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NFL Draft

Fantasy Football: 20 Thoughts Recapping Week 17, Looking Ahead To 2021

  • The Draft Network
  • January 4, 2021
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That’s it. It’s over. The 2020 NFL regular season just concluded and another fantasy football season comes to an end along with it. This year has been crazier than any other season in recent memory (you know why). But, alas, it’s finally time to sit back, relax, breathe, and ponder the lessons learned over the course of 2020 for next season, whether you’re trying to repeat as league champion or hoping to get back into the title picture in 2021.

Before we turn the page to the NFL playoffs, here are my 20 fantasy football takeaways from this weekend, ranked in no particular order. Please note, this article will be updated with the final note after Sunday Night Football.

  1. MIKE EVANS: Evans became the first player in NFL history to have seven consecutive 1,000-receiving-yard seasons to start a career, but the story of the day was what happened on his first target following his record-breaking catch. Toward the end of his route in the end zone, on what looked like a sure touchdown, Evans hyperextended his left knee and ended up dropping the pass and leaving the game. We don’t know the full extent of his injury at the time of writing. For as up and down as he season was, Evans finished as the WR11 in total points and WR14 in average fantasy points per game through Week 16. He was on his way to a monster Week 17 game too, if he didn’t get hurt. Evans really started to develop some chemistry with Tom Brady as the season wore on. From Weeks 8-16, Evans ranked as the WR7 in average fantasy points per game (18.5). 
  2. ANTONIO BROWN: Brown will be a fascinating offseason evaluation. There are so many things up in the air. Will he stay out of trouble enough to not get suspended again? Will he return to the Buccaneers and play with Tom Brady? If the answer to both of those questions are yes, then it’s hard to not consider him a WR3 in fantasy. In his eight games played this season, Brown averaged more that 14.6 fantasy points per game—aided by an enormous 11/138/2 game in Week 17. That average is right about where players like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Robby Anderson finished. Considering that Chris Godwin may not be back in Tampa Bay and it’s not as crazy as you think.
  3. NICK CHUBB: During the first quarter of the Browns-Steelers game, Chubb became the first Cleveland running back since Jamal Lewis in 2007-08 to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. He rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown on Sunday and came into the day ranked as the RB6 in average fantasy points per game this season. He’s a clear-cut first-rounder in fantasy drafts next season in all formats. He was my No. 6 overall pick in my way-too-early 2021 mock draft.
  4. JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER: Smith-Schuster finished just three catches short of 100, wrapping up his season with a 6/65/1 performance. If he would’ve gotten to 100, he would’ve had the lowest yardage total for a wide receiver in NFL history who had triple-digit catches. While a couple running backs had less, the current record for lowest yardage output in a 100-catch season for a wide receiver is Jarvis Landry’s 112-catch, 987-yard season with the Miami Dolphins in 2017. Smith-Schuster is on an expiring contract, so his fantasy value for next season—and a hopeful increase in his yards per target output—will hinge on wherever he lands for 2021 and beyond. 
  5. J.K. DOBBINS: While he didn’t live up to his top-100 ADP for the majority of the year, Dobbins finished his rookie season strong with a rushing touchdown in six straight games (he had two on Sunday), the second-longest streak in Ravens history and longest streak by a rookie since 2006 (Maurice Jones-Drew, eight games) according to ESPN Stats & Info. With Mark Ingram on his way out, Dobbins’ fantasy draft stock will be very high throughout the summer—I anticipate he’ll carry an ADP around RB15. He was Baltimore’s best runner all season long, so let’s hope he gets to be the featured back next season, even if Gus Edwards returns. 
  6. MARQUISE BROWN: It was another weird fantasy season for Brown, but at least he finished with a bang. He scored two touchdowns on Sunday, his fifth and sixth scores over his last six games to close out the season. I’m fascinated to see where Brown lands in early ADP over the summer. After being a star in college and a fantasy darling in draft season, he feels more like a boom-or-bust WR4 that always gets drafted higher because of his perceived upside. Maybe he puts it all together next season (fixes drop issues, etc.), or maybe the Ravens add another receiver and Brown has a reduced role for fantasy purposes. Time will tell.
  7. LAMAR JACKSON: This’ll be the last Ravens note in the column. Through Week 12, Jackson was ranked as just the QB9 in average fantasy points per game (20.34 FPPG)—that’s OK, but severely underperforming his second-round ADP. But then, after returning from the COVID-19 list, Jackson went nuts. Over the final four weeks of the season, only Josh Allen scored more fantasy points than Jackson’s 138.36. Plus, with 97 rushing yards on Sunday, Jackson became the first quarterback ever to rush for 1,000 yards in multiple seasons. The strong finish is encouraging, but he won’t finish in the top half of QB1 territory and would not be my QB2 in fantasy drafts next season. 
  8. JUSTIN JEFFERSON: What a remarkable rookie season for Jefferson. The word “remarkable” doesn’t even do it justice, honestly. With his nine-catch, 133-yard performance in Week 17, Jefferson set a new NFL rookie record for most receiving yards in NFL history. He also finished as a fantasy WR1, with the eighth-most total points and 11th highest average weekly total among wide receivers (through Week 16). I can’t wait to see how he follows up this performance next season, but my initial reaction is that he’d be my WR8 if I had to draft my 2021 team right now. 
  9. TUA TAGOVAILOA: WOOF. Tagovailoa had one of the worst performances of the season for any quarterback on Sunday: 35-of-58 for 361 yards, one touchdown, and three interception. The NFL playoff-costing performance has to leave many fantasy football managers skeptical about not only Tagovailoa, but the top Dolphins’ pass-catchers for next season. Some outlets had Tagovailoa ranked as a QB1 for next season after Week 16—I will not have him in my top 12. It’s also hard to rank DeVante Parker as anything more than a WR4 or Mike Gesicki as anything other than a low-end TE1 until we have more confidence in the quarterback situation.
