With only one week left in the 2021 NFL preseason, we're entering a critical period for fantasy drafts. Leagues that haven't already drafted will do so soon, and it's up to managers to be prepared.
With two weeks of exhibition play in the rear view, managers do have some information on which to rely. While rosters won't be finalized until August 31, we have a good idea of what many of the starting lineups will look like. We also have a grasp on which rookies and free-agent additions are likely to see significant roles.
Injuries—and injury recoveries—should also play a factor in the predraft process. Few feelings in fantasy are worse than drafting a player only to realize that he won't be available until midway through the season.
Here, we'll examine some of the latest fantasy-related buzz around the NFL entering preseason Week 3. We'll also run down the top players for point-per-reception (PPR) leagues and some creative team-name suggestions for those looking to get their squads started.
1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
3. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
4. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
5. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
6. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
7. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
8. Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills
9. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
10. Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
11. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals
12. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
13. Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
14. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
15. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
16. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
17. DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
18. Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders
19. Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
20. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
21. A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
22. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
23. Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team
24. Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears
25. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
26. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
27. Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
28. Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Football Team
29. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
30. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys
31. Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams
32. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
33. Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys
34. Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
35. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
36. David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
37. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens
38. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
39. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
40. DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
Rolling with a rookie quarterback in fantasy is a boom-bust proposition. First-year quarterbacks can often be found late because they are not proven at the pro level. This can lead to uncovering a gem, as was the case with Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert last season.
The problem is that there's no telling how a rookie will fare, and in many cases, when he'll take the field.
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields has shown flashes in the preseason and might be a smart late-round pickup like Herbert. However, he isn't going to be the Week 1 starter. Bears coach Matt Nagy recently made it clear that veteran Andy Dalton will get the call to start the season.
"We need to see him in the regular season," Nagy said of Dalton, per ESPN's Michele Steele.
Managers should consider taking a late flier on Fields because he does have Herbert-esque upside. However, they cannot target him as their primary quarterback heading into Week 1.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is far more proven than a rookie like Fields. He has an offense loaded with talent, and he was leading the NFL with 1,856 passing yards when he suffered a season-ending ankle fracture last season.
However, his recovery must be considered on draft day. The ankle injury is one thing, but Prescott has also been dealing with a shoulder injury in camp.
On one hand, Prescott is expected to be ready to play by Week 1, according to ESPN's Stephania Bell. On the other hand, ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that Prescott may not be at 100 percent at any point this season.
"He’s not fully back. He may not be back all season long," Schefter said Friday during ESPN's broadcast of a preseason game (h/t Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk).
If fully healthy, Prescott would be a safe QB1 selection. Given the latest information, though, he too is a bit of a boom-bust prospect.
Like Prescott, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley is returning from injury. He suffered a torn ACL that eliminated most of his 2020 campaign.
While Barkley has yet to make his 2021 preseason debut, it could potentially happen this week against the New England Patriots.
"I'd say that's not decided yet," head coach Joe Judge said, per SNY's Scott Thompson. "We're going to talk with the medical team. The priority will be to continue ramping him up and doing more and more."
While it makes no sense for the Giants to rush Barkley onto the field for an exhibition game, the fact that the team is considering it is a positive sign. This suggests that the Penn State product is close to being game-ready.
Managers can target Barkley with the expectation that he'll be available in Week 1—though they must still consider that he may not be in preinjury form.
Managers should pick names that reflect both the players on their rosters and their own individual tastes. Therefore, it's usually best to wait until after drafting to put a name to your squad. However, we have a few fun suggestions for the 2021 season to help get you started: