Written by Mikey Ostrowski

Normally, I’d do a clever intro to segway into the article, but I’m guessing you could figure out what this one is going to be about. This one will be a slightly long one, so let’s start with those NFC teams (and don’t worry, the AFC is on its way).

NFC North

Green Bay Packers – Aaron Jones, RB

Jones was the RB2 in PPR formats in 2019 and was the RB5 last year. He’s been one of the most underappreciated backs in the entire league when it comes to fantasy and I’ve been buying him at discount prices for the past two years (and it’s about to be three). Jones has come at a discount all offseason with the rumors surrounding Aaron Rodgers and I had capitalized on many peoples’ fears and scored Jones for my own squad in a handful of my leagues. He’s averaged 19.1 PPR points per game over the last two seasons, and I’d expect more of the same from him. He’s uber talented, excellent as a pass catcher, and is ranked in the top-5 for running back goal-line efficiency over his last 30 games. Jones is currently going in the mid-2nd round which is an absolute steal for a back-to-back top-5 finisher at the RB position.

Chicago Bears – Allen Robinson, WR

Bears WR Allen Robinson is 'focal part' of Chicago's offense

Robinson is currently going in the middle of the 3rd round and that is just absurd. He’s been a top-9 receiver for fantasy the last two years and will enter 2021 with an obvious upgrade at quarterback. Robinson’s target total over the last two seasons total up to over 300 and he’s accumulated 2,397 yards and 13 touchdowns over that same span. Chicago did not add any pass catchers (in fact, they recently lost one to the Texans) which means that it should be business as usual for Robinson. I would comfortably roll with him as my team’s WR1 for fantasy this year, and the fact that I can get him in the 3rd round is definitely exciting. He’s going to be a target machine and should be a near lock to finish in the top 10 of his position.

Minnesota Vikings – Kirk Cousins, QB

Cousins is currently being drafted as the 17th quarterback off of the board, despite finishing as the QB11 in 2020. I understand why he goes so late, as he’s not the most exciting name out there, but Cousins deserves more respect from the fantasy world. Sure, it’s going to be hard for him to replicate the 35 touchdowns he threw last year, but he’s got some very, very good weapons in Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook and you have to imagine that his squad could carry him to some pretty respectable numbers. I’m not saying to draft him as your QB1… but if the board keeps giving you better options at your other positions, it wouldn’t be an absolute killer to wait to take Cousins in your drafts.

Detroit Lions – D’Andre Swift, RB

Swift is great at catching the ball, will be playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, and will practically be forced into a focal-point role in 2021 with how poorly the Lions are projected to perform. Swift is currently being drafted as the RB15 in the early 3rd round and I think that’s criminal. He offers legit top-10 upside and should see tons of volume. Sure, we can be afraid of Jamaal Williams, but like I mentioned before, Aaron Jones seemed just fine the last two seasons when he was splitting carries/targets with Williams. I understand that Detroit does not have the same offense as Green Bay, but I do think Swift has more natural talent than Jones and will be deployed in a very similar way. I’m what they call a “Swift truther” and will be drafting him in many, many leagues this August. Despite playing in only 13 games (11 full games), Swift finished as the RB18 in 2020 and was only 17 points away from being an RB1 on the season.

NFC South

Carolina Panthers – DJ Moore, WR

I have a feeling that this is more about the arrival of Sam Darnold than it is about Moore, but Moore is being way too slept on for fantasy purposes right now. Currently going at the tail end of round 5, Moore offers legitimate WR1 upside at a WR3 cost. While he has surpassed 1,100 yards each of the last two seasons, he’s only combined for 8 touchdowns over that same span, which has been an obvious disappointment. What’s more is that he had 21 less receptions in 2020 than he did in 2019. However, there is some serious hope that we’ll see a “boom” season from him. The coaches in Carolina have been outspoken on how disappointed they were with the workload that they handed to DJ Moore. I think there’s a real possibility that Moore has his first 100-reception season and should be considered the focal point of all of the receivers. His touchdown upside will still be capped, especially with a healthy Christian McCaffrey and the arrival of big-bodied receiver Terrace Marshall Jr, but there’s no reason to believe that he can’t be an incredibly consistent receiver for your fantasy team with the amount of yards he’ll put up. While I’d expect him to finish somewhere between WR13-WR18, the upside is there… especially since he’s being drafted as the WR23.

Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan, QB

Ryan isn’t insanely disrespected (ADP of QB14 right now), but I do think it’s safe to say that he is the most underrated (relevant) player on this team. Sure, he lost Julio Jones, but having the tandem of Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts (and Russell Gage ain’t too bad either) should be more than enough to keep him fantasy relevant. Ryan was the QB12 last year (a good chunk of that came without Julio) and I’d expect fairly similar numbers from him this year. The good news is that he’s being drafted at his floor, as I can’t imagine he finishes outside of the top 15, but does offer top-10 upside. He’s the perfect example of “wait for a quarterback” for those fantasy drafts.

New Orleans Saints – Adam Trautman, TE

Saints: Adam Trautman has to take the next leap in 2021

Trautman is being drafted as the TE20 right now, which means that he’s barely being drafted at all (ADP of 177 overall). Trautman is nothing more than a lottery ticket, but a damn good one at that. He will enter in his second year as the Saints’ only legitimate tight end option, and may be the only legitimate option in general with the exception of Alvin Kamara. Michael Thomas is set to miss (potentially) the first half of the season, which will give Trautman plenty of time to establish dominance on that offense. He had less than 200 yards and only one touchdown as a rookie, but he’s about to be thrown to the sharks and will have the option to sink or swim. If he sinks… who cares, you probably drafted him in the last round. If he swims… that’s top-12 upside on an offense that will be desperate to discover their next playmaker. I think he’s an excellent dart throw at fantasy’s most volatile position.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Chris Godwin, WR

Godwin was an early 2nd round pick for many in 2020 but has fallen to the back of the 4th round ahead of the 2021 season… and I think this is because people have such short-term memories. Godwin finished as WR31 last year, but you have to take a few things into consideration: he only played in 12 games and was only healthy for about 8 or 9 of them. Despite all of that, from a points per game basis, he was the WR15 on the season. While that is disappointing compared to his WR2 season in 2019, I’d like to think he’ll finish closer to WR2 than he will to WR15. Sure, he’s in a loaded offense that will spread the ball around a lot, but he’s got the confidence of Tom Brady and that is one hell of a thing to possess. He’s got excellent touchdown upside, is on pace to reach 120 targets in 2021 (based on last season’s numbers) and should easily clear 1,000 yards if he stays healthy. I think you can confidently draft him as your WR2 (with obvious upside) and not enough people are appreciating that right now.


NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles – Zach Ertz, TE

Here's why Zach Ertz shouldn't be pursued by the Buffalo Bills

Ertz is being treated the same way as Trautman (ADP of TE18 / 159 overall) and that is… absurd. Ertz is only one season removed from a TE4 finish, two seasons removed from a TE2 finish, three seasons removed from a TE3 finish… well, you see where I’m going with this. Dude had an off year, that whole team did, and the fact that people are forgetting about his talent already is just plain stupid. He had career-low numbers across the board last year, but that team was a dumpster fire. A quarterback carousel, no receiver assistance, a rough run game and an injured offensive line. That team had nothing going for them whatsoever and people have soured on Eagles’ players in general. Do I think Ertz will be a top-5 TE this year? I doubt it, but it’s still in the realm of possibilities. However, I would go as far to say that he could very well lead the Eagles in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in 2021. He’s mega talented and there’s a reason why they haven’t dealt him away despite the rumors.

Dallas Cowboys – Amari Cooper, WR

Despite having more targets, receptions and yards, Amari Cooper is being drafted later than his teammate CeeDee Lamb. Granted, they are being drafted within 5 spots of each other, but it’s still a mind-blowing fact. Cooper has 75+ receptions and 1,000+ yards in each of the last three seasons, will be getting his quarterback back from injury this year, and is still 100% the team’s WR1. Lamb is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but he’s primarily a slot guy and more than likely won’t put up the numbers that Cooper will, at least in 2021. Cooper struggled with consistency for most of his career, but did pretty well in that category in 2020. He’s a volatile (but solid) WR2 option, and can be a week-winner any given Sunday for you.

New York Giants – Darius Slayton, WR

This one was tough because I genuinely don’t think there is much value to be had with the Giants. Slayton is currently going undrafted, despite his upside and big-play potential. He’s not a guy I’d start every week, but he’s a great bye-week filler when you need some serious upside in your lineup. He’s only had 17+ points in a single week 4 different times over the last two seasons, but when he’s having himself a “game”, he’s a great player to have in your lineup. It’s worth mentioning that the Giants had a really, really weird year in 2020 and there should be positive regression across the board for their position players.

