The Fantabulous 4 2021
One Must-Roster Player at Every Position
Dating all the way back to the release of the first Spider Man movie in 2002 (the one with Tobey Maguire and the upsidedown smooch), America’s imagination has been captured by superhero movies. When Marvel Studios released Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, it kicked off a run of wildly successful films that culminated in the highest-grossing movie ever made – Avengers: Endgame.
However, while there have been some truly great superhero flicks made (like Black Panther), there have also been some real clunkers (like just about everything DC Films has put out). The kings of that crud are the Fantastic Four flicks. Even the elite thespian abilities of Jessica Alba couldn’t save the first two, and the 2015 reboot was called “the cinematic equivalent of malware” by Peter Travers of Rolling Stone.
Now, I would never saddle a quartet of super-powered players who will dominate fantasy football in 2021 – and who can save your squad from certain (Doctor?) doom – with a moniker associated with such refuse. Frankly, the Fantastic Four was always kind of lame anyway. The Human Torch and The Thing are decent as superheroes go, but a woman who can become invisible and a guy who can stretch?
However, what we have here is much better than those bums. It’s a foursome of formidable fantasy forces who are set to outperform their ADP in 2021 by a massive margin. The kind of monumental value picks that wins leagues.
What we have here is the Fantabulous Four, and that’s way better. The best part is it is entirely possible to roster all four. I’d even throw in Jessica Alba if I could, but for some strange reason she won’t return my calls.
QB: Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: QB11)
Jalen Hurts is a perfect example of why the smart play for fantasy managers remains waiting to draft a starting quarterback. The second-year pro out of Alabama is barely being selected inside weekly starter territory at the position, with an ADP in the middle of the seventh round.
It’s not that hard to see why some fantasy managers have concerns about drafting Hurts. After being thrown to the proverbial wolves in place of an ineffective Carson Wentz last year, Hurts completed just 52 percent of his passes, with six touchdown passes against four interceptions. He’s also being tasked with learning a new offense under head coach Nick Sirianni.
However, per CBS Sports, Hurts is taking well to the new scheme.
“Jalen has done a heck of a job learning the offense,” Sirianni said on a conference call at Eagles rookie minicamp. “He’s impressive in there. He’s really got a good control of it. Jalen has just done a good job of taking the plays that have been taught to him, and he can really rattle off exactly what he’s supposed to do on every single play. It’ll be exciting to get on the field with him and see him do it physically.”
As Jake Ciely wrote at the Athletic, that new offense is one of the reasons fantasy managers should actually be enthusiastic about Hurts in 2021, along with the arrival of a new No. 1 receiver in DeVonta Smith.
“Hurts also stepped into an offense designed for Wentz, not him,” Ciely said. “The Eagles have all offseason to customize this offense to Hurts’ ability, which includes (Jalen) Reagor entering Year 2, the addition of DeVonta Smith (drool), more backfield receiving weapons and hopefully a true breakout for (Dallas) Goedert (if not, maybe (Zach) Ertz can find a second wind if he returns). Speaking of Hurts’ ability, let’s remember what he does well as a passer: good pocket presence, great in the short-tointermediate game and has an underrated deep ball. Well. … Reagor, Smith, Goedert, (Travis) Fulgham, Greg Ward, possibly Ertz and the backfield, and you have a nice team built around Hurts with a fresh offense to take advantage of his true skills.” Want a couple more reasons to start feeling fantabulous about Hurts? Thanks in no small part to his ability to pick up yardage with his legs, Hurts was seventh in fantasy points among quarterbacks over his four starts in 2020. Over the fantasy playoffs, he was third, trailing only Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson.
The Eagles also (at the risk of being blunt) are not an especially good team. There is going to be lots of playing from behind. The garbage time potential is not insignificant. If there’s a QB being drafted outside the Top 10 with a legit shot at finishing inside the Top 5, it’s Hurts.
RB: Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP: RB14)
If early average draft position data is any indication, fantasy drafts in 2021 are as RB-heavy at the top as ever. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, nine of the first 12 picks this year are running backs. In the industry drafts in this very magazine, that number is even higher.
Finding a back you can draft in RB2 territory who has a legitimate chance of cracking the Top 10 might be the difference between disappointment and a championship, especially if you’re one of those weirdos who takes a wide receiver or tight end in Round 1.
Hey. I don’t judge. Not even weirdos.
Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals suffered through a miserable 2020 campaign. The 24-year-old missed 10 games with a foot injury. When he was healthy, he managed just 3.6 yards per carry playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
That injured foot is reportedly 100 percent now. The Bengals will have a healthy Jonah Williams back at left tackle and added veteran tackle Riley Reiff and rookie guard Jackson Carman up front in the offseason. An improved Cincinnati passing attack that now includes wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase should mean fewer stacked fronts. And with Giovani Bernard now in Tampa Bay, Bengals OC Brian Callahan said he expects Mixon to be a true every-down back.
