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There’s a lot of uncertainty around 2021 right now because the majority of cap cuts, almost all of free agency and the draft still lie ahead. That gives you windows to make smarter decisions in early best ball drafts and the offseason dynasty trade market if you embrace the uncertainty and take a stand on where you think things will end up. If you avoid uncertainty, you’ll miss out on chances to lock in values in best ball drafts that give your squad league-winning upside and dynasty trades that can help you become or stay a contender in constantly changing waters. Which situations should we be watching and which stands should we take?
Buy Gabriel Davis, Dawson Knox
John Brown is a likely cap cut, narrowing a fruitful target tree. Davis has been a favorite target of Josh Allen on extended plays and should be relevant in fantasy leagues in 2021, with an arrow pointing up. Knox could take a hit if the team acquires a veteran tight end in free agency, but he's cheap enough to not worry about that possibility.
Sell Miami WR/TE (if there’s any market for them)
Well, the value of Devante Parker, Preston Williams, and Mike Gesicki is pretty depressed and you won’t get much for them, but the promise of Deshaun Watson coming is still slim and Miami is likely to take a wide receiver early, if not in the first round. Tua Tagovailoa is one of least value-adding quarterbacks in the league right now.
Leave this offense in a ditch on the side of the road
Bill Belichick is too disciplined to let quarterback thirst persuade him to overpay in a desperate market. If I was handicapping this situation, I would say the three most likely Week 1 starters for the Patriots are Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, and Jarrett Stidham, so don’t expect this offense to come out of the doldrums next season.
New York Jets
Jamison Crowder is a possible cap cut and the Jets don’t really have anything else in the passing game right now. Zach Wilson is a good bet to go #2, and if the Jets aren’t holding the pick, it’s likely because they traded it in a package for Deshaun Watson. Mims rookie campaign had a slow start because of injury and Herndon showed some promise at the end of the year, making him potentially the next player to get a boost from the Gase Divorce Bounce effect.
Sell the passing game
How serious is Deshaun Watson about wanting out? How willing are the Texans to grant him his wish? It’s difficult to gauge the thinking of this front office because their decision-making matrix is clearly well outside of the typical range, but they seem stubborn and not open to considering that they might be wrong about something, so expect this to stretch into the regular season unless Watson just caves, which seems unlikely considering developments to date. So the Texans pass catchers are probably not catching passes from Watson in Week 1, and maybe never again. A trade of Watson before the season to the Jets for a package including the #2 pick wouldn’t be a terrible outcome, but it still feels less likely than Watson staying away in the regular season until he gets his wish. Buying Watson in dynasty will be a good move if and when he sits for regular season games. Will Fuller clearly has the most value with Watson, but that will likely require a franchise tag. Brandin Cooks price tag is prohibitive at 12 million, but he earned it with his play last year. The team will likely free up money by letting both David and Duke Johnson Jr go, so they could conceivably keep both Cooks and Fuller, but it’s moot unless Watson is on the field Week 1.
This is tricky because Wentz’s confidence was shattered last year. The good news is that he is reunited with the coach that he played for during his best season and the Colts offensive line and supporting cast should take a lot of pressure off of Wentz’s shoulders. T.Y. Hilton is probably gone, vacating 93 targets, and both Pittman and Campbell are underrated. Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Zach Ertz all had at least 750/8 in Wentz’s best season even though he only played 13 games. With no receiving force like Ertz at tight end, Pittman and Campbell have unknown best ball upside if they can stay healthy, and in dynasty, the best is clearly yet to come.
Buy DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, Collin Johnson (?)
Trevor Lawrence should click right away and add significant value to both Chark and Shenault that isn’t being priced into their outlooks right now. Even if they make a splash by bringing back Allen Robinson or adding another big name receiver, there should be enough to go around. Johnson is a dicier call because his snaps would be most affected by adding a receiver in free agency or the draft, but he could also be a surprise WR3 for this team with an arrow pointing up if they don’t make a significant investment. With a new regime making the calls, it’s certainly possible that they prioritize other positions of need over wide receiver and Johnson is a big March/April winner in dynasty leagues.
Buy James Robinson
If you’re fading Robinson because of his UDFA pedigree, you’re trying too hard to come up with a reason to not accept him as the back he was on the field in 2020. The addition of Trevor Lawrence should open up running lanes and create more scoring opportunities.