Washington Football Team – Logan Thomas, TE

Thomas tied none other than Robert Tonyan for the title of TE3 overall last season, and while I think another finish like that is optimistic, it’s not entirely insane. Thomas is being drafted as the TE9 (84 overall) in drafts right now, which I think is fair. However, much like what I had said with Matt Ryan, I think you’re drafting Thomas at his floor. It’s not hard to finish as the TE9 (TE8 though TE16 all finished within 9 points of each other), but he’s surpassed those expectations once and I think he could do it again. Ryan Fitzpatrick is an obvious upgrade at the quarterback position and after Thomas reeled in over 70 receptions for 6 touchdowns last season, I think it’s safe to say that he’ll be a big part of Washington’s passing plans moving forward. While it is unlikely that he remains a top-5 TE option, the stars are still aligned for him to surpass our expectations. 

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers – Deebo Samuel, WR

Deebo Samuel, the rookie many were crazy about at the end of the 2019 season, is currently being drafted as the WR38 overall in the 8th round. That ain’t too bad of a price to pay for a guy that’s guaranteed to have plays drawn up specifically for him. As a rookie, he had over 800 yards and 6 total touchdowns. Last year, he only appeared in 7 games and was hobbled for most of those. I’d expect a major bounce-back year for Deebo in 2021. He’ll be considered as the “3rd best” receiver on the field by opposing defenses with Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle out there, he’s got plays specifically designed for him and he has proven to be a great asset in their running game, and there’s a good possibility that he could become the second security blanket (behind Kittle) to new quarterback Trey Lance. As long as Deebo is healthy, there is no reason to think he won’t see at least 100 targets on the season with an additional 20-30 rushing attempts. You’re drafting him as a backup WR/FLEX option but he’s got enough upside to slip into the weekly WR3 conversation within the first few weeks of the season.

Los Angeles Rams – Tyler Higbee, TE

Higbee disappointed in 2020, but it’s a new year, he’s got a new quarterback and there’s another opportunity right around the corner to be an absolute beast on the field. It’s no secret that the Rams love having him on their offense, but I think that will become more apparent when he’s tearing it up with Matt Stafford in camp this month. Don’t forget, Higbee went on a five-game spree at the end of 2019, totaling 48 catches for 522 yards and two touchdowns. Higbee is at such a discount right now and could very well be this year’s Robert Tonyan or Logan Thomas. His price tag definitely warrants the risk of acquiring him (141 overall), and I really do think that his price tag is going to jump up somewhat significantly by the end of training camp.

Seattle Seahawks – Chris Carson, RB

4 eye-popping statistics about Seahawks RB Chris Carson

Carson battled injury all throughout 2020 and still managed to finish as the RB19 on the season (RB14 in points per game). Right now, he’s being drafted at the 3rd/4th round turn, which is honestly pretty fair, but the offensive weapons in Seattle are all so good that I had to narrow it down and pick one. Tyler Lockett was almost the pick here, but his inconsistency throughout the season warrants his current 5th-round price tag. Regardless, Carson is an incredibly solid RB2 with low competition on a really, really good offense. You could do a lot worse than him for your RB2 spot in 2021.

Arizona Cardinals – Chase Edmonds, RB

The Arizona Cardinals’ RB1 (I said what I said) is being drafted as an RB3 (RB26 overall) in the 6th round right now. Edmonds had finished as RB25 when he was splitting the field with Kenyan Drake last year, and while he’ll still have to worry about James Connor, it’s likely that Edmonds sees a fair uptick in touches. It’s safe to assume that he’ll easily outperform that RB26 draft price if he remains healthy. He’s got the sixth-easiest schedule for running backs in 2021, enters the season with a 4.8 yards per carry stat line over the last two seasons, and was targeted nearly 70 times last season. With how the coaches have boasted about Edmonds and the fact that Conner hasn’t had a healthy season in years, it’s easy to assume that Edmonds will see more than 97 attempts on the ground this time around. Even if that number goes up to only 125 (which I think it’ll be 150+), he’d be on pace for 600 rushing yards and about 3 touchdowns. His receiving totals are likely to go up with an increased workload as well, but even if you use his receiving line from last season, with an extra 28 attempts on the ground, Edmonds would be on pace to finish the season with around 210 points (PPR), which would have been good enough to be the RB11 in 2020. You’ll be hard pressed to find upside like that anywhere else in the 6th round this year.

Be sure to check out the latest episode of the Loaded Box Podcast as we discuss the fantasy-relevant players from the Vikings and Bears!

Mikey Ostrowski is a blogger for the Loaded Box Podcast. Check out his article archive and find more from the Loaded Box on Twitter & Facebook