslowsky – Twitter: @Alanseslowsky

You can’t win your fantasy football league with your first round draft pick, but you certainly can lose it. A common mistake that experienced fantasy football players make is “swinging for the fences” in the first round. It is optimal to minimize risk in the first round and increase your upside quotient as the draft moves along. There is a strong case to draft a player with a high floor and slightly less upside in round one. Below is a list of three players that have the lower bust projection than of any players getting drafted in the top 24 ADP.

Derrick Henry, RB Titans (Age 27)

Derrick Henry is getting drafted in the top seven picks of most fantasy drafts. The knock on Henry is his lack of pass catching production in the NFL. RosterWatch agrees that the elite RBs gain the lion’s share of value from being a major part of the passing game. Those who make the case against Derrick Henry argue that in order for Henry to reach his value, he needs to have another year of epic yardage and TD totals. Playing it “safe” in round one with a player like Henry is a sound strategy. Henry has shouldered an enormous workload over the past two seasons, averaging over 340 carries in the regular season. Yet he shows no signs of slowing down. Henry is seldom on the weekly injury report. He has only missed two games over the past three seasons. 

Another argument against Henry as a first round pick is the fantasy football cliche; “You would rather be a year too early (not drafting Derrick Henry) than a year too late.” This is true but Henry is only 27 years old. The part of the draft market that is pushing against Derrick Henry is insinuating that Henry is past the age cliff. After Christian McCaffery is off the board, it is reasonable to consider Derrick Henry at any pick in any format. 


Ezekiel Elliott, RB Cowboys (Age 26)

The 2021 draft market is skeptical of Cowboys star-running back Ezekiel Elliott. A lot went wrong for Elliot and the Cowboys last season. Dak Prescott‘s season-ending injury and key offensive line injuries were major factors to a disappointing finish to the season for Elliot. While Dak Prescott was healthy, Zeke was dominating fantasy football. He was the RB3 for the first five weeks of 2020. Zeke is still in his peak at age 26 (July) and early reports are that he looks good in off season activities. There is concern that running back Tony Pollard who flashed last season could eat into Zeke’s workload. This may not be a bad thing. The NFL is playing an extra game in 2021, and RB wear and tear is going to lead to lighter workloads for all primary ball carriers. 

Elliot has missed one game over the past three seasons. That is incredible durability for a lead runner. He is another player that seldom has a “questionable” tag during the week. Zeke still has a high floor for production and is one of the safest picks in the first round. 


Nick Chubb, RB Browns (Age 25)

Nick Chubb is one of the best pure runners in the NFL. He is consistently among the league leaders in running efficiency. Nick Chubb’s upside is capped slightly by the presence of Kareem Hunt, an excellent running back in his own right. Unlike Henry and Elliot, Chubb has missed strings of games. Chubb has not totaled more than 36 receptions in a season so far in his career. The primary reason RosterWatch views Chubb as a safe play is his unquestioned workload, the upward trajectory of the Browns’ offense, and the team’s commitment to the run. Chubb is unlikely to finish as the RB1, but is a great bet to finish as a top seven RB. His ADP is on the fringe of the first round.

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