NFLTR Review: Fantasy Football Thoughts On *Every Player

Starting prep for your fantasy drafts? We’ve got you covered with this week’s NFLTR Review: 

  • Actionable info on ESPN’s top 160 skill players in ADP
  • Recapping the franchise tag deadline
  • Exciting football nerd update

Fantasy Corner: 2021 Preview

Fantasy football has become a huge part of the NFL’s popularity, to the point where it’s almost year-round. Best ball leagues have been drafting for months and dynasty leagues operate for the entire calendar. 

We’re approaching the time, though, where everyone really starts to dig in on preparations for the upcoming season. There’s obviously no shortage of resources out there to help you get ready for your draft but rather than rely on a specific cheat sheet, I try to enter the draft with a clearly defined thought about every player I could consider drafting. 

The goal is to sum up the player in a single sentence. It helps me go beyond rote rankings and distill the player pool into guys I’ll be targeting and others I’ll be avoiding. Everyone is a value at some point, but this exercise helps distinguish when someone like Aaron Rodgers is worth the risk and how early you should jump the gun to get a sleeper like Elijah Moore

Below I’ve done this exercise with the top 160 skill players in ESPN’s average draft position, figuring 15 roster spots — 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 flex, 7 bench — plus 10 bonus players. I’ve excluded kickers and defenses because those are basically random from year to year. 