Buy AJ Brown
Corey Davis is almost certainly gone in free agency and the team could also lose Jonnu Smith to a free agent market that almost always overvalues tight ends. AJ Brown is going to get as many targets as he can handle. Don’t forget that he was playing hurt for all of 2020.
Consider finding a spot for Anthony Firkser
The restricted free agent should be tendered at a high enough level to remain a Titan for the 2021 season. Jonnu Smith will likely be priced out of the Titans range and Adam Humphries was released, so Firkser might be as high as the #2 target in this pass offense unless the Titans make a strong move to replace Corey Davis, who is also likely to walk in free agency.
Buy Devin Duvernay
Willie Snead is probably gone in free agency, allowing the 2020 third round pick to inherit a role that skirted on fantasy relevance in this run first offense and could become much more valuable when married to Duvernay’s speed and running back mentality after the catch.
Expect a signing/pick of a top target for Joe Burrow
Is this a recommendation to buy Burrow? I’m not sure it’s worth buying any quarterback in 1QB leagues, and I wouldn’t expect him to be discounted enough to reflect his injury and so-so fantasy performance (outside of games vs. Cleveland). This isn’t a “sell Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins” take either because they are still undervalued. The best tight end prospect since Vernon Davis - Florida’s Kyle Pitts - is a real possibility at #5.
Buy Odell Beckham
There’s no uncertainty here outside of his recovery from ACL surgery, but what there is is a lack of acknowledgement that we haven’t gotten to see what Beckham can do in a Browns offense that was clicking in the second half of the season. Some will say that was because of Beckham’s absence, but you can’t tell me that Beckham would have done more with the downfield targets that were opening up than Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins did. Beckham could have had two scores in the first win over Cincinnati but William Jackson III III held him the second time he got free deep, and we saw the Beckham of old in the big win over Dallas. Long touchdowns could come a lot easier for Beckham this year and early ADP indicates that many are down on him.
Buy James Washington
The door isn’t closed on Juju Smith-Schuster coming back in the coverage of the Steelers offseason, but come on. The Steelers can’t afford to pay him anywhere near his market value, and they will still have a strong trio of receivers without him. Washington is one of the best receivers that wasn’t a starter in 2020, and he’ll be on the field a lot more in 2021, setting up what should be a trip into free agency in 2022 that will greatly increase his role and play.
Buy a second tier rookie running back
The Steelers are in prime position to take Alabama’s Najee Harris or Clemson’s Travis Etienne at 24, but with the offensive line crying out for help, which means they’ll likely take their running back of the future on the second day. It could be a North Carolina back (Michael Carter or Javonte Williams), it could be Trey Sermon out of Ohio State, Memphis’s Kenneth Gainwell. It might even be a third day pick, but expect the Steelers to take a running back that should have a good shot to be better than Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland in short order.
Sell Melvin Gordon, Buy Phillip Lindsay
I don’t even know if you can get anything for Gordon right now, but he is still being treated as the presumptive starter in Denver, and his early best ball ADP doesn’t reflect the risk of a three-game suspension to begin the season in the wake of a 2020 DWI. Phillip Lindsay is a restricted free agent, so we’ll watch the level of his tender as an indicator of what the team thinks of him. It’s possible that he’s the lead back or fighting to fend off yet another addition the team foolishly believes is better than Lindsay.
Sell Mecole Hardman
This one could require some patience, as the hive mind might not have absorbed that Sammy Watkins is certainly not coming back and Demarcus Robinson might not either. Hardman will get a value boost if the Chiefs don’t make a big splash at wide receiver in free agency, which is highly unlikely. The draft, on the other hand, could yield a pick on the first or second day that would immediately take Hardman’s place as the young speedster we go gaga over picturing him reeling in deep balls from Patrick Mahomes II, so there might be a limited window to take advantage of the market for Hardman. Hardman has shown that his speed translates and sometimes he puts it all together on a play, but you get the feeling that the Chiefs see him as a John Ross without the injury headache - ie a player whose inconsistency will short circuit their ability to make their gifts matter in the outcome of the game.
Buy Damien Williams
The Chiefs have indicated that he’s coming back in 2021, and the reality is that 2019 Williams was a better back than 2020 Edwards-Helaire. There’s a reasonable possibility that Williams will be the most valuable Chiefs back in 2021 fantasy leagues. He can be relevant with the minority of the touches if he just retains the passing game/goal line role. Williams is a forgotten man, but that won’t be for long assuming he’s ready for OTAs.
