(Image credit: Kevin Hickey/USA Today Sports)
By: Austin Geller
1. T.Y. Hilton (Wide Receiver - Indianapolis Colts)
2. Carson Wentz (Quarterback - Indianapolis Colts)
It wasn’t too long ago that T.Y. Hilton was considered a top 10 receiver in the NFL. Times sure have changed. After eclipsing 1000 yards in five of his first seven seasons, the drop-off in numbers has been nothing short of eye-glaring. In Hilton’s last two seasons, he has accumulated 501 and 762 yards, respectively, by far the worst productivity in his career. Despite the dip in numbers, there is a lot of room for optimism for number 13 in the 2021 season. During Hilton’s best years, there has been one common theme: Andrew Luck. Andrew Luck was considered one of the best quarterbacks in the league for consecutive years. Hilton and Luck had developed one of the best rapports in all of football. When Luck suddenly retired just before the 2019 season, the Colts were forced to start Jacoby Brissett. That is when Hilton’s value took a nosedive. Hilton only managed to haul in 501 yards in 2019 with Brissett under center. His numbers improved in 2020 with Philip Rivers under center with 762 receiving yards. However, that is still not the T.Y. Hilton that we know and love. Now the Colts have quarterback Carson Wentz. In 2021, I predict that Hilton will ascend to a top 15 finish in PPR formats.
Carson Wentz is in the house. After being shipped from the Eagles, Wentz has something to prove. From being an MVP caliber player to one of the most antagonized players, Carson Wentz is on a mission to prove his doubters wrong. He is in a fantastic position to do so. Not only is Wentz finally going to have the best offensive line in football, but he is also back with his former offensive coordinator Frank Reich. During Wentz’s MVP caliber season in 2017 with the Eagles, Frank Reich was their offensive coordinator. Coach Reich knows how to bring out the best in Wentz. I predict Carson Wentz will have a top 12 finish.
With Carson Wentz looking to prove that he is still elite, combined with Indy’s incredible offensive line and head coach, I expect T.Y. Hilton and Carson Wentz to both have comeback years.
3. Marquise Brown (Wide Receiver - Baltimore Ravens)
I have been high on Marquise Brown the past two seasons, ever since he was drafted by the Ravens in 2019. Unfortunately, he has not lived up to expectations. But I am not ready to throw in the towel, yet. The 2021 season will bring out the best in Marquise Brown. The Baltimore Ravens are building something special. With Lamar Jackson running the helm, the Ravens have been one of the NFL’s most dangerous offenses due to their extraordinary rushing attack. What has been the achilles heel of Baltimore? Their air attack. Some point to Lamar Jackson being unable to make a throw when it counts. Although there is some truth to that, the fact is Lamar has not had enough help on the outside. Besides Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown has not been able to fill a WR1 role. That is about to change this season with Baltimore’s rookie Rashod Bateman. The 6-foot 200-pound wideout is already looking like the real deal, according to multiple reports. He is most likely going to draw attention from the opposing team’s best cornerbacks. In the meantime, Marquise Brown should have an easier time getting open. In 2020, Marquise Brown led the Ravens with 221 targets but only was able to haul in 58 of them, a disappointing 26% catch rate. A large contributing factor is that Lamar had to force a lot of throws to Brown, even if he had a low chance of catching it. With Rashod Bateman likely to draw large amounts of attention, I expect that to open up the field for Brown. I predict that Marquise Brown will finish as a top 25 wide receiver in PPR leagues this year.
4. Joe Burrow (Quarterback - Cincinnati Bengals)
Boy, the tables sure do turn. After coming off a stellar National Championship title at LSU, Joe Burrow was quickly humbled in the NFL. Through 10 starts, Burrow was able to accumulate 2688 yards and 13 touchdowns until his season ended with a gruesome knee injury in Week 11. Regardless, Joe Burrow is set up to have major success in his sophomore season. Joe Burrow has every weapon available to him this year. Although they passed up on Sewell, who would have been a crucial addition to the offensive line, the Bengals used their 2021 draft pick on Ja’marr Chase. Chase was taken 5th off the board as the #1 wide receiver selection. His 4.34 40 speed should give defenses migraines on the field. Defenses are going to have to figure out a way to defend the 6-foot 200-pound weapon, along with finding a way to contain Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. Joe Burrow has one of the best and most underrated wide receiver cores. In addition to having one of the most underrated wide receiving cores, Burrow has a 4th option. Does anyone remember Joe Mixon? Yeah, he is still there and he is about to explode this season. Joe Mixon has been one of the few workhorses in the NFL so far in his career. Not only can he plow through defenses, but he can be a nightmare to guard as a receiver out of the backfield. If for some reason all of Burrow’s receivers are covered, he still can dump it off to one of the league’s most dynamic running backs in Joe Mixon. I understand Burrow is coming off a major knee injury, but we have seen many quarterbacks do that. Tom Brady is just one of many dating back to 2009 after going down in his opener in 2008. Burrow has all of the tools to be a superstar in this league for many years to come. Trust the process. Do not wait too long; grab Burrow while you can! I predict Joe Burrow will end the 2021 season as a top 12 fantasy quarterback.
RECAP: If you want to give yourself the best chance to dominate your league, this is your golden ticket. You grab any one of these players in the draft, your chances of winning skyrocket. It is these kinds of picks that make all the difference. These four players are the guys that will propel your team the extra mile.