Deebo Samuel Leads 2021 Fantasy Overachievers
NFL Offseason – When you had been to take a look at fantasy soccer groups that gained championships in season-long leagues, Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp could be on numerous them, and with the seasons these two gamers had, that ought to be no shock. Taylor and Kupp weren’t solely amongst a few of fantasy soccer’s greatest stars in 2021; they had been additionally two of the gamers that overperformed their preseason KUBIAK fantasy projections by the biggest margins.
Initially of every season, we use our KUBIAK projection software to forecast how properly gamers will do in fantasy soccer and to assist our readers win bragging rights amongst their buddies. Inevitably, there might be some deviation from these projections in each the optimistic and unfavorable route for quite a lot of causes (accidents, ineffective play, younger gamers forcing their method into the lineup, and many others.).
In the present day, we’ll take a look at the gamers who exceeded expectations probably the most, with a follow-up piece on the gamers who underperformed their projection coming later. Overperformance might be calculated by subtracting a participant’s projected fantasy factors (utilizing normal scoring) from their precise efficiency and figuring out the biggest variations.
It is very important observe that we are going to be specializing in gamers who overperformed their projections for causes apart from elevated taking part in time on account of harm. San Francisco’s Elijah Mitchell was the largest overperformer at operating again in 2021, however a key contributing issue for his breakout yr was the chance that offered itself when Raheem Mostert suffered a season-ending harm in Week 1.
10. Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Projected Factors: 109.1
Precise Factors: 185.5
We’ll begin off with Lombardi Lenny, who was a significant fantasy difference-maker taken within the center rounds of most drafts. Fournette was projected for a 35.3% carry share and 4.0% goal share coming into the yr, however he took on a bigger function as Tampa Bay’s most well-liked operating again possibility. Coming into the 2021 season, there have been considerations that Fournette could be sharing an excessive amount of of the dashing workload with Ronald Jones and sharing the receiving workload with famous passing-down specialist Giovani Bernard. None of that mattered as Fournette stole the present.
Tom Brady likes to throw to his operating backs, and that undoubtedly manifested in 2021, with Fournette coming in at an 11.8% staff goal share, almost tripling his preseason projection. Because of the elevated workload, he blasted previous his preseason landing projection, ending with 10 towards a predicted 5.7. Whereas a late-season hamstring harm knocked Fournette out for a lot of the fantasy playoffs, he was a significant contributing consider getting groups to that time.
Fournette re-signed with the Buccaneers in free company on a multi-year deal in late March and Jones is off to Kansas Metropolis, which means that Fournette ought to be well-positioned to carry out at a excessive stage once more in 2022 so long as the Tampa Bay offense retains clicking. Bernard remains to be round, however Fournette has earned Brady’s belief and will keep on the sphere for a big share of passing-game snaps, giving him loads of alternatives to provide each on the bottom and thru the air.
9. Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys
Projected Factors: 47.2
Precise Factors: 130.0
Schultz’s first actual alternative to contribute got here in 2020 because of an early-season harm to fellow tight finish Blake Jarwin, however on the outset of 2021, it was unclear whether or not that function would stick with Jarwin again within the fold. We anticipated Schultz and Jarwin to primarily cut up the tight finish workload in Dallas, with Jarwin holding a slight edge in projected goal share (10.5% vs. 7.1%). As an alternative, Schultz constructed off his 2020 season to command almost all of the tight finish receiving quantity for the 2021 Cowboys offense.
Quarterback Dak Prescott steadily seemed to Schultz within the brief and intermediate areas to maneuver the chains, and this resulted in a wholesome 16.5% goal share for the approaching free agent. Jarwin did miss a considerable portion of the season for the Cowboys, nevertheless it was clear from the get-go that Schultz was the popular receiving tight finish in Dallas. Along with that elevated goal share, Schultz outperformed his anticipated landing complete by 2.5, ending with eight receiving touchdowns towards an anticipated 5.5 per the FO Landing Effectivity analysis software.
Dallas used the franchise tag on Schultz to maintain him within the fold, and with Amari Cooper off to Cleveland and Michael Gallup recovering from a late-season ACL harm, he ought to have loads of receiving alternatives heading into 2022. If Dallas is unable to work out a long-term extension with Schultz previous to the season, he may very well be positioned properly to hit free company once more for a significant payday come 2023.
8. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Projected Factors: 148.5
Precise Factors: 231.6
After San Francisco moved up within the 2021 draft to pick quarterback Trey Lance at No. 3, it appeared like Garoppolo’s days within the Bay Space had been numbered. Certainly San Francisco would wish to transfer on to the younger stud rookie with the tantalizing bodily instruments shortly, proper? Properly, not precisely. Lance entered the league needing some further improvement earlier than he could be prepared to start out (unsurprising given his pretty brief school profession), and because of this, Garoppolo ended up beginning 15 of San Francisco’s 17 regular-season video games and all the 49ers’ playoff contests. Lance’s solely actual alternatives to get on the sphere got here when Garoppolo was injured, and even because the veteran struggled to remain wholesome through the playoffs, head coach Kyle Shanahan nonetheless caught with Jimmy G.
Along with the will increase within the volume-based counting statistics like passing yards and touchdowns, Garoppolo additionally outperformed his projected yards per try by almost a full yard. A full season from breakout do-everything extensive receiver Deebo Samuel doubtless contributed to the rise in effectivity, and the general offensive enchancment had so much to do with San Francisco reaching the NFC Championship Recreation and narrowly lacking out on a return to the Tremendous Bowl.
Garoppolo was extensively anticipated to be traded earlier than the 2022 season as a way to flip over the keys to Lance, however as of now he stays on the 49ers roster, with groups across the league unwilling to satisfy San Francisco’s asking value. The litany of accidents Garoppolo sustained late within the season looks like a significant component on this delay, however till there’s some readability with Garoppolo’s state of affairs, it’s onerous to undertaking what his 2022 will seem like. If he stays in San Francisco, he might find yourself beginning for one more yr, forcing Lance to maintain ready for his probability … or he might get benched early on in favor of Lance and spend a lot of the season because the backup.
7. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Projected Factors: 136.2
Precise Factors: 224.0
Coming into 2021, there was lots of hype round Chase’s school reference to quarterback Joe Burrow, however between a crowded receiver room and a few uncertainty concerning Cincinnati’s eventual offensive efficiency, we merely anticipated Chase to have a robust yr for a rookie versus ending fourth total in receiving yards. We projected the goal shares for Cincinnati’s extensive receiver trio of Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd to be roughly even at 19.5%, 19.3%, and 20.1%, respectively; Chase successfully siphoned off a bit of Boyd’s targets to complete at 23.7%, with the rise cut up between designed touches to get Chase the ball in area and deep pictures down the sphere. Maybe that point spent within the LSU locker room was the rationale for that elevated focus from Burrow.
Whereas Chase and Burrow’s shared bond may clarify a number of the distinction in goal share, the largest consider Chase’s fantasy overperformance was within the landing column. Chase scored 13 touchdowns in comparison with our projected complete of 8.5, leading to a 4.5-touchdown surplus towards his anticipated numbers, the third-largest surplus amongst extensive receivers throughout the league. The highest-ranked landing overachiever may even be making an look on this checklist.
As for 2022, Chase is well-positioned to have one other robust yr as he enters his sophomore season. Whereas it could be tough for Chase to be even higher than he was as a rookie, his school teammate Justin Jefferson adopted up his personal 1,400-yard debut yr with a fair higher marketing campaign in 2021, so we should always not write that off as out of the query. We’re very far faraway from these preseason considerations about Chase dropping passes.
6. Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens
Projected Factors: 99.0
Precise Factors: 189.1
2021’s greatest overperformer at tight finish had a profession yr for a Baltimore Ravens staff that narrowly missed the playoffs regardless of not having a totally wholesome season from quarterback Lamar Jackson. Andrews almost doubled his preseason KUBIAK projection for a number of key causes even with out having the previous MVP obtainable.
First, Andrews posted a monster 26.1% goal share towards his projected charge of 19.0%, giving him a bigger share of the receiving pie than was beforehand anticipated. Second, and extra importantly, the Ravens passing offense massively exceeded expectations from a quantity perspective, in order that pie Andrews was pulling from was considerably bigger. A serious purpose for the uptick in passing quantity stemmed from harm points on the offensive line, at operating again, and on protection. Baltimore’s beforehand vaunted dashing assault could not transfer the ball successfully, forcing them to lean on their passing sport far more than anticipated once they had the ball. Preseason accidents to JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards couldn’t have helped, forcing Baltimore to depend on Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray within the run sport. On the defensive aspect of the ball, the Ravens sustained plenty of key accidents to gamers reminiscent of cornerback Marcus Peters, making it much less doubtless that the staff could be in place to salt video games away late.
