Fantasy Insider Scott Engel reviews offseason changes throughout the league, and what they mean for your fantasy team. Scott Engel
Scott Engel is beginning his 10th season as the official Fantasy writer and analyst for Seahawks.com. Scott is a 25-year veteran of the Fantasy industry and an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. He is a four-time FSWA award winner and 10-time nominee, including being named a finalist for the 2020 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award. You can also find more of his Fantasy analysis on RotoBaller.com, SportsLine.com, the Athletic and SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Scott won two Fantasy Football dynasty league titles in 2020, including one in the prestigious Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC) and previously pulled off a three-peat in a highly competitive New York City league.
The 2021 Fantasy Football season is here, and we start off our comprehensive and expanded coverage by getting you up to speed on all the offseason moves and happenings that will impact outlooks this season. If you want to catch up on player moves and news, you will find what you need to get up to date right here. If you are well aware of what has happened in the offseason, we provide in-depth analysis that can prepare you better for upcoming drafts. For all Fantasy Footballer players, this 2021 primer is your version of minicamp. Before we get into positional breakdowns, sleepers, and strategy recommendations in the weeks ahead , we deliver a rundown of 12 highly compelling Fantasy storylines heading into the new season. It's our first step as we set you up to "Always Compete" in 2021.
1) One more week of Fantasy Football fun
This season, the NFL will play an enhanced schedule of 17 games over 18 weeks. Since 1978, the league had featured a 16-game schedule. This is a historic change in terms of the Fantasy Football layout. The "modern era' of Fantasy Football, as we can define it, is when the game first became increasingly popular with the rise of the internet in the 1990s. With the addition of the extra game, Fantasy Football seasonal league schedules will now widely expand from 13 to 14 regular season weeks for the first time in the modern era, with many leagues holding their playoffs from Weeks 14 to 17. This means an obvious additional week of Fantasy competition, which is a natural welcome new change. With another week of play, Fantasy leaguers now have another extra opportunity to stay in the playoff hunt. Final statistical totals will be larger than ever in many cases. There will be extra injury management, and if you play in a league with a Free Agent Budget for waiver purposes, you will have to shift your approach a bit in terms of spending. Overall, though, the extra week truly just adds more fun and enjoyment.
2) Matthew Stafford arrives in the NFC West
Longtime Lions star Matthew Stafford has been a very respectable Fantasy starter in the past. He finished as a Top 10 Fantasy QB from 2015 to 2017. But when he was traded to the Rams in the offseason, his Fantasy appeal shot up. Stafford is now at the helm of the NFC's fifth-best offense from 2020, and can make it one of the very best in the league. He is working with the deepest receiving crew of his career in terms of sheer quality with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, rising youngster Van Jefferson, DeSean Jackson, Tyler Higbee and running back Cam Akers out of the backfield. Stafford could be headed for one of his best Fantasy seasons ever in 2020, and his arrival in the NFC West further confirms the division as the toughest in the NFL. The NFC West now features four current and future standout QBs in Russell Wilson, Stafford, Kyler Murray and Trey Lance. Stafford is the 10th QB off the board so far in NFL.com Fantasy drafts according to ADP reports, and he could certainly finish near or in the Top 5.
3) Julio Jones leaves Atlanta for Tennessee
The future Hall of Famer gives Ryan Tannehill another major weapon after he threw a career-high 33 TD passes last season. Many Fantasy players may not be aware that Tannehill finished as QB7 in Fantasy Football last year, and the addition of Jones can ensure he performs at such a level again. A.J. Brown, who finished as Fantasy WR12 last season in PPR leagues, now may face less heavy coverage from opposing secondaries and could outperform his 2020 numbers. Jones should slide in as a very good Fantasy WR3 in Tennessee. He certainly is not done at age 32. In Atlanta, the departure of Jones means that Calvin Ridley, who finished as Fantasy WR5 last year, could challenge to be the best WR in Fantasy Football this season with some more possible volume. Russell Gage also has Fantasy WR3 potential as he is expected to take on a larger role in the Atlanta passing game.
4) The Drew Brees era is over
Drew Brees retired, and now we will have to see how his absence will affect the New Orleans offense. What has not changed, though, is that Sean Payton still guides the Saints offense. If Jameis Winston starts at QB, he could perform better than ever as an NFL passer, as learning for a year from Brees and Payton could pay off well. He does have higher-end Fantasy QB2 potential and is an interesting superflex/two QB league target. If Taysom Hill starts, his running skills would make him a possible Fantasy starter with upside. Alvin Kamara should remain an elite Fantasy RB, as the Saints will continue to rely on his versatility, and will still be worthy of a first round tag if he works with Hill, who may share some goal line area work and could distribute the ball differently than Winston might. Michael Thomas will still be a surefire Fantasy WR1 no matter who plays QB, and second-year TE Adam Trautman is a major sleeper candidate who could bust out in 2020.
5) Dak is back
In 2020, Dak Prescott's season ended after he suffered a major ankle injury in Week 5. He was averaging 27.7 Fantasy Points Per Game, the most among QBs. A return to good health will put Prescott back in the elite Fantasy QB conversation, as he is QB5 in early NFL.com drafts and you could make a strong case for him being Top 3 when you consider he may have the best receiving crew in the NFL. His return will put Amari Cooper back in the high-end Fantasy WR2 mix, and it should be noted that Cooper still caught a career-high 92 passes last year, so do not pass on him when you need a No. 2 wideout. CeeDee Lamb might make a huge jump in Year Two to the point where he can also be a top-level Fantasy WR2. His current NFL.com ADP is 37.3, so there is a lot of apparent Fantasy optimism surrounding Lamb. Ezekiel Elliott can now also recapture much of the form that led to a Fantasy RB3 finish in 2019. The Dallas offense is going to be a prime resource for standout Fantasy production in 2021 with Prescott back in action.
