There has been an old coaching axiom that if an offense throws too often, it’s a sign of failure – you lose more times than you win if you throw 50 times. But, we’re living in the middle of seismic shift in the NFL – a transformation by design.
Typically, the NFL didn’t change with the times. As college programs perfected “gimmick offenses” and three and four receivers became the norm, it has slowly made its way up to the NFL. Two generations into this metamorphosis, throwing 40 to 50 times a game is no longer the kiss of death.
In the first 90 years of professional football, only 15 quarterbacks attempted more than 600 passes in a season. In the last 10 seasons, the number has grown to 50 as 35 quarterbacks have thrown more than 600 passes from 2011-20. Prior to 2006, only nine quarterbacks had thrown more than 600 passes in a season. Since 2007, Drew Brees matched that total by himself, posting nine of the top 26 seasons for pass attempts, and Tom Brady has done it six times – including last year when he won the Super Bowl with Tampa Bay.
In fantasy football all that matters is scoring points, and a QB who throws a ton has value – even if he isn’t elite. The 50 guys who have thrown 600 or more passes in a season includes Joe Flacco (twice!), Jared Goff, Jameis Winston, Blake Bortles and Jay Cutler. Flacco has the same number of appearances on this list as Peyton Manning, as well as the career total of Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre combined. Finding the guy who is chucking the ball all over the yard on a weekly basis for a mediocre or bad team can be a valuable asset as a backup QB.
Here is season kickoff Fantasy Football Market Report.
Fantasy football risers
Backup running backs
Many fantasy owners hate the idea of handcuffing one of their top running backs with his backup, but injuries always happen at the position. Last year, we weren’t even a month into the season and the top two selections in most drafts and auctions (Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley) were gone.
We’ve already seen promising young players J.K. Dobbins, Travis Etienne and Cam Akers go down for the season, propping up the value of Gus Edwards, Darrell Henderson and James Robinson – all of whom proved themselves last season when pressed into duty. The hits will keep on coming, and more backups will be thrust in the limelight.
Downfield tight ends
In most drafts and auctions where wide receivers and tight ends are clumped together, the TEs get the short end of the stick, being devalued when in direct draft competition with wide receivers. But, last year, there were 14 tight ends who caught 50 or more passes, including two (Darren Waller and Travis Kelce) catching more than 100 balls and three who caught nine or more touchdowns (Kelce, Waller and Robert Tonyan).
That list doesn’t include George Kittle, Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, Jonnu Smith, Jack Doyle, Dallas Goedert, Austin Hooper, Cameron Brate, Kyle Rudolph and O.J. Howard – all players with 50-plus reception resumes and potential – and fourth overall draft pick Kyle Pitts. Don’t sleep on tight ends, because more than half the teams in the NFL have one (or more) capable of big things.
The NFC West
By all accounts, the 2021 season for the NFC West is going to be a weekly bloodbath/track meet. With four distinctly unique offenses and a recent deep playoff run for three of them, they know what it means to win often and win big. The other – Arizona – is one of the bandwagon teams people looking for a “Next Big Thing” sleeper are latching onto. All four are legitimate playoff contenders and all could end up making the postseason – thanks in part to landing the NFC North and AFC South in their non-division schedules.
There is a chance that for the first time in NFL history every team from one division makes the playoffs, which makes each game count more than most and will likely have all of them playing full-out down the stretch of the regular season … because they will have to.
Fans may have forgotten the incredible pace the Dallas offense was setting before Dak Prescott went down in Week 5 last season. Through the first four games of the season, Amari Cooper had 37 catches for 401 yards and one touchdown. CeeDee Lamb had 21 catches for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
While those numbers would have been difficult to maintain over a full season, at the quarter pole of 2020 the Dallas offense was showing no signs of slowing down. Dak is back and so are the expectations that the Cowboys offense can be the most potent in the league.
Much of the focus of the NFL world is on the shiny new quarterbacks who are going to lead the next generation of the game, but of the 10 quarterbacks that had a passer rating of 100.0 or above last season, seven of them were in their seventh NFL season or later – Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Brady, Ryan Tannehill and Derek Carr. The young guys get much of the attention, but the old guys continue to show why they’re franchise quarterbacks and that they can still get the job done at a high level.
Fantasy football fallers
Every year, organizations make the claim that, in a perfect world, they’re going to give their first-round rookie quarterbacks a “redshirt season,” if possible. It never happens. At some point the future becomes the present and the rookie gets thrown in. This season, teams aren’t even waiting. Jacksonville shipped out Gardner Minshew to pave the way for Trevor Lawrence. The New York Jets traded Sam Darnold to do the same for Zach Wilson. New England cut Cam Newton to anoint Mac Jones as the starter. How long do Andy Dalton and Jimmy Garoppolo have to be their respective starters? Probably until their first bad game or injury that brings the Justin Fields or Trey Lance, respectively, off the bench and allows history to repeat itself.
Any Buccaneer not named Brady
The defending champs have an embarrassment of riches coming back for one more title run, but in fantasy terms, they have too many quality players. Fantasy owners want a clear stud who leads his team, like Derrick Henry, Davante Adams or Travis Kelce. Those guys are dominant every week. The Bucs have too much depth at fantasy positions to make the individuals as valuable as they should be.
At running back, they have Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard – all of whom will likely have a specific role that cuts into the others’ time.
They have All-World wide receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but you also have Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson – all of whom have carved out a role for themselves. At tight end? Gronk, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate – all of whom are strong red zone targets. There’s only one ball and too many guys who want it. Brady should be in line for big numbers again, but the rest of the fantasy position players will find a lot of competition among one another.
Baltimore has made significant investment in receivers over the last four years, using first-round draft picks on Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman and third-round picks on Mark Andrews, Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay. But the problem with Ravens receivers is obvious – Baltimore doesn’t throw enough. Lamar Jackson played in 15 games last year and had 376 pass attempts. Eight quarterbacks had more completions than that and several others were close.
It’s by design in Baltimore. The Ravens had the top-rated run game in the league (191.9 yards) last season and the 32nd-ranked passing attack (171.2 yards) – continuing a trend of being a dominant run offense and one of the lowest-ranked pass offenses. Jackson has a career record of 30-7 as a starter – due in large part to the Ravens’ run game. You need opportunities in fantasy football and the Ravens just don’t pass enough to make a ton of chances possible for their receivers, because the team makes its makes money running the ball.
Road warrior quarterbacks
One of the side effects of COVID-19 last season was empty stadiums. One of the great advantages a home team routinely has in the NFL was a raucous home crowd that could elicit a false start or two and generally make life miserable for a QB trying to audible out of a call. It should come as no surprise that veterans, like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady, had some of the highest passer ratings of their careers. For younger QBs who posted career-best numbers, the fans are going to be back, and the decision-making process is going to be more difficult.
Anyone from Houston
With the exception of expansion teams, no other team in NFL history has undergone a greater internal upheaval than the Texans. There has been so much turmoil surrounding this team, some projections say if Houston has a record of 4-13, it will be overachieving. There aren’t many times you don’t want a single player from a team on your roster. The 2021 Texans may be that team.