  10. STEFON DIGGS: Diggs capped off his sensational first season in Buffalo with seven catches for 76 yards before getting rested for the second half. Diggs finished as the WR3 in both total and average fantasy points per game this season, behind only Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. That’s also where I’ll have him ranked going into next season, as he’ll be a surefire second-rounder, slightly ahead of the D.K. Metcalfs and DeAndre Hopkins’ of the world.
  11. CAM NEWTON: After much (undeserved) hype heading into the season, Newton saved his best game of the season for Week 17. He had his first multi-passing-touchdown performance of the year, throwing for 242 yards and three touchdowns (plus 79 yards on the ground and a 19-yard receiving touchdown). Through Week 16, Newton finished as the QB22 in average fantasy points per game. The Patriots will reportedly move on from him next season, and it’s hard to imagine he’s a Week 1 starter anywhere else in 2021. Unless the Patriots do something crazy, no New England player appears likely to be drafted in the top 100 of fantasy drafts next season.
  12. KYLER MURRAY: Murray, who was banged up all week, was injured early in Week 17 against the Rams and did not return until the fourth quarter. As is the theme on this list, Murray will be another fascinating player to evaluate for next season. Through Week 16, Murray was the QB1 in both total and average fantasy points per game. However, Murray was just the QB10 from Week 11 on—and he certainly did not pass the eye test down the stretch. I expect Murray to be the third or fourth quarterback off the board this summer, I’m just not sure I’d pay the ADP price. I expect fantasy analysts to rank him between QB2 and QB4.
  13. D.K. METCALF: Metcalf finished Week 17 with just three catches for 21 yards, so it’s time for us to have a conversation about where he should be ranked next season. Early buzz has him as the WR3 overall and a borderline first-rounder. I have him around WR5 and a middle-of-Round-2 type of player at this stage. The second half (ish) of the season—where he wasn’t even a WR2—is a major concern for me. From Weeks 10-16, Metcalf was just the WR26 with an average of 14.1 fantasy points per game. Russell Wilson lost an MVP award that was firmly in his possession in the first half of the season and the Seahawks’ offense left a lot to be desired. Metcalf is a jaw-dropping talent who took a giant step forward this season, so we can’t knock him too much. However, I’m not comfortable spending a top-15 pick on him after what we’ve seen over the last seven weeks. 
  14. GEORGE KITTLE: Not that we should be surprised, but it's always nice to go into the offseason without having to wonder how healthy a star player is. After catching four passes for 92 yards last week, Kittle caught seven passes for 68 yards in Week 17. He's locked in as the TE2 for next season over Darren Waller for me, especially if there's any sort of upgrade at the quarterback position for the 49ers.
  15. JONATHAN TAYLOR: Taylor's run from Nov. 22 on has been absolutely unreal. And he finished it all off with his best performance of the season, a team-record 253 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars. He's a no-doubt top-10 pick in fantasy drafts next season (I have him at No. 8 right now). He's everything you want in a running back and we can trust the workload moving forward. Unless the Colts make a significant downgrade at quarterback, there's no reason to believe Taylor can't do what he's done over the last six weeks for the majority of 2021.
  16. BRANDIN COOKS: While I would not be surprised to see Cooks' name involved in trade conversations—despite his comments earlier this week about not wanting to approve another trade—the best fantasy destination for him may very well be just staying put in Houston. Will Fuller is a pending free agent and might not return to the Texans. In the five games since Fuller's suspension before Week 13, Cooks is averaging 22.53 fantasy points per game. Those are crazy numbers—although, Cooks has been very accustomed to putting up WR2 numbers in his career when healthy. If he enters 2021 as Houston's WR1, you can't keep him out of the top-30 wide receiver conversation.
  17. DERRICK HENRY: He did it! Henry got to 2,000 rushing yards for the season with his 246-yard, two-touchdown day in Week 17. It was his fourth matchup-winning type of performance over the last six weeks as he continues to be a player fantasy managers can rely on late in the season for the most part. Given all the uncertainty surrounding Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, and others at the top of the draft, Henry's path to a top-three fantasy ADP is clear.
  18. JOSH JACOBS: Jacobs finished strong, but had an OK but slightly disappointing season overall. He finished as the RB13 in average fantasy points per game through Week 16, which is fine, but ranked as the RB17 since Las Vegas' Week 6 bye (less fine). He had only four 20-plus point games before his 20.9-point outing in Week 17, but two of those four were of at least 29.6 points. His highs were high, his lows were low, and he had a lot of in-between games in the low-to-mid teens. Because of this, he does not currently rank as an RB1 for me right now for 2021, but is a high-end RB2.
  19. DREW BREES: I'd be remiss if I didn't include something about Brees in what was likely his final fantasy performance of his career. Brees threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday, finishing his career with 5,181.92 fantasy points. He scored more than 300 points eight times in his career (all since 2008) and had a career-high 391.64 back in 2011. If this is indeed the end, it was a helluva career. It remains to be seen if he can add a second Lombardi Trophy to his resume before hanging up the cleats.
  20. LOGAN THOMAS: Thomas capped off his breakout season with three catches for 37 yards and a touchdown on Sunday Night Football. He came out of nowhere to finish as the TE5 in total points and TE7 in average fantasy points per game this season. Assuming Alex Smith remains Washington's starter in 2021 (or Kyle Allen takes back the job), Thomas should be considered a true TE1. I'm not putting him in the top six or anything like that, but he'll be a solid option late in drafts that pays dividends.

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