The NFL's offseason has been, well, interesting to say the least. It's seen a lot of free-agent movement, big trades, and a draft that some would argue wasn’t all that fantasy-friendly (at least for 2021). Just ask anyone who was high on Travis Etienne!
So, which offenses have seen the biggest transformations and figure to see new players in more prominent roles next season? Who figures to benefit or suffer in terms of offensive chances? Well, this is your one-stop-shop for answers to those questions.
Below is a list of all 16 AFC teams, ranked in order of the squads with the most open backfield touches (quarterbacks, running backs) compared to 2020 rosters down to the teams with the least. Keep in mind, rookies and players who opted out last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic don’t factor into the totals. The teams on the positive side of the numbers have touches available in the backfield, while those on the negative side will field crowded backfield that could cause headaches for fantasy managers. Keep these numbers in mind when you're drafting your 2021 fantasy football teams!
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1. New York Jets (248)
Notable additions: QB Zach Wilson (R), RB Michael Carter (RK), RB Tevin Coleman
Notable losses: QB Sam Darnold, RB Frank Gore, RB Le’Veon Bell
Notes: Wilson will replace Darnold as the team’s new starting quarterback in what will be a rebuilt backfield. Gore left behind 203 touches, tops among Jets running backs in 2020. Coleman could open the regular season as the starting running back, but Carter has the higher ceiling and offers far more value in 2021 fantasy football drafts.
2. Cincinnati Bengals (182)
Notable additions: RB Chris Evans (R), RB Pooka Williams Jr.
Notable losses: RB Giovani Bernard
Notes: Bernard left behind a team-high 171 touches from a season ago, but that’s a deceiving stat since he saw more work in the extended absence of Joe Mixon. The Bengals added Evans in the draft and signed Williams as a UDFA (undrafted free agent), but neither will put a dent into Mixon’s touches. He could dominate touches in 2021.
3. Los Angeles Chargers (135)
Notable additions: QB Chase Daniel, RB Larry Roundtree III (R)
Notable losses: RB Kalen Ballage, RB Troymaine Pope
Notes: The Chargers backfield saw 108 touches open with Ballage no longer on the roster, but his touches came as a result of the absence of Austin Ekeler. Look for the versatile runner to lead this backfield in touches by a wide margin, with Joshua Kelley and Justin Jackson behind him on the depth chart. Ekeler will be a top-15 selection.
4. New England Patriots (92)
Notable additions: QB Mac Jones (R), Rhamondre Stevenson (R)
Notable losses: RB Rex Burkhead
Notes: Cam Newton will return as New England’s starting quarterback, but Jones will certainly compete for snaps during training camp and throughout the season. Damien Harris and Sony Michel are likely to absorb some of the 92 open touches from Rex Burkhead, but James White will also take some of the targets. Stevenson will be hard pressed to see significant touches as a rookie, unless injuries cause Harris or Michel to miss time. Regardless, no Patriots runner will be worth more than a RB4 this season.
5. Baltimore Ravens (90)
Notable additions: None
Notable losses: QB Robert Griffin III, RB Mark Ingram
Notes: Ingram’s absence opens up 78 backfield touches, which will be absorbed by J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Dobbins is likely to be the main beneficiary, making him a solid second-round pick and a high-end No. 2 fantasy runner in most 2021 drafts.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (76)
Notable additions: QB Dwayne Haskins, RB Najee Harris (R), RB Kalen Ballage
Notable losses: RB James Conner
Notes: Haskins will be the new backup quarterback behind Ben Roethlisberger. The backfield will have a new look, as Harris will take over a projected lead role now that Conner is no longer on the roster. The Steelers added Ballage, but he has no chance to duplicate his 2020 touch totals. Coach Mike Tomlin likes using a featured back, so Harris could push for low-end RB1 numbers as a rookie. He’s worth a second-rounder.
7. Denver Broncos (65)
Notable additions: QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Javonte Williams (R), Mike Boone
Notable losses: QB Jeff Driskell, RB Phillip Lindsay
Notes: Bridgewater will battle Drew Lock for the top spot on the depth chart in training camp, but I’m betting on the former to take the job. The main loss of touches came in the release of Lindsay (125). Those opportunities will likely be absorbed by Williams, who the Broncos moved up in the draft to acquire. Melvin Gordon will likely be at the top of the depth chart to open the season, but he’ll no doubt lose some work to Williams. Neither will be worth drafting as more than a low-end RB2 or high-end FLEX, but Williams could be the better of the two fantasy options as season’s end.
