Every week this season, our Yahoo fantasy football crew has revealed their boldest predictions for the action ahead. With most league championships having been settled already, let’s look forward to the future and next season. It’s time to get bold for 2021!
Antonio Gibson will be a top-three RB
Matt Harmon: You wanted bold, right? Well, there you go. Everything is perfectly set up for Gibson to be the second-year back that takes the leap from strong rookie season to true fantasy monster. For one, he was a baller in 2020. We know he was on a torrid touchdown run before he got injured early in Washington’s win over Pittsburgh in Week 13. He still ranks sixth among running backs with 26 broken tackles. Despite his lack of a collegiate rushing resume, he ran with excellent power, sustained drives, and punched in scoring chances near the goal line. Also, the offensive environment is solid in Washington if the team upgrades at quarterback. The offensive line outperformed expectations, there is an ascending alpha receiver in Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas is emerging at tight end. With a progressive offensive system already installed, this unit could take a leap as a whole in 2021.
Gibson just needs to build on his pass-catching role, which is no lock with JD McKissic on a two-year deal but reasonable to hope for considering his history as a receiver, and he’s got the profile of a clear RB1 in fantasy.
Dak Prescott won’t miss a beat in return
Andy Behrens: It may feel like a lifetime ago that Dak Prescott was mercilessly shredding defenses, piling up passing stats at a historic clip. But I assure you, that was actually 2020. Four weeks into the season, Prescott was averaging 422.5 passing yards per game — miles ahead of the pace necessary to break the single-season yardage record. If you'd drafted him in a fantasy league, you had every reason to believe you had a league-winner at the top of your roster.
And then the injury hit, upending your plans (and those of the Cowboys). I'd just like to remind you that Prescott's situation in 2021, assuming a return to Dallas, will be every bit as favorable as the one he experienced this year. His receiving corps is of the highest quality and his team's defense is not. Dak may not run quite like Kyler Murray or Lamar Jackson, but he's plenty effective near the goal-line, a strong candidate for a half-dozen rushing scores. He has a clear shot to finish as the overall QB1 in 2021.
Cam Akers has elite upside in 2021
Dalton Del Don: It was a frustrating year if you drafted Rams fantasy backs, but Cam Akers emerged as the team’s clear feature RB before suffering a high-ankle sprain (that he played a whole second-half through, when Darrell Henderson saw zero snaps). The rookie took awhile to get comfortable in LA’s system, but Akers impressed down the stretch. He has a lot of upside moving forward in a rushing attack DVOA ranked No. 1 this season and in a role that allowed Todd Gurley to lead the NFL in touchdowns from 2017-19. Hopefully a modest rookie season that ended prematurely keeps Akers’ ADP suppressed in 2021, when he finishes as a top-five fantasy back.
Noah Fant ready for breakout campaign
Scott Pianowski: The first thing I want to implore of people is not to eliminate the tight end position in 2021. Kickers to the curb, okay, I can see it. Defense dumped, or at least reformed, I’ll take the conversation. But just because 2020 was a year about one dominant tight end, one very good one, and a bunch of meh is not a reason to dumb down our game. Don’t do it. Let’s not be reactionary.
And heck, tight end breakouts are fun. Remember George Kittle in 2018, or Mark Andrews last year? Let’s see if we can find someone to fit the suit.
I’ll be proactive with Noah Fant, stepping into his third season. Call him a top-four tight end. I get that the Broncos are loaded with excellent skill talent and Drew Lock remains a sketchy quarterback, but that will keep the draft price down. While young wideouts commonly hit the ground running in the current NFL, tight end is a slower onboard, a more-nuanced position. Fant has a first-round pedigree and certainly passes the eye test, even if his efficiency dropped in 2020. He’ll be one of my favorite middle-round targets next year.
Logan Thomas becomes a top-five TE
Liz Loza: There are plenty of narratives surrounding the Washington Football Team. Obviously, the emergence of a dominant defense is chief among them. However, the offense is also building something special with Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, and Logan Thomas developing into a capable nucleus.
Thomas is still new to the tight end position. He transitioned from playing quarterback in 2016. Now he’s coming off of a 100-plus target season in which he’s run an average of 35 routes per game (TE2, ahead of Darren Waller and Mark Andrews). Regardless of who has been under center, Thomas has produced. He’s top-three in receptions (4.6/gm) and top-seven in completed air yards. Those numbers are a testament to his plus athleticism and an ability to successfully apply his pre-existing knowledge of route concepts. It’s even more impressive when factoring in the range of QB skill sets he’s dealt with over 2020. He is TE6 in a season where the position has been full of injuries and disappointments. Get ready for him to show even more next season. 2021 Fearless Forecast: 79 receptions for 802 yards and seven touchdowns.