We've had a lot of pretty big news to react to over the past few days, from Travis Etienne's season-ending foot injury Tuesday to the Rams acquisition of Sony Michel on Wednesday. The Broncos also named their starting quarterback Wednesday, as did the Jaguars -- though Urban Meyer might be the only person in the world who thought that was actually news at this point.
It's been a lot to keep up with along with the rest of the Fantasy Football Today team's regularly scheduled content, so to kick off today's newsletter here's a rundown of what we've done so far this week. Make sure you haven't missed anything!
This week on FFT
Podcast: League-winning upside in every round | Etienne injury reaction | Most polarizing players in 2021 | Michel to the Rams reaction | RB vs. WR
Tiers: QB | RB | WR | TE
Preseason recap: Week 2 Winners & Losers | Believe It or Not | QB Film Review | RB Film Review
Dynasty: Top 150 Trade Values
Bust-Case Scenarios: Players 1-12 | Players 13-24
Mock Drafts: 12-team PPR | 12-team 2QB
FFT Draft Guide
Now that you have everything from Adam Aizer, Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings, here's what the rest of the newsletter holds: First up, updates on all of the QB competitions, with decisions finally starting to be made. Then, a look at 10 players with league-winning upside for 2021. Let's get to it:
QB battle updates
Denver -- Vic Fangio confirmed it Wednesday, naming Teddy Bridgewater his starter over Drew Lock after a camp battle that stretched into the second preseason. Lock looked solid in the first game, but Bridgewater was named the starter thanks to his solid, unspectacular play. He went 16 for 19 for 179 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 19 dropbacks, while Lock was 14 for 21 for 231 and a pair of scores of his own on 24 dropbacks. Lock showed us that big-play ability he's always had, but with a great defense and a running game they have invested heavily in after adding Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams the past two offseasons, they apparently came to the conclusion that Bridgewater's steady hand on the wheel gave them a better chance of winning. I wrote about the decision more here, but I think the move makes the Broncos skill players more likely to hit, but maybe a little bit less likely to hit big.
Jacksonville -- If we all pretend that Urban Meyer had us fooled by not naming Trevor Lawrence his starter until this week, do you think he'll promise not to keep pulling this weird, UF-spring-practice, try-hard stuff in the future? There was never a doubt as to who the Jaguars were going to start in Week 1 of the 2021 season -- we knew with 100% certainty when the Jaguars locked up the No. 1 pick on Dec. 27 of 2020. Lawrence may go through some growing pains -- we've seen them already in the preseason -- but he has top-tier upside, with underrated rushing potential in addition to the elite passing skills.
*Because it apparently was never really a battle, despite our wishes
Chicago -- Look, we all want Justin Fields to start, and I think it could happen as soon as Week 2 if things don't go right -- I'm getting real Tom Savage vs. Deshaun Watson vibes here. But Matt Nagy has never wavered from his stance that Andy Dalton is his starter, and it would be pretty surprising if he reversed course at this point. Fields has surely done plenty to prove his worth, and Week 2 against the Bengals would be an awfully soft landing spot after the Bears open up against the Rams. Just saying …
New Orleans -- Sean Payton may leave us in suspense a little longer, but I would be absolutely stunned if Jameis Winston wasn't the starter in Week 1. That leaves the Saints free to use Taysom Hill as their not-so-secret weapon in the red zone while also giving them, y'know, a significantly better quarterback as the starter. Hill had more Fantasy appeal -- he would be a top-12 QB for me if he started -- but Winson is simply the much better player for real football, and he's done a good job putting that on display by passing for 219 yards and three touchdowns on 22 attempts in the preseason. Hill also has 219 yards -- on 10 more attempts and with two fewer touchdowns. Winston is better for Alvin Kamara and Marquez Callaway, and eventually Michael Thomas when he's healthy enough to play. I'm rooting for a big season here.
Washington -- This is technically an "open" competition, but I've seen no reason to think anyone but Ryan Fitzpatrick has any real chance of being the starter in Week 1. I'm not sure anyone has really considered the possibility of Kyle Allen ending up the starter. It'll be Fitzpatrick, and with the weapons he has, he could be a solid starting option if you want to wait at QB.
Anyone's Guess (but we have some guesses)
New England -- Two days ago, it seemed like Cam Newton locked this job up. However, he violated COVID protocols and has been away from the team all week, and now all of a sudden there are serious rumblings that his job is in jeopardy. We haven't seen any specific reports indicating the team is leaning that way -- we don't get many specific reports about the Patriots, even on the record -- but the sense you get from those covering the Patriots is that Mac Jones' work this week as the first-team QB with Newton away from the team has put him back in the lead, which makes sense. But my position has always been that the Patriots would go with Newton for as long as he gave them a reason not to. They may have that reason now.
San Francisco -- Kyle Shanahan has been cagey about this one, telling reporters this week he wants to help them out by keeping them in suspense and helping them get more clicks by drawing it out. He's also said he has a pretty good idea of who the starter will be, and he's also had a lot to say about where Trey Lance needs to improve. Lance also hasn't seen many first-team reps outside of a handful of designed gadget plays. Which is all to say, while Lance is the long-term future, Jimmy Garoppolo seems likely to remain the near-term option.
