Every season, breakout stars emerge in fantasy football. Undervalued players can ultimately turn into league-winners. Identifying those players can be just the boost a manager’s roster needs in order to carry them to fantasy football glory.
Let’s consider one player at each position who could well exceed their average draft position (ADP) and ultimately lead their position in 2021 point-per-reception (PPR) leagues.
Quarterback: Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: QB21, 154th overall)
This may be considered an overreaction to one preseason game, but Trey Lance is coming. The beautiful 80-yard dime he delivered against the Kansas City Chiefs appears to just be a sign of things to come.
His natural ability alone is enough to get excited about the former North Dakota State star. Factor in Kyle Shanahan and this innovative 49ers offense, and Lance’s ceiling is through the roof.
Lance’s raw arm talent and rushing ability scream upside. He’s also stepping into the ideal situation for a rookie quarterback. The offense is loaded with talented weapons, including George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk.
The biggest concern is that he likely will not be the Week 1 starter. We don’t know when he’ll take over the reins from Jimmy Garoppolo, but it’s going to happen. If he continues to impress in the preseason, his ADP will skyrocket. Make sure you get your shares.
Running Back: Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team (ADP: RB12, 17th overall)
After being drafted out of the University of Memphis, Antonio Gibson enjoyed a productive rookie season for the Washington Football Team.
On just 170 attempts, he rushed for 795 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 36 passes on 44 targets. Some are underrating him in PPR leagues based on his involvement in the passing game. Few rookie running backs are getting that type of volume out of the gates.
Washington’s offense should be much improved in 2021. Ryan Fitzpatrick is under center, meaning it will be able to open up a bit more. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin and tight end Logan Thomas are looking to take the next step. Curtis Samuel is in town as well.
This team will be able to move the ball, and that should only further benefit Gibson. His carries should increase as he enters a true workhorse role. Another double-digit touchdown season is well within the range of outcomes.
Wide Receiver: Allen Robinson II, Chicago Bears (ADP: WR11, 33rd overall)
Allen Robinson II is one of the most underrated players in the NFL at any position. Maybe it’s because he plays for the Chicago Bears, but he deserves more respect.
He has been dominant the past two seasons with the Bears. The Penn State product recorded back-to-back seasons with more than 150 targets. Opportunity is everything in fantasy football. Robinson’s massive target share should entice all fantasy managers to think twice before they pass up on him.
Inconsistent quarterback play has plagued the Bears offense for the past several seasons, but the outlook looks less bleak in 2021. Andy Dalton is expected to begin the season as the starter. Even at 33 years old, the Red Rifle is a significant upgrade over Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles. Rookie Justin Fields is waiting in the wings, and his presence should make managers even more excited about A-Rob.
“His route running — he’s taken that to the next level, and he’s putting it together with both quarterbacks,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Robinson has produced back-end WR1/high-end WR2 numbers the past two seasons with lesser quarterback play. Expect him to reach new heights in 2021.
Tight End: Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots (ADP: WR16, 134th overall)
After Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and George Kittle, the tight end position can become somewhat of a crapshoot. It is important to draft players with value at their ADP.
Through 11 weeks in 2020, Jonnu Smith was a top-five fantasy tight end. He finished the season with 41 receptions for 448 yards and eight touchdowns on 65 targets. The catch and yardage totals don’t exactly jump off the screen, but his touchdown potential carried his value throughout the season.
The former Florida International standout saw a dip in production during the later weeks of the season due to injuries and poor usage in Tennessee. New England is the perfect destination for him to turn that around. The Patriots are going to use their tight ends. The presence of Hunter Henry shouldn’t scare you off either. There will be plenty of love to go around.
Smith is explosive after the catch, and Josh McDaniels is going to find ways to get the ball in his hands. Once again, opportunity is great for fantasy football.