Fantasy Football 2021: Stock Up, Stock Down After NFL Draft
The 2021 NFL draft has come and gone, which brings us to the only real dead period in the league's year. With few notable free agents remaining and no draft prospects to pore over, there's little to do but sit back and wait for training camps to begin.
That is, unless you're a fantasy football enthusiast. Whether you're a member of a keeper league or a daily fantasy sports fanatic, it's never too early to put in a little prep work.
Now that the draft and the bulk of free agency have passed, it is a perfect time to examine how some fantasy standouts have been affected. Here, we'll look at 10 relevant non-rookies and how their stocks are trending a week after the draft.
Stock Up: Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow wasn't exactly a fantasy star as a rookie, but he showed glimpses of who he can be. In two games against the Cleveland Browns, for example, he threw for 722 yards with six touchdowns and one interception.
But Burrow suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee in Week 11.
The Bengals passed on offensive tackle Penei Sewell with the No. 5 pick—a move that Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski recently criticized in depth—but they did get Burrow some help in the draft. They selected Burrow's former LSU teammate in wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, who had 1,780 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019.
"I'm going to break every record they've got. That's my goal right there," Chase said, per Geoff Hobson of the team's website.
Chase should boost Burrow's statistical production, while second-round pick Jackson Carman and free-agent addition Riley Reiff should improve a line that surrendered 48 sacks last season.
Burrow was on pace for a 4,300-yard, 21-touchdown season when he was injured. With a better line and a new No. 1 target, he should exceed those numbers with ease.
Stock Down: Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
While Joe Burrow will benefit from the addition of Ja'Marr Chase, Bengals wideout Tyler Boyd likely will not—at least in terms of raw statistics.
Boyd emerged as a fantasy-relevant receiver in 2018 with the first of back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns. However, with the addition of 2020 second-round pick Tee Higgins, Boyd's production dropped to 841 yards and four touchdowns last year.
Chase will further eat into Boyd's target share, likely as Cincinnati's new No. 1 receiver. He has preexisting chemistry with Borrow and will likely be his go-to target from day one.
It's highly unlikely Boyd will have another 1,000-yard season this year.
This isn't to say Boyd won't have some fine fantasy outings. But he shouldn't be targeted as a starting option in drafts and will be only a matchup-based play in DFS.
Stock Up: Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts' fantasy stock jumped significantly when the Eagles traded Carson Wentz this offseason. The dual-threat Oklahoma product is now the unquestioned starter and is worth targeting in the middle rounds of most drafts.
However, Hurts' boost didn't just come from his taking the reins. The Eagles took steps to support him in his new role.
Philadelphia used the 10th pick on former Alabama wideout DeVonta Smith, bolstered its offensive line depth with second-round center Landon Dickerson and claimed running back Kerryon Johnson off waivers.
Smith, who was teammates with Hurts before the quarterback transferred from the Crimson Tide, was the big get for the Eagles. He has the potential to be a high-end No. 1 receiver and to make Hurts' job much easier. With Hurts also capable of gobbling up yards on the ground—he rushed for 354 yards as a rookie—he should be targeted as a starting fantasy quarterback.
Stock Down: Hayden Hurst, TE, Atlanta Falcons
While receivers such as Ja'Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith are going to impact the fantasy landscape, the first pass-catcher off the board in the draft wasn't a wideout. The Atlanta Falcons selected Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the fourth pick—making him the first non-quarterback selected.
Pitts is widely considered a generational talent, which is great for the Falcons. It's not so great for the fantasy stock of fellow tight end Hayden Hurst, though.
Hurst, whom Atlanta acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens last offseason, was a starting-caliber fantasy tight end last season. He finished the season with 571 yards and six touchdowns. He ranked 14th in receiving yards and 10th in receptions among tight ends, putting him on the low end of fantasy starters.
With Pitts on the roster, Hurst is unlikely to get the target share needed to justify drafting him to start. He won't disappear completely—tight ends coach Justin Peelle told reporters (h/t Kelsey Conway of the team's website) he plans to utilize two-tight end sets. However, Hurst is only worth targeting as a streamer or in large leagues.
Stock Up: Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
While the Bengals passed on the chance to draft a franchise left tackle for their second-year quarterback, the Los Angeles Chargers did not. They scooped up Northwestern's Rashawn Slater with the 13th pick, a move that should immediately benefit Justin Herbert.
Herbert was a quality fantasy starter as a rookie, passing for 4,336 yards with 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 234 yards and five more scores. By drafting Slater and signing All-Pro center Corey Linsley, the Chargers gave Herbert the protection he will need to be even better.
