Struggling to put up points early in the season? Frustrated with your early picks underperforming? Good new: it’s only week 5. Bad news: pressure is on.
Sam Darnold, QB, Carolina Panthers
Sam Darnold is playing outstanding football, which further shows how terrible Adam Gase is as a head coach. We should have expected this, but Darnold is playing at an elevated level. It helps that he has the best RB in football with Christian McCaffrey, but also allowing DJ Moore to show that he has the talent everyone expected him to have. In most leagues, Sam Darnold is a top 5 QB while being on the waiver-wire. If he’s free, grab him. Darnold is having a sneaky season being one of the most product fantasy QB’s in the league.
Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos
This will either work out incredibly, or horribly. In my opinion, Javonte was the RB2 in this year’s draft class behind Najee Harris. He has three-down back potential with his pass-pro, while also showcasing his receiving ability. Javonte has been utilized in the Denver offense quite a bit, almost matching Melvin Gordon. If Denver continues to struggle on offense, I would expect Javonte to play a more critical role being one of the most talented playmakers for the Broncos.
Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
With all of the noise surrounding Mike Williams, now is the perfect time to buy Keenan Allen. He is an aging receiver, yet on an explosive offense. He is a PPR owner’s dream receiver, as Herbert will feed him all year. It is frustrating to see red-zone passes being thrown to the TE’s and Williams, but when the game is on the line, the ball is going to be thrown to Keenan. Currently teetering the top 20 WR line, I expect him to end the season near or above the top 10 point with a great showing the rest of the season. Mike Williams is going to shine now, Keenan will shine for the rest of the season.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers*
I do not see Jimmy G taking another snap for the 49ers, ever. However, if San Francisco do decide to move on from him, it will likely be via trade. The most interesting place for him to go would be the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have a three-headed monster at receiver. Another possible move would be to the Washington Football Team. Either of these two teams give him some value this season, but for fantasy purposes, I would hope that you can find a more productive QB this season.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Denver Broncos
This is doubling down on my Javonte Williams take. Melvin Gordon has done fairly well, however, I feel like he does not have the same juice he had for the Chargers. He is a great early down back, but he does not bring the same dynamic that Javonte does. This offense is going to need playmakers with injuries to their receivers, which is why I think Javonte will become a more crucial part of this offense.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Recently sold Calvin Ridley because of how bad the Falcons are. I don’t know if it is Matt Ryan, Arthur Smith, or the fact that they drafted Kyle Pitts over Justin Fields. Imagine being a Falcons fan, knowing that you have a talented QB sitting behind Matt Ryan to develop. I would be a lot more optimistic about Ridley’s outlook this season, but I just don’t see it. Talent is there, but I’m not buying his team.
The Draft/Pass series will be going over every positional group, and I may even dabble into IDP. The positional rankings I will be using is FantasyPros so there will be a consistency throughout this, even though I do not totally agree with them. My opinion on each player is my own, and I would love to hear why you agree or disagree. THIS IS ALSO FOR 1 QB LEAGUES, NOT SUPERFLEX.
Matthew Stafford, LA Rams
Former Detroit Lions superstar Matthew Stafford begins the 2021-22 campaign in sunny Los Angeles after being traded earlier this year. Stafford takes over an offense that has far more weapons than his Detroit teams have had the past decade, even with the unfortunate loss of Cam Akers. With Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, and Tyler Higbee all returning, the Rams drafted receivers Tutu Atwell in the 2nd round, Jacob Harris in the 4th, and Ben Skowronek in the 7th. Darrell Henderson will serve as the lead back with Akers going down (news broke as I was writing this) and the involvement of Xavier Jones will be certainly needed.
Stafford enters in on FantasyPros at #12. This criminally underrates what Stafford is capable of. He was the #15 in fantasy points despite only playing 100% snaps in only 12 games. This was also with a WR group consisting of Marvin Jones Jr., Quintez Cephus, Danny Amendola, and Marvin Hall. My selection of Stafford being here may be due to my own hometown bias, but Stafford was the life of the Lions for a long time and we are all excited to see what he will be able to do in LA and what this Rams team has to offer. His ADP should be much higher than it is. I would consider him a top 5 candidate for the 2021 season.
