Back in the golden days of attending high school in what seems like light years ago (I graduated a little over six LONG years ago) there were yearbook superlatives. Who was most likely to be successful after they graduated? The best dressed? The class clown? You get the idea. With the NFL season nearly here, I thought I’d translate those superlatives to fantasy football.
More specifically, I’ll be highlighting wide receivers who are most likely to achieve — or fail to achieve — certain feats in 2021. Could one of the rookie wide receivers do what Justin Jefferson did last season? What players are being undervalued and overvalued at their current ADP? And is there a second-year wideout that is positioned better than others to have a breakout campaign? While you take some time dusting off your old high school yearbooks, take some time to check out my WR superlatives for the 2021 season.
All ADPs in this article are courtesy of FantasyPros’ ADP Consensus.
Most likely to be this year’s Justin Jefferson: DeVonta Smith
What a rookie year it was for Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings in 2020. Jefferson finished last season with 88 receptions, a rookie record of 1,400 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns. The LSU product would conclude the 2020 season as WR6 in half-PPR formats and would be on a lot of championship teams in fantasy football. Jefferson’s ability to come into the NFL and dominate the way he did is extremely rare, hence why he was able to set a new mark for receiving yards by a rookie wideout.
So to expect a rookie wide receiver to do something close to what Jefferson did last year is extremely naïve. But if there was one rookie wide receiver who is best positioned to come close to what Jefferson did, it’s DeVonta Smith. Smith was selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles just after winning the Heisman Trophy. Smith has been a popular player to talk about due to his atypical size at wide receiver. While Smith stands at six feet tall, he weighs 170 pounds, causing some to be concerned with his durability at the next level.
Despite the doubts people have about his size, Smith is a speedy wide receiver that is going to immediately be the No. 1 wide receiver on the Eagles. Having Jalen Hurts as his quarterback could lead to inconsistent weeks from Smith, but there are definitely going to be a ton of opportunities for Smith to thrive. Even though everyone is clamoring over Ja’Marr Chase, Smith is my pick among the rookie wide receivers to have the best season in 2021.
Most likely to outperform his ADP: Corey Davis
I don’t know what Corey Davis needs to do to get the respect he deserves. Davis has shed the label of bust that was placed upon him as a former first-round pick by the Tennessee Titans, and he earned a nice contract in free agency this offseason. Davis, who is now a member of the New York Jets, figures to have a firm hold of the No. 1 spot on the depth chart in New York. That notion was only confirmed in the preseason when rookie signal-caller Zach Wilson targeted Davis on 10 out of his 20 pass attempts.
Elijah Moore and Jamison Crowder could be competing for looks out of the slot, and Keelan Cole could carve out a role, but Davis is the alpha on the Jets. Davis averaged more fantasy points per game than Cooper Kupp, Robby Anderson, and CeeDee Lamb in 2020. This was despite sharing the field with a stud in A.J. Brown and playing in a run-heavy offense led by Derrick Henry. Despite Davis having a firm hold of the No. 1 spot on the depth chart, he still has an ADP of 105 (WR40) across drafts, making him one of my favorite wide receivers to target in fantasy football.
Most likely to disappoint at his ADP: Ja’Marr Chase
The Cincinnati Bengals turned heads in the 2021 NFL Draft when they took Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell with the fifth overall pick. Most people believed the Bengals would prioritize protecting their second-year quarterback in Joe Burrow — who is coming off of a season-ending knee injury — but they elected to reunite him with Chase instead. While I believe the long-term outlook on Chase can be positive, I’m not a fan of the rookie wideout in 2021.
And no, I’m not entirely avoiding Chase due to the reported struggles in training camp and the preseason. Even though seeing him falter in the preseason is far from ideal, Burrow is going to need time to get comfortable again in the NFL. Not many quarterbacks come back the year after a serious knee injury and produce better numbers through the air or on the ground. Not to mention, Chase has to compete with Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon for targets. With Chase being the 69th player taken on average (WR26), there’s a decent chance we see him finish well behind his current ADP this season.
Most likely to have a second-year breakout: CeeDee Lamb
Once again, Jefferson had a historic rookie season for the Vikings in 2020, so he’s exempt from being considered to have a breakout year in 2021. CeeDee Lamb may have had a season that rivaled the one Jefferson had if Dak Prescott didn’t suffer a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 of last season. From Weeks 1-5 in 2020, Lamb was WR12 with Prescott throwing him the ball.
The good news for Lamb is that Prescott is back under center for the Dallas Cowboys this season, so there is no limit to what Lamb can achieve. I suppose Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Ezekiel Elliott could slightly limit his production. Even with that being said, Lamb is headed to the moon this season and is going to prove he’s on his way to being a premier wide receiver in the NFL for years to come. While I believe Jerry Jeudy is poised for a breakout campaign as well — especially with Teddy Bridgewater named the starter for the Denver Broncos — Lamb is my favorite second-year wide receiver to target in fantasy football.