The 2021 NFL season is quickly approaching as each franchise begins training camp. Each team has their superstars that should perform. However, it’s the guys that are a bit unknown on the rosters that could make the largest impact. There are busts, and there are sleepers, and the best teams in the leagues have more sleepers than not.
Although there is a long list of potential studs in the league, only 10 stand out as the best on this list. There are a ton of players that could make a huge impact on their team next season, whether they play offense or defense. With that said, here are 10 underrated sleepers going into the 2021 NFL season.
10. Damien Williams | RB | Chicago Bears
He’ll be fighting for playing time, but Damien Williams is in a prime position to become a major contributor for the Chicago Bears. David Montgomery locks down the starting role, while Tarik Cohen is coming off of a serious injury. We’ll see how Cohen does in his return, but Williams could surpass Cohen as the main passing option out of the backfield. Keep an eye on the Bears’ running back position, as Williams will battle it out with Cohen for playing time.
9. Anthony Firkser | TE | Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans moved on from Jonnu Smith and have given Anthony Firkser the reigns. Tennessee aims to be one of the most electric teams next year after acquiring Julio Jones. For that reason, the Titans’ offense will be a tough one to stop. Opposing defenses will either have to double-team the receivers, or load the box to slow down Derrick Henry. With all of the attention on the Titans’ big playmakers, Firkser should find himself open more often than not. He could create a big role for himself as a consistent possession receiver for Ryan Tannehill.
8. Ty Johnson | RB | New York Jets
Early news coming out of New York is that Michael Carter looks like a starting running back. However, the Jets are likely to use a running back committee and Ty Johnson continues to impress as well. Johnson is a speedy running back that hopes to have an expanded role next season. He’ll have to beat out Tevin Coleman for playing time though, but Johnson has the potential to be the favorite of the Jets’ three main running backs.
7. Jakobi Meyers | WR | New England Patriots
Jakobi Meyers finished as the best receiving option for the New England Patriots in 2020 and looks to maintain that role again in 2021. The front office brought in Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, and Nelson Agholor though, so Meyers will have his work cut out for him. However, with Cam Newton under center, Meyers has the advantage as he’s already generated solid chemistry with the Patriots’ starting quarterback. Jonnu Smith is likely to be the top target in New England, but Meyers could easily finish as the second pass option.
6. Daniel Jones | QB | New York Giants
The only quarterback on this list, Daniel Jones could be in for a huge year. The New York Giants made sure to sign Kenny Golladay, giving Jones a big-bodied receiver who should make life easier for the Giants as a whole. Jones is also a threat with his legs, making him a dual-threat quarterback the Giants need to possibly win the NFC East. This is the year for Jones to prove he can be a franchise quarterback in the NFL.
5. Mike Williams | WR | Los Angeles Chargers
He’s been a bit of a disappointment since his rookie year, but all of that could change in 2021. Justin Herbert took the league by storm and after a ton of smart acquisitions made by the front office, the Los Angeles Chargers could be a dangerous team moving forward. Keenan Allen is the top passing option in Los Angeles, but Mike Williams’s big frame makes him a potential red-zone monster.
4. Brian Burns | DE | Carolina Panthers
Entering the third year of his career, Brian Burns could make a massive jump in production in 2021. The Carolina Panthers have made defense a focal point the last two years, building a unit around Burns and the rest of the young prospects on the defense. He finished last year with nine sacks. If he can break the double-digit mark, Burns could be on his way to becoming an elite pass rusher sooner rather than later.
3. Gerald Everett | TE | Seattle Seahawks
Gerald Everett has been a middling tight end throughout his career, but is now in a position to become one of the best in the league. The Seattle Seahawks offense is at their best when they let Russell Wilson cook. Seattle is going to light up the scoreboard this year and Everett could quickly become one of Wilson’s favorite targets. He has a chance to become the third pass option behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. If that’s the case, look for Everett to have a big year in the NFL.
2. Alex Highsmith | OLB | Pittsburgh Steelers
Bud Dupree is an elite pass rusher and it’ll be difficult to fill his shoes. However, Alex Highsmith is in a perfect situation to do so. The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the best defenses in the league right now, and Highsmith could make them even better. With TJ Watt on the opposite end, Highsmith could be facing single-coverage when rushing the passer. Keep an eye on Highsmith, as he could emerge as an elite defender in 2021.
1. Laviska Shenault | WR | Jacksonville Jaguars
There is a lot of buzz around the Jacksonville Jaguars’ future, and Laviska Shenault plays a large role in that. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands and the coaching staff should be getting him the ball as often as possible. Many are looking at DJ Chark as the top receiver in Jacksonville, but Shenault has all of the tools to become a star in the NFL. If Shenault can become Trevor Lawrence’s favorite target, he could have a coming-out party right out of the gate.