2021 May Top 15 Rookie Rankings - Re-Drafter & Dynasty
Jake Pittman - 5/8/2021
The 2021 NFL draft is in the books, so let’s take a look at my top 15 rookie rankings for fantasy football for both re-drafter and dynasty leagues. It may be early, but it’s never too early to start ranking these exciting NFL rookies…
Top 15 Re-Drafter Rookie Rankings
Clear path to touches, draft pedigree and all-around talent has been the formula for running backs to have fantasy success in their rookie years, and Harris has all of these things going for him. He is a powerful runner who can also make plays in the receiving game. Harris also plays for the Steelers, who have almost always had a featured running back during Mike Tomlin’s time at the helm. Harris should be the first rookie drafted in all fantasy drafts this year.
Projection: High-Upside RB2
Chase is one of the most talented wide receiver prospects I have ever scouted, and he gets to reunite with his college quarterback. The last time we saw Chase and QB Joe Burrow on the field at the same time they put on a show and won a national championship. While I don’t expect them to dominate the league like they did in college, Chase has the ability to make a big fantasy impact his rookie year.
Projection: Low-End WR2
Pitts should step in to the starting role from day 1, and he should see plenty of high-quality targets. QB Matt Ryan has struggled at times to find Julio Jones in the redzone, and Pitts could step in as Ryan’s go to target in scoring position. He was drafted 4th overall, and I expect him to find plenty of targets and make a big splash in his rookie year.
Projection: High-Upside TE1
I want to start off by saying that I hate this landing spot for everyone involved. RB James Robinson proved that he can be a true feature back in this league, and the Jaguars responded to his breakout season by drafting a running back in the first round. I have a hard time seeing the Jaguars completely tossing Robinson to the curb and making Etienne the workhorse, but Etienne will most likely receive the majority of the work. Etienne is an outstanding player, and he has the speed and pass-catching abilities to make some big plays as a rookie.
Williams is one of my favorite prospects in the entire draft. I do believe he will take this role and run with it eventually, but it may take some time for him to get enough work behind RB Melvin Gordon to be a consistent contributor. If he ever gets the featured role this season, Williams will be one of the steals of the draft.
Projection: High-Upside, Low-Floor RB3
Quarterbacks are never my priority when going into fantasy drafts, but what I look for are late-round mobile quarterbacks with good weapons who play for a team that finds themselves trailing in most games. Last year that was Justin Herbert for me, and this year Lawrence could find himself in a similar situation. He is an outstanding quarterback prospect, and he should have to throw enough to keep his team in games that he will be a consistent producer.
Projection: High-Upside, High Floor QB2
Smith steps into this Eagles wide receiver room and is the best playmaker on the team. The former Heisman trophy winner may have a hard time finding a large quantity of targets in his first year, but he has the talent to excel in a less explosive passing offense. He could be a late-round target that ends up dominating in his rookie year.
The Jets were in desperate need of playmakers this offseason, and Carter was one they acquired in the draft. Tevin Coleman projects to be the predominant ball carrier in the offense, but with his injury concerns and Carters talent, Carter could fine a path to touches. If he secures the feature role, he would be a solid option for fantasy players, but it will be an uphill battle.
Sermon is a strong and powerful runner. He can break tackles in a variety of ways, and the 49ers offense has been one of the most efficient running teams in the league the past few years, but I have a hard time seeing him taking control of a large portion of their carries. RB Raheem Mostert is a true star, and RB Jeff Wilson Jr. has proven his ability to produce when his name is called. They have both had trouble staying healthy so Sermon does have a chance to find himself in a larger workload, but it’s nowhere near a certainty.
The "Andy Dalton is the starter" talk should be coming to an end soon as the Bears traded up to select fields in this year’s draft. Fields is a playmaker who can run and pass. He doesn’t have as much upside as Lawrence for a number of reasons, but the fact he has such a great defense on the other side of the ball is one of my biggest reasons for putting him so far behind. He just doesn’t have the upside to be a high-volume passer.
