32 Shamelessly Bold Predictions for the 2021 Fantasy Football Season
Another year, another opportunity to get bigger and bolder.
This is now the fifth installment of my BOLD PREDICTIONS article.
Each year we release a Bold Predictions Episode and then I take a swing at 32 predictions for each NFL team that might surprise fantasy owners in the upcoming season.
The past couple of seasons I’ve had a decent hit rate, some home runs, and some misses — but these are meant to be hot and spicy. Check out some of 2020’s shamelessly bold predictions that ended up in the “win column” from last season:
- Derrick Henry leads the league in rushing and rushing TDs.
- Gardner Minshew is just bad… for fantasy.
- Melvin Gordon II has double-digit TDs.
- Michael Gallup has more WR1 weeks than Jarvis Landry, D.J. Chark Jr., or Courtland Sutton, despite being drafted behind all of them.
- Aaron Jones is a bell-cow RB, gets an extension, and is the team’s identity once more.
- Tampa Bay makes the Super Bowl, but Godwin, Evans, Gronk, and Rojo all fail to deliver on draft value.
- Curtis Samuel and Robby Anderson deflate D.J. Moore‘s breakout potential.
- D.K. Metcalf outscores Tyler Lockett in fantasy.
Here are my takes for 2021: bolder than Big Shimmy with his shirt off and hotter than any of Mike’s garbage food takes.
Kansas City Chiefs – CEH just isn’t that good, and the ball is spread around too much. He doesn’t go over five TD on the ground
We’ve talked at length about CEH’s stunning lack of TDs last year despite the volume. I know things are supposed to bounce back but what if the Chiefs continue to spread the ball around and Tyreek & Kelce are just that good? That was the formula last year en route to a Super Bowl appearance so maybe positive regression, in this case, is just a term we like a little too much in the fantasy circles? He doesn’t have the big-play ability so don’t expect a TD from outside the 10-zone. In terms of killing the clock, he was the single most stuffed RB in the NFL in the 4th quarter last year and the 2nd worst in yards per carry (2.4) in the fourth. You’re not going to get game-ending chunk runs. For the full, lively argument about CEH, check it out on YouTube.
Las Vegas Raiders – Josh Jacobs delivers consistently, finishing as a top-12 RB once again, despite The Drake
If you’ve listened to our podcast long enough, you know I’m always in Jacobs’ corner and now I feel like I’ve been chilling on a lonely island as the rest of the fantasy community has all but abandoned the Raiders starting RB. Kenyan Drake doesn’t worry me at all and all this guy has done is produce for fantasy. He’s an RB1 again except this year the price tag associated with him is coming at a serious discount.
Los Angeles Chargers – Donald Parham Jr. ends up a value, strong season as Jared is Cooked
While Jared Cyuuuuk is a favorite of the show, it might be time to put the old-timer out to pasture. Donald Parham Jr. could move from waiver wire pickup and steaming consideration to one of Justin Herbert’s go-to weapons inside the red zone. If Mike Williams misses some games (as Mike Williams does), it wouldn’t surprise me if Parham grabs seven TDs.
Denver Broncos – Explosive K.J. Hamler siphons weekly value from the other receivers, so you don’t want to play any of them
K.J. Hamler feels like the forgotten man in Denver despite the fact the Broncos took him in the 2nd Round of the 2020 NFL Draft, three picks ahead of Chase Claypool. He’s a small, explosive receiver, who will likely play in the slot with Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy on the outside. Despite Teddy Bridgewater winning the job, what if the passing game isn’t that much better and the team leans on defense & running the ball in 2021?
Houston Texans – Mark Ingram leads the team in touchdowns
Yikes. I mean, Jordan Howard led the Dolphins with four rushing TDs last year so I’m not saying this is going to be a fantasy goldmine. Ingram, the well-known hype man, has Baltimore connections with head coach David Culley so he could continue to give the past-his-prime veteran looks near the goal-line. However, as I stated recently (insert tweet), I want no part of this backfield… or team for fantasy.
Indianapolis Colts – Carson Wentz is a consistent fantasy starter
It’s been a wild ride with Wentz. From 2nd overall pick and an MVP-level season capped with Nick Foles winning a Super Bowl, to being run out of town and one of the riskiest fantasy QBs last year, I think he gathers himself and becomes a consistent fantasy starter. Frank Reich can do wonders and this offensive line doesn’t mess around.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Carlos Hyde ruins everything we loved about James Robinson
Chalk this up to Urban Meyer. James Robinson was never going to see the same usage (95% of the RB carries) but since rookie RB Travis Etienne went on IR, it seems like the path was clear for the JRob rocket to take off. Hyde is going to be annoying especially near the goal-line and taking away some of the valuable touches we wanted for fantasy,
Tennessee Titans – The ping pong between A.J. Brown & Julio Jones makes fantasy managers of both highly irritable
Julio is being drafted as the No. 2 in this offense and rightfully so. But the way it will play out on the field won’t give us quite the clear pecking order we think for fantasy. There will be weeks where Julio goes off for 150 yards and Brown underwhelms. The Titans traded for the future Hall of Famer who still has something left in the tank. Don’t be surprised if the Titans offense is more volatile than in years past where Ryan Tannehill operated at insane efficiency levels.
