5 Wide Receivers with ELITE UPSIDE in 2021 Fantasy Football

5 Wide Receivers with ELITE UPSIDE in 2021 Fantasy Football


Calvin Ridley - Falcons

I mean this man literally has an 8-game sample size over the L2 years without Julio on the field:


Over 20 PPR fppg. If he gets those TD numbers up, woooof. 

It's pretty simple, this passing offense is going to run through him, he's an elite separator/route runner, and the only thing keeping him away from a 30%+ target share, Julio is gone. 

Ridley finishing as the year's WR1 overall isn't even a weird thing to say.

It's wheels so far up for Calvin Ridley this year we don't even fucking need front tires.




D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and Justin Jefferson this group of the WR6, 7 and 8 in ADP 

You can make the case for all 3. They're all young, unbelievably talented, athletic, entering their prime, and have broken out already. No projection to be had here, just quick elevator ride up to the top.

What is probably, subconsciously holding all three of the byke is the offenses that they're in, they're all run-first offenses. TEN - 3rd lowest pass rate, MIN - 6th lowest pass rate, and SEA is actually an interesting case, they were above averaged, 14th in pass rate, likely due to the start of their season.

The case for each of them is super easy.

Jefferson, dumb rookie year. 1400 yards after not really playing the first few weeks of the season. Elite route runner, and while this is a run-first offense, the pass game is an absolute target funnel. Jefferson averaged 10 targets/game over the 2H of the year compared to Weeks 1-8, if we see the same volume for the whole year, yall do the math that's a shit load of targets. If some of those RZ looks start going Jefferson's way, which we definitely saw more of over the 2H and he scores 10-12 TDs instead of 7, you're looking at an elite finish. Thielen turned 13 10zone targets into 10 touchdowns which is an unreal rate. He's great down there. Jefferson went 1-for-8 inside the 10, I expect that to shoot up and meet somewhere in the middle.

Same thing for AJ Brown. Julio is added to the mix, but Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith are both gone. 

AJ Brown had just 106 targets last year and finished as the WR6 in PPG.. Because he's so imposing in any area of the field and his YAC is unreal, too. Imagine this man gets real WR1 targets? 130-140, dare I say 150 targets? If AJ Brown sees 150 targets, I mean he's averaged 12.5 and 10 YPT in the first two years. He's turning 130 targets into 1500 yards and probably double-digit TDs.

But, I will say - if there's one of these guys I'm going to choose to finish as an elite, or I guess the WR1 overall - it's actually Metcalf.

The entire story of Tyler Lockett's season last year was his inconsistency. Both Wilson and Metcalf fell off after the first half of the year, too:

I don't have to tell you that his 1H pace of the season, which would've been a 16-game pace of: 136-86-1576-16 would've ranked pretty highly. WR3 behind Adams and half a point behind Tyreek. 

The point I want to get across here with Metcalf is that the narrative is that people "figured him out" he can only run downfield, etc. - It's simply not the truth, the guy can separate anywhere on the field and has blossomed into a true force.


As Matt also states in RP: 

"The Seahawks had Metcalf in a limited role as a rookie while he grew into his paws. The team started to open things up for him last year. His nine route rate (22.9 percent) went down, while his comeback (5.2 percent) and dig rate (11.5 percent) shot up. He posted above-average success rates on both patterns. 

No one should dare bring any more questions about Metcalf’s ability as a full-field route runner. Those are so beyond played out. Metcalf has the route-running profile of a true alpha receiver and made big jumps from Year 1 to 2."

It's flying under-the-radar bc of how they finished but Wilson is coming off of a season that he set career-highs in completions, pass attempts, completion rate, passing TDs and fantasy points. And everything we're hearing from Seattle in terms of new OC Shane Waldron is that this is going to be a more up-tempo offense = more pass attempts. The Seahawks

Imagine a high-volume D.K. Metcalf?

