Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings: 2021 Dynasty Edition

Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings
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The 2021 NFL Draft is now complete and that means it’s time to start looking at the fantasy football rookie rankings for dynasty leagues. Note that this list was made using a presumed one-quarterback, half-PPR dynasty format. Of course, if your league has different settings, such as Superflex, make the necessary adjustments by moving many of the quarterbacks up.

2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings

Tier One: Surefire Superstars

Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati
Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh
Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta

These three guys look like they are can’t-miss prospects. While there is no such thing as a “sure thing” when it comes to NFL prospects, there’s plenty of confidence that these three will become superstars in both real life and fantasy.

Ja’Marr Chase looks as if he has the best combination of an extremely high floor and a sky-high ceiling. While he opted out of the 2020 season, the last time we saw him was in 2019 when was dominating college football. In that season he recorded 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns! He did so while out producing former teammate Justin Jefferson, who just turned in one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history. Chase is one of the highest-rated wide receiver prospects in a while and is going to be a superstar.

Najee Harris landed in a dream scenario. The Pittsburgh Steelers vacancy at running back was one of the most obvious and whoever takes that spot is likely to see a heavy workload from day one, especially if drafted in the first or second round. That’s exactly what happened and Harris is now likely to see every-down work and 300+ touches as a rookie.

Kyle Pitts is a unicorn. He has a ridiculous combination of size, speed, and athleticism. Checking in at 6’5” and 245 pounds, Pitts ran the 40 in 4.44 seconds. He’s the size of legend Calvin Johnson and nearly just as fast. The difference is that Pitts is a tight end. A true matchup nightmare for any defender, Pitts has the chance to make an immediate impact as a rookie. Even if he isn’t an elite fantasy option right away, it won’t be long until he becomes one.

Tier Two: Plug-and-Play/Star Potential

Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville
DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia
Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore
Javonte Williams, RB, Denver
Rondale Moore, WR, Arizona
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami
Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville

Landing spot is huge when it comes to running backs and it’s the main reason these two guys come in a bit lower than Najee Harris. Travis Etienne was the very next pick in the draft and gets to continue playing with college teammate Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville. The issue for Etienne is that 2020 undrafted rookie sensation, James Robinson, is still there. It will be interesting to see the workload split, but it’s likely Etienne sees a significant share sooner than later. Javonte Williams was plenty of analysts’ top running back in this class and for good reason. He’s a tremendous talent but landing in Denver brings the same workload concerns as Etienne. Like Etienne, it’s likely he sees significant touches early and often.

Looking at the wide receivers in this group it starts with DeVonta Smith. The 2020 Heisman winner turned in a truly remarkable season last year when he had 117 receptions, 1,856 yards, and 23 touchdowns in only 13 games. The biggest concern with him is his slight build but he has the chance to be the target leader in Philadelphia from the start. Right behind Smith is Rashod Bateman. Bateman has been a favorite of many for a while now. Like Smith, Bateman has the chance to lead his team in targets as a rookie. The biggest concern for Bateman is that he’s going to be playing in the most run-heavy offense in the league and has a bit more competition for targets.

Checking in slightly behind are two more wide receivers in Rondale Moore and Jaylen Waddle. Both are lumped together here as both come with concerns about being undersized. Both, however, are extremely fast and explosive playmakers. Despite Waddle’s high draft capital, Moore checks in slightly ahead due to the landing spot. Landing spot means far less for wide receivers, especially in dynasty, however, it is a bit of a tiebreaker. Getting to play with Kyler Murray in one of the fastest-paced offenses in the league should lead to plenty of targets and plenty of chances to make plays. Waddle is in a situation where he might be the third or fourth option and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa still remains extremely unproven. Waddle is one of the biggest boom-bust players on this list as he could be an explosive playmaker or he could end up going the way of Henry Ruggs last year.

The last two players in this tier of the fantasy football rookie rankings are two quarterbacks. It might be a bit controversial to have Trey Lance a tick ahead of Trevor Lawrence but that’s what happens when a guy is such a gifted runner at the position. We’ve seen what guys like Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray have done in fantasy and Trey Lance could be up next. In 2019 he ran for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns. He wasn’t too shabby with his arm either throwing 28 touchdowns without a single interception. Playing in San Francisco, he’ll also have plenty of weapons at his disposal. Trevor Lawrence is no slouch either and is a much better and more polished passer. He can run a bit as well but it’s not the main facet of his game like it is for Lance and that’s ultimately what puts Lance slightly ahead for fantasy purposes.