Los Angeles also drafted wideout Joshua Palmer and tight end Tre' McKitty—who will partner with free-agent addition Jared Cook.
With numerous weapons on the roster and better protection than he had in 2020—he was sacked 32 times—Herbert has the potential to be a top-five fantasy quarterback. Target him early in drafts and consider him a high-value option in DFS.
Stock Down: Cam Newton, QB, New England Patriots
Quarterback Cam Newton was a serviceable streamer in 2020 largely because of his running ability—he had 592 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. When the New England Patriots re-signed him and brought in free agent pass-catchers Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, it felt like Newton might be a viable fantasy starter in 2021.
However, that feeling quickly faded when the Patriots used the 15th pick in the draft on quarterback Mac Jones. The Alabama product won't be handed the starting job, of course, but he's considered a pro-ready prospect who should challenge Newton in camp.
"Jones has the mental processing, accuracy, toughness and enough athleticism to be an above-average-to-good starter at the NFL level, and he can be a contributor early," Nate Tice of the B/R NFL scouting department wrote.
Even if Newton holds off the rookie in training camp, one would think he'll be on a short leash during the season. If Newton again struggles to consistently move the ball through the air, Jones will likely get some playing time.
There's just no way you can draft Newton with any amount of confidence right now. That will change only if he cleanly and clearly beats Jones before the season and projects as a 16-game starter.
Stock Up: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins
Like the Bengals, the Miami Dolphins used their first selection in the draft to reunite their quarterback with one of his former receivers.
2020 No. 5 pick Tua Tagovailoa is the unquestioned starter, and the Dolphins gave him a familiar weapon in former Alabama wideout Jaylen Waddle. He should quickly become one of Tagovailoa's top targets.
With its second pick in the second round, Miami drafted offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg, who should compete for a spot.
Miami had added wideout William Fuller V, center Matt Skura and running back Malcolm Brown in free agency.
After an up-and-down rookie season—he started nine games, played 10 and passed for 1,814 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions—Tagovailoa should have the pieces in place to find success in Year 2. He'll need to show improvement, but Tagovailoa is a potential sleeper to keep an eye on.
Stock Down: DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins
Wide receiver DeVante Parker had a monster fantasy season—72 catches, 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns—two years ago with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback for the Dolphins for 13 games. However, his production dropped dramatically last year with Fitzpatrick and Tua Tagovailoa taking turns at the helm.
In 2020, Parker caught 63 passes for 793 yards and four scores.
A bounce-back season for Parker feels unlikely with both William Fuller V and Jaylen Waddle on board. Those two, along with wideout Preston Williams and tight end Mike Gesicki, will cut into Parker's target share. They were great additions for Tagovailoa—but not so much for Parker.
Parker may still be a serviceable flex option or streamer, but he shouldn't be valued as the 1,200-yard receiver he was.
Stock Up: DJ Chark Jr., WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars' selection of Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 pick was the opposite of a surprise. The Clemson quarterback was pegged as the top prospect in this draft class long before the Jaguars even secured the spot.
Widely considered a can't-miss prospect, Lawrence instantly boosted the fantasy value of wide receiver DJ Chark Jr.
Chark, who had a 1,000-yard Pro Bowl season two years ago, should be back at that level with Lawrence at the controls. The Jaguars lacked quarterback consistency last season—Gardner Minshew II, Jake Luton and Mike Glennon started at least three games apiece—but Lawrence should remedy the issue.
The addition of Lawrence will benefit other Jacksonville pass-catchers too—Marvin Jones Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. will be worth targeting late—but Chark is Jacksonville's No. 1 option and has the potential to be a strong WR2 in most formats.
Stock Down: James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Undrafted free agent James Robinson was a pleasant surprise for the Jaguars last season. He was also a nice grab for fantasy managers, finishing with 1,414 scrimmage yards, 49 receptions and 10 touchdowns. He was particularly valuable in points-per-reception formats.
But Robinson's PPR value took a significant hit when Jacksonville used the 25th pick in the draft on former Clemson running back Travis Etienne. Etienne already has chemistry with Lawrence and should quickly earn playing time as a pass-catching back and change-of-pace option.
"Etienne will be a premier home run hitter in both the running and passing games as soon as he gets to the NFL," Nate Tice of the B/R NFL scouting department wrote.
The presence of Robinson likely means Etienne won't be a workhorse this year, so be careful not to overdraft him. However, the addition of Etienne also means the same for Robinson. Value him as a flex starter or streamer.