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By Jennifer Eakins, 4for4
Special to Yahoo Sports
Taking advantage of your league mates' recency bias is a perennial tradition in the fantasy football world and one I can always get behind. We’re all guilty of associating one bad season with the next regardless of the cause surrounding a player’s dip in production.
Players can underperform for a myriad of reasons including injury, a poor system fit, off-field issues, or even an early season fumble that derails usage. Unless it’s a huge name like Christian McCaffrey, a “bust” player’s draft stock typically takes a hit, allowing us to grab them with some built-in capital.
Chasing the upside on these guys with depressed ADPs can have league-winning ramifications, so here’s a look at some bounce-back candidates for the 2021 season.
Note: You won’t find McCaffrey, Dak Prescott, Saquon Barkley, or George Kittle on here as they’re a given if they can manage to stay on the field in 2021.
Matthew Stafford, Rams (ADP: QB12, 96.3)
Free from the shackles of the Detroit offense, Matthew Stafford is set up for his best fantasy season to date. He gets an upgrade in weapons and coaching staff, yet he’s being drafted in a similar range — QB12-13 — as he was in 2020.
Stafford’s ability has never been in question. Now that he’s in a better system with an upgraded offensive line we should see him flourish for fantasy purposes. A career season is not out of the question if the 33-year-old gunslinger can remain healthy which, despite what some recency bias has done to fantasy brains, he has done over the past decade other than 2019, when he was on pace for close to 5,000 yards and 38 scores before being sidelined with a back injury.
With an affordable ADP, we can add solid pieces to our roster by waiting on quarterback and soak in Stafford’s rebound performance. An added bonus of the LA signal caller is that his depressed ADP allows for easy stacks with any of his talented pass-catchers.
Austin Ekeler, Chargers (ADP: RB10, 17.0)
Last season was technically a disappointment for Austin Ekeler, as he only played in 10 games — eight of them for the full four quarters. Yet, he still ended the season as the RB14 in half-PPR points per game with 13.8. He managed those numbers with a porous offensive line, which was heavily addressed by the Chargers this offseason with the addition of two guards and a center via free agency, along with the drafting of two rookie tackles.
Ekeler’s pass-catching prowess is also advantageous for fantasy purposes, and the fact quarterback Justin Herbert fed him 65 targets last year in just 10 games is promising for what’s to come in 2021. New OC Joe Lombardi came from the Saints, whose usage of their backfield in the passing game is arguably the best in the NFL. With a projected 154 rushing attempts and 83 catches, Ekeler is easily set up for a top-10 fantasy RB season. He makes for a really nice pick on the 1-2 turn.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs (ADP: RB14, 22.5)
For Clyde Edwards-Helaire (CEH), we’re looking at a post-hype value-dip situation, and I’m here for it. In 2020 as a rookie, CEH was selected as the seventh back off the board with a single-digit ADP of 9.62. After Damien Williams opted out for the season due to COVID-19 concerns, the Kansas City rusher was thrust into fantasy RB1 territory — or so drafters thought. He saw the 20th-most touches per game among players at this position (15.5) and ended the season as the RB25 in half-PPR points per contest.
The Chiefs are one of the most fantasy-friendly offenses in the league and with Le'Veon Bell no longer on the roster to tempt Andy Reid, CEH should see a lead-back workload. He has a revamped offensive line to run behind and a year of NFL experience in his pocket, which are both things to assist his sophomore surge. His ADP is about where it should be in the late-second round, but we could see CEH sneak into fantasy RB1 territory if he can stay healthy in 2021, especially if his current ankle injury proves to not be serious at all.
Chris Godwin, Buccaneers (ADP: WR13, 35.8)
Last year was certainly off for Chris Godwin after ending 2019 as the fantasy WR2. His chemistry with Tom Brady wasn't immediate and he also had some injury issues, landing him as the WR16 in half-PPR points in 12 contests.
Godwin is playing on a one-year tender after being given the franchise tag so this season should be a showcase/job interview of sorts. A full offseason with Brady could do wonders for this duo and Godwin should return to his 2019 form, with a fantasy WR2 season easily attainable.
A proud alumna of the UGA Grady College of Journalism, Jennifer Eakins has been working in the sports industry for well over a decade. She has had stints with CNN Sports, the Atlanta Hawks and the Colorado Rockies. Her first fantasy football draft took place in 1996 where she selected Ricky Watters with the first overall pick, and she has been a fantasy degenerate ever since.
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