Team-By-Team Rankings & Analysis (2021 Fantasy Football)
As the NFL playoffs reach their end and the offseason approaches, now is a great time to analyze each team’s fantasy performance and discuss how things may shift in the coming months. There will undoubtedly be some moving pieces that will have significant fantasy repercussions for 2021 (e.g., a Deshaun Watson trade). Using FantasyPros’ data, we can better understand team situations that may be more amenable or detrimental to fantasy success.
We often get caught up with hype stories or busts during the season, which hinders our ability to step back and analyze what occurred. For example, James Robinson was a great story this past season and finished as a top 10 running back in fantasy, but Jacksonville’s backfield, as a whole, only ranked as the 25th-highest scoring in the league. This may suggest that lower efficiency or a change in coaching strategy may lower Robinson’s production next season. Alternatively, Carolina retained the 23rd ranked QB fantasy output in 2020 but had a WR corps that finished 10th across all teams. If a top rookie QB were to land with the Panthers, we could surely see a D.J. Moore rebound or a Robby Anderson repeat in 2021 that many may overlook in their drafts. And obviously, if Watson were traded to Carolina, the sky would be the limit for everyone.
In this article, I wanted to take a high-level look at the NFL and gain a better understanding of 2020 positional performances and note potential takeaways for 2021.
Examining the following visualization, which shows each team’s total points ranking, along with their positional ranks in fantasy and associated median and mean values, there isn’t much surprise at either end of the spectrum. High-octane offenses – and both Super Bowl participants – find themselves near the top, while underwhelming offenses fill out the bottom. However, there were a few surprises such as New Orleans finishing as the eighth-highest fantasy scoring team despite averaging out as the 13th-best in mean and median rankings across the four positions or Miami scoring the 24th-most fantasy points despite maintaining averages of 17.5 and 17.0 for mean and median, respectively. These outliers are largely due to Alvin Kamara’s fantastic season (and Latavius’ solid back-up performance) or the Dolphins’ WRs underperforming despite average (fantasy) QB play between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tua Tagovailoa.
So, what should we make of this information? Which team’s potential presents the greatest or worst opportunities going forward?
First, it’s generally advantageous to chase receivers on teams with premier QBs, like Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, or Josh Allen. I would expect a repeat for D.K. Metcalf or Will Fuller V (if Watson returns) in 2021. Alternatively, I may fade Terry McLaurin or Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy if their teams don’t address the QB position.
Second, keying on elite running back performances as predictors for team (fantasy) success may be a poor strategy, as we saw with the aforementioned Jacksonville Jaguars or the Chicago Bears with David Montgomery.
This analysis suggests there may be significant opportunities for players like Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who may rebound from a tepid rookie season and finish as a top back on an elite offense, or Rashaad Penny, who may take the reins in the Seattle backfield and “live up” to his first-round NFL draft price.
Similarly, albeit at the bottom of the rankings, underperforming fantasy offenses like the New York Jets or San Francisco 49ers may present significant sleeper opportunities in the likes of Denzel Mims or Brandon Aiyuk if they can find improved QB play in 2021.
In subsequent articles, I will analyze positional groups more closely across divisions to understand fantasy opportunities or lack thereof next season. Can we expect a Dallas Goedert breakout if Zach Ertz is no longer an Eagle? Or should we fade Pittsburgh’s WR corps, even if JuJu Smith-Schuster leaves in free agency?
Stay tuned to learn more!
Whether you’re new to fantasy football or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Football 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with Starting Your Own Fantasy Football League or head to more advanced strategy — like What is the Right Amount of Risk to Absorb on Draft Day? — to learn more.