2021 Fantasy Football – Vacated Targets By Team

When an NFL team has several receivers leave the roster in free agency, they are left with many opportunities for other pass-catchers to step up. One of the best ways to find breakout fantasy football value is through these vacated targets. Teams with many vacated targets present a greater opportunity for breakthrough fantasy football production from under-the-radar players. Here are the top five NFL teams in vacated targets and a brief discussion of which players might step into that extra opportunity.

#1: Detroit Lions – 362 (62.2%)

  • Departures: WR Marvin Jones (115), WR Danny Amendola (69), WR Kenny Golladay (32), WR Marvin Hall (30), RB Kerryon Johnson (26), WR Mohamed Sanu (23), TE Jesse James (22), WR Jamal Agnew (20), RB Adrian Peterson (18), RB Jonathan Williams (4), TE Isaac Nauta (2), RB Ty Johnson (1)
  • Additions: WR Breshad Perriman, WR Tyrell Williams, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, RB Jamaal Williams, TE Josh Hill, RB Jermar Jefferson, WR Jonathan Adams Jr.

Detroit LionsIn addition to a new quarterback in Jared Goff and a new head coach in Dan Campbell, the Lions are replacing their three top wide receivers. Kenny Golladay is coming off an injury-shortened season, but he’s become a key piece for Detroit over the past few years while Marvin Jones was the team’s top receiver last season with 76 catches for 978 yards 9 touchdowns. Danny Amendola, formerly the Lions’ top slot receiver, is also no longer with the team. Breshad Perriman joins the Lions after one disappointing season with the Jets, in which he caught 30 balls for 505 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tyrell Williams opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, and he’s had a few down years since his only 1,000-yard receiving season in 2016. The Lions also spent a fourth-round pick on Amon-Ra St. Brown, a former USC receiver, who will likely start out of the slot for his new team. He’ll have the opportunity to be among the most productive rookie receivers this season. Incumbent running back D’Andre Swift and tight end T.J. Hockenson could see an uptick in targets as well. I currently have Swift ranked as my RB17 in half-PPR scoring and Hockenson as my TE5. No wide receiver on this team is inside the top 40 in my half-PPR projections. This offense as a whole isn’t likely to be highly productive, but there is plenty of opportunities for somebody to step up and deliver as a sleeper in fantasy.

#2: Jacksonville Jaguars – 242 (39.2%)

  • Departures: WR Keelan Cole (88), WR Chris Conley (63), TE Tyler Eifert (60), RB Chris Thompson (23), TE Eric Saubert (4), FB Bruce Miller (2), WR Dede Westbrook (1), RB Craig Reynolds (1)
  • Additions: RB Carlos Hyde, WR Marvin Jones, WR Phillip Dorsett, WR Jamal Agnew, RB Travis Etienne, TE Luke Farrell, WR Jalen Camp, WR Josh Imatorbhebhe, WR Tim Jones

Jacksonville JaguarsThis was quite the transitionary offseason for the Jaguars in 2020 as they introduce a new starting head coach in Urban Meyer and the new face of the franchise in Trevor Lawrence, the Clemson quarterback who was the #1 overall pick this spring. Lawrence comes from a storied college program with plenty of NFL talent in his pass-catching corps, and Jacksonville will be hoping he can coax some improved play out of their skill position players. A handful of offensive pieces have left the Jaguars, including Keelan Cole and Chris Conley, both of whom spent much time as the top receivers on the team. D.J. Chark is just two years removed from a 1,000-yard season, while Laviska Shenault Jr. has plenty of opportunities to produce in his second professional season as an exciting talent. Shenault had 58 catches for 600 yards and 5 touchdowns last season and had over 2,200 yards from scrimmage and 17 total touchdowns across three seasons at Colorado. Veteran Marvin Jones Jr. has entered the fray as well. Jones had 76 catches for 978 yards and 9 touchdowns for the Lions last season. Phillip Dorsett and Jamal Agnew will serve as lower-level wide receivers on the team as well. Tyler Eifert is out and is replaced by incumbent James O’Shaughnessy at tight end, but the team could still stand to improve the position. Running backs Travis Etienne, James Robinson, and Carlos Hyde will be involved in the passing game, while rookie Etienne has a huge opportunity as a big-play threat.

