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Stack 'Em - Teams With Favorable Late/Post-Season Schedules

The NFL has just put together and released the 2021 season schedule. The league did its homework and created the path to the Super Bowl for the 32 teams that are part of this footballing circus, which now includes an extra week of play in what would amount to be the first 17-game season in NFL history. As always, it took us no time to go crunch the dates, teams, defenses, offenses, matchups, etc. in order to try to get a first idea of what is on the table and how the season might develop.

Translating the schedule properly to fantasy terms can be one of the key moves to find yourself on the winning side of things and at the top of your league come December. Stacking players to deploy them when they should have better chances to excel is a sound strategy to maximize value in fantasy football, which is made clear in DFS contests. For re-draft leagues that can be harder, but that doesn't mean that strategies such as streaming the correct players can't become a winning strategy.

With all of the matches that we'll watch during the next regular season already laid out, I bring you some teams with schedules favoring their top players at some point during the upcoming season -- split into three regular-season spans, and one final postseason chunk. Pick their players at the right time and enjoy the taste of victory!

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Favorable Late-Season Schedules (Weeks 11-14)

Washington Football Team

@CAR, SEA, @LV, DAL

There is something weird about Washington, at least for me, and it is that I really don't have any idea of what to make of the Footies. Last season they looked good, but at the same time, they looked bad in my brain. It's going similarly weird entering this summer, but the truth is that it has to be acknowledged how Washington has bolstered the offense (what matters most for us fantasy GMs) quite a bit. That, paired with the easy games in this late-season stretch has Washington players' upside looking tasty.

No longer do the Footies have a middling QB, but actually, Mighty Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the one tasked with manning the offense. That's what I call leveling up, folks. Fitz projects to 263+ FP (using Pro Football Focus data), which would be more than the 207 combined FP that all of Haskins, Alex Smith, Kyle Allen, and Taylor Heinicke put up last season. Geez. Another super-benefited player is Terry McLaurin, who will have the strongest competition but at the same time won't be alone in the offense anymore.

The Footies receiving corps feature two very viable fantasy plays to exploit in this span of games, those being McLaurin (231+ FP) along with recently-signed WR Curtis Samuel (160+), TE Logan Thomas (149+), and rookie WR Dyami Brown (86). And I haven't mentioned sweet Antonio Gibson-JD McKissic backfield, which projects to a combined 321+ FP.

As far as drafting any of those guys above goes, the truth is that you'll need to pony up quite some capital for McLaurin (36 overall ADP) and Antonio Gibson (19). Those are two season-long assets worth paying for in your league draft. Fitz projects as a borderline QB2 on the year, so he's a must-add in this span through the WW with upside to having some QB1 games in this four-match stretch. Curtis Samuel has a reasonable 108 ADP, though he might be still a bit overpriced. Two great options to draft with a late-round pick and throw a dart to: JD McKissic (ADP 150 projecting to RB47) and Dyami Brown (ADP 278 projecting to WR98).

New Orleans Saints

@PHI, BUF, DAL, @NYJ

I'm sorry, but Drew Brees out of New Orleans has me excited about this team again. Yes, sucks to see legends go, but on the contrary who the hell doesn't want Jameis Winston (Taysom Hill stinks) back!? The Saints have one of the top-5 easiest schedules on the season, and this W11-W14 span is easiest on it after dividing it into the four chunks I introduced earlier. Can't get much better.

Let's address the elephant(s) in the room first. Pay big bucks (early draft picks, I mean) for Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, and play them as set-and-forget players all day long all year long. Kamara is a stud in plain sight (293+ FP) and Michael Thomas (221+) is coming back from a dud of a year... mostly because he just played 7 games for 84 PPR points but still averaged 12 FPPG. And yes, he had to endure Washed Brees and Weirdo Taysom Hill. Top-notch talent at top-tier prices (Kamara's ADP is at 5 overall, Thomas' at 30) but top-24 projections too for their respective positions on the year.

You won't draft Jameis Winston (no, don't do it) because of the chance Hill somehow ends at the helm taking reps from Jameis. BUT. You definitely have to target Jameis if he's the starting QB entering W11 and going forward because he might eat through this span of games. High risk, high reward. He might go for 10 TDs and 10 INTs, but I can live with the latter mark if the former is there to go with it.

