8 players who improved their fantasy football stock for 2021February 16, 2021
The 2020 NFL season was a roller coaster for many in the fantasy football world and the only thing that was predictable was how unpredictable everything was going to be. We had some pleasant surprises, some puzzling downfalls and some players who just came out of nowhere to win managers championships.
As we prepare for next season, let’s take a look at some players who improved their fantasy draft stock and where I think they might get drafted.
Note: ADP courtesy of Yahoo Sports
2020 ADP: QB8
Projected 2021 ADP: QB2
There were many who expected Josh Allen to improve a bit on 2019’s statistical year, but I don’t think even he thought he would have as much of an improvement as he did.
Allen’s completion percentage improved by almost 11 per cent while throwing 111 more passes, 1,455 more passing yards and 17 more touchdowns, all while still rushing the ball 102 times and adding eight rushing touchdowns.
All of these improvements resulted in him being the top fantasy player across the board.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Heading into next season, Allen will still have Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, John Brown, Gabriel Davis and hopefully an improved run game. The Bills now identify as a pass-first team and are confident putting the ball in Allen’s hands to make big plays with both his arm and his legs.
Keep in mind that Allen was tied for the team lead in carries inside the 10-yard line and led the team in carries inside the five, which means he maintained his touchdown upside as a rusher. The Bills may not want this to continue to ensure long-term health, but you can’t deny the results.
In some cases, Allen could go ahead of Patrick Mahomes, but I think this year was a bit of an anomaly for Mahomes statistically and he should still be the QB1 overall.
Maybe 2020 was Allen’s peak year, but based on what we saw I think there are more seasons like it to come.
2020 ADP: QB12
Projected 2021 ADP: QB5
All Aaron Rodgers did in 2020 was blow away his projections and finish as the No. 2 fantasy player across the board, behind only Allen. I’ll admit that I didn’t see this kind of performance from Rodgers, especially after the Packers didn’t do him any favours at the wide receiver position.
He set career highs in completion percentage and touchdown passes in an MVP season and showed even more rapport with Davante Adams, helping him prove yet again why he is one of the top wide receivers in the NFL.
Rodgers really is one of the most consistent players in the history of the game, which should lend itself to a higher draft stock, but for whatever reason it doesn’t. In 10 of 11 full seasons, Rodgers has thrown for over 4,000 yards (He missed that plateau in one season by 78 yards and started 15 games) and 28 or more touchdown passes in that same time frame.
I guess what I’m saying is, with all the shiny new toys at quarterback every year, the one constant is that if Aaron Rodgers is healthy, he’s going to produce a QB1 season.
Consistency is king.
The expectation this off-season (like in so many other off-seasons with the Packers) is that they will add a wide receiver to pair with Adams, and if that happens, giddy up!
2020 ADP: RB19
Projected 2021 ADP: RB8
I was bullish on Jonathan Taylor heading into this past season and for good reason. He had a great landing spot with the Colts, who had one of the best offensive lines in football, a quarterback who loves to throw to running backs and a defence that could put this team in position to run the ball a lot.
It didn’t matter to me that Marlon Mack or Nyheim Hines was already there, but it took a while for Taylor to get his footing, even with an injury to Mack in Week 1.
Once it became apparent that he was ready to handle a bell-cow workload in the NFL, Taylor took off.
From Week 11 to Week 16, Taylor was RB5 in both standard and PPR in points per game, averaged 17.8 carries for 97.6 yards with one touchdown per game and added 2.6 receptions for 19 yards and 0.2 receiving touchdowns.
Taylor oozes talent. He can run any way you want. Need him to run through the tackles? Sure thing. Want him to break a run outside? He’s got that covered. Need him to make a big catch? He can do that too.
If his usage at the end of the year is any indication of what we will see next year, he could very well eclipse his projected RB8 draft slot.
2020 ADP: RB30
2021 Projected ADP: RB12
We saw the changing of the guard in Baltimore when Mark Ingram was a healthy scratch in December, but this backfield belongs to J.K. Dobbins (and if he’s re-signed, Gus Edwards).
Usage will be a bit of a concern as he only saw an average of 12.8 carries per game over his last six, but he made the most of those carries, averaging an obscene 6.43 yards per carry while punching in seven touchdowns. Lamar Jackson’s rushing ability does cap Dobbins’ ceiling a little bit, but if the Ravens decide to give him the rock, we know what he can do with it.
Dobbins saw 25 red-zone carries, 13 carries inside the 10 and eight carries inside the five, resulting in eight touchdowns. Considering his usage was sporadic over the course of the season, his line of 134 carries for 805 yards, nine rushing touchdowns and 18 catches for 120 yards is pretty darn good.
If Dobbins were to see 250 carries next season (which isn’t unreasonable), 1,200 rushing yards is not out of the question. I don’t expect him to have a yards-per-carry average of six again, but is a number around five really out of the realm of possibility? It would be nice to see him get more usage in the passing game because he’s so dynamic with the ball in his hands and is dangerous when he gets into space.
