NFC East: Dak Prescott returns with a vengeance
1. Dallas Cowboys 10-7
2. Washington Football Team 10-7
3. Philadelphia Eagles 6-11
4. New York Giants 6-11
Comments/Fantasy Predictions: Dak Prescott receives MVP votes and has a huge season, while CeeDee Lamb finishes as a top-five fantasy WR … Michael Gallup goes down as one of the bigger wide receiver steals at draft tables, while Ezekiel Elliott is a top-three fantasy back … The Cowboys must overcome shaky coaching, but their offense should be good enough to come out on top of a winnable NFC East.
Washington has arguably the league’s best defense and made a major upgrade adding Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, so they’re certainly a threat to repeat as division champs (I bet on them at +350) … Antonio Gibson will be a top-10 fantasy player if his turf toe cooperates, while deep sleeper Jaret Patterson would become a must-add if it doesn’t … I have Terry McLaurin ranked ahead of DeAndre Hopkins entering the season.
The Eagles enter with coaching question marks but also with a much improved offensive line situation … Jalen Hurts might be the most screaming fantasy value in drafts, as he averaged the sixth-most fantasy points per dropback last season as a rookie with a poor supporting cast and playing through a “significant” hamstring injury late. Hurts is already halfway to matching the NFL record of games with 300+ passing yards and 60+ rushing yards; he has four career starts. Hurts led all rookies in YPA from a clean pocket last year (h/t LordReebs) and is going to be a top-five fantasy QB in 2021 … DeVonta Smith finishes with the most fantasy ppg among rookie wideouts.
Daniel Jones has 29 fumbles over 27 career games and will have to deal with one of the league’s worst offensive lines. But in fairness to Danny Dogecoin, he played through a serious leg injury and faced by far the toughest schedule among all QBs last season. His sneaky running ability and low ADP coming off such a disastrous season make him a fine Superflex target. Remember, Jones put up some monster fantasy games as a rookie.
NFC North: Justin Fields to take over in Week 1?
1. Green Bay Packers 10-7
2. Minnesota Vikings 10-7 (Wild Card)
3. Chicago Bears 7-10
4. Detroit Lions 4-13
Comments/Fantasy Predictions: An offseason full of drama ended with Aaron Rodgers returning to Green Bay, as the Packers enter coming off back-to-back NFC Championship losses, highlighted by Matt LaFleur’s absolutely mind-boggling decision to kick a short field goal with the league MVP as his QB down eight points with two minutes left and facing the GOAT … A.J. Dillon is the definition of “fantasy league-winner” if Aaron Jones were to go down, while Davante Adams is coming off a season in which he missed two games yet still saw the most targets inside the 10-yard line (20) since Randy Moss in 2002 … Marquez Valdes-Scantling finally lives up to his sleeper billing (seriously, draft MVS).
The Vikings enter with O-line and depth questions but could have one of the league’s best defenses with Danielle Hunter’s return … Kirk Cousins quietly got 8.3 YPA last season and has a dream schedule to open the year, although the loss of Irv Smith hurts … Alexander Mattison finishes as a top-five fantasy RB multiple weeks, while Justin Jefferson is a slam dunk top-five fantasy wideout for the season.
Justin Fields takes over Chicago’s QB job at halftime on SNF in Week 1 and never looks back, finishing as a top-15 fantasy QB. Imagine needing a franchise quarterback and passing on one during this draft …. Darnell Mooney finishes a lot closer to Allen Robinson in fantasy value than their ADPs would suggest.
D’Andre Swift scored 10 touchdowns and saw 57 targets over just 13 games as a rookie and could go crazy in PPR leagues given Detroit’s weak receiving options, strong O-line, and his undeniable talent. But he also has a recurring groin injury and has to deal with the Lions’ infrastructure, including Anthony Lynn at OC. Swift is the biggest boom-or-bust fantasy player of 2021 … T.J. Hockenson scores 10+ touchdowns, but I’m on the Lions’ Under.
NFC South: Tom Brady continues his otherworldly ways
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13-4
2. Atlanta Falcons 9-8
3. New Orleans Saints 9-8
4. Carolina Panthers 5-12
Comments/Fantasy Predictions: I’m beginning to think Tom Brady’s aging curve may be different from most. Dude just led all QBs in average intended air yards, tossed 40 TDs, and won the Super Bowl with a messed-up knee as a 43-year-old. Brady got more adjusted yards per attempt (11.40) with Chris Godwin last season than any receiver throughout his career (he and Randy Moss averaged 8.30 AYA) … I bet on Joe Tryon as a 40/1 long shot to win Defensive Rookie of the Year … Ronald Jones can’t catch a cold but turns Fournette into “sidelines Lenny” this season, running for 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns … The Bucs bring back their entire Super Bowl-winning roster and get a healthy Antonio Brown and O.J. Howard to go with Brady now knowing the playbook (and no longer playing through a serious knee injury). A 15+ type win season isn’t out of the question, but it’s not easy after just playing so deep into the playoffs.
