It's that time of the year when love is in the air. The card stores are an explosion of red and pink hearts with little dudes in diapers shooting arrows. Flower bouquets are everywhere, and dating website subscriptions increase as single folks look for love. Well, I'm looking for love too. But I ain't talkin' 'bout that kind of love! Instead, it’s the love of players who’ll help me win a fantasy football title.
I won't be labeling them "sleepers" or "breakouts," but I have faith that these 10 players could be great draft bargains and stat-sheet stuffers. So sit back with a loved one and check out my 2021 fantasy valentines and fantasy crushes!
Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles plan to trade Carson Wentz this offseason, which opens the door for Hurts to take over the top spot in Philadelphia. He started and finished three games as a rookie, averaging 79.3 rushing yards and over 25 fantasy points. His skills as a runner make him a dangerous dual-threat, and mobile quarterbacks can be valuable assets in fantasy land.
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Dobbins is a versatile stats machine who led all running backs with a 6.0 yards per rush average as a rookie. What’s more, the release of Mark Ingram is the first step in his rise to becoming Baltimore’s starting running back. It might not be a true featured role if the Ravens retain restricted free agent Gus Edwards, but he’ll get enough touches to produce.
Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams
It took a little longer than we hoped, but the Rams did showcase Akers in the second half of 2020. He averaged 21.7 touches and 16.3 fantasy points over his final seven games (including the playoffs), proving he has the tools to be a fantasy star. The Rams added Matthew Stafford, who will keep defenses honest, and Malcolm Brown is a free agent.
D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions
Swift finished his rookie season as the RB18, but he was far better when in a prominent role. In five games where he had at least 15 touches, Swift averaged an impressive 20.8 fantasy points. With new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and running backs coach Duce Staley calling the shots, it’s no surprise I’m “swift” to show him some love for 2021.
A.J. Dillon, RB, Green Bay Packers
My fantasy affection for Dillon depends on the “divorce” of Aaron Jones and the Packers. If he leaves as a free agent, I’ll be jumping right into Dillon’s DMs. While he didn’t get a ton of work as a rookie, his monster performance against the Titans in Week 16 brought drool to the lips of fantasy managers. He’ll easily have RB2 upside as a starter.
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Lamb finished his rookie season ranked 22nd in points among wideouts, but it could have been much higher. In five games with Dak Prescott under center, he averaged 17.1 fantasy points and was on pace to nearly equal Justin Jefferson's production. Don't be surprised if it’s Lamb and not Amari Cooper, who leads Cowboys wideouts in 2021.
Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Higgins ranked 28th in fantasy points at wide receiver as a rookie, but he played in just 11 games with Joe Burrow. He did show flashes of brilliance at times, posting 20-plus fantasy points three times while playing in a crowded Bengals passing attack. With A.J. Green becoming a free agent, Higgins' target share and fantasy production should rise next season.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Aiyuk finished a ho-hum 35th in points among wideouts as a rookie, but he averaged 20.8 points during a six-game stretch that opened the eyes of fantasy fans. A playmaker who ranked tied for ninth among wideouts in broken tackles, Aiyuk is a good bet to finish in the top two in targets for the Niners. He has the upside to be a solid No. 2 wideout.
Curtis Samuel, WR, Carolina Panthers
Samuel could be on the move as a free agent (I’d love to see him in Washington), so his value is still in a state of limbo. He did put up terrific totals over his final 10 games of 2020, averaging 7.4 targets and 16.9 fantasy points in that time. If he lands with a team that makes him a No. 2 wide receiver, Samuel could turn into quite the fantasy asset.
Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Reports have swirled that the Eagles will part ways with Zach Ertz, which would open the door for Goedert to be a true No. 1 tight end for the first time in his career. The Eagles did run a lot of 12 personnel last season (33.5%), but new coach Nick Sirianni ran it just 19.3 percent of the time as the Colts offensive coordinator. Goedert could be a star.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for all of the latest breaking fantasy football news and the business's best analysis!