With the kickoff to the 2021 NFL season only eight days away, sportsbooks around the country are expanding their extensive betting markets. One of the most popular markets involves predicting who will lead the league in receiving yards - a position that fantasy football managers often look to fill in the early rounds of drafts.
After bettors cashed on Stefon Diggs as a +4000 longshot in 2020, the question now becomes can he repeat the feat at considerable lower odds? Who is the favorite in the eyes of the oddsmakers in 2021?
As one of the top-ranked season-long fantasy football players in the world, I will admit that I incorporate sportsbook betting projections into my successful fantasy rankings. It has become a vital and integral strategy to building my successful investments year-in and year-out.
RECENT NFL RECEIVING YARD LEADERS
Over the past three seasons, a new leader has emerged with the NFL receiving yardage crown. In 2018, Julio Jones led the NFL with 1,677 receiving yards followed by Michael Thomas in 2019 with 1,725 yards. Last season, Stefon Diggs (1,535) edged out Travis Kelce (1,416), DeAndre Hopkins (1,407) and Justin Jefferson (1,400).
Diggs cashed for bettors at healthy odds of +4000, while all of the top-four overall betting choices: Michael Thomas (+500), Julio Jones (+900), Davante Adams (+1400) and Tyreek Hill (+1400) burned their backers at short odds. Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, who was listed last summer at +2200, nearly pulled off the big upset finishing second overall - only 119 yards behind Diggs.
FANTASY WR RANKINGS/TIERS
TOP WR TIER
- Davante Adams (+900)
- Stefon Diggs (+800)
- Calvin Ridley (+750)
- DeAndre Hopkins (+1000)
- Tyreek Hill (+900)
Green Bay Packers Davante Adams lands as my top-ranked wide receiver in Fantasy Football in 2021. The star wideout is coming off a prolific 2020 season where he caught 115 receptions for 1,374 and a league-high 18 touchdowns. The volume of 125-plus target expectation easily makes the favorite target of Aaron Rodgers a pure value play to lead the league in receiving yards at +900. Adams, who missed last season's tilt with New Orleans due to an early-season hamstring injury, should feast in Week 1 when Green Bay (-3) travels to New Orleans with one of the highest totals (50.5) currently on SI Sportsbook.
As we previously alluded to, Buffalo's Stefon Diggs took a major step forward in 2020, and the oddsmakers have made quite an adjustment in 2021. Last season, bettors found Diggs at +4000 to lead the league in receiving yards, but after earning the crown, Diggs has been slashed down to odds of +800 in this year's betting market. In 2020, the rising star improved his receiving production by 405 yards over his previous career-best. Thanks to his strong rapport with Josh Allen, Diggs is easily one of the most coveted wideouts in fantasy drafts this season. My projections are again calling for high target volume in 2021 after a league-high 166 last season.
Last season, my top breakout was Atlanta Falcons Calvin Ridley to emerge as the WR1 over Julio Jones and earn his place as one of the top wide receivers in fantasy football. Statistically, Ridley (1,374) fell just below the top receiving mark by 161 yards. Oddsmakers, who last season were listing his potential of leading the league in receiving yards with massive +2800 odds, now have Ridley listed as the betting favorite to wrestle the title away from Diggs in 2021. My No.3 overall ranked fantasy wide receiver, Ridley, who has amassed 26 touchdowns in just three seasons, is a player with a tremendous ceiling with Julio Jones now in Tennessee. Ridley is in line to get off to a solid statistical start as Atlanta is projected to be involved in a high-scoring affair with Philadelphia in a Week 1 home battle set with a total of 48.5 on SI Sportsbook.
DeAndre Hopkins, who can be found as high as +1000, finds himself outside the top-five in the most receiving yards betting market. Arizona, which has a season win total set at 8.5, hopes young signal-caller Kyler Murray is ready to take the next step in his third season. Hopkins, who has posted three consecutive seasons of 104-plus receptions, is perhaps the biggest model of consistency. After finishing third overall last season, Hopkins offers immense double-digit betting value (+1000), only 128 yards shy of Diggs.
