Wide Receiver Battles to Monitor (2021 Fantasy Football)
The NFL Draft is in the rearview, and who teams drafted (or didn’t draft) gives us an early idea of how various receiving corps could shake out this season. There are, however, plenty of question marks and WR battles to monitor before the 2021 season kicks off. Let’s get into those now!
Tennessee Titans: Any value after A.J. Brown?
With Corey Davis and Adam Humphries off to new locales and no new receivers taken in the draft, Tennessee is left with a bare-bones receiving corps after A.J. Brown. Brown will clearly be the team’s WR1 with a commanding target share. However, Ryan Tannehill can’t throw to just AJB. One of Cameron Batson, Josh Reynolds, Chester Rogers, or Marcus Johnson will have to take over as WR2, but who will that be? None of Batson, Rogers, or Johnson have made significant contributions for their respective teams in past seasons, so this one seems like a cut-and-dry winner in Reynolds to be the team’s No.2. After a breakout season with the Rams in 2020, he’s poised to take the next step in Tennessee. Corey Davis went for 65/984 last season, and Reynolds’ career marks (set in 2020) are 52/618. He should be able to set new career highs in his first season with Tennessee.
Detroit Lions: Whose engine will be revving loudest in the Motor City?
Detroit’s passing offense will look wholly different this season than the offense that took the field in 2020. Jared Goff is now at the helm, and rather than Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola catching passes, it will be Tyrell Williams, Quintez Cephus, Breshad Perriman, and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown. The Egyptian God Amun-Ra was represented in mythology as a ram, so the landing spot with the Lions wasn’t the most poetic landing spot, but from a production standpoint, the landing spot is excellent. A new QB throwing to new receivers with a new coaching staff means targets are up for grabs, and there’s no clear picture as to who will earn them.
Philadelphia Eagles: Who will be the No.2 behind DeVonta Smith?
Jalen Reagor got a ton of hype last season, and most of it was far from warranted. This year’s Eagle rookie wideout deserves all the fantasy love he gets. Reigning Heisman winner DeVonta Smith should be in line for an insane number of targets, but the biggest question for this roster is who can be the WR2? The candidates are JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Reagor, and Travis Fulgham. Fulgham enjoyed a few weeks of fantasy dominance last season, but that type of volume is a thing of the past. Fulgham’s big weeks were likely a flash in the pan, and Reagor is the future. I’d expect him to be the Eagles’ WR2, but monitor the situation carefully.
Cincinnati Bengals: What to make of Higgins, Boyd with Chase in town?
The Bengals took Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth pick in this year’s draft, much to the horror of Tee Higgins dynasty managers everywhere. In Chase, the Bengals have another electric wideout who can step in and be a difference maker from Day 1. All three receivers can be productive with Joe Burrow under center, but training camp can give us a better idea of what the pecking order might look like. Chase, Burrow’s former teammate, has a realistic chance to be the WR1 as a rookie, but Higgins strong 2020 rookie campaign and Boyd’s history of reliable production can’t be ignored. This is, without a doubt, one of the most talented young receiving corps in the NFL, but the redraft value of each of these players is extremely difficult to pin down. The battle for targets in Cincinnati should be a fascinating competition among such promising pass-catchers.
New Orleans Saints: Tre’Quan Time?
Who will be the WR2 behind Michael Thomas? With Emmanuel Sanders now in Buffalo, Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith, and Deonte Harris will vie for targets behind Thomas, but it’s unclear what this offense will look like in 2021. Will Jameis Winston solely run the show? Will Taysom Hill mix in or split work? Will targets be funneled to Thomas and Alvin Kamara with little regard for other pass-catchers? Those questions will take some time to answer, but for now, we can take a stab at who will be the Saints’ WR2. Smith is a guy who’s got the talent to succeed in that role, but he’s fallen short of fantasy relevance thus far into his career, making a name for himself as a boom-or-bust wideout. Will he rise to relevance this season or be overtaken by Callaway or Harris? Stay tuned.
New York Jets: A suddenly Crowd(er)ed receiving corps
Just like the Lions, the Jets will bring out a brand new passing offense in 2021 featuring Zach Wilson at QB and Denzel Mims, Josh Doctson, Keelan Cole, Elijah Moore, Jamison Crowder, and Corey Davis at receiver. Yikes, that’s a lot of competition for targets. Davis figures to be the WR1, but he’s let fantasy managers down in the past. Maybe Crowder will keep his high-volume slot role, or maybe Moore will overtake him. Mims flashed last season with Gang Green, and Cole was a steady producer for the Jags. Also like the Lions, targets are completely up for grabs this season. If I had to bet, I’d take Davis as the WR1 and Crowder as the WR2, but those predictions are far from guarantees. Keep a close eye on training camp.
Arizona Cardinals: Moore mouths to feed
There’s no question DeAndre Hopkins is the WR1 in the desert, but who will be his sidekick in the receiving corps? Will it be Christian Kirk, the receiver who’s seemingly on the cusp of breaking out every season? Will it be AJ Green, the ultra-talented veteran who may be too many injuries removed from a productive campaign? Or will it rookie Rondale Moore, who brings plenty of question marks with him to the NFL. Moore was huge for Purdue in 2018, but due to injury and opt-out, he played just seven total games between 2019-2020. At 5’7, 180, there are obvious concerns about his size, but Moore (4.29 40-yard dash) can flat out fly, and he’s got a great chance to compete for a prominent role in the offense. Pay attention to him in Cardinals camp because there might be some sleeper value lurking.
Los Angeles Rams: D-Jax or VJ as WR3?
Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp will obviously be the top two options in the Rams passing attack, but who will be the WR3? DeSean Jackson is a future Hall-of-Famer with incredible speed and big-play ability and an impressive resume, but as he approaches 35, it’s unclear how much he’s got left in the tank. D-Jax has played just eight total games across his last two seasons, and the idea that he can stay healthy for all of 2021 is a tough sell. Second-year man Van Jefferson, a speedy player in his own right, will compete with the veteran for targets, and the winner of that competition could be a valuable fantasy option, particularly with Matthew Stafford at the helm.
Kansas City Chiefs: Hardman or Robinson as WR2?
With Sammy Watkins officially out the door, it will be up to Mecole Hardman or Demarcus Robinson to take over as the team’s WR2. Hardman is another played labeled as a breakout in 2020 who fell far short of expectations, but he has a chance to really make some noise in 2021. Robinson has played well in stretches for Kansas City, so both are viable options to play second fiddle to Tyreek Hill. If Hardman or Robinson can separate himself and play consistent football, the returns for fantasy managers could be highly lucrative in the high-octane Andy Reid/Patrick Mahomes offense.
Las Vegas Raiders: Going deep for Ruggs or Brown?
Henry Ruggs and John Brown will compete to be the Raiders’ WR1, but both are highly effective deep threats, too. Each could provide fantasy-relevant production, but which player will separate himself to be Derek Carr‘s top target? With a dynamic RB tandem of Kenyan Drake and Josh Jacobs making moves out of the backfield and keeping defenses honest, both Ruggs and Brown should have plenty of opportunity for deep balls, particularly on play action. Keep an eye on which player emerges as the top option.
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