Fantasy Football 2021: Players Who Will Thrive in New Roles

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 20, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Players Who Will Thrive in New Roles

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The fantasy football landscape feels like it changed more than usual during the 2021 NFL offseason. 

    While free agency and the draft overhauled some rosters, unexpected developments like the Atlanta Falcons trading Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans also shuffled the fantasy decks. That has only made it harder for fantasy managers to predict which players will post the biggest fantasy numbers this season. 

    The long list of new faces in new places could include some league-winners. Below, we'll look at a handful of players on new teams set to benefit the most based on opportunity, schematic fit and more. 

    The following players should thrive in their new homes, exceeding their average draft position and offering fantasy managers great value. 

Kenny Golladay, WR, New York Giants

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Injuries limited Kenny Golladay to only five games last season, which made him a fantasy bust. He was coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and racked up 16 combined touchdowns over those two years, but he burned managers who selected him with an early-round pick.

    He should be right back in the WR1 conversation after signing a four-year, $72 million contract with the New York Giants in free agency, though.

    While Golladay is going from Matthew Stafford to Daniel Jones at quarterback, he's joining an offense that desperately needs a No. 1 receiver. Last year, Jones targeted three different pass-catchers at least 90 times, but none of them managed more than 66 catches or three touchdowns.

    Sheer volume alone should help Golladay post huge numbers, especially while defenses worry about Saquon Barkley in the backfield. He might not reach his 11-touchdown mark from 2019, but he's poised to outplay his ADP of 5.12, which makes him the 21st receiver coming off the board at the moment. 

Corey Davis, WR, New York Jets

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    While the New York Jets didn't get Kenny Golladay in free agency, they did sign former Tennessee Titans receiver Corey Davis to a three-year, $37.5 million contract.

    Fantasy managers who are willing to roll the dice on Davis could profit. 

    Davis is currently the 50th receiver off the board with an ADP of 12.01 even though he's fresh off a career-best season with 984 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He did so on a Titans offense that ran the ball 521 times compared to 485 passing attempts, and a team-high 106 of those targets went to A.J. Brown.

    The Jets don't have a Derrick Henry to run their offense through (nor do most teams), and Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims aren't likely to steal Davis' thunder. Since Davis figures to become a safety net for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, it wouldn't be surprising if he exceed the career-high 112 targets he received with the Titans in 2018.

    Davis has burned fantasy managers in the past, as have rookie passers. But he's on the developmental upswing and is joining an offense that should give him more targets. 

Curtis Samuel, WR, Washington Football Team

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Curtis Samuel was an unreliable fantasy option for most of his four-year tenure with the Carolina Panthers, as it was impossible to predict how many touches he'd get in an underwhelming passing attack.

    His fantasy outlook should be far easier to project in Washington.

    While Samuel hauled in 14 receiving touchdowns over the past three seasons, he topped 100 targets only once in that span. He never had more than 20 carries until last season, either, even though versatility is his primary calling card. 

    As the 45th receiver off the board with an ADP of 11.01, Samuel should now benefit from having veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick under center in Washington. He'll also be in an offense where Terry McLaurin should be the only player who outpaces him in targets.

    Washington figures to use Samuel all over the formation, keep him on the field as much as possible and give him a career-high number of carries, too. Even if he loses some of his previous target share, he should more than make up for it as a runner considering he's averaging 6.6 yards per carry across his career. 

Mike Davis, RB, Atlanta Falcons

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Mike Davis didn't generate many headlines when he signed with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, but keen fantasy football managers probably took notice. 

    The journeyman tailback filled in admirably last season for Carolina Panthers star Christian McCaffrey, who went down early in the year with an ankle injury. In 12 starts, Davis piled up 638 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 163 carries and 46 receptions for 265 yards and two touchdowns. 

    Davis is now joining a pass-happy Atlanta offense that revamped its running backs room by letting Todd Gurley II (195 rushing attempts last year), Brian Hill (100) and Ito Smith (63) leave in free agency. Fantasy managers aren't buying in yet, though, he's currently the 27th running back coming off the board at a 5.06 ADP.

    Opportunity often equals production at running back, and Davis should lead Atlanta in rushing. He could also reach another career-high mark in targets as the Falcons look to spread it around after the departure of Julio Jones. 

Gerald Everett, TE, Seattle Seahawks

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Gerald Everett didn't move the needle much for fantasy managers over his four seasons in a spread-it-around Los Angeles Rams attack. However, he appears to be in line for far more work after jumping across the NFC West to the Seattle Seahawks this offseason.

    "Oh, I think you're going to be really excited to see Gerald Everett," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said on 710 ESPN Seattle's Danny and Gallant show.  "... This is I think the fanciest, sweetest-looking receiver/tight end mix that we've had. He's like a wide receiver, he's got terrific after-the-catch run ability, really aggressive, and he's a good blocker, too."

    Everett has never received more than 62 targets in a season, but he seems headed well past that mark in 2021. Will Dissly looks like his main positional competition, but the veteran missed 22 games between the 2018 and 2019 seasons and received only 29 targets despite playing all 16 games last year.

    While DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett will absorb a majority of Seattle's targets, Jimmy Graham set Seahawks records at tight end with 923 yards in 2016 and 10 scores in 2017. If Everett flirts with that type of production, he'll vastly exceed his 14.06 ADP, as he's currently the 20th tight end off the board.

Julio Jones, WR, Tennessee Titans

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Julio Jones may be the most notable new face in a new place for fantasy purposes.

    After Jones requested a trade earlier in the year, the Atlanta Falcons sent him to the Tennessee Titans in early June. Between Tennessee's run-heavy scheme and Jones' injury history, fantasy managers don't seem enthused about the move, as he's currently the 13th wideout being drafted and has an ADP of 4.03.

    However, fantasy managers might want to reconsider letting Jones fall that far. 

    Although the 32-year-old played in only nine games last year, he missed no more than two games in each of the 2014 through 2019 seasons. He finished with at least 1,300 receiving yards in all six of those seasons, and he had at least six receiving touchdowns in all but one. 

    In Tennessee, Jones will benefit from defenses having to load the box to stop star running back Derrick Henry. Although he'll be splitting targets with A.J. Brown, the Titans have plenty up for grabs after the offseason departures of Corey Davis (92 targets), Jonnu Smith (65) and Adam Humphries (35).

    Even if Jones doesn't rack up 1,300-plus receiving yards and six touchdowns this year, he'll still have games in which he single-handedly wins fantasy matchups. If defenses prioritize slowing down Henry and Brown, he's bound to outperform his ADP.


    Average draft positions are current as of Sunday and courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.