Now that the 2021 NFL Draft has concluded, teams are now preparing for training camp as we inch closer to the start of the regular season. The start of training camp also signals the beginning of the fantasy season where mock drafts and player rankings come into play. While having a top player does not ensure success, they can be cornerstones to building your championship team. These ranking are based on a half point per reception scoring format.
1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
McCaffrey only played in three games in 2020, but he was a fantasy point machine. He averaged 27.3 points per game and he should be able to continue where he left off in 2021. Joe Brady is an exceptional play caller and he prides himself on getting the ball in his playmakers’ hands. With no true back up running back and the loss of Curtis Samuel, McCaffrey will have scoring opportunities. He is still the focal point of the offense and gives his team the best chance to win games. He has the opportunity to have an offensive player of the year caliber season and will be a significant factor for your fantasy team.
2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
Dalvin Cook is in a similar position as McCaffrey where he will have ample opportunity to be a big producer. He does have Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen on the outside, but Cook is the head of the snake. The Vikings are a run first team, and Dalvin’s success opens up the rest of the offense. He rushed for 1,557 yards and 16 touchdowns which helped him average 22.6 fantasy points per game. The knock on Cook is his injury history after having missed at least five games in his first two seasons. There is some optimism that the injuries are no longer a concern since he has been able to play in 14 games in each of his last two seasons. Cook is a top contender to be a rushing leader if he stays healthy.
3. Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
Alvin Kamara is arguably the best dual threat running back in the game and that will not change in 2021. There is uncertainty around the quarterback situation after Drew Brees retired, but that should not steer you away. Whether it is Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston, Sean Payton’s play calling is what helps Kamara produce at such an elite clip. Kamara has had at least 80 catches in every season and the targets will remain the same even with a healthy Michael Thomas returning. He averaged 22.4 points per game and was the number one fantasy running back in 2020.
4. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
The reigning offensive player of the year is coming off his best season as a pro after rushing for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns. Even though Henry did not contribute much in the pass game, his ground game helped him average 20.2 fantasy points. There should be a natural regression in his points this season since rushing for 2,000 is unlikely to happen again. While the addition of Julio Jones will make his work easier, it will cause him to lose touches. With two number one options at receiver, the team can lessen Henry’s workload to keep him fresh throughout the season. He is still a top pick in any format.
5. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts
Coming off of a productive rookie year, Jonathan Taylor is ready to be the workhorse of the offense. With Carson Wentz at quarterback, the team will most likely commit to running the ball. Although Taylor started the season inconsistently, he was able to find his footing in the last six weeks. Over that span, he averaged 123.5 yards per game and 23.1 fantasy points per game. The only downfall to Taylor’s fantasy potential is the return of Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines.
6. Stefon Diggs, WR, Bills
In his first season with the Bills, Stefon Diggs had his best statistical performance with 1,535 yards and eight touchdowns. He was Josh Allen’s number one target last season and that will stay the same in 2021. With the departure of John Brown, they do not have a true number two option behind Diggs. They did sign Emmanuel Sanders, but his role in the offense has not been carved out yet. This allows Diggs to be the focal point and take the majority of targets. He was targeted 166 times in 2020, and there is no reason to believe that his targets will drop. Diggs will have at least 100 catches on the season and his fantasy stock will only continue to rise due to the growth of Josh Allen.
7. Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs
Hill has the potential to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball. He will continue to be used in a plethora of roles that allow him to utilize his playmaking abilities. There is concern with Hill as he only had 10 or more receptions in a game twice, but the departure of Sammy Watkins creates an opportunity for at least three more catches per game. With a revamped offensive line and a healthy Patrick Mahomes, Hill will be one of the main reasons this offense will produce fireworks.
8. Davante Adams, WR, Packers
If it was not for Derrick Henry, Davante Adams would have been the offensive player of the year in 2020. Adams was WR1 in fantasy football on the season, averaging 21.5 points per game. He only had one drop in 156 targets and also led receivers in touchdowns with 18. The biggest question mark around Adams is whether or not he will have Aaron Rodgers returning as his quarterback. If Rodgers returns, Adams can move up to as high as fifth overall. Time will tell, but even with Jordan Love under center Davante should still have a dominant season.
9. Nick Chubb, RB, Browns
Nick Chubb has been a reliable option for fantasy owners since entering the league in 2018. Even with his pass catching constraints, he has increased his per game average by at least two points in each season. He shares time with Kareem Hunt, but it has not cut into his production like most thought it would. He is still the number one option in the backfield as he receives the bulk of the touches between the two. In a season where Chubb missed four games, Hunt only had eight more carries and also averaged less fantasy points per game. The Browns will have a stacked offense in 2021 and Chubb has the potential to have 1,200 yards on the season.
10. Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliot had his worst season as a professional in 2020. He only had two games over 100 yards and also had a career high of five fumbles lost. While his season was disappointing, he was still able to finish as the ninth fantasy running back overall. The return of Dak Prescott should increase his opportunities and help him return back to his All-Pro form. He averaged 19.9 points per game before Dak’s injury compared to 9.8 points per game after the injury. Dak, Elliot, and the offensive line are all healthy and they are primed for bounce back seasons.