  1. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey: Easy 1.01, none of his 2020 injuries should impact him in 2021 and he’d been extraordinarily durable before that.
  2. Vikings RB Dalvin Cook: Has never played a full 16-game season but he should make up for any games he misses when he’s in your lineup. 
  3. Titans RB Derrick Henry: The first round is sometimes about avoiding landmines and Henry feels like a landmine given he has over 700 touches the past two seasons. 
  4. Saints RB Alvin Kamara: Might not score 21 touchdowns again but should remain the focal point of the Saints’ offense without Drew Brees
  5. Giants RB Saquon Barkley: Freak talent that’s well worth the gamble. 
  6. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce: Tight ends tend to age gracefully so I’m not that worried about Kelce falling off from what’s been an astonishing pace the past few years. 
  7. Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott: A healthy offensive line should help immensely, and Zeke has tended to bounce back well from challenging seasons in the past — also there’s no way in hell Pollard is a better back. 
  8. Packers WR Davante Adams: Enough uncertainty here that someone else will probably take him before me. 
  9. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill: The Chiefs improved their offensive line but didn’t add any weapons, so the passing game is still going to run exclusively through Hill and Kelce. 
  10. Colts RB Jonathan Taylor: Caught fire to end last season and Indy will lean on Taylor to take pressure off Wentz. 
  11. Bills WR Stefon Diggs: Feels like it could be hard for the Bills to be just as good as they were on offense in 2020 but Diggs is still a super safe pick. 
  12. Browns RB Nick Chubb: On a shortlist to lead the league in rushing and the Browns figure to be pretty good, meaning Chubb should have plenty of opportunities to close out games. 
  13. Packers RB Aaron Jones: Out of every player on the Packers, Jones feels the most Rodgers-proof; he’ll be fine if Rodgers is out, even better if he’s in. 
  14. Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins: Maintained his dominant target share his first year in Arizona, if the offense takes another step he could be back in the top five. 
  15. Chargers RB Austin Ekeler: One of the best receiving backs in the league, so the arrival of OC Joe Lombardi from the Saints should be very, very good for him. 
  16. Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf: No reason he and Russ shouldn’t pick back up where they left off. 
  17. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes: Unquestioned top quarterback, the question is just where that’s worth taking him in a single quarterback league. 
  18. Rams RB Cam Akers: He has almost as much upside as peak Todd Gurley did in Sean McVay’s offense, but that’s only if McVay really follows through on making him the bellcow.
  19. Falcons WR Calvin Ridley: The foot injury is worth monitoring but he was the No. 4 overall wide receiver last year, so he’s not an ascending player; he’s arrived. 
  20. Washington RB Antonio Gibson: The reports about Gibson’s toe not being fully healed are concerning and bear watching, but the converted receiver is just scratching the surface of his potential and plays for the same staff that featured McCaffrey. 
  21. Vikings WR Justin Jefferson: 88 catches for 1,400 yards as a rookie is mind-blowing, as is thinking about what Jefferson could do for an encore. 
  22. Steelers RB Najee Harris: Volume is king, and even if Pittsburgh’s offense is bad, Harris is locked in for a Le’Veon Bell-style workload. 
  23. Bengals RB Joe Mixon: He’s burned a lot of drafters in the past, but if Mixon is ever going to put it all together for a monster season, it could be this year as the unquestioned feature back on a potentially promising offense. 
  24. Raiders TE Darren Waller: Getting an elite tight end is a huge X-factor in fantasy, and Waller is worth going after hard. 
  25. Titans WR A.J. Brown: The trade for Julio caps some of the upside I thought Brown had in 2021, as he was looking at a massive increase in volume, but he still should be one of the 10-12 best receivers in fantasy this year thanks to his proven efficiency. 
  26. Saints WR Michael Thomas: Brees’ retirement and a horrible 2020 are scaring folks off Thomas, but it’s worth remembering Thomas did just fine with Taysom Hill last year and the last time Jameis Winston was a starter, he threw for over 5,000 yards. 
  27. 49ers TE George Kittle: Injury concerns are valid but Kittle is still the centerpiece of San Francisco’s passing attack when healthy and there’s a massive dropoff from him to the rest of the tight end position. 
  28. Bills QB Josh Allen: A breakout 2020 cemented Allen as an elite talent, but like Mahomes, the question is how early is it worth taking a quarterback in start-one leagues, even if the existence of talents like Allen is providing more separation at the position.
  29. Washington WR Terry McLaurin: Priced here as the WR10, McLaurin has been the WR24 each of his first two seasons, but a leap is fair to expect given he has succeeded catching passes from a hodgepodge of Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith, Kyle Allen and Colt McCoy
