After what felt like an eternity, the NFL offseason is over and football is nearly here! There are only a few days left until all 32 franchises kick off their 2021 campaign and fantasy coaches around the world rejoice in a new season. With fantasy drafts in full swing around the globe, coaches are dying to find the hidden gems that will catapult their team to glory. Once the clock starts ticking on your draft, make sure these 13 players are in your sights if you want to fulfil that dream of taking out the title!
All players numbers/stats provided are based on ESPN PPR Fantasy leagues
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Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Numbers that matter: 43.5 ADP, 97.9% OWN
Injuries are the biggest con when it comes to drafting Seattle’s lead back in Chris Carson, with the gifted rusher failing to play a full 16-game slate in his five NFL seasons thus far. In 2020 alone, Carson missed six games and took a step backwards in fantasy terms after finishing as the RB12 in 2019 and the RB15 in 2018. While there are concerns over his durability there’s no denying that Carson will have plenty of scoring opportunities and volume when he’s in uniform — making him one of my favourite targets with a pick in the mid 30's.
Numbers that matter: 116.1 ADP, 94.6% OWN
Fantasy experts will tell you it’s smart to draft your D/ST and a kicker with your final two selections and while I totally subscribe to that theory, you may have to reach slightly to secure Washington’s defence. It could be a move that sets you up for fantasy success with the WFT returning nine of their top-10 defensive players in snaps from the last season; a year where they finished amongst the league leaders for sacks (47), interceptions (16) and opponent points per game (19.8). Those factors combined with a cushy slate of divisional opponents in the NFC East should see the franchise maintain their stay as a top-5 D/ST unit.
Adam Thielen, WR Minnesota Vikings
Numbers that matter: 46.1 ADP, 98.6% OWN
Adam Thielen has been a fantasy staple for the past few seasons and even with Justin Jefferson reaching lofty heights as a rookie, Minnesota’s main pass-catcher still produced some respectable fantasy numbers last year. Tied for the 5th most red-zone targets in the entire NFL a season ago, Thielen has hauled in a healthy dose of receiving yards and touchdowns over the last four seasons, with the 2019 campaign the only time he finished outside the top-10 for fantasy WR’s. His shortcomings that season can be attributed to injuries that restricted the Vikings wideout to just 10 games and if he has a clean bill of health once again I’m banking on Thielen having another consistent and productive fantasy season.
Image from thevikingage.com
Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Numbers that matter: 104.7 ADP, 88.7% OWN
Jalen Hurts will finish as a top-6 fantasy QB — don’t @ me. Following Carson Wentz’s trade to Indianapolis, all signs point to Philadelphia trusting Hurts wholeheartedly under center as he enters his second NFL season. Last year, Hurts managed to finish 8th amongst all QB’s for rushing yards, averaging 68 rushing yards on 11.5 rush attempts per game in his 4 starts late in the 2020 campaign. While there are still questions to be asked about his passing credentials, Philly has a much stronger receiving core this year and with a full preseason under his belt, I’m expecting the sophomore Eagle to surge to relevance in fantasy circles.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos
Numbers that matter: 75.5 ADP, 92.1% OWN
A bad case of the drops in his first pro season saw Jerry Jeudy underachieve from a fantasy standpoint, but hopes are high for the second-year Bronco. 853 receiving yards last season saw Jeudy finish 32nd in the NFL; however, the former Alabama wideout ranked 23rd in total targets, indicating there is room for him to improve in the upcoming season. Teddy Bridgewater should help give Denver some more stability at QB and even though he won’t be uncorking deep balls for 400+ passing yards a game, Jeudy is poised to be one of his main weapons and should see a heavy workload that pushes 70–80 targets and potentially 1,000+ receiving yards.
Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington
Numbers that matter: 30.1 ADP, 99.6% OWN
Back-to-back promising seasons from Washington’s primary pass-catcher has him primed for a breakout fantasy campaign. Finishing 29th and 20th for fantasy points amongst receivers in the last two years doesn’t sound like a hell of an achievement, but Terry McLaurin deserves a ton of praise when you consider the fact that has been catching passes from Kyle Allen, Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins. Some may argue that Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t a huge upgrade, but the veteran quarterback will funnel targets towards his WR1, which should see McLaurin achieve the best fantasy numbers of his young career.
Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets
Numbers that matter: 129.3 ADP, 70.9% OWN
In his senior collegiate season, North Carolina’s tailback Michael Carter was forced to split his carries with Broncos draftee Javonte Williams, but that didn’t stop him from emerging as a talented playmaker. Now that he’s landed in New York, La’Mical Perine and Ty Johnson loom as the only threats to Carter’s job and his pass-catching prowess should still see him produce as a fantasy rookie. Snaring the Jets’ newest weapon with a late-round pick is a smart investment in the hopes that he makes a splash and plays his way into weekly flex contention.
Logan Thomas, TE, Washington
Numbers that matter: 73.1 ADP, 95.1% OWN
After bouncing around the league since he was drafted in 2014, Logan Thomas seems to have finally found a home in Washington. In the final five games last year, Thomas saw 50 targets and hauled in nearly 350 receiving yards which contributed to him ending the season as the league leader in routes run at the TE position. Clearly, the WFT wants to keep him around after agreeing to a three-year, $24M extension in the offseason and if you miss out on a lot of the big names early in the draft, slotting Thomas into your TE spot with a mid-round selection is a wise investment.
