1) As we prepare to watch 30 more teams hit the field for the first
time this week, remember one thing – preseason statistics
mean next to nothing. The only thing you are looking for during
the preseason is the health of players and who is playing with the
first team. Below are the leading passer, rusher and receiver for
the last five preseasons and their regular season totals. Not a
single one proved to be fantasy-worthy. (It wasn’t until the
next season, 2017, that Robby Anderson became a viable fantasy option
producing a 63-941-7 season).
Preseason Stat Leaders
2) Dak Prescott
should be an elite fantasy quarterback, given his three solid receiving
Gallup), but he won’t produce at last year’s ridiculously high
level (31.2 FPts/G). His 1424 passing yards and 11 combined touchdowns
(eight passing, three rushing) from Week 2-4 were in response to
a defense which allowed 126 points and 1300 yards. Management understood
their shortcomings and their first six draft picks in April were
on the defensive side of the ball. They also signed half-a-dozen
defensive free agents, including LB Keanu
Neal and the latest being safety Malik
Hooker last week. They will be much improved on defense which
means the offense won’t need to go crazy to win football games.
3) Rookie Najee Harris is almost guaranteed to be top-10 in rushing
attempts and likely to be top-five. However, that doesn’t
necessarily mean he’ll be a top-five or top-10 running back
because the Pittsburgh offensive line needed a complete revamp
this season. To see the Steelers changing four starters from a
season ago, is astounding and not in a good way. Gone are Alejandro
Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro.
Only Chukwuma Okorafor remains and even he moves from RT to LT.
Volume alone makes Harris a low-end RB1, but some of his best
runs may be just getting back to the line of scrimmage until the
OL finds its way.
4) I think Joe
Mixon (19.7 ADP) is being undervalued by fantasy owners. The
14th running back off the board, Mixon should see an expanded
role in the passing game with Giovani
Bernard wearing Tampa Bay colors in 2021. Mixon is now a legitimate
three-down back with an improved line (free agent Riley Reiff,
second-round pick Jackson Carman). If Joe
Burrow is healthy, defensive coordinators will have their
hands full with the Bengals’ passing game and their three talented
Higgins (67-908-6), Tyler
Boyd (79-841-4) and rookie first-round selection Ja’Marr Chase,
allowing Mixon to run free.
5) Beware of overvaluing the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott.
His numbers have been heading in the wrong direction for the last
four seasons. Meanwhile, the team has been very happy with the
production of backup Tony Pollard (4.3 ypc). They’re not
replacing “Zeke,” but the team is obviously trying
to take some of the workload off of him which means fewer times
reaching yardage bonuses. Elliott ran for 100 yards just once
last season. His 12 points-a-game in 2020 was an aberration due
to poor quarterback play after Prescott’s injury, but I
wouldn’t expect more than 16 FPts/G this season.
6) Should there really be an almost three-round difference between
Justin Jefferson (ADP 23) and his teammate Adam Thielen (51.8)?
Jefferson will likely lead the Vikings in receiving yards, but
Thielen is definitely the favorite target for Kirk Cousins near
the goal line. Ten of Thielen’s 14 touchdowns came from
inside the 10-yard line last season. None of Jefferson’s
came from inside the 10-yard line. FFToday’s projections
have Jefferson 37.2 points more than Thielen for the season (268.5
vs. 231.3) which works out to 2.2 FPts/G. I’m not sure that’s
worth a late second-round vs. an early fifth-round.
7) I’m no longer in a rush to pick Travis Kelce. In previous
seasons he was a late-second, early-third rounder, but at ADP
8.2 I can’t see any way this as a value pick. You surely
will get “fair market value,” but he’s no bargain
here. I’d rather move to the end of the second round with
Darren Waller (ADP 22.4) or gamble on George Kittle’s health
at ADP 27.6. FFToday actually has Waller edging out Kelce with
both about 1.8 FPts/G ahead of Kittle. And if you don’t
want to spend that much capital on a tight end, the next tier
has five players producing an expected 175-190 fantasy points.
Robert Tonyan (ADP 95.8) and Tyler Higbee (ADP 113.1) appear to
be nicely valued here.
8) Don’t fall asleep on Matthew Stafford. Not only did
his move from Detroit to the Rams improve his receiving corps
(Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee), but when Cam Akers
went down for the season with an Achilles injury, the Rams offense
suddenly became Stafford-centric. Akers was set to be a workhorse
in a balanced offense but replacement Darrell Henderson, while
satisfactory, isn’t ready for that role yet. So this offense
will focus on Stafford. He’s thrown for 5000 yards and 40
TDs before (2011) and as recently as 2019 he was on a 5000-yard
pace (25.9 FPts/G) through eight games before injuring his back.
Stafford will be a low-end QB1.
9) Beware of overvaluing J.D. McKissic after last season’s
12.1 FPts/G production. Ryan Fitzpatrick likes to throw downfield,
not to running backs in the flat. In 2019, when Fitzpatrick started
15 games for the Dolphins, the top-six targets were receivers
and tight ends. Plus, second-year starter Antonio Gibson can catch
too. In fact, Gibson was a wide receiver in his two seasons at
Memphis and despite McKissic’s 80 catches, Gibson caught
36 balls. I see a significant drop in McKissic’s fantasy
value in 2021 to around the six-point level which means he’s
no longer useful except as a handcuff.
10) I don’t see any of the 2021 rookie quarterbacks being
the next “Justin Herbert.” Trevor Lawrence has the
best chance, but the reason Urban Meyer selected Clemson RB Travis Etienne in the first round (No.25 overall) despite having a 1000-yard
rusher on his roster (James Robinson) was not so Lawrence would
have a friend on the team. It is because he plans to run the ball
… often. I would expect no more than 525 passes this season
or 30 per game. Herbert averaged 39.6 passes-per-game last season.
The Jaguars receivers are nice (D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault), but they aren’t the level of Keenan Allen and
Mike Williams, not to mention RB Austin Ekeler. Meanwhile, Zach
Wilson doesn’t have the receiving talent. Nor does Justin Fields. Trey Lance isn’t the starter yet and when he finally
is, the 49ers will continue to be a run-first team. And Mac Jones
will be strictly limited by Bill Belichick whenever he finally
gets a chance in New England.