Quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Kirk Cousins, as well as running back Chase Edmunds and wide receiver D.J. Moore, are among my top targets for a strong start to your 2021 fantasy football season.
A winning record during the first four games of a fantasy football season may propel a club into a strong position and provide greater lineup options. Targeting guys with easy schedules early in the season is always part of my draft-day approach.
Look for guys who have early games against teams that gave up a lot of fantasy points at their position last year.
Look for players with early games against teams that allowed a lot of fantasy points to their position last season. Avoid players who face a lot of opponents who allowed the fewest fantasy points to their position.
Another advantage to finding players who will get off to fast starts is the increase in their trade value.
If you draft a player who performs well through the first four weeks of the season, but their upcoming schedule features tough matchups, they are ideal options to sell high. You can target players who underperformed and face easier opponents going forward in return for the player you sold.
Many of the players I like to target are not first-round draft picks, which allows for more ability to add them to your team. They should be on your list of who to snag if other players you want to target are drafted by another team in your league.
Read my positional rankings to see who I like as season-long targets at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end. I also ranked my Top 200 targets, which include defenses and kickers.
Target these players for a great start
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Jackson ranks as my No. 3 quarterback this season. Look for the Ravens star to return to All-Pro form in 2021, using his throwing and running ability to dominate defenses and help fantasy teams.
Jackson’s average draft position is in the fourth or fifth round, which makes him a great value if he finishes as a Top 3 option. Jackson’s 2021 schedule starts with three matchups in the first four weeks against defenses that ranked inside the Top 10 for most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks in 2020.
The Ravens schedule features two matchups all season against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the fewest fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks in 2020.
The off-season departure of Mark Ingram and season-ending injury to fellow running back J.K. Dobbins should increase Jackson’s impact on games and give fantasy football teams an elite QB1.
Honorable mentions: Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans; Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Chase Edmunds, Arizona Cardinals
Edmunds starts his 2021 campaign with three consecutive matchups against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the most fantasy points allowed to running backs last season. Edmunds is a great value, with an average draft position in the sixth or seventh round.
The Arizona Cardinals running back is someone you should target as a high-end RB2 if you start your draft with wide receivers in earlier rounds.
Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
Chubb’s average draft position is in the first round, but his easy early matchups can be a tiebreaker if you need to decide between elite running backs.
Chubb faces the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans in the Cleveland Browns’ first two games. He then battles the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4. Each of those teams ranked inside the Top 10 for the most fantasy points allowed to running backs last season.
Chubb should see a hefty workload and provide a weekly advantage for your fantasy football team.
Honorable mention: Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers; Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens; Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers
Moore is one of my favorite sleeper candidates for the 2021 season. The Panthers wide receiver is available after the fifth round in many drafts. The Panthers start the season with four of their first six games against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers in 2020.
Moore should post WR1 statistics early on and be one of the best finds in your fantasy football draft.
Michael Pittman, Indianapolis Colts
Pittman is another player I expect to post low-end WR2 or high-end WR3 statistics early on this season. The Colts wide receiver is still available very late in drafts and should get more targets at the start of the season due to the injury absence of teammate T.Y. Hilton.
Five of the Colts’ first eight games are against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers last season.
Honorable mentions: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Antonio Brown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks; Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks; Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers; Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings; Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team
Thomas’ average draft position is in the eighth or ninth round, which makes the Washington Football Team tight end a great value.
I expect Thomas to post high-end TE1 fantasy football numbers early in the season. Washington’s schedule features four matchups in the first six weeks against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the most fantasy points allowed to the position.
Honorable mentions: Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys; Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins; Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers; Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns; Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears; Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
Players who could struggle early
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams
D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Tyrell Williams, Detroit Lions
Marquez Callaway, New Orleans Saints
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders
Adam Trautman, New Orleans Saints