6 players to draft outside the top 100 in fantasy football


Recently, FTN content czar Josh Collacchi asked me to write a piece highlighting six players to select in fantasy football drafts outside of the top 100.

This is that piece.

Naturally, I have some questions. First of all, why six? Is that a magic SEO number? Why not five? Or 10?

Secondly, what’s the difference between a “player to draft outside the top 100” and a “sleeper”? I don’t understand why we’re not simply calling this a sleeper piece. Josh … why? What’s going on here?

Thirdly, Josh, why is it that you repeatedly tell me I need to “work on my introductions”? What’s wrong with my introductions? So far, this piece is a banger.

Fourthly, is “fourthly” even a word? I figure you can make most words into other words simply by adding “-ly” to the end of it — but that doesn’t mean it’s technically correct.

Clearly, I have more questions I could ask, but I’ll stop there.

(Take advantage of the FTNFantasy Platinum package for the 2021 season!)

Since joining FTN last month, I’ve written a number of fantasy football pieces highlighting players I like for 2021:

Out of these pieces, I’m sure I’ll be able to find six players I like currently going outside the top 100 (via our ADP Report Tool). It’s time to copy and paste.

Sam Darnold is a sneaky late fantasy pick

(ADP: 182.6, QB27)

Either the industry is too high on wide receivers D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson and running back Christian McCaffrey, or it’s too low on quarterback Sam Darnold.

In head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady, Darnold finally has mentors with the ability to help him become a true professional …

… and he has the pass-catching playmakers around him to elevate his game.

Disclosure: I’m skeptical that Darnold will actually be productive enough to support all of his pass catchers in fantasy. It’s not hard to imagine Darnold massively underwhelming this year with 2020 Teddy Bridgewater-like production.

But at his acquisition cost, his downside is well accounted for and his upside is heavily discounted — and that makes him a player I want to roster, especially in superflex leagues.

One of Nelson Sousa’s bold predictions for 2021 is that Darnold will be a top-12 fantasy quarterback.

To get all of Sousa’s analysis, check out his high-stakes fantasy package, which comes with coaching sessions and Sousa’s rankings.

Gus Edwards should produce enough to offer fantasy value

(ADP: 119.8, RB42)

Adam Pfeifer thinks that Gus Edwards is the best fantasy value on the Ravens, and I agree.

Edwards is likely to play behind running back J.K. Dobbins in 2021, but over the past three seasons, only two players in the NFL have had 100-plus carries and averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry each year: Nick Chubb … and Edwards.

With quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have a voluminous and prolific rushing attack that opens up running lanes for the backs, and Edwards is slated for regular usage this year as a trusted-and-efficient between-the-tackles grinder at worst — and if Dobbins doesn’t live up to the hype for whatever reason, then Edwards could be in line for a 2019 Mark Ingram-like 1,200-yard, 15-touchdown season.

Since entering the league in 2018, Edwards has been one of the league’s most north-south hit-the-hole running backs (based on his Efficiency Metric at Next Gen Stats): 

  • 2020: 3.2 Efficiency (No. 3)
  • 2019: 2.93 Efficiency (No. 1)
  • 2018: 2.78 Efficiency (No. 1)

His talent and potential in the Ravens offense are undeniable.

(Get an All Access pass to FTN NFL coverage across all sites for $349.99.)

Alexander Mattison has a path to fantasy stardom

(ADP: 139.5, RB48)

Alexander Mattison is a solid producer with 4.6 yards per carry and 7.7 yards per target for his career, and the Vikings selected him as a 21-year-old rookie with third-round draft capital two years ago, so the team at least values him.

Mattison won’t see much work as a change-of-pace option behind lead back Dalvin Cook, but Mattison is one of the best pure handcuffs available. He disappointed last year in Week 6 filling in for an injured Cook, but in Week 17 he had an impressive 21-95-1 rushing, 3-50-1 receiving performance in Cook’s absence.

In Mattison’s seven career games with 12-plus carries, he has averaged 85.6 scrimmage yards, and in his two games with 16-plus carries, he has averaged 140.5 yards. The sample is small, but it is encouraging. If Cook misses time for some reason, Mattison will be a top-12 back for the duration.

Mike Williams could put it all together for fantasy this year

(ADP: 119.5, WR48)

I recently drafted Mike Williams at 9.11 in the FTN staff 12-team league, and I was very happy to get him there. 

Williams has had 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns in separate seasons, so he has the ability to produce, and now he’s slated to play the “Michael Thomas X” role in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s system.

Over the past three years, Williams has been one of the league’s most efficient receivers on a per-opportunity basis, ranking No. 12 with 9.9 yards per target among all players with 100-plus targets.

It’s not hard to see why Williams is one of Nelson Sousa’s mid-round targets and one of Eliot Crist’s top upside players for best ball.

Amon-Ra St. Brown could see huge work as a rookie

(ADP: 211.6, WR73)

I don’t want to overstate Amon-Ra St. Brown’s potential, but the last receiver selected on Day 3 of the draft with St. Brown’s combination of five-star pedigree, first-year college production and immediate NFL opportunity was Stefon Diggs in 2015, when he was the No. 1 receiver for the Vikings despite playing just 13 games.

As Brett Whitefield mentioned in St. Brown’s pre-draft prospect profile, he is a versatile receiver who can line up all across the formation and run efficient routes at all levels of the field. He’s especially good in the slot, where he’s likely to line up most this year with veterans Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams on the perimeter, and in the middle of the field he could become a Cooper Kupp-like go-to option for short-throwing quarterback Jared Goff.

In our 2021 FTN player projections we have St. Brown projected for more targets than Perriman and Williams, and It would not be a surprise if he led the Lions in receiving.

Jonnu Smith has big-time fantasy upside in New England

(ADP: 132.8, TE14)

Jonnu Smith is often a frustrating player to roster. His talent is apparent: Among all tight ends with 50 targets per year over the past three seasons, Smith is No. 8 with 8.0 yards per target, and over that time he’s No. 5 at the position with 15 touchdowns. He’s an explosive playmaker.

But to this point in his career, he is yet to earn usage commensurate with his talent, and he now enters an uncertain situation in his first year with the Patriots. Last year, quarterback Cam Newton almost never targeted his tight ends, the pass-catching unit in New England has been completely overhauled, Smith might play behind tight end Hunter Henry, and we don’t know whether Newton or rookie Mac Jones will open the year at quarterback.

Hilariously, Derek Brown highlighted New England as one of the worst fantasy landing spots for Smith before free agency — and of course that’s where he signed — but I’m still intrigued.

Uncertainty creates possibility, and regardless of whoever plays at quarterback for the Pats, Smith might emerge as the No. 1 receiver in the offense, because in comparison to Henry and wide receivers Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers, he truly might be the best all-around and most efficient player on a per-route basis.

On top of that, some Patriots beat writers believe that rookie Mac Jones will start in Week 1, which should give a boost to the passing game.

No one has any real idea how the Patriots will distribute targets this year or how voluminously the Patriots will throw the ball, but if Smith finds himself with 100-plus targets, he could be a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown monster.

(Take advantage of the FTNFantasy Platinum package for the 2021 season!)

Previous Drafters best ball strategy – Late-round gems to target Next Jameis Winston named Saints starter – Fantasy impact