The Most Obvious Value in Fantasy Football for 2021

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There is so much data available in 2021 that fantasy football analysis has become such an interesting game. The metrics we can use to identify breakouts have become incredibly efficient, and the content available to even the most casual fantasy football fans has become exceptional. Tools like the UDK have made home league drafts much more competitive, which is a great thing. 

The only downside of the rapid growth in the fantasy industry is the declining competitive edge that was once held by serious players. Identifying undervalued draft picks and true ‘sleepers’ is not an easy task anymore, and it usually requires a leap of faith. Most breakout candidates become pretty obvious by September, and the players that surprise us the most usually have something ugly in their profile going into the season. 

This isn’t always the case. Sometimes a player slips by even the most experienced fantasy managers. Sometimes a collective ranking of a player makes very little sense. Groupthink can be a powerful thing, and in this case – it’s the only explanation I can find for the lack of respect given to this guy. 

Ryan Tannehill is one of the most solidified values in fantasy football. I don’t ever use the word “guarantee” when evaluating this beautiful game, but if his ADP remains where it is, then Ryan Tannehill’s draft value is a near guarantee. 

The Past

Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson, and Lamar Jackson. That’s the shortlist of guys that most people think of when you say “Konami Code”. They’re fantasy superstars at their position, and for good reason. Watson and Mahomes are elite passers with rushing upside, while Murray and Jackson bring a ridiculously high floor to fantasy leagues with their legs. The only outlier amongst this group, Josh Allen – was basically at the top of the pack in both of those categories last year. Murray and Allen dominated fantasy football in a big way in 2020, and they should be at the top of your list going into 2021 at the position and in Superflex leagues. 

When it comes to the next set of quarterbacks on your list, it’s up for debate. Mahomes, Jackson, Dak Prescott, and potentially Deshaun Watson are all in serious consideration. Ryan Tannehill isn’t in consideration anywhere, but he should be. He was just as impressive as anyone else in this group, but neither his ADP or his rankings across the industry reflects this. 

The most common pushback I get on my Ryan Tannehill love is the “ceiling” debate. I’m constantly told that Tannehill is a QB1, but he doesn’t have the same type of ceiling as these other guys. I will refute that claim. Every. Single. Time.

2020 proved it: 

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Top 5 Weekly Finishes (2020) Top 12 Weekly Finishes (2020) 25+ Point Games (2020) 30+ Point Games (2020) Peak Game
Patrick Mahomes 4 10 7 5 40 pts
Deshaun Watson 4 10 6 3 33.1 pts
Lamar Jackson 4 9 7 2 34.9 pts
Ryan Tannehill 5 8 6 2 37 pts

Ryan Tannehill had a ridiculously impressive ceiling in 2020. He finished in the top five more often than Mahomes, Watson, and Jackson. He had the same number of 30 point games as Lamar Jackson, and his true ceiling was second to only Mahomes within this group. His ceiling wasn’t just “solid”, it was elite. 

His final production numbers in 2020 were also much closer to this group than people realize:

Total Fantasy Points (2020) Fantasy PPG (2020) Overall (2020) Current ADP (Best Ball)
Patrick Mahomes 380.4 25.36 QB4 QB1
Deshaun Watson 376.32 23.52 QB5 N/A
Lamar Jackson 341.78 22.7 QB10 QB5
Ryan Tannehill 350.36 21.9 QB7 QB12
The Present

I’m very comfortable conceding that Patrick Mahomes is the obvious QB3 behind Allen and Murray, but that’s where my concession will stop. The discussion for the next spot on the rankings list should be between Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, and Ryan Tannehill (Watson is omitted for obvious reasons). Tannehill was every bit as impressive as Jackson was, but he’s completely ignored in most top ten rankings, and sits outside of the top ten in ADP.

One of the other common arguments is his rushing touchdown production. He scored seven touchdowns in 2020 on the ground. This is the same amount as Lamar Jackson, and it’s a very high number for a quarterback. Normally, this would be viewed as an outlier that indicates regression is on its way. With Tannehill, it’s been normal. In only 12 games in 2019, he scored four times. That means over the course of 28 games, he’s averaging 6.2 rushing touchdowns per season. That’s a large enough sample size to be seen as an expectation, but it’s commonly mentioned as a statistical outlier.

Lamar Jackson and Ryan Tannehill should be viewed in similar ways. Yet Jackson is regarded as a fantasy monster, and Tannehill barely gets mentioned. He’s viewed as a streamer, when he’s been a bona fide QB1 throughout the entire duration of his time as a starter – 28 games going back to 2019.

His QB12 ADP is ridiculous. His consensus ranking around QB10 seems very low, by any viewpoint. I know that past success doesn’t indicate future success, but the argument for his future is simple, and even more concrete.

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The Future

His future should look very similar to his past, with one exception. That exception is the only real argument I need to make for Tannehill to be even better than he has been. His name is Julio Jones. End of argument.

Conclusion

Tannehill has turned in QB7 numbers, has paced with Lamar Jackson, has consistently produced as a QB1 and a top-five QB on a weekly basis…. and now he gets Julio Jones.

If you aren’t convinced that this is a blatant outlier amongst both fans and the industry, then I have nothing left for you. I’m more than happy to draft him at his ADP again and again. Don’t say I didn’t warn people.

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