Baltimore Ravens – Lamar Jackson breaks his own rushing record, filling in himself for the lack of JK Dobbins
Yep. Baltimore is my pick to win it all behind a rushing attack that will rewrite the record books… that they wrote a year ago. They led the league with 191.9 rushing yards per game and set a franchise record with 24 rushing TDs. Both of those marks get shattered and the Ravens roll all the way through the playoffs.
Cincinnati Bengals – Struggles yet again as people wonder if Joe Burrow is indeed the future
The ADP for the Bengals passing attack puzzled me all off-season considering we haven’t seen elite fantasy production yet. We can project all we want after HC Zac Taylor let his No. 1 overall pick chuck the ball 40+ times a game last year. But the reality was he was super inaccurate as a down-the-field passer and the preseason fumes emitted haven’t been too rosy. Burrow struggles and the pass catchers suffer to return value in 2021.
Cleveland Browns – Odell bounces back, Leads the team in yards & TDs through the air
This guy is buried in fantasy rankings and the last two seasons in Cleveland give us reason to doubt he’ll ever become the dominant force he once was. But the Browns are set up for success in 2021 and part of that is a resurgence for Odell. He can easily return WR2 value with weekly upside to win you a week.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Diontae catches 125 passes or more
As I mentioned in the recent breakouts episode, I’m bullish on Diontae for 2021. Only one WR hit the 125+ mark last year and with an added 17th game, Diontae can be that guy this year. He had the highest target share per snap in the NFL and he just gets open. If anyone is perturbed by his case of the dropsies, please see yourself out. It’s not a sticky year-to-year stat and the fact he commands targets is all I need to know.
Buffalo Bills – Both BUF running backs manage to be even worse than last year, delivering a negative return on ADP
We touched on this during the Good Vibes/Bad Vibes episode on Monday but this backfield could be straight woof. In the Bills’ final preseason game, they ran the ball as much as I would with RBs manned Devin Singletary & Zack Moss: zilch. nada. Although their ADPs might be enticing, Moss (8.06) & Singletary (10.04) are not worth starting on a weekly basis. Good luck picking the correct week. Instead, this team and its identity will continue to be focused on the golden arm of Joshua Patrick Allen.
Miami Dolphins – Tua makes the leap, the Dolphins tie the bills atop the division
I recently mentioned Tua in our Sleepers episode. In single QB leagues, you have the benefit of taking a shot on high-upside players. Why not take a shot on a 2nd-year player & former 5th overall draft pick? This isn’t the same conservative offense as last year and camp reports claim he’s pushing the ball downfield, something he excelled at in college with… Jaylen Waddle. Add in Will Fuller and all systems are “go” for a major leap forward for Tua.
New England Patriots – Jakobi Meyers is the highest-scoring fantasy receiver… for the Patriots.
Meyers commanded seven targets a game from Week 7 on last year. He’s a smooth route runner and OC Josh McDaniels knows how to utilize slot WRs better than anyone else. N’Keal Harry isn’t going to be the guy and Nelson Agholor will be way too inconsistent to count on.
New York Jets – Zach Wilson surprises with a Herbert-esque season
Much like Josh Allen coming in, I’ve been higher on Wilson than the consensus because there are certain traits as a decision-maker and authority throwing the ball that make me believe there is something special with the baby-faced boy. The Jets could definitely surprise and what if Wilson distances himself in fantasy from the much-hyped Trey Lance and Justin Fields?
Dallas Cowboys – Run away with the division, winning 13 games in 2021
I do not see this division as close as my co-hosts. Dallas is ready to rock-and-roll with Dak Prescott back and with a “3rd place schedule”, the route to the NFC East title is easier than you might think. 13 games are well above their current DraftKings Sportsbook line (9) and Dallas strolls into the playoffs looking a contender in the NFC.
Washington Football Team– Fitz flames out, quarterback change mid-season
I’ve trodden lightly on Washington this off-season and while I love Ryan Fitzpatrick the person, I’m terrified of counting on him to finish an entire NFL season. His range of outcomes is all over the place and we’re already assuming the entire offense takes a huge step forward. He’s completing less than 61 percent of his career attempts. The beard is great. The attitude is elite. But Fitzmagic runs out and I don’t want to be left holding the bag this year.
New York Giants – Saquon is the RB2 over the back half of the season
The scent of Joe Judge and company rival that of an Adam Gase-led bunch. Ok too far… Regardless, Saquon’s injury recovery along with the rough news we receive from New York media on the daily has made him feel like an ancillary player for 2021. It might start slow but there’s a reason this guy is arguably the most talented player at the position. He’s still just
Philadelphia Eagles – No consistent weekly fantasy options emerge
If the Giants are vomit-worthy, the Eagles are saying “hold my beer” in 2021. Jalen Hurts might still make up for things with his legs but at the end of the day, the Eagles are a team you’ll want to stay away from for fantasy. It’s likely the Eagles end up with a QB outside the top-10, their RBs outside the top-24, and no WR inside the top-30. Things could turn south fast in Philly.
