NFL Fantasy Football: Best, worst schedules by position

Now that the 2021 NFL schedule has been released, we're one step closer to the beginning of the new fantasy football campaign. So to give you one more piece of information when you're getting ready for your league's draft (or just while doing a mock draft), we've put together a list of the players who have the most favorable and unfavorable schedules based on position.

For this exercise, the strength of each team's schedule is based on last year's FPA (Fantasy Points Allowed) of their opponents. Obviously, rosters aren't exactly the same from year to year, so consider this more of a guideline than a gospel when it comes to schedule difficulty.

Quarterbacks

Best

Cam Netwon/Mac Jones, New England Patriots (19.40 FPA): We don't yet know who Bill Belichick's starting quarterback will be when Week 1 rolls around. But we do know that they could have a forgiving schedule -- on paper, at least. A pair of games against the Jets is worth paying attention to, while matchups with the Texans, Cowboys and Falcons could be worth taking advantage of. Whether the Pats have the pass-catchers to exploit those matchups remains to be seen. 

Drew Lock/Teddy Bridgewater, Denver Broncos (19.06 FPA): Much like New England, Denver is likely to have its own quarterback battle in training camp. Whoever wins that tilt will get to take aim at the Raiders twice along with the Jaguars, Jets and Lions. In case you weren't already on the Courtland Sutton hype train, this could be the push you need to buy a ticket. 

Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts (19.05 FPA): Frank Reich and the Colts will see if they can help Wentz return to the form that made him an MVP candidate in 2017. They won't have the schedule as an excuse. Six games in the division against the Texans, Jaguars and Titans are very attractive as are contests against the Jets and Raiders. People might ignore Wentz in drafts, but he could have sleeper potential. 

Worst

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (17.60 FPA): Well this Is certainly not encouraging. Last year's #LetRussCook initiative didn't go so great. By the midpoint of the year, Seattle seemed reluctant to keep Wilson as the head chef. Having to face the Rams and 49ers twice a year won't excite anyone. Neither will games against the Saints, Steelers and the Football Team. Fantasy managers have been fading Russ for years in drafts. That could continue in 2021.

Jared Goff, Detroit Lions (17.82 FPA): Welcome to Detroit, Goff! This isn't how the former Ram wanted to start his Lions career. His opponents in the NFC North will do him no favors in 2021. To make matters worse, he'll also have to take on the 49ers and Steelers as well as a trip to Los Angeles to take on his former team.

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (18.03 FPA): This should give pause to anyone hoping Jackson could return to the top of the fantasy quarterback leaderboard in 2021. It's certainly not impossible for LJax, but two games against the Steelers won't help. What also isn't helping are contests against the Colts, Dolphins, Bears, Packers, and Rams.

Running Backs

Best

Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts (25.14 FPA): Taylor was already everyone's favorite to truly break out in his second year after taking over Indy's backfield near the end of the 2020 season. Having the most favorable running back schedule in the league will only feed the hype. Much of that is owed to a forgiving division with six games against the Texans, Jaguars, and Titans. Throw a late-season game against the Raiders into the mix and it easily puts Taylor in the early part of the first round in many drafts.

Nick Chubb/Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns (24.56 FPA): Shout out to the Browns for being the rare team that offers us a running back rotation where everyone wins. Presuming Cleveland can keep that same energy in 2021, Chubb and Hunt have some tasty early-season matchups against the Chiefs, Texans, and Vikings before a pair of fantasy playoff contests against the Raiders and Packers.

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears (24.55 FPA): Last season, Montgomery helped many managers win fantasy championships thanks to a favorable schedule. An advantageous 2021 slate could make him a productive option once again. He might not be a league-winner this year but late-season games against the Packers and Vikings could help push plenty of people to the postseason.

Worst

Ronald Jones/Leonard Fournette/Giovani Bernard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (21.89 FPA): It's bad enough that the Bucs have a slew of running backs that are likely to get work in 2021 but now they're dealing with the toughest positional slate in the league. An already unappealing situation has gotten even more distasteful.

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (22.10 FPA): Barkley is being drafted as a top 5 back in most leagues, with managers expecting a comeback season from Big Blue's big back. A tough schedule with a pair against the Football Team and one-offs with the Saints, Rams, Bucs, and Bears could knock him down a couple of slots.

Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (22.44 FPA): 2020 was a bit of a lost season for McCaffrey due to multiple injuries. Nonetheless, he's still the consensus 1.01 in fantasy drafts because of his expected usage rates. A season of games that includes tough matchups against the Saints, Falcons, Bucs, and the Football Team aren't likely to change that -- but we figure you should at least be aware.

Wide Receivers

Best

DeVonta Smith/Jalen Reagor, Philadelphia Eagles (36.93 FPA): The Eagles receivers have a lot to prove in 2021 but they will get a forgiving schedule to help them put things together. The schedule starts with a trip to Atlanta then features early-season games against the Cowboys, Raiders, and Lions. They'll need to make hay early because two of their final three fantasy season games are against a tough Washington defense.

DeAndre Hopkins/A.J. Green, Arizona Cardinals (37.82 FPA): There are plenty of capable players in Arizona's receiver room and there should be plenty of targets to go around with games versus the Titans, Vikings, and Jaguars in the first three weeks. The division figures to be tough but two of Arizona's three fantasy playoff games come against the Lions and Cowboys. There could be league winners in the desert.

Deebo Samuel/Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers (38.04 FPA): The Niners biggest issue was health last season. If they can keep their playmakers on the field, the schedule could work to their benefit. San Francisco will face a similar slate to their division mates in Arizona but they might have an even better playoff grouping with the Falcons, Titans, and Texans in Weeks 15-17.

Worst

Allen Robinson/Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears (37.23 FPA): We were all excited about the prospect of Robinson getting to catch passes from Justin Fields. It's still an intriguing pairing, though games against the Rams, Packers, Niners, and Bucs put a bit of a damper on it.

Odell Beckham/Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns (35.50 FPA): It might be all good for Cleveland's running backs, but it could be tougher sledding for the Browns receivers. A couple of nice early matchups against the Texans and Vikings are overshadowed by a schedule that includes the Chargers, Steelers, Patriots, and Ravens.

Keenan Allen/Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers (36.10 FPA): Fantasy managers have begun clamoring to get a piece of the Chargers offense after Justin Herbert's breakout rookie season. That pass attack should be put to the test right from the get-go against Washington. A brutal stretch featuring the Chiefs, Browns, Ravens and Patriots won't excite anyone, either.

Tight Ends

Best

Hunter Henry/Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots (13.72 FPA): Having two quality tight ends sign with the same team in free agency wasn't what fantasy managers had hoped for. But having a favorable schedule might reignite some interest in either or both players. The Jets, Bills, and Browns are just a few of the games that offer positive matchups. Now we just need to figure out usage rates for each guy.

Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins (13.51 FPA): Gesicki's inconsistent production was maddening at times last season. This season, a positive schedule might lead to better week-to-week numbers. Gesicki and the Dolphins will have a similar schedule to their rivals in New England. And much like his Pats counterparts, Gesicki could find competition for targets -- albeit from a crowded group of wideouts. At least the matchups shouldn't be a reason he doesn't produce.

Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers (13.35 FPA): For the past few years, we've been desirous of success from a Steelers tight end. In that same time, Ebron has done just enough to remain in our fantasy consciousness. Now these two entities have collided ... and have a favorable schedule to boot. Don't expect to see fantasy managers clamoring to draft Ebron, but don't be surprised if he has a few week-winning outings as well.

Worst

Will Dissly, Seattle Seahawks (11.38 FPA): The bad news is that the Seahawks have the worst tight end fantasy schedule in the NFL this year. The good news is that few people are truly interested in drafting a Seattle tight end. Dissly's best value has been as a waiver wire darling. That might be hard to justify in 2021.

Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears (11.80 FPA): We tried to bury Graham last season, then he had a late flurry of production that made him viable in plenty of leagues. It's hard to imagine a similar run for the veteran this season -- especially with Cole Kmet waiting in the wings. With those two battling for snaps amid a slew of tough games, Bears tight ends might be a tough sell this year.

Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams (11.80 FPA): Last year, people had high hopes for Higbee and apart from one huge game, he was a huge disappointment. Having Matthew Stafford under center could perk up his opportunities in 2021 but games against the Niners, Cardinals, Packers, and Colts aren't encouraging.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who is reminded every spring of how great baseball is on the radio. Send him your signs of summer or fantasy football questions on Twitter @MarcasG or Instagram at MarcasG.

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