With the 2021 NFL season right around the corner, this article will identify the players trending in the right and wrong direction so that fantasy managers are better prepared for their last wave of fantasy football drafts.
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The Cowboys receiver was recently activated after spending time on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, giving him sufficient time to get back into game shape and register a few snaps in the preseason.
It must have been tough for Cooper to remain on the sidelines during training camp while teammate CeeDee Lamb was making circus catches every practice, but fantasy managers shouldn't forget about the route-running prowess the seventh-year wideout brings to the table.
Cooper's dominance has been on full display over the past three seasons, as he has WR15, WR10 and WR18 finishes over that span. The veteran is still young himself and has a clear rapport with quarterback Dak Prescott.
Amari Cooper sent him to a different zip code ????
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) September 2, 2021
Cooper looks poised for a massive season. He once again has a shot to be the Cowboys’ No. 1 wide receiver and a WR1 in fantasy football leagues.
While Breshad Perriman‘s recent release may not indicate an imminent pro-bowl caliber season from either Williams or St. Brown, it does confirm our expectation that these two are now the No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers on this roster.
Over the preseason, St. Brown registered the second-highest target share (10.3%) on the roster and looked like a capable short-to-intermediate threat out of the slot. Williams reeled in two passes for 30 yards and was the clear alpha of the group.
Neither player will be a WR1, but both are going in the late rounds and offer plenty of potential as bench stashes or WR3/FLEX options. And both players have upside in best-ball formats.
The Saints and head coach Sean Payton were left with no conceivable options other than to hand the starting quarterback job to Winston after his preseason performances.
— Gabriel Schray (@schrayguy) August 27, 2021
In just 23 dropbacks, Winston completed 16-of-22 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns, alongside two big-time throws. He was evidently more efficient and effective than Taysom Hill.
The only question is, how long will Payton allow Winston to play? And will he be vultured in the red zone? While we don’t yet have the answers to those questions, we do know Winston is basically free in all fantasy football formats right now and is the starting quarterback for a team that has fielded many successful offenses in recent years.
Prescott is finally full-go after last season's gruesome ankle injury and a shoulder injury that has sidelined him over the past few weeks. We have yet to see what Prescott looks like in an actual game, but it doesn’t really matter because this is the same guy who produced three top-four finishes in the first four weeks of last season.
Really, injury is just about the only thing that can stop Prescott from having a productive season. It feels like Dak is closer to an MVP-caliber season than a disappointing one with the skill-position talent and offensive line the Cowboys have the luxury of fielding. Starting the season healthy is a massive positive for Prescott and this potentially dominant offense.
The Raiders backfield went from being a decided RB1 paired with some backups to Jacobs being in real danger of demotion. Jacobs is an RB1 with a legitimate top-five ceiling in terms of talent — he’s that good as a runner and has receiving upside. In two seasons, he’s rattled off finishes of RB8 and RB21.
The issue is that the Raiders added Kenyan Drake in free agency and now scooped Peyton Barber off waivers. Neither player seems like much of a threat, but Jacobs' path to success has surely hit a block. Drake ranked fourth in red-zone carries (56) last season and has receiving upside as a natural pass-catcher, while Barber had nine rushing attempts inside the five-yard line for the Washington Football Team last season. He scored on four of those attempts.
Jacobs is the superior talent in this backfield, but it’s hard to see him receiving the workload we all expect from a workhorse. Unfortunately, it seems as though Jacobs may be capped at an RB2 ceiling, with an RB3 finish looking more realistic as the days pass.
While Davis may not be impacted all that much, the recent shakeup in the Falcons’ backfield has to worry those who selected Davis in fantasy drafts.
The Falcons waived Qadree Ollison and signed Wayne Gallman. This is one of the additions I’m least worried about, but Gallman was impressive enough in 2020, totaling 682 rushing yards and six touchdowns while forcing 27 missed tackles and averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
Gallman is no slouch, but Davis isn’t likely to be greatly impacted by this signing. Gallman’s addition feels like more of an upgrade at the RB2 spot, and while the Falcons may toss him a handful of touches, this is still Davis’ backfield. After all, the seventh-year back is fresh off a legit RB12 finish.
There isn’t any reason to panic yet, but it’s never a great feeling to see a team add a legitimate backup running back.
Last season, Goedert ranked tied for third on the Eagles roster with an 11.9% target share, and he did it in only 11 games. He also scored 10.6 fantasy points per game, ninth among tight ends.
Unfortunately for Goedert, teammate Zach Ertz remains the roadblock to a major breakout season. The disgruntled veteran looked like he was certainly on his way out this offseason, but with the season a handful of days away, Ertz is still on the roster and Goedert is still without a clear path to a top-five finish at the position.
Expect Goedert to be a productive option, but the longer the Eagles hold onto Ertz, the more capped Goedert’s ceiling will be.
Barkley is a certified first-round pick in any and every fantasy format, but he is still recovering from the torn ACL that ended his 2020 season after only two games. While it makes sense for the Giants to bring him along slowly, drafters who spent a first-round pick on Barkley cannot afford a slow start to the season.
There are reasons to worry, too, because Barkley just recently started practicing in an “increased” capacity. In fact, The Athletic’s Dan Duggan expects Barkley to be in the lineup during Week 1 but doesn’t expect him “to have a full workload.”
For that, he can start on the stock down section, as most drafters probably expected Barkley to be a 100% full-go from Week 1. A fantasy draft typically cannot be won in the first round, but it can be lost in the first round. Hopefully, this isn’t a repeat of the 2020 season.