  30. Chargers WR Keenan Allen: Mr. Consistent, steady and reliable, though I do think I’d feel better if he were my WR2 even with Herbert on board. 
  31. Lions RB D’Andre Swift: It’s hard to see how the Lions offense doesn’t funnel through Swift given he’s by far their most dynamic player, and for me that outweighs concerns about Detroit being awful. 
  32. Eagles RB Miles Sanders: Didn’t take the step many expected last year, and the new staff injects even more uncertainty. 
  33. Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire: He disappointed as a rookie but CEH is poised to easily be third on the team in receptions, so get him cheap while you can. 
  34. Raiders RB Josh Jacobs: His efficiency dropped last year and the Raiders blew up their offensive line this offseason but Jacobs is still dropping too far for someone with his projected volume. 
  35. Bears WR Allen Robinson: He’s thrived with worse quarterbacks than Andy Dalton, so he’ll be just fine until Fields takes over, then watch out!
  36. Buccaneers WR Mike Evans: For some reason, Evans is also someone the consensus seems to be a little lower on, but I’ll take Tom Brady’s No. 1 receiver any day of the week. 
  37. Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins: Baltimore runs the ball enough for Dobbins to have a healthy workload but it remains to be seen if he can get more of a passing workload to really take off, though the coachspeak on that topic is tempting. 
  38. Cardinals QB Kyler Murray: He’s too dynamic of a runner for Arizona to take that out of his game but it could limit his overall upside if he runs less. 
  39. Cowboys WR Amari Cooper: The ankle injury might spook others into giving you a better deal for the Cowboys’ No. 1 wideout. 
  40. Titans WR Julio Jones: Age, a new team, new playbook and a low-volume passing offense are all risk factors that make me leery of Jones as anything more than my WR3. 
  41. Vikings WR Adam Thielen: His totals last year were propped up by 14 touchdowns, so expect that number to come down and draft him accordingly. 
  42. Seahawks RB Chris Carson: He’s not sexy but he’s pretty reliable and the clear No. 1 back on an offense like Seattle’s has value. 
  43. Ravens TE Mark Andrews: He’s a solid tight end but if I don’t get one of the elite options, I find there’s usually not much of a difference between the guys in rounds 4-7 and later on in the draft. 
  44. Rams WR Robert Woods: Poised for a possible career year now that Stafford is on board. 
  45. Bears RB David Montgomery: It seems a lot of drafters see Montgomery as fool’s gold after finishing 2020 but he could still easily split the difference between his RB6 season and back-end RB2 ADP. 
  46. Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb: With a full season of Dak, Lamb is headed for a breakout. 
  47. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson: Getting a starting RB and a starting QB for the price of one player is pretty good, meaning Jackson is one of just a few quarterbacks I would stretch for in a one-quarterback league. 
  48. Falcons TE Kyle Pitts: The rookie may be an alien but it’s worth keeping expectations in check just a bit given tight end may be just as hard a position to transition to the pros as quarterback. 
  49. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott: No real reason he shouldn’t pick back up where he left off last season before his injury. 
  50. Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin: There’s room in the Buccaneers offense for multiple relevant pass catchers, so I like Godwin if I don’t have to pay too much. 
  51. Dolphins RB Myles Gaskin: Unless he falls far below his current ADP, I won’t draft him, as he seems like a classic landmine, whether it’s health or being replaced by a higher pedigree player, and there are better options at other positions
  52. Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett: He’s the WR20 here and if he stays healthy, it feels like he’s a lock to beat that given he’s finished WR11, WR15 and WR11 the past three seasons. 
  53. Lions TE T.J. Hockenson: If I was to bet on any tight end entering the top tier at the position, it would be Hockenson, as he’s legitimately talented and is potentially Detroit’s top target. 
  54. Panthers WR D.J. Moore: I have some questions about Moore given I don’t think Carolina upgraded at quarterback, but if Moore gets more work from the slot, that could help give him a steady floor. 
  55. Steelers WR Diontae Johnson: Ignore the drops, Johnson is a target hog and the Steelers receiver you want to bet on, if you bet on any of them. 
  56. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson: New OC Shane Waldron comes highly regarded, so even if Russ isn’t throwing the ball all over the yard like the first half of last season, I think he and the Seattle offense will be okay. 
  57. Rams WR Cooper Kupp: He might not get peppered as much as he did with Goff but Stafford should keep the tide high for the entire offense, so lock Kupp in as a WR2. 
  58. Giants WR Kenny Golladay: New team (Giants), new QB (Daniel Jones), new offensive coordinator (Jason Garrett), all of which feel like risk factors, which means I probably won’t get on the rollercoaster. 