#3: Tennessee Titans – 215 (44.3%)

  • Departures: WR Corey Davis (92), TE Jonnu Smith (65), WR Adam Humphries (35), WR Kalif Raymond (15), TE MyCole Pruitt (8)
  • Additions: WR Julio Jones, WR Josh Reynolds, WR Dez Fitzpatrick

Tennessee TitansJULIOOOOOOO!!! The Titans had a real need to add to their pass-catching corps after losing Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith, Adam Humphries, and man, did they ever have a future Hall of Fame wide receiver. Davis had 65 catches for 984 yards and 5 touchdowns for the Titans last season, while Smith had 41 catches for 448 yards and 8 touchdowns. Adam Humphries has seen his involvement decrease over the past few years, so his absence may not matter as much. Julio Jones steps into an excellent opportunity across from third-year wide receiver A.J. Brown, and the veteran will be thrilled by the trade to his new team. Before last year, Jones had accumulated 1,350+ receiving yards in six straight seasons, and he was on pace to hit that mark again before an injury-shortened 2020 season. Josh Reynolds and Dez Fitzpatrick wouldn’t have cut it as veteran pickups at the position, but Jones certainly will serve as an upgrade over Davis. Antony Firkser will be the leading tight end for Tennessee this year, but he doesn’t profile as much of a fantasy producer as he has never had more than 39 catches in a season. Ryan Tannehill had just 485 passing attempts for the team last season, the second-fewest for a team in the NFL, so this isn’t a massive amount of passing volume to step into. Still, I have A.J. Brown and Julio Jones both as top-15 half-PPR wide receivers this season.

#4: Houston Texans – 199 (36.4%)

  • Departures: WR Will Fuller (75), RB Duke Johnson (35), TE Darren Fells (28), WR Chad Hansen (24), WR Kenny Stills (19), WR Steven Mitchell (11), RB C.J. Prosise (5), WR DeAndre Carter (2)
  • Additions: RB Mark Ingram, RB Phillip Lindsay, WR Chris Conley, WR Andre Roberts, WR Alex Erickson, WR Donte Moncrief, TE Ryan Izzo, WR Nico Collins, TE Brevin Jordan

Houston TexansThis Texans’ offense is a mess right now, and we don’t even know yet if Deshaun Watson will be under center to start the year following the charges of sexual harassment and misconduct coming against him. Veterans Tyrod Taylor and Jeff Driskel are next in line at the quarterback position, while rookie Davis Mills may see some run. Whoever is under center for the Texans this year will come into an interesting offensive situation after the team lost Will Fuller, its second-leading target last year, and didn’t do a whole lot to replace him. Chris Conley, Andre Roberts, Alex Erickson, and Donte Moncrief are a group of underwhelming veterans. Conley perhaps stands out the most as he had 40 catches for 471 yards and 2 touchdowns last year. Roberts hasn’t had 100 receiving yards in a season since 2016. Alex Erickson has never had more than 39 catches for 278 yards in a reserve role for the Bengals and has never caught a touchdown pass. Moncrief has gone over 100 receiving yards just once in his career. Perhaps the best place to look for fantasy value could be former Michigan receiver Nico Collins who the Texans drafted in the third round this year. He’s reportedly impressed in camp so far and has every opportunity to produce with all of these vacated targets. Brandin Cooks is likely to see a massive volume of targets, and I have him ranked as my WR18 in half-PPR, scoring mostly on the back of volume.

