Going into the 2021 off-season gives a chance for analysts to make their 2021 fantasy football predictions, and here is no different. These predictions for me, as an analyst, are more than just statements thrown out to get a reaction, but rather a chance to get ahead on potential breakouts and storylines before the draft season comes around. By looking at trends and data from the previous season, projections can be made, leading to these bold predictions. Not all of these predictions will come true, but there is sound reasoning for each of them.
Looking back to some predictions I made going into last year, I had some major hits and misses on the bold predictions. The best prediction that came true was the breakout of Calvin Ridley. I went into the draft season with the claim that Ridley would finish as a top-10 receiver in fantasy. There will always be some misses with the hits, as evide=nced my prediction of Gardner Minshew finishing as a top-10 quarterback last year.
2021 Fantasy Football Predictions: QB
Kyler Murray Will Finish as a Low-end QB1, Despite Being Drafted as a Top-three Option.
Let’s start the 2021 fantasy football predictions off with a hot take on the number two quarterback in fantasy football last year. Murray made some highlight-reel plays and put up big numbers early in the season for the Arizona Cardinals. However, later in the year, he started to fall off. Weeks 1-10 last year Murray was dominant, averaging 30.16 fantasy points per game and was ranked as the QB1, however weeks 11 -16, Murray fell to the eighth quarterback on a per-game basis averaging 19.26 points per game, which over the course of last season would have been good enough for QB-10, right above Kirk Cousins.
Late in the year, Murray ran the ball less with only one game above ten rushing attempts and only three games with over five rushing attempts. If Murray is not an active runner, he leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to fantasy football. Murray only completed over 70% of his passes in five games last year, including week 17. If we see more of the Murray from late in the year where he runs less and loses some of the rushing touchdown equity he had (11 TDs on the ground), he will disappoint the fantasy owners who draft him early.
2021 Fantasy Football Predictions: RB
The Denver Broncos Will Produce Two Top-24 Receivers
The Broncos are a team with a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball and could see a boost in production as an overall unit. With this projected boost Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy can finish as top-24 wide receivers this upcoming year. Jeudy saw 113 targets last year, which was good for 21st in the league. Jeudy did not finish better in fantasy due to the inefficiency of the targets, only bringing in 42% of them. If Jeudy can be more efficient with his targets, he will finish as a top-24 receiver. Sutton missed all of this last season, but going back to the 2020 season, Sutton saw a 25% target share in Drew Lock‘s first six starts.
That is an elite level target share. WIth the talent between these two players and their target volume, the only thing holding them back from top-24 finishes is the quarterback play. If Lock remains the starter, he will need to take another step forward. Still, the Broncos could grab a veteran presence at QB, such as Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jameis Winston, to help Sutton and Jeudy achieve top finishes.
Josh Jacobs Will Finish Outside of the Top-12 Running Backs
Josh Jacobs finished the 2020 season as a top ten running back, but he did not produce as one on a week-to-week basis. Jacobs finished with 13 or fewer fantasy points in nine out of his 14 games he played for fantasy and finished with less than ten fantasy points in six out of those nine games.
Jacobs is not used much in the passing game and has seen less than five targets in 12 out of the 14 games between weeks one and 16. The ground game’s consistency and work in the passing game are just not there for Jacobs, and he can easily finish outside the top-12 running backs this upcoming season. He will most likely be on a lot of 2021 fantasy football predictions as people start to see that his role is possibly on the decline.
2021 Fantasy Football Predictions: WR
Terry McLaurin Will Finish as a Top-5 Receiver
Terry McLaurin is a top-five receiver in the league talent-wise but has been held back in fantasy due to lackluster quarterback play. Despite the lack of consistent quarterback play, McLaurin has continued to produce for fantasy. This bold prediction comes from his opportunity he has been receiving and the potential for a step forward from the offense as a whole. Despite finishing as the 19th receiver in half-point PPR fantasy last year, McLaurin was tenth in the league in targets.
His targets share should not decrease with the other weapons on the field and could increase if J.D. McKissick receives less work out of the backfield. McLaurin will need some improvement from the quarterback position. Alex Smith provides a stable presence for the position and would allow McLaurin to rack up the targets; however, if Washington upgrades at the QB position, McLaurin could increase more deep play and touchdown upside, which boosts his fantasy value.
2021 Fantasy Football Predictions: TE
Irv Smith Jr Will Finish as a Top-12 Tight End.
Last on my list of 2021 fantasy football predictions is TE Irv Smith Jr. The Alabama product is an extremely athletic and talented tight end, and he is poised for a breakout season in 2021. Last year, Smith dealt with injuries and missed some games. In the games he did play, he saw 4 or more targets in seven out of his 12 games. Many of Smith’s targets also came in the RedZone, which is great for a tight end. Smith saw 12 targets in the RedZone, which means over a quarter (27%) of his targets came in this prime real estate. Smith will need to see an increase in his usage to make this prediction come true, but the opportunity is there.
The Vikings came into the season as a run-heavy team, but they threw more and more as the year progressed. From week five on, the Vikings only threw the ball less than 30 times only twice. If the Vikings continue to throw, Smith will see more targets in this offense while Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook draw the attention from defenses.
Thanks for reading my 2021 fantasy football predictions article. For more of my content follow me on Twitter @DylanLNFL and also follow @OTH_Football.
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