  59. Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase: His rapport with Burrow should help ease his transition and he’s mega-talented, but I think the Cincy offense spreads the ball around enough to where the sharp play is to target the cheapest members. 
  60. Chargers QB Justin Herbert: Just dripping with upside and that’s baked into what pick you’ll have to spend to draft him. 
  61. Browns WR Odell Beckham: I’m a big believer in the Beckham bounceback in 2021. 
  62. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: Your guess is as good as mine probably, only other thing I’d add is that he probably won’t throw 48 touchdowns again. 
  63. Jaguars RB Travis Etienne: Not sure what role exactly Etienne will have, but it is clear the Jaguars have big plans for their first-round rookie. 
  64. Browns RB Kareem Hunt: Even if Chubb doesn’t miss time, Hunt is a viable starter, and his potential is through the roof for either back if the other is out. 
  65. Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds: Looking like Arizona plans on leaning on Edmonds as the No. 1 back, so there’s upside here if he stays healthy. 
  66. Falcons RB Mike Davis: His ADP has steadily inflated like his quads to the point where I don’t feel as good about taking him early, as while he’s looking at a huge workload, he hasn’t shown the ability in his career to stay healthy enough to take complete advantage. 
  67. Broncos WR Courtland Sutton: Feels like we’re getting a discount on Sutton because of the torn ACL and Denver’s quarterback uncertainty, but the latter didn’t hold him back in 2019. 
  68. Steelers WR J.J. Smith-Schuster: I don’t fault you if you look for higher upside options than JuJu. 
  69. Washington TE Logan Thomas: Coming off a breakout season and he has an upgrade at quarterback. 
  70. Buccaneers QB Tom Brady: He could be poised to absolutely take off with a full year in the system, and in fact that’s a historical trend for Arians’ quarterbacks. 
  71. Bengals WR Tee Higgins: Nearly had 1,000 yards as a rookie, should easily crack that as a sophomore. 
  72. Jaguars RB James Robinson: I think there’s room in the offense for both him and Etienne potentially. 
  73. Steelers WR Chase Claypool: I think Claypool’s touchdown total (nine receiving, two rushing) takes a step back in 2021 and it’s hard to see how he makes up for it elsewhere. 
  74. Jaguars WR Laviska Shenault: There’s some potential upside here but there’s a lot of uncertainty right now for how the Jaguars’ receiving corps pecking order will shake out. 
  75. Texans WR Brandin Cooks: Perennially underrated veteran but I don’t want anything to do with this Texans offense. 
  76. Panthers WR Robby Anderson: Broke out in Joe Brady’s offense last year and has a rapport with Darnold. 
  77. Eagles TE Dallas Goedert: Finally becomes the Eagles’ top tight end (we think) but the entire passing game is a question mark. 
  78. 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk: Beat my expectations as a rookie but given it’s a low-volume passing attack, I’ll likely look elsewhere. 
  79. Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette: We’ve seen a lot of playoff runs not hold over to the following season and he’s going this high thanks to Playoff Lenny. 
  80. 49ers RB Raheem Mostert: Just understand he’s going to be great when he’s in your lineup to start the season but have a Plan B for when, not if, he gets hurt.  
  81. Titans QB Ryan Tannehill: If your league hasn’t caught on to the fact that Tannehill is a legitimately good quarterback, take advantage. 
  82. Eagles WR DeVonta Smith: He’s probably the Eagles’ No. 1 receiver but what kind of production does that translate to this year? 
  83. Jaguars WR DJ Chark: He’s the type of long receiver Lawrence has thrived with but enters 2021 put on notice by the coaching staff. 
  84. Dolphins WR Will Fuller: Was having a huge season before his suspension and could pick up where he left off. 
  85. Broncos RB Melvin Gordon: The rookie is going to take over sooner or later but Gordon still has value to begin the season. 
  86. Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy: If you draft Jeudy, cross your fingers that Teddy Bridgewater wins the starting job or takes over. 
  87. 49ers WR Deebo Samuel: Struggled to stay healthy and San Francisco’s passing volume is ideally going to be near the bottom of the league. 
  88. Bengals WR Tyler Boyd: I expect him to lead the Bengals in receptions; he’s the guy on this offense I want to target given price/potential reward. 
  89. Packers TE Robert Tonyan: Big touchdown regression candidate. 
  90. Eagles QB Jalen Hurts: Rushing upside buoys his stock but he’s going ahead of some other quarterbacks who are safer. 
  91. Broncos RB Javonte Williams: Be prepared to hold him until the second half of the season if you draft Williams but I’d rather have him than Gordon. 
  92. Texans RB David Johnson: Nope. 
  93. Broncos TE Noah Fant: Athletic upside is huge but Denver’s quarterback situation makes him a little tenuous. 
  94. Washington WR Curtis Samuel: Bullish on the whole Washington offense, including Samuel, who might finally have a quarterback who can hit him deep. 
