This week on the Fantasy Football Today podcast and at CBSSports.com/Fantasy, we're giving you an early look at what to expect from the 2021 Fantasy -- and from our Draft Prep magazine, produced in partnership with Beckett Sports. You can find the CBS Sports Fantasy Football Draft Prep Guide -- winner of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Best Football Publication in 2020 -- on newsstands now, with our rankings and unique analysis from the entire Fantasy Football Today crew.
On Monday's episode of the podcast, we talked about the top 24 players in our rankings for the upcoming season, and we'll be getting into our sleepers, breakouts, and bust picks this week, too. I'm technically on vacation this week, which means I won't be part of any of those discussions, and I've gotta be honest: I'm pretty jealous about that.
So, today I'll be giving you my own top-24 players as well as three sleeper, breakout, and bust picks of my own. You can read all of Jamey Eisenberg's sleepers, breakouts, and busts in his columns on each category, and you should obviously listen to the Fantasy Football Today and Fantasy Football Today in 5 podcasts, because we'll be talking about all of that all week long -- and if you aren't subscribed to either, I'll just politely ask, "What are you waiting for?!?"
Training camp will be here before you know it, and that means drafts will be here before you know it. We've been here all offseason and this newsletter will be here to guide you up through draft season and hopefully to a championship by keeping you up to date on all the latest news and analysis from our team. On that note, here's what you might have missed over at CBSSports.com/Fantasy last week:
- Team Previews: Falcons | Bears | Bengals | Browns | Cowboys
- Strength of Schedule: QB | RB | WR | TE
- Dynasty Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | Top 150 | Rookies | Dynasty Central
- Five lessons from 2020 Drafts
And now, here are my top 24 players and some sleepers, breakouts, and busts for 2021:
Top 24 for 2021
- Christian McCaffrey - I've made plenty of adjustments since our first rankings came out back in February, but this is one that hasn't changed. McCaffrey is the top player.
- Alvin Kamara - Kamara isn't McCaffrey, but if it wasn't for concern about how many targets he would see if Taysom Hill was starter, he'd be closer to McCaffrey than to No. 3.
- Dalvin Cook - As long as Cook is healthy -- and he's missed just two games each of the last two seasons -- he's as good a bet as anyone for 20 points in any game.
- Travis Kelce - Kelce won't outscore all of the players he's ahead of, but the gap between him and the majority of the TE position is as big as any that exists right now.
- Austin Ekeler - This might seem aggressive, but if Ekeler had scored touchdowns as often in 2020 as he had in 2019, he would've been RB6 per game.
- Saquon Barkley - Assuming Barkley is all system's go by the start of camp -- and it seems like he will be -- I'm confident with him as my No. 1 RB, and it's basically a three-way coin flip between him and the previous two.
- Davante Adams - If we get to training camp and Aaron Rodgers is there saying all the right things, I could see moving Adams up as high as No. 3 overall.
- Joe Mixon - Is this the year Mixon finally earns the role we've been hoping he would get for years? If so, he could finally be an elite RB.
- Aaron Jones - Like with Adams, Rodgers' presence could have a pretty big effect on Jones' value. If Rodgers isn't under center for the Packers, Jones is probably more like a third-rounder.
- Ezekiel Elliott - There was a lot of hand wringing about Elliott's poor second half, but with Dak Prescott healthy, he should be back to being one of the best backs in Fantasy.
- Derrick Henry - How long can Henry keep shouldering loads like this? The fact that he's just gotten stronger as the season has gone on three years in a row bodes well for him keeping this up.
- Jonathan Taylor - The hope is that Carson Wentz's presence makes this an even better Colts offense, but Taylor should be fine either way behind this offensive line.
- George Kittle - The 49ers have more weapons than ever but Kittle was still the No. 1 option when he returned from his injury last season, and he should remain that in an offense we hope is ready to take a leap.
- Michael Thomas - You won't find Thomas this high for most analysts, but I'll admit something -- I actually had to move him down a handful of spots from my projections. If Jameis Winston starts for the Saints, Thomas could be as good as ever.
- Darren Waller - Waller is the last of the trio of elite TE, and if you wanted to rank him ahead of Kittle, I wouldn't blame you. Those three are arguably the biggest edge you can find in Fantasy right now.
- Stefon Diggs - Last season wasn't a fluke; Diggs really is that good. As long as Josh Allen can avoid much regression, Diggs should be amazing yet again.
- DeAndre Hopkins - Hopkins may see a slightly lower target share in Arizona if the addition of Rondale Moore gives them another reliable weapon, but he'll make up for that with more downfield and red zone work.
- Najee Harris - An aggressive ranking for a rookie, but Harris is in an offense that has historically been very kind to RB, and he should be in for a very heavy early role.
- Tyreek Hill - Hill doesn't have the catch upside of some of the other elite WR, but his per-game upside might be higher than anyone with his big play ability. Ask anyone who faced him in Week 12 against Tampa last season how that went.
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire - The hype around Edwards-Helaire is much lower than this time last year, but all the reasons we liked him are mostly still there. I'm higher on him than most.
