Johnson had one of the stranger seasons in recent memory. While he missed only one game, he was benched in others for drops and also got injured early in Week 5. Johnson wound up leading the NFL with a whopping 15 drops, yet still managed 144 targets on a team with two other viable WR options. Johnson’s per-play numbers (10.5 YPC and 6.4 YPT) were among the league’s lowest, partly due to drops, but mostly because the Steelers ran a bizarre, pass-heavy offense based heavily on short throws. While teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster finished 35th in aDOT at 5.6 yards, Johnson was 30th at 8.0. At 5-10, 183, Johnson is small, and his timed speed (4.53 40) is below average for a player his size. But put him in a uniform, and he looks like another small, poor-40-timed former Steelers receiver, Antonio Brown. Like Brown, Johnson’s quickness and burst jumps off the screen, and he even hauled in four catches of 40-plus yards last year despite the low aDOT. Of course, Johnson’s focus needs to improve — 15 drops is off-the-charts high, especially for a player catching passes at close range — and coach Mike Tomlin’s tolerance is not infinite. Moreover, Ben Roethlisberger looked shaky last year, and it’s unclear whether he will regain his former arm strength. That said, Johnson is one of the quickest wideouts in the league, so even with Smith-Schuster re-signing and second-year man Chase Claypool around, he should see plenty of work.
Following his year-long sabbatical on the Saints' bench and a preseason competition with Taysom Hill, Winston is ready for the starting job with Drew Brees retired in New Orleans. Last season, when Brees missed four games with injury, Hill got the call over Winston, who thew 11 passes all year (though he had the team's best pass of the season - a 56-yard TD in the playoffs vs. his old team, the Bucs). Hill didn't do much as the starter, and whoever is starting this season could share snaps with the other. Winston is the more traditional QB and has a stronger arm, but his drawback, of course, is decision-making and errant throws - e.g., 30 interceptions in 2019. If a year of tutelage under Brees and coach Sean Payton cured Winston of his penchant for chucking any pass into the tightest of windows, he would seem to have the advantage as a pocket passer. A free agent this offseason, Winston re-signed on a one-year deal with the Saints, presumably because he liked his chances to start. To maximize fantasy value, though, Winston needs a more aggressive offense than what the Saints ran under the noodle-armed Brees (the team attempted a mere 18 passes of 20-plus yards last season). But Alvin Kamara is the team's only proven pass catcher who will be healthy for Week 1, as the Saints lost Jared Cook and Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason and now have Michael Thomas rehabbing from summer ankle surgery.
Last year’s 25th overall pick, Aiyuk delivered during his rookie season. Despite missing four games — two on the COVID list, one with a hamstring injury, one with an ankle sprain — he led the 49ers with 60 catches and scored seven times, including twice on the ground. At one point, he had six straight games of at least 73 receiving yards. At 6-0, 200, Aiyuk has average size and ran a similarly average 4.50 40, but he’s stout, strong, hard to bring down and unusually quick. Aiyuk’s per-play numbers (12.5 YPC, 7.8 YPT) were pedestrian, but he was playing with backup quarterbacks for much of the year. Aiyuk should again have a big role in 2021, and the team figures to have better quarterback play with Jimmy Garoppolo — and eventually No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance — rather than Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard. But with a healthy Deebo Samuel and George Kittle, it’s hard to see any of the three among the league leaders in targets, especially in Kyle Shanahan’s run-first system.