The 10 Most Impactful Players of the Fantasy Offseason (2021 Fantasy Football)
I’ve talked ad nauseum about top free agents over the last month, so it’s time to look in a different direction with the most impactful players of the fantasy offseason. Some of these players will obviously overlap, but there is a lot to get into when examining the most impactful players of the fantasy offseason.
1. Deshaun Watson (QB – HOU)
It would be impossible to rank Watson any lower than No. 1 on this list. He’s been the hottest topic of conversation since requesting a trade from the Texans, and where he lands will have enormous implications for years to come. Houston is digging its heels in to retain Watson, but there’s no way he doesn’t have his wish granted sooner or later. Whichever team is fortunate enough to win the Watson trade sweepstakes will have to send compensation… a LOT of it. That will likely include players and multiple first-round picks. The team that acquires Watson instantly gets better, while skill-position players on the team (notably receivers and tight ends) get better too. Conversely, he player(s) shipped to Houston will almost certainly find himself in a worse situation.
The Watson effect can’t be understated. If he ends up traded to a team like the Jets – a franchise that’s been devoid of talent of talent or wins for two years – Watson could attract other free agents similar to what Tom Brady did in Tampa Bay last season. Make no mistake about it, Watson is easily the most impactful player of the 2021 offseason, and it’s not particularly close.
2. Taysom Hill (QB – NO)
It’s tough to put into words just how much of an impact Hill’s offseason will be for the fantasy landscape. If Hill is under center for New Orleans as the full-time starter in 2021, the outlooks of Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas are altered considerably. In 2020, Kamara finished the season with 83 receptions on 107 targets. In four games with Taysom Hill at QB (Weeks 11-14), Kamara had 10 receptions on 16 targets (4.0 targets per game, 2.5 receptions per game) In 11 other games, he had 73 receptions on 91 targets (10 targets per game, eight receptions per game). In those same four games, Hill ran the ball 39 times compared to 50 for Kamara. Hill scored four rushing touchdowns (all inside the 10-yard line) to Kamara’s three, and Kamara did not score a receiving touchdown in that span. In 11 other games, Kamara scored 18 total touchdowns.
Additionally, in the games with Hill under center, the Saints’ offense rushed the ball 34 times per game compared to just 28.5 pass attempts. In 12 games with Drew Brees under center, the offense flipped to 34 pass attempts and 29.8 rush attempts. If Hill ends up as New Orleans’ starting QB in 2021, the Saints’ offense would likely run the ball more, limiting the upside of two of fantasy’s top stars for this season and beyond. Free agent Jameis Winston’s future will play a substantial role in Hill’s.
3. Mitchell Trubisky (QB – CHI)
He’s certainly fallen from grace after Chicago declined his fifth-year option, and Nick Foles stole his starting job in 2020, but Trubisky can still be a starter for a needy team and be a bridge to the future franchise star. There are some teams that will be in need of a quarterback in 2021, and Washington and New England stick out among them. Washington is on the come-up with Riverboat Ron at the helm and a ferocious young defense terrorizing opponents. New England is desperate to regain some semblance of an offense after a dreadful and painful-to-watch season. Trubisky feels more like the reclamation-type players the Patriots have gravitated toward in years past, so I think that’s where he ultimately signs. No matter where he signs, Trubisky is sure to cause a serious impact in the fantasy world.
4. Aaron Jones (RB – GB)
There aren’t too many true difference-makers in the NFL, so most of this list is made up of quarterbacks. Jones, however, offers plenty of upside as a dual-threat back and has been one of the most elite fantasy players of the last two seasons. In that span, he’s rolled for 3,017 scrimmage yards and 30 total touchdowns. After being pegged for severe regression in 2020, he provided a second straight RB1 campaign, and depending on where he lands in free agency, he could certainly extend that streak to three seasons. Should Jones leave Green Bay as expected, A.J. Dillon would likely be in line for a big workload moving forward.