#5: Carolina Panthers – 198 (34.1%)

  • Departures: WR Curtis Samuel (97), RB Mike Davis (70), FB Alex Armah (9), TE Chris Mahnertz (8), WR Pharoh Cooper (8), WR Seth Roberts (6)
  • Additions: WR David Moore, TE Dan Arnold, WR Terrace Marshall Jr., TE Tommy Tremble, RB Chuba Hubbard, WR Shi Smith

Carolina PanthersAs with three of the four teams we’ve analyzed thus far, the Panthers will have a new starting quarterback this season as they traded Teddy Bridgewater to the Broncos and replaced him with former Jets’ quarterback Sam Darnold. Curtis Samuel left for Washington in free agency while Mike Davis moved to the Falcons, so there’s plenty of opportunities for new additions to see significant involvement. Robby Anderson had 95 catches for 1,096 yards and 3 touchdowns last year, while D.J. Moore had 66 catches for 1,193 yards and 4 touchdowns. Samuel was third on the team with 97 targets, and those targets will likely be mostly split between additions in veteran David Moore and rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. Christian McCaffrey played in just 3 games last season. At the same time, Davis picked up the slack for the rest of the year. In 2019, McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history to have 1,000+ rushing and 1,000+ receiving yards, and he had 142 targets. It will be interesting to see how Darnold’s tendencies play out at quarterback. While McCaffrey, Moore, and Anderson will swallow up most of the receiving production, there’s still some room for Moore and Marshall Jr. to see some significant involvement.

#6: Cincinnati Bengals – 194 (33.3%)

  • Departures: WR A.J. Green (104), RB Giovani Bernard (59), WR Alex Erickson (17), TE Cethan Carter (7), WR John Ross (7)
  • Additions: RB Samaje Perine, WR Ja’Marr Chase, RB Chris Evans

Cincinnati BengalsIt’s easy to forget how involved A.J. Green was in the Bengals’ offense last year as he had just 47 catches for 523 yards and 2 touchdowns in 16 games, but the veteran had the worst season of his career and was wildly inefficient with his 104 targets. With those targets, as well as the targets from a handful of other players who have departed, it’s hard to imagine Ja’Marr Chase not seeing heavy involvement in this offense. Tyler Boyd had 79 catches for 841 yards and 4 touchdowns last year, while Tee Higgins had 67 catches for 908 yards and 6 touchdowns in his rookie season; both receivers should be heavily involved again this year. Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow’s season was shortened due to injury, but he had 40.4 passing attempts per game last year. That immense amount of passing volume, along with a talented set of pass-catchers on this roster, should make this offense a surprisingly great outfit this season. Chase, Burow’s former LSU teammate, had 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns the last time the two took the field together. Chase is likely going to get around 1,000 yards in his rookie year and could lead this team in receiving. Beyond Boyd, Higgins, and Chase, I’m not thrilled about any of the other pass-catchers on this roster.

#7: San Francisco 49ers – 192 (33.6%)

  • Departures: WR Kendrick Bourne (74), RB Jerick McKinnon (46), TE Jordan Reed (46), WR Trent Taylor (21), RB Tevin Coleman (5)
  • Additions: WR Mohamed Sanu, WR Trent Sherfield, WR Austin Watkins Jr., RB Elijah Mitchell, RB Trey Sermon

San Francisco 49ersThere’s going to be a lot of hype surrounding the 49ers’ offense this season as Kyle Shanahan’s unit should be much-improved regardless of whether it’s a now-healthy Jimmy Garoppolo or a highly-enticing rookie Trey Lance at quarterback. Kendrick Bourne had 49 catches for 667 yards and 2 touchdowns last season, and he’s now with the Patriots. The wide receiver snaps will likely fall on Brandon Aiyuk, who led the team with 60 catches for 748 yards and 5 touchdowns last year, and Deebo Samuel, who had 33 catches for 391 yards and 1 touchdown. Jordan Reed also leaves behind some opportunities, most of which will go to George Kittle. The running back targets left behind by Jerick McKinnon, and Tevin Coleman will be redistributed primarily among Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and rookies Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell. Veterans Mohamed Sanu, Trent Sherfield, and Austin Watkins Jr. likely won’t move the needle much, but there’s plenty of pass-catching talent in-house to take on some of the snaps and targets that have been vacated.

