By Kevin Long
The longest season of the National Football League is upon us, bringing with it the longest season of fantasy football ever seen. Emerging young stars and proven veterans alike will be competing for the coveted Lombardi in an 18-week gauntlet which will undoubtedly shake the fantasy scene.
I will be guiding fantasy managers at the College through this extended year. Over the course of the season I will be providing my recommendations on players that you should look at in order to build the perfect lineup and bring home the championship.
Every matchup, every injury and every potential waiver wire steal will be looked over meticulously to bring you the best advice on a weekly basis. I hope to bring a level of quality which outpaces that of the paid services which look to siphon money in exchange for mediocre and biased picks which rarely pan out. With that said, I will kick off my preseason start and sit list heading into week one of the regular season.
Matt Ryan (Vs. PHI)
Finishing last season as QB12 puts Matt Ryan just outside most people’s top picks for smaller leagues. But I expect to see him put up significant numbers in week one against the Eagles. The departure of Julio Jones does hinder Ryan’s ceiling, but the addition of TE Kyle Pitts and breakout star WR Calvin Ridley set this QB for success. If the Falcons’ poor defense in 2020 is anything to go off of, expect the Falcons to lean on Ryan and the passing game in 2021.
Myles Gaskin (Vs. NE)
Largely overlooked last season due to injury and Covid-19, Gaskin looks to return to his early 2020 form by becoming the Dolphins’ RB1. Between Tua finding his footing in the pros, and the strong secondary the Pats have between stars Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson, expect to see Gaskin a lot in week one. Miami features some studs in their WR corps and even at TE, but I still anticipate seeing Miami turn to Gaskin for the season opener.
Terry McLaurin (Vs. LAC)
Scary Terry made a name for himself last season. Even with the shaky QB play of the WFT, newly acquired QB Ryan Fitzpatrick just might be what he needed to join the ranks of the elite. Fitzpatrick brings with him safe pocket passer QB play that has been missing between players like Dwayne Haskins and Taylor Heinicke. His ability to top 1,000 yards without an elite QB speaks volumes for his potential fantasy value in 2021.
Mark Andrews (Vs. LV)
Despite his firm position in the top five, TE Mark Andrews has seen a unanimous decrease in stock going into the 2021 season due to WR additions Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins. But Baltimore has been dealing with injuries at the WR position as all three starting receivers have been missing time during camp, including Bateman, who is expected to miss multiple weeks following groin surgery. Couple this with the Raven’s TE2 Nick Boyle working his way back from injury, and it becomes clear why Andrews could emerge as a top three or higher TE this season.
Dak Prescott (Vs. TB)
Even though Dak will likely be the comeback player of the year, there is just too much risk surrounding Dallas’ star QB. The media has urged fans to trust that the issues in the shoulder of his throwing arm are overblown, and that his leg is healed completely, but this has yet to be seen on the field. Prescott’s huge upside is worth mentioning, but tread lightly considering Tampa’s stacked defense.
Kareem Hunt (Vs. KC)
Hunt is a valuable flex player and a great addition to any roster, but this is a matchup where Hunt likely won't see enough action to justify starting him. The Chiefs’ dominant passing game generally keeps opponents from establishing the run early on, forcing offensive coordinators to pass the ball just to keep up with Mahomes, Hill and Kelce. I suggest plugging a different player into your flex slot this week.
Julio Jones (Vs. AZ)
Julio Jones is a dominant WR. But now Jones is going to be competing with rising star A.J. Brown for targets on a run-first Titans offense led by Derrick Henry. Combine this with potential injury concerns which hindered Jones’ production last season, and there is a case for benching this Canton-bound WR. His flex value remains, but it is best to observe the Titan’s offense in week one and see how much Jones is utilized in comparison to Brown.
Zach Ertz/Dallas Goedert (Vs. ATL)
Philadelphia has been the center of a potentially overblown QB controversy as sophomore Jalen Hurts gains his footing in the NFL. The bigger question is who will be the team’s TE1, if anyone. For this reason, I cannot suggest using either Philadelphia TE. Although both have the potential to produce, neither has shown they will be able to do so consistently in 2021. It is best to wait and see who Hurts comes to prefer targeting.