Fantasy Football: Bold predictions for the 2021 NFL season

We did it. We made it to Week 1! With fantasy football drafts wrapped, it's time to look towards the season ahead. Our analysts deliver their boldest fantasy predictions for each position — which one do you think has the best chance to come true?

What’s your bold fantasy quarterback prediction?

Jalen Hurts finishes as a top-3 fantasy QB

I'm not trying to tell you Hurts is a finished product as a passer. Last season, he was brutally inaccurate (not that his receivers did him many favors). Philly kicked the tires on literally every available QB this offseason, which was not exactly a ringing endorsement of Hurts.

Still, if he simply holds the starting gig all season, he's gonna out-rush every quarterback except Lamar Jackson. Hurts averaged a ridiculous 68 rushing yards per game in his four starts last season. With that sort of rushing upside, he merely needs to be adequate in the passing game to deliver an obscene fantasy total. We need DeVonta Smith to remain healthy and for Gardner Minshew to remain on the sideline all year. If those things happen, Hurts should feast in our game. — Andy Behrens

Trey Lance finishes inside QB top-10

I agree with Behrens about Hurts (I even rank him five spots higher!), and lay my bull case for him here. But to be different for this exercise, I’ll say Lance finishes as a top-eight fantasy QB. He won’t start right away, but Lance’s terrific rushing ability combined with San Francisco’s system looks like a dream fantasy scenario. — Dalton Del Don

Justin Fields is not starting before Week 4

Furthermore, the Bears' offensive line is so bad that — despite his electric ability as a dual-threat QB — Fields' efficiency is going to suffer. That's not a recipe for fantasy fire. Less-discussed rookies like Zach Wilson and Mac Jones (who has the most favorable strength of schedule among NFL signal-callers, by the way) figure to out-produce Chicago's rookie. — Liz Loza

What’s your bold fantasy running back prediction?

Antonio Gibson leads NFL in total TDs scored and is top-5 in yards from scrimmage

Ceding third-down and catch-up work to J.D. McKissic is going to make this one difficult to hit but Washington’s defense being so good means they’ll be playing in game scripts conducive to Gibson’s role in the offense. Gibson will still get targets out of the backfield on early downs and we can expect this offense to be an efficient unit overall. As a rookie, Gibson scored 11 total touchdowns with 1,042 yards from scrimmage on a broken unit while still learning the position. He has outrageous upside this year. — Matt Harmon

LANDOVER, MARYLAND - NOVEMBER 22: Antonio Gibson #24 of the Washington Football Team carries the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half at FedExField on November 22, 2020 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Football Team defeated the Bengals 20-9. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Running back Antonio Gibson is poised for a monster second season with Washington. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Myles Gaskin finishes as a top-15 running back

Last year, Gaskin finished RB12 in points per game in .5 PPR. He was also seventh in receiving yards and 15th in receptions in 2020. The Dolphins chose not to spend significant draft capital or money in free agency due to their belief in Gaskin as their RB1. Despite adding Malcolm Brown in free agency, Gaskin should be viewed as a workhorse back who will finish in the top 15. — Troy King

Giovani Bernard finishes top 5 in RB receptions

The former Bengal is dealing with a mild ankle sprain but assuming it is indeed minor, Bernard is a solid PPR target at an inexpensive draft price. Buccaneers QB Tom Brady loves a pass-catching back and neither Leonard Fournette nor Ronald Jones scratched that itch for him in 2020. With Bernard locked into the passing-down role, the 29-year-old could see 60+ receptions this season, ending 2021 as a difference-maker in leagues with points per catch. — Jennifer Eakins

What’s your bold fantasy wide receiver prediction?

Chase Claypool will lead the NFL in TD receptions

This will of course require the Steelers to funnel a few additional targets to their most dangerous skill player, but, if they do it, Claypool has a shot at a monster season. There isn't another receiver in the league with his athletic profile. He's currently +8000 at BetMGM to actually do this, so please excuse me while I make a small deposit... — Andy Behrens

Diontae Johnson finishes as a fantasy WR1

Last year, Johnson posted 88 receptions (on 144 targets) for 923 yards and 7 touchdowns. The Pittsburgh Steelers ranked first in passing attempts and tied for sixth in passing touchdowns in 2020. Johnson ranked sixth in targets among receivers and tied for 13th in receptions. Despite leading the league in drops, he remains the top option in the Pittsburgh passing attack. If the Steelers are forced to the air that much yet again, Johnson should eat — and blow past his ADP expectations. — Troy King

Michael Pittman posts 1,100 yards

Already a promising prospect, Pittman looks in line to dominate the target share in Indianapolis. T.Y. Hilton is going to miss multiple weeks with a neck injury, lowering the depth of an already shallow group. Pittman did his best to work with Philip Rivers’ last year on crossing patterns but was still an antithetical fit with the aging passer. Carson Wentz obviously comes with his own set of questions but should fit better as a vertical thrower. Either way, Pittman looks like he’s about to moonwalk into enough volume to way outkick his 124.7 ADP. He’s a good enough talent to make good on those opportunities, as well. — Matt Harmon

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What’s your bold fantasy tight end prediction?

Changing of the guard at tight end

Darren Waller supplants Travis Kelce as fantasy’s No. 1 tight end, while Kyle Pitts turns in the best rookie tight end season in NFL history by a wide margin. Pitts is a unicorn and immediately gets to play indoors for Arthur Smith on an Atlanta team with a strong QB yet a weak WR2 and running backs. Yahtzee. — Dalton Del Don

Zach Ertz ends 2021 as a fantasy TE1

Ertz’s 123.1 ADP is of the bargain-basement variety and he’s in a fantastic spot to crush it. Drafters avoided the 30-year old most of the offseason due to trade concerns, but he’s firmly planted in Philly in an offense that’s devoid of veteran pass-catchers. Last year in the four games with Jalen Hurts as the starter, Ertz led the Eagles in targets per contest with 5.8 which was equivalent to TE12 on the season. There’s room for a healthy Ertz and Dallas Goedert in this offense, and Ertz can be had about 30 picks later, allowing you to load up on other position players. — Jennifer Eakins

Gerald Everett finishes as a TE1

Everett closes out his first year as a Seahawk third in team targets and inside of the top-10 fantasy producers at the position with a line of 65 catches for 670 yards and 5 touchdowns. — Liz Loza

Listen to our season predictions episode