Team leadership saw fit to bolster these offenses during the 2021 NFL Draft, and Michael Fabiano breaks down the veterans who stand to benefit
The 2021 NFL Draft is now in the books, and we now have a clearer picture of how all 32 rosters are going to look heading into the summer months. I’ve already examined the first, second/third rounds, and the rookie winners, but we also have to look at how the draft has impacted the fantasy value of veteran players in what is a virtual domino effect of sorts. Let’s start with the positives and the players whose fantasy football appeal has experienced an increase as a result of the NFL draft.
Lamar Jackson, Ravens
The Ravens focused part of their draft on adding pass catchers for Jackson, picking up Rashod Bateman in the first round, and Tylan Wallace in Round 4. They’ll join Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, and Miles Boykin in a crowded group of wide receivers. Baltimore also added an offensive lineman, Ben Cleveland, in the third round. This could all mean good things for Jackson is terms of his passing numbers.
Jalen Hurts, Eagles
The Eagles were rumored to have some interest in a quarterback, but that didn’t come to fruition. Instead, the team added Heisman trophy winner Devonta Smith, a teammate of Hurts at Alabama. That gives Hurts another weapon in the pass attack and one with a built-in rapport due to their time together in college. Philadelphia also added Landon Dickerson to improve the offensive line and further protect Hurts.
Matt Ryan, Falcons
Ryan finished 12th in fantasy points among quarterbacks last season, throwing for 26 touchdown passes while missing Julio Jones for part of the schedule. Ryan will get Jones back (barring a trade), and now he’ll have the top tight end prospect in the 2021 class, Kyle Pitts, at his disposal. The Falcons also added some offensive line help in Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield, so Ryan could see his statistics increase next season.
Daniel Jones, Giants
The Giants are doing everything possible to put Jones into a position to succeed next season. First was the addition of Kenny Golladay as their new No. 1 wide receiver, and next was the selection of Kadarius Toney in the first round of the NFL draft. Who knows, maybe I was one season too early on promoting Jones as a fantasy sleeper!
Sam Darnold, Panthers
The Panthers seem dedicated to Darnold, at least in 2021, as the team didn’t draft a quarterback as some predicted in the first round. Instead, Carolina added weapons in Terrace Marshall Jr., Tommy Tremble, Chuba Hubbard, and offensive line help in Brady Christensen and Deonte Brown. Darnold will be a QB3 in most fantasy drafts.
Joe Mixon, Bengals
The Bengals did draft a running back, but no one sees sixth-rounder Chris Evans as a serious threat to Mixon’s workload. In fact, I’d guess that Samaje Perine and Trayveon Williams will be the top two backs behind Mixon heading into next season. Mixon is still a risk, but you have to like his lack of competition for touches. The team also added two offensive linemen, Clemson’s Jackson Carman and East Carolina’s D’Ante Smith.
Myles Gaskin, Dolphins
The Dolphins showed a lot of faith in Gaskin, who will be the favorite to lead this team in backfield touches heading into the summer months. Miami did add Malcolm Brown as a free agent, but the team didn’t pick a running back (Gerrid Doaks) until Round 7. As a result, Gaskin will be the main man and push for low-end RB2 value in drafts.
Mike Davis, Falcons
The Falcons must have great faith in Davis because the team didn’t select a running back in the NFL draft. That means his main competition for touches, at least as of now, are Qadree Ollison, Javian Hawkins and Tony Brooks-James. Davis, the RB11 last year in Carolina, is now a borderline RB2/FLEX starter value heading into next season.
James Conner, Chase Edmonds, Cardinals
Conner and Edmonds will share the backfield duties in Arizona next season, and there won’t be any other significant competitors for touches. That’s because the Cardinals did not pick a running back in the draft, instead selecting one wide receiver (Ronald Moore) among their seven picks. Conner and Edmonds will both be on the flex radar.
Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Bills
The Bills were rumored to be interested in adding a running back, but that didn’t happen. In fact, Buffalo selected one offensive skill position, Marquez Stevenson, in Round 6. That means it’ll be Singletary and Moss splitting the the touches again next season. Buffalo also added offensive line help with the additions of Spencer Brown and Tommy Doyle. Regardless, neither back is more than a matchup-based flex starter.
Allen Robinson, Bears
Blake Bortles. Mitchell Trubisky. Nick Foles. Those are some of the quarterbacks that Robinson has caught passes from in his NFL career. At least in 2021, that should change as the Bears moved up to draft Ohio State’s Justin Fields. He could be the best signal-caller Robinson’s ever had, at least for one season (Robinson is playing on the franchise tag), in his NFL career. The veteran remains a low-end No. 1 fantasy wideout.
D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones Jr., Laviska Shenault Jr., Jaguars
The Jaguars selected one of the top quarterback prospects of the last two decades in Lawrence, which is great news for all of Jacksonville’s top pass catchers. The team also passed on adding another wide receiver until Jalen Camp came off the board in Round 6. Chark is the biggest winner and will be in the WR3/FLEX conversation in 2021 drafts.
Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, John Brown, Raiders
The Raiders focused their draft on the defensive side of the football, drafting just one offensive player (lineman Alex Leatherwood). With Nelson Agholor no longer on the team, Ruggs, Edwards and Brown are the unquestioned favorites to open next season as the team’s top wideouts. They’ll be worth a late-round look in most drafts.
Mecole Hardman, Chiefs
The Chiefs, who lost Sammy Watkins as a free agent, didn’t draft a wide receiver until the fifth round. That was Clemson’s Cornell Powell. As a result, Hardman looks like the favorite to start opposite Tyreek Hill in the Chiefs explosive pass attack. The speedy receiver will be worth a late-round pick as a WR4/WR5 in most 2021 fantasy drafts.
Josh Reynolds, Titans
The Titans lost Corey Davis (Jets) as a free agent, so wide receiver seemed to be an area of need in the draft. The team did add two wideouts, Dez Fitzpatrick and Racey McMath, but neither was a high-end prospect. That leaves Reynolds as the favorite, at least for right now, to start opposite potential target monster A.J. Brown in 2021.
Tre’Quan Smith, Saints
Smith has failed to live up to expectations at the NFL level, but he is looking like the favorite to start opposite Michael Thomas next season. The Saints released Emmanuel Sanders (Bills) and didn’t take a wide receiver (Kawaan Baker) until Round 7. As a result, Smith will be worth a look in the late rounds as a No. 5 fantasy wideout.
T.J. Hockenson, Lions
The Lions lost Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones to free agency, and bringing in journeymen Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman isn’t what you would call exciting. Detroit did add rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth round of the NFL draft, but he too comes with question marks. That leaves Hockenson as a potential targets machine.
Anthony Firkser, Titans
The Titans lost Jonnu Smith (Patriots) as a free agent, but the team didn’t go after a tight end in the NFL draft. That leaves Firkser as the favorite to replace Smith as the top tight end in Tennessee next season. He’d be worth a late rounder as a No. 2 option.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for all of the late breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!
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