And just like that, we’re back where it all starts: Deep in the first pass off offseason-type rankings as we get boards completely reset for the 2021 season. Players rise, players fall, and plenty of arguments ensue in between.
This will be a five-part series, concluding with the top-12 (which largely won’t be a surprise to most folks, although we do anticipate being higher on a few names compared to some other services). Look for these to drop through February.
Incoming rookies (ex. Najee Harris, Ja’Marr Chase, Travis Etienne, etc.) are excluded from this initial top-60 pass. We do expect a few ’21 rookies to break in immediately, but will not rank them until after the NFL Draft.
In addition to no ranked rookies, you’ll find very (very) few quarterbacks: Only one cracks our top-60. We’ve seen some really impressive quarterback performances during the 2020 season, but the position group as a whole remains deep.
Last housekeeping note before we press forward. Two metrics are listed with each player: 1) Fantasy points per game (PPG) from Weeks 1 thru 16 and 2) the player’s age entering the ’21 season. We often look at and discuss overall scoring at the position, but PPG shows us how the player performed every time they stepped on the field. Note: Week 17 scoring is excluded because for 90-plus percent of all fantasy gamers, it’s an irrelevant week.
Now, let’s get this thing started:
60) Raheem Mostert RB San Francisco (2020 PPG: 12.5, Age 28)
Mostert was terrific in the 2019 playoffs and helped lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl. He had a legendary 220 yard, 4 touchdown performance against the Packers and also found the end zone in the eventual Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs.
This past summer, Mostert’s agent requested a trade. A contract extension was later worked out and Mostert was set to lead the 49ers’ backfield. Injuries derailed a 2020 season in which Mostert only played 8 games, but he should be viewed as the “RB1” heading into 2021. He has a team-friendly deal, and despite his age, he does not have a lot of tread on the tires. There is a chance the 49ers could go in another direction with a draft pick or free agent signing, but for now, Mostert should be viewed as a low-end RB2.
59) David Johnson RB Houston (2020 PPG: 14.4, Age: 29)
David Johnson was left for dead by many after his dismal 2019 season. He came over from Arizona in the infamous trade that sent superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals. Johnson had a bit of a comeback season, scoring 8 combined touchdowns and putting together a solid 4.7 yards per carry in 12 games played.
His superstar days are clearly over, but if he can survive the NFL offseason and stay atop the RB pecking order in Houston, he should settle in as a low-end RB2 in 2021. There is a chance that he could be replaced with a new coaching staff coming in, but for now, he cracks our ranks.
58) Courtland Sutton WR Denver (2020 PPG: N/A Age: 25)
Courtland Sutton looked poised to lead Denver’s offense in 2020, but his season was canned with a knee injury suffered in September. Sutton was coming off of a terrific sophomore campaign that saw him catch 72 passes for 1112 yards and 6 scores. While the supporting cast in Denver should be better than Sutton had in 2019, the offense needs an alpha. Sutton should step right back into his featured role as the WR1 in Denver, and could quickly shape up as a value selection in most redraft leagues.
57) Myles Gaskin RB Miami (2020 PPG: 16.3, Age: 23)
Myles Gaskin was one of the more pleasant surprises in all of fantasy football in 2020, and one of the waiver wire pickups of the year.
The Dolphins entered the season with a presumed backfield battle between free agent pickup Jordan Howard and Matt Breida (acquired in a draft day trade with San Francisco). But from Week 1 on, Gaskin not only led the backfield, but made those two players irrelevant.
Gaskin played in only 10 games, but averaged 16.3 PPG. Additionally, he was impressive catching the ball (41 catches) and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. He had his best game late in the year against Las Vegas with 169 yards combined and 2 scores. Of all the players on this list, Gaskin is one of the most likely to drop out of our top-60 as the weeks and months go by. The Dolphins could very well bring in a back via free agency of the draft, but for now, Gaskin cracks the list as an “RB2”.
56) Cooper Kupp WR Los Angeles Rams (2020 PPG: 13.9, Age: 27)
In 2020, Cooper Kupp caught 92 passes for 974 yards, but had a career low 3 touchdown grabs. Kupp looks like a positive touchdown regression candidate for 2021. He enters his fifth year in the league on a two-year streak of 90-catch seasons and played in 31/32 regular season games.
The Rams offense as a whole should be better in 2021, with players like second-year rising back Cam Akers set to take a major jump. Kupp signed a three-year contract extension in September, cementing his role for the mid-term. He has a great connection with Jared Goff, and could be a great value in 2021.
55) Chase Claypool WR Pittsburgh (2020 PPG: 12.9, Age: 22)
A year after D.K. Metcalf exploded onto the NFL scene, fantasy football was introduced to another massive and athletic rookie wideout who could take over games with big-play ability:
At 6-4, 238 with a 4.42 forty-yard dash time, Claypool was an obvious specimen, but very few could have predicted how quickly he would find success in his first season in the Steel City. Claypool had his breakout game after the Steelers’ bye week with a 4 touchdown explosion against Philadelphia (3 receiving, 1 rushing).
