Fantasy: 7 bold predictions for 2021

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theScore's Justin Boone delivers some of his bold predictions for the upcoming fantasy season.

Gibson takes the fantasy RB crown

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Not many running backs offer a complete skill set in an offense where they could see enough volume to put them into the conversation as a top-five fantasy producer. The list got even shorter recently when Cam Akers was lost for the season due to an Achilles tear. However, there is another second-year ball carrier ready to punch his ticket into the elite fantasy options at the position: Antonio Gibson. After the coaching staff brought him along slowly at the start of the year, Washington's third-round pick showed signs of being a potential difference-maker before a toe injury caused him to miss time down the stretch. Prior to getting hurt, Gibson averaged the fourth-most fantasy points (21.4) among running backs from Weeks 7-12 despite a limited role in the receiving game. With the team planning to expand his involvement as a pass-catcher, Gibson will challenge Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and others as fantasy's top RB.

Brady finishes top 5 among QBs

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Last season, a 43-year-old Tom Brady posted the 12th-most fantasy points per game and took his new Buccaneers team all the way to a Super Bowl win. It seems hard to believe, but one could argue that his second go-around in Tampa Bay could be even better. It took Brady, his teammates, and coaches time to get on the same page early in the year, and that showed as the unit gelled down the stretch. Over his final seven regular-season contests, he averaged the fifth-most fantasy points among all quarterbacks. While many fantasy managers are directing their attention toward dual-threat passers, don't sleep on the GOAT setting new career highs in 2021.

Thielen no longer a fantasy starter

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Adam Thielen finished last year as a top-12 fantasy wideout largely thanks to his 14 touchdown receptions, which tied for fourth-most in the NFL. Unfortunately, regression is coming for that total. If his trips to the end zone were cut in half to seven last season (he only scored seven times or more twice in his career), Thielen would have fallen from WR11 in fppg to WR27. There are also concerns over his yardage (he's been held under 60 yards in 17 of his last 25 games), age (turns 31 in August), and health (multiple soft-tissue injuries in the last two years). With Justin Jefferson emerging as the Vikings' new top target, Thielen is about to become a much more inconsistent fantasy asset.

Williams, Sermon power fantasy title runs

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Javonte Williams and Trey Sermon are exciting rookie backs with clear paths to fantasy production in their debut campaigns. It's only a matter of time before they usurp the veteran starters in their backfields, but the most intriguing aspect of their fantasy outlooks pertains to the schedule. The Broncos and 49ers rank second and 11th, respectively, in our fantasy running back strength of schedule metric for 2021. An even closer look reveals two incredibly soft playoff schedules. Denver faces the Lions, Bengals, Raiders, and Chargers from Weeks 14-17, while San Francisco gets the Bengals, Falcons, Titans, and Texans during that time. Seven of those eight opponents graded out in the bottom half of the league in Football Outsiders' run defense DVOA last year.

All 3 Cowboys WRs land in top 24

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It wouldn't surprise anyone if Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb pick up where they left off with a healthy Dak Prescott. However, people might not realize how close Michael Gallup was to becoming a fantasy WR2 early last season. Prior to Prescott's injury in Week 5, the Cowboys quarterback averaged over 40 pass attempts per game and was supporting Cooper (WR3), Lamb, (WR14), and Gallup (WR30) as viable fantasy starters. Dallas' defense doesn't project to turn things around in one year, so we can expect more shootouts and plenty of volume through the air from the Cowboys.

Pitts breaks Ditka's rookie tight end record

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Mike Ditka holds the record for most yards by a rookie tight end (1,076), set in 1961. The closest any player has come to catching him is Jeremy Shockey's 894 yards for the Giants in 2002. In fact, we've generally accepted that first-year tight ends enter the league quietly before developing into stars after a couple seasons ... but not Kyle Pitts. The Falcons' fourth overall pick is the best prospect we've ever seen at the position, and with Julio Jones traded away, Pitts will be called upon to step into an immediate pass-catching role alongside top wideout Calvin Ridley. Pitts putting up 700 yards in his debut season would be a success, but he's going to do far more than that. He'll break fantasy football molds in Arthur Smith's tight end-friendly system and topple Ditka's previously unattainable mark.

Fitzpatrick sneaks into top 12

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It's easy to forget, but before being benched in favor of first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa last year in Miami, Ryan Fitzpatrick was averaging the 12th-most fantasy points at his position through six weeks. That includes two bad outings against the Patriots and Seahawks where he threw no touchdowns and five total interceptions. His aggressive style of play comes with plenty of risk, but the veteran joins a Washington team that threw the ninth-most pass attempts in 2020. With a strong cast around him on both sides of the ball, the 38-year-old will surprise fantasy managers this season.

Fantasy: 7 bold predictions for 2021
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