No time for a long, drawn-out intros, folks. We’ve got work to do.
If you want to win your season-long leagues, make sure you keep it locked here all offseason as these rankings will certainly fluctuate as weeks of news and updates go by.
Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.
Part 4 is new, and now live below — let’s get after it.
24) Miles Sanders RB Philadelphia (2020 PPG: 14.2, Age: 23)
Few player’s stock rose more last summer than Sanders.
Sanders was coming off of a promising rookie season in which the talented second round pick played some of his best football down the stretch, including the fantasy playoffs. Fantasy gamers envisioned Sanders as the next, potential two-way running back star a la Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara (running and pass-catching abilities).
Eagles’ running back coach Duce Staley also got the fantasy community hyped by saying:
“I’m excited about Miles. I’m excited about him handling the full load. I don’t see [Miles] as a guy that you have to monitor his touches. I think you put him in, and you let him go.”
Sanders quickly rose from being a player you could sometimes get in the second round, to a player going in every single first round. Some prominent fantasy football players were taking Sanders as early as 6th overall. All this hype was met with a largely disappointing season: Sanders only caught 28 passes as Doug Pederson and the Eagles did not feed him with the targets everyone expected. Rushing-wise, Sanders had a few big games, but the results were mostly middling.
This season, Sanders should settle in as a second rounder and dip into some third rounds. A coaching change in Philadelphia could be beneficial to him. At just 23-years old, there is still a lot of room for growth.
23) Antonio Gibson RB Washington (2020 PPG: 14.9, Age: 22)
Last NFL draft, Washington took DE Chase Young, a bonafide superstar in the making and a massive addition to the franchise. Then, head coach Ron Rivera turned heads with his third round selection: Memphis running back Antonio Gibson. Gibson was an athletic specimen sitting at 6-2, 220 with blazing speed and strength. He was viewed by many as a receiver at the next level.
Washington stressed that he was a runner, despite Gibson only receiving 66 carries at Memphis. Rivera, the former head acoach in Carolina, compared Gibson’s style of play to that of [Christian] McCaffrey. When Derrius Guice was suspended for the season, Gibson became a popular draft pick in the 6th/7th round. Expectations rose, but were still tempered. Questions remained over his workload.
Gibson turned out to be one of the better value picks at the position in all of fantasy football.
He started out slowly and split time with Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic. But slowly and surely, his volume rose and Gibson then took off. He displayed a nose for the end zone with 11 rushing touchdowns. Despite McKissic’s presence (80 receptions), Gibson still managed to receive 44 targets for 36 receptions. Gibson put his skills on display with a massive Thanksgiving Day performance against Dallas: 20 carries for 115 yards and 3 scores, while adding 5 catches.
Gibson will be a locked in second round pick in 2021. He has room to grow receiving-wise and will be a high upside pick.
22) Cam Akers RB LA Rams (2020 PPG: 8.3, Age: 21)
One of the biggest mysteries to the fantasy football season was Cam Aker’s usage.
For much of the year, the second round rookie was viewed as a “bust”. There were games that he saw little-to-no usage at all. But down the stretch, Akers was one of the best backs in the league. Starting in late-November, Akers popped with 84 yards rushing and 1 touchdown against San Francisco, followed by 72 yards and 1 more score against Arizona. Then, on national television against New England, in Week 13 (the first week of the fantasy football playoffs for many), Akers went bananas with 171 yards rushing.
Akers continued his electric play in the NFL playoffs: In the Rams’ first round win in Seattle, Akers rushed for 131 yards and 1 touchdown, while adding 2 catches for 45 yards. In the Rams second round loss to Green Bay, Akers found the end zone again and added 90 yards rushing. Under Sean McVay, fantasy gamers have seen high-usage and production from Todd Gurley. In Akers, McVay seems to have another future star at the position.
Due to his red hot finish to the season, Akers should settle in as a 2nd round pick.
In dynasty, he will be a 1st rounder in start-up drafts.
21) George Kittle TE San Francisco (2020 PPG: 15.9, Age: 27)
Last summer, there was a debate in the fantasy football community for top tight end honors between George Kittle and Travis Kelce. Kittle was coming off of back-to-back massively productive seasons (85 catches for 1053 yards in 2019, and 88 catches for 1377 yards in 2018).
The 49ers rewarded Kittle with the richest tight end contract ever.
Unfortunately, 2020 was a disappointing, injury-plagued season in which Kittle only played in 8 games. The 49ers went from a Super Bowl appearance in 2019 to a 6-10 record this season. Kittle showed great recovery and actually came back by the end the season with nothing on the line other than pride.
Betting on a big bounce-back year in 2021 is a good bet. Few tight ends possess Kittle’s upside and explosiveness. The emergence of Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel could actually increase Kittle’s scoring upside and red zone efficiency; Kittle should settle in right behind Kelce as TE2 overall and is well worth an early selection.
20) Ezekiel Elliott RB Dallas (2020 PPG: 14.9, Age: 25)
Much like Michael Thomas, Ezekiel Elliott will be a litmus test for fantasy gamers in 2021:
Some will expect a continued decline, while others will expect a bounce-back campaign.
This past summer, Elliott was firmly in the top-5 in redraft conversation, and went as high as 1.02 overall in some leagues. There was hope of a massive season in a high-scoring Dallas offense. The season started out strongly as Elliott found the end zone in each of his first three games, and had a 2 score game in Week 5 against the Giants.
But when Dak Prescott went down with a season-ending injury, Elliott stopped producing. The usually productive back, coming off of a 12 touchdown 2019 season, failed to find the end zone in nine (9) straight games.
