2021 Fantasy Football Breakout Candidates

Oct 25, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (37) runs with the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Pratt
Head of NFL/Podcast Host

“You wanna know which ring is my favorite? The next one.” - Tom Brady

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It’s been a while! I’ve been busy covering the NBA playoffs, but with the NFL offseason starting to ramp up it’s time to get back into a consistent rhythm. Today, I’ll be taking a look at five players that will break out in the 2021 fantasy season. Let’s get right into it.

Jerry Jeudy

I was very high on Jeudy last year, but multiple factors held him back from meeting expectations as a rookie. Firstly, Drew Lock was horrible. His 57.3 percent completion rate was literally the worst in the NFL. It’s hard to succeed when your quarterback can’t get you the ball. Secondly, Courtland Sutton’s preseason torn ACL resulted in Jeudy matching up with No. 1 corners at many points. That’s a recipe for disaster for any rookie in the NFL. Finally, Jeudy ended up hurting his own prospects with subpar play. He did finish the year with a solid 52 catches for 856 yards, but drops were a serious problem. The Alabama prospect secured just 76.5% of his catchable targets, which was the worst rate in the league. All that being said, there are many reasons to anticipate a Jeudy sophomore season breakout. Firstly, Teddy Bridgewater was brought in to compete with Lock for the starting job. While Teddy Two Gloves isn’t flashy, his 2020 69.1% completion rate demonstrates stability that Lock couldn’t provide. Secondly, Sutton’s return to action will take defensive pressure off of Jeudy, resulting in more favorable matchups. At the end of the day, Jeudy is too talented not to succeed with a year under his belt in a (hopefully) more productive offense.

Damien Harris

DISCLAIMER: I am a Patriots fan. Am I slightly biased here? Maybe. But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Harris took advantage of Sony Michel’s injury and excelled in limited time last season, racking up 691 yards on 137 carries in 10 games. Injuries held him back from completely taking over, but he’s healthy and ready to be New England’s workhorse in 2021. The Patriots did draft 6’0, 247 lb behemoth Rhamondre Stevenson, but I’m expecting him to battle with Michel for RB2 carries. With the reacquisition of Trent Brown this offseason, New England boasts one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Bill Belichick also signed multiple pass-catching weapons to take pressure off of the backfield. That being said, New England lives and dies by the run game, so expect Harris to be heavily featured this season in a potentially potent Patriots’ offense.

Darnell Mooney

I was ecstatic when the Bears traded up to select Justin Fields. If you watched any Chicago games last year, you likely saw Mooney repeatedly burn his man only to be missed by Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles. Andy Dalton isn’t much better, but he’s still capable of hitting Mooney deep. Luckily for us, we likely won’t have to see much of Dalton this year, as Fields has excelled in minicamp and OTAs. Once the rookie takes over, Mooney’s ceiling will be significantly expanded. Allen Robinson is still the guy in Chicago, make no mistake about that, but the Tulane product is primed for a huge sophomore season.

Chase Edmonds

For those of you that have been following me on Twitter since last season, you probably saw this coming. I’ve been a huge Edmonds fan for a while, and Kenyan Drake’s departure opens up all kinds of possibilities for him in Arizona’s offense. Yes, the Cardinals brought in James Conner, but they’re likely going to play it safe and limit his touches given his injury history. As a result, Edmonds is the RB to own in this backfield. The Fordham product flashed serious potential last season, racking up 448 rushing yards and an impressive 53 catches for 402 yards. He fits seamlessly with Kyler Murray as a receiving back and should see an expanded role in 2021 as one of Arizona’s best playmakers. At this point, the only thing that could hold back Edmonds is Kliff Kingsbury.

Mike Williams

I know, I know, Williams has already technically broken out. That being said, let’s call this season a re-emergence. The Chargers lost a key member of their offense in Hunter Henry via free agency and replaced him with a much less exciting option in Jared Cook. As a result, Williams will step into an expanded role as Los Angeles continues to transform their offense. We saw guys like Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler dominate a majority of the touches in past years, but the Chargers are capable of taking their aerial attack to a new level with Justin Herbert under center. According to Next Gen Stats, Herbert threw the ninth-best deep ball in the league last year. That’s impressive for a rookie, and it should instill confidence in Williams’ prospects, as he finds most of his success on big plays. Things are setting up very nicely for a true breakout performance for the 26-year-old receiver. 

Follow me on Twitter @HotlineFantasy for 24/7 fantasy football and basketball advice.

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