By the time the 2021 Fantasy Football season had ended, my team looked like a MASH unit. Cooper Kupp had helped me secure the number one seed for the playoffs, but my players were dropping like flies. Derrick Henry was rehabbing, DeAndre Hopkins was sidelined, and Lamar Jackson had to be replaced by Washington quarterback, Taylor Heincke. I lost big.

But last year’s squad was like a Taco Bell Chalupa. It looked good on the surface and tasted pretty good at the time. But after the fact, all I was left with was unhealthy ingredients, pain, and regret.

Instead of the Chalupa, this year’s team is more like a Kale salad. Stocked full of healthy ingredients, and by the end of the season…I’ll be looking great!

Running Backs – Two things are true about Fantasy Football Drafts. First – the lack of quality depth in the position forces all good players to use their first two picks on running backs. And second – the chances are pretty good that those running backs are going to eventually get injured and ruin your season.
• Jonathan Taylor (IND) will be the first pick in every draft as the third year running back rushed for over 1800 yards, caught 40 passes, scored 20 TDs, and most importantly, played in all 17 games last season.
• Christian McCaffrey (CAR), Derrick Henry (TEN), and Dalvin Cook (MIN) will be available soon after, but don’t take the bait. Cook missed four games last season, Henry missed nine games, and McCaffrey missed ten. Despite their talents, the best ability is availability.
• Najee Harris (PIT) should be your next in line at the RB1 spot, followed by Austin Ekeler (LAC), and Joe Mixon (CIN). Harris ran for over 1200 yard, caught 74 passes, and played every game.
• The RB2 position should be filled with your second pick. While the temptation is always there to grab a Pat Mahomes (KAN) or Davante Adams (LVS), if you are not using the second pick on a player like Nick Chubb (CLE) or Aaron Jones (GB), your RB2 for the season will be some random backup player for the Detroit Lions.
• I really like Ezekiel Elliot (DAL) and Breece Hall (NYJ) as my RB2 options. Elliot rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and played all 17 games despite nagging injuries. He’s no longer a RB1, but he’s healthy now and a solid RB2. And Hall, while just a rookie, was drafted high enough that he should get plenty of playing time and touches in the Jets’ backfield.
• With the lack of depth at the running back position, assume your flex will be a WR that we’ll discuss below, and your RB3 and names like Kareem Hunt (CLE), Damien Harris (NE), or Melvin Gordon (DEN) discovered around the 7th or 8th round.

Wide Receivers – The downside with selecting running backs with your first two draft picks is that Justin Jefferson (MIN), Cooper Kupp (LAR), and Ja’Marr Chase (CIN) are long gone. The upside is that there are plenty of quality players for you to select with your next THREE picks.
• Michael Pittman Jr (IND) is a great third round pick. Pittman had 88 catches for 1082 yards, played every game, and now Matt Ryan is his quarterback.
• DJ Moore (CAR) is the best receiver that no one has ever heard of. Moore had 93 catches for 1157 yards, played every game, and should be available in the fourth round.
• Darnell Mooney (CHI) had 81 catches for 1055 yards, Justin Fields should be better, and WR Allen Robinson is now in Los Angeles. A perfect fifth round pick, and yes, played every game.
• Drafting DeAndre Hopkins (AZ) despite a suspension, Michael Thomas (NO) despite his injuries, or Christian Kirk (JAX) despite playing in Jacksonville, could all be solid moves – but only if you get them past the 8th or 9th rounds.

Tight Ends – If you think that Mark Andrews (BAL), Travis Kelce (KC), George Kittle (SF), Darren Waller (LVS), and Kyle Pitts (ATL) are the only tight ends worth having on your roster…you’re not wrong.
• Andrews is terrific, but not worth the draft capital. Kelce is a great pick if he falls to round three, but probably won’t. Kittle is injury-prone, Waller should see less touches, and Pitts has no one to throw him the ball. Besides – they will all be gone by round four. That being said – the tight end pool quickly fades after those five and if you are not careful you are stuck choosing between an injured Irv Smith Jr (MIN) and Cole Kmet (CHI).
• It’s risky, but I plan on waiting until round six to grab Dalton Schultz (DAL). Schultz played in all 17 games and caught 78 passes for 808 yards including 8 TDs.
• If Schultz is already gone by round six, you’re probably stuck with someone like Pat Freiemuth (PIT), but not until the eleventh round or so.

Quarterbacks – Every expert will tell you to wait until the later rounds because there isn’t much difference between Justin Herbert (LAC) in round two, and Aaron Rodgers (GB) in round ten. They are not wrong, but it still sucks having to wait it out.
• Josh Allen (BUF), Pat Mahomes (KC), and Justin Herbert are worth taking early. But by early I mean round four in most leagues.
• Stay away from Lamar Jackson (BAL). Until Jackson signs a new contract, I could see a slight twist of an ankle – turn into a 3-game business decision.
• If Joe Burrows (CIN), Jalen Hurts (PHI), Dak Prescott (DAL), or Kyler Murray (AZ) are still on the board in round seven, take them.
• But I can pretty much guarantee you that Aaron Rodgers (GB), Tom Brady (TB), Matthew Stafford (LAR), and Trey Lance (SF) will be available whenever you are ready. I’m going with Stafford in rounds nine or ten.

Finally, add some running back names, a few wide receivers, a backup quarterback and tight end, a good defense, a reliable kicker…

…and remember that this fantasy draft advice does not take into account – potential injuries, vaccination status, failed drug tests, legal issues, poor play-calling, players that break curfew, my jinxing otherwise healthy players, contract holdouts, potential trades, or the possibility that Christian McCaffrey will actually play all 17 games.

Break a leg!

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Alan Tapley is an educator, author, and blogger who has lived just outside of Boulder for the last twenty years.  His published work includes two novels, two children’s books, a series of cartoons in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and multiple sports related articles. His love for family and the state of Colorado is only matched by one thing, his passion for sports.  The first baseball game he ever attended was at Wrigley Field, before there were lights.  At the final Bronco game at the old Mile High, he allegedly cut out a piece of his seat in the South stands.  But regardless of being here for the Avalanche’s last Stanley Cup, the Rockies only World Series appearance, and all the Broncos’ Super Bowl Victories, his wife never fails to remind him that he wasn’t at the University of Colorado in 1990, like she was.  The year the Buffs football team won the National Championship