Antonio Brown, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Numbers that matter: 111.6 ADP, 84.0% OWN
It’s no secret that Antonio Brown is a fantasy football stud. For five consecutive seasons between 2014–2018, Antonio Brown finished 1st, 1st, 3rd, 2nd & 2nd for fantasy points amongst WR’s and his well-documented off-field troubles have been the only thing that has slowed Brown in the past few seasons. Don’t reach and overdraft him hoping for a top-5 finish season, but Brown could emerge as the best fantasy option amongst a talented group of Tampa Bay pass-catchers — making him a worthwhile target as one of your first bench selections.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams
Numbers that matter: 101.9 ADP, 85.7% OWN
Freed from the shackles of the Detroit franchise, Matthew Stafford’s stock is certainly trending upwards this offseason. Many casual NFL fans believe the veteran quarterback is the key to unlocking Sean McVay’s L.A. offence, making him a fantasy sleeper in the process. The 33-year old QB has thrown for 4,000+ passing yards in eight of his 12 pro seasons to date and with another game added to the slate this season, there’s every chance Stafford throws for 5,000 yards this season with 35–40 touchdowns. Despite the fact that he doesn’t have the same rushing upside as other QB’s being drafted in this range, there’s enough upside to pounce on Stafford and be happy he’ll finish as a top-10 quarterback.
Image from ramblinfan.com
Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams
Numbers that matter: 131.2 ADP, 66.5% OWN
Sticking with the Rams, Stafford’s presence not only boosts his own fantasy credentials, but it gives coaches a lot more optimism and confidence in selecting receivers from Los Angeles in 2021. Enter tight-end Tyler Higbee, who has shown flashes of fantasy excellence and is now squarely in the TE1 mix, after Gerald Everrett’s departure. With Higbee’s main threat at the position now residing in Seattle, there’s every chance we see Higbee recapture the form that he displayed at the end of the 2019 season — when he reeled off four 100+ receiving yard games in his final five games. Trust me, Higbee is worth the dice roll late in drafts.
Mike Davis, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Numbers that matter: 74.6 ADP, 91.7% OWN
A career-best season rushing the ball in 2020 has seen Mike Davis garner plenty of attention from fantasy coaches this preseason. The former Panther crossed over to divisional rivals Atlanta in the offseason and the lack of competition at RB should see him chew up a heavy workload for the Falcons. Davis burst onto the fantasy scene last year when he replaced an injured Christian McCaffrey in Week 3, averaging 75+ yards from scrimmage in 12 starts with nearly 15 carries and 4 receptions a game. We should see a similar line of production from the talented tailback with the chance he reaches greater heights — well and truly outperforming his ADP in the process.
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Numbers that matter: 134.4 ADP, 75.9% OWN
It’s no surprise to see Trevor Lawrence feature on this list, with the №1 overall pick widely tipped to burst onto the scene in his rookie NFL season. The former Clemson gunslinger brings his high passing IQ and mobility in the pocket to a retooled and rejuvenated Jaguars franchise and I expect him to succeed from as early as Week 1. Jacksonville has surrounded Lawrence with a decent receiving corp, although it may be unfair to expect him to dominate right away. Still, stashing him on your bench with one of your final picks is a worthwhile draft investment just in case Lawrence delivers on his upside right away.
Long Shot Sleepers
It wouldn’t be a fantasy article without a few sleepers! Currently, these 6 players are rostered in less than 50% of ESPN teams and they could be fine targets with one of your final picks in deeper leagues. Worst case, add them to your watchlist in case they pop throughout the season…
Elijah Moore, WR, Jets
The Jets selected Elijah Moore with the 34th pick in last year’s draft and early on in training camp he was making his presence felt. There are certainly questions about New York’s passing game but, I’ve still got faith Moore’s athletic traits will help him emerge as one of Zach Wilson’s main weapons as the season progresses.
Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles
One of the fantasy staples at TE in year’s past, Zach Ertz fell off a cliff in 2020 and there’s no clear path back to relevance with Dallas Goedert still ahead of him on the depth chart. Just last week, Ertz came out and pledged his allegiance to the city, but if he ends up being traded, a change of scenery or a Goedert injury could help him reignite his fantasy career.
Carson Hyde, RB, Jaguars
There isn’t a ton of value in the undrafted running back’s, but Carlos Hyde is one to keep an eye from the group. While he doesn’t possess the ability to be a feature back, he certainly benefits from Travis Etienne’s season-ending injury and he could carve out a solid role behind Robinson as the clear RB2 for Jacksonville.
Trey Lance, QB, 49ers
The only thing holding Trey Lance back from being a top-15 draft quarterback is the presence of Jimmy Garoppolo. San Fran appear set on starting the season with Jimmy G under center, but an opportunity could come for Lance in year one. A stellar supporting cast and his ability to run the ball make Lance one to watch and if he can seize that starting role he’ll instantly be a highly sought after waiver wire addition.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Lions
I’m honestly keen to roster the former USC star wideout based purely on his name alone! Amon-Ra St. Brown joins a muddled group of receivers in Detroit and there isn’t a ton to like about their offence entering a new season. While there may not be as many scoring chances, St. Brown could still lead the Lions in targets and become a very important fantasy rookie.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Green Bay
For years the Packers have been trying to find a stable WR2 in their offence and Marquez Valdes-Scantling has shown at times that he can be that player. A lack of consistency has plagued his fantasy career and makes it hard for coaches to trust him. With that being said, all reports out of Green Bay indicate MVS is ready for a career-best season — making him a potential late flier or waiver wire watch.