  95. Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki: He’s an alright option but there are cheaper options I like just as much. 
  96. Browns WR Jarvis Landry: Seems like a low-ceiling, average floor pick with Beckham back. 
  97. Cowboys WR Michael Gallup: Early last season he was an inconsistent option given Dallas relegated him to a deep threat role but he’ll have some splash weeks. 
  98. Rams QB Matthew Stafford: MVP candidate in Sean McVay’s offense and that’s not a crazy expectation. 
  99. Dolphins WR Jaylen Waddle: If I had to pick one rookie receiver to go nuclear this year, Waddle would be at or near the top of the list. 
  100. Ravens WR Marquise Brown: Electric player but just not sure how big the Ravens passing pie is going to be and there’s a lot more competition this year. 
  101. Raiders RB Kenyan Drake: One of my favorite targets in a zero RB build, as he should have a flex floor with his involvement in the passing game with upside for more. 
  102. Bengals QB Joe Burrow: Should lead the NFL in passing attempts. 
  103. Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown: I think Brown could have decent final numbers at the end of the year thanks to his rapport with Brady but it could be hard to pinpoint which weeks to start him. 
  104. Cardinals RB James Conner: Edmonds has one career goalline carry, so that’s at least one role Conner can bank on, with the potential for more if Edmonds can’t handle the full-time role. 
  105. Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones: Hard to go wrong nabbing the cheaper member in a committee where the exact role is uncertain, and in this case I think Jones will be the right answer when it comes to the questions we have about the Tampa Bay backfield. 
  106. Jets WR Corey Davis: There’s some untapped potential with the Jets passing game, and while the rookie Moore gets a lot of the hype, Davis got the most money in free agency. 
  107. Raiders WR Henry Ruggs: Not sure how much real room there is for anyone outside of Waller in the Raiders passing attack. 
  108. Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence: Expectations should always be tempered for rookie quarterbacks but Lawrence should be a viable starter right away. 
  109. Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski: With late-round tight ends, you’re just hoping for touchdowns and Gronk is a good bet for that. 
  110. Bills WR Cole Beasley: You’re better off taking a shot elsewhere. 
  111. Patriots RB Damien Harris: The Patriots should have one of the best offensive lines in the league and Harris is poised to take the majority of the carries behind that line. 
  112. Vikings TE Irv Smith: Getting some hype as a sleeper but it’s not clear if the Vikings are looking to increase his role all that much. 
  113. Jaguars WR Marvin Jones: Like Chark, Jones has the long frame, but unlike the young gun, he’s got a lot more experience both in the league and with incoming OC Darrell Bevell, which might make him the Jags receiver to own. 
  114. Chargers WR Mike Williams: If the Chargers really are going to be prolific on offense, this is way too low for Herbert’s No. 2 receiver. 
  115. Packers RB AJ Dillon: Another favorite late-round running back sleeper, Dillon should take over Williams’ role to give him more of a weekly floor — and the upside if Jones misses time is massive. 
  116. Eagles WR Jalen Reagor: Really disappointing rookie season and hard to see how it gets dramatically better. 
  117. Colts RB Nyheim Hines: Wentz is about as bad news for Hines as Philip Rivers was good news last year. 
  118. Bills RB Devin Singletary: He might give you a good week or two but there are other higher upside swings you can take. 
  119. Jets RB Michael Carter: He’s very intriguing given how wide open the Jets’ backfield is but it’s worth remembering the history of fourth-round running backs as rookies. 
  120. Patriots TE Jonnu Smith: New England complicated Smith’s outlook by also nabbing Henry, leaving you to play the guessing game. 
  121. Colts WR T.Y. Hilton: Just don’t know how much he really has left in the tank, though Wentz’s arm could reinvigorate him. 
  122. Giants TE Evan Engram: Mega-talented player and while this passing game is crowded all of a sudden, he has more upside than most of the other tight ends taken near or after him. 
  123. Chiefs WR Mecole Hardman: You’re basically betting that having the No. 2 receiver in the Chiefs offense is going to pay off, not on anything Hardman has really shown to this point. 
  124. Steelers TE Eric Ebron: Rookie tight ends can take time to transition but Pat Freiermuth is still enough competition to make me leery of Ebron. 
  125. 49ers RB Trey Sermon: He’s a patience play, as he might end up working behind Mostert for the beginning of the year. 
  126. Dolphins WR DeVante Parker: Miami’s moves this offseason indicated they wanted to get more speed around Tua and less size, which indicates to me Parker will be faded out of the offense. 
  127. Bills RB Zack Moss: Potential to become the Bills’ lead running back and really seize hold of this backfield makes him another good late-round dart throw. 
  128. Washington RB J.D. McKissic: PPR monster but the departure of Alex Smith and the way the team is talking up Gibson make him a do-not-draft for me. 