“I don’t want Joe to leave the field, personally, and I think he’s up to that challenge,” Callahan said. “He has some things he has to improve pass-protection-wise. Joe shouldn’t come off the field, he should be on the field every down. He’s aware of that.”
The stars have seemingly aligned for Mixon to rebound in a big way – so much so that Mike Randle of Last Word on Sports went so far as to predict that Mixon could finish 2021 as the top back in all of fantasy football.
“Mixon truthers have been burned before, but everything lines up for a career season for the fifth-year running back,” he said. “Mixon only played in six games last year. But the versatile 24-year-old back still managed 3.5 receptions on 4.3 targets per game and had the second-highest opportunity share of any running back when healthy. Even with strong competition from Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and a fully-healthy Christian McCaffrey, Mixon has the perfect trifecta of talent, system, and limited competition for the overall RB1 campaign.” That would be next-level fantabulous.
WR: Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos (ADP: WR32)
At this time a year ago, Courtland Sutton looked like a rising star at the wide receiver position. Fresh off a 72/1,112/6 stat line on 124 targets and a top-20 fantasy finish in PPR formats, Sutton had an ADP in the mid-20s among receivers.
What followed, of course, was disastrous—three catches for 66 yards before an ACL tear ended his third season. That lost year has caused Sutton to go from rising star to so-so WR3 pick in the eyes of many.
Well, Jason Katz of Fantasy Pros hasn’t given up on the 25-year-old. Not by a long shot.
“If there is one player I am putting my reputation on this season, it’s Sutton,” he said. “While he’s not without risks, specifically poor quarterback play, Sutton is an alpha WR1 talent that seems to have been forgotten about after a lost season due to a torn ACL. Sutton was sneaky good in 2019. He hit doubledigit fantasy points 11 times and had six games of WR1 level production. If you were to make a list of wide receivers with ‘best wide receiver in the NFL’ in their plausible range of outcomes, Sutton is on that list. That’s how good he is.”
The 6-4, 216-pounder told the team’s website that his rehab is going well, so well that he’s expected to be a full-go for training camp.
“That’s the plan,” Sutton said. “[The knee] feels really good. To be at this stage where I’m at right now, post-surgery, and to be able to go out and do what I do and it feels the way that it does, it gives me hope and promise for the future. I’m only going to continue to attack rehab as I have. … With a 100 percent mindset.”
As to the “poor quarterback play” Katz referenced, it’s true that no one is going to confuse Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater with Patrick Mahomes any time soon. But while Bridgewater (who is the front-runner to win the job in the eyes of most pundits) was the quarterback in Carolina last year, both D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson surpassed 1,000 receiving yards and finished inside the Top 25 in PPR fantasy points.
TE: T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions (ADP: TE5)
When it comes to tight ends in fantasy football, there are three potential courses of action. The first is to go big and invest an early pick in one of the “Big 3” – Travis Kelce of the Chiefs, Darren Waller of the Raiders or George Kittle of the 49ers. The third is to play the waiting game and grab a lower-end starter like Robert Tonyan of the Green Bay Packers in the doubledigit rounds.
The second avenue may well be the wisest – targeting those second-tier tight ends who don’t cost as much as the elite three, and who have a reasonable shot at crashing the big boy party by year’s end. And among that group, the most appealing value is Detroit’s T.J. Hockenson.
Hockenson has already shown he can be a high-end fantasy option. By virtue of his 67 receptions, 723 receiving yards and six scores in 2020, Hockenson finished the year third in PPR points. There are ample reasons to believe that the third-year pro could surpass that production in 2021.
The first is simple – as Roto Street Journal pointed out, turnover in the Detroit passing game vacated a metric ton of targets.
“The Lions vacated the most targets (334) and target share (59.5 percent) in the league by a whopping 73 looks and 11.6 percent,” they said. “At WR, newly acquired Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams, who didn’t play in 2020, pair with returnees Quintez Cephus and Kalif Raymond to top the depth chart. Perhaps the worst WR corps in the NFL. In short: Nothing stands between Hockenson and 140+ looks (even if D’Andre Swift dominates as a “three-down back.”) His 101 targets already ranked fifth among TEs, and this was with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones around.”
By weight of comparison, Waller had 146 targets in 2020 to lead all tight ends.
There’s also a new offensive coordinator in Motown in Anthony Lynn who believes that Hockenson can be a focal point of the offense.
“T.J. did some nice things last year, and I think his ceiling is even higher,” Lynn said, via ESPN. “I know he made the Pro Bowl and all that, but he can play even better and that was the encouraging part. I like what I saw on tape. … It creates a very unique matchup because you have linebackers and safeties covering that guy and if he’s a stud, it’s going to be a long day for you.”
It wouldn’t be a massive upset to see Hockenson out-point Kelce, Kittle, or Waller in 2021.