2021 Fantasy Football: How NFL Free Agency Impacts Everyone Else - The Winners

SI Fantasy's Michael Fabiano takes an in-depth look how free agency roster moves helped some players

The 2021 NFL free agency frenzy period is nearly in the books, and we now have a clearer picture of how all 32 rosters are going to look heading into the NFL draft. I've already examined the free-agent winners and losers, but we also have to take a look at how player movement has impacted the value of players who didn't change teams in a virtual domino effect of sorts. Let's start with the positives and the players whose fantasy appeal increases on some level due to roster moves.

READ MORE: How NFL Free Agency Impacts Everyone Else - The Losers

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys: Elliott is coming off a down season that saw his totals decline across the board. Of course, that all came after the Cowboys lost Dak Prescott to a gruesome leg injury. The team has signed Prescott to a four-year deal, so there are no doubts about his future in Big D. That's great news for Zeke's fantasy value in 2021.

James Robinson, RB, Jaguars: The Jaguars added Carlos Hyde as a free agent, but I don't see the 30-year-old running back as a real threat to Robinson's touches. He might see a small decline in the near 40 percent share he had a season ago, but J-Rob will remain a featured running back and a top-20 overall selection in most 2021 drafts.

Cam Akers, RB, Rams: Akers looked like a star down the stretch of last season and into the playoffs, so he's certainly a player on the rise in fantasy leagues. His stock went up a bit more when the Rams lost Malcolm Brown (Dolphins), who accounted for a 14.3 percent touch share last season. That's just more touches for Akers to absorb in 2021.


Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs: The Chiefs released Damien Williams, the one real threat to Edwards-Helaire's role as a featured back next season. Sure, the Chiefs could add another back in the weeks and months to come, but for now, it looks like the Glyde is in line to take on a bigger role. He could become a low-end No. 1 back.

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ravens: The Ravens released veteran Mark Ingram before the official start of free agency, leaving Dobbins as the favorite to lead their run-based offense in touches out of the backfield. Gus Edwards will also be in the mix, but there should be enough opportunities as a runner and receiver for Dobbins to produce.

Terry McLaurin, WR, Football Team: Washington's quarterback situation was in  question, but the addition of Ryan Fitzpatrick was a real positive. The old gunslinger has done well to improve the fantasy value of wideouts in the past, most recently DeVante Parker, so McLaurin is in a better spot to produce No. 2 wideout totals.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Broncos: Gordon is a winner after the Broncos let Phillip Lindsay (Texans) walk as a free agent. Royce Freeman is still in the mix, and the team added Mike Boone from Minnesota, but neither would threaten Gordon's touch share like the two-time 1,000-yard rusher in Lindsay. He should now be a safer No. 2 running back.

Chase Edmonds, RB, Cardinals: The Cardinals lost Kenyan Drake (Raiders) as a free agent, leaving Edmonds the favorite to lead this backfield next season. Whether that ultimately remains the situation when next season starts is a point of contention, but for now, Edmonds looks like the top option among backs for coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Texans: The Texans have lost Fuller (Dolphins) as a free agent, so Cooks is the de facto No. 1 wide receiver in the offense right now. Fuller averaged nearly seven targets per game a season ago, and Cooks should absorb some of them. The question is, who will be the Texans quarterback in 2021? That remains to be seen.

Dolphins Myles Gaskin Fantasy Football

Myles Gaskin, RB, Dolphins: Reports were floating around that the Dolphins had an interest in Aaron Jones, though he ultimately re-signed with the Packers. Miami did add Malcolm Brown, but I don't see him as a threat to Gaskin's starting role. The team could add an impact runner in the NFL draft, but for now, Gaskin still looks like the top option.

Tee Higgins, WR, Bengals: Higgins showed flashes of potential as a rookie, earning a 19.1 percent target share. That total should increase, as the Bengals lost A.J. Green and his 104 targets to the Cardinals and didn't land Golladay as a free agent. Unless an impact wideout is added in the draft, Higgins could be on the verge of breaking out.

Jalen Reagor, WR, Eagles: The Eagles pass attack will look much different next year, as DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery are gone, and Zach Ertz is on the trade block. The team could still add a veteran wideout or draft a star at the top of Round 1 of the NFL draft, but at this point, it's Reagor who's looking like the top option for 2021.

Irv Smith, Jr., TE, Vikings: Smith showed some flashes of potential at the end of last year, posting three touchdowns and 51.3 fantasy points over his final four games. He'll be in a more featured role next season, as the Vikings released Kyle Rudolph (Giants). With a projected increase in target share, Smith could become a No. 1 fantasy option.

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Raiders: Ruggs didn't do much as a rookie, but he should be in line for a bigger role next season. The Raiders lost Nelson Agholor (Patriots), who led all Las Vegas wideouts in targets, receiving yards, and touchdown catches last season. If Ruggs can earn more targets from Derek Carr, he could be a real fantasy sleeper. 

Tyler Higbee, Fantasy Football, Los Angeles Rams

Tyler Higbee, TE, Rams: Higbee didn't live up to expectations last season, but he'll be in a better position to produce in 2021. The Rams lost Gerald Everett to the Seahawks, leaving Higbee as their top tight end with Matthew Stafford under center. That means a likely increase in Higbee's meager 10.7 target share percentage from a season ago.

Daniel Jones, QB, Giants: Jones didn't live up to fantasy expectations last season, but there will be no excuses in 2021. Not only will he get Saquon Barkley back from an ACL tear, but the Giants also added a No. 1 wide receiver in Kenny Golladay to an offense that also has Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Evan Engram. It'll be now or never.

Anthony Firkser, TE, Titans: Firkser is in line for a much bigger role for the Titans next season, as the team lost Jonnu Smith (Patriots) and Corey Davis (Jets). That duo accounted for nearly 35 percent of the team's target share a season ago. There aren't any impact free-agent tight ends left on the market, so Firkser is in a good spot.

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Dolphins: Tagovailoa didn't produce like Justin Herbert in the stat sheets as a rookie, but he did show some flashes of potential under center. With Will Fuller now at his disposal, the Alabama product has a field-stretching weapon to add with DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki. Tua could get more help in the draft, too.

Adam Trautman, TE, Saints: The Saints have released Jared Cook (Chargers) and Emmanuel Sanders (Bills), so there are 142 available targets in the passing game. Trautman didn't do much as a rookie with just 16 targets, but fantasy value is all about opportunities, and those should be plentiful. Trautman is a nice late-round sleeper.


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 best analysis in the business!

Take your game to the next level with an SI Fantasy+ subscription. Get insights from Michael Fabiano, Shawn Childs, and the entire fantasy team all year-round

Take your game to the next level with an SI Fantasy+ subscription. Get insights from Michael Fabiano, Shawn Childs, and the entire fantasy team all year-round