Top-10 Fantasy Football Picks 2021: Safe, Boom, Bust

Max Staley
Breaking down the top-10 fantasy picks of the 2021 football season as safe, boom, or busts.
Breaking down the top-10 fantasy picks of the 2021 football season as safe, boom, or busts. / Justin Casterline/Getty Images

You can't win your fantasy league in the first round. But you can lose it. Missing on a top-10 pick makes it very difficult to compete, as you'll really have to nail your in-season additions and mid-to-late round picks to have any chance.

Let's break down the top-10 fantasy picks, according to FantasyPros' average draft position (ADP) rankings, and see whether they'll be safe, a "boom" or a bust.

1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers – SAFE

Christian McCaffrey missed most of the 2020 season due to injuries, but it's not like he suffered a truly devastating injury like an ACL or Achilles tear. He sprained his ankle, shoulder and thigh. That's likely more due to bad luck than anything else, and he should be back to 100% this season. No one can match his combination of talent and opportunity. If healthy, it'd be a shock to see him finish as anything other than the overall RB1.

2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings – SAFE

Like CMC before him, the only concern with Dalvin Cook is injuries. If he's healthy, there's no reason not to expect a monster season. Cook should be the bell-cow on a top-10 offense and he's a big-play threat as both a receiver and a rusher. None of the backs behind him on the Vikings look like a threat to eat into his workload significantly, so it appears he's headed for another 350-touch campaign. He turned that into 1,900-plus yards from scrimmage and 17 total TDs and could very well do it again.

3. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints – BUST

Alvin Kamara will be fine, but if you're taking him as the RB3 you may be a little disappointed. Most of Kamara's appeal comes from his value as a pass-catcher, and the absence of Drew Brees could really hurt him in that regard. In the four games Brees missed, Kamara averaged just 2.5 receptions for 12.8 receiving yards per game. He was the RB11 in PPR formats during that span. That's a stark contrast to the 7.4 receptions and 72.0 receiving yards per outing he averaged before Week 11, propelling him to overall RB1 status in PPR leagues from Week 1-10. In his defense, the Saints don't exactly have many good pass-catchers this season, so Kamara could be peppered with targets. But Taysom Hill didn't look his way much last year, and Jameis Winston is certainly not a check-down QB. A healthy Kamara will be an RB1, but he may not be a top-three lock any more.

4. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans – BUST

The loss of Arthur Smith could really hurt Derrick Henry. Smith served as Tennessee's offensive coordinator in 2019 and 2020, helping guide Henry to finishes of RB5 and RB3 in PPR leagues, respectively. Prior to that, he had never finished higher than RB16 – though he was in more of a timeshare to begin his career. But the addition of Julio Jones could make the Titans a lot more pass-heavy than we've seen in recent years. And Henry offers next to nothing as a receiver, grabbing fewer than 20 receptions in all five of his NFL seasons. A potential dip in rushing volume could really hurt his fantasy outlook as he's extremely unlikely to make up for it as a receiver. But he has a habit of running wild down the stretch. Henry may be someone to stay away from in drafts but target for a mid-to-late season trade if possible.

5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys – BOOM

This looks like it's going to be a vintage season from Ezekiel Elliott. The Dallas Cowboys offensive line appears to be healthy once again, and Dak Prescott should be just fine, too. Elliott was the overall RB3 in PPR formats when Prescott was healthy from Week 1-5. Don't be scared off by his underwhelming 2020 campaign, Elliott is going to eat this season.

6. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants – BUST

Saquon Barkley is coming off a devastating ACL injury. That's concerning for running backs. Dalvin Cook, one of the most explosive backs in the league, tore his ACL in 2017 and didn't look like himself the following year. It wasn't until the next season (2019) that Cook returned to being a true Pro Bowl-level back. Saquon is much more of a physical freak than Cook, but that injury history makes him a very risky pick in the top 10. Pair that with the iffy play of Daniel Jones and there are a lot of red flags here.

7. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers – SAFE

Now that Aaron Rodgers is back with the Green Bay Packers, Davante Adams should be one of the safest picks in all of fantasy. He's averaged at least 90.0 receiving yards per game in two of his last three seasons, notching at least 10 TD receptions in four of his last five. Adams will be a top-three WR week in and week out as long as he's healthy.

8. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs – SAFE

Travis Kelce is another one of the safest assets in fantasy. That's partly due to his excellent play, and partly due to the state of the tight end position in general. Even if he fails to replicate the 1,400-yard, 11-TD season he had last year, the difference between Kelce and the rest of the TEs is outrageous. He averaged 20.9 PPR points on a per-game basis in 2020. Last year's TE6 Robert Tonyan checked in with 11.0 per game. Starting Kelce is like getting to start an extra player every week and that doesn't look likely to change in 2021.

9. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns – BOOM

After returning from injury, Nick Chubb was fantasy's RB5 in PPR formats and RB4 in standard-scoring leagues from Week 9-17. If he plays a full 16-game season we should get a top-five RB season from Chubb. Cleveland has a run-heavy offense and the league's best run-blocking OL, according to ProFootballFocus. Chubb will be a top-five back in PPR leagues all year and could be in consideration for overall RB1 status were Kareem Hunt ever to go down.

10. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs – SAFE

Tyreek Hill has amassed 1,300-plus yards from scrimmage and 13-plus touchdowns in two of his last three seasons. He would've been right around those numbers had he and Patrick Mahomes stayed healthy in 2019. Coming off a 17-touchdown campaign, Hill's usage could even increase in 2021 due to the loss of Sammy Watkins (55 targets in 2020), as the Chiefs didn't really bring in a readymade replacement. He's got a high floor and a limitless ceiling. He should be one of the safest picks in fantasy.

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Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.