There is hope that with better quarterback-play (I expect the Cowboys to resign Prescott) that there could be a positive TD regression coming. Another positive is that we have now seen three straight 50+ catch seasons from Elliott, giving him a nice floor in PPR. 2021 will most likely be the lowest we will see Elliott in terms of ADP (he was a 1st rounder as a rookie).
19) Justin Jefferson WR Minnesota (2020 PPG: 16.8, Age: 21)
Jefferson was arguably the biggest breakout star of the entire NFL season.
The 21-year old first-round draft pick was the fifth receiver off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft, but by mid-season, it was clear that Minnesota had drafted an absolute gem.
Jefferson set the NFL rookie record (Super Bowl era, since 1966) for receiving yards with 1400. He also added 88 catches and 7 touchdowns. Despite the presence of Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook, Jefferson accounted for 32.8% of all Minnesota receiving yards. There is room for even more production in 2021.
Jefferson has a good shot at over 100 catches, and we should see his 125 targets increase. I will be targeting Jefferson in the second round of redraft and I expect many others will as well.
In dynasty league startups, Jefferson should settle in as a first round lock.
17) Calvin Ridley WR Atlanta (2020 PPG: 19.4, Age: 26)
2020 was a forgettable season for the Atlanta Falcons, but Ridley was certainly a bright spot:
Heading into his fourth year, Ridley has overtaken future Hall of Famer Julio Jones as the WR1 in Atlanta. With a new head coach on the way in Arthur Smith, Ridley should be the team’s focal point in 2021.
Ridley displayed a great connection with Matt Ryan and had career highs in catches and yards. The season started out with 4 touchdown catches in his first two games. We continued to see some elite outbursts in production including a 10 catch, 163 yards for 1 score performance against Tampa in December. His 143 targets put him in elite company.
Always a threat to find the end zone, Ridley has at least 7 touchdowns in every season of his career. Ridley should settle in somewhere around the WR6-8 range and be a locked-in second round draft pick.
16) DeAndre Hopkins WR Arizona (2020 PPG: 18.7, Age: 28)
Hopkins was the biggest name player to switch teams in the entire NFL last year. Arizona stole him in a trade involving David Johnson, a 2020 2nd rounder, and a 2021 4th rounder.
Despite his storied career in Houston, a number of fantasy analysts were fading him. Some were worried about him producing in a new system, especially in 2020 with no mini camps and no preseason games. Some envisioned a lesser target share.
In retrospect both arguments were laughable. Hopkins was the preferred target of Kyler Murray by a large amount. He had 160 targets and 115 catches, both exceeded his totals in 2019 in Houston. Hopkins was part of the most memorable play of the 2020 regular season: The “Hail Murray” touchdown throw and grab against Buffalo to win the game.
This is a no-brainer pick for fantasy. Hopkins can be considered from the late 1st round into the 2nd round. There is a chance that Hopkins could challenge for WR1 overall if he increases his touchdown total.
15) D.K. Metcalf WR Seattle (2020 PPG: 17.8, Age: 23)
One of the youngest and brightest stars in the NFL, Metcalf took a massive second-year leap in 2020.
After a strong rookie season and postseason in 2019, Metcalf saw increases in targets, yardage and scores. At only 23-years old, Metcalf is the same age as a number of players who will be drafted in this year’s NFL draft. The sky is the limit not only for 2021, but for many seasons to come. Metcalf is a NFL star who has room to grow. If his targets increase to 150 or so, he could be a league-winner in 2021.
14) A.J. Brown WR Tennessee (2020 PPG: 16.7, Age: 23)
Metcalf’s college teammate started the year off with a bone bruise that sidelined him for about a month. When he returned from his injury, he immediately resumed his role of WR1 in a potent Titans’ offense. Despite only about 7 targets per game, Brown was dominant, averaging almost 17 PPG with 11 touchdowns. He is the definition of “a game week winner” in fantasy, with potential for high-scoring outbursts and explosive big plays.
This ranking may seem aggressive, but if Brown can reach a Ridley-like target per game average (about 9), and can maintain his health, there is a chance that he can challenge for WR1 overall. There will be plenty of opportunities for his already large role to increase: Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith are both free agents; Derrick Henry is getting older, and eventually Brown will be the unquestioned alpha for the entire offense.
If you have the opportunity to get Brown in dynasty, he is worth an overpay.
In redraft, Brown should settle in as a 2nd/3rd rounder. For me, I will look to target him earlier than most. Expect another impressive year from Brown and another high-scoring season for the Tennessee offense.
13) Austin Ekeler RB LA Chargers (2020 PPG: 16.5, Age: 25)
Coming off of his magical 2019 season, Ekeler was a popular pick around the 1/2 turn in redraft formats. Much like Keenan Allen, when Justin Herbert took over the starting job, Ekeler saw a bump in usage and production. A neck injury cost Ekeler eight weeks of the season, unfortunately, but when he returned, he did not miss a beat.
Besides Christian McCaffrey, there may not be a better receiving back than Ekeler. The 25-year old saw a 16 target, 11 target and two, 9 target games. With a full season next to Herbert, Ekeler should challenge for the most running back receptions in the league, and have a good shot at his highest scoring total season of his career (11 in 2019).
The Chargers wisely extended Ekeler in 2019, and he looks to have a long career there. There will be other runners in his ADP range that will be more “exciting picks” in 2021, but Ekeler has a very safe floor and a high-ceiling in what should be a potent offense. I expect his ADP to be similar to last season. If you liked Ekeler enough to draft him with Tyrod Taylor then you should love Ekeler next to Herbert.