The first waves of the free agent frenzy have come and gone, and we have seen some major fantasy producers find new homes, like Kenny Golladay. We had some call it a career. (Enjoy retirement, Drew Brees!) In their absences, they leave behind significant fantasy production. Now, some spots have already been filled in the free agent market (John Brown replacing Nelson Agholor in Las Vegas). Now, this comes with a warning: not every hole that gets filled is going to come with the fantasy production of the previous player in the role. Sometimes, it works out, and the player shines in the role. Sometimes, the role just never gets filled, and the team makes a change in philosophy. Remember when everyone tried to draft the next great New England Tight End? How’d that work out? All right, on to our list…
10. Seattle Running Back
Chris Carson is a stud and is still the man in Seattle. So, why does this spot make the list? A couple of reasons. Reason number one: health. Carson has never played a full season in his career. Secondly, he has suffered from fumbling issues when he has played consistently. For reasons passing understanding, Pete Carroll seems to want Russell Wilson to throw less and less and run more and more. So, Carson is going to get work and possibly could be flex value for an RB2 in Seattle. With Carlos Hyde taking his talents to Jacksonville, that role is available. Now, if Carson were to end up on the injured list, that would leave the RB Seattle determines as their number two in a very fantasy-friendly spot.
9. Houston Wide Receiver
I will preface this one by saying this spot is a lot more attractive with Deshaun Watson throwing the passes than Tyrod Taylor, but, as I tell my kids, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” Brandin Cooks had an under-the-radar stud season last year, finishing the season as WR16, ahead of names like Keenan Allen and Amari Cooper. Now, while Cooks is still in Houston, Will Fuller is not. Will Fuller finished the year as WR24. More importantly, on a points per game average, Fuller was WR6. Someone has to replace those targets, and I do not believe they are on the current roster. If Tyrod does end up being QB1 for Houston next year, remember that Sammy Watkins’ best fantasy season came with him at the helm.
8. New Orleans Quarterback
I don’t think this position is getting filled in the draft. More likely, the replacement is on the roster. Taysom Hill and Jamies Winston will be in a training camp battle to be the heir apparent to Drew Brees. For fantasy purposes, I think we would all like to see what Sean Payton can do with Winston. We are just one season removed from seeing Winston throw for the most yards in football and over 30 Touchdowns. (He might have thrown a few interceptions in their too.) Hill, as we saw last season, does offer some fantasy value, as most rushing QBs do. However, Hill got hurt at the end of his run at QB, and his style of play would likely repeat that cycle. Now, could Payton opt to start over with an early-round QB? Absolutely. The main point being, whoever is leading Payton’s offense needs to be on the fantasy radar.
7. Los Angeles Chargers Tight End
Hunter Henry is now in New England, taking his 60-613-4 line with him. Those numbers, while not super flashy, were still good enough to be a top 15 play. Henry was not replaced in free agency, which leads us to believe that LA plans to replace him in the draft. With a promising young QB in Justin Herbert, the Chargers would be wise to give him a solid security blanket in the form of an early-round tight end. While the thought of Herbert throwing to Kyle Pitts is salivating for fantasy fans, I don’t see that happening, but there is no reason not to think they won’t invest a day two pick into this position.
6. Kansas City Wide Receiver #2
Kansas City is set at WR1 in Tyreek Hill. The argument could even be made that Travis Kelce is the top passing option in KC’s arsenal. Sammy Watkins will be lining up in Baltimore next season, so there is an opening in this offense. Now, being the third option in a lot of offenses does not make a player very fantasy-relevant, but when Patrick Mahomes is throwing you the football, you get pretty relevant. Sammy Watkins never produced consistently during his time in KC, but that doesn’t mean the next guy won’t. If KC drafts a WR in the first three rounds, that pick needs to be on your radar.
5. Tennessee Wide Receiver #2
The top spot in Tennessee is not up for grabs. AJ Brown has that job locked up. Corey Davis will not be lining up on the other side of him this year, though, as he will likely be catching passes from Zach Wilson in New Jersey. Davis, who produced a solid, if not showy, 65-984-5 in 2020, held great value from where he was drafted in fantasy leagues, despite not living up to his actual draft status. All the pieces in Tennessee are still in place (minus Offensive Coordinator Arthur Smith, now the Head Coach in Atlanta) for a new wide receiver to step in and fill Davis’ void. I can certainly see the Titans addressing this spot early in the final weekend of April.
4. New York Jets Running Back
No Jets running back produced last season … However, let’s just call everything the Jets did the last two years a wash and move on. New Head Coach, Robert Saleh, brings with him the Shanahan Offense. As cliché as it is, going back to Mike Shanahan’s Denver days, where that offense is, there is also a productive running game. Factor in the likelihood of the Jets using either their second first-round pick or a Day 2 pick on a running back, and this becomes a spot with a lot of fantasy value.
3. Cincinnati Wide Receiver
Could this spot already be on the roster? Sure. Tyler Boyd and especially Tee Higgins seem quite capable of filling this role. However, it is a very real possibility the first wide receiver off the board in the 2021 draft could be headed to Cincy. Joe Burrow, assuming he comes back ready to roll from his 2020 injuries, is a young upcoming stud at QB. Whoever ends up being Joey B’s number #1 target is likely to command top 15 fantasy value for the 2021 campaign.
2. Arizona Running Back
I, like many of you, was a frustrated Kenyan Drake drafter last year. Despite having almost 1,000 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns, his 2020 campaign was underwhelming. The main reason was his complete lack of use in the passing game. All the more frustrating being that he was used so well in the passing game the year prior, following being traded from Miami to the desert. With Drake now making it hard to draft Josh Jacobs in Las Vegas, the job is up for grabs. Certainly, it could be Chase Edmonds’ job to lose, but if Kliff Kingsbury feels like Edmonds could be the guy, then why not make him the guy last year? If Arizona drafts a running back early this year, there is a good chance that running back will finish in the top 10 in fantasy points.
1. Detroit Lions Wide Receiver
The Detroit Lions are all new in 2021: new Quarterback, new coach, and most certainly new pass catchers. After letting both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Sr. leave via free agency, there are 147 targets in the passing game waiting to be picked up by someone. This is also a team expected to be down most games and will likely be drafting in the Top 5 in the 2022 draft. Garbage points still count. The first or second wide receiver in the draft is very likely to call Detroit home. Is Jared Goff as good as Matthew Stafford? Absolutely not. Can Jared Goff get the job done for fantasy managers, though? Absolutely. Somebody besides TJ Hockenson needs to catch passes for Detroit this year, and that player might just be your fantasy sleeper this year.
Agree with this list? Don’t agree at all? Tell me about it! I love talking fantasy…no matter the time of the year.