“Hot takes” signal the most exciting time of the year, fantasy football draft season. The time where we can make predictions about our favorite teams and players. It’s not about being right or wrong, this is about being bold, taking a chance, and following your conviction. These are five “hot takes” that I believe will play out in 2021. It’s fantasy football draft season everyone, let’s go!!
(Stats provided by Pro Football Reference and Advanced Metrics are from Player Profiler)
Travis Kelce Will Not Finish TE1
The reign has been amazing and those who picked up Travis Kelce five years ago want to enshrine him into the Fantasy Football Hall of Fame, but it’s all over. Kelce has finished TE1 four out of the last five years, that’s insanely consistent. It’s easy to see why he’s been so good with Pat Mahomes as his QB since 2018. Kelce is coming off a record-breaking 2020, setting the single-season receiving yards record for a tight end with 1,426. However, this will be a difficult act to follow with the team wanting to get Clyde Edwards Helaire involved in the offense and the emergence of Mecole Hardman. I’m not going to say Kelce won’t have a good year, I just don’t believe he’ll be the number one tight end.
This year’s TE1 will be a player that is the lone receiving threat on his team, he’s the safety net, the big play, and “the guy” for his offense. The aforementioned tight end is Darren Waller from the Las Vegas Raiders. Waller had his best year last season with 107 receptions, 1,195 yards, and 9 TDs. There’s a lot to like about Waller, from his 24 red-zone targets to his league-leading (for tight ends) 17 deep targets. I point these stats out in particular because the Raiders offense is a deep ball-centric offense, with Carr throwing 65 deep balls in 2020. If Waller can reel in some more deep balls and utilize his red-zone targets, there should be no reason to believe he can’t usurp Kelce as the TE1 in 2021.
Austin Ekeler Goes For 2,000 Scrimmage Yards
This year, the hill I will die on is that Austin Ekeler will go for 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in 2021. Ekeler was unfortunately injured for 6 games in 2020, making fantasy managers wait another season for Ekeler’s breakout. Ekeler is an elite running back who is a mixture of agility, strength, and toughness, making him dangerous in open-field play. Though he was injured in 2020, Ekeler still had the eighth-most targets for an RB (65) and the fifth most receptions (54). Just to give you some insight into what his full season would’ve looked like, Ekeler’s 16 game pace was 120 targets and 100 receptions. Getting 100 receptions as an RB would surely guarantee he’d be a top 10 if not top-five running back in 2021.
So what makes me confident that he can go for 1,000 rushing yards? Well, last season he went for 530 yards on 116 carries with a single TD. This isn’t entirely impressive until you consider that the Chargers boasted the worst offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus. If that’s not enough, according to ESPN, the Chargers were the worst team when it came to run block win rate. They only won 67 percent of the run blocking assignments, so Ekeler averaging 4.57 yards per carry actually seems extraordinary. One of the major concerns for Ekeler is his lack of carries at the goal line (1 last season), but something promising to look at was his 5.7 ypc against stacked lines in 2020. Also when teams are on the goal line it’s good to have a strong offensive line that can help create space for their runners.
This upcoming season has a different feel for the Chargers, they have a new coaching staff that includes offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi from New Orleans. Bringing in a coach who has experience utilizing a running back to his fullest potential. Then the Chargers added the best center in the game, Corey Linsley, and drafted Rashawn Slater with the 13th overall pick. This Chargers team shouldn’t be playing from behind much this year and will be running the ball more throughout games. Ekeler also comes into 2021 as one of Justin Herbert‘s most reliable receiving threats. All these factors have me leaning on Ekeler to have an absolute breakout season in 2021.
Saquon Barkley Finishes Outside RB15
Saquon Barkley is so damn talented but is in such a bad situation. I’m just going to say this to get it off my chest, Dave Gettleman has ruined Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley’s careers. Barkley is coming back from a torn ACL injury in September, which isn’t a big deal anymore, but the kicker is that he didn’t have surgery till a month later. Saquon is starting training camp on the PUP list, which means he isn’t participating in team drills due to his health.
I will blame Dave Gettleman for this because he is responsible for making his team better, and he lacks awareness of his team’s weaknesses. According to Pro Football Focus, the New York Giants have the worst offensive line in the entire league. This is why Saquon Barkley who in his previous 2 seasons had 2310 yards, 17 TDs on the ground won’t live up to lofty expectations this year. We saw it last season, he had 6 rushing yards in his only full game. The guy is going to have to be the best he’s ever been to get over the terrible line that his GM won’t fix.
No matter the injury there’s always an adjustment period for players’ returns. Barkley unfortunately has to deal with the worst line in the league and a GM that needs to be removed. So, I’m out on Saquon Barkley finishing in the top 15 of running backs in fantasy football.
Adam Trautman is a Top 5 TE
Adam Trautman has recently seen his stock go up in 2021, with the Saints letting Jared Cook and Josh Hill walk in free agency. Now Michael Thomas is out for the foreseeable future after undergoing ankle surgery. This is the perfect time for young Trautman to take on the role of receiving threat number one with the Saints. Last season Trautman spent the entire season as the Saints TE2 and put up 15 receptions, 171 yards, and 1 TD. A reasonable year for his position on the depth chart, but the reason the Saints drafted him was his dominant senior season at Dayton. Trautman went for 70 recs, 916 yards, and 14 TDs while posting a dominator score of 38.1% of Dayton’s receiving production.
One thing you can’t teach in football is size. Trautman at 6’5 and 255 lbs is a monster target and someone who will be hard to defend. He’s got good hands, deceptive speed, and body control to make it difficult for defenders to break up passes. This year I like Trautman to really step up for the Saints and become their 2nd best offensive threat behind Alvin Kamara. For me it doesn’t matter who will be the quarterback this year, they’re going to have to throw to someone and Trautman will be that someone. Big prediction for the big guy, 85 receptions, 1020 yards, and 13 TDs.
Nick Chubb is the RB1
My last hot take is that Nick Chubb will be RB1 in 2021. Last season Chubb missed 4 games due to injury and still managed to finish RB9 on Fantasypros rankings in 2020. Chubb rushed for 1,065, and 12 TDs, but what will put him over in 2021 is his growing receiving game. Last year Chubb caught 88.9 percent of his passes and averaged 9.4 yards per catch. Getting Chubb the ball in open field should be among the Browns’ main objectives in 2021, with his 78 evaded tackles and league-high 37.9 percent juke rate. Chubb easily was one of the most elusive backs of 2020 and did work whenever he had the ball in hand.
One thing I see changing in 2021 is Kareem Hunt‘s role with the Browns. Last season he had 8 goalline carries to Chubb’s 10, I can see that shifting more to the Chubb side in 2021. Chubb was incredibly efficient in the red zone with 132 yards and 10 TDs on 35 carries. Continuing his momentum in 2021 will lead to Chubb becoming the best RB for fantasy football in 2021.
Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)