For 2022, Baltimore ought to bounce again defensively because of some returns from harm and offseason additions reminiscent of Marcus Williams at security, which means that they will not be as pass-happy as in 2021. One other continued yr of improvement from second-year receiver Rashod Bateman might pull some further targets away from Andrews as properly, so whereas Andrews ought to proceed to carry out at a excessive stage, he might not have the sheer quantity of alternatives to provide, hurting his total fantasy manufacturing.
5. Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Projected Factors: 181.2
Precise Factors: 273.8
Heading into the season, there have been some considerations that the Chargers would unfold the ball round a bit close to the purpose line to take a number of the load off Ekeler given his heavy involvement within the Los Angeles passing sport. Protected to say, that didn’t occur. The Chargers had been pleased to feed Ekeler the ball within the purple zone, leading to 12 scores on the bottom to associate with his eight receiving touchdowns. That complete of 20 represented a surplus of 8.7 towards his 11.3 anticipated touchdowns, the biggest for a operating again in your complete NFL forward of Arizona’s James Conner and his surplus of 6.3. Conner would completely be featured on this article if we had been together with gamers who noticed main upticks simply due to an harm (in his case, an harm for Chase Edmonds).
It will be fairly straightforward to only say “touchdowns” and go away the evaluation at that, however it’s value noting that rookie left sort out Rashawn Slater was extraordinarily efficient straight away, making the All-Professional second staff. A successfully-blocked run play takes greater than only one lineman making his block, however the Chargers completed tenth in adjusted line yards and fifth when operating off left sort out after rating twenty ninth and 18th in these classes, respectively, in 2020. Including a stud rookie sort out to the combination had to assist Los Angeles’ manufacturing, and Ekeler was a transparent beneficiary.
In 2022, Ekeler doesn’t stand to face a lot critical competitors for touches, so he ought to nonetheless have a robust yr. Whereas anticipating him to take care of the insane stage of landing manufacturing wouldn’t be affordable, the Chargers nonetheless have a superb offense, and Ekeler can have loads of alternatives to rack up fantasy factors.
4. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Projected Factors: 219.3
Precise Factors: 332.6
Speak about a sophomore breakout. Taylor was projected to have a robust yr for the Colts behind their spectacular offensive line, however he completely smashed by any affordable expectation in his second season within the league. Indianapolis took a really run-heavy method with its offense, and Taylor was the first beneficiary, exceeding his projected variety of carries by nearly 70. Add in a slight improve in targets over what was anticipated and you’ve got a recipe for a league-winning fantasy season.
Whereas the Colts didn’t stay as much as expectations from a real-life perspective, that was largely a results of the staff’s quarterback play, and Indianapolis moved swiftly to treatment that concern through the offseason, buying and selling away Carson Wentz and changing him by way of one other commerce with Matt Ryan. Ryan is getting older, however with the offensive infrastructure the Colts presently have in place, he won’t be requested to play hero ball. So long as Ryan doesn’t utterly fall off a cliff, the Colts offense ought to have the ability to transfer the ball successfully.
That quarterback stability ought to enhance their possibilities of making the playoffs, however it could come at the price of a few of Taylor’s quantity in 2022. The Colts relied on the dashing assault as a result of that was how they felt they may transfer the ball most successfully. A extra reliable quarterback might shift a few of that workload away from Taylor. Exposing Taylor to fewer hits would doubtless assist hold him on the sphere, however in fantasy soccer, quantity is king. Taylor ought to have one other robust yr, however one other season with over 2,100 complete yards and 20 touchdowns doesn’t appear to be it could be within the playing cards.
3. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Projected Factors: 151.6
Precise Factors: 294.2
Whereas a bump in receiving manufacturing for the Rams was anticipated when Los Angeles upgraded at quarterback from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford, we projected that Kupp and Robert Woods would obtain related goal shares firstly of the 2021 season, at 22.9% and 20.4%, respectively. Kupp’s projection was very wholesome, however he exceeded that by a large quantity. He shortly established a reference to Stafford, resulting in a monstrous 31.7% goal share that helped Kupp lead the league in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Kupp was the one receiver within the league with a goal share over 30%, and there have been solely 5 gamers within the league that reached 27%.
