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!
2021 Fantasy Football Open Backfield Touches – AFC Teams
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1. Carolina Panthers (251)
Notable additions: QB Sam Darnold, RB Chuba Hubbard (R)
Notable losses: QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Mike Davis
Notes: Darnold was acquired in a trade with the Jets to be the starting quarterback, replacing Bridgewater (who was traded to the Broncos). The majority of the 251 open touches in Carolina came from the departure of Davis. Those will all fall into Christian McCaffrey’s workload next season. CMC, who missed all but three games last season due to injuries, will be the consensus No. 1 overall selection in most fantasy redrafts.
2. Green Bay Packers (187)
Notable additions: None
Notable losses: RB Jamaal Williams
Notes: The majority of the open touches in Green Bay’s backfield are a result of the departure of Williams. While Aaron Jones will no doubt see an uptick in touches, this also creates a chance for A.J. Dillon to make an impact. He showed some flashes of potential as a rookie and could have some standalone FLEX value this season.
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3. Los Angeles Rams (146)
Notable additions: QB Matthew Stafford
Notable losses: QB Jared Goff, RB Malcolm Brown
Notes: The addition of Stafford via trade is good news for all the Rams offensive skill position players, including Cam Akers. The departure of Brown opens up 124 touches, and Akers should absorb a lot of them as he continues to ascend in the fantasy ranks. He’ll be a top-10 running back in most drafts and could be a first-rounder in 2021.
4. New York Giants (140)
Notable additions: QB Mike Glennon, RB Devontae Booker, RB Corey Clement
Notable losses: QB Colt McCoy, RB Wayne Gallman, RB Dion Lewis, RB Alfred Morris
Notes: Most of the open touches in the Giants backfield came when Gallman left for the 49ers as a free agent. Of course, most of those touches will go right to Saquon Barkley. While he is coming off a torn ACL, he’s still a first-round lock and could be a top-five pick in 2021 drafts. Booker looks like the favorite to become Barkley’s top handcuff.
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5. Atlanta Falcons (117)
Notable additions: RB Mike Davis, RB Javian Hawkins (R)
Notable losses: RB Todd Gurley, RB Brian Hill, RB Ito Smith
Notes: The Falcons’ top three running backs from last season are no longer on the roster, and the team added Davis (and not much else) to fill the void. I still wonder if the Falcons will add another veteran to the mix, but for now, Davis is in the RB2/FLEX mix.
6. Seattle Seahawks (97)
Notable additions: None
Notable losses: RB Carlos Hyde
Notes: All of the open touches in Seattle’s backfield come from the departure of Hyde. Chris Carson, who re-signed with the team in the offseason, figures to absorb some of those touches. Rashaad Penny is also going to see a good portion of those chances as the team’s No. 2 back. He’ll be considered the top handcuff for those who land Carson.
7. Chicago Bears (91)
Notable additions: QB Justin Fields (R), QB Andy Dalton, RB Damien Williams, RB Khalil Herbert (R)
Notable losses: QB Mitchell Trubisky, RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson
Notes: Dalton is slated to open this season as the Bears’ new starting quarterback, but it might not be too long before Fields gets his shot as the new face of the franchise. In the backfield, the addition of Williams and the return of Tarik Cohen is bad news for the value of David Montgomery. A true league-winner last season, he’s now more of a No. 2 fantasy running back who could fail to meet heightened fantasy expectations in 2021.
8. Detroit Lions (56)
Notable additions: QB Jared Goff, RB Jamaal Williams, RB Jermar Jefferson (R)
Notable losses: QB Matthew Stafford, RB Adrian Peterson, RB Kerryon Johnson
Notes: Goff will take over under center for Stafford in an offense that will have to lean on D’Andre Swift, Williams, and the ground attack. Most of the open touches are the result of Peterson’s absence, and Johnson left behind 71 touches when he was cut. Swift should lead this backfield in touches, but Williams should see enough to have some standalone flex value at times. Overall, Swift will be worth a second-round pick while Williams is more of a middle to late rounder and a popular fantasy handcuff.
9. Arizona Cardinals (51)
Notable additions: RB James Conner
Notable losses: RB Kenyan Drake
Notes: The Cardinals’ backfield will be a committee this season, as the team lost Drake to the Raiders and added Conner. He’ll be paired with Chase Edmonds. I like the latter more in PPR formats, but it’ll be difficult to trust either as more than a flex starter.
10. Dallas Cowboys (32)
Notable additions: None
Notable losses: QB Andy Dalton
Notes: There won’t be much of a difference in the Cowboys’ backfield, as the team will continue to lean on Ezekiel Elliott. He should be far more effective in the stat sheets with Dak Prescott back under center. Tony Pollard will remain a valuable handcuff.
11. New Orleans Saints (18)
Notable additions: None
Notable losses: QB Drew Brees
Notes: Jameis Winston is considered the favorite to replace Brees under center, so he’ll be a No. 2 fantasy quarterback in the late rounds. How much Taysom Hill damages his value remains to be seen, however. The team only added Alexander Armah at running back, so expect more of the Alvin Kamara show with Latavius Murray mixing in as well.
12. Minnesota Vikings (13)
Notable additions: QB Kellen Mond (R)
Notable losses: RB Mike Boone
Notes: Mond won’t have a lot of redraft value with Kirk Cousins under center, but he will be worth a look in dynasty leagues. The Vikings’ backfield will continue to be led by star Dalvin Cook, who will be the consensus No. 2 selection in the majority of fantasy drafts. Alexander Mattison will once again be one of the top handcuffs in fantasy football.
13. Philadelphia Eagles (23)
Notable additions: QB Joe Flacco, RB Kenneth Gainwell (R), RB Kerryon Johnson
Notable losses: QB Carson Wentz, RB Corey Clement
Notes: Fantasy breakout candidate Jalen Hurts will remain the Eagles’ top quarterback with Wentz no longer on the roster. The team added Gainwell and Johnson in the offseason, so you have to wonder how much of the workload Miles Sanders will lose. He’s still on the RB2 radar, but Sanders has lost some of his luster in fantasy land.
14. Washington Football Team (-3)
Notable additions: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Jaret Patterson (R)
Notable losses: QB Dwayne Haskins, QB Alex Smith, RB Bryce Love
Notes: Fitzpatrick will take over as the top quarterback in Washington, which is good news for most of their offensive skill position players. The backfield will look the same as last season with Antonio Gibson at the top and J.D. McKissic used in the passing game. Gibson will be worth a second-round selection in most 2021 fantasy drafts.
15. San Francisco 49ers (-9)
Notable additions: QB Trey Lance (R), RB Trey Sermon (R), RB Wayne Gallman, RB Elijah Mitchell (R)
Notable losses: QB Nick Mullens, RB Tevin Coleman, RB Jerick McKinnon
Notes: The Niners are expected to open next season with veteran Jimmy Garoppolo under center, but Lance could push him for the starting job sooner rather than later. He’s a potential future fantasy star. The backfield will feature Raheem Mostert at the top, but Sermon could push Jeff Wilson Jr. and Gallman for touches. The rookie out of Ohio State will be worth a middle to late rounder in a running back-friendly offense.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-169)
Notable additions: QB Kyle Trask, RB Giovani Bernard
Notable losses: RB LeSean McCoy
Notes: The Buccaneers backfield could be an absolute fantasy headache next season, as the team re-signed Leonard Fournette and added Bernard to share touches with Ronald Jones. None of the three will be more than an unreliable flex starter unless injuries occur. Jones and Fournette will come off the board in the middle to late rounds.
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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