The NFL offseason has been, well, interesting to say the least. There has been a lot of free-agent movement, big trades, and a draft that some would say was not so fantasy-friendly (at least for 2021). Ask anyone who was high on Travis Etienne!
So which offenses have undergone the biggest transformations and figure to see new players in more prominent roles next season? Who will benefit or suffer in terms of offensive opportunities? Well, this is your one stop shop for answers to those questions.
Below is a list of the 16 AFC teams, ranked in order of the squads with the most open backfield touches (quarterbacks, running backs) compared to 2020 rosters down to teams with the least. Please note that rookies and players who retired last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic are not counted in the totals. Teams on the positive side of the numbers have touches available in the backfield, while those on the negative side will play in the crowded backfield that could cause headaches for fantasy managers. Keep these numbers in mind when you are 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). Most of the 251 touches opened at Carolina came from Davis’ departure. All of them will fall into Christian McCaffrey’s workload next season. CMC, who missed all but three games last season due to injuries, will be the consensus number one overall pick in most reruns of fantasy.
2. Green Bay Packers (187)
Notable additions: None
Notable losses: RB Jamaal Williams
Notes: Most of the open touches in the Green Bay backfield are the result of Williams’ departure. While Aaron Jones will no doubt see a pickup in touches, this also creates an opportunity for AJ Dillon to make an impact. He showed some glimpses 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: Quarterback Matthew Stafford
Notable losses: QB Jared Goff, RB Malcolm Brown
Notes: The addition of Stafford through the trade is good news for all of the Rams’ offensive skill position players, including Cam Akers. Brown’s game opens 124 touches, and Akers should absorb many of them as he continues to rise through the ranks of fantasy. He will be a top 10 runner in most drafts and could be a first-round runner 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 backfield touches for the Giants came when Gallman left for the 49ers as a free agent. Of course, most of those touches will go directly to Saquon Barkley. While she is coming off a torn ACL, she is still a first-round block and could be one of the top five picks in the 2021 draws. Booker looks like the favorite to become Barkley’s best wife.
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5. Atlanta Falcons (117)
Notable additions: RB Mike Davis, RB Javian Hawkins (right)
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 the open touches in the Seattle backfield come from Hyde’s departure. Chris Carson, who re-signed with the team in the offseason, hopes to absorb some of those touches. Rashaad Penny will also see a good chunk of those opportunities as the team’s second running back. She will be considered the best wife for those who get 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 scheduled to open this season as the Bears’ new starting quarterback, but it won’t be long before Fields gets his chance as the new face of the franchise. Backfield, the addition of Williams and the return of Tarik Cohen is bad news for David Montgomery’s courage. A true league winner last season, he’s now more of a No. 2 fantasy running back who might not live up to 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 at center from Stafford in an offense that will have to rely on D’Andre Swift, Williams and the running game. Most of the open touches are the result of Peterson’s absence, and Johnson dropped 71 touches when he was cut. Swift should lead this backfield in touches, but Williams should see enough to have an independent flex value at times. Overall, Swift will be worth a second-round pick, while Williams is more of a mid-to-late round and a popular fantasy wife.
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. They will pair him with Chase Edmonds. I like the latter better in PPR formats, but it will be difficult to trust either one as anything other than a flexible 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 rely on Ezekiel Elliott. It should be much more effective on stat sheets with Dak Prescott in the center. Tony Pollard will continue to be a valuable wife.
11. New Orleans Saints (18)
Notable additions: None
Notable losses: QB Drew Brees
Notes: Jameis Winston is considered the favorite to replace Brees at center, making him a fantasy No. 2 quarterback in the later rounds. However, it remains to be seen how much Taysom Hill damages its value. The team only added Alexander Armah as a running back, so expect more from the Alvin Kamara show with Latavius Murray as well.
12. Minnesota Vikings (13)
Notable additions: QB Kellen Mond (right)
Notable losses: RB Mike Boone
Notes: Mond won’t have much restructuring value with Kirk Cousins at the center, but he will be worth a look in the dynasty leagues. The Vikings backfield will continue to be led by star Dalvin Cook, who will be the second consensus pick in most fantasy drafts. Alexander Mattison will once again be one of the best spouses 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 RB2’s radar, but Sanders has lost some of his luster in fantasy land.
14. Washington Soccer 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 best quarterback in Washington, which is good news for most of his position players of offensive ability. The backfield will look the same as last season with Antonio Gibson on top and JD McKissic used in the passing game. Gibson will be worth a second-round pick 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 at center. but Lance could push him to the starting job sooner rather than later. He is a potential fantasy star in the future. The backfield will feature Raheem Mostert at the top, but Sermon could pressure Jeff Wilson Jr. and Gallman for touches. The Ohio State rookie will be worth a round from mid-to-last round in a runner-friendly offense.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-169)
Notable additions: QB Kyle Trask, RB Young Bernard
Notable losses: RB LeSean McCoy
Notes: The Buccaneers backfield could be a real 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 flexible starter unless injuries occur. Jones and Fournette will leave the board from the middle to the later rounds.
Michael Fabiano he is an award winner fantasy football analyst in Illustrated Sports 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, Y Instagram for your latest great news and the best analysis in the industry.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.