Predicting fantasy football sleepers for the 2021 NFL season

Fantasy football sleepers for 2021 NFL season: Wide receivers

These wide receivers could help propel your team into fantasy football championships.

DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles

DeVonta Smith had 117 receptions, 1,856 yards, and 23 touchdowns last season for Alabama. He became the first receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since 1991 and just the third receiver ever to win the prestigious award. He became one of three Heisman Trophy winners in Alabama history, joining Mark Ingram (2009) and Derrick Henry (2015). Additionally, Smith holds the SEC and Crimson Tide records for career receiving yards (3,965) and touchdowns (46).

He will operate as the No. 1 receiver of an already young Eagles receiver core. The combined career numbers for Philadelphia’s receivers are 181 receptions, 2,135 yards, and 14 touchdowns. Smith is in a perfect position to see over 120 targets from quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos

Jeudy disappointed many fantasy managers last season. Context is important and shouldn’t be overlooked. COVID-19 impacted Jeudy’s rookie season. The lack of offseason workouts did not allow him to acclimate to the NFL game, and most importantly, develop chemistry with quarterback Drew Lock.

Jeudy will be catching passes from Lock or offseason addition Teddy Bridgewater in 2021. He’s also playing alongside receiver Courtland Sutton. Jeudy is shaping up to be a nice value in fantasy drafts this summer. Many expect that Sutton will lead the Broncos in targets, but I disagree. I view Sutton and Jeudy as 1A and 1B. Both will see similar target volume.

Henry Ruggs, Las Vegas Raiders

Ruggs was the first wide receiver selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. He dealt with injuries and only finished with 26 receptions for 452 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns in 13 games. It is worth noting that 35% of Ruggs’ target share came on deep throws.

Nelson Agholor ultimately finished with the statistical production we expected from Ruggs and signed with the Patriots during free agency. The Raiders have 120 available targets entering this season, although they did sign WR John Brown.

Ruggs could see around 90 targets in 2021 as tight end Darren Waller continues to lead Las Vegas in targets. Ruggs is a receiver with high upside but some significant downside.

Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

Gallup continues to be one of the most underrated receivers in the NFL. He’s finished as a WR3 or better in 76% of his 46 active games. The Cowboys’ selection of CeeDee Lamb in the first round of last year’s draft negatively impacted Gallup’s output.

Part of that negative impact was due to quarterback Dak Prescott’s season-ending injury. Gallup led the Cowboys with 14.3 yards per receptions and tied for the team lead with 5 receiving touchdowns.

The good news is that Prescott has the ability to support three 1,000 yard receivers. Gallup, Lamb, and Amari Cooper will see north of 100 targets in 2021.

Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons

The chaos behind the Julio Jones trade to the Titans created an opportunity for Gage to see more targets. Last season, Gage finished with 72 receptions, 786 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns as Jones and Calvin Ridley dealt with injuries.

Gage will be relied on by the Falcons as their No. 2 receiver behind Ridley. He provides you with a floor of 100 targets, but Gage could see even more.

Fantasy football sleepers for 2021 NFL season: Tight ends

Lastly, who are the tight ends you should target in fantasy drafts?

Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins

Gesicki finished 2020 with only 85 targets. The removal of Gailey and the additions of Fuller and Waddle will open things up for Gesiciki underneath. He averaged 1.87 fantasy points per target in 2020.

Gesicki is projected to see a similar target volume in 2021 with more downfield and red-zone opportunities, putting him on the TE1 radar.

Irv Smith, Minnesota Vikings

Kyle Rudolph is no longer on the roster, opening the door for Smith to begin the season as the Vikings’ top tight end. The 22-year old will inherit Rudolph’s offensive snaps, receiving air yards, and targets. Quarterback Kirk Cousins had a passer rating of 139.7 when targeting Smith last season.

Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots

Smith and Hunter Henry both have the potential to finish as TE1s. The group of receivers that the Patriots have on the roster are…uninspiring.

New England could lean more on two-tight end sets, especially with Cam Newton under center. As such, Smith could see around 80 targets. He also excels at creating yards after the catch and should be actively involved in the red zone.

Gerald Everett, Seattle Seahawks

Everett has stockpiled 127 receptions for 1,389 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns in four seasons with the Rams.

Over the past three seasons, he’s increased his reception and receiving yards total year over year. He is coming off the best season of his NFL career, amassing 41 receptions for 417 receiving yards and a touchdown. Everett is in an excellent position to have a breakout season.

Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister are no longer with the Seahawks and accounted for 77 targets. The only two tight ends on the roster in Seattle with notable experience are Everett and Will Dissly. The former Rams’ tight end is one of the most athletic receiving weapons at tight end that quarterback Russell Wilson has had in his career.

 

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Eric is a Senior Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). You can read more of his work here and follow Eric on Twitter @EricNMoody.