The Falcons lost Julio Jones but added Kyle Pitts and Arthur Smith during the offseason, making them a sneaky wild card threat. In fact, Atlanta somehow had a better first-half point differential than Tampa Bay last season. Matt Ryan remained incredibly on target and should really benefit from Smith’s frequent calls for play action. I’m on the Falcons’ Over … Kyle Pitts is a unicorn with the longest wingspan of any NFL player over the last 20 years and finds himself in an immediate favorable situation on an Atlanta team that plays indoors and is without a legit WR2 or RB1 (yet with a good QB and play caller). Pitts is going to be a top-three fantasy tight end right away as a rookie … Calvin Ridley averaged a silly 155.9 air yards when Julio Jones was out last season and is the No. 2 WR on my board. He’s closer to my No. 1 than No. 3.
I didn’t want to pay for last year’s touchdowns, but it’s hard not to be excited about Alvin Kamara’s 2021 fantasy outlook after Jameis Winston won the starting QB role and Michael Thomas went down. Taysom Hill could still be a nuisance at the goal line, and it’s not ideal the team may not be able to return to New Orleans until midseason, but the Saints are going to give Kamara more touches than ever before (Latavius Murray was nearly cut) and field arguably the NFL’s best offensive line. Kamara absolutely has a case as the No. 1 PPR pick … Winston quietly ranked top-15 in EPA/play 2017-2019 and surprisingly knows when to throw his interceptions, so he’s underrated … Juwan Johnson (now TE eligible on Yahoo) is a deep sleeper, while Marquez Callaway is rightfully one of the preseason’s biggest “helium” players. His floor is no doubt low, but the path is also so clearly there for him to be a top-25 fantasy wide receiver.
Sam Darnold ranks last in adjusted net yards per attempt since entering the league but is now freed from Adam Gase, so something’s got to give … DJ Moore had just two catches in the red zone last season and now has an exciting teammate in rookie Terrace Marshall. A new, lower aDot role should help, but there’s no reason Moore’s ADP should be so much higher than Robby Anderson’s, who’s previously had a nice rapport with Darnold and finished No. 7 in target share last year.
NFC West: 49ers bounce back in a big way
1. San Francisco 49ers 12-5
2. Los Angeles Rams 11-6 (Wild Card)
3. Seattle Seahawks 10-7 (Wild Card)
4. Arizona Cardinals 7-10
Comments/Fantasy Predictions: Coming off an unprecedented injury-ruined season, the 49ers went all-in at quarterback during the offseason, trading multiple first-round picks for Trey Lance and bringing back Jimmy Garoppolo. It’s a loaded roster with pressure king Nick Bosa and Dee Ford returning (among others), and San Francisco projects to have by far the easiest schedule this season, so the 49ers are set up for a Super Bowl run (although getting the No. 1 seed is key now, and Tampa Bay is going to be tough) … Lance in this system, with his rushing ability, is going to be a top-five fantasy QB as soon as he takes over …
Raheem Mostert has 1,536 total yards and 16 touchdowns over his last 17 games and enters as the favorite to lead the NFL in YPC, but it’s Trey Sermon who’s a fantasy RB1 down the stretch … George Brittle can’t be expected to play a full season, but he’s also the clear best real-life tight end when on the field right now … Brandon Aiyuk should be treated as a top-15 fantasy WR entering the year.
The Rams allowed the fewest yards per play on defense last year and upgraded at QB while trading for Matthew Stafford during the offseason, so they’re a Super Bowl contender (although the loss of defensive coordinator Brandon Staley doesn’t help). Stafford has somehow had just 11 100-yard rushers over his 166 career starts and has had to deal with abysmal coaching as well … It sure seems like drafting 155-pound Tutu Atwell ahead of Terrace Marshall was a mistake … Sony Michel was quietly really good last season and suddenly only has the oft-injured Darrell Henderson ahead of him on the depth chart of a Rams team that’s arguably the best for fantasy backs. Never have I been so excited to draft someone with an arthritic knee … DeSean Jackson is a sleeper.
DK Metcalf leads the league in TD catches, while Gerald Everett finishes as a top-10 fantasy tight end … I have Chris Carson as a top-15 fantasy RB entering the year, with durability concerns the only reason he’s not higher … The Seahawks’ roster has its flaws, but Russell Wilson leads them to the playoffs once again.
Kyler Murray looks like a better fantasy QB than real-life one, although Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t exactly helped … Arizona’s backfield is one to avoid in fantasy leagues, while DeAndre Hopkins shouldn’t be getting drafted ahead of DK Metcalf, Justin Jefferson, Terry McLaurin, or CeeDee Lamb … The Cardinals don’t have it easy having to face the 49ers, Rams, and Seahawks six times.
MVP: Josh Allen
Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Garrett
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Trey Lance
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Patrick Surtain II
Coach of the Year: Kyle Shanahan
AFC Championship: Bills over Chiefs
NFC Championship: 49ers over Buccaneers
Super Bowl: 49ers over Bills (Chris Berman approved)