Daniel Jones, NY Giants
This will come as a shock and I will either look like a genius or an idiot for this take, but the Giants have the weapons to be a scary offense next year. It all comes down to Daniel Jones taking care of the football. He’s had 39 turnovers the past two years, but showed signs of improvement his sophomore season. Entering his third season, he now has Saquon Barkley returning at some point early in 2021 and a true WR1 in Kenny Golladay coming over from Detroit this offseason. The Giants drafted WR Kadarius Toney in the 1st round of the 2021 draft, but reports have come out stating that Toney will be a project WR and will make the biggest impact in the return game. His role as a receiver is not immediately pressing with Golladay, Shepard, Slayton, and TE Evan Engram being the target-men for Daniel Jones.
Daniel Jones comes in on FantasyPros as their #21 QB. In 14 games last season, he was ranked #24 on Sleeper, so a slight rise is not very controversial on FantasyPros, but I think Daniel Jones can crack the top 15 IF HE CAN TAKE CARE OF THE FOOTBALL. This strictly relies on Daniel Jones taking that step forward because I think this is his last chance to show that he deserved being the #6 overall draft pick and replacing Eli Manning. This is a make it or break it year for Daniel Jones, and I’m betting on him making it.
Trey Lance, SF 49ers
I’m going to say it, this situation reeks of Patrick Mahomes and KC when he was drafted. Cannon arm, viewed as a project, and had suitable weapons around him. With that said, I do not have Patrick Mahomes expectations. Trey Lance is coming from a good D-II program, but he has not played against D-I defenses. What Trey Lance has going for him though is Jimmy Garoppolo ahead of him on the depth chart, which will help him adjust to both the playbook and the speed of the NFL. The 49ers have two solid, young receivers in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Ayuik, along with one of the top TEs in the league with George Kittle. Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell were among the draft selections for San Francisco which will bolster the running back group that lost Jerrick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman. I would expect Sermon to take that RB1 spot sooner than Lance takes the QB1 spot, but having young talent that are progressing will help Lance become more comfortable in this offense.
Drafting Lance high is a gamble, because he could start Week 1 this season, or be held out until Week 1 next season. I think that he will find a middle ground there, with the likelihood of him getting a chance sooner rather than later if Jimmy G continues to regress. Trey Lance instantly makes this offense more polarizing, boosting the value of all receivers and Kittle. Lance’s ability to push the ball down field and throw sideline to sideline with zip on the ball makes Ayuik a target for fantasy owners as well. Trey Lance is not going to be a starter for your teams immediately, but he will be your starter heading into the playoffs and for years beyond.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Kliff Kingsbury will not take Arizona to the next level. This has more to do with Coach Kingsbury than it has to do with Kyler Murray. I think Murray is a great QB and has shown that he is deserving of being a top QB drafted. However, I will not be biting at his current ADP. Arizona did no improve their running game, their offensive line consists of almost all new guys, and it seems as if it is only bringing in guys on their last leg i.e. James Conner, AJ Green, JJ Watt, and Rodney Hudson.
Kyler Murray was the #1 QB on Sleeper last season and comes in at #3 on FantasyPros this season. He has a top receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, but after that, I’m not a fan of this offense. If Kyler has to continue to run for his life, Arizona will be on a downward spiral. I do not like the lack of usage at their TE position. I hate their rushing game. Outside of Hopkins, Kyler has no true weapons. If Kyler slips and 5 QBs are taken before him, I would consider. Taking him after Mahomes and Allen is a risk that I am staying away from.
Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
The first pick of the 2021 NFL Draft has been compared to the likes of Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning. The talent is there, but Lawrence is missing what Luck and Manning had. In his rookie year, Luck had Reggie Wayne and rookie TY Hilton as targets. Peyton, although he had a terrible rookie year, had Marvin Harrison and Marshall Faulk. Jacksonville does not have any weapons that are comparable to what Luck and Manning had. Lawrence is going to be a great QB, but I would hold off in 2021 because I do not think Urban Meyer will last long as the head coach in Jacksonville.
