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Your Guide For Drafting Nittany Lions To Your 2021 Fantasy Football Team

When it comes to drafting your fantasy football team, it’s always best to be prepared. There’s nothing worse than winging it with your strategy and winding up with a poorly constructed team destined for the basement of your fantasy league.

Fortunately, Penn State fans can include a number of Nittany Lions in their pre-draft strategies this year. Before going all-in on Happy Valley’s professional prospects, take a look at our thoughts on every fantasy-viable Nittany Lion in the NFL.

Saquon Barkley

Who else would lead this list? Barkley returns to the field this fall after missing most of 2020’s season with a frightening ACL tear. However, the fourth-year back is working his way back to full health and maintains huge value with the New York Giants.

Barkley is in line for major volume as New York’s go-to feature back. The team suddenly has many mouths to feed thanks to additions like Kenny Golladay, who signed with the Giants following four seasons in Detroit. Still, Barkley should push for 20-plus touches a week…if he’s healthy.

Health needs to be considered if you’re eyeing Barkley in the first round of your draft. He’s fallen out of favor as a top-five pick, but, if healthy, he’s a safe RB1 with incredible upside to become an elite fantasy asset. Remember: In his 29 games played before his washed 2020 season, Barkley racked up 2,310 rushing yards, 143 catches for 1,159 receiving yards, and 23 total touchdowns. That kind of production wins leagues, folks.

Allen Robinson

After spending years as the diamond in the rough on a laughable Bears offense, Allen Robinson might just catch a break this year.

First-round pick (and former Penn State prospect) Justin Fields will likely take the reins as Chicago’s quarterback at some point this season, which would likely boost Robinson’s production significantly. Even with middling signal-callers at the controls, Robinson put together back-to-back top-10 fantasy seasons over the last two years. Things are picking up, too. His 1,250 receiving yards last season were his most since 2015.

Robinson is in his prime as one of the NFL’s top receivers, and his fantasy value remains pristine. He’s a viable WR1 in your draft and absolutely worth considering by the third or fourth round.

Miles Sanders

Much like Barkley, Sanders maintains significant fantasy value this season…if he can stay healthy. The third-year back missed nearly five full games last season due to a number of injuries. He averaged more than 14 carries and was fantasy football’s No. 11 running back in his 11 healthy games, though, which suggests a big season could be in store this fall.

Moreover, Sanders benefits from a new scheme in Philadelphia thanks to run-heavy coach Nick Sirianni. He’ll also likely see a boost in production behind the Eagles’ healthy (for now) offensive line. But even when the Eagles had a rotating door in the trenches last year, Sanders posted 1,064 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns.

Bottom line: The volume is there for Sanders. With a clear lead-back role in hand, Sanders should wind up as a strong RB2 with obvious upside for a breakout season.

Chris Godwin

Much like Allen Robinson, Godwin is in position to be a solid fantasy receiver this season. However, health and competition in Tampa Bay could ultimately put a cap on his production.

Godwin missed four regular-season games last year, raising doubts about his viability as an early-round draft pick. Plus, in 10 fully healthy games, Godwin was limited by production from Buccaneers wideouts Mike Evans and Antonio Brown. In those games, Godwin posted a 19% target share but walked away with only 128 PPR fantasy points.

From Godwin, Evans, and Brown to Rob Gronkowski and a hectic running back room, Tom Brady has a dizzying number of targets at his disposal. Godwin will likely top out as a back-end WR2 in your draft, but he’s absolutely still worth a mid-round selection.

Mike Gesicki

Gesicki broke out of his shell in 2020 and figures to continue performing well entering his fourth NFL season. In fact, he’s basically a Dolphins wide receiver at this point after lining up in the slot or out wide on 89% of his snaps last season.

In 2020, Gesicki posted 53 catches for 703 yards and six touchdowns, landing him as TE7 on the year. But with only four top-10 weekly finishes throughout the season, it’s tough to recommend drafting him as your team’s top tight end. Heck, he finished outside the top 20 tight ends five times in 2020.

Gesicki is fun as hell to root for. I mean, just look at this clip. But he’ll face stiff competition for action in Miami’s passing game alongside DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, Will Fuller, and more. He’s draftable in your draft’s later rounds as a strong TE2 with upside for TE1 production.

KJ Hamler

As dominant as he was in Happy Valley, Hamler has yet to post strong performances in the NFL. He appeared in 13 games for the Broncos throughout his rookie season but hauled in just 30 passes for 381 yards and three scores. At one point, he received 10 targets in back-to-back games but saw just 37 targets spread out over the remaining 11.

For now, Hamler hasn’t carved out a fantasy-relevant role in Denver’s run-first offense. Combine that with a shaky quarterback room (Sorry, Teddy Bridgewater) and competition from Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, and Hamler isn’t worth much outside of a late-round flier.

Pat Freiermuth

Freiermuth’s pedigree makes him an intriguing fantasy option this fall. The Steelers’ 2021 second-round pick immediately impressed with flashy preseason performances, but it remains to be seen how much action he’d see in a meaningful game.

Eventually, I’d expect Freiermuth to push for TE1 numbers once he carves out a role for himself in Pittsburgh. For now, he’s left fending off Eric Ebron, who’s poised to start once the season gets underway.

If you’re in a dynasty league, Freiermuth is more than worth a flier. Just don’t be like Onward State’s Frankie Marzano and select him with your 11th-round pick. Sheesh.

Robbie Gould

At 38 years old, Gould’s starting to get up there. Still, he’s a fantasy-viable kicker on an up-and-coming team, which should give him enough to work with if you’d want to roll him out as your starter.

Gould suffered from San Francisco’s offensive prowess last season in that he rarely (using that term loosely) kicked field goals since the 49ers often opted for touchdowns. His 23 field goal attempts in 2020 were his lowest in his career. But Gould converted 82.6% of his kicks last season, and he’d be a fine selection for your fantasy team.

Sam Ficken

Sam Ficken lives! He’s currently the only kicker remaining on the Titans’ roster, lining him up with the chance to start once the season gets underway.

Ficken converted on 48 of 53 preseason field goals in Tennessee since the Titans grabbed him off waivers from the Jets. If he starts, Ficken would kick for one of the NFL’s fastest-moving offenses and likely wind up as a respectable fantasy starter. I’d wait to see how things unfold in Tennessee before burning any draft capital on the Pinstripe Bowl hero.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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