UPDATED: August 31, 2021
The 2021 NFL preseason is in the books, leaving teams with a one-week bye of sorts to prepare for the start of the regular campaign. With fantasy football drafts ramping up all over the globe, let’s take a look back at the news and notes of the last several weeks and their effect on how you rank your players and draft your squads moving forward.
- Dak Prescott (shoulder) missed the entire preseason, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said his quarterback is “good to go” for Week 1. He should be drafted as a top-5 QB.
- To the surprise of no one, Trevor Lawrence has won the starting job in Jacksonville. He’s a high to mid-tier No. 2 fantasy quarterback. The Jaguars then traded Gardner Minshew to the Philadelphia Eagles. C.J. Beathard looks like Lawrence’s new backup.
- Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance rotated with the first-team offense in the 49ers' last preseason game. The veteran is expected to open the season as the starter, but that hasn't stopped fantasy fans from drafting Lance in the middle to late rounds. He's seen as a potential league-winner once he takes the job, while Garoppolo seems destined for your league's waiver wire.
- Andy Dalton remains the QB1 in Chicago, but he isn't likely to keep that job long-term. Rookie Justin Fields showed some real flashes throughout the preseason, including a finale that saw him go 7-for-10 for 54 yards and a touchdown. Fields is being picked in the same area as Lance, but he could be the first of the duo to start.
- Carson Wentz (foot) is expected to be a full participant in practice this week and is now looking more likely to start in Week 1 when the Colts host the Seattle Seahawks. He should be selected in the late rounds as a No. 2 fantasy quarterback in most drafts.
- Jameis Winston beat out Taysom Hill and will open the regular season as the starting quarterback in New Orleans. He looked great in the preseason, including a 123-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Jaguars in Week 2. Winston is a low-QB2.
- As expected, Ryan Fitzpatrick will be named the top quarterback in Washington. The veteran will be worth a late-round selection as a No. 2 fantasy option for 2021.
- Deshaun Watson's status for the start of the regular season remains up in the air. At this point, Tyrod Taylor is projected to be the Texans' starting quarterback. That could leave Watson to be a healthy scratch while he's on the roster. Reports suggest that the Miami Dolphins have emerged as the frontrunner to acquire Watson, so stay tuned.
- Teddy Bridgewater beat out Drew Lock and will open the regular season as the No. 1 quarterback in Denver. The veteran looked great in the preseason and should be seen as a borderline No. 2 or No. 3 fantasy quarterback in drafts. He was the QB18 last year.
- The Patriots have released Cam Newton, leaving Mac Jones as their starting quarterback. The accurate rookie being under center is good news for most of the team's pass catchers, and he'll make sense in the late rounds as a QB2/QB3 option.
- Saquon Barkley (knee) missed the entire preseason and remains a question mark as the Giants get closer to the start of the regular campaign. His draft stock has fallen as a result, as the superstar is now being selected in the late first round or even the second round in some leagues. He could be a bargain there, but Barkley will come with risk.
- The Jaguars have lost rookie Travis Etienne for the entire season due to an injured foot. That leaves James Robinson, last season’s RB7 in fantasy leagues, as the top option. He’s now being selected as high as the second round in drafts. Carlos Hyde will also be in the team’s backfield mix and is a nice handcuff for Robinson managers. Some see this backfield inching closer to an even split.
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) missed the Chiefs' preseason finale, but coach Andy Reid doesn't believe the ailment is serious. He's still coming off the board in Round 2 in most drafts, but grabbing Darrel Williams or Jerick McKinnon late makes sense.
- D'Andre Swift (groin) missed the preseason and much of camp, and his status for the start of the regular season remains a question mark. While Swift is out, Jamaal Williams would be the starter, making him a solid choice in the middle rounds. As for Swift, he's a risk-reward No. 2 fantasy back somewhere in the third or fourth round.
- The Ravens have lost J.K. Dobbins (knee) for the season, which moves Gus Edwards into a starting role. He’s now a low-end No. 2 fantasy running back and worth a fourth or fifth-round selection in drafts. At this point, Edwards is followed by both Ty’Son Williams and Justice Hill on the depth chart. Williams is now worth a late flier.
- Myles Gaskin looked good in the Dolphins' second preseason game and appears to be the favorite for the top spot on the depth chart heading into Week 1. However, a committee that also includes Malcolm Brown and Salvon Ahmed is possible, if not likely. Draft Gaskin as a low-end No. 2 fantasy runner or a high-end flex starter at this point.
- Darrell Henderson's stock took a hit when the Rams acquired Sony Michel from the Patriots. There have been questions about whether Henderson can handle a featured role, and the acquisition of Michel answers how the team feels. I've been told that the Rams will start Henderson in Week 1, but he could be better off playing on third downs and pass plays while Michel is the early-down grinder. Henderson should be seen as a No. 3 fantasy running back, but Michel could turn into a better draft bargain.
