It’s preseason fantasy football rankings season here at TDN! On Thursday, June 3, I released my Preseason Top 100 Wide Receiver Rankings, which can be found here. Once the rankings became public, there were a number of questions asked and some shade thrown. Let’s address a few of the most common questions/reactions to the initial release of my 2021 preseason quarterback rankings and dive into deeper explanations about why the players ranked where they did. As a reminder, my full stat projections will be released here at TDN later this month.
Calvin Ridley is a top-five WR? Really?
My rankings and projections for Falcons players are in anticipation of Julio Jones being traded before the start of the 2021 regular season. Did you know that in the games Jones missed last year, Ridley received a whopping 32.79% of the Falcons’ target share? For context, Davante Adams got a 30.77% target share from Aaron Rodgers last season. Matt Ryan leaned on Ridley heavily when Jones was sidelined and is primed to do so again in 2021 with Jones wearing a different uniform.
Now, projecting a nearly 33% target share for Ridley in 2021 is foolish, but considering he was getting about a quarter of Ryan’s target share overall last season, a bump just above 28% seems reasonable. While I’m projecting the Falcons to throw a little less than we’re accustomed to with new head coach Arthur Smith in charge, 160-170 targets for Ridley is very possible. That sort of volume coupled with his skill set will make Ridley a fantasy superstar.
Ja’Marr Chase is WR2 before ever taking an NFL snap?
Chase’s ranking is a bit bold, yes, but I could not be more excited for this rookie pass-catcher to hit the field this season. The Bengals threw the ball a lot last season. At the time of Joe Burrow’s horrific knee injury, Cincinnati had the second-most pass attempts per game in the NFL. I expect a lot of the same this year as the Bengals rely on Burrow’s arm to keep them competitive late in games throughout the season.
As for Chase, despite the presence of Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, there are plenty of targets to be had. Last season, Burrow targeted A.J. Green on 19.06% of his pass attempts. Green was woefully inefficient with his targets, but opportunities were not the issue. Green is gone and Chase steps in as a better overall player right now and someone with built-in chemistry with Burrow. A 20% target share is a reasonable projection, and Chase can put up WR2-caliber numbers if he just meets the last five years’ worth of averages for rookie wide receivers who’ve received 100 or more targets.
Why is Antonio Brown in your top 25?
I’m so glad you asked! Off the field issues aside, Brown is quite underrated right now. He made a much bigger impact on the Buccaneers’ offense when he came to Tampa Bay last season than he’s given credit for. From Week 10—Brown’s second game with the team and the period where Tom Brady was reportedly finally fully comfortable with the Buccaneers’ playbook—through the Super Bowl, Brown received an 18.85% target share. For context, Mike Evans received a 19.65% target share and Chris Godwin had a 20.15% target share in that same timeframe. Brown was as involved as anyone in Tampa Bay’s offense and has chemistry with Brady that cannot be denied. Brown is not as dynamic at this stage of his career as Evans or Godwin, but an 80-catch, 1,000-yard season is well within reach.
Why are you so high on Marvin Jones? Why is he your top Jaguars WR?
The Jaguars are a bit of a mystery right now. They have a brand new coaching staff and a rookie quarterback under center. We don’t really know what Jacksonville’s offense is going to look like once they hit the field in September. However, we can make some inferences.
Darrell Bevell is the team’s new offensive coordinator and play-caller and he’ll have a familiar pass-catching weapon to work with. Jones comes over from Detroit with Bevell as a trustworthy veteran with a nose for the end zone. In Jones’ two years with Bevell, he received a 19.69% target share. That’s particularly notable considering Jones played alongside Kenny Golladay the majority of the time. With no receiver of Golladay’s caliber in Jacksonville, I expect Jones to be heavily involved in the offense on a team that may be forced to throw a lot when trailing late in games. I would not be surprised to see a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season from Jones in 2021.
Your Odell Beckham Jr. ranking is trash. Why are you so bad?
First of all, that’s hurtful. Second of all, 2016 was five years ago and that version of Beckham hasn’t shown up since. Beckham has missed four or more games in three of the last four seasons and is coming off a torn ACL he suffered in October. The Browns are a run-first team, which will limit Beckham’s overall target volume even if he continues to see the 25% target share he’s received since joining Cleveland. Considering you have to bake in at least four missed games given his recent history and his falling touchdown percentage with Baker Mayfield as compared to Eli Manning, Beckham is probably a dozen fantasy points per game player. I’m interested in him as a flex, but that’s about it.
If you have any specific questions or want to know more about what I think of certain players, follow me on Twitter (@JaimeEisner) or Instagram (@JaimeEisnerTDN). I’d be happy to chat with you! Also, be sure to tune in to the TDN Fantasy Podcast for in-depth audio breakdowns of these rankings, my projections, and all the latest fantasy football news throughout the 2021 football season.