It was a world unknown — and I was using an egregiously overused portmanteau in place of my name: Hobbstradomus. I awoke to tell all what I envisioned: an unimaginable world of fantasy football in which Chris Collinsworth did not exist and yet the legendary John Madden was back in full color yelling BOOM! Every two seconds. Literally. But yet I saw the cards as they were to fall, rolled over to my left, and whispered in my dear fiancé’s ear…
Her reaction was not what I expected. She called me foolish — an idiot in fact — and promptly went back to bed. Although I cannot understand her reaction to a breakthrough as important as mine at 2:49 p.m. that fateful night — I can share my findings with those who do care. And so, I present to you my five bold predictions for the 2021 fantasy football season.
Disclaimer: I didn’t really see anything. Probably none of these will happen.
1. Darrell Henderson finishes as a top-12 fantasy running back.
Henderson enters the final day of fantasy draft season with an ECR and ADP equaling RB23, but should have a relatively clear path to finish among the top-12 fantasy running backs. Elite offense? Check — one I believe could push the top three in all of football. Virtually no competition for meaningful touches? Check. And yet, he was being drafted after players like Josh Jacobs (who I do like), Miles Sanders and D’Andre Swift — all of which play in poor (down-right terrible if you look to Las Vegas and Detroit) offenses and have more competition for touches. Does talent matter? Of course it does, and I’m not saying Henderson is more gifted than any of that trio, but the Rams offense makes it much-more likely that Henderson will finish inside the top 12 than many of the names drafted around him. Plus, he was actually more efficient than Cam Akers in a handful of metrics last season. Henderson finished inside RB1 territory in three of six games in which he garnered 12+ touches, and I expect him to receive 15+ on a weekly basis while eclipsing 20+ on occasion, depending on game script. I drafted Henderson in rounds 4-5 in virtually every draft I was in this year. Come to think of it, it was every. single. one.
2. Najee Harris finishes as a top-five fantasy running back.
Here’s how the Pittsburgh Steelers’ depth chart reads at running back as of Tuesday night prior to the Thursday fantasy opener: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland Jr. Are any of those backs going to jeopardize Harris’ likelihood of being a typical Mike Tomlin three-down bell cow? I don’t see it happening, even if Harris comes out of the gate slowly. On top of that, Pittsburgh has the talent out wide to reduce the number of stacked boxes Harris sees as a rookie, and Big Ben isn’t slinging the ball the way he used to — so Harris should regularly see 20+ (attractive) touches. We know from Harris’ college days at Alabama that he’s more than capable of handing a healthy number of targets, so the only worries that remain are his status as a rookie and the Pittsburgh offensive line. I’m not worried about the former — if anything, his body has yet to take the beating of a veteran running back and he’s primed to excel with prime-age athleticism. I am worried about the Steelers’ 31st-ranked O-line (according to Pro Football Focus), but that isn’t enough to keep me from making this bold prediction. Those who took Harris in the second round this draft season will be pleasantly rewarded in 2021.
3. Jonnu Smith finishes as a top-six fantasy tight end.
I listed Smith as a “late target” in my Aug. 11 Razzball article in which I outlined a late target and deep sleeper at every FLEX-eligible fantasy position, and I’m here to reiterate why he’s the only tight end I’ve drafted across all of my leagues heading into the season. Is that a smart strategy? Most will say it isn’t, but I’ve only ever been burned by it once (2018: Delanie Walker). Typically, I elect not to pay up for a top-caliber tight end and wait until after at least the seventh round (usually striking in rounds 8-10) and hone in on one sleeper tight end to stockpile across every league. That allows me to draft a surplus of RBs and WRs early while giving me flexibility to strike on a top-tier QB if the value falls into my lap (2021: Kyler Murray or Lamar Jackson in the 6th). But back to my Aug. 11 article, I reminded you about how the Patriots gave Smith a four-year, $50 million contract this past offseason. I reminded you that Bill Belichick has been praising Jonnu from afar for years. And I reminded you that Belichick has a history of producing multiple productive tight ends in the same offense while deploying a heavy dosage of 12 personnel formations (one RB, two TE). All of those factors, meshed with Smith’s elite talent and near-breakout 2020, paint the picture of a tight end who is far more likely to be within the top six at his position than most think. Dare I say top five? Eh, nahhhhh.
You might say this isn’t bold, but I listed seven teams. SEVEN. Cut me some slack, would ya? This “position” is incredibly difficult to predict, and often a few fluky defensive touchdowns can bring an unexpected D/ST to the top. Most of us weren’t expecting the season we saw out of New England two years ago, and you don’t have to look far to find similar history. Truthfully, I have several shares of the Colts D/ST in dumb leagues that make me draft one, but barring something wildly unexpected in a draft, that was as high as I was willing to reach this season. Hopefully, you elected to stream it or took a flier on a high-upside team buried down the rankings. Or even better yet, maybe you’re only playing in leagues that don’t roster that kind of crap. Think Andy Reid after a lasagna dinner crap. That’s how I feel about it.
5. Joe Burrow finishes as a top-eight fantasy quarterback.
This one is ranked at five for a reason, as I’m not necessarily formulating my draft strategy around the expectation this will happen — and this could very well be Matthew Stafford’s name instead. But here are my 2021 fantasy quarterbacks by number: Kyler Murray (2), Patrick Mahomes (1), Lamar Jackson (1) and Joe Burrow (1). In reality, I’ve only ended up with one share of Burrow, and it’s because that particular draft went sideways with some overvaluing of quarterbacks I wasn’t comfortable with, so I let the board play out and took what was given to me. If Stafford had been available at the same spot, I likely would have taken him instead — which adds to why this is the deeper and all-the-more unlikely sleeper. Here’s why I’m bullish on Burrow in 2021: Year 2 of his NFL career. Tee Higgins. Ja’Marr Chase. Tyler Boyd. Those receivers hold ECRs of WR23, WR29 and WR33 in half-PPR formats. Couple that with the arm talent and if you believe in that, there probably isn’t much more I need to say to convince you this is far-more plausible than most ‘perts’ think. If you don’t… then you probably weren’t going to believe it regardless of what I wrote. Logic, ha!
That’s all for this week, Razzball fam! As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.