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- With Michel no longer on the roster, Damien Harris’ stock has risen to that of a high-end flex starter in New England. While he’ll do little in the passing game with James White in the mix, Harris should see most of the early-down and goal-line work. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, who scored five times in the preseason, is also in the mix.
- Mark Ingram was the Texans starting running back for some of the preseason, but the team used Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson in what looks like a confusing committee. None of the trio are worth more than an RB4/RB5 spot on fantasy rosters.
- The Titans placed Brian Hill on injured reserve, leaving Darrynton Evans as the team’s No. 2 back. He’ll be worth a late-round pick as a handcuff for Derrick Henry.
- Julio Jones (leg) didn’t play in the preseason but has taken part in recent walkthroughs and individual drills. He appears to be on track to play in Week 1, but the veteran has seen his stock drop in drafts due in part to his lack of durability in recent seasons. You can get him as a high-end No. 3 fantasy wide receiver in smaller leagues.
- Bengals rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase had a poor preseason, notably struggling with drops. He’s now being picked as the second Cincinnati wideout in fantasy drafts behind Tee Higgins and ahead of Tyler Boyd. He didn’t play football last year due to COVID-19, so Chase should regain his confidence and connection with Joe Burrow this season.
- Courtland Sutton (knee) made his first preseason appearance this weekend, catching two passes for 27 yards with a touchdown. It appears he’s set for the Broncos’ regular-season opener against the Giants, so draft him as a No. 3 or 4 fantasy wideout. His teammate, Jerry Jeudy, has emerged as the Broncos fantasy wideout of choice.
- Kenny Golladay (hamstring) missed the entire preseason and valuable practice time, and his draft stock has suffered as a result. He can now be had as a No. 4 wide receiver in some leagues. When you consider he also missed most of last season with a hip injury, Golladay will be a major risk-reward selection in fantasy drafts.
- The Saints will be without Michael Thomas (ankle) for the first several weeks to begin the regular season, making the former fantasy superstar worth no more than a mid to late-round draft and stash. Marquez Callaway has shined in his absence, and his stock in fantasy leagues has risen as a result. He's now picked in the top 100 in many drafts, although his stock could tumble once Thomas returns to the gridiron.
- Marquise Brown (hamstring) continues to miss practice time, and first-round rookie Rashod Bateman (core) seems like a longshot to be ready for the start of the regular season. This could lead veteran Sammy Watkins into a prominent role in the Ravens passing game, at least to open the new campaign. None of the Ravens wideouts should be seen as more than late-round selections in No. 4 or 5 fantasy wideouts, though.
- Will Fuller (foot) returned to Dolphins practice after missing the previous three weeks of work. It appears he’ll be ready to return in Week 2 (he will serve the final game of his suspension in Week 1), but Fuller’s fantasy stock has tumbled. He’s now a WR4.
- The Colts will be without T.Y. Hilton for the first several games of the regular season due to a disc issue in his neck. No one knows exactly how long he’ll be out, so Hilton should be off the redraft radar in most leagues. Michael Pittman Jr. will become the top option in the passing attack in his absence, while Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal both pick up snaps. Neither is worth more than a late-round flier, though.
- The Packers acquired Randall Cobb from the Texans at the request of Aaron Rodgers. He’ll fit back into the top slot role, hurting the value of rookie Amari Rodgers. Cobb will be worth a late-round pick, mostly because of his quarterback. The Texans will now lean on Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins and as their top wideouts to start the season.
- The Lions have released veteran Breshad Perriman, leaving Tyrell Williams, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Quintez Cephus as the team’s top wideouts. Williams and St. Brown are worth late-round looks, while Cephus is worth a flier in best-ball formats.
- Noah Fant (leg) has missed some practice time but is expected to be ready for the start of the season. He remains a mid to low-tier No. 1 fantasy tight end in drafts.
- Breakout candidate Irv Smith Jr. is expected to require surgery to repair a meniscus injury, meaning he'll miss the start of the regular season. Depending on the severity of the damage, Smith could miss an extended period. He's worth a late-round flier as a stash (at best) until we get a clearer timeline, but at this point, it might be better to avoid him. Tyler Conklin could jump on the fantasy radar to start the regular season.
- Evan Engram suffered a calf injury in the Giants preseason finale. He has about two weeks to recover from the ailment and be available for the team’s regular-season opener against the Broncos. He’ll be worth a late-round pick as a No. 2 tight end.
- Hunter Henry (shoulder) missed the entire preseason and remains a question mark to open the regular season. He’s fallen behind Jonnu Smith in terms of fantasy appeal, but Henry is still worth a late-round flier as a No. 2 fantasy option in most 2021 drafts.
- One-time fantasy sleeper Adam Trautman suffered an ankle injury in the preseason and could be out several weeks. Whether or not he’s ready for Week 1 remains to be seen, but the ailment plus his lack of preseason targets has his stock tumbling.
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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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