Like I said, the talent is there. I just hate the situation, which is similar to Kyler Murray. Trevor Lawrence will be a great QB in this league, but I don’t believe that he will have the fantasy relevance this season for him to be one of the top players in his position to be taken. Do not rely on him to be your starter, but look for him as a backup because of his possible upside.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Hurts is at the helm of the Eagles after Carson Wentz’s departure to Indy. A major problem with the Eagles is that they have been missing a star receiver to help out Wentz and now Hurts. The addition of Jalen Raegor last season has been an improvement, but he is not the alpha that will bolster their offense. Drafting DeVonta Smith, however, will. The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner will be a great weapon for his former and current QB.
The issue at hand is that Hurts is currently QB11 on FantasyPros. Braking into QB1 territory for a guy with a new coach, new weapons, but most importantly, rumors swirling around Deshaun Watson. Drafting Hurts at his current ADP is an incredible risk considering that Watson is not off the table. Further, it seems as if negotiations have occurred between the Texans and Eagles, which shows that Hurts may not be Nick Sirianni’s guy. I would recommend fading Hurts this season, until it is determined that he will be the franchise guy in Philly for the years to come.
The standard format of 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 (S)F, 1 K, and 1 DEF limits your league to one side of the ball for every game each week besides one. With Superflex becoming more and more popular each year, the QB position is the most important in both fantasy and the NFL. What is forgotten is that defenses win championships, but that is not the case in most fantasy leagues. IDP, or Individual Defensive Player, leagues create a whole new dynamic in FF. Yet, most leagues that incorporate IDP do not have their rosters setup for these defensive players to have real value, which defeats the purpose from transitioning from whole DEF to IDP.
For IDP, I would highly recommend going 2 DL, 2 LB, 2 DB, and 3 FLEX. I mentioned above that leagues with IDP have bad setups because often I see leagues that only use 1-3 IDP players, which removes any value they have. The more players that are rostered, the less players on the waiver wire, which means the value of the rostered players is far more significant. For example, leagues that have their lineups set for just 3 FLEX IDP (12 team league) have about 60 players that are rostered. Going to Fantasy Pros, this leaves guys like Danielle Hunter, Shaq Barrett, Tyrann Mathieu, Chase Young, and Leighton Vander Esch potentially on the waiver wire. Trading for IDP isn’t going to be a winning strategy when guys like these aren’t rostered. When you use the format I suggested, you are starting 9 players, and maybe have 1-2 guys in each position on your bench. So lets say, on average, teams are rostering 13 defensive players. That is 156 defensive players being rostered, and Fantasy Pros only has 153 players in their rankings. It may seem like a lot, but it adds significant value to guys like Devin White and Roquan Smith.
There are many different formats for IDP scoring, so it is important for either you as the commissioner or you as the team owner to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your scoring system. The IDP Guys have a great article that highlights the amount of points each format rewards. Leagues that are tackle heavy will make the top LBs extremely valuable. Leagues that have QB hits and sacks being rewarded the most will have EDGE and DT players being the lead IDP targets. And obviously, pass defend, interceptions, and return yard bonuses will have DBs being most valuable. Creating a balance between the 3 scoring systems is difficult and may not be necessary. Whatever scoring your league has, it is important for you to grab the guys that the format best fits. For instance, my league sees LBs scoring the highest amongst all IDP due to being in a tackle heavy league. Devin White, Darius Leonard, and Roquan Smith are all significantly more valuable that guys like Myles Garrett, Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, or any corner for that matter.
The same feeling you get when you see your WR catch a TD or your RB take off for a 30 yard run is the same feeling you will get when your DL get a sack or DB gets a pick. You will hate seeing your RB being tackled for a loss until you see it is your LB. You will be researching depth charts and looking at snap counts to find the diamond in the rough, which is much more likely than finding the diamond on the offensive side of the ball.
Give it a try, trust me. It is a refreshing take on fantasy football that you won’t be able to leave.