        #8: Los Angeles Rams – 176 (29.8%)

        • Departures: WR Josh Reynolds (81), TE Gerald Everett (62), RB Malcolm Brown (33)
        • Additions: WR DeSean Jackson, WR Tutu Atwell, WR Ben Skowronek, WR Landon Akers, WR Jeremiah Haydel, TE Jacob Harris, FB Jake Funk

        los angeles ramsThis offense is likely going to look a lot different with Matthew Stafford under center. While there is a decent amount of vacated targets, I do expect the Rams to be more of a run-heavy team with Cam Akers to take the pressure off Stafford and the defense. Josh Reynolds had 52 catches for 618 yards and 2 touchdowns last year, and he vacates the team leaving veteran DeSean Jackson and rookie Tutu Atwell to take on some targets. The passing offense will still revolve around Robert Woods, who had 90 catches for 936 yards and 6 touchdowns last year, and Cooper Kupp, who had 92 catches for 974 yards and 3 touchdowns last year. Both Woods and Kupp could be 1,000-yard receivers this season across a 17-game slate. Gerald Everett has also left the team after 41 catches for 417 yards and a touchdown last year; I believe Tyler Higbee could finish as a top-ten tight end this season. The Rams’ offense is certainly one to watch this year.

        #9: New England Patriots – 171 (38.8%)

        • Departures: WR Damiere Byrd (77), WR Julian Edelman (39), RB Rex Burkhead (33), TE Ryan Izzo (20), WR Donte Moncrief (2)
        • Additions: WR Nelson Agholor, WR Kendrick Bourne, TE Hunter Henry, TE Jonnu Smith, RB Rhamondre Stevenson, WR Tre Nixon

        New England PatriotsThe Patriots scored just 20.4 points per game last year, the sixth-fewest in the NFL last year, so they spent the offseason remaking their roster on that side of the ball. With already one of the best offensive lines in football in tow, New England focused on the quarterback and pass-catching positions. Mac Jones, the team’s first-round pick, will enter a true competition with Cam Newton. Whether Jones or Newton wins the starting spot, they’ll be supported by two new tight ends in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, as well as two new receivers in Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. Henry had 60 catches for 613 yards and 4 touchdowns last year, while Smith had 41 catches for 448 yards and 8 touchdowns. Agholor had 48 catches for 896 yards and 8 touchdowns last year, while Bourne had 49 catches for 667 yards and 2 touchdowns. New England still has Jakobi Meyers in tow, who led the team with 59 catches for 729 yards last year, although Damiere Byrd leaves after his 47 catches for 604 yards and a score last season. It’s unclear how the target load will break down this season or which quarterback will be the starter, but there is an opportunity for one of these pass-catchers to have a breakthrough fantasy campaign.

        #10: New Orleans Saints – 169 (32.4%)

        • Departures: WR Emmanuel Sanders (82), TE Jared Cook (60), TE Josh Hill (10), WR Bennie Fowler (6), FB Michael Burton (4), WR Austin Carr (4), WR Tommylee Lewis (3)
        • Additions: TE Nick Vannett, FB Alex Armah, WR Kawaan Baker, RB Stevie Scott III

        New Orleans SaintsIn addition to Drew Brees’s retirement, the Saints lost wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and tight end Jared Cook in free agency, both of whom had been key parts of this offense in recent years. Sanders had 61 catches for 726 yards and 5 touchdowns last year, while Cook had 37 catches for 504 yards and 7 touchdowns. The Saints didn’t do much to replace those two players, but Michael Thomas played in just seven games in 2020 and will hopefully be a lot healthier this season. He and Alvin Kamara, who saw 83 catches for 756 yards and 5 touchdowns last year, will lead the pass-catching group. Adam Trautman has a real chance to break out at the tight end, while incumbent receivers Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith, and Deonte Harris could be a much bigger part of the Saints’ offense this season. It’s unclear if it will be Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston under center for New Orleans this season. Still, the offensive approach will vary significantly depending on which quarterback it is. If it’s Hill, the offense should be a lot more run-heavy, while Winston is much more of the gunslinger at quarterback. Even if it is Hill, though, there’s an opportunity in this offense for a third pass-catcher to emerge.

        I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. I've been playing fantasy football for as long as I can remember and am now in far more leagues than any person should take part in. There are few things that give me as much joy and excitement as fantasy football, and I'm excited to share my input with you in your journey towards a championship.

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