Tier Three: Impact Players

Terrace Marshall, WR, Carolina
Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets
Justin Fields, QB, Chicago
Trey Sermon, RB, San Francisco
Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants
Zach Wilson, QB, New York Jets

It’s starting to get to the point now where the hit rate on these players being consistent fantasy producers is much lower. Terrace Marshall lands in a nice spot in Carolina where he can be a complementary receiver and learn from D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. With Carolina running more 3-wide sets than most teams, he should be on the field more often than not. Elijah Moore adds another weapon to a rebuilding New York Jets team. He’ll join Corey Davis and Denzel Mims as the top pass-catching options on that team. Kadarius Toney is the last wide receiver in this group but has the highest draft capital after being drafted 20th overall by the New York Giants. He’s a divisive prospect being undersized but explosive. Given his situation and concerns, he looks like the discount version of Jaylen Waddle as a boom-bust guy that could go either way.

The two quarterbacks in this group are Justin Fields and Zach Wilson. Wilson was the second overall pick but Fields looks to be the better prospect for fantasy purposes. Wilson can run a bit as well but Fields is more athletic and will likely run for more yards. Fields also has the most talented weapon as he’ll get to throw to Allen Robinson. The only question for Fields is how many games it takes before he takes over the starting job from Andy Dalton.

The only running back in this group of the fantasy football rookie rankings with top-three-round draft capital is Trey Sermon of San Francisco. Sermon has solid size and speed and is going to a great running scheme. Raheem Mostert and Jeffrey Wilson have both been good when given chances and will likely continue to see plenty of work, but both have shown an inability to stay healthy for a full season as well so Sermon should be able to carve out a nice role. Should either or both of Mostert or Wilson get hurt, the upside could be huge.

Tier Four: Role Players

Dyami Brown, WR, Washington
Amari Rodgers, WR, Green Bay
Nico Collins, WR, Houston
Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets

This is an interesting group of wide receivers. Dyami Brown seems to be the most talented of the group but has the most target competition. Amari Rodgers could be a much-needed sidekick for Davante Adams in Green Bay. Nico Collins steps into a Houston team that just lost Will Fuller so there are plenty of vacated targets to go around.

Michael Carter is interesting in that he landed in a great situation to see plenty of work right away. The New York Jets signed Tevin Coleman this off-season but don’t have much after him and even Coleman has failed to stay healthy. Carter looks like he could at least see third-down work initially and work his way into more. The big question for Carter is whether he can make good on his situation or does he become this year’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn?

Tier Five: Hey, it could happen

Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit
Tylan Wallace, WR, Baltimore
Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Philadelphia
Josh Palmer, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Tutu Atwell, WR, Los Angeles Rams
D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Seattle
Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina

Finally, we’ve hit the lottery ticket range of the fantasy football rookie rankings. Here is where you take your favorite combination of talent and landing spot. Both Kenneth Gainwell and Chuba Hubbard are talented running backs but the draft capital isn’t there and both land in situations where their path to touches is blocked. Hubbard is a clear-cut backup to superstar Christian McCaffrey and likely won’t see many touches unless McCaffrey gets hurt. Gainwell has an easier path to touches, especially on passing downs, in Philadelphia but he still isn’t likely to see more than a handful of touches per game behind Miles Sanders.

This group of wide receivers is an interesting mix of talent and landing spot. As mentioned before, the landing spot matters far less for wide receivers while talent and draft capital weigh much more heavily. Amon-Ra St. Brown out of USC starts this list off as a talented guy that also happened to land in a great situation with Detroit. The Lions have no clear-cut top wide receiver so St. Brown should be able to carve out a role right away. The only worry is the draft capital isn’t what you’d like to see as he slipped to the fourth round. Another talented player that slipped to the fourth round is Tylan Wallace. As a sophomore in 2018, he was able to produce 86 receptions for 1,491 yards and 12 touchdowns. Since then he’s struggled a bit with consistency and injuries but has remained an explosive playmaker. The landing spot isn’t ideal in Baltimore but there’s still a lot of talent here.

The next group of wide receivers is interesting mostly from a draft capital standpoint. Josh Palmer is heading to the Los Angeles Chargers explosive offense. Getting to play with Justin Herbert and learn from Keenan Allen should help tremendously and he likely has the best path of these three to becoming a complete wide receiver. Tutu Atwell is extremely undersized at 5’8” and 155 pounds but is an extremely fast and explosive playmaker. His second-round draft capital and playmaking ability make him an interesting lottery ticket playing for Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams. D’Wayne Eskridge is another guy with second-round draft capital with plenty of question marks. While he’s not as small as Atwell, he is undersized himself at 5’9” and 190 pounds. He’s also old for a prospect as he’s already 24 years old. Landing in Seattle, it will be hard to carve out consistent targets but being a versatile playmaker with good draft capital makes him worthy of a late lottery ticket.

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