Kyler Murray will run less in 2021. That does not mean he will not run at all. He’s still a top 5 QB. Chase Edmonds will outperform James Conner, but still finish only as RB#26 in half PPR leagues. Despite being a top 10 passing offense, no Cardinals pass catcher not named DeAndre Hopkins will be fantasy relevant.
Matt Ryan’s completion ratio: 69.4% (2018), 67.1% (2019), 65.0% (2020). That trend will continue, plus the number of pass attempts will drop. That is bad news for Matt Ryan owners. Kyle Pitts (TE#7) and Calvin Ridley (WR#6) will still both play a great season. Mike Davis is a solid fantasy RB2, no more and no less.
J.K. Dobbins is out for the season. That puts Lamar Jackson back in the QB#1-overall conversation. Gus Edwards now is a fantasy RB2. The top pass receiver in Baltimore will be Mark Andrews, who will be the best fantasy TE behind the big 3. None of the Ravens WRs is fantasy relevant.
Stefon Diggs is aptly ranked at WR#3 overall. All other Bills pass receivers are heavily undervalued. Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, Gabriel Davis, even Isaiah McKenzie and TE Dawson Knox can all finish the season 10+ ranks higher than their current ECR. No, not just one of them. All at the same time. And if any of Beasley, Sanders or Davis should struggle or miss time, the other ones will enter WR3 territory. Also, Josh Allen has the lead in the race for the fantasy QB#1, though not by a wide margin over Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes.
Don’t worry about Sam Darnold, he will be fine. But “fine” still translates only into a low-end QB2 ranking. Christian McCaffrey will be the RB#1 overall, if he stays healthy. If not, Chuba Hubbard has a lot of sleeper appeal, but he definitely needs that CMC injury to become fantasy relevant. No other Panthers player looks better than their current ECR would suggest. D.J. Moore is a fantasy WR2, Robby Anderson a WR3. Both offer a solid floor at least. Dan Arnold will be their leading TE, but he’s still just a fantasy TE3.
Justin Fields is a great QB. But he doesn’t play for a great offense, at least not yet. Even if he started the entire season (he won’t), he’d only be a borderline QB2. At the moment, there is not a single Bears player I would recommend in redraft formats at their current ECR value.
Joe Burrow is a great QB. And he does play for a great offense, with great weapons. He still won’t be a fantasy QB1 this year. The rest of the offense is aptly ranked – Joe Mixon as RB#13, Tee Higgins WR#23, Ja’Marr Chase WR#28 (drops already included, he can go much higher if he eventually remembers how to catch a ball), Tyler Boyd WR#33 – I’m fine with all of that. Drew Sample is the best TE on your waiver wire. But all those good rankings still translate only into QB#17 for Burrow. Don’t draft him as your QB1 in single QB redraft formats.
Baker Mayfield is even more overrated than Joe Burrow or Justin Fields (see below). His ECR is QB#18. I don’t see how a low-volume passing offense and little rushing upside would translate into a QB2 ranking. Among the QBs who will start the majority of games for their teams, I have Mayfield at #28 on a per-game basis. Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Austin Hooper and Odell Beckham are ranked correctly. Baker isn’t.
We may be looking at the best passing offense of the 2021 season. But that won’t make Dak Prescott the best fantasy QB. He will be a solid pick, but ranking him #5 is a few spots too high. I have all other skill position players ranked similar to their ECR, and Blake Jarwin even a lot higher at TE#11. Still, Dak comes up only as QB#9 in my ranking.
With Teddy Bridgewater under center, the completion rate should improve, but passing attempts and yards will drop a little. The offense is still ranked mostly correctly. But Noah Fant is not a TE1. Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy are both ranked around WR#30 in ECR. Only one of them will end up around there, though. The other one will easily drop 10-15 spots. Javonte Williams will outperform Melvin Gordon, but will not finish in RB2 territory in 2021.
All Detroit WRs are ranked WR5 or lower in ECR. One of them may have a chance to finish in WR3 territory, but this is neither guaranteed, nor do we know whom it will be. Amon-Ra St. Brown is the best bet. But whoever will be their WR1 will remain behind T.J. Hockenson in targets, making him a rock solid TE1.
