In standard fantasy football leagues last year, Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill separated themselves in the WR rankings, scoring 243.4 and 241.9 total fantasy points, respectively — over 40 more than third-place Stefon Diggs. They also finished first and second in PPR leagues, with Adams (358.4) having a noticeable edge on Hill (328.9), who barely finished ahead of Diggs (328.6). Heading into 2021, Adams and Hill should once again be the top of the top-tier wide receiver options, with arguably the two best quarterbacks in the NFL throwing them the ball. According to FantasyPros ADP, Hill and Adams are the lone receivers coming off the board in the first round of most standard and PPR drafts. Is it smart to take one in the first round, though, and if you do, which is the best option?
By the nature taking one in the late part of the first round (around pick 10), you’ll soon be on the clock again in snake drafts. At least one high-quality running back will still be on the board, but you could also go with another stud WR or TE Travis Kelce. Either way, locking in Adams or Hill gives your team an advantage at the WR position week-in and week-out.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2021 Cheat Sheet
Below, we’ll dive into the cases for each to be first wide receiver selected and ultimately come to a verdict on who you should pull the trigger on at the end of the first round if you choose to pass on RB.
2021 STANDARD FANTASY RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Top 200
Tyreek Hill vs. Davante Adams: Which top-tier WR should you draft first?
Hill has gone from a fun gadget-player extraordinaire in his rookie season to a perennial fantasy superstar. In a fully heathy season, it would be a shock for Hill to not hit 1,000 yards receiving. Although touchdowns are difficult to project, he has one of the safest touchdown floors due to his huge-play nature (third most air yards in ’20, 1,746). Since his rookie season, he has finished no worse than WR4 when he’s played more than 10 games. Receivers who also get rushing opportunities add just another tidbit of value to their fantasy profile. Put simply, he’s an extremely safe play and often has explosive weeks (44.9 points in Week 12 last year) that win you your matchups. If anything, the Chiefs WR corps got worse with the loss of Sammy Watkins. Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, and Cornell Powell are all unproven, and Hill’s 23.1-percent target share may even see an uptick.
2021 PPR FANTASY RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Top 200
Adams took the crown of impressive target shares with 34.1 percent in 2020. Just think about that. On more than three of every nine passes Aaron Rodgers threw, Adams was the target on the other end. Regardless of talent level, that’s a player you want to have in fantasy football. When he suited up, he ran a route on 100 percent of the Packers’ pass plays, obviously first in the NFL. He doesn’t take breathers. That spells ultimate reliability. He ranked first in the league in red-zone targets (28) and targets inside the 10 (20), serving as an extension of the run game in that area of the field. This results in easy touchdowns for Rodger’s go-to wideout.
2021 FANTASY SLEEPERS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Each team
Moving forward, the rules of father time suggest Patrick Mahomes should be getting even better while Rodgers might be in line for regression, especially with offseason drama in Green Bay. Even if Rodgers is just as good as last season, his touchdown figure (48) is sure to drop. Adams’ 18 touchdowns will come back to reality, if even slightly, as a result. He’ll still be heavily targeted in the red zone, but with Allen Lazard coming back, and the addition of Rodgers’ old friend Randall Cobb, there should be more competition for scores. Also, the Packers elected to pass at a high frequency in the red zone last season. AJ Dillon is a sneaky play to take on a lot of the workload in the money area in addition to star RB Aaron Jones.
2021 FANTASY AUCTION VALUES (Standard & PPR):
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Overall
Realistically, it’s just more likely for Hill to carry over what he did a season ago into this year. Hill showed he can be less big-play dependent with a career high in receptions/game (5.8), and he actually netted a career low in yards/reception (14.7) since taking over as a starter. (Note: That’s still almost three yards/reception more than Adams’ mark last year.) If that moves back up, imagine what season could be in store for him. While Adams scored 14 of his 18 touchdowns in the red zone, Hill scored more than half of his touchdowns outside of the red zone (nine of 15), where running backs are obviously less likely to vulture scores.
With a safer touchdown floor and the premier quarterback in the NFL, Hill takes the slight edge over Adams, at least in standard leagues. We still like Adams more in PPR, though. Really, you can’t go wrong with either one — and that includes over RBs like Jonathan Taylor and Aaron Jones. If either miraculously slips past the first round, smash the draft button.
2021 FANTASY TIERS & DRAFT STRATEGY:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST
Other No. 1 WR contenders
Stefon Diggs, DeAndre Hopkins, and Calvin Ridley
While we and ADP suggest Diggs and Hopkins should go after Adams or Hill in standard leagues, they are worth a mention at the top of the WR hierarchy. It would come as no surprise to see either of them finish as the WR1, but we can’t recommend drafting them that way.
Diggs led the NFL in catches and receiving yards in ’20, but he seemingly has more competition this year for targets than than the other guys in the top tier. Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders might not sound like the flashiest of names at this point in their careers, but they have a history of commanding a lot of targets. Gabriel Davis will command more deep balls this year, too. Still, Diggs is the undeniable alpha in Buffalo, but we only have a one year sample of elite play from that offense. His touchdown total shouldn’t be expected to be near the top because Josh Allen is the man in the red zone. We prefer Diggs in PPR formats to Hill, but it will be close.
2021 FANTASY CONSISTENCY RATINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end
Hopkins had a ‘down’ year in fantasy but still finished at the WR10 spot in standard leagues and WR4 spot in PPR. His fall was mostly due to his low touchdown output (6), but that figure feels like a floor for Hopkins. Still, he saw the second-most targets in the NFL, and with Kyler Murray improving as a passer, he may connect on more of those moving forward. With Arizona looking primed to air the rock out more in ’21, expect more red-zone passing attempts, especially with the loss of Kenyan Drake (ranked fourth in red-zone rushing attempts with 56). It would be a surprise to not see an increased number of red-zone targets for Hopkins (13).
The additions of Rondale Moore and A.J. Green means competent WR threats on the outside opposite of Hopkins. That being said, Hopkins could realistically see a slight dip in target share (29.4 percent) but an improvement in overall efficiency.
FANTASY DRAFT STRATEGY:
Snake Draft | Auction | Best Ball | Dynasty/Keeper
Ridley was seventh in WR targets last year and finished as the No. 7 WR in PPR leagues (WR4 in standard). With Julio Jones gone permanently, his target share figures to jump, but keep in mind that Jones missed seven games last year. Kyle Pitts is also now in Atlanta, and perhaps most important, Art Smith takes over as head coach. Even without a Derrick Henry-type in Atlanta’s backfield, Smith will likely carry over his run-heavy approach from his Tennessee days (or at least try to).
All of this is sort of a mixed bag for Ridley. He’ll see a bigger target share but perhaps only a mild increase in overall targets. He could also face tighter coverage as “the man” with Jones gone. He did perform well when Jones was out last year, averaging 7.3 catches and 107 yards per game, but we can only take so much from that. We like Ridley as a top-five guy in PPR and just outside the top five in standard, but if everything comes together, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him challenge for the top spot by year’s end.