2021 is a stacked free agency class for the WR position, meaning a lot of options on the market, here we explore the fantasy impacts. If you were following the headlines a week or so ago, every premier wide-out was getting franchise-tagged. This of course would prevent them from hitting the open market. The end result of this media whirlwind? Two tags;
- Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
- Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
That means that all of these big-name wide receivers (and more) will become unrestricted free agents on March 17 (let the chaos commence);
- Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers
- A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
- Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
- Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions
- Will Fuller, Houston Texans
- T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
- Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Antonio Brown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans
In terms of fantasy football, the dust has yet to settle. A lot our pre-draft boards, dynasty ranks, and overall decision-making at WR will be contingent on the next couple months (as always), but let’s get a bit of a head start anyway.
Larry Fitzgerald is still mulling retirement, but he was never a consideration for a franchise-tag in the first place. He will either re-sign or hang up the cleats. I could always see Arizona in the mix to try and add weapons though… Kliff Kingsbury can’t help himself.
No change, still the Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley show as of now.
I expect the Baltimore Ravens to target at least one wide receiver for Lamar Jackson through free agency or the draft. Currently, Willie Snead and Dez Bryant are both free agents.
No change, business as usual next season for Stefon Diggs and company.
D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson stock on the RISE with Curtis Samuel’s 97 targets and 118 total touches in 2020 now in limbo. You have to assume that offensive coordinator Joe Brady wants to bring in a replacement for his dual-threat slot-man (if they can’t get him back), but there are very few players out there that can do what Samuel does, and a rookie or a downgrade as Carolina’s WR3 only boosts Moore and Robby higher in fantasy.
It’s unclear who the quarterback of the Chicago Bears will be in 2021, but an Allen Robinson return would really help whomever that may be. A-Rob can still be traded, so let’s not lock this one in just yet, but as of now the Bears are clinging to their main offensive star for dear life.
Say what you want about A.J. Green (and I’ve had plenty negative to say over the years), but he gets his targets when on the field (6.5 per game in 2020). Assuming he signs elsewhere, it will be weird seeing Green in another uniform, but it will be fantastic for Tee Higgins in particular. Tyler Boyd will always get his looks in the slot, but Higgins is more of a natural replacement for Green, and the Sophomore could have a breakout season with A.J. gone and Joe Burrow healthy. Also would like to note that Auden Tate is currently the WR3 on this roster with John Ross, Mike Thomas and Alex Erickson all free agents. That is unlikely to hold, but when Tate has gotten opportunities in the past he has always been a sneaky fantasy performer in PPR leagues.
Are the Cleveland Browns now BUYERS in this wide receiver market? It really depends on Odell Beckham Jr. and if they plan on shopping him. Rashard Higgins is a free agent as well, and may look to cash in on his run of success towards the end of the season. I believe this puts the Browns open for business.
No change, Dallas is set at wide receiver, they need to put their focus elsewhere.
The Denver Broncos should be fine with a young core of a healthy Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler and Tim Patrick (expected to re-sign). The latter three do decline in stock upon Sutton’s return.
If there ever was a nuclear fallout at a single position for an NFL franchise, we are currently witnessing it at WR in Detroit. After deciding not to tag Kenny Golladay or any other wide receiver (Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Mohamed Sanu, Jamal Agnew all free agents), the Lions are left with Quintez Cephus, 2020 opt-out Geronimo Allison, and recent signing Tyrell Williams on the roster. Both Cephus and Williams offer some sleeper (or bounce-back) potential, but we’ll have to wait and see how Detroit supplements their ranks. Jared Goff just went from Los Angeles weather, Sean McVay’s playbook, and his plethora of weapons to this mess… good luck.
Green Bay Packers
Allen Lazard is the most important free agent at wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, but in a way his replacement might already be on the roster with Devin Funchess ready to make good on his one year contract (2020 opt-out). Aaron Rodgers and the entire fantasy football world would probably love to see the Packers as WR BUYERS for once, but until they actually prove they are willing to spend money on offensive weapons, I wouldn’t count on it.
Will Fuller was not really thought to be a franchise-tag option, unless Houston wanted to tag-and-trade their speedy but often-injured wide receiver. They didn’t even decide to do that, leaving the fantasy spotlight on Brandin Cooks. The former Los Angeles Ram LIT UP the statsheet the final two weeks of 2020 (without Fuller), grabbing 18 receptions for 307 yards and three touchdowns. Of course, Cooks’ value hinges pretty heavily on Deshaun Watson’s status, but assuming Watson stays AND plays, you want Cooks in 2021. Keke Coutee and Chad Hansen also played well after Fuller’s suspension and Randall Cobb’s injury, but Cobb should be back and we’ll see if they go after anyone else.
As anticipated, T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal are now unrestricted free agents. The Colts have the cap space to do something big at wide receiver for Carson Wentz, but there’s just no inclination of what that may be just yet. For now, Michael Pittman and Parris Campbell have positive fantasy outlooks heading into the new campaign.
