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RunSportBet’s Justin Boone delivers some of his bold predictions for the upcoming fantasy season.
Akers takes the fantasy RB crown
It took Cam Akers time to establish himself in the Rams’ backfield as a 21-year-old rookie. But he eventually secured the starting role and posted 23.8 touches per contest over his final six games, including the playoffs. More importantly, he delivered on that volume by averaging 118 yards from scrimmage per contest during that stretch, as well as three total touchdowns. Remember, before Todd Gurley fell off a cliff, Sean McVay helped his former bell cow finish as the top-scoring fantasy back league-wide in 2017 and 2018. With Matthew Stafford set to lift this offense’s ceiling, Akers will see plenty of positive game scripts as he dominates in 2021.
Fitzpatrick sneaks into top 12
It’s easy to forget, but before being benched in favor of first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa last year in Miami, Ryan Fitzpatrick was averaging the 12th-most fantasy points at his position through six weeks. That includes two bad outings against the Patriots and Seahawks where he threw no touchdowns and five total interceptions. His aggressive style of play comes with plenty of risk, but the veteran joins a Washington team that threw the ninth-most pass attempts in 2020. With a strong cast around him on both sides of the ball, the 38-year-old will surprise fantasy managers this season.
Thielen no longer a fantasy starter
Adam Thielen finished last year as a top-12 fantasy wideout largely thanks to his 14 touchdown receptions, which tied for fourth-most in the NFL. Unfortunately, regression is coming for that total. If his trips to the end zone were cut in half to seven last season (he only scored seven times or more twice in his career), Thielen would have fallen from WR11 in fppg to WR27. There are also concerns over his yardage (he’s been held under 60 yards in 17 of his last 25 games), age (turns 31 in August), and health (multiple soft-tissue injuries in the last two years). With Justin Jefferson emerging as the Vikings’ new top target, Thielen is about to become a much more inconsistent fantasy asset.
Brady finishes top five among QBs
Last season, a 43-year-old Tom Brady posted the 12th-most fantasy points per game and took his new Buccaneers team all the way to a Super Bowl win. It seems hard to believe, but one could argue that his second go-around in Tampa Bay could be even better. It took Brady, his teammates, and coaches time to get on the same page early in the year, and that showed as the unit gelled down the stretch. Over his final seven regular-season contests, he averaged the fifth-most fantasy point among all quarterbacks. While many fantasy managers are directing their attention toward dual-threat passers, don’t sleep on the GOAT setting new career highs in 2021.
Williams, Sermon power fantasy title runs
Javonte Williams and Trey Sermon are exciting rookie backs with clear paths to fantasy production in their debut campaigns. It’s only a matter of time before they usurp the veteran starters in their backfields, but the most intriguing aspect of their fantasy outlooks pertains to the schedule. The Broncos and 49ers rank second and 11th, respectively, in our fantasy running back strength of schedule metric for 2021. An even closer look reveals two incredibly soft playoff schedules. Denver faces the Lions, Bengals, Raiders, and Chargers from Weeks 14 to 17, while San Francisco gets the Bengals, Falcons, Titans, and Texans during that time. Seven of those eight opponents graded out in the bottom half of the league in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA last year.
All three Cowboys WRs land in top 24
It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb pick up where they left off with a healthy Dak Prescott. However, people might not realize how close Michael Gallup was to becoming a fantasy WR2 early last season. Prior to Prescott’s injury in Week 5, the Cowboys quarterback averaged over 40 pass attempts per game and was supporting Cooper (WR3), Lamb, (WR14), and Gallup (WR30) as viable fantasy starters. Dallas’ defense doesn’t project to turn things around in one year, so we can expect more shootouts and plenty of volume through the air from the Cowboys.
Pitts breaks Ditka’s rookie tight end record
Mike Ditka holds the record of most yards by a rookie tight end (1,076) set in 1961. The closest any player has come to catching him is Jeremy Shockey’s 894 yards for the Giants in 2002. In fact, we’ve generally accepted that first-year tight ends enter the league quietly before developing into stars after a couple seasons … but not Kyle Pitts. The Falcons’ fourth overall pick is the best prospect we’ve ever seen at the position, and with Julio Jones traded away, Pitts will be called upon to step into an immediate pass-catching role alongside top wideout Calvin Ridley. Pitts putting up 700 yards in his debut season would be a success, but he’s going to do far more than that. He’ll break fantasy football molds in Arthur Smith’s tight end-friendly system and topple Ditka’s previously unattainable mark.