2021 Postseason Draft Plan


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2021 Postseason Draft Plan

I’ve been redrafting a fantasy team for the NFL playoffs since the 80s. Back then, the playoff fantasy draft night was damn near the second-best night of the year because there wasn’t any other fantasy action until the real draft late in the summer. So I’ll always be fond of drafting a fresh team for the entirety of the NFL playoffs.

There are many different variations to these playoff leagues, but my strategies below apply to the generic league that drafts a complete team before the playoffs begin and it’s a set-it-and-forget it situation. It’s essentially Best Ball for the playoffs. But it’s different in that your best skill is your ability to predict which teams will advance in the playoffs.

Last year, I correctly predicted a TB-KC Super Bowl and drafted accordingly in the six-team 2020 Fantasy Points Staff Playoff League. Patrick Mahomes was the top pick, and I was actually fortunate to get the fifth pick because Tom Brady was available. Then I took Travis Kelce, Ronald Jones, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette, Le’Veon Bell, Sammy Watkins, Scotty Miller, Cameron Brate, Harrison Butker, and Tampa Bay’s Defense. 13 of my 16 picks were Bucs or Chiefs players, which is about as “all in” on a potential Super Bowl matchup as one can be in a playoff draft. It’s a volatile approach, and one I usually do NOT take in these types of drafts. But I was feeling a Bucs-Chiefs matchup BIG TIME and I went with it. I was the top scorer the final three weeks of the playoffs and easily won the league by nearly 100 points.

No matter how you slice it, your best chance for success is to predict the playoffs as close to the actual results. I’m not feeling a specific matchup this year as much as last year, but I am feeling a few teams in terms of producing numerous league-winning players. Here’s now I see the playoffs going (my pick is IN CAPS).

Wild Card Round

(7) Pittsburgh at (2) KANSAS CITY(7) Philadelphia at (2) TAMPA BAY
(6) New England at (3) BUFFALO(6) SAN FRANCISCO at (3) Dallas
(5) Las Vegas at (4) CINCINNATI(5) Arizona at (4) LA RAMS

Divisional Round

(4) CINCINNATI at (1) Tennessee(6) San Francisco at (1) GREEN BAY
(3) BUFFALO at (2) Kansas City(4) LA RAMS at (2) Tampa Bay

Championship Round

(4) Cincinnati at (3) BUFFALO(4) LA Rams at (1) GREEN BAY

Super Bowl LVI

(3) BUFFALO(1) Green Bay

I drafted accordingly in 2021 Fantasy Points Staff Playoff League, picking from the three spot and going with Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Dawson Knox, AJ Dillon, Tyler Boyd, Allen Lazard, Green Bay’s Defense, and Evan McPherson.

I could have taken Josh Allen, and I may regret not getting him, but I was intrigued by the upside of Joe Burrow and three games in the AFC, so I opted for Davante. Turns out, I got greedy and thought I could get Burrow at 15 overall. Scott Barrett got him at 11 so I turned to Plan B which was to load up on Bengals WRs.

It’s hard to get every matchup right, but you have to pick some upsets if you’re to get it all right, so that’s what I try to do. But it’s safe to say I feel good about a few teams and view them as keys to a 2021 playoff league victory. The tops ones are:

  1. Buffalo — I have them playing four games, and they have a lot of firepower.
  2. Green Bay — Their path to the SB in the NFC seems pretty easy to me.
  3. Cincinnati — I think they’re the top team to gamble on in these playoffs and I’m envisioning an epic Burrow vs. Allen matchup in the AFC title game.
  4. LA Rams — I’m picking them to upset the Bucs in the second round of the playoffs, but they could easily fall to Arizona in the first round. But you have to plant your flag somewhere.

The rest would be:

  • Kansas City — I have them playing only two games, but I could certainly be wrong and they could be a league-winning team. But I don’t think it’s their year.
  • Tampa Bay — I feel the same way about the Bucs as I do the Chiefs. They could certainly go on a run with the G.O.A.T. but it’s also clear to me it’s not their year, either.
  • San Francisco — I don’t view them as being quite as dangerous as some in the national media do, but I do have them beating Dallas, so that’s two games minimum and their key players can do some serious damage.
  • Dallas — I could certainly be wrong about them in the first round, and the game is in Dallas, where they usually take their play to a higher level.
  • Arizona — They could also win in the first round and be impactful in playoff leagues. But similar ro KC, TB, and Dal, I’m not feeling great about them because their level of play has dropped off late in the season.
  • Tennessee — I’m definitely a Titans hater, but Derrick Henry is a bit of a question mark in a one-and-done situation, and their passing game stinks.
  • Philadelphia — They’re not winning this week, but they can at least do some damage on the way out.
  • Pittsburgh — It’s kind of sad the Steelers are in the playoffs and Justin Herbert’s Chargers aren’t, and I just can’t feel good about them with Buzzkill Ben at QB. I may need to switch from beer to hard liquor to get through Ben Roethlisberger’s final game.

Here's a quick position-by-position look at my plan of action for this year’s playoff drafts along with some alternative paths at each spot.

The Quarterback Plan

Certainly, I’m more than fine with Josh Allen, whose Bills I think will play in four games. But I’d prefer to go for it with Joe Burrow and the Bengals, since Burrow will come at a lesser cost. The safest play, of course, is probably going with Aaron Rodgers. I could argue that he should be the #1 pick even though he’s not playing in the first round. If you think the Chiefs will make a run, then Patrick Mahomes is appealing to you. I do have the Chiefs playing in two games, and that’s my minimum criteria in most cases, especially in this case: if you’re good enough to play in two games, then you’re good enough to play in three or four games, and KC is that. Matthew Stafford is a little riskier, since he has been uneven and the Rams could break either way, but I’m predicting three games, so if I missed out on Allen or Burrow and opted to pass on Rodgers, then Stafford’s my target. Tom Brady’s obviously a viable option if you don’t address QB early in the draft, and then I’d look at Jimmy Garapollo as late as possible, since I have his 49ers playing in two games. If I have to pick among my one-and-done teams, Ryan Tannehill is obviously the best option and that’s where I’d go. Next, I’d look at Jalen Hurts, who has 30-point potential in just one game.

