Fantasy Football: 10 bold predictions for the 2021 NFL season

Fantasy Football
NFL Analysis Network

The 2021 NFL season is on the horizon, meaning that Fantasy Football drafts are going to be popular in the coming weeks. Before the regular season kicks off, some people compile lists of off-the-wall predictions that they believe could occur. Of course, seeing that they are bold predictions, there’s a decent chance that most of them end up being wrong.

If you were someone that predicted David Montgomery to finish as a top-four running back in Fantasy Football last season, you would have gotten your bold prediction correct. With the preseason prepared to get underway, here are my 10 bold predictions in Fantasy Football for the upcoming season.

Trevor Lawrence finishes as a top 10 quarterback

The name of the game in Fantasy Football is to find a quarterback that can bring statistics through the air and on the ground. Dual-threat quarterbacks are becoming more common in the NFL, and Trevor Lawrence is a better dual-threat quarterback than people are giving him credit for.

Lawrence was the most highly-touted prospect since Andrew Luck and he is now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite playing on a team that isn’t known for winning, Lawrence still has plenty of opportunities to perform in Fantasy Football. Given his ability to produce numbers in the passing game and in the rushing department, Lawrence finishes his rookie season in 2021 as a top 10 quarterback.

Joe Burrow isn’t a top 16 quarterback when the season is over

Joe Burrow was having a decent rookie campaign for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2020, giving the organization a reason to be optimistic about the future. But in Week 11, Burrow suffered a serious knee injury, tearing his left ACL/MCL, and partial tears to his PCL and meniscus.

As much as I believe Burrow develops into a franchise quarterback, it’s hard to be confident in him performing up to his ADP in 2021. Coming off of a season-ending knee ailment, Burrow will likely be limited in his mobility, which limits his upside in Fantasy Football. And even with a talented group of offensive weapons, he would need to come close to putting together a ceiling season in the aerial game to return value on his ADP. Following his return to the field, Burrow fails to conclude the 2021 season as a top 16 quarterback in Fantasy Football.

Joe Mixon concludes the year as a top-five running back

Speaking of Burrow’s weapons, Joe Mixon has a love/hate relationship with people who play Fantasy Football. The talent has always been there for Mixon, but he sometimes falls short of living up to expectations. Some people have quit the idea of Mixon being a top performer in Fantasy Football.

However, for me, I’m all in on Mixon in 2021, especially with a quarterback that is trying to get the ball out quickly after a serious knee injury. Mixon should see plenty of opportunities in the passing game and with the selection of Ja’Marr Chase, he should see fewer stacked boxes in the run game. While some people are doubting Mixon, I believe he has a chance to be a top-five running back in Fantasy Football in 2021.

Najee Harris doesn’t finish as a top 15 running back

When the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game, all eyes were on rookie running back Najee Harris. Harris didn’t have any eye-popping plays for the Steelers, but a ton of people still hyped up the rookie rusher.

Even though I believe Harris evolves into a top-tier running back in his career, I don’t believe he’s going to deliver the numbers that some people are confident he’ll produce in 2021. For starters, he’s running behind an offensive line that has five new starters. On top of that, Ben Roethlisberger isn’t the same quarterback he once was, which could lead to defenses stacking the box as they did against the Steelers in the latter part of last season. Despite the expectations for Harris, he won’t be a top 15 running back in Fantasy Football.

Mike Davis is outscored by Travis Etienne, Damien Harris, Chase Edmonds

As of this moment, it appears that Mike Davis is going to be the No. 1 running back for the Atlanta Falcons. Davis turned some heads in 2020 when he excelled amid the absence of Christian McCaffrey on the Carolina Panthers. The Falcons signed Davis and he has a clear shot to win the starting job as Qadree Ollison and Javian Hawkins are behind him on the depth chart.

Even with Davis seemingly having a clear path to production, Atlanta could sign someone else, or he loses touches at some point in the season. Due to my doubts about Davis being able to handle a workhorse role for the first time in his career at 28 years old, he will be outscored by Travis Etienne, Damien Harris, and Chase Edmonds.

JuJu Smith-Schuster leads all Steelers’ WR’s in fantasy points

Yes, I think the offense of the Steelers could be a mess due to the declined play from Roethlisberger under center. Seeing that his arm isn’t the same it once was, Chase Claypool might be a year or two removed from his breakout season. Diontae Johnson does excel in running short-to-intermediate routes, but the wide receiver that fits Roethlisberger’s skill set the most right now is JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Smith-Schuster caught 97 passes in 2020 and was a security blanket for the veteran quarterback. After re-signing with the Steelers, along with the fact that it could be Roethlisberger’s final year in the NFL, Smith-Schuster is set up to smash his ADP in Fantasy Football in 2021. While most people are taking Johnson and Claypool earlier than him, Smith-Schuster is the wide receiver to have in Pittsburgh’s offense.

Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are both top 12 WRs

Both Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp have done well in fantasy football with Jared Goff as their quarterback in recent years. However, with Matthew Stafford replacing Goff as the quarterback in Sean McVay’s offense, Woods and Kupp now have higher ceilings in Fantasy Football.

Woods has always been involved in the running game, which allows him to get stats in an area that not many wideouts produce. Kupp is a sure-handed wide receiver that should become a go-to target for Stafford. Upon the acquisition of Stafford, the Rams did add DeSean Jackson to give them a deep threat. Even with the presence of Jackson, Van Jefferson, and Tyler Higbee, Woods and Kupp are both going to conclude the 2021 season as top 12 wideouts in Fantasy Football.

Marvin Jones Jr. outperforms Laviska Shenault

One of the biggest discussions in the Fantasy Football community this offseason is who the No. 1 wide receiver is going to be for the Jaguars. The addition of Lawrence is an upgrade for the entire offense, which has people excited about what the wideouts in Jacksonville can now achieve.

While I believe that DJ Chark will lead the way for the Jaguars at the wide receiver position, I believe Marvin Jones Jr. will outperform Laviska Shenault. Shenault has been mentioned as a popular name that could have a sophomore breakout in the upcoming season. Even though I think Shenault will have a defined role in Urban Meyer’s offense, Jones is a perfect target for Lawrence down the field, giving him the edge on Shenault.

Kyle Pitts is a top-three tight end behind Travis Kelce, George Kittle

The buzz surrounding Kyle Pitts ahead of his rookie season with the Falcons has been overwhelming. Pitts was one of the most talented tight-end prospects to come into the NFL in the league’s history after a stellar collegiate career at Florida. Calling Pitts a typical tight end is disrespectful to the talent that Pitts possesses.

There is definitely a ton of hype around Pitts as he’s being taken as a top-five tight end in Fantasy Football. Despite the rookie wall that tight ends usually hit, I believe there’s a path for Pitts to finish as a top-three tight end, behind Travis Kelce and George Kittle. Following the trade of Julio Jones, Pitts could very well be the second-leading receiver for the Falcons in 2021.

Jonnu Smith produces as a top-six tight end in debut season with New England Patriots

The New England Patriots weren’t shy in spending money in free agency as they spent a boatload of money to improve the offense. Besides the additions of Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, the Patriots inked deals with Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.

It remains to be seen who New England starts at quarterback, but my bet is that Cam Newton is operating the offense in Week 1. Regardless of who the quarterback is, Smith could be in line to lead the team in receiving, barring an injury. Smith is a talented weapon for any team and the Patriots are going to use him in a variety of ways, setting him up to be a top-six tight end in Fantasy Football.