Welcome to the first edition of Rick’s Picks, a fantasy football blog where I, Rick, fantasy football aficionado (and distressed Jets fan), will talk about, well, fantasy football! So let’s get started, shall we?
Okay, fellow fantasy football fans (FFFFs for short), is it too early to start thinking about drafting your next fantasy team? Absolutely not. I’m honestly offended by the question.
The best fantasy players start early, and that’s why I’ve gathered you all here today.
To win your league, you’ll need to find value both in the draft and throughout the season via the waiver wire/free agency. Let’s focus on the draft, as that is where the true league winners are found.
Because it’s early, there are many question marks around all relevant players. Nobody’s situation in 2021 will be identical to 2020. Players change teams and have different teammates, which could drastically change their fantasy outlook. Be sure to use this guide as a signal as to who you should carefully track going into this year’s draft. These players are potential league winners, as long as their situations stay the same or maybe even improve (better O-line, less competition for touches, etc.) from where they are projected to be today.
Find our most undervalued players going into your 2021 fantasy football draft below.
“Oh come on. I thought you were going to give us little-known names, but instead you go with the guy that was the MVP in 2019?” Well, yes, because you’re undervaluing him! I guarantee you are.
Lamar Jackson was unanimously taken as either the 1st or 2nd QB off the board in all fantasy drafts this past year. I warned against taking QBs that early and, unfortunately, many of you you didn’t listen. Well, it’s a new year, and it HAS to be better than last year (please let this be true), so no hard feelings.
For most of the fantasy regular season, Lamar looked like the 30th best passer in the league. His legs kept him as a solid fantasy option and hovering around the top 10-15 fantasy QB range during that period. But his output was nowhere near what you’d expect out of a QB you drafted in the first few rounds, as he ended up the 10th highest scoring QB in standard scoring.
So why is this year different? Well, it won’t be different from how he ended the season. After sitting out Week 12’s game against the Steelers, Lamar clicked with his offense significantly better for the remainder of the year. He didn’t clock a week with fewer than 21 points in standard scoring from Week 13-17, averaging 27 PPG throughout that period. That’s what you’d expect out of a top 2 QB.
We can be confident that Week 13-17 is more representative of what we can expect next season. The most dynamic ball-catcher in that offense, Hollywood Brown, emerged as a true playmaker during that period and in the playoffs. The relationship between Lamar and Hollywood will drive the rest of this offense as it did in the latter half of this season, so keep an eye on Brown for fantasy purposes as well.
Predicted Draft Position: 8th Round
Where He Should Be Drafted: 5th Round
This one should be obvious by draft time. I don’t see Green Bay giving Aaron Jones the money he needs in Free Agency, and that alone propels Dillon to fantasy relevance. Lump in Jamaal Williams entering Free Agency as well with an uncertain future, and you’re thinking about Dillon in the first couple of rounds now.
Even if they keep Williams, AJ will thrive as the feature back in this offense. They invested a 2nd round pick in him last year, and his play this postseason exceeded the expectations of most. He is going to be a big part of this team next season, and this is an offense you want to have stock in.
Predicted Draft Position: 7th Round
Where He Should Be Drafted: 3rd Round
If you owned Mixon in the latter half of this past season, I’m sorry. But all signs point to a healthy Mixon in 2021 on an offense that is set to explode. Burrow looked like one of the more impressive rookie QBs we’ve seen in recent years before his season-ending injury, and this is a team I expect to continue investing in offensive talent. Namely, early indications are that they are targeting an OT with their valuable 5th overall pick (Penei Sewell would be a home run), which would massively help both Burrow and Mixon.
Mixon looked very solid in the final 3 weeks before his injury, and in an offense where the backup RBs didn’t perform well for this team during Mixon’s absence, you can assume he’ll go back to being one of the few bell-cows in the NFL. Most will think of his infuriating last season when drafting. I think he has first round value.
Predicted Draft Position: Late 3rd/Early 4th
Where He Should Be Drafted: Late 1st/Early 2nd
Finally, a smaller name. But why Tyron? Well, Justin Herbert is the fastest rising QB in the NFL and we may be looking at a Top-5 passing offense next season. Johnson was buried on the depth chart for most of last year, but he made the most of his opportunities later in the season. You know this if you had him in the fantasy playoffs, where he delivered 18 and 16-point games in the first two rounds (PPR).
I love this offense, and I love the role Johnson can find for himself. Keenan is the man over there, but he is aging and has an injury history that can only worsen with age. I’d be surprised if both Hunter Henry and Mike Williams are on this roster next year given the lack of output relative to the cap hit they would bring with them. If Tyron can find himself as the 3rd target on this offense behind Allen and Ekeler as I expect, he can turn into a WR2 and weekly starter. Keep an eye on him in the later rounds.
Predicted Draft Position: 13th Round
Where He Should Be Drafted: 10th Round
Talk about opportunity! I don’t see Allen Robinson back in Chicago, but the Bears should be aggressive in their search for an upgrade at QB. Those are both incredible variables impacting Mooney’s fantasy outlook. His 4.38 speed began to do wonders late last season. Chicago clearly wanted to get him involved as he racked up 42 targets in the final 6 weeks of the season following the Bears’ bye. Even if the Bears somehow bring back Robinson via either franchise tag or as a free agent, Mooney will still get his targets as Robinson gets more attention and double-teams.
You’ll find yourself in a rough place if you rely too heavily on Week 17 stats of any season when drafting the following year (see: Breshad Perriman), but let’s do it anyway. Mooney caught 11 balls on 13 targets for 93 yards in Week 17 last season. And again, his situation will improve. Mooney will be a steal no matter how this offseason goes for Chicago. His talent speaks for itself.
Predicted Draft Position: 12th Round
Where He Should Be Drafted: 7th Round
That concludes our list, but you’ll be hearing more on these players and others as the offseason progresses. The countdown until our 2021 drafts starts now!