It’s time to talk about fantasy football once again, and today’s post focuses on 9 breakout fantasy football candidates for the 2021 NFL Season. Now, we won’t talk about rookies, since at the time of this writing, the NFL Draft has not occurred yet, and you must wait for a future post.
However, today’s list comprises more obscure veterans who showed flashes during the past. They performed well, but from a fantasy standpoint, they probably warmed your bench in 2020. Maybe you started them when your top position player was out on a bye.
Yet in 2021, they will take the next step and you can expect to snag most of the players below for a bargain price, or a bargain round, depending on the type of fantasy football you play.
Ready to discover a few players?
Let’s get after it.
1 – Tua Tagovailoa, QB/Miami Dolphins
814 passing yards
109 rushing yards
Tua played the role of game manager in 2020 for the Miami Dolphins and often found himself getting yanked in favor of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. However, he showed enough flashes that you can honestly pick him up as a solid QB2 option for your fantasy team and perhaps even start him as a capable QB1.
And best yet, he has a plethora of talent around him, from running backs Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, to receivers Will Fuller and Devante Parker, and even tight end Mike Gesicki. He also has a capable backup in Jacoby Brissett who can mentor him when things get tough.
If Tua learns to take shots downfield, expect his numbers to inflate in 2021.
2 – Chase Edmonds, RB/Arizona Cardinals
448 rushing yards
Edmonds has spent his career as an RB2 in the desert and was barely a blip on most fantasy rosters in 2020. However, he now takes over as the RB1 for the Cardinals, and odds are, his rushing ability will now match his catching ability.
This makes Edmonds a solid dual-threat running back who opponents must watch from all over the field.
Regardless of where he lines up, he’s a threat to pick up positive yardage and score. And while he figures to start the season as a low-end RB1, he may become the most productive player on your roster.
He’s stuck at a size disadvantage, so he’ll probably share the rock for the Arizona Cardinals. But don’t let that deter you from considering Edmonds in the early to middle rounds.
3 – Cam Akers, RB/Los Angeles Rams
You look at his 2020 production and will probably ask why I have Akers listed here over other capable backs. The reason is simple: He really came on strong toward the end of the year. And his playoff production (221 yards, 2 touchdowns) speaks volumes.
Akers is bar-none perhaps the top breakout fantasy football candidate on this list, and you would do well to snag him toward the end of Round 1 or early in Round 2 if others in your league underestimate his value. But hey, that means more for you, right?
Akers will remain part of a committee with Darrell Henderson, but as with Edmonds mentioned in the above section, expect him to receive most of the touches.
4 – Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, TEs/New England Patriots
2020 Statistics (Smith):
2020 Statistics (Henry):
I had to put Smith and Henry together, since they both signed with the New England Patriots in free agency and when paired with the TE-friendly Cam Newton, are both in for major breakout seasons. Not that the two haven’t produced well in the past; they have.
If you’re a fantasy owner who values tight ends, you need to handcuff these two and ignore the jeers you’ll get from fellow owners. Smith and Henry were bar none, the top free agent signings of any team in the NFL this season, given the system Bill Belichick loves to run.
Their presence alone won’t just turn around the stagnant New England offense; they’ll also take your fantasy team to new heights. If you draft one, make sure you draft the other. Especially if you have the last pick in the odd-numbered rounds.
5 – Michael Pittman, WR/Indianapolis Colts
Neither Pittman nor any of the Colts’ receivers produced well in 2020. But that was before they traded for Carson Wentz, who put together MVP-like numbers in 2017 when he had Frank Reich beside him as his offensive coordinator.
Despite Wentz’s poor production in 2020, Indy was the best place for him and you can bet that every offensive player on the Colts will see better production in 2021. Next to their trio of running backs, obviously.
And while the Colts will still win games on the ground, Wentz’s arm and familiarity with the system will lead Pittman into making The Leap as he enters Year 2 of his NFL career.
6 – A.J. Dillon, RB/Green Bay Packers
Dillon remains stuck behind Aaron Jones in Green Bay. But don’t let his position as RB2 on the depth chart fool you. His size makes him a viable fantasy football candidate and with Jamaal Williams gone, he will see more opportunity.
And considering the numbers Williams put up in 2020, it gives you an idea of what to expect from Dillon, which would include at least 500 rushing yards, and perhaps another pair of touchdowns. However, Dillon has a size advantage that will get him onto the field in goal-to-go situations.
That said, expect him to cut into Jones’ carries when the Green Bay Packers approach the goal line, giving him plenty of scoring opportunities.
7 – Logan Thomas, TE/Washington
You can argue that this former quarterback broke out onto the fantasy football scene in 2020 with the numbers he put up. And while that’s true, Thomas now has a legitimate quarterback throwing him the ball in Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Further, Curtis Samuel, a disciple of head coach Ron Rivera, also joins the Washington Football Team and he will further open things for Thomas. Look for even more consistency in Thomas in 2021, and you can expect him to even rival production of George Kittle, Darren Waller, and Travis Kelce.
If there’s ever a sleeper tight end in this year’s fantasy football draft, it’s Logan Thomas.
8 – Laviska Shenault Jr., WR/Jacksonville Jaguars
Shenault was a bright spot on a bad football team in 2020. And like Thomas, Shenault dealt with an array of mediocre quarterbacks. A couple of whom with no business wearing an NFL uniform. Imagine what Shenault will do with Trevor Lawrence under center, since everyone knows he’s going to the Jags.
And while the Jaguars have a good receiver in D.J. Chark along with a few more puzzle pieces, Shenault finds himself in the best position of all of them to make The Leap in 2021. When he does that, he will become one of the most coveted fantasy options in 2022.
But this season, since he’s both a Jaguar and an obscure name, you’ll get him for a steal.
9 – Tee Higgins, WR/Cincinnati Bengals
Higgins was yet another bright spot for a bad football team and like Thomas and Shenault, played well even through poor quarterback play. First, he dealt with catching for a rookie in Joe Burrow. When Burrow went down, he was stuck catching passes from Ryan Finley.
However, Higgins put up numbers that rivaled low-end WR1’s in 2020. With a healthy Joe Burrow heading into his second season, what will Higgins do for an encore presentation? You can expect big numbers from Higgins, especially if the Bengals buckle down and draft a marquee left tackle.
Better yet, Higgins also has a capable WR2 beside him in Tyler Boyd. Boyd also possesses consistency and can take attention off of Higgins, allowing the WR1 with the Cincinnati Bengals to see even more opportunities. If the line improves in front of Burrow, the sky remains the limit for Higgins.
These 9 players (10 when you separate Smith and Henry) are all younger and heading into their prime. Not only have each shown flashes in the past; their teams have now put them in prime position to capitalize. So expect big things from all the above.
And even better, apart from Cam Akers, you can draft each player listed above later than Round 2. Some of whom will fall into the 4th round or later, giving you an outstanding selection of value picks. So gain the edge in your fantasy draft come August and add these players to your queue.
Which players do you think will see a breakout season in fantasy football come 2021? Do you agree with the players listed here, or do you have others on your mind? Let us know in the comments.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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