  129. Colts WR Michael Pittman: He’s the type of big target Wentz has done well with in the past but the Colts will spread the ball around quite a bit. 
  130. Falcons QB Matt Ryan: His splits without Julio are quite concerning so you have to hope Arthur Smith and Pitts make up for that. 
  131. Bears WR Darnell Mooney: Matt Nagy loves to go deep and Fields’ insertion in the lineup could be good news in that regard for Mooney, but I don’t know that I see things playing out dramatically different for him than they did for Giants WR Darius Slayton last year. 
  132. Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa: I think 2021’s offense and personnel will be a much better fit for Tua than last year, plus the extra time between that hip injury can only help. 
  133. Lions RB Jamaal Williams: Although I wouldn’t confuse Williams’ “A back” designation with thinking his role will be anything other than the No. 2, ground-and-pound guy, new Lions OC Anthony Lynn has proved in the past his offense can support multiple fantasy-relevant backs. 
  134. Patriots TE Hunter Henry: I kind of like targeting both Patriots tight ends in best ball leagues where you don’t have to make lineup decisions, otherwise this is a potential headache. 
  135. Browns QB Baker Mayfield: Got his career back on track and should be a solid option if you want to take multiple later-round guys and play the matchups, as the Browns should be good this year. 
  136. Bears QB Justin Fields: Massive upside when he enters the lineup thanks to his rushing ability but if Nagy had his druthers, 2021 would be a redshirt year. 
  137. Browns TE Austin Hooper: I wouldn’t draft him, I’d pick him up in-season as a streaming option hoping for a touchdown in a good matchup. 
  138. Falcons WR Russell Gage: Compiled good numbers when Julio was out last year but I’m not sure he has a special skillset that will compel the team to highlight him in 2021. 
  139. Rams TE Tyler Higbee: Like him as a post-hype breakout now that Stafford is under center and Everett is out of town. 
  140. Jets WR Elijah Moore: No rookie receiver has more hype and he could hit the ground running — and that still could mean a ceiling of 800-900 yards given we don’t know what the Jets’ passing attack will look like. 
  141. Patriots WR Nelson Agholor: Not a sexy name but you could do worse at the end of drafts, as the Patriots’ No. 1 receiver should give you some startable weeks. 
  142. Bears RB Tarik Cohen: Health is a question mark, as he’s apparently not all the way back yet as of OTAs. 
  143. Patriots RB James White: Wasn’t the same target hog when Cam Newton was under center, so if you draft him you’re hoping Mac Jones takes over sooner rather than later. 
  144. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger: History says Roethlisberger should remain productive in 2021 but it’s hard to shake how cooked he looked at the end of last year. 
  145. Saints RB Latavius Murray: Probably smart to handcuff him to Kamara if you land the latter. 
  146. Vikings RB Alexander Mattison: Another elite handcuff who could deliver a significant percentage of Cook’s production if he goes down. 
  147. Cowboys RB Tony Pollard: Rounding out the handcuff bunch, Pollard proved he could be productive with opportunity last season, though I’m skeptical he’s as good as Elliott. 
  148. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins: It’s not pretty, but somehow Cousins finishes as a QB1 or borderline every season. 
  149. Texans QB Deshaun Watson: It’s hard for me to see a situation where he plays this season. 
  150. Colts WR Parris Campbell: The Colts still believe in him, but I’d rather take a shot on Cardinals second-round WR Rondale Moore, a similar player with much higher upside. 
  151. Cardinals WR A.J. Green: See above; Moore is the other Cardinals receiver you want to own outside of Hopkins, as Green is cooked. 
  152. Ravens RB Gus Edwards: Should get no worse than 40 percent of the carries in the Ravens’ offense and has some upside if Dobbins is hurt. 
  153. Ravens WR Rashod Bateman: I actually think Bateman’s skillset meshes perfectly with Lamar and the rookie should quickly become his favorite target. 
  154. Giants QB Daniel Jones: He has weapons and rushing upside, but man I’d just have to really hold my nose to make this pick. 
  155. Colts Carson Wentz: Frank Reich should be good for Wentz but it’s hard to shake how bad he looked last season. 
  156. Rams RB Darrell Henderson: Nice dart throw late, as he has big upside if Akers goes down and perhaps a higher floor if McVay isn’t ready to hand the keys completely over to Akers. 
  157. Washington QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: I might be crazy, but I think 2021 will be Fitzpatrick’s best season yet, as he’s shown the ability to be productive and has a fantastic cast of weapons on offense. 
  158. Bears TE Cole Kmet: No thank you, in a committee still with Jimmy Graham
  159. Eagles TE Zach Ertz: There’s quite a bit of upside here if he lands with the Bills or Jaguars, as he was an elite tight end not too long ago. 
  160. Texans RB Phillip Lindsay: The only member of the Texans offense I’ll think about investing in and only because he’s so dirt cheap. 

