With the 2021 NFL Draft in the books, attention now turns towards the regular season. With dynasty league fantasy football also in full swing, landing spots give the opportunity to more accurately rank these prospects. These rankings will assume standard scoring, full-PPR leagues. Let’s dive into 2021 NFL dynasty league rookie rankings.
1. Ja’Marr Chase — Cincinnati Bengals
Letting A.J. Green walk this offseason, the Bengals reunited Joe Burrow with Chase with the fifth overall pick. Cincinnati’s 60.5% pass rate ranked 13th last season in a year where Burrow suffered a season-ending injury. Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins accounted for 110 and 108 targets, respectively, last season, but this offense looks capable of taking an explosive leap similar to Dallas last year. While Chase should immediately slide into a starting role, he will compete with more talent than other rookies in this year’s class. Still, Chase’s dominant collegiate profile keeps him at the top of dynasty rankings.
2. Najee Harris — Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers vacated 169 carries and 43 targets from 2020 by letting James Conner go. Standing 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Harris functioned as a workhorse at Alabama, with 1,446 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns as a senior. He also contributed 43 receptions for another 425 yards in 2020. Harris should slide into a feature-back role immediately for Pittsburgh, giving the best shot to finish as an RB1 for the 2021 fantasy season. Long-term, Harris is a 23-year-old rookie behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines with a 39-year old Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.
3. Jaylen Waddle — Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins reunited Tua Tagovailoa with his college receiver. They also brought in Will Fuller to work alongside DeVante Parker this offseason. Waddle played 61% of his 2020 snaps in the slot before a season-ending injury. Likely playing this role early in his career, Waddle can thrive in space as he did in college. He is playing in an offense moving in the right direction and should create splash plays early in his career. Still, Waddle is a one-year starter coming off a significant injury that limited him to just four games as a junior. While opportunity should come, Waddle carries risk.
4. Kyle Pitts — Atlanta Falcons
A true unicorn at the tight end position, Pitts stands 6-foot-6, 245 pounds with 4.44 speed. Pitts immediately enters an explosive offense with Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones, Hayden Hurst and no semblance of a run game. Last year, they finished 28th in yards rushing per game and ninth in pass rate (62.1%). The Falcons already declined Hurst’s fifth-year option, and they can move on after the 2021 season. Pitts is capable of playing in line, in the slot and out wide; he provides a high floor at the tight end position.
5. Travis Etienne — Jacksonville Jaguars
Unlike Harris, Etienne enters a muddled situation for fantasy in Year 1. After hitting on James Robinson as an undrafted free agent, the new Urban Meyer regime all but cast Robinson aside. Signing Carlos Hyde and drafting Etienne in the first round, the Jaguars now have a tricky three-headed monster to navigate at running back. The Jaguars also hired Darrell Bevell to coordinate the offense. Last year, Bevell ran a three-headed monster in Detroit featuring Adrian Peterson, Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift. Etienne should function as the team’s primary pass catcher, but he may have to wait until midseason to carve a larger role. Still, first-round draft capital keeps him near the top of dynasty rankings.
6. Javonte Williams — Denver Broncos
Viewed by some as the top running back prospect in the class, Williams landed in Denver with the 35th overall pick. Unfortunately, this means Williams will have to compete with Melvin Gordon immediately. Gordon is a free agent after this season, but Williams likely will require an injury for a feature workload in Year 1. With running backs already having a shorter shelf life, this pushes him slightly down the rankings. Still, Williams hasn’t even turned 21.
7. Devonta Smith — Philadelphia Eagles
After drafting Jalen Reagor with last year’s first-round pick, the Eagles traded up to select Smith at pick 10. Despite selecting Reagor, Philadelphia is one of the weakest wide receiver corps in football. He will compete with Travis Fulgham and Greg Ward, so Smith has a shot to lead all rookie receivers in targets. One concern could be a new-look offense under new head coach Nick Sirianni. Sirianni ran a troublesome rotation at wide receiver last year as offensive coordinator of the Colts. Jalen Hurts will also quarterback the offense. Hurts looks locked in for now, but the Eagles could move on any season moving forward. While Smith also has some size concerns, he is a strong bet for targets early in his career.
8. Elijah Moore — New York Jets
Already selecting BYU’s Zach Wilson in the first round, the Jets continue to add playmakers to the offense. They now have Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder, Corey Davis and Moore as their projected top four receivers. Moore played 78% of this snaps in the slot for Ole Miss last year, making him somewhat redundant with Crowder. However, the Jets can release Crowder next year with only $1 million in dead cap. There is also a chance they move Moore outside. Moore stands 5-foot-9, 185 pounds and ran a 4.35 40-yard dash. Similar in stature to T.Y. Hilton, Moore profiles as a receiver who could transition in and out of the slot. With immediate opportunity likely available early in his career, Moore’s only concern comes from playing in a rebuilding organization.
9. Rashod Bateman — Baltimore Ravens
Drafted with the 27th overall pick, Bateman finds his new home in Baltimore. After a true freshman breakout at Minnesota, Bateman had 1,000 yards alongside Tyler Johnson. As a junior, Bateman battled COVID-19 and put up underwhelming numbers. However, Bateman still checked in at 6-foot-0, 190 pounds with a 4.41 40-yard dash. Unfortunately, Bateman enters the NFL’s run-heaviest offense and will now compete with Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews for targets. While big games will occur, they look tough to predict given Baltimore’s offensive climate.
