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Fantasy football rankings: Karabell's early look at the top 50 for 2021

Davante Adams dominated the wide receiver position in fantasy in 2020, but how high should he go in 2021 drafts? Dan Powers-USA TODAY NETWORK

Fantasy football is clearly a year-round endeavor and since managers are clamoring for early 2021 rankings -- even before the 2020 season crowns a Super Bowl champion -- I figured I would oblige.

There are no perfect answers here, but then again, the same holds true for September drafts. Use all information at your disposal, good and bad, project ahead and trust your gut. This early top 50 is for PPR purposes, and since I like to rank in tiers (grouping players with others of similar value), I went that direction.

Here we go!

Tier 1

1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
3. Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
4. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans

Notes: Nothing against the fellow leading Tier 2 (Davante Adams), but wide receiver is deep and many managers struggle to fill running back slots during a season. Injuries only make things tougher. McCaffrey played in three games this past season, though he averaged 30.1 PPR points in those games. Dare to dream! Let us hope he stays healthy in 2021! With Cook, durability is also a modest question. Assuming Drew Brees retires, Kamara will have to get used to a new quarterback. Henry, awesome as he is, still plays little to no role in the passing game, which is why rushing for 2,027 yards still could not get him close to as many PPR points per game as Kamara and Cook. This feels like a top tier, for now.

Tier 2

5. Davante Adams, WR, Packers
6. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs

Notes: Adams does stand out among others at wide receiver. Frankly, the main risk with selecting him early in Round 1, and with Kelce as well, is the risk of ignoring a running back and then panicking five rounds later when only question marks remain. Adams is awesome. Kelce is, by the way, amazing too. I cannot recall ranking a tight end this high; it is hardly about how much better he is than every other tight end, but how he outscored nearly every wide receiver too!

Tier 3

7. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
8. Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
9. Aaron Jones, RB, Packers
10. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts
11. Nick Chubb, RB, Browns

Notes: The strength and relative depth of this tier is why I would have little issue getting the last pick in a 10- or 12-team draft. Cannot decide on which one to take? Take two of them! Elliott and Barkley simply need health, and health around them. Jones is clearly established, and Taylor sure looks to be at that similar level. Chubb's problem is a lack of pass-catching chops, but he is so good otherwise!

Tier 4

12. Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs
13. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Cardinals
14. Stefon Diggs, WR, Bills

Notes: Look at the quarterbacks for these fellows. Pretty great. I admit I might end up switching Tier 3 with Tier 4, but again, there is major risk at running back several rounds later.

Tier 5

15. DK Metcalf, WR, Seahawks
16. Calvin Ridley, WR, Falcons
17. A.J. Brown, WR, Titans
18. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
19. Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings
20. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

Notes: Ask and you should receive! Yes, I would draft all these fellows, a nice mix of youth and veterans, over the running backs in the later tier, because I see few question marks. Thomas clearly was not healthy in 2020 and, as with Kamara, we await word on who throws him the football, but his skill set is exceptional.

Tier 6

21. George Kittle, TE, 49ers
22. Darren Waller, TE, Raiders

Notes: As with Kelce, these tight ends produce as top-10 wide receivers, so they deserve placement with them. One might say there are enough tight ends to fill one active roster spot, whereas most fantasy managers need three or more wide receivers for active purposes. Then again, why not select a tight end for flex purposes if you like the depth.

Tier 7

23. Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
24. Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders
25. Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers
26. D'Andre Swift, RB, Lions
27. Miles Sanders, RB, Eagles
28. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ravens
29. Cam Akers, RB, Rams
30. James Robinson, RB, Jaguars
31. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs
32. David Montgomery, RB, Bears

Notes: Perhaps it seems lazy to group an entire round of running backs into one class, but cases can be made for and against any and all. A healthy Ekeler already showed his immense PPR upside. Mixon, Jacobs, Swift and Sanders, when healthy and utilized properly (hint, hint), are three-down backs. Dobbins and Akers could be fantastic. Robinson was a rookie revelation. Edwards-Helaire was not, but he can improve. Montgomery needs to prove himself over four full months, against all competition.

Tier 8

33. Allen Robinson II, WR, Bears
34. Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings
35. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
36. Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers
37. Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington
38. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
39. Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions

Notes: It is rather easy to see scenarios in which these veteran wide receivers, with proper health and, ahem, quarterback play, move up a few overall tiers. As it is, these are the first of the WR2 options, so I acknowledge their valuable status.

Tier 9

40. Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks
41. Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington
42. Ronald Jones II, RB, Buccaneers
43. Melvin Gordon III, RB, Broncos
44. Kenyan Drake, RB, Cardinals

Notes: These are fine choices for a manager's second running back, in part because they have to be. None of them reached 1,000 rushing yards, though a few did come close. Who else belongs here? James Conner? Raheem Mostert? Eh. One could see a rookie running back or two pushing into this tier, for sure.

Tier 10

45. Diontae Johnson, WR, Steelers
46. Tee Higgins, WR, Bengals
47. Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals
48. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Cowboys
49. Chase Claypool, WR, Steelers
50. Brandon Aiyuk, WR, 49ers

Notes: And we finish out the top 50 with nary a quarterback, as it should be, though in your draft and every other, they find a way in there! A few younger receivers show up here over perhaps safer veterans such as Robert Woods, Tyler Lockett, Amari Cooper and JuJu Smith-Schuster, but they are close behind. Who else just missed? OK, much love for quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson, and yes, in that order, but those who wait on this position tend to up feeling good about their teams.