Everyone who loves fantasy football has their must-have guys heading into a season. For our staff, these are those players. The Ringer’s Danny Kelly, Danny Heifetz, and Craig Horlbeck list the eight players they’re looking to nab in each of their drafts—and explain why these players could make all the difference in winning your league.
Fantasy QB success is now strongly tied to rushing, and Fields runs a faster 40-yard dash (4.44) than his no. 1 receiver, Allen Robinson (4.6). He probably won’t start in Week 1, but stash him on your bench as a high-upside backup until he gets the job.
Le’Veon Bell averaged almost 25 touches per game in Pittsburgh. Harris could be in for a similar workload.
Gibson is a second-year breakout candidate who could double his catch total from last season if he gets more playing time on third down.
Cowboys no. 1 receiver Amari Cooper is once again dealing with ankle issues, and most people are identifying CeeDee Lamb as Dallas’s main beneficiary. But you can wait 50 picks and get Gallup, who might outproduce Lamb for stretches this season.
Anderson left Adam Gase’s Jets and had the best season of his career in 2020. He’s going at a discount because he’s still got the Jets stink on him.
Forget that he’s a boring journeyman—Davis is the lead back for a Falcons team that could have a lot more success running the ball with new head coach Arthur Smith, who comes over from the Titans. You can get Davis in the eighth round and watch him outperform guys going 30 picks earlier. Just know nobody will think you’re cool.
Tight ends in NFL history with four consecutive 100-yard receiving games: Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, Travis Kelce, and … Tyler Higbee. Higbee did it in 2019 when fellow Rams tight end Gerald Everett missed time. Everett left for Seattle this offseason.
The Jags signed Jones because he knows their system. Considering DJ Chark had surgery on his finger and receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. is just 22 years old, Jones might be Trevor Lawrence’s no. 1 target this year.
If you’re searching for this season’s best Year 2 receiver breakout candidate, look no further. He’s absolutely lit up Cowboys camp and is now getting moved all around the formation. With a healthy Dak under center, the sky's the limit for Lamb.
Fields is the ideal later-round quarterback pick. He may not start for the Bears in the first few weeks of the season, but when (not if) he does take over, he brings top-five-weekly potential at the position in fantasy. With a strong, accurate arm and elite wheels, he has the skill set to become a dangerous dual-threat QB.
In an age when most teams rely on committees at the running back position, the Steelers typically buck that trend and lean on an every-down back. Harris is that dude, and it’s easy to project him with 300-plus touches as a rookie, giving him enormous fantasy upside.
Gibson is big, explosive, and versatile, and after getting his feet wet as a full-time running back as a rookie, he looks primed to take over a three-down role for Washington this year. If the former college receiver can earn more work in the passing game (and I think he will), he brings top-five potential.
Drops were an issue for Jeudy last year, but he just gets open―over and over and over. That talent for shaking coverage will earn him plenty of targets in 2021, and makes him one of my favorite breakout candidates in the NFL.
I’m not sure any player in the league built more hype during training camp than Moore, who combines explosive speed with high-end quickness as a route runner. He has the skill set to be heavily featured on screens and sweeps, giving him a solid weekly floor, and he’s excellent at tracking the ball downfield on vertical routes―giving him a high ceiling, too.
There aren’t many tight ends in the NFL who can be considered their team’s de facto no. 1 receiver (Darren Waller is one of the rare exceptions), but that’s exactly what Hockenson could be for the Lions in 2021. Reports say he and Jared Goff have quickly developed excellent rapport, and the third-year tight end is my favorite to lead the team in targets.
Woods is the ideal combination of floor and ceiling in fantasy this year. He’ll get 120 to 130 targets again―as he’s done for each of the past three seasons―but in an offense helmed by Matt Stafford, he could dramatically increase his efficiency and touchdown potential in 2021. Plus, he’s good for a rush or two every game.
After a promising rookie season hindered by turf toe, Coach Ron Rivera and OC Scott Tuner are preparing the former college wideout to be Washington’s version of Christian McCaffrey (whom they both coached in Carolina).
This offseason, the Packers allowed running back Jamal Williams to leave for Detroit and made Jones the sixth-highest-paid RB in the league. Before Williams’s departure, Jones was perennially capped at about 65 percent of snaps. Now, he just has non–pass catcher AJ Dillon as his backup and is poised to set career highs in snaps and catches.
After earning the starting job in Week 3, Higgins played seven games with Joe Burrow and quietly ranked as the WR11 over that stretch. Yes, rookie Ja’Marr Chase is there, but Higgins is a proven talent at a great price in an offense that is more than capable of sustaining multiple star WRs.
Coming off his third season tallying 100-plus catches in the past four years, Allen has the scarcest target competition of his career. With former Saints coach Joe Lombardi calling plays for the Chargers and Herbert set for a Year 2 jump, Keenan Allen has a strong chance to lead the league in catches.
Etienne reunites with college quarterback Trevor Lawrence to lead what should be a high-octane Jaguars offense as the primary pass catcher out of a backfield consisting of undrafted free agent James Robinson and Carlos Hyde. Etienne’s playmaking and first-round draft stock make him a great mid-round pick with top-12 upside.
The Jets signed Davis to a $37.5 million contract after he posted 984 yards in Tennessee. Davis has shown early signs of a connection with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, making him worthy of a dart throw in your draft.
Williams has missed only two games in the past three seasons and is set to see the heaviest workload of his career as a deep-ball target and red-zone threat in a flourishing Justin Herbert–led offense that just lost its starting tight end in Hunter Henry.
Higbee has always shown flashes of greatness, but has split playing time with Gerald Everett. Everett missed three games in 2019, and Higbee averaged 111 receiving yards in those contests. Everett is now in Seattle and Matthew Stafford is the new QB for the Rams.