The Great Fantasy Football Reset of 2021

by Richard Savill
Great Fantasy Football Reset

Anyone following at least a small portion of the off-season moves from mid-January and past the Super Bowl can certainly tell that 2021 is turning  into something very different.

Each year tends to merge enough information from the previous season to give us at least some reasonable reckoning for the one to come. In large part, this mostly holds true, but for 2021 the varied realignment of some major positions and coaching changes around the NFL will keep you busy.

As a brief reminder, March 17, 2021 is the official beginning of the NFL off-season.

It could be quite a task in 2021 to evaluate what we have in store for fantasy football. Are you up for it?

The Great Fantasy Football Reset of 2021

Usually we have a coherent strategy to follow with all this, but you better have your intuitive juices flowing for 2021. The studs and busts next season will have opinions all over the place from the fantasy intelligensia. The so-called "safe" pick may not be so safe.

We understand the declinations and surges of certain teams year to year, but 2021 is throwing some uncomfortable additional affectations in the form of personnel moves.

The Rams and Lions Trade

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The swap of quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff between these teams and the hiring of Dan Campbell as Lions' head coach is a major fantasy variance. Fantasy Football faces a dilemma. The Rams acquire a solid passer with reasonable status, but within the changeable Sean McVay system, what happens?

It's a fair assumption to take the climb with running back Cam Akers, but at what level? The Rams definitely want to give Stafford the running game the Lions so neglected him, but are McVay's game plans going to adjust that much in 2021?

So far, so good, on the Cam Akers outlook as being a solid bell-cow in 2021 according to McVay.

The Rams will continue to focus on their strength defensively, which usually relies on ball control. Where the Rams fell short from playoff advancement in 2020 came in pass protection. You would think that area will gain some address since they went to the trouble of acquiring Stafford ahead of the quarterback needier teams.

Then we come to the biggest unknown. Which receiver will show that all-important best chemistry with Stafford? We can surmise some things from his style in Detroit. A legitimate template could be his days with Golden Tate. Unfortunately, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and even Van Jefferson are all candidates if we take a shaving from the Goff scheme McVay had in place.

The Detroit Revamp

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The troubling thing to assess in Detroit is the scheme Dan Campbell has in mind. What kind of coach-speak can we expect from a tight end specialist? Those who are good at interpreting such things have their work cut out.

Jared Goff threw for just 20 touchdown passes in 2020 and that can barely feed our hungry fantasy receivers for a single season. Some might call this an excuse for positive regression and a Kenny Golladay breakout to follow. Right now that looks like a risky assumption.  But that's not the only reason...

Further to the Detroit problems is that both WRs Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones enter free agency. The Lions are up against market forces here. Although keeping Golladay at least would seem a priority, the team is running into a cap space wall. Golladay may leave the team by this compulsion.

Beyond receiving, the Lions really need a strong running game for any of that to become evident. Other considerations are in play, but not necessarily in the areas we might apply logic to.

For instance, just because Dan Campbell is from the tight end school does not mean we should imagine a major lift for T.J. Hockenson. Campbell's forte is more on the blocking side of the position. More correctly, we should defer to the the new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, former coach of the Chargers, for better insight.

This brings us back full circle to the perpetual need of high end running back production for the Lions. D'Andre Swift with just 500+ yards just won't cut it and his recent comments desiring a committee with Adrian Peterson again (who actually out-yardaged Swift in 2020) keeps us stocked up with fantasy Tylenol.

The Colts Came and Wentz

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The Colts and Eagles finally settled on a deal for Carson Wentz in February. The deal demonstrates a low commitment for Wentz - a third round pick and a 2nd round 2022 pick with proviso.

Wentz is a renovation project for the Colts and he will challenge Jacoby Brissett for the starting job. Brissett is not a given however. He enters free agency and has enough starting job credentials to warrant interest from quarterback needy franchises.

So Wentz might be it. Period. There is some hope that a reunion with Frank Reich will turn things around for the former Eagle quarterback. That said, the job is far from easy.

Wentz has clearly lost mobility and sharpness since his long recovery from ACL surgery in 2017 - lasting well into the 2018 season. Add another late-season injury to his back at the end of 2018. He had something of a revival in 2019 with 4000+ yards, 27 TD passes and just seven picks. Then in 2020, the bottom fell out and Wentz fell to just 2600+ yards, 16 TD passes and 15 interceptions.

It is worth mentioning that despite his best season of 2019, Wentz still could not give a single Eagle wide receiver better than 500 yards for fantasy. All the goodies went primarily to tight end Zach Ertz.

Bearing that in mind, we remain stuck on the sidelines about what to do about the receivers on the Colts for 2021. Further, the Colts are allowing T.Y. Hilton to test the FA market this spring - which certainly shows that Indy are not under any false impressions from Hilton's late surge in 2020.

Jonathan Taylor remains the best fantasy property of the Colts, by far of course, but as for the rest of them... meh. Once again we're in the fantasy void in hopes for bargains on what is ostensibly a good football team.

Eagles without the Albatross

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In case you are wondering what an "offensive quality control coach" does, it is his job to formulate game plans. These are the guys who are experts at reviewing game film and preparing the team for their matchups.

This is Nick Sirianni's wheelhouse. He was offensive coordinator of the Colts. It is well to mention that his move to the Eagles as head coach has no relation to the trade for Carson Wentz.

We are at least a little optimistic that "more of the same" when it comes to the Eagles is about to change. The fantasy discussion concerning this team will involve how "unsame" matters end up.

The fuel for optimism is that Jalen Hurts appears to completely suit the noveau style of the rushing quarterback which Lamar Jackson is currently pioneering. We know there is room for Miles Sanders in such an offense, but if the passing game resembles anything we see in Baltimore, Jalen Reagor will mirror the usage of Hollywood Brown.

So these are just some of the issues from a pool of plenty concerning the Eagles we are likely to read about frequently this off-season.

Some other 2021 Issues for March in Brief...

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Not wishing to furnish too much verbosity, here are some other topics on the burner you'll be hearing plenty of this off-season in brief.

Russell Wilson Noises

Wilson has a no-trade clause in his contract, but is open to waiving it for the Bears, Saints, Cowboys, or Raiders. It should be clear this is not Wilson openly desiring a trade. It is, however, a stealthy way of expressing clout. He's playing a card that Aaron Rodgers wishes he had. Eventually, the Wilson purpose on this will decrypt and it well deserves our attention.

Ben Roethlisberger Returns

The Steelers' late season collapse caused upset. Art Rooney shrugged. There were positives for the Steelers in 2020, but Big Ben wasn't exactly one of them. The Steelers basically rode a great defense with the best receiving depth in the NFL. Ben will restructure his contract for team friendliness, but is there any confidence to gain? The are other heavy fantasy issues in Pittsburgh too.

The Saints and Stuff

Is Drew Brees retiring? Maybe not yet. As mentioned, Russell Wilson could arrive too, but for now our thoughts should focus on Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas. Thomas is currently under the fantasy red flag and discussions will certainly revolve around his value this spring.

Zero Fantasy Texans/Jets

We could be looking at a fantasy wasteland in Houston for 2021. Deshaun Watson wants out, but the team has its heels dug in. The misery of having another team completely void of any fantasy value will harm deep leagues. Running back David Johnson is barely a tier RB3 nowadays. The Jets remain just as poor. Their roster isn't likely to improve much over 2020.

March 17 is Free Agent Day

No doubt you have that day marked on the calendar. Return back to F6P to see what our writers have to say on the various details during that week. Until then, you'll hear from me soon after with a synopsis on the overall picture. Take care everyone.

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