- Nick Chubb - And I'm lower on Chubb than most. I wrote about why in my Browns preview.
- Patrick Mahomes - This is a new one for me -- Mahomes hasn't been ranked this high for me yet. But, as I continue to look at the QB and overall field, nobody has his combination of upside and floor. At his best, nobody can really touch Mahomes.
- Calvin Ridley - I moved Ridley up a tad after the departure of Julio Jones, but he's been in the top-five WR discussion all along. And he belongs in the WR1 discussion, too.
- A.J. Brown - Brown may not be quite in that discussion because he may not have 100-catch upside, but it's also possible the Titans open the offense up and he gets there in his third season.
- Tua Tagovailoa - Tagovailoa was disappointing as a rookie, but let's not act like he was a disaster -- he wasn't Jared Goff/Mitchell Trubisky/Carson Wentz bad as a rookie. And that was coming back from a severe hip injury that ended his collegiate career. He was on Joe Burrow's level as a prospect before the injury and now he's got a really talented group of pass catchers to work with, with Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle joining DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki from last year's group. This is a group that can make plays down the field or with the ball in their hands, and Tagovailoa could be in line for a significant leap in Year Two. He's one of my favorite late-round QB targets if I'm taking two.
- Michael Gallup - CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper are going to be top-15 wide receivers in most drafts, and there is rightly a lot to get excited about both of them in the Cowboys offense. But let's not forget, Gallup had just six fewer targets than Lamb last season and had an 1,100-yard season (in just 14 games!) in 2019. If this offense is as good as we think it can be, Gallup is going to prove incredibly valuable as a player you can snag in the double-digit rounds.
- Mo Alie-Cox - This is a pretty deep one, but Alie-Cox is fast becoming my favorite sleeper at tight end. The Colts love to run two-TE sets and the depth chart behind Alie-Cox and Jack Doyle is barren. Alie-Cox is massive and moves extremely well for his size, and he's been a very productive receiver when given the chance -- 394 yards and two touchdowns on 39 targets last season. If he gets into the 70-target range or higher, he could be a starting-caliber Fantasy tight end, and that's not the ceiling.
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire - Edwards-Helaire is still a solid all-around back with real play making chops in the passing game, and he still has very little competition in Kansas City's backfield. That's what made him a borderline first-round pick last season. He disappointed as a rookie, but it's worth remembering that he missed a game with an illness in Week 13 and then had 36 touches over his next two games before leaving the second with a serious hip and ankle injury that limited him throughout the playoffs. 1,600 total yards and double-digit touchdowns are not at all out of the question.
- Jerry Jeudy - Some might be scared off Jeudy because of his drops as a rookie, but you shouldn't be one of them. Drops don't really matter unless a player's coaches believe they matter, and Jeudy really just had one bad game -- a very bad game, where he dropped six passes, mind you. However, he still earned 15 targets in that game and then came back the following week to close out the season with five catches for 140 yards on seven targets while playing his typical snap share. Jeudy gets open constantly, and he's going to have much better results in 2021 with better QB play and less defensive attention with Courtland Sutton healthy, and he could be someone we're talking about as a top-12 contender next season. He's a steal as a No. 3 or 4 WR.
- Myles Gaskin - I feel like there's a lot less excitement about Gaskin than there should be. Sure, maybe the Dolphins do something silly like go out and add Todd Gurley, but right now, Gaskin should be in much the same role he was in last season -- when he had a 16-game pace of 1,555 yards from scrimmage with 65.6 catches and eight total touchdowns. And, if I'm right about Tagovailoa, this could be an even better situation than the one he was in last season. If I end up with him as my No. 2 RB in the fifth round, I'm thrilled.
- J.K. Dobbins - If Dobbins is a top-12 RB, I'm going to look pretty bad, because I feel like I've been talking down about him quite a lot this offseason. I think he's a great player, but I don't think this situation is as conducive to an elite season as some might assume. I wrote all about why here when Gus Edwards' extension was announced.
- T.J. Hockenson - I've been tossing this one around in my head for a while, but I think I'm ready to plant my flag. Hockenson is likely going to see a larger role with the depleted Lions receiving group, but that's not the only part of the equation. He's also got a worse QB to catch passes from and will be facing more defensive attention than ever. There's also this: Hockenson just hasn't been all that good so far. He's got the draft pedigree as the No. 8 pick in the 2019 draft, but I would argue purely as a receiver, he's not one of the five best in the league. Volume matters, but if Hockensen gets the same amount of targets as Noah Fant, to name one, I'm not sure he'll outscore his former collegiate teammate.
- Allen Robinson - The assumption is that Robinson is going to have his best season in years because the Bears are expected to have their best QB in years, and while I do love Justin Fields -- he's a borderline top-12 QB for me if he starts -- I'm not sure this situation is really better for Robinson. Rookie QBs often struggle, and this is likely to be a lower volume pass offense than it has been -- they threw 614 passes last season. There could be a 15-20% reduction in targets coming, so Robinson will need to be at least that much better per target to live up to last season. I'm not so sure.
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.