5. Allen Robinson (WR – CHI)
Much like Jones (the top RB of the offseason), where Robinson (the top WR) lands will be highly impactful on the fantasy landscape for 2021. Robinson has put up big numbers throughout his career while dealing with underwhelming quarterback play from the likes of Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles, and Blake Bortles. Now, he’s set to hit free agency for the second time in his career, and he should be even more highly valued than he was following his productive stint with Jacksonville. Will he head back to the team that drafted him to hook up with Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer, or will he land with a team desperate for offense with plenty of salary cap, like the Jets?
6. Kenny Golladay (WR – DET)
Another star talent at wideout gets some love here, as Golladay’s landing spot will have plenty of ripple effect. Looking for his third straight 1,000-yard campaign in 2020, Kenny G unfortunately missed almost the entire season with a shoulder injury. With so much time to recover, he should be ready to for a potentially new team in 2021. Wherever he lands, he’ll almost certainly take over as the team’s top option, proving beneficial to whatever quarterback is lucky enough to be throwing to him. His departure will also add plenty of uncertainty to a Lions’ receiving corps that may be stripped down to just Geronimo Allison and Quintez Cephus when all is said and done. That affects the value of Jared Goff (no weapons) and D’Andre Swift (prominent role) in highly meaningful ways.
7. Chris Godwin (WR – TB)
It’s no secret Tom Brady signed with Tampa Bay in part to get some help on offense. Godwin played an integral role in the Buccaneers’ passing attack in 2020, and if he leaves, that could set off a chain reaction. Mike Evans is under contract through at least 2023, so if Godwin leaves, the team could be looking for another option at WR, either through trade or free agency. Antonio Brown, who scored in the Bucs’ Super Bowl victory, is also a free agent and may opt to stay with the team in a larger role if Godwin hits the door. Promising youngsters like Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller could see their stars rise with additional opportunities freed up as well. Back to Godwin – he’s sure to make an immediate impact wherever he lands and will thus affect the value of his new quarterback and surrounding receivers. If he lands with Indy, the quarterback has another reliable weapon, and guys like Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman lose value swiftly.
8. Chris Carson (RB – SEA)
Will Carson remain with the Seahawks where he’s thrived for the last three seasons, or will he pack up and head for greener pastures elsewhere? If Carson remains with Seattle, he can reasonably be penciled in for a top-15 season without thinking too hard about it. If he signs elsewhere, his outlook gets a little more clouded, though he’s not likely to join a team where he won’t be the featured back. If Carson signs with a team like the Jets, Gang Green automatically gets a huge lift on offense, and Carson should open things up in the passing game for Sam Darnold (should he still be under center). The futures of both Rashaad Penny and DeeJay Dallas are tied to Carson’s landing spot in 2021.
9. J.J. Watt (DE – FA)
It’s not often a transformative, future Hall-of-Famer hits the open market, so I can’t finish this article without mentioning Watt. After mutually parting ways with a highly dysfunctional Texans team, Watt can sign with whoever he pleases. At this phase in his career, he’ll be looking to play for a contender, and that means teams like Green Bay, Buffalo, and Cleveland are well within play. Unless you’re in an IDP league, Watt won’t be available to draft to your fantasy team, but he’ll boost the stock of a D/ST and make life difficult for the team on the other side of the ball.
10. Dak Prescott (QB – DAL)
Will Jerry Jones finally pay Prescott the big contract he’s been asking for or will he franchise tag the quarterback? Or, will Prescott be cut loose to the open market? If Prescott somehow makes it to free agency and plays somewhere other than Dallas in 2021, he obviously vaults to the top of this list. I just can’t realistically imagine him not either signing a new deal or getting the franchise tag. He’s included in this article because the value of Dallas’ pass-catchers is heavily tied to Prescott returning to the team, but I’m putting him at the bottom because movement seems out of the question.
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