Agholor isn’t exciting outside of deep, but his accomplishments in 2020 went mostly unnoticed. He had eight scores and if he hadn’t been marginalized in Weeks 1 and 2, he could have had 1000 yards. Any time Agholor got at least 6 targets, he was a solid to great play. Expect him to get a big contract, assuming Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, and Allen Robinson don’t hit the market. The Raiders might be the team that overpays him, but if not, it will open up an opportunity for Bryan Edwards. Either way, Agholor should be starting somewhere with a chance to build momentum.
Los Angeles Chargers
Sell Hunter Henry
I can’t help but think of Austin Hooper, who came into the league with Henry in 2016. Hooper wasn’t tagged by the Falcons last year and got paid by the Browns, but also saw the air completely go out of his fantasy value balloon. Henry didn’t look like a better player than Hooper last year and while he might get paid, his situation is unlikely to get better than the one he was in last year - and he never really got on a hot streak for his fantasy teams despite catching passes from Justin Herbert. The Chargers are unlikely to tag him again, and even if he gets a long term deal from them, Donald Parham is coming back and he is going to demand more targets with his size and speed. It’s only downhill from here for Henry’s value.
Okay, okay, I’m not really saying sell, but know that there’s a greater chance of this being Dak Prescott’s last year with the Cowboys than many realize. Jerry Jones didn’t meet Dak Prescott’s contract desires each of the last two years, so why is this year more likely when the demands will have increased significantly from last year’s? Elliott is almost probably a year or two away from his decline phase (even if only gradual) and the promise of a souped up offense with Prescott is a big part of his value right now. If it does become clear that Prescott is leaving in 2022, the dynasty value of everyone in this offense will decline. Of course, a long term deal should then be a boost, so if you believe in Jerry to come to his senses, keep or even increase your investments here.
New York Giants
Sell Evan Engram
Does Engram even have any cachet in the trade market? I doubt it, but you never know. He is looking like a replay of Eric Ebron - a receiving tight end who is too inconsistent to be a true asset in fantasy leagues, but it’s possible that Jason Garrett’s misuse was a bigger factor in his 2020 doldrums and better things could be ahead on his second team - likely in 2022, possibly this season via trade? Engram might have a stronger second act in him, but I don’t him to be dealt and I do expect the Giants to take a wide receiver early in the draft, perhaps even at #11. This wasn’t an exciting passing game to have in your lineup in 2020, and the target tree is about to get even wider.
Buy Dallas Goedert
The clock is ticking and the Zach Ertz is a goner takes are out there, but there will be still a Goedert value bounce when Ertz is released or traded. Have you heard this one before: the Eagles cupboard is pretty bare at wide receiver. Now they could take Florida’s Kyle Pitts at 6, the best tight end prospect since Vernon Davis, which would be a monkeywrench in Goedert’s long term outlook, but 2021 would still be bright.
Buy Logan Thomas
This has nothing to do Washington’s possible personnel moves, this is just a reminder that Thomas blossomed late in the season. He was TE3 from Weeks 13-17 (only Kelce and Waller ahead), and he was catching passes from Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, and Taylor Heinecke. It might not get that much better this year, but it can’t get worse.
Robinson is going to get tagged, which caps Mooney and Kmet’s potential target boost, and they are going to be targets from uh, well judging by the Bears handling of the quarterback position, not someone who adds value to those targets. I don’t really think anyone is excited to acquire these players, so it’s a bit of an empty take, but the bottom line is Chicago’s passing game isn’t exactly on the upswing and Robinson probably isn’t going anywhere.
Sell Kenny Golladay
He’s probably going to get tagged, if not signed to a long-term deal, and Jared Goff just isn’t the right kind of quarterback for him, and most definitely not nearly as good for him as Matthew Stafford.
Sell A.J. Dillon (but when?)
This is a situation with a big risk/reward swing coming soon. If Aaron Jones is tagged, the sell window is closed. If Jones is allowed to hit free agency, the sell window gets even more attractive. If Jamaal Williams is kept after that, the window closes. If the Packers draft another back after not retaining Williams/Jones or adding another significant back, more danger. My gut feeling is that either Jones returns on a transition tag or Williams is signed to a multi-year deal. It just doesn’t seem like the Packers would roll into another Super Bowl window season with no experienced backs on the roster, especially no backs experienced in the passing game. Dillon will have company. Judging by early best ball ADP, many are already factoring this into Dillon’s value, so the sell window may not be open yet anyway.