Green Bay Packers
Even if the offense will play on their 2020 level, the number of passing TDs is bound for regression. Nevertheless, Aaron Rodgers remains a top 5 QB, Aaron Jones a top 5 RB, and Davante Adams the designated overall WR#1. Robert Tonyan is still a TE1, even if his volume remains low and the TD rate drops. No Packers pass catcher not named Adams or Tonyan will be fantasy relevant, though.
If you look at ECR, you will find the best Texans players in low tier territory. QB4, RB4, WR3, TE4. That is entirely correct. In redraft formats, stay away from the train wreck that is the 2021 Houston Texans. Only in best ball, Brandin Cooks or one of their many, many RBs may offer some sort of late-round appeal.
As long as Carson Wentz doesn’t miss too much time, his o-line will elevate him into QB2 territory. Still, I don’t see a lot of appeal in the Colts’ pass catchers. Michael Pittman has WR3 upside, but that’s about it. If you want to buy into the Colts passing offense, grab Nyheim Hines, who’s undervalued as RB#42. He can deliver RB3 value, even if Jonathan Taylor plays an RB1 season (he will).
Do we expect the Jaguars to do better in the NFL than last year? I don’t, at least not a lot better. That must hurt their fantasy rankings, right? Wrong! Trevor Lawrence is undervalued at QB#15. James Robinson is correctly ranked at RB#18. D.J. Chark is heavily undervalued at WR#36. Laviska Shenault is undervalued at WR#41. And Luke Farrell is a TE sleeper. There will be weekly ups and downs, but the Jags are looking much better from a fantasy POV than from a football one.
Kansas City Chiefs
No surprises here. Patrick Mahomes is in the QB#1 conversation. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a rock solid RB2 with RB1 upside. Travis Kelce will be the TE#1. Tyreek Hill is a top 3 WR. Mecole Hardman could perform better than his WR#53 ECR, but it’s not guaranteed. Byron Pringle has sleeper appeal. The end.
Las Vegas Raiders
Last year, Derek Carr finished the season as fantasy QB#13. That’s pretty much his ceiling, and he plays behind a questionable o-line this year. Still, QB#24 in ECR is too low. There is only one of his pass catchers I’d want on my fantasy team, and that’s Darren Waller. Josh Jacobs is still a solid fantasy RB2, even after the arrival of Kenyan Drake.
Los Angeles Chargers
Don’t expect Justin Herbert to perform even better than in his rookie season. New coaches, a new system, all that in the dreaded sophomore year – best we can expect from him is to repeat his 2020 performance. That would make him a QB1, though. Austin Ekeler is a top 6 RB only in full PPR formats. In half PPR, he’s a borderline RB1/RB2 due to his lack of red zone touches. Jared Cook can be a high-end TE2, but in case he suddenly remembers that he is a hundred years old, rookie Tré McKitty would have sleeper appeal. Keenan Allen is a WR1, Mike Williams a low-end WR3 with some upside. Tyron Johnson and Josh Palmer battle for the third WR spot on the depth chart, but even the winner won’t be startable outside of best ball formats.
Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford is currently ranked QB#12 in ECR. How is he supposed to finish as a low-end QB1 while not offering any rushing upside whatsoever? Right, he isn’t. I have him at QB#15, and that’s already based on the Rams being a top 5 passing offense. Darrell Henderson, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee are all players I’m very comfortable drafting at their current ECR value, chances are they will all finish even a tad better.
If the rumors around Deshaun Watson are true, then the Dolphins don’t believe they found their franchise QB yet. I still see Tua Tagovailoa finishing the season as a low-end QB1. Granted, a healthy (non-suspended) Deshaun Watson would still be an upgrade, but Tua isn’t terrible by any means. Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Mike Gesicki and Jaylen Waddle are players I’ll happily draft at their current ECR value. Will Fuller and DeVante Parker to a somewhat lesser extent.
There’s not too much to tell about the Vikings that you don’t already know. Kirk Cousins is a solid QB2. Dalvin Cook is a top 3 RB. Justin Jefferson is a WR1. Adam Thielen will finish ahead of his WR#22 ECR ranking if he stays healthy, there aren’t that many pass catchers on the Vikings roster. Irv Smith will miss time, so stay away from him.