This Week In Football

  • It was a surprisingly quiet tag deadline until about an hour to go when the Panthers and RT Taylor Moton agreed on a monstrous four-year, $72 million extension. When the expectation was Moton also would not be extended, I had prewritten that it seemed like an indication his camp was asking for Carolina to pay him enough to forego a chance at free agency in 2022 when the cap is expected to be healthier. That’s borne out by his $18 million average annual salary, which ties Eagles RT Lane Johnson and falls just below Saints RT Ryan Ramczyk who paces the right tackle market at $19.1 million per year. The conventional parameters Carolina would have been looking at would have been an average of two franchise tags ($13.754M in 2021 + $16.5M in 2022 = $15.1M average) and the $14 million per year the Browns gave RT Jack Conklin in free agency last year. 
  • However, none of the other six players on the one-year tender appeared to come particularly close to signing a long-term extension. All six will play out 2021 before negotiations pick back up at the start of next offseason. Here’s where things stand for each: 
    • The lack of movement between the Bears and WR Allen Robinson continued. At this point, $20 million a year seems like it would be an absolute floor for a Robinson deal and if he bets on himself and wins with a big year in 2021, that number could rise to somewhere between $22 million a year for Titans WR Julio Jones and $27.25 million per year for Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins. A second tag for Robinson in 2022 figures to be at least 120 percent of his first, which comes out to $21.576 million. 
    • Typically agents will use the average of two straight franchise tags to create a floor for average annual value on a long-term deal. For Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin, that would work out to about $17.6 million. He could also have been eyeing the $18 million per year the Giants gave WR Kenny Golladay in free agency. A second tag for Godwin in 2022 would be about $19.2 million at least, though, so the math will change for a long-term deal next offseason. 
    • It would have been a surprise if the Jaguars had done a long-term deal for LT Cam Robinson after drafting OT Walker Little in the second round. Robinson will be handsomely compensated for a prove-it season in 2021 at $13.754 million. 
    • Jets GM Joe Douglas is developing a clear reputation as a penny-pincher. New York’s initial offer to S Marcus Maye was $8.5 million a year, which is frankly insulting given the tag is $10.612 million, the top free-agent S John Johnson signed for $11.25 million per year with the Browns and even S Rayshawn Jenkins got $8.75 million in APY from the Jaguars. As a result, Maye will bet on himself again in 2021, though there’s a clear level of risk. He’ll be 29 next year and the NFL isn’t kind to older defensive backs. A similar situation played out with S Anthony Harris, who was tagged by the Vikings when he was entering his age 29 season and subsequently struggled, leading to him taking a deal for just $4-$5 million this offseason in free agency. That’s the leverage New York and Douglas are using but they haven’t paid a homegrown player since Quincy Enunwa, letting go of other talented players like Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams and Robby Anderson rather than sign them to major contracts, so they’re not building the best reputation here. 
    • Unlike Maye, Saints S Marcus Williams doesn’t have quite the same pressure of age, as he’s only entering his age 25 season. That youth would have made him a prized commodity in free agency and could have propelled him much closer to the top of the safety market at $15.25 million per year than where Johnson ended up at $11.25 million AAV. New Orleans has made it clear they’d like to keep Williams, however, and to do it a second straight season would be $12.73 million at least. 
    • This is the second straight season G Brandon Scherff will play on the franchise tag, and Washington is boxed into a corner as a third tag will be 144 percent of his $18.03 million figure this year. That’s nearly $26 million, which would make Scherff the highest-paid offensive lineman in all of football. No one is paying a guard that kind of money yet but Scherff is positioned to cash in handsomely if he continues to play well and stays healthy in 2021. He should at the least push past the $16 million per year the Chiefs gave G Joe Thuney this March. 
  • The simmering situation with Dolphins CB Xavien Howard is about to blow up in a couple of weeks as training camp approaches. There’s been no apparent movement toward a resolution toward Howard’s discontent with his contract and other teams have been mulling making a run at a trade for him. Expect much, much more on this topic in the coming weeks. 
  • Former 49ers CB Richard Sherman was arrested early Wednesday morning. Anytime you see domestic violence in the charges, it’s a very serious situation, but in this case it appears DV was invoked only as a technicality given Sherman was at the home of his in-laws when he damaged their front door. Still, there’s no question Sherman is in a tough position right now given the other details that have come out and is fortunate not to be more severely injured or worse. Hopefully, he can get the help and support he needs to turn things around. 

Check This Out

Sacks didn’t become an official stat until 1982, meaning the NFL record books in that area have always been incomplete. Despite that, we’ve known players like Deacon Jones and Alan Page were legendary terrorizers of the quarterback. But now there’s finally a way to quantify just how dominant they really were. 

This is a fantastic endeavor by Pro Football Reference, really the best NFL statistical site out there, to shine more of a light on a portion of NFL history that’s been dimmed by the passage of time. Beyond just showing how truly dominant guys like Jones were — racking up 115.5 sacks in a six-season stretch where he led the league five out of six of those years — it also brings well-deserved attention to guys like former Lions DE Al Baker, who’s 23-sack rookie season in 1978 is the true record for most sacks in a season.

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