Many people like Curtis Samuel for Jacksonville (including me), due to his Urban Meyer ties from college and their ample cap space. With Keelan Cole, Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook all set to hit the open market, now is the perfect time for Meyer to shape his offensive core. D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault and Collin Johnson remain a part of the core for the time being.
Kansas City Chiefs
I see no reason that Sammy Watkins signs elsewhere. He seems to like his cushy position with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, assuming they want him back. Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle are the wildcards here. Both have displayed potential, and I doubt either would re-sign if offered more money to play elsewhere. In terms of fantasy, we’ll continue to grasp at the straws of any player that enters the vicinity of Mahomes, and that won’t change in 2021.
Los Angeles Chargers
The only team with not one single free agent wide receiver, but that doesn’t mean they won’t look to build around Keenan Allen. This is a new offense with a new playbook and coaching staff.
Los Angeles Rams
The major switch-up at quarterback shook the league over a month ago. Matthew Stafford is now Sean McVay’s man, so we’ll likely see a boost in Stafford stock over the next few months. In terms of receivers, Josh Reynolds is the only free agent that the Los Angeles Rams currently have to worry about.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders have made it clear that they would like Nelson Agholor back, but Zay Jones and him are currently free agents. This was a tough unit to rely on in 2020, with sporadic results throughout the year. Based on the current reconstruction being done on the Raiders offensive line, I’m already scared to trust this group again in 2021.
BIG-TIME BUYERS, and they have not been shy about it. Golladay is just one name that we have seen connected to the Miami Dolphins. Assuming they do bring in at least one star wide-out whether via the draft or free agency, DeVante Parker and Preston Williams stock could plummet (SELL NOW).
No change, not much going on besides Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson in Minnesota.
New England Patriots
You have to believe that the New England Patriots will be BUYERS at WR this offseason (Julian Edelman/N’Keal Harry stock DOWN), but the other issue is the quarterback under center. Right now the mindset from most fans I know seems to be ANYBODY BUT CAM. Will this offense actually throw the ball again in 2021? A question you probably want answered before you draft or hold onto any Pats wide receivers.
New Orleans Saints
As I’m writing this, Emmanuel Sanders has been cut. The New Orleans Saints may not have the cap space to sign another wide-out, meaning Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith and Marquez Callaway/Deonte Harris stock is UP, so long as Taysom Hill is not the starting quarterback.
New York Giants
Like Miami, the New York Giants have made it clear they are BUYERS at wide receiver this offseason. Golden Tate has already been released to make some room for one of the veterans that went un-tagged (Golladay/Samuel rumored as targets). An acquisition like Golladay could certainly hurt Darius Slayton or Sterling Shepard in fantasy, while a slot acquisition may help this offense all-around.
New York Jets
Another probable BUYER at wide receiver, the New York Jets have been tied to Smith-Schuster, Fuller and Robinson before his tag. Free agent Breshad Perriman is not getting re-signed (98 percent sure), while Vyncint and Jeff Smith might. Either way it’s Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder at the top of this group for now, but there’s a good chance that changes in the coming months. Wait-and-see.
Another receiver room that could go up in fantasy football flames if you light a match. I personally can’t trust any of these guys, especially with a question mark at quarterback (the run-friendly Jalen Hurts or someone else?) and a brand new playbook as Nick Sirianni takes over.
As predicted, the Pittsburgh Steelers will let JuJu walk as they ALWAYS do. Chase Claypool was so obviously his draft replacement that I think even Smith-Schuster knew it deep down, like Antonio Brown once suspected about him. It’s the Steelers M.O.; no long-term deals, replenish through the draft. Claypool, Diontae Johnson and James Washington all get a fantasy boost.
San Francisco 49ers
Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor hitting the market may not be earth-shattering news, but it does provide a slight bump for Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. The less competition on this roster for these two young studs the better, but who will be the signal-caller running this offense in 2021?
The supporting cast is currently up in the air (David Moore, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett all free agents), but this offense still revolves around Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf and of course Russell Wilson, who they must work on cheering up. Word is a possible Golden Tate reunion could become a reality.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Super Bowl Champs basically chose Chris Godwin over Shaq Barrett, not Antonio Brown. I can’t see AB signing anywhere else based on his relationship with Tom Brady and the way the rest of the league fears his darkside. This core isn’t changing whatsoever in 2021… unless they trade for OBJ *gulp*.
Corey Davis had a 78.7 percent snap share in 2020, 23.1 percent target share and 92 targets total in a run-first offense. He was a HUGE part of this Tennessee Titans unit. Adam Humphries and Kalif Raymond are also available, so this group could change dramatically around A.J. Brown in 2021. Right now, it’s all solid news for him and Derrick Henry, but they do need help or else they’ll find themselves facing double-teams and stacked boxes on every down next season.
Washington Football Team
Definitely in the market to build around Terry McLaurin with Cam Sims set to become a free agent. While a big-name signing could take away from McLaurin’s share, a complementary piece could help alleviate some of the pressure from coverage. Former Ron Rivera draft pick Samuel might be the perfect fit for Terry and Washington Football Team.
But what do you think of the 2021 WR Market? R