League-winning upside targets
In this mailbag I've talked a lot about how I don't love targeting players like J.K. Dobbins, Josh Jacobs, Mike Evans, or Adam Thielen -- players with a projectable role and a high floor, but who are lacking truly difference making upside. "Difference maker" is a term I use a lot, but on the FFT podcast earlier this week, Adam and the fellas framed it slightly differently: They were looking for "league winners."
No matter what you call them, I think the definition of what you're looking for is pretty self explanatory: These are players who can truly elevate your team. A guy finishing as WR20 after being drafted as WR40 is a nice find, but WR20 isn't so valuable that you're going to point to that player as the key reason you won your league.
Generally speaking, I'm looking for quarterbacks who could score 25-plus points, running backs who can get to 20, wide receivers who can get to 18-plus, and tight ends who could make the leap to 15 or more. Here are 10 who have the chance to provide that kind of upside outside of the obvious high-end picks, and you can find the rest of the FFT team's picks here:
Jalen Hurts -- It doesn't require much imagination to see Hurts doing it, because he averaged 28.4 points per game in his three full starts. His rushing potential might be second only to Lamar Jackson, and if the addition of DeVonta Smith and a hopefully healthy Jalen Reagor, Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz can help him be even decent as a passer, the upside is obvious.
Justin Fields -- The case for Fields is very similar, because it starts with rushing ability. Fields wasn't the most prolific rusher in college, but his size made him a threat in the red zone especially, and he absolutely has the talent to be a Josh Allen-type as a rusher. The question is how good can he be as a passer whenever he takes over as the starter.
James Robinson -- This one might be too obvious after Travis Etienne's injury, but maybe not; Dave is the only other member of the FFT team besides myself who has him as a top-15 back. Robinson averaged 17.9 points per game, and he scored touchdowns less often than any other back in the top six. If the Jaguars offense is better, a 12-touchdown season isn't out of the question.
Myles Gaskin -- Gaskin actually averaged 16.8 points per game in 2020, despite only having 16 carries in his first two games; from Week 3 on, he averaged 17.9 per game. Miami's is another offense that could very well take a big leap forward, and if Gaskin remains the lead back -- bigger question today than at the start of training camp -- he could benefit from an increase from his five touchdowns in 10 games.
A.J. Dillon -- Dillon shares a lot in common with Dobbins and Jacobs, because there's no guarantee the passing roll will ever be there for him even if he does become the starter. However, he wasn't a bad pass catcher in college, and this is an offense that has proven it can create elite RB value. Dillon may not be Aaron Jones' equal in the passing game, but he might be more capable of handling a bigger rushing workload, and if something happens to Jones, he could see enough touchdown opportunities to become that kind of difference maker.
Julio Jones -- 2020 was a disappointing season for Jones, but when he was on the field, he was arguably as dominant as ever. He averaged 11.3 yards per target, and if you take out the two games he left early due to injury, he was on pace for 141 targets. He won't get to 140 targets in this offense, however playing alongside A.J. Brown with Ryan Tannehill throwing him the ball, Jones should be as efficient as ever. Yeah, fade him for injury concern, sure, but if you're just talking about upside, Jones still has as much as nearly anyone.
Michael Thomas -- Two guys who were consensus top picks at the position a year ago. Really, Chris? Well, we're talking about guys beyond the obvious top picks, and Thomas certainly counts! The ankle surgery he is recovering from remains a huge red flag of course, as does the lack of a specific timetable at this point. However, when Thomas gets healthy, he'll likely be catching passes from Winston, which could be great for his Fantasy value, given Winston's willingness to take shots down the field. That is something Thomas has never really had from a QB.
Will Fuller -- We just saw Fuller have this kind of upside, as he averaged just 0.2 points per game less than A.J. Brown last season, and nobody doubts whether Brown has league-winning upside. Sure, Fuller is already dealing with a lower body injury after switching teams, and he'll have to deal with a likely downgrade at QB going from Deshaun Watson to Tua Tagovailoa. However, Tagovailoa has plenty of upside in his own right heading into his second season. And, again, if we're talking about upside only, Fuller's injury risk doesn't matter nearly as much. Especially when you can regularly get him outside of the top 100.
Kyle Pitts -- Pitts' upside is so obvious, I've written about it over and over. He's an all-time outlier prospect who figures to spend most of his time lined up as a wide receiver as the No. 2 target in the Falcons offense. He has the best chance of joining the Big Three at the position.
T.J. Hockenson -- I've been pretty vocally skeptical about Hockenson this offseason, mostly because I'm just not convinced he's a good enough player to make the kind of leap many are hoping for. But it's not hard to see the case for him: He's a recent top-10 pick who took a step forward in year two and now figures to be the league target for his team. If you're looking for a path to elite production from Hockenson, it's going to come in the form of a Zach Ertz-type season where he's the de facto No. 1 receiver and earns huge volume.
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.