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Best and Worst Fantasy Draft Picks in Round 1: Austin Ekeler Reigns, Davante Adams Risk

Any first-round pick is a good player, but many variables go into making a smart pick.

Is Colts RB Jonathan Taylor the “best” pick in Round 1? What exactly constitutes the best or worst pick by round? Is it just who scores the most or fewest points? We’re going to try to answer those sorts of questions to think outside the box. Fantasy football is more than just picking players for a team that scores points generated from their production. It’s sort of like a math puzzle inside of NFL games based on your league’s scoring system. Furthermore, it’s easy to forget that football is a team game, compared the "individual" nature of fantasy football. So, one player’s on-field performance directly affects his teammates. Whether it’s a strong offensive line supporting a stud running back or a breakout receiver boosting the stats of his quarterback, a great (or bad) supporting cast creates a ripple effect throughout their team. All of this plays a factor in what constitutes a best or worst pick.

First, let’s spotlight the 12 players who make up Round 1 by average draft position:

Round 1 ADP


Jonathan Taylor




Christian McCaffrey




Justin Jefferson




Cooper Kupp




Ja'Marr Chase




Austin Ekeler




Derrick Henry




Stefon Diggs




Dalvin Cook




Davante Adams




Najee Harris




Travis Kelce




Best pick in Round 1

Best is subjective. What's best to me may not be what's best for you. So let's start by defining what is best: The player that has the most upside, the least risk for the lowest draft capital. So for example, Travis Kelce is a great add with the 12th pick; however, having the last pick in Round 1 means you’ve got the last pick in Round 3. So assuming you draft a RB or WR in Round 2, you won't have your RB1 or WR1 until the 36th pick. Because of that, I can't even consider Kelce; while I would gain a big scoring edge at TE, I lose too many points waiting until the third round to grab a RB1 or WR1. Furthermore, that creates a ripple effect where I'm waiting an extra round for my RB2, WR2 and so on.

With all that in mind, I believe the best pick in the first is Austin Ekeler at 1.06. When I'm next on the clock at 2.07 (pick 19), I can double up at running back with Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones or Javonte Williams. If I choose to go with a wide receiver, I might get lucky and have Deebo Samuel fall to me (ADP 17.9) or more realistically, I can make a light reach for Mike Evans (ADP 22.5) or Tyreek Hill (ADP 23.6).

Ekeler has a young, emerging quarterback in Justin Herbert. The Chargers’ offensive line is above average, anchored by LT Rashawn Slater. I don't believe Ekeler will score 20 touchdowns again (12 rushing, 8 receiving in 2021), but he's the clear bell-cow back on a still-improving team and can contribute on all three downs. 

Honorable mention: Jonathan Taylor, who should see a stat boost with the arrival of Matt Ryan.

Las Vegas Raiders Davante Adams

Worst pick in Round 1

Since I was bad-mouthing Kelce just a minute ago, you might assume he is the worst pick. Not so fast, my friends!

That distinction goes to Davante Adams. Allow me to be a bit hyperbolic and say that Adams is one of the nastiest, most determined and best blends of route-running, hands, agility, vision and everything in between that makes a great receiver great. But it really is so simple to point out that going to Las Vegas creates too much mystery at his 10.9 ADP. Yes, Christian McCaffrey has been hurt for most of the last two years. Derrick Henry is coming back from a serious injury. Cooper Kupp will certainly regress after posting the best WR season basically ever. Ja'Marr Chase was last year's WR5 and was touchdown-dependent (13 TDs), something you never want to count on in PPR leagues.

All this to say that every player has inherent risk and a multitude of variables we can and can't see. What we can see is Adams in the Raiders' silver and black. Last year, Hunter Renfrow led the team with 128 targets, catching 103 of them for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns. Kudos to him for having an 80.5% catch rate. But without question, if Adams was given all 128 of those targets, he would've done more and scored more. Renfrow is no real threat to Adams's production. However, over the last four seasons, he has averaged 10.77 targets per game (614 over 57 games), most in the league in that span (next best are Michael Thomas with 9.92 in 39 games and Antonio Brown 9.68 in 31 games). Adams never finished lower than tied for second in targets per game over that span—nobody comes close to his consistency and production. That's why he's had first-round ADP for years.

New team, new quarterback. We know the narrative here. To me, it's not just about that narrative. It's about the numbers. There's a reason Aaron Rodgers force-fed Adams the ball and it's because he's consistently great. He will be great with the Raiders. I just believe the targets per game will decline and the TD scoring potential declines. Adams has scored double-digit touchdowns every season except one since 2016, so while he is a PPR monster, he has had a light reliance on touchdowns. So not only do we need him to be the PPR guy, we also need this offense to rely on him in the red zone. It's just too big of an ask for me at a 10.9 ADP being on a new team.

Look, if someone could guarantee me that the Raiders' first year offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi and new head coach Josh McDaniels will give him 150-plus targets, then maybe the "worst" pick isn't Adams. But as the only player in the top 12 of ADP on a new team with so much in flux, that's a major unknown and why he makes this list.

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