Buy Irv Smith (too late!), Buy Tyler Conklin?
And here’s your example of the early bird getting the worm. Kyle Rudolph is gone so Smith’s value went up. Even if you *knew* Rudolph wasn’t coming back, the Vikings making it official moved the needle. Smith is still more of a long term play with Tyler Conklin still there and competent enough to keep this a two tight-end offense. Conklin got 21 targets to Smith’s 20 over the last four games with Rudolph out and he was close to Smith’s production level, save for scoring only one touchdown to Smith’s three.
Sell Julio Jones
Don’t get me wrong, Julio was still a boss when he was healthy, and he could remain a fantasy WR1 in 2021. He could also have to catch passes from a rookie quarterback at some point, or be joined by receiving tight end extraordinaire Kyle Pitts (get blood from the stone that is Hayden Hurst’s value if you can) or his eventual replacement via the draft. Jones value may bounce back to an extent during the 2021 season, but AJ Green looms as a warning to not wait too long to get out of elite wide receivers while they still have significant trade value.
Buy D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson
Most who have Moore are likely gripping him tightly, but do a price check just in case. One might argue that he was even better than he was in 2019. Anderson will be a lot cheaper and should be the trade target, but both will be beneficiaries of Curtis Samuel finding a robust market for his services in free agency and likely leaving.
Just in case you haven’t already, project Jameis Winston as the Saints starter and Taysom Hill’s role to be unchanged from his role with Drew Brees. I would love to see Hill get a shot and he was a top 10 fantasy quarterback when he played, but the Saints plans appear to be with Winston. Winston could find a better market for his services in free agency than expected, so there’s a chance Sean Payton is priced into making Hill the starter, but I wouldn’t bet on it. The Russell Wilson promise is a butterfly in the breeze, unlikely to actually result in anything, but both Hill and Winston are cheap enough to make the cost of taking on that risk very low.
Buy Scott Miller
Antonio Brown isn’t under contract next season. Maybe the Bucs will bring him back, but with a big investment in Chris Godwin coming, it’s far from a foregone conclusion. Miller could be on the field enough to be relevant in 2021, and he showed great chemistry with Tom Brady in their first year together. The fantasy community seems to have a blind spot for Miller’s promise and he is likely free in some leagues.
Buy Chase Edmonds
Do you think the Cardinals will spend big on Aaron Jones or Chris Carson, or take a running back in the first two days of the draft? At best it’s 50-50 that they add someone of more significance than Edmonds, who has proven his value to the new regime. Edmonds has a much higher 2021 ceiling than his current value indicates and with a strong performance, he might sustain that value level through his possible walk year in 2022.
Los Angeles Rams
Buy Tyler Higbee
Higbee was overvalued in 2020 redraft leagues, no doubt about it, but that doesn’t mean that his 2019 late season outburst wasn’t meaningful. Gerald Everett is almost certainly going to find more money elsewhere and there’s no guarantee that 2020 fourth round pick Brycen Hopkins is ready to take up a large percentage of Everett’s snaps and targets. The Rams are also likely to lose Josh Reynolds, oh and did we mention that Matthew Stafford might add value to Higbee’s targets, both through increased skill at quarterback and his ability to get Sean McVay to pass more downfield with a quarterback he trusts. While that might ding Higbee’s ability to have volume driven big games like he did in December 2019, it has to be seen as an overall upgrade to his outlook to have Stafford instead of Goff.
Sell Brandon Aiyuk
I’m not saying I’m down on Aiyuk at all, but he had a max of seven targets when George Kittle and Deebo Samuel were both out there and a whopping 43 of his 97 targets came in three games when Kittle and Samuel were out. Perhaps Kittle and Samuel will continue to be as likely to be off the field as they are to be on it, but that’s a lot to count on when the quarterback situation is probably Garoppolo or bust. Aiyuk’s rookie numbers point to big things, but maybe not in the near future. If Aiyuk is a piece that can get you to a trule elite fantasy option as part of a package, don’t hesitate to move on from him.
Buy Chris Carson
Carson is either going to another team as a lead back or staying in Seattle under a reasonable franchise or transition tag number. He’s not being valued to his previous level of production right now, but should get a boost when he’s signed somewhere and seen as an entrenched starting back for the upcoming season once again.