Chicago Bears – Darnell Mooney breaks out
I’m unashamed in my love for Mooney as I recently named him one of my “My Guys for 2021”. He wants to be a “known name” and he already is an elite separator. Once Justin Fields takes the reins of this offense, all those empty Air Yards from last year will be a thing of beauty on the deep ball. He got open at will and 98 targets as a rookie is telling you something. I queued it up here for my full over the moon thoughts on Darnell:
Detroit Lions – Better than people expected, win 7 games and Swift is a top-10 running back over the second half
The Dan Campbell way is not for the faint of heart. Guns Mahoney, as he’s known around our studio, might be a Football Guy first but the Lions could show some fight in the NFC North. Seven games are well above their current total (5) and while Swift is giving off some bad vibes right now, he’s too talented a back to ignore. If you can trade for him after the first month, you might have an RB1 ready for a playoff run in fantasy.
Green Bay Packers – Adams fails to finish in the top-5 at the WR position, as Rodgers spreads the ball around more in 2021, especially around the goal line
Adams was otherworldly last year, especially inside the red zone. With Randall Cobb in the picture and Aaron Jones ready to return to double-digit TD glory, Adams could take a slight step back. He’s still going to be a top-end guy but without the same utter dominance, we saw in 2020.
Minnesota Vikings – One of the surprise teams of 2021, win the division behind Kirk Cousins as the defense has a rebirth
I’ve been bullish on the Vikings for most of the off-season. All of the media swirl surrounding Cousins is not too positive right now but when it comes time to playing football on an NFL field, this team can win the NFC North. The defense should bounce back and 11-12 wins is not out of the question.
New Orleans Saints – Go through multiple quarterback swaps through a difficult offensive year, making fantasy options difficult to come by
I’ll just come out and say it: New Orleans is not trending in a great direction and much like we saw last year in New England, good coaches can have bad years. Sean Payton can have all the right concepts in place but Jameis Winston & Taysom Hill might not be able to support fantasy options outside of Alvin Kamara while Michael Thomas is out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Chris Godwin reclaims a rightful spot on the WR throne, and AB is more irrelevant than we expected
We forget that Godwin was the WR2 in fantasy just a year ago. He’s going to get paid after this season and Tom Brady is going to pepper him with targets in the slot. Antonio Brown has had a nice resurrection but the splits we saw last year will not be repeated. It’s Godwin & Evans as the main options in the passing game with Godwin knocking on top-10 WR status heading into 2022.
Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts is the best rookie TE in NFL history because he’s a WR
Yep. We’ve debated about it all off-season but mark it down. You have to draft Pitts that way in fantasy and what if he really is that good? If you’ve seen him with the ball in his hands, he’s unlike any other TE we’ve seen. The draft capital that the Falcons spent on him is going to dictate that they get this guy the ball repeatedly.
Carolina Panthers – D.J. Moore finally breaks out, separates himself from the other 2 WR
Last year I was a bit down on Moore but I think we finally get to see some TD luck bounce in his favor. Robby Anderson got the 2-year extension and Terrace Marshall Jr. is tearing up pre-season but Moore is easily the most talented of the three. For fantasy, Moore is a top-15 WR and leads their WR group in fantasy production.
Arizona Cardinals – A.J. Green resurgence
I might as well die on this hill at this point. Green still has something left in the tank to the tune of being a weekly FLEX option. He asserts himself as the clear WR2 for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals have a top-10 offense in 2021. This isn’t a homer pick… check the tape. I’ve been banging the drum (for better or worse) for A.J. Green for years.
Los Angeles Rams – Rams win the NFC behind a strong defense and a consistent, efficient offense. Henderson ends up a top-15 RB
The Rams aren’t going to be the flashiest team in the league. But Matthew Stafford brings a competitiveness and trust that Sean McVay sorely missed in Jared Goff. Los Angeles already has a defense that gives nightmares (hello, Andy Dalton Week 1!) and they can withstand the loss of Cam Akers with Darrell Henderson Jr. stepping in admirably. Book it: the Rams are your NFC Champs.
San Francisco 49ers – Raheem Mostert ends up the top fantasy value and delivers an injury-free season for one of the NFL’s best running attacks
The 49ers are a wrecking crew regardless of who is running the ball for them. The last two years they’ve ranked 2nd and 4th in RB fantasy points. But this year, Raheem Mostert leads the attack and is currently one of fantasy’s best values at the back of the 6th round. He’s one of my favorite RB2s this year.
Seattle Seahawks – Lockett’s consistency once again disturbs fantasy owners, he’s a 6th round pick in 2022
Don’t tell Mike: but what if Tyler Lockett just continues to be one of the most frustrating players in fantasy again? I mean, you have to start him almost every week knowing he’s paired with Russell Wilson. But even as a 4th/5th round pick this year, if he doesn’t deliver again with 100+ catches and 1,000+ yards, you might be disappointed.