10. Terrace Marshall Jr. — Carolina Panthers
Marshall is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and ran a 4.40 40-yard dash, providing a rare blend of size and speed in this draft class. After playing alongside Justin Jefferson and Chase during his first two years, Marshall finally erupted for 731 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns in seven games for LSU this year. The Panthers lost Curtis Samuel this offseason, so they needed to replace 97 targets from 2020. The selection by Carolina also reunites Marshall with his former offensive coordinator in Joe Brady. While Carolina has long-term concerns at quarterback, this offense has shown an ability to manufacture production. Marshall is still worth an early pick due to his high ceiling.
11. Trevor Lawrence — Jacksonville Jaguars
The consensus No. 1 overall pick, Lawrence enters a sneaky situation for dynasty purposes. The Jaguars retained their entire starting offensive line and continue to surround Lawrence with playmakers. On top of D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones, and Laviska Shenault, the Jaguars reunited Lawrence with his college running back Etienne. Also providing some dual-threat ability, Lawrence has a high floor for dynasty purposes.
12. Kadarius Toney — New York Giants
In what appeared to be an intelligent move at first, Dave Gettleman traded back for the first time in his career as a general manager. However, instead of selecting any of the enticing receiver prospects available, he selected Sterling Shepard’s backup Toney. Prior to his senior season, Toney maxed out at 260 yards receiving. A late breakout with poor market share numbers, Toney does provide solid athleticism. He stands 6-foot-0, 193 pounds and ran a 4.37 40-yard dash. However, he needed additional development at the position and now enters a wide receiver room with Darius Slayton, Kenny Golladay and Shepard. Toney could be worth a buy-low next year, but he continues to be overvalued in current rookie drafts.
13. Trey Lance — San Francisco 49ers
Lance is in the best fantasy situation with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers. He is the premier dual threat among the rookie quarterbacks, having rushed for 1,100 in his only season as the starter at North Dakota State. While Lance barely eclipsed 300 pass attempts, Shanahan routinely puts his players in position to succeed. Lance brings a strong floor/ceiling combination to dynasty football.
14. Trey Sermon — San Francisco 49ers
With Tevin Coleman leaving this offseason, the 49ers needed a complement to Raheem Mostert. Drafted at 88th overall, Sermon stands 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and ran a 4.58 40-yard dash. Sermon competed with other NFL backs at Oklahoma and Ohio State, but he never received a full workload. Still, the third-round draft capital means Sermon could receive 10 to 12 touches a game in an explosive Shanahan offense.
15. Rondale Moore — Arizona Cardinals
One of the draft’s true wild cards, Moore spent each of the last two seasons limited by injury. However, he still notched over 1,000 yards as a true freshman. Arizona already has DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and A.J. Green in the offense, but Moore should push for situational snaps. Green will play 2021 on a one-year deal, making Moore a candidate for a second-year leap. After whiffing on Andy Isabella, the Cardinals likely view Moore as a potential Will Fuller-like complement to Hopkins and Kirk.
16. Dyami Brown — Washington Football Team
Selected by the Washington Football team at pick 82, Brown quietly enters a solid situation for fantasy production. Washington already has Terry McLaurin, and they doubled down on slot receivers Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries this offseason. With little depth on the outside, Brown will compete with Steven Sims, Cam Sims and Kelvin Harmon immediately. A deep threat specialist, Brown checked in at 6-foot-1, 189 pounds and ran a 4.44 40-yard dash. Brown also averaged over 20 yards per reception in each of his last two college seasons. Brown is capable of starting early in the season and could push for 100 targets in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s reckless offense.
17. Michael Carter — New York Jets
Playing alongside Javonte Williams at North Carolina, Carter posted two straight 1,000-yard season. He also caught over 20 passes in three straight years, giving him an immediate path to playing time. Still, Carter stands just 5-foot-8, 201 pounds potentially limiting him to a complementary role in the NFL. Carter will compete with Tevin Coleman and Lamical Perine for carries, giving him a decent shot at Day 1 production.
18. Amari Rodgers — Green Bay Packers
After ignoring receiver for most of Aaron Rodgers’ career, the Packers finally drafted Amari Rodgers with pick 85 in the third round. Rodgers was a limited slot receiver for most of his career, but he posted his first 1,000-yard season as a senior in 2020. Still, Rodgers played alongside Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross early in his career, potentially rationalizing the limited early production. Rodgers checked in at 5-foot-10, 212 pounds with a 4.51 40-yard dash. He is built a bit like Deebo Samuel, so he will likely play in the slot for Green Bay. While Rodgers looks questionable from a prospect profile standpoint, he still gets to play with Aaron Rodgers (in theory). Right now he should be viewed as a boom/bust prospect propped up by his landing spot.
19. Justin Fields — Chicago Bears
While not the ideal fantasy landing spot, Fields will work with Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney and Anthony Miller as his primary pass catchers. Fields also ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at his pro day. Matt Nagy has already created strong offenses with subpar quarterback playing, giving Fields intrigue here. Still, Fields runs the risk of receiving an entirely new coaching staff next season. His mobility keeps him third among the rookie signal-callers.
20. Amon-Ra St. Brown — Detroit Lions
St. Brown played alongside Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns and Drake London in his college career and still produced at an elite level. St. Brown moved in and out of the slot during his career. Detroit’s receiver room has just Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams and Quintez Cephus as competition. St Brown could have immediate opportunity in Detroit as a Day 3 pick.
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