Kansas City's speedy Tyreek Hill rounds out the top-five of elite fantasy options at the wideout position in 2021. Playing in arguably the best offense in the NFL, Hill is one of the favorite targets of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Hill is the fourth overall betting choice at +900, but with Travis Kelce earning plenty of targets, I would shy away from investing in the sixth-year veteran in this betting market. Hill and the Chiefs should get off to a flying start to the season as Kansas City (-6) takes on Cleveland at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 1 with the highest total (53) of any game posted currently on SI Sportsbook.
WR TIER 2
- DK Metcalf (+1200)
- Justin Jefferson (+850)
- AJ Brown (+1500)
Seattle Seahawks' DK Metcalf (+1200) emerged as an elite fantasy football option last season after leading the club with 1,303 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Russell Wilson has thrown 31-plus touchdowns in four straight seasons, and Metcalf projects to be on the receiving end for 36.4 % of his production in 2021. Perhaps the biggest physical mismatch in the NFL since Calvin Johnson, the former Ole' Miss standout, is in line for a second consecutive top-10 finish in PPR formats and a sleeper at +1200 to cash for bettors in the most receiving yards wagering market.
Minnesota's Justin Jefferson was easily the best rookie wide receiver in 2020. The former LSU star averaged 15.9 yards per reception after hauling in 88 balls for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns playing in the Vikings offense. Jefferson will be hard-pressed to match or exceed last year's production. However, fantasy managers should not shy away from the elite talent who nearly pulled off the monumental upset - finishing fourth in overall receiving yardage at odds of +9500. The oddsmakers have made a huge adjustment in 2021, listing Jefferson as the third overall betting choice at +850.
Tennessee's AJ Brown (+1500), who is coming off a 2020 sophomore campaign that produced 70 receptions for 1,075 yards and 11 touchdowns, is considered a moderate longshot in overall passing yardage betting boards around the country. Brown is being drafted in the top ten of fantasy drafts at the wideout position thanks to the arrival of veteran Julio Jones lining up on the other side of the Titans' offensive sets. Expecting Brown to match or eclipse his receiving output from last season is well within the realm of expectations, and fantasy owners are expecting another leap forward in his third season as defenses will find it difficult to roll coverage to his side with Jones on the opposite end of the formation.
ROUNDING OUT THE FIELD
- CeeDee Lamb (+2500)
- Terry McLaurin (+1900)
- Tee Higgins (+3500)
CeeDee Lamb (+2500) is a very attractive betting and fantasy option in 2021 after posting solid production in his rookie season in Dallas. Lamb is a player my projections are indicating will outproduce veteran Amari Cooper. Lamb is being targeted by fantasy owners at the back-end of the second round of drafts to fill the WR1/WR2 position. In a pass-heavy offense, expect Lamb to double his rookie season touchdown total (5) and approach double-digits running routes with a full season of Dak Prescott at the helm.
Terry McLaurin was reliable in his second season for the Washington Football Team, hauling in 87 catches for 1,118 receiving yards and four touchdowns. After playing in a Washington offense that lacked consistent quarterback play, the former Ohio State Buckeye is poised to have a career year with gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick now under center. McLaurin should battle Lamb for top NFC East wideout honors - but a player bettors should avoid backing in this betting market despite his juicy +1900 odds.
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Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins is simply an afterthought in the overall receiving leader betting market (+3500) since the club added another elite talent in Ja’Marr Chase in this past April’s NFL Draft. Higgins, who posted a 67/908/6 stat line in his 2020 rookie season, is a player my projections are extremely bullish on in 2021. The former Clemson Tiger is a wideout I have projected to easily surpass 1,150 receiving yards - thus leading to a potential elite finish in PPR formats.
Frankie Taddeo is a successful high-stakes fantasy football player who created the first-ever DFS program ever offered in a Las Vegas sportsbook. Frankie is SI Betting's Senior Analyst and provides his significant experience and resources in the sports betting scene. You can follow Frankie on Twitter @Frankie_Fantasy for his latest betting and fantasy insights from Las Vegas.
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