Players I’m Already Sold On (2021 Fantasy Football)
There’s a ton of hype about players this time of year with NFL free agency just around the corner and the draft only two months out. Opinions are forming on which players will acquire an expanded role or step up from last year. Given their current situations, here’s a look at a few I’m already targeting. Some don’t have full credentials yet, and they all project to see increased playing time this season. I’m particularly high on the 2020 NFL Draft class, which should look even better in 2021.
Player rankings via FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings (half-PPR)
Tee Higgins (WR – CIN): WR32
Thirty-two-year-old oft-injured A.J. Green has likely played his last snap in Cincinnati. That’s irrelevant, though, as Tee Higgins has predictively already surpassed him on the depth chart. Higgins had a stellar rookie season, finishing with 67 receptions on 108 targets for 908 yards and six touchdowns. From Weeks 3-10, before quarterback Joe Burrow’s season-ending knee injury, Higgins averaged nearly eight targets and 16.3 fantasy points per game. Had Burrow stayed healthy, Higgins would have cracked the 1,000-yard receiving mark. If Green is gone and the Bengals offensive line can keep Burrow upright, Higgins should yield high-end WR2 numbers this season.
Courtland Sutton (WR – DEN): WR30
Heading into 2020 before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in Week 2, Courtland Sutton was the WR1 in Denver. After amassing 1,112 yards in 2019, he finished as the WR19 despite inadequate quarterback play. While an upgrade from Drew Lock would be ideal, Sutton has proven he can perform without an elite passer, and his 2019 production should be his floor. Jerry Jeudy‘s inability to assert himself as the team’s No. 1 guy suggests that Sutton is still the top dog and will reclaim his status in 2021. A deep-ball receiver with splashy play upside is what we want in fantasy football. Sutton is progressing well in his recovery and should be all systems go by training camp. In the video below, Dr. Jesse Morse, a Sports Medicine and Regenerative Medicine Specialist and part of The Fantasy Doctors, vocalizes no concerns for Sutton’s 2021 campaign. If the injury causes Sutton to slip into WR3 territory in drafts, it is worth the gamble that he can return to form.
Dallas Goedert (TE – PHI): TE7
Zach Ertz‘s likely departure from Philadelphia will free Dallas Goedert from the timeshare he’s played under the last three years. Goedert was a highly touted rookie in 2018 who uses his size and high point ability to make catches over defenders. Without Ertz in the mix weeks 8-12, Goedert finished as the No. 2 tight end in fantasy points. While the Eagles’ quarterback position remains unsettled, Goedert did see 17 targets in three games with Jalen Hurts as the starter. The Eagles have already released wideouts Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, which basically leaves Jalen Reagor to hold down the fort. That positions Goedert as the best option in the passing game. With Ertz gone, Goedert has Top 5 upside in 2021.
Cam Akers (RB – LAR): RB15
Cam Akers took over the reins in the Rams backfield by season’s end. He averaged 16.2 fantasy points a game in his last six outings and 22 totes per game during that span. That’s already a massive rushing share, and he could gain a substantial increase in the passing game with Matthew Stafford now at the helm. That’s the kind of volume you want from a fantasy RB1.
J.K. Dobbins (RB – BAL): RB16
J.K. Dobbins’ eye-popping six yards-per-carry season average was tops among all running backs in 2020. From Weeks 9-17, he was RB13 despite seeing only 15 or fewer rushing attempts per game. With Mark Ingram‘s release, he is now the clear-cut No. 1 option on a run-first offense. If Ingram can finish as RB10 in 2019 with Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson siphoning work, surely Dobbins can replicate or surpass that mark.
Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR – JAC): WR47
The expected upgrade at quarterback with Trevor Lawrence as the presumed No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft should help all of Jacksonville’s receivers, including Laviska Shenault Jr. Shenault had an inconsistent rookie season, likely due to the revolving door at quarterback. He finished as WR38 or better in five out of eight games where he received six or more targets. Almost half of his receiving yards came after the catch, showcasing his big-play ability. That makes him a good fit in new coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevel’s preferred style of offense. Perhaps the most significant positive about Shenault is that he’s currently a 9th-round pick in drafts. That’s considerable value for a WR3 with WR2 upside.
Brandon Aiyuk (WR – SF): WR27
Brandon Aiyuk is a dynamic player that exploded in the second half of the season in the wake of the multiple injuries at pass catcher for San Francisco. He averaged over 18 fantasy points per game over his last six outings. Over that span, he landed inside the Top 15 five times and had two Top 6 finishes. The most impressive thing about Aiyuk’s debut year, though, is that he produced with backups under center for most of his campaign. He is the team’s deep threat, and like many of the players from the 2020 draft class, should make strides in his second season.
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.
Bonnie Robinson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Bonnie, follow her @FantasyQueenB.