6) A new weapon for Russell Wilson, and a Fantasy sleeper candidate
In March, the Seahawks signed former Rams tight end Gerald Everett, reuniting him with new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, who was the passing game coordinator with the Rams. Everett's familiarity with Waldron and the opportunity to work with Wilson could propel him to his best Fantasy campaign yet. Everett finished third among all NFL tight ends last year with 5.9 yards after receptions. He will be a significant threat on key passing downs and will be another top TD target for Wilson near the goal line. Tight end is the thinnest position in Fantasy Football, and we should always be on the lookout for value performers who can perform well above the points where they are drafted. Everett, who is being widely viewed as a Top 25 Fantasy TE, has an opportunity and a passing environment to potentially put him into the Top 15 range this season, with the upside to finish in the Top 12.
7) Eye on Indianapolis
The Colts traded for Carson Wentz in the offseason, and he still has the abilities to be a higher-end Fantasy QB2. If he can regain his better form, Wentz will pilot an Indianapolis offense that can generate some real Fantasy excitement this season. Running back Jonathan Taylor is one of the hottest names at running back heading into 2021, as he finished as RB6 last year and is now expected to be a top-level Fantasy RB. He is being drafted No. 6 overall so far, and he certainly has the upside to justify such a selection and is worthy of a choice after the likes of Derrick Henry and Alvin Kamara are off the board. Second-year WR Michael Pittman Jr., who finished third among WRs with 7.3 yards after receptions, could become a breakout performer working with Wentz and he is a great value pick as a Fantasy WR3 type.
8) Here Comes Kyle
Among Fantasy Football rookies, no newcomer is generating more excitement than Atlanta's Kyle Pitts. He has already drawn comparisons to Travis Kelce and he is the fifth TE off the board in early NFL.com drafts. He is being taken as early as fourth at the position in some drafts. Tight end is usually where we typically see young players emerging as quality Fantasy performers a bit later in their careers, but the Falcons already appear ready to make Pitts a prime part of their passing game in 2021. It is not easy to procure an elite tight end in any Fantasy draft, and going for upside sometimes turns out to be a league-winning move. Pitts' sixth round ADP is not too high when you are looking to get a significant edge at a very thin position. Pitts is a very unique size/speed playmaker who can threaten defenses downfield in a manner you don't often see from many tight ends, and he has a proven veteran QB to work with in Matt Ryan. Once Kelce, Darren Waller and George Kittle are taken at TE, the lure of Pitts' great promise may prove to be irresistible. Just make sure you have filled out prime slots at RB and WR before you make the move on him.
9) Pass-catchers with new addresses
Jones was not the only notable WR to change teams. Kenny Golladay will become the new top wideout for the Giants, and keep in mind he led the NFL in TD catches two years ago. He does have high-end Fantasy WR2 upside. Will Fuller is now in Miami, and is a worthy Fantasy WR3 target. Curtis Samuel is a breakout candidate as a possible top WR option for Ryan Fitzpatrick in Washington. Corey Davis is a mid-range WR4 play with the Jets. Marvin Jones could be a nifty value pick working with Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville. At tight end, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith are viable TE2 types with New England, and Jared Cook could be a very good late pick as he takes over as the No. 1 TE for the Chargers.
10) Excitement in Cincinnati
The Bengals might field one of the more productive offenses in the AFC this season, and Cincinnati could be a very good location to find quality Fantasy production. Joe Burrow was a Top 10 Fantasy QB in his rookie season when healthy, and the Bengals drafted his former LSU teammate, WR Ja'Marr Chase, with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Chase will instantly be one of Cincinnati's Top 3 WRs and is worthy of a No. 3 Fantasy WR choice. Tee Higgins, who averaged 13.6 yards per catch and scored six times as a rookie, should certainly improve in Year Two. Tyler Boyd, who has caught 169 passes in the last two seasons, rounds out a fine receiving crew for Burrow, who can finish as a surefire Fantasy RB1 this season. A healthy Joe Mixon may rush for double-digit scores as a drive finisher for Cincinnati.
11) Rookies bring the buzz
While Pitts is the biggest name among rookies, Najee Harris of the Steelers is the most highly regarded first-year RB, and is a quality mid-range RB2 target. Javonte Williams of the Broncos and Trey Sermon of the 49ers could emerge as starters for their teams in their first NFL seasons. Travis Etienne of the Jaguars and Michael Carter of the Jets are upside flex players. At wide receiver, DeVonta Smith of the Eagles will step into a large role right away, as should Rashod Bateman of Baltimore. Smith is an early career Fantasy WR3 candidate. Among quarterbacks, Trevor Lawrence has a good shot to be a higher-end Fantasy QB2, while Justin Fields and Trey Lance are superflex/two QB picks that could be potential difference-makers in such formats.
12) Chris comes back
The Seahawks re-signed Chris Carson in the offseason, and knowing he will be in a familiar role this year should make him a prime target as a Fantasy RB2 this season. Carson averaged 15.7 Fantasy Points Per Game last season, putting him just outside RB1 territory. He is a Top 15 player at his position who should be drafted with optimism that he can frequently perform at No. 1 Fantasy RB levels. The Seahawks are also looking forward to the return of a healthy Rashaad Penny. He has sleeper potential as a later-round Fantasy draft pick, as we have seen him flash big-play promise in seasons past. In deeper leagues, Alex Collins is a name to remember as well, as he rushed for scores in two games last year. The Seahawks do have quality depth at the RB position for Fantasy purposes. DeeJay Dallas should remain on dynasty league rosters for possible future contributions.
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