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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs once again sport an embarrassment of riches at pass-catcher. If you invest in this passing game, are you going early with Mike Evans or Chris Godwin, or looking for value down the line?
Andy: I don't see a bad choice here, to be honest. The offense should be productive enough that you can reasonably start two Bucs receivers in any given week, so we're not necessarily forced to pick one dude. Evans has topped 1,000 yards in each season of his career, Brown is the most dominant receiver of the past decade, Godwin does stuff like this:
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 26, 2020
Draft any/all of these guys with confidence. Again, we're not talking about an offense that can't support three viable fantasy receivers.
Dalton: Antonio Brown saw 76 targets compared to 77 for Evans and 76 for Godwin during the 11 games in which AB played last season. Brown will soon turn 33 years old but is a Hall of Famer with crazy work ethic whom Brady absolutely loves. Brown is a great value with an ECR of 43.
Matt: Fantasy drafters are sharp when it comes to the Buccaneers pass-catchers. No one stands out as too aggressively drafted. Godwin and Evans have the risk that Gronkowski and Brown will nip at their heels but are still high enough in the rankings to account for their overall talent/weekly upside. Antonio Brown does look extremely appealing at his ADP. The only real risk here is that, well, he’s Antonio Brown. As long as Brown stays on the straight-ish and narrow-ish, he’ll recoup a great role in the Bucs offense. Brown was electric down the stretch and certainly looked like he still has it, even if he’s not surprisingly a few shades shy of his HOF form from the Steelers days.
Carolina Panthers: Despite only playing three games last season, Christian McCaffrey is the consensus top player this year. A two-part question: 1) Aside from health, is there any reason why you wouldn't take him No. 1 overall and 2) Project his season stat line for 2021.
Andy: Unless you're drafting in a league with peculiar settings — tight end premium scoring or superflex or a dynasty startup — you shouldn't hesitate. And even in those formats, I think I'd probably still take CMC. He has a pair of 100-reception seasons on his resume and an all-time PPR campaign to his credit. Carolina's offense should be a party in 2021, which certainly helps. None of the injuries that impacted McCaffrey last year are ongoing worries, so I can see no reason to avoid him. He's only 25, not exactly on the downside of his career.
I've run thousands of 2021 simulations, so you can take this forecast to the bank: 1,207 rush yards, 98 receptions, 880 receiving yards, 17 total TDs.
Matt: Christian McCaffrey has to be the No. 1 pick in every league this year if simply because there is no other back who comes close to matching his clean profile and usage ceiling at the top of the draft. In the three games McCaffrey played in last year, he averaged 25.3 touches per contest and scored six times. That’s a bankable workload and tantalizing ceiling. With Curtis Samuel gone, there will be even more of an opening for layup targets near the line of scrimmage.
Projection: 1,257 rushing yards, 91 catches, 805 receiving yards, 14 total touchdowns.
Liz: I was going to say the only reason not to take CMC No. 1 overall is because of the impossibility of elite repeatability at the position (over the last decade 10 different RBs have led the position in fantasy scoring). But that axiom would have held true for last year, not this year. So, no. There’s no good reason not to draft him No. 1 overall and every good reason why he’s the industry-wide consensus RB1. He checks all the boxes, from NFL bloodlines to consistently producing when available. After all, this is a player who recorded 370 scrimmage yards and 6 TDs over three games last year.
FF: 1,225 rushing yards and 10 rushing TDs; 93 catches, 775 receiving yards, 5 receiving TDs
Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts is an elite talent, but historically rookie tight ends struggle to make an impact. Will Pitts buck the trend or be someone we'll be disappointed about drafting this season?
Scott: I hate betting on historical outliers, especially when it comes to rookie tight ends, but the Falcons just traded a Hall of Fame-bound wideout and they're probably not going to treat Pitts as a traditional tight end anyway. Forget a foot on the ground, forget doing the dirty work; Pitts will probably be treated as a hybrid wide receiver. I wasn't especially open to drafting him a month ago — generally I'm allergic to buzz and the ADP upgrades that come with it — but I'm opening my mind.
Dalton: It’s hard not to get excited about Pitts, who’s best described as Calvin Johnson at tight end. With Julio Jones gone, Pitts also projects to immediately be among the league leaders in targets at his position, so the rookie is rightfully being hyped. Given the current NFL environment, his favorable setup in Atlanta, and him being a “generational talent,” Pitts’ floor is a top-five fantasy tight end right away. There’s certainly an argument to rank him No. 2 behind only Travis Kelce.
Matt: The receiver depth chart went from a strength to absolutely barren after Ridley the moment Julio Jones left town. Pitts should easily be the favorite to come in as the second-highest target man on the team. That should easily equal out to 100-plus looks. The situation is almost ideal for Pitts heading into Year 1 and of course, he’s universally regarded as a talent outlier on top of all that. I’ll be comfortably ranking him as my TE5, at worst, this fantasy draft season and he might have more touchdown upside than whoever ends up as TE4. Arthur Smith’s offenses in Tennessee were absolute money in the red zone.
New Orleans Saints: The Drew Brees era is over, and the Saints offense could look very different depending on which quarterback starts. Between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, who are you rooting for to win the battle in the preseason, and, if you had to bet, who do you think starts more games for the Saints in 2021?
Scott: For fantasy purposes, it would be better if Hill won the job because it's plausible that Hill then would have the position to himself. I cannot imagine a Winston-led situation that wouldn't still incorporate Hill into some packages, and that would create lots of frustrating fantasy questions. I suspect both quarterbacks will make multiple starts, to the point that I'm not targeting either player at the draft table. Never forget one simple rule: Sean Payton's favorite member of the New Orleans offense is Sean Payton.
Dalton: I’m drafting Hill, who has a lower ADP and higher fantasy upside. He needs to improve his fumbling issues, but Hill’s eight rushing scores during limited action last season reveal top-12 fantasy QB upside if he becomes the full-time starter. Hill looked plenty capable as a passer last season too. Winston, who’s as unafraid to throw a pick-six as any QB in the league, would be better fantasy news for Alvin Kamara (and probably Michael Thomas) should he take over as the starter, so it depends on which Saints you’re rostering in fantasy leagues. There’s a real chance both see regular action, further clouding things.
Matt: I will not be among the wide contingent of fantasy folks “rooting” for Jameis Winston to win this job. His place at QB1 might well lead to a situation more friendly to stats compilation. However, his overall volatility doesn’t just offend my football senses but also makes him a difficult player to bet on over the course of a full season. I wouldn’t advise anyone to just project the points carnival environment in New Orleans that Winston produced for the 2019 Bucs — an effort that ultimately got him replaced — just because he’s the starter.
The outlook for the Saints offense would certainly shift depending on who among Winston and Taysom Hill starts, I’m just not convinced it’s an extreme transformation. Even if Winston does get the nod to start Week 1, you would have to expect to see plenty of Hill under center, as well. Sean Payton might just be wild enough to try to truly roll out a college football-style dual-quarterback offense.