Best Ball Players to Target (2021 Fantasy Football)
An upper-echelon tight end headlines my best ball players to target. A pair of teammates on a potentially ascending offense get the nod. Finally, a receiver who showcased his multi-faceted skill-set in spurts as a rookie rounds the touted players out.
George Kittle (TE – SF)
The tight end position was once again a waste-land. Travis Kelce was in a class of his own as the only tight end to score more than 20 fantasy points per game in point per reception (PPR) leagues during the fantasy football season (Week 1 through Week 16). Darren Waller ranked second with 16.8 fantasy points per game, and Kittle was the only other tight end to clear 15 points per game with 15.9.
It gets ugly quickly beyond Kittle. Twelve tight ends — excluding C.J. Uzomah’s two-game campaign — reached double-figure fantasy scoring per game. Kittle was his typically-dominant self in the eight games he was healthy in 2020. He averaged 6.0 receptions and 79.3 receiving yards per game and is also among the league’s most efficient pass-catchers, tying for eighth in yards per target (10.1), according to Pro-Football-Reference. I’ll gladly spend a second-round pick for the receiver-like production Kittle provides instead of rummaging around the consistently disappointing tight end pool.
Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS)
McLaurin’s been quarterback proof in his first two years, ranking as WR25 in PPR scoring in 2019 and WR22 in 2020. Washington’s musical chair at quarterback has yet to provide McLaurin even merely average play from the position. The Football Team seems to recognize they need an upgrade from Alex Smith, and they were among the teams that made a legitimate trade proposal for Matthew Stafford.
The free-agent market includes a handful of signal callers who represent upgrades. Trade options include Jimmy Garoppolo, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, and Gardner Minshew, and the NFL Draft class offers another avenue for change at the position. The Football Team’s offense could make a sizable leap next year with even a modest upgrade at quarterback.
Washington played at a fast pace this season, tying for the fifth-fastest pace of play when trailing or leading by seven points, per Sharp Football Stats. They were also one of the most pass-happy offenses, tying for the seventh-highest pass rate when the scoring margin was within seven points. McLaurin’s already produced at a WR2 level even if Washington fails to move on from Smith, but he has an upside that warrants spending a top-50 pick.
Antonio Gibson (RB – WAS)
Gibson’s another integral part of Washington’s ascending offense. He made an impressive transition from college receiver to NFL running back, finishing 14th among qualified running backs in yards before contact per attempt, as well as tied for second in attempts per broken tackle, according to Pro-Football-Reference. His traditional statistics like 4.7 yards per carry, 56.8 rushing yards per game, 11 rushing touchdowns in 14 games, 2.6 receptions per game, and 17.6 receiving yards per game are stellar, too.
Gibson’s 5.6 yards per target leave something to be desired, but his collegiate experience at receiver could ultimately aid him in making a sophomore leap in production in the passing game. The still-green running back could also improve as a runner with more experience. Additionally, an improved offense would increase touchdown potential for all key players such as Gibson. I won’t let him slide past the third round.
Laviska Shenault (WR – JAC)
Shenault represents a leap-of-faith target in Best Ball leagues. He didn’t light the world on fire like some of his rookie receiver peers but didn’t flop, either. His 7.6 yards per target checked in tied for 86th out of 153 qualified players, not bad for a rookie in a dreadful offense.
Shenault also flashed his versatility, hauling in 4.1 receptions for 42.9 receiving yards per game while adding 1.3 rushes and 6.5 rushing yards per game. That versatility is the primary reason I touted him as a dart throw before the season. Shenault’s ho-hum rookie campaign does nothing to dissuade my optimism for his pro outlook. The almost certain addition of Trevor Lawrence at quarterback and change to offensive-minded head coach Urban Meyer bode well for Jacksonville’s offense getting on track in 2021. Additionally, Meyer’s ability to get the most out of Swiss Army Knife Curtis Samuel when the two were at Ohio State provides me optimism regarding his ability to maximize Shenault’s versatility.
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