New England Patriots
The 2021 Pats are difficult to project, as we don’t know when Mac Jones will take over – and how Cam Newton will look until then. I don’t disagree with any of the ECR rankings for the Pats players. Jakobi Meyers will be their best WR, but that’s still not good for much more than a WR5 finish. On TE, the player to draft is Jonnu Smith, not Hunter Henry.
New Orleans Saints
Jameis Winston getting the nod as starting QB is great news for Tre’Quan Smith. Currently, ECR ranks are #47 for Michael Thomas and #67 for Smith. I agree with the ranks, but would switch the names. Smith even has additional upside, while Thomas carries more risks than just his injury. Adam Trautman could have been a TE1, but he’s dinged up right now and could miss time, so proceed with caution. Alvin Kamara is a top 4 RB. Oh, and Winston himself is a low-end QB2 with some upside.
New York Giants
Remember 2019? When the Giants were a top 12 passing offense? Trick is, they were only a mediocre team from a fantasy POV back then already. And I don’t see them returning to 2019 levels, not even nearly. Yes, the quality of their weapons has improved – but there are a lot of them now. Yes, Saquon Barkley is back – but he’s not at 100%, and will be on a snap count. At current ECR value, there is not a single Giants player I would draft.
New York Jets
I don’t care a lot about preseason performances. But even I have to admit that Zach Wilson looked very comfortable playing against NFL defenses. Right now, with the exception of RB Michael Carter and TE Chris Herndon, I have ranked all Jets players slightly below their ECR value. But the Jets are the one team where I don’t fully trust my own projections. They could be the surprise team of the 2021 season.
Jalen Hurts is very, very overrated! There, I said it. Even with all his rushing upside: for him to finish as a top 10 QB, the Eagles would have to be a top 10 offense in terms of overall fantasy value. Last year, they were #25. They will be better this year, but that much better? I have ranked Hurts at QB#18, and I feel even that may be too high. Why else did the Eagles sign Joe Flacco, then tried to trade for Deshaun Watson, and then got Gardner Minshew (and kept Flacco)? They obviously don’t believe in Hurts, and neither should you.
In 2020, the Steelers threw the ball 41 times per game. That won’t repeat. They will still be a great passing offense, though, and all 3 WRs can be drafted at their current ECR value, with Diontae Johnson offering the most upside and JuJu Smith-Schuster carrying the most risk. Najee Harris is a RB1 right out of the gate. Rookie Pat Freiermuth will be a great NFL TE, but not this year. ECR TE#36 reflects his dynasty value, rather than his 2021 redraft value.
Why do so many fantasy managers shy away from the 2021 Seahawks? Russell Wilson is a top 6 QB, Chris Carson is a borderline RB1/RB2. D.K. Metcalf is a WR1, Tyler Lockett a WR2. There is no Seahawks player I’d call overrated from an ECR point of view. Will Dissly could have some sleeper appeal on TE, on the small chance they remember his 2018 and 2019 flashes (and forget the fact that both seasons ended in early injuries).
San Francisco 49ers
Like the Patriots, the Niners are difficult to project, as we don’t know when Lance will take over. If they started him right out of the gate, he’d have the potential to finish the season as high-end RB2, if not low-end RB1. But right now, it looks like Kyle Shanahan might rotate his QBs, even within a drive. As for the Niners’ skill position players, their ECR rankings look about right. If you want to invest in the backfield, Trey Sermon offers more upside than Raheem Mostert, especially towards the end of the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
They brought back the same team that won the 2020 season. Will that work out for them? If you think it will, you can draft all Bucs players at their current ECR value. Antonio Brown may even be underrated at ECR WR#40.
In Atlanta, Julio Jones’ fantasy value stemmed from rather many catches and yards on rather few targets – 15.1 yards per catch, with a stellar 75.0% catch rate. Both won’t repeat in 2021. He’ll get more targets, but will convert them into less catches and less yards. He’s a low-end WR2 at best. Don’t draft him at his current value. The rest of the Titans looks alright: Ryan Tannehill is a low-end QB1, Derrick Henry a top 4 RB, A.J. Brown a low-end WR1, and Anthony Firkser a low-end TE2 with upside.
Washington Football Team
Ryan Fitzpatrick will play his best season and will finish his long journeyman career with his first ever playoff appearance. He’s still only a low-end QB2, though, so don’t get too excited. Antonio Gibson, Logan Thomas, Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel will all return their current ECR value.