I mean their actions this offseason dictate going more in the direction of a pass-heavy offense - they draft Dwayne Eskridge in the 2nd, they sign Gerald Everett and they let Carlos Hyde walk.

I don't have to sit here and talk about Rus and how he's had 31+ passing touchdowns in 4 straight years despite seeing volume close to the mute button.

If we get the normal Wilson on efficiency, plus more volume, we're looking at an unreal fantasy year. I know we've been hoping for that forever, but this feels like the first off-season where the vibe is that it actually might happen - not every word out of their camp is about establishing the ground game.

If Wilson pops off in this way - who is going to benefit most? Probably the 6-3, 228lb, 23-year-old coming into his prime 3rd year of NFL experience with elite athleticism attached to one of the most accurate deep passers in league history.

Again, this is elite upside video, not what's most likely to happen - most likely we're going to be left here next summer saying that 2022 is the year that Wilson gets that volume bump --- but if it happens, Metcalf is going nuclear.


Maybe the Dak propoganda has slowly morphed into hyperbole at this point, based on a 5-game sample size but the bigger thing here, to be completely honest, isn't really about whether Dak is an elite passer, the reason we're so sure about the Cowboys offense being high-powered outside of personnel is when Kellen Moore took over as OC in 2019, the pace of this offense was straight sprinting. They had the 2nd fastest pace in the NFL in 2019 - but it wasn't a full season so we were optimistically projecting coming into 2020 that it would be the same thing. We've seen small sample sizes of coaches in certain seasons become nightmare projections the following year like Freddie Kitchens, whatever it happens so often. But now we 2020 where across the board Dallas ranked as pretty much the fastest team in the NFL (per footballoutsiders)

So we should have no questions about the pace of this offense - and we try to predict two things in fantasy - volume and efficiency. We already have one side of the equation figured out to almost a certainty which gives us a super safe floor - but if the efficiency of these players are even slightly above average, let alone top-5, it's going to be records set across the board:

Dak played 5 games last year (we'll discount Week 5 where he left) so 4 full games he was on pace for literally:

  • 804 pass attempts
  • 548 completions (or receptions)
  • 6770 passing yards
  • 36 TDs

It's insane to assume an 804-pass attempt pace, but its fun!!!!

I was messing around with pass attempt numbers & target shares.

For reference last year 

Cooper obviously the apple to Dak's eye, but man, if we're going to get the volume out of this passing offense that we think we're going to, the target shares dont have to be even upper-echelon for insane volume.

If Cooper is healthy for the year with Dak, the volume upside is elite - if something is fucked with Cooper's foot or ankle, CeeDee could see the same, like legitimately 11+ targets/game out of the slot.

We simply have a big enough sample size of this offense's pace under Kellen Moore to project the volume to a reasonably certain degree.



Some honorable mentions:

The middle tiers are filled with guys I think are stuck in sort of time shares or high-end WR2s that have better teammates: TB,  Lockett, Thielen, CAR


I think Cooper Kupp has masssssive touchdown upside in 2021. Which means he just has massive upside. And I know a lot of people love Robert Woods' upside with Stafford here, and rightfully so, but Kupp was the WR4 in fantasy in just two years ago, Woods is the same player year in and year out

so it feels like Woods and Kupp just keep getting lumped into the same fantasy tier, but Kupp, for me has a higher ceiling bc of the TDs.

And last honorable mention is DeVonta Smith in Philly man. I really think he's going to set the world ablaze. There's absolutely a world where Jalen Hurts flames out and just stinks as a passer at the NFL level. But there's two sides to every coin and one of them reads Hurts being good at throwing the ball. And if that's the case, wheels up for Devonta Smith. I think he'll take over as the WR1 and probably OP1 right away and the separation he creates will just warrant a zillion targets.

Ok, maybe he doesn't have elite upside, but I think 1000 rec. yards is rookie year elite upside and I won't be surprised at all if Smith sees 115 targets and tops 1000 yards this year.


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