As the season progressed, he slowed down in usage and efficiency, especially in December. But with current teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster most likely headed out of town, there is a lot to like about drafting Claypool. We should expect to see his targets and catches rise considerably. He is a potential star in this league and will be a popular pick in redraft and dynasty startups in 2021.
54) Kareem Hunt RB Cleveland (2020 PPG: 14.2, Age: 25)
Kareem Hunt has had a terrific run since signing with the Cleveland Browns. After missing half of ’19 due to suspension, he played in all 16 games in ’20 and finished as a RB1 on the season. Nick Chubb missed 4 games and Hunt stepped into a 20-touch role. Even when Chubb played, Hunt saw 10-15 touches a game. Volume and the presence of Chubb cap the ceiling and make Hunt a 5th round (or so) selection, but at that cost there is a lot to like. Hunt is still only 25-years old, highly efficient (4+ yards per carry, 8 + yards per catch), and in an offense that gets him touches. He should be viewed as a RB2.
53) Tyler Lockett WR Seattle (2020 PPG: 15.5, Age: 28)
Lockett quietly put together a Seattle record 100-catch season in 2020. He had two of the highest scoring games for a wideout all season-long (9-100-3 against Dallas and 15-200-3 against Arizona) but failed to crack WR1 status any week in November or December.
After a Lockett-Metcalf debate last offseason, it is clear that Metcalf will be the higher drafted Seattle receiver in 2021, but the soon-to-be 29-year old Lockett should still be viewed as a WR2 with the ability to win weeks. Lockett should settle in as a 5th or 6th round pick in 2021 and will be a value as long as he is attached to Russell Wilson.
52) Brandon Aiyuk WR San Francisco (2020 PPG: 15.4, Age: 22)
Brandon Aiyuk was sensational his rookie season in San Francisco; the first-round draft pick exceeded even the most optimistic fantasy managers’ expectations. While he only played 12 games in ’20, Aiyuk displayed big play ability right away including a ridiculous 38-yard rushing score against the Eagles on Sunday Night Football early in the year.
Due to attrition (injuries to George Kittle, Deebo Samuel) Aiyuk saw his role continue to grow and grow. By the end of October, Aiyuk consistently was a WR2 week in and week out. He also showed a target ceiling that no one could have predicted with games of 16 and 14 targets. Kittle will be back as will Samuel, but Aiyuk should be the “WR1” moving forward. He is a high-ceiling player who should continue to get better and better. Draft him with confidence.
51) Pat Mahomes QB Kansas City (2020 PPG: 25.36, Age: 25)
Surprise: Mahomes is the only QB to crack our top-60.
This past season, Mahomes was in a dead heat with Josh Allen and Kyler Murray for fantasy’s top QB. We have now seen Mahomes win and dominate opponents for three straight years, and there is no reason he cannot have a career year in 2021. His weapons should be just as good if not better with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce at or around the top players at their respective positions. We could see Mecole Hardman (third year) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (second year) take leaps in production.
2021 will not be a year where it is necessary to take a QB early, but if you are going to do so, fade the noise and take Mahomes. In redraft, he will go a lot higher than where we have him ranked and drafters will have to weigh the opportunity cost. We won’t blame you for taking Mahomes and running.
50) Kenyan Drake RB Arizona (2020 PPG: 13.2, Age: 26)
Kenyan Drake had a disappointing season in 2020, especially based on his ADP. Fantasy drafters aggressively targeted him in redraft leagues as he was looked at as a potential league winner as a 2nd round pick, and even cracked some late 1st rounds.
He had one massive game (20 carries for 164 yards and 2 scores against Dallas) but was way more of a low-end RB2 than the RB1 he was drafted to be. Drake also had a disappointing 31 catches. The presence of Chase Edmonds will limit Drake’s overall ceiling, but as long as he is the RB1 in Arizona this ranking seems about right. His ADP should settle into the 4th/5th round next year, provided Arizona does not upgrade at the position.
49) Ronald Jones RB Tampa Bay (2020 PPG: 13.3, Age: 23)
Ronald Jones was a polarizing player all summer-long in redraft leagues. From July through August, he saw his ADP rise to the 5th/6th rounds, and he was drafted as an RB2. His value came crashing down as the Bucs’ went ahead and signed Leonard Fournette to a star-studded roster. Jones dropped all the way to the double-digit rounds in late drafts.
For those of us who drafted Jones late, he proved to be one of the better RB values all season. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and scored 7 touchdowns. If Jones can survive another summer as the lead back in Tampa Bay, he will settle back in as a 5th round draft pick.