8. Miami Dolphins (19)
Notable additions: QB Jacoby Brissett, RB Malcolm Brown
Notable losses: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Matt Breida, RB Jordan Howard
Notes: Tua Tagovailoa will remain the starting quarterback in Miami with Brissett now serving as the backup in the absence of Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins added Brown, who figures to be second on the depth chart behind Myles Gaskin. Look for Gaskin to be a high-end flex starter who could become a viable No. 2 fantasy runner next season.
9. Cleveland Browns (0)
Notable additions: None
Notable losses: None
Notes: The Browns backfield will remain status quo for fans next season, with Nick Chubb leading the way and Kareem Hunt taking on a big role in the passing game. Chubb is a first-round RB1, while Hunt will be more of a flex starter in PPR leagues.
10. Indianapolis Colts (-18)
Notable additions: QB Carson Wentz
Notable losses: QB Philip Rivers, QB Jacoby Brissett
Notes: Wentz will take over as the new starting quarterback after the retirement of Philip Rivers. He’ll be seen as a late-round No. 2 fantasy field general. The Colts didn’t add a significant player in the backfield, but they did re-sign Marlon Mack. Jonathan Taylor is still the main man and will be worth a first-round selection, but it remains to be seen how much Mack (coming off a torn Achilles) puts a dent into his touch share.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (-45)
Notable additions: RB Jerick McKinnon
Notable losses: RB Damien Williams, RB Le’Veon Bell
Notes: Williams, who opted out due to COVID-19 last season, signed with the Bears and has been replaced on the roster by McKinnon (Bell remains a free agent). He’ll fall into a secondary role behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who showed flashes of potential as a rookie and should be worth a top 30 pick in the majority of 2021 fantasy drafts.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars (-68)
Notable additions: QB Trevor Lawrence (R), RB Travis Etienne (R), RB Carlos Hyde
Notable losses: QB Mike Glennon, RB Chris Thompson
Notes: The Jaguars will have a new look under center with the addition of Lawrence, who’ll be drafted as a No. 2 quarterback in most leagues. The backfield is in question, as James Robinson was a star as a rookie but will now have to compete for touches with Etienne and to a lesser degree, Hyde. New coach Urban Meyer has talked about Etienne working as a receiver, so a committee is in the cards. The Clemson product is looking like the better of the two options in PPR formats, but it’s a situation to watch.
13. Buffalo Bills (-84)
Notable additions: QB Mitchell Trubisky, RB Matt Breida
Notable losses: RB T.J. Yeldon
Notes: Trubisky will serve as Buffalo’s No. 1 backup quarterback behind starter and fantasy star Josh Allen. The Bills brought in Breida to replace Yeldon, but the backfield will remain a committee with Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. Neither is worth more than a middle-to-late-round selection as a No. 4 fantasy running back in 2021 drafts.
14. Tennessee Titans (-102)
Notable additions: RB Brian Hill
Notable losses: RB D’Onta Foreman
Notes: The Titans might be upside down in terms of touches, but that’s due to Hill’s 125 for the Falcons last season. He won't be anywhere near that total while battling Darrynton Evans for touches. This backfield will continue to run through Derrick Henry, who rushed for 2,000-plus yards in 2020 and will be a top-eight pick in drafts.
15. Las Vegas Raiders (-154)
Notable additions: RB Kenyan Drake
Notable losses: RB Devontae Booker
Notes: The Raiders' backfield used to be owed by Josh Jacobs, but the addition of Drake and his 264 touches from a season ago muddied the waters. In fact, Jacobs has gone from a first-round selection to being a third or fourth-rounder who won’t do much as a pass-catcher with Drake on the roster. As for K.D., he’s more of a No. 4 fantasy running back after finishing in the top 20 in points at the position a season ago.
16. Houston Texans (-201)
Notable additions: QB Tyrod Taylor, QB Davis Mills, RB Phillip Lindsay, RB Mark Ingram, RB Rex Burkhead
Notable losses: RB Duke Johnson
Notes: The Texans quarterback situation is a question mark at this point due to the off-field issues and allegations against Deshaun Watson. In fact, the popular opinion is that Taylor will open the season as the starter. The backfield is a mess too, as Johnson will be the starter but Lindsay and Ingram will also be in the mix. It’ll be hard to trust D.J. as more than a low-end flex starter, and Lindsay might end up being the best value.
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. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for your late-breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!
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