When a participant places collectively that kind of outlier season, there are usually a number of causes that will not be repeatable heading into the next yr. Protecting with a theme of this text, Kupp had a surplus of 4.1 touchdowns over anticipated, which makes lots of sense contemplating his reference to Stafford and the instability within the Los Angeles receiver room past him. Woods tore his ACL at midseason, and whereas the Rams had been capable of successfully change Woods with Odell Beckham Jr., it took a while through the common season for him to rise up to hurry. Second-year receiver Van Jefferson additionally noticed an expanded function, nevertheless it didn’t come near measuring as much as Kupp’s.
Because the Rams look to defend their title, they are going to be relying on one other large yr from Kupp, and with Woods traded to Tennessee, Kupp is once more well-positioned to provide at a excessive stage. That mentioned, as efficient because the Stafford-Kupp pairing was in 2021, I’d not be shocked if defenses particularly attempt to power another receiver to beat them. It will be tremendous for the Rams if Jefferson or Allen Robinson made groups pay for that alternative, however from a fantasy perspective, it could not be fairly nearly as good for Kupp.
2. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Projected Factors: 38.6
Precise Factors: 183.0
On a Falcons staff with Calvin Ridley, Kyle Pitts, and 2020 fantasy stud Mike Davis, who would have guessed that the most effective fantasy performer could be Patterson, a profession gadget participant identified largely for his return talents on particular groups and taking part in for his fifth group? Patterson initially took benefit of the void created by the Julio Jones commerce to carve out a job within the passing sport, however because the season progressed, he took over the beginning operating again job from Davis, setting him up for hefty workloads on the bottom.
After lacking the Falcons’ primetime sport towards New England, Patterson took on extra of a pure operating again function, as he did not get greater than 5 targets in any sport for the remainder of the yr. Even with out his early-season receiving quantity, he nonetheless amassed a 12.1% staff goal share that, when paired along with his 38.9% rush share and robust purple zone involvement, gave Patterson the prospect to be one in every of fantasy’s greatest surprises.
For 2022, Patterson will face even much less competitors for touches with Ridley suspended and extensive receiver Russell Gage off to Tampa Bay, however Atlanta’s commerce of Matt Ryan and subsequent signing of Marcus Mariota to play quarterback raises some questions of whether or not Patterson might be as productive. Patterson may even be taking part in his age-31 season in 2022, which means that final yr could also be nearly as good because it will get. Nonetheless, it needed to be validating for the previous first-round choose to lastly produce at that stage after a profession the place he had not been used as a major offensive possibility.
1. Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Projected Factors: 109.7
Precise Factors: 268.5
Samuel’s 2020 season was wrecked by harm, and after a late-season surge by then-rookie Brandon Aiyuk, it was unclear whether or not Samuel would regain his standing as the first receiving possibility within the San Francisco offense. Mix that with some anticipated rising pains that may come for rookie quarterback Trey Lance (who didn’t find yourself taking part in a lot), and there have been questions on what Samuel’s manufacturing may seem like. As an alternative, Aiyuk ended up in Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse for a part of the yr, Jimmy Garoppolo performed a full season, and San Francisco felt so strongly about getting Samuel the ball with alternatives to make performs that they began utilizing him at operating again.
Along with Samuel’s expanded function, he had a knack for creating massively explosive performs on the bottom when he did carry the ball. The 49ers had used him as a runner on sweeps previously, and he obtained to indicate off his skill to alternate between making defenders miss and operating by them on outdoors runs. That tackle-breaking skill performed a significant function in Samuel ending the yr with eight dashing touchdowns towards an anticipated complete of simply three. Samuel’s landing surplus performed a significant function in his 2021 overperformance.
For 2022, Samuel remains to be ready on a brand new contract extension as of press time, and his identify is being bandied about in commerce rumors (that will or will not be life like) ought to the 49ers determine towards giving him a market-level extension. Whereas it appears impossible that Samuel would have the ability to replicate his stage of landing manufacturing, particularly if the transition to Lance at quarterback is a bit rocky, I’d not put it previous the participant who outlined the “extensive again” place in 2021.