With the 2020 fantasy football season in the books, let’s look forward to the future and next season. Our analysts each reveal one lesson they learned that they’ll be applying in 2021.
In on 2021 rookie WR class
Andy Behrens: We’re coming off a season in which rookie Justin Jefferson finished as the overall WR6 and both Chase Claypool and CeeDee Lamb ranked inside the position’s top-20. The year before, A.J. Brown was the WR15 in his first NFL season. There was a time when we all assumed rookie receivers were destined to struggle, but changing offensive concepts at the college and pro levels have clearly altered the learning curve. It seems pretty clear the 2021 draft class at receiver is loaded, particularly at the top, so we’re going to need to be aggressive in pursuit of Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, et al. Whatever anti-rookie notions you’ve held, it’s time to scrap ‘em.
Changing direction at running back
Dalton Del Don: I won’t be quite as stubborn when it comes to going heavy RBs early in drafts next year. Running back remains the most important position in fantasy football by far but also the riskiest; if for no other reason than a sudden role change can completely flip an RB’s fantasy value, and those roles are too often decided by irrational head coaches. I’m not going to go full “Zero RB” next season, but it’s possible I complete a draft without selecting a running back with my first three (or even four) picks, unlike in 2020.
You can’t always play the waiting game
Liz Loza: I was reminded in 2020 that fantasy is a win-now proposition. Occupying a roster spot with a player because of what *might* happen hinders maneuverability and optionality in the moment. Jonathan Taylor became a beast down the stretch, averaging over 20 touches and 116 scrimmage yards between Weeks 11-16. I’m sure he won more than a few fantasy titles for people with his five consecutive top-15 efforts. I’m also sure he didn’t begin the season on those championship teams. While patience remains a virtue, decisiveness is key.
Time to be more proactive at QB
Scott Pianowski: For most of my fantasy years, I’ve been agnostic at the quarterback position, secure in the depth of the spot and confident I could do well without a heavy investment of draft capital. But seeing how youth and athleticism have shaped the position and spiked the scoring, I think it’s important to be more proactive with quarterback selecting next year. I’m still unlikely to shop at the top of the market, but I’d like to get some swings in a tier high enough where it’s possible I still land someone in the Top 3-5 finishing slots. I embraced some of this mindset for 2020, though my Russell Wilson picks collapsed late (Kyler Murray, who had a similar in ADP, was the right answer). Next year, I’ll probably turn more emphatically into the new reality, for whatever January resolutions mean to you.
Let the WR talent fall to you
Matt Harmon: It was a common thought during fantasy draft season and the actual games seemed to bear it out, the depth at wide receiver is more appealing than ever. The 2018 and especially the 2019 draft classes brought us unforeseen new options at the position. The 2019 class stars of today and tomorrow like D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Diontae Johnson and Terry McLaurin all made the leap. 2018 guys like Calvin Ridley D.J. Moore continued to establish themselves. When we draft in August of this year, we’ll also have the 2020 class of wideouts to pick from. Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins and so many more broke out as rookies while some of their peers could easily take the next step in 2021. With all the quality options to pick from at wide receiver, value picks will be pushed down the fantasy draft board. It feels like a lock that I’ll advise taking your shots at running back early and chasing an elite tight end like Travis Kelce or George Kittle and then plucking from the stocked cupboard of wide receivers in the mid-rounds.