When it comes to under-the-radar players that might benefit from the set of softie-games, I'd have a couple of targets in mind for different situations and moments through the (pre)season. First of all, if you want to take a flier on a WR, you definitely target WR Tre'Quan Smith: he doesn't have the most encouraging numbers, sure, but there is virtually nobody else in NOLA's receiving corps other than Thomas poised to take opportunities from Smith. He has a 253 (undrafted) ADP as of this writing, so you could snatch him in most leagues late or as a W1 waiver-wire pick if you wish. And second, TE Adam Trautman: again, not the flashiest of players out there, but a reasonable tight end to consider super late if you punt/stream the position for the year and in TE-premium leagues (again, the competition at the position should be minimal).

 

Favorable Fantasy Playoff Schedules (Weeks 15-17)

Jacksonville Jaguars

HOU, @NYJ, @NE

Yes! They made it! I was absolutely ecstatic when I found out that the Jags will have one of the best stretches of games at some point in the season. And right at the end of it, that is when! Color me excited. Because (and let's hope no injuries screw this all up) rookie QB and sensation Trevor Lawrence will be riding the Jags to the postseason! Well, maybe that's too much, but he will hopefully be out there with some games already under his belt and entering a softie that includes the second-worst team of 2020 and the lone-in-their-tier Houston Texans. Not bad.

PFF has Lawrence projected to 282+ FP and a QB20 finish. Remember, he's a rookie, and rookie-QBs are not players you want to pay a lot (or, probably, anything) in your 1QB/redraft leagues. That being said, though, he could still be a thing year-long if everything breaks his way. The good thing about a team like the Jags getting a soft schedule late in the season instead of early is that given the questions around the squad (who will emerge as the WR1/WR2? Is Lawrence worth streaming? Is Travis Ettiene going to be the RB1 over James Robinson?...) it's not worth it spending high draft picks in a potential headache while everything is going to be much clearer down the road making for some tasty WW moves.

I have already mentioned a few names. Other than Lawrence, fellow rookie Travis Etienne surely profiles as a great freshman, only he finds himself in a backfield share with 2020 sensation James Robinson. Rookie-camp news are saying ETN will be a do-it-all tailback (meaning getting carries and playing some WR snaps), and it won't hurt to see that happen before going crazy about Etienne.

As for the rest of the squad, PFF has DJ Chark > Marvin Jones > Laviska Shenault in terms of total FP, but all ranging in the 194-to-171 clip. The ADPs vary wildly though, with Marvin Jones as the cheapest of them all at an ADP of just 186 (virtually undrafted) and definitely someone to target in the last two rounds of your 12-team drafts. Another potential sleeper if Lawrence is a godsend (and if Tim Tebow is not what nobody expects him to be) could be James O'Shaughnessy at least for a few games on streaming duties.

San Francisco 49ers

ATL, @TEN, HOU

Pretty much like the Jaguars, the Niners find themselves in a dubious position when it comes to fantasy football clarity. We don't need projections to get an idea of the QB situation, for example, which features middling Jimmy Garoppolo and third-overall pick Trey Lance. PFF has Garoppolo projected to 114 passing attempts, which is to say between three and four starts on the season, then giving way to Lance. That's why Lance projects to a QB28 finish of 257 FP total compared to Jimmer's QB38 with 47 FP.

Anyway, what I mean is that the more time goes by before we make decisions involving San Fran players, the better for us. And the good thing is that most 49ers players aren't really worth drafting in principle. TE George Kittle is the lone no-brainer, and you could even rest easy getting him in the second round. Other than him, though, the options get reduced to slim pickings. Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel are the top-2 WRs on the squad, and they'll retain their jobs and roles no matter what. Are you comfy drafting them at ADPs of 65 and 93, though? I'm hesitant, but I would definitely bank on them if they put up a few duds and hit the WW late in the year.

The same goes for the backfield. The Niners had Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and Kyle Juszczyk around last year already and they have added a fresh body to the rotation in rookie Trey Sermon, which in case you forgot they traded up to draft in the third round. Fantasy GMs are drafting Sermon with the 90th pick inside the first eight rounds. I'd rather get Jeff Wilson with a last-round pick taking a super-flyer rather than paying that much for Sermon, who right now is the RB3.

Keep an eye on potential cuts of Niners by other GMs in your league, and also on the WR3 situation. Mohamed Sanu and Richie James/Jalen Hurd are projected to take on that role and nobody is going to draft them. Reaching the late stages of the year, though, and depending on how things develop they might be in a rather nice position to become FLEX plays for needy GMs.

 

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