Mercifully, the NFL preseason has come to an end and fantasy winners and losers have emerged. This marks the beginning of fantasy football season. For as boring as the yearly exhibition games tend to be, the fantasy world is often heavily impacted by them. The 2021 season will be no different.
The 49ers Offense
Under the guidance of Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers will always have a formidable offense, especially in the running game. The creativity that the play-caller so often shows will only be amplified by rookie quarterback Trey Lance. This was put on full display in San Fransico’s preseason games as Lance threw touchdowns down the field while also running for a score.
Simply, Lance is a much more dynamic option than Jimmy Garoppolo. This helps the skill positions as well. Wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk will get many more opportunities down the field. Of course, George Kittle will be a force to be reckoned with no matter who is under center.
Backup Running Backs
Sadly, injuries to star players are commonplace this time of the year. This season, it was the running back position that got hit the hardest. With Travis Etienne, J.K. Dobbins, and Cam Akers all suffering season-ending injuries, it’s the next man up for those teams.
For the Jaguars, 2020 fantasy star James Robinson once again owns the Jacksonville backfield. In Baltimore and Los Angeles, Gus Edwards and Darrell Henderson are in line for RB1 duties. Whether these ball carriers can truly carry the load for their teams remains to be seen, but fantasy owners must now adjust their boards accordingly.
With Michael Thomas on the PUP list for the first five games, Jameis Winston will be low on receiving targets in New Orleans. Enter Marquez Callaway. The 2020 UDFA had just 21 catches for 213 yards last season but consistently flashed this preseason.
The last time we saw Winston in a starting role, he showed the ability to make not just one but two wideouts fantasy relevant. The bonus is that Callaway and Winston already have a great connection after hooking up for many big plays this year.
With so many electrifying performances from rookie quarterbacks, some vets were bound to be put on the hot seat. None more so than Cam Newton, who lost his spot on the roster altogether. For passers such as Andy Dalton and Jimmy Garoppolo, their starting jobs are still intact, for now. Both Justin Fields and Trey Lance put on a show this preseason and all the veterans could do was watch. These three guys were really only in play for superflex and two-QB leagues but will all likely be on the bench by season’s end.
To put it plainly, Ja’Marr Chase may have been the worst wide receiver in the entire preseason. Drafted with the #5 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, the Bengals intended to recreate the magic he had at LSU with QB Joe Burrow.
So far, it has been anything but magical. Chase was targeted 5 times and recorded 4 drops. Some predicted that Chase would win Rookie of the Year, and yours truly was one of them, but he may not even be heavily involved initially. Chase is a very talented wide receiver so it is likely that he will figure it out eventually. But for the time being, be wary.
Almost yearly it seems we discuss how Chris Carson is due for regression. Turns out, we’re doing it again in 2021. After an injury-plagued season in 2020 that saw Carson finish with just 681 rushing yards, Seattle opted to keep four other running backs. Do the Seahawks not trust Carson to be healthy again in 2021? It’s a fair question.
At his ceiling, Carson can provide solid returns as the lead back in an explosive offense. However, buyer beware as his injury history could come back to bite him again.
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