Waddle is a speedster who can stretch the defense with the best of them. He’s being reunited with his college quarterback, and he was drafted in the top 10 of the draft, but this offense just doesn’t project to be a high-volume passing offense. WR Devante Parker projects to be the predominant target leader, and Waddle will probably see a year similar to that of his former teammate WR Henry Ruggs III. He will have some mind-blowing plays that show of his superior speed, but he doesn’t project to see the volume to be a consistent producer for fantasy.
Projection: Inconsistent, Big Play WR4
I was excited to put Bateman in my top 5 rookies before the draft, but then he ended up with the Ravens. He is an outstanding all-around receiver, and I think he is the best receiver in this offense on day 1. The problem is the Ravens run the ball more than any other team in the league, and Lamar Jackson tends to tuck in and run if his first read isn’t open. He will get open and he will make plays when the ball is in his hands, but I don’t see him getting as many targets as he could if he landed with a different team. He does have good upside if Lamar Jackson progresses as a pocket passer, but I don’t project him to be a huge producer as a rookie.
Projection: Upside WR4
Hubbard is strictly a handcuff for RB Christian McCaffery. He is fast and is a solid runner, but as long as McCaffery is healthy he will be irrelevant for fantasy players. We saw last year that McCaffery does have some injury issues, so that’s why he is higher than the rest of the handcuff rookies. He isn’t as good of a player as RB Mike Davis, but any player with a chance at a big workload is worth consideration for fantasy players.
Projection: Handcuff RB5
Lance has a great opportunity to prove himself his rookie year. He was drafted into the best situation out of all the rookie quarterbacks, but I also think he is the least refined of all the first-round prospects. He has a great defense, and good weapons around him, but the fact that he will be on one of the more run-heavy teams and shouldn’t be trailing by a lot for many games should make him a lower upside player at the position.
Wilson impressed fans and scouts throughout the last year, and he earned himself the 2nd overall pick in the draft this year. I really like Wilson as a prospect, but the New York Jets are a major flaw for him as a fantasy player. He has lackluster weapons, and a team that is still deep in a rebuild. His outlook for his career is a lot better than his rookie year outlook.
Top 15 Dynasty Rookie Rankings
Harris is the best rookie for redraft and he’s also the best player for dynasty. He projects to be the Steelers workhorse back for at least the next 3-5 years, and he should produce at a high level for fantasy managers. Harris is a complete back who has improved as a pass catcher throughout his time at Alabama.
Long-Term Projection: Mid-Tier RB1
Chase is a prototypical No. 1 wide receiver prospect, and he joined an up and coming offense. I absolutely love Chase’s long-term outlook and I wouldn’t be surprised if his career follows a similar path as Titan’s WR AJ Brown has so far. He projects to be a stud in this league, and I would take him with the 2nd pick in dynasty startups.
Long-Term Projection: Low-End WR1
Pitts is a stud. He is a redzone threat, and he can run after the catch. There’s a reason he was drafted with the 4th overall pick, and he joins a great offense. Pitts should be one of the marquee tight ends in fantasy football for a long time. He should be a TE1 in his rookie year and he should continue to be one for as long as he is still a top-tier athlete at the position. If you are a tight end needy team, there is nothing wrong with taking him ahead of the other two players on this list.
Long-Term Projection: Top-Tier TE1
Williams is one of my favorite running back prospects from this class, and his landing spot wasn’t too bad for his long-term outlook. RB Melvin Gordon is still the starter, and he will get the majority of the work this season, but Williams looks to be the future at the position for the team. He should take some steps towards being the starter this season, and he will be a fan favorite come fantasy draft season next year.
Long-Term Projection: RB2
I just want to start by giving my condolences to dynasty managers of RB James Robinson. He looked to be a steal in dynasty leagues, and had potential to be one of the best values in recent years, but the Jaguars don’t like you to have fun. The Jags took Etienne in the first round this year, and he will more than likely have more carries than Robinson very early in his career. They will still split a lot of work with Robinson for the foreseeable future, but his explosive ability and screen-game potential makes him a good option for dynasty managers.
