(image credit: Matthew Lenix/USA Today)
By: Jett Rosenstein
Every year, fantasy football owners will pinpoint a group of players they love heading into a season. Some owners may go to extraordinary lengths to get these players on their teams, no matter the cost. It is a necessity to have them on your team. Like everyone else, I also have a group of players that I absolutely need to have on my team for this upcoming season. Here are “my guys'' for Fantasy Football 2021. Note: ADP courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com
1. Dak Prescott (QB-DAL) ADP- 6.02
If you have been following my content over the past several weeks, you know how much I love Dak Prescott heading into 2021. Dak suffered a gruesome injury in the early stages of the 2020 season but seems to be fully recovered heading into 2021 barring any setbacks. Before going down to injury in 2020, Dak was averaging 31.3 fantasy points per game and was on pace for a record year. Dak has also shown to be very reliable for fantasy owners finishing no less than QB10 (excluding his injury-ravaged 2020 season) up to this point in his career. Now, with the offensive line seemingly returning to full health and a plethora of weapons at Dak’s disposal, he should be able to pick up right where he left off prior to his injury. Dak is currently the 5th QB off the board. Any question marks people have about him are baked into his value. I expect Dak to outperform his ADP. He is someone I want to lead all of my fantasy teams in 2021.
2. Joe Burrow (QB-CIN) ADP- 11.02
As all fantasy football players know, there are going to be times when someone swipes one of your guys and that's why it is important to have multiple backup options in place. If I can’t add Dak to my team, I will do everything I can to get Joe Burrow. Like Dak, Burrow suffered a season-ending injury of his own. He is expected to go into week 1 fully healthy which is a positive development for fantasy owners. Burrow showed what he is capable of in his rookie season. According to PFF, he had a passing grade of 76.4 (19th among QBs). The Bengals added another weapon in Ja’Marr Chase and some reinforcements on the offensive line. This 2021 Bengals offense could very well look like what we saw from the Cowboys in early 2020. The Bengals will certainly be trailing a lot which should bode well for fantasy production. Due to questions about his health, Burrow is currently a value pick and that needs to be taken advantage of. He is poised to finish as a QB1 in 2021.
3. Joe Mixon (RB-CIN) ADP- 2.08
As I previously mentioned, I am very excited about what this Bengals offense has to offer in 2021. Joe Mixon will be a big part of it. People will say that Mixon is injury-prone, yet he played in 14+ games in each of his first 3 seasons. He did miss 10 games in 2020, but don’t let the recency bias stray you away from a guy who should have a bounce-back year in 2021. For the most part, Mixon hasn’t been fully unleashed yet and a lot of that had to do with Giovani Bernard still in the lineup, but he is no longer with this team anymore. Mixon’s backup is expected to be Samaje Perine, which is really not that threatening. Mixon has shown the ability to do it all out of the backfield as he amassed over 1000 yards and 30+ receptions in both 2018 and 2019. He now has the luxury of being a part of an offense where there are numerous weapons to account for so the defense will have to pick their poison. We might be looking at Mixon receiving the largest workload of his career in 2021 which could end up propelling him to a top 5 finish among RBs.
4. Michael Carter (RB-NYJ) ADP- 8.02
Aside from Najee Harris, it looks like Michael Carter will be the other rookie RB in the best position to put up solid fantasy numbers in year 1. Currently, on the Jets depth chart, he sits alongside guys like Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson who are nowhere near as talented as Carter is. In all likelihood, this will be a committee, but I expect Carter to receive the bulk of the carries as the season progresses. Mike LaFleur, former passing game coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers brings over a system that involves a lot of outside runs which will work to Carter’s advantage. The Jets offensive line is getting better and with a rookie QB at the helm, they will definitely want to get the run game going. Talent plus opportunity equals fantasy production and Carter fits that equation for sure. He is an easy upside pick and one of the rookies I will covet during drafts.
5. Cooper Kupp (WR-LAR) ADP- 5.09
When comparing Cooper Kupp’s 2019 and 2020 seasons, there are 2 things that stand out. Kupp reached the end zone 3 times in 2020 after reaching it 10 times in 2019. His yards per catch also went down from 12.4 to a career-low 10.6. The biggest hindrance in Kupp’s fantasy productivity last year was Jared Goff. Goff is no longer with this team. They brought in an upgrade at the position, Matthew Stafford. Stafford will be able to get the ball to his receivers more consistently. As a result, Stafford should be able to take Kupp to the next level as a receiver. Now that the Rams are without up-and-coming RB Cam Akers, they may choose to lean on the passing game even more. Kupp will be in WR2 territory, but he has plenty of upside that can catapult him back up to a WR1.
6. CeeDee Lamb (WR-DAL) ADP- 4.05
This is a very popular breakout pick heading into the 2021 season and rightfully so. We saw what CeeDee Lamb is capable of in a small sample size with Dak Prescott. Now, he will most likely have him for a full season. Lamb was the WR12 with Dak under center and wound up finishing as the WR22 overall. The early indication is that the Cowboys coaching staff wants to use Lamb all over the field which may equate to more looks his way. He also may be able to see a TD bump if he is the guy in the red zone. Did you know that when Amari Cooper and Lamb were on the field together, Lamb had a higher target per snap rate (14.9 vs 13.9)? Will he become the WR1 on this Cowboys offense? It could very well happen. He is only entering year 2 in the NFL and the sky's the limit for him. I would not be surprised if he finished as a WR1 in 2021.
7. Jonnu Smith (TE-NE) ADP- 16.06
If I do not draft one of the “big 3” at TE, Jonnu Smith is a guy I will turn to every time. In the offseason, the Patriots signed him in a hurry and gave him big money (4-50 MIL). Bill Belichick raved about him before he was even on the Pats. He is clearly a big part of their offensive plans in 2021. Smith could very well lead this team in targets due to a ton of question marks in the receiver room. Smith’s talent was not fully maximized on a Titans team that relied heavily on the run. Look for the Pats to take advantage of his big body and yards after the catch ability. Whether it's Mac Jones or Cam Newton under center, each week’s game plan is sure to feature Smith as a focal point. He is criminally undervalued in drafts right now as shown by his current ADP. If I have the ability to take a TE with this much upside at this point in the draft, sign me up.