The end of the 2020-21 season has come. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are Super Bowl champions and the offseason is officially upon us. Rookies across the NFL made a major impact all season long. Despite having no preseason games to get acclimated to the game speed of professional football, the best of the best emerged to be true difference-makers in 2020—even during the playoffs.
Each Wednesday throughout the regular season, The Draft Network, in conjunction with Panini, took a close look at three rookies whose stock was on the rise in fantasy football. Now that this year’s Super Bowl and head coach hiring cycle is in the books, we’ll look ahead to the fantasy landscape of 2021, shining the spotlight brightly on three rookies whose stock for next season has risen since the 2020 regular season came to an end.
RB D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
Let’s kick things off with Swift, who has a few different factors weighing into his spot on this list. The Lions have moved on from quarterback Matthew Stafford, shipping him to the Rams in exchange for Jared Goff and a pair of future first-round picks. While that move on the surface is a net negative for Swift, it’s made up and more with the addition of new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. Lynn, a former running back, wants to establish the run. It seems unlikely new head coach Dan Campbell and Lynn will play the same games with Swift early on as Matt Patricia and Co. did last season. Swift taking on the lead back role right out of the gates—with the pass-catching ability to be plenty productive when the Lions are losing—with a staff that isn’t afraid to use him is a tremendous win for the former Georgia Bulldog. Brentley Weissman goes into more detail here about why the early portion of the offseason will prove to be highly beneficial for Swift.
RB Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
Akers’ huge workload from December carried over into the postseason, as he had 28 carries (30 touches) in the wild-card round against the Seahawks and 18 carries (19 touches) in the divisional round against the Packers. He has clearly established himself as the lead back for a Rams offense that should improve in 2021 with Stafford under center. Sean McVay’s offense is predicated on a solid running game, so his reliance on Akers down the stretch and in the most important part of the season is a huge vote of confidence for the young running back. That sort of workload with potentially more touchdown opportunities in 2021 will make Akers one of the more sought-after players in fantasy drafts next season.
RB James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
While some in the fantasy community are skeptical that Robinson can replicate his rookie success, there is plenty of reason to be encouraged about the situation the soon-to-be sophomore is walking into next season. The Jaguars will have an upgrade at quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) and a coaching staff that’s unafraid to run the ball in new head coach Urban Meyer and, more importantly, new offensive coordinator/play-caller Darrell Bevell. I expect feeding the rock to Robinson will be an integral part of the year-one game plan, as neither veteran coach wants to put too much pressure on a rookie—even of Lawrence’s caliber—right away. Robinson finished as the RB5 in average fantasy points per game in 2020 (17.9).