I view Dak Prescott and Kyler Murray as major wildcards. I’m picking them out of the playoffs after this weekend, but I could obviously be wrong. If I end up taking one of them, it’ll have to be because they were cheap and the draft flowed in an unusual way for me.

The Running Back Plan

It’s not a great group this year. You have to look at Aaron Jones as the best option this year, but he’s not a top-5 pick, which is unusual. Devin Singletary is the sneaky value guy this year. He went 21 overall in our 2021 Fantasy Points Staff Playoff League. I got AJ Dillon with the 34th pick of the draft, which I thought was solid value for a guy who should play two games in brutal conditions, plus a likely third game in LA. Sony Michel is also very interesting, since there’s no positive word on Darrell Henderson and Sony is now the guy no matter what. He went 18th overall to Tom Brolley in our draft, but I’d hope to get him a little later. I would have taken him at 22 overall, for what it’s worth. Joe Mixon is a major wildcard and he could be a league-winner. I’d guess he’ll go a little later than he did in our draft, which was 13th overall to Graham Barfield.

A little later in the draft, if I’m projecting you for at least two games and you’re also good, I’ll take you. So Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Leonard Fournette, and Elijah Mitchell stand out. Darrel Williams got hurt in Week 18, but the word is he will be okay, so he’s also viable as a high-end RB2 or a low-end RB1. Next there’s usually that decision between one-and-done stars players and secondary guys on teams you think will advance, but there’s less of that this year. That’s why getting the winning teams right is so critical because guys like Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliott could be league winners. I’m just not seeing it, though. The other options are mostly on one-and-done teams, and some of them are banged up like James Conner and Najee Harris, so it’s gotta be late for me to take them. Damien Harris is an interesting late flyer, since he’s scored a lot of TDs this year, and Rhamondre Stevenson is not without some upside. Josh Jacobs could also go out with a bang with TDs and/or a ton of catches.

One guy who could be sneaky is Zack Moss, but he’s only someone to take a flyer on late. The other late-round picks I like are Samaje Perine, Derrick Gore, Giovani Bernard, and Cam Akers.

The Wide Receiver Plan

It’s all about games played and this year’s WR group is strong, and for me that group is headlined, based on my playoff picks, by Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, Ja'Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins. A little later it’s Tyler Boyd as a target. And later still it’s Allen Lazard and Gabriel Davis as good targets.

I’m probably going to have to take a WR or two who I think will play in only two games, and there are a lot of good ones to choose from, including Tyreek Hill, Mike Evans, and Deebo Samuel, who are all capable of blowing up in two games and could play more than two. Brandon Aiyuk is sneaky 20-25 picks after Deebo is taken.

There are going to be holes in any starting lineup for the playoffs only, so I try to find the best value picks at all positions, and there are a lot of them at WR. There’s value later with some multi-game candidates like Cole Beasley, Odell Beckham, Marquez Valdes-Scantling,

Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Brandon Aiyuk, Van Jefferson, and maybe Emmanuel Sanders. Even later, very late, it’s Tyler Johnson and Isaiah McKenzie.

If I take a one-and-done guy, it better be late, and he better have upside. I like Diontae Johnson, Christian Kirk, Hunter Renfrow, and DeVonta Smith as the obvious guys with A.J. Green, Kendrick Bourne, Cedrick Wilson, and Antoine Wesley being the sneaky last-pick-of-the-draft types.

The Tight End Plan

It’s an interesting group this year led by Travis Kelce, but I’m not feeling the Chiefs, so I’ll be passing on him. Rob Gronkowski is a possibility, but my guy this year is Dawson Knox, who scored 2 TDs in the playoffs last year. George Kittle is also very intriguing, since he has blowup potential and I like the 49ers to play two games.

If I miss out on someone already mentioned, then I might hold off until the bitter end for C.J. Uzomah, since I like the Bengals to play in three games. Tyler Higbee is the bane of my existence when it comes to analyzing TEs, but he certainly has potential, and I do have the Rams playing in three games.

Otherwise, I’m waiting until the bitter end for a one-and-done guy and I’d rank them: Dalton Schultz, Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Hunter Henry, Darren Waller, and Pat Freiermuth.

Digging extremely deep, we have Tampa’s TE2 Cameron Brate and Green Bay’s Josiah Deguara.

The Place Kicker Plan

Once again, more games equal more points, so I’m targeting Tyler Bass for sure. I’m not going to be actively targeting the shaky Mason Crosby, but I will if he slides a little and I don’t have Bass. Based on how I see things playing out, the best values are Evan McPherson (he is banged up, though) and Matt Gay.

Otherwise, I’m looking for a good option on a team I think will play two games at least, like Harrison Butker, Ryan Succop, and Robbie Gould.

The Team Defense Plan

It’s the same as the kicker plan, so for me it’s the Buffalo Bills as the top choice followed by the Green Bay Packers. The Los Angeles Rams are sneaky, as are the Cincinnati Bengals. Otherwise, I’ll roll with a unit I think will play in at least two games, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, and San Francisco 49ers.

Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Famer John Hansen has been an industry leader and pioneer since 1995, when he launched Fantasy Guru. His content has been found over the years on ESPN.com, NFL.com, SiriusXM, DirecTV, Yahoo!, among others outlets. In 2015 he sold Fantasy Guru and in 2020 founded FantasyPoints.com.