Long-Term Projection: Low-End RB2
Lawrence has been touted as one of the best quarterback prospects since Andrew Luck, and the scouts aren’t wrong. He’s a great player, and I am confident that he will succeed in this league. He has outstanding arm strength, mobility and accuracy. The Jaguars don’t project to be a very good team for the next few years, and Lawrence should have to throw a ton to keep his team in games.
I really like Smith. He dominated the college football world last season, and he fell to one of the most wide receiver needy teams in the league. Smith would be higher in this list, but QB Jalen Hurts worries me as a passer in this league. Smith should demand a solid target share even as a rookie, and if he can emerge as the true No. 1 target in this offense, he will be a great player for dynast managers for years to come.
Long-Term Projection: Low-End WR2
Bateman is a well-rounded receiver who can thrive at every level of field. TE Mark Andrews is still the primary target for this offense, but as Bateman cements himself onto the team as the No. 1 receiver, he will demand more and more of the target share. Lamar Jackson’s throwing ability, and the team’s tendency to run the ball more than any other team in the league worries me, but he has the potential to emerge as a great wide receiver in this league.
Long-Term Projection: High-Upside WR3
Carter is an explosive player, and even after an outstanding showing at the Senior Bowl, his teammate RB Javonte Williams has gotten all the attention from fans and scouts. Carter has a lot of abilities that translate well to the league, and I think that he will find a path to the starting role for the Jets eventually. He isn’t going to be a huge factor in his first year, but I think he is a great stash for the long term.
Long-Term Projection: RB3
Waddle is a pure speedster, and he keeps defenses honest all times during a game. WR Devante Parker will be the primary target for this offense at least for next season and WR Preston Williams has shown a lot of promise while he has been on the field, but Waddle’s special skillset will help him to cement himself into a role on the team. His target share may not be as high as some other receivers ahead of him, but his yards per reception will always be higher than most rookies in this class.
Long-Term Projection: Boom or Bust WR3
Moore is not going to produce this season with any sort of consistency. WR Deandre Hopkins, WR AJ Green and WR Christian Kirk are all ahead of him, and there just isn’t enough targets to go around for him to produce this season. However, Green isn’t going to be in the league for much longer, and Moore’s different skillset can make him a great option for jet sweeps, screens and other gadget plays out of the slot.
Long-Term Projection: High-Upside WR4
Marshall was one of my favorite wide receiver prospects going into the draft, and while the Panthers was not my favorite landing spot, I still think he has the talent to make some plays at the next level. WR DJ Moore and WR Robby Anderson will be the primary pass-catchers for new QB Sam Darnold, but Marshall could eventually find a nice role for himself in the offense.
Long-Term Projection: WR4
Fields’ running ability will give him a safe baseline of fantasy production. He has solid weapons around him, and while he isn’t the best passer in this class, he is good enough to get the job done for fantasy managers. Fields isn’t going to be a huge producer, but he is a great No. 2 quarterback to have on your roster in dynasty leagues.
Long-Term Projection: High-Floor QB2
I don’t know if Sermon will ever cement himself as the starter for the Niners, but he has potential to become the goal-line back for the squad, and the 49ers run the ball at one of the highest rates in the league. Sermon is a powerful player, and he can break tackles from smaller defenders fairly easily. He has a great stiff and has proven to be able to convert in short-yardage plays. He doesn’t have a ton of upside, but he is a good player stash in dynasty leagues.
Long-Term Projection: RB4
Wilson has pure arm talent, and he was drafted with the hope that he is the future franchise quarterback for this team. The Jets just don’t have very many weapons, and they don’t project to be a team that puts up very many points. If they can continue to add weapons around him, then he will have the opportunity to put up solid numbers, but I can’t project the Jets front office to do that. He will have good matchups where he can be played when needed, but he is not a weekly starter.
Long-Term Projection: QB3
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