Dobbins could be in for a monster year if the Ravens realize that he’s their second-most dynamic player outside of Jackson and they let him pound the rock.
2020 ADP: WR19
2021 Projected ADP: WR8
To say 2020 was a monster year for Calvin Ridley might be a bit of an understatement. He finished off the season with 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns, good enough for a WR4 finish in standard scoring and WR5 finish in PPR.
There are plenty of Ridley detractors out there, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I know that his yards after catch isn’t anything to write home about, but should we really care? Yes, of his 1,374 receiving yards, the ball travelled 1,099 yards before the catch. Instead of taking the negative spin, which is that his yards after catch isn’t great, how about we see what these numbers are really telling us.
This man can get open or go up and get the ball.
What Ridley also proved in 2020 is that he can be the go-to guy. Julio Jones only played parts of nine games this past season and it opened the door for Ridley to become Matt Ryan’s favourite receiver. Ridley’s 143 targets were a career-high and he had nine games where he registered 90 or more receiving yards.
It would be a mistake to sleep on Ridley heading into next year, but he will fall a bit in drafts because he’s not a “name” yet for a lot of people. Take advantage of that and make sure to get him on your roster.
2020 ADP: WR54
2021 Projected ADP: WR6
A lot of people missed the boat on this one this past season, and I was one of them. It’s understandable to see why many undersold Justin Jefferson in redraft formats heading into the 2020 season and it had nothing to do with ability. A shortened training camp, no pre-season games and learning a new playbook, while adjusting to the increased speed at the NFL level, just didn’t seem like a recipe for the kind of success that Jefferson had.
But Jefferson absolutely balled out this year.
This was supposed to be Adam Thielen’s monster year with Stefon Diggs shuffling off to Buffalo. Kirk Cousins was supposed to hold Jefferson back. The Vikings were going to run the ball a ton with Dalvin Cook.
But nothing stood in Jefferson’s way en route to a record-setting year in which he recorded 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns on only 124 targets. He ranked fourth in yards and 18th in targets. Imagine what he would do with the league-leading 166 targets Diggs got? If we extrapolate the data, Jefferson would have finished with 117 catches for 1,860 yards. That would be the third-most yards in a single season all time.
Epic. Legendary. Historic. Unfathomable.
There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how great Jefferson was as a rookie.
His value is going to skyrocket in drafts this year, but as we saw later in the year, he’s ready to take over the No. 1 role in Minnesota and he’s going to rock and roll once again.
2020 ADP: TE13
2021 Projected ADP: TE9
Noah Fant was expected to take a big step in his second season after a solid rookie year by tight end standards, but the step was merely a small one. Hindered by an ankle injury for most of the season, Fant finished with a team-high 62 catches for 673 yards and three touchdowns on 93 targets, which was second on the team.
Fant possesses elite speed at the position and is a mismatch for most defenders because he is basically wide receiver who lines up as a tight end. The expectation is that Drew Lock improves, even a little bit, for next season and he’s not short on weapons with Jerry Jeudy and the return of Courtland Sutton from an ACL injury. This should open up a lot of opportunities for Fant to stretch the field and have space to operate.
The concern, of course, is what kind of improvement will we see from Lock. Fant’s ability will never be in question, but Lock’s will. Fant will get his opportunities in an offence that I believe wants to throw the ball more. He also was tied for the team lead in red-zone targets with 10, so there is some touchdown upside.
What makes Fant special is his ability to gain yards after the catch. His 372 yards after the catch ranked third among tight ends behind Travis Kelce and Darren Waller, despite him finishing sixth in receiving yards among tight ends.
Plain and simple, Denver needs to get the ball in his hands because he can make plays. Some will stay away from Fant after this past season and because of the return of Courtland Sutton, but there’s a real opportunity for a big year in 2021 and a top-five tight end fantasy finish.
2020 ADP: TE16
2021 Projected ADP: TE6
We all knew Mike Gesicki was an athletic freak coming out of Penn State in 2018, but it took some time for him to really develop into a reliable pass-catching tight end in the NFL.
From Week 10 to Week 16, Gesicki was TE3 in standard and TE4 in PPR scoring, which also coincided with Tua Tagovailoa’s improved play. In that time frame, he averaged 4.3 catches for 54.2 yards and 0.7 touchdowns per game, while also proving he can be a very good red-zone option. His 14 red-zone targets were a team-high, as were his nine targets inside the 10.
Much like Fant, Gesicki is a mismatch for many defenders because of his athletic ability and speed to go along with a big frame. Try lining up a linebacker against him? He’s much faster. What about lining up a corner? He’s bigger and stronger.
The Dolphins also know how to use Gesicki.
He’s not the world’s greatest blocker (and we know that’s not what he’s there for), but he gets on the field a lot because they line him up in the slot. This past season, he ran 49.9 per cent of his routes from the slot, which also helps in that he’s not having to throw chip blocks which slow him down off the line of scrimmage.
Improved quarterback play is expected, whether it’s Tagovailoa or someone who is drafted or acquired via trade, so Gesicki should be in for a season where he can improve on his 53 catches for 703 yards and six touchdowns.