Fantasy Football: Dynasty league rookie rankings for 2021

·14-min read

If you're the sort of fantasy manager who tends to think of the actual NFL draft as merely the appetizer ahead of your dynasty league's rookie draft, then you're in the right place.

We're here to map out the top-30 in this year's rookie class for dynasty gamers. Let's do this in the form of a three-round mock draft, assuming a standard Yahoo one-quarterback, half-PPR setup. 

This exercise was relatively simple for exactly four picks, at which point the choices became tough in a hurry. For me (and presumably for most of you), the No. 1 selection is perfectly clear ...

ROUND ONE

1. Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Harris is the no-doubt top pick, the one guy with an unobstructed path to 300 or more touches. He has Le'Veon-Bell-plus size, he's a proven receiving threat (43 REC in 2020) and he's plenty elusive. His offensive line is obviously a concern, but let's not overcomplicate this situation. Harris will get all the touches he can handle. He has a shot at a top-10 positional finish. 

Here's the obligatory highlight you've all seen, but it never gets old (unless you're that Notre Dame kid, in which case this [expletive] clip is a nightmare from which you cannot escape):

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

2. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

At age 19, Chase produced an obscenely good season in which he faced the toughest possible competition. Just look at this game log — it's silly. Nine weeks with 120-plus receiving yards; six with multiple touchdowns. The Bengals have reunited Chase with his college quarterback in an offense that plays fast, averaging 40 or so pass attempts per game. For fantasy purposes, Cincinnati should be a party.

3. Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons

Kudos to Atlanta's social team for giving us a preview of the Matt Ryan to Kyle Pitts connection:

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Pitts is gonna be a serious problem. He's 6-foot-6, impressively fast (4.44), and a gifted receiver who reached the end-zone a dozen times last season. He's the rare rookie tight end with a clear chance to see significant target volume. If you have the top pick in a rookie draft and a gaping hole in your roster at TE, Pitts is a defensible choice at No. 1. In his best years, he has the potential to offer a massive positional advantage.

4. DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Smith is almost like the receiver version of Harris for fantasy, in that his situation is far from perfect, yet his workload is absolutely guaranteed. He's a technician, a smooth and sure-handed wideout who can win deep, short, or in-between. He might very well lead all rookie receivers in targets this year.

Sorry to do this to Notre Dame again, but...

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

5. Trey Sermon, RB, San Francisco 49ers

I mean ... well, wow. What a landing spot. It should surprise no one if Sermon ends up having a more productive NFL career than any back in this draft class. His 2021 outlook is a bit messier than what Harris is facing, given the number of quality backs on the Niners' roster, but Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and Wayne Gallman all come off the books at the end of the season. Sermon simply has the potential to be a do-it-all monster in Kyle Shanahan's offense. His signature games at Ohio State were two of the finest delivered by any running back last season. He erupted for 331 rushing yards in the Big Ten title game against a frisky Northwestern defense, then re-erupted with 254 scrimmage yards against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.

To be honest, I can't guarantee I won't talk myself into an even higher rank on Sermon by the time my first dynasty rookie draft actually rolls around. I'm fully sold; I'll take this guy wherever I can get him. 

6. Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos

By now, everyone probably knows that Williams forced a zillion missed tackles at UNC last season. This has more than a little something to do with the quality of defensive competition in the ACC, but there's no denying the quality of Williams' highlights:

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

He's great — he won't run through defensive players in the NFL quite the way he did when facing Syracuse, NC State, and Duke, but he's a talented runner. Williams likely splits a workload with Melvin Gordon in his first pro season before (hopefully) taking control of Denver's backfield in 2022. He wasn't a high-volume receiver as a college player, but he did enough to demonstrate competence.

7. Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Etienne had a remarkable four-year Clemson career, averaging an obnoxious 7.2 YPC and scoring 78 touchdowns. He also caught 85 passes for 1,020 yards over his final two seasons, so he enters the league as a fully certified receiving weapon. I'd love to tell you he's stepping into an unchallenged featured role, thanks to his first-round draft status, but I can't quite make myself believe it. James Robinson plainly has the potential to be a multi-year problem for Etienne, because he was fantastic as an undrafted rookie.

I realize, of course, that Urban Meyer inherited Robinson instead of selecting him. I'm also not completely buying the notion that Etienne will merely serve as a third-down back, but, well ... those are the head coach's words. It's just awfully difficult to imagine a team burying Robinson on its depth chart after the heroic season he just delivered.

Realistically, Etienne will go higher in most dynasty drafts than I've slotted him here — likely in the 3 to 5 range. So you can assume I'll never get him. 

8. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins

Miami's receiving corps is suddenly loaded with speed after adding Will Fuller via free agency and Waddle with the No. 6 overall pick. It's worth remembering that before Waddle suffered the ankle injury that derailed his 2020 campaign, he — not DeVonta Smith — was leading Alabama in receiving yardage. He was on his way to a legendary season. It certainly helps that his new quarterback is also one of his old quarterbacks.

9. Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers

It's definitely a concern that Lance is making a super-sized leap in the quality of competition from the FCS level, but he finds himself in an ideal pro environment. He'll soon be throwing to Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and an All-Pro tight end, plus he'll have a stellar run game to lean on. Lance himself should be a massive part of that run game, too, as he rushed for 1,100 yards at NDSU in 2019 (while also throwing 28 TD passes and zero picks). He's exactly the sort of dual-threat cheat-code QB we want in fantasy.

It's hard for me to believe he'll sit behind Jimmy Garoppolo for any significant length of time; that's simply not how it works with top-of-draft quarterbacks.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

10. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

If for some reason you need to draft a rookie QB who's guaranteed to start the opener, Lawrence is clearly your guy. He's excellent, too. He's been a relentless winner, he has plenty of arm strength and he's toyed with some of college football's best defenses on the biggest stage. His supporting cast in Jacksonville is loaded with talent — DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, Marvin Jones, Etienne, et al — and he's a willing, capable rushing threat (18 career rush TDs). If you like him over Lance, I get it. I'm simply chasing the ceiling with Trey.

ROUND TWO

11. Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears

Another case in which I can't say for sure a guy won't climb a spot or three in my rookie ranks by the time we're actually drafting. Fields is a deadly rushing threat with 4.45 speed and his deep ball ability should be a gift to Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney:

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

As a Bears fan, I have no complaints at this time. Fully endorse the trade-up for a QB who can alter the trajectory of the franchise.

12. Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets

Like every other functional ACC running back, Carter's tape is littered with missed tackles and breakaway runs. He obviously landed with a team that had a desperate need for rushing talent, so workload shouldn't be a worry. He out-rushed teammate Javonte Williams last season, for what it's worth, averaging a ridiculous 8.0 YPC. He's tiny (5-foot-8, 199), which may limit him indefinitely to a job-share. But it's hard to imagine he won't see double-digit weekly touches, given the state of the Jets' backfield.

13. Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets

Moore is another of the excellent slot weapons in this class, a player with separation ability and terrific hands:

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

He produced against absolutely everyone last year, finishing with at least 10 catches in seven of his eight games. We now need the Jets to find a new home for Jamison Crowder, so both he and Moore can make noise in 2021.

14. Rondale Moore, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Moore is a freakish athlete even by NFL standards: 4.28 speed, 42.5-inch vertical, 6.65-second 3-cone. He was utterly unstoppable as a freshman at Purdue back in 2018, hauling in 114 balls for 1,258 yards and reaching the end-zone 14 times. He's a teacup slot receiver (5-foot-7, 180), but tackling him is not a pleasant experience at all times:

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

He's a short-range specialist who should be a terrific fit in the desert, a source of cheap and easy yards for Kyler Murray.

15. Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, Carolina Panthers

Marshall had a seriously productive season for LSU back in 2019 (46-671-13), while competing for targets with Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase. His former collegiate OC, Joe Brady, seems delighted about the reunion in Carolina. Marshall is joining an offense that isn't short on playmakers. If Sam Darnold can achieve a new level of competence, this could get fun. Curtis Samuel's departure in free agency leaves 97 targets unclaimed.

16. Dyami Brown, WR, Washington Football Team

The Football Team's passing game is gonna be dangerous, and they know it. Brown produced back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at UNC in which he averaged better than 20.0 yards per receptions. He'll be a supporting player initially in a deep, talented, and well-assembled receiving corps, but he's a big play waiting to happen.

17. Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Great player, potentially rough landing spot, in terms of targets. Baltimore put the ball in the air only 406 times last season, the lowest attempt total in the league by far. There's almost no conceivable path to 100 targets for Bateman any time soon. He'll need another exceptional TD rate from Lamar Jackson if he's going to be a viable every-week fantasy option. This was a very nice selection in reality, of course. If you have Jackson on a dynasty roster, you loved it.

18. Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants

I'd be more bullish on Toney — a make-you-miss talent with exceptional highlights — if his OC wasn't Jason Garrett and his QB wasn't Daniel Jones and his team's receiving corps didn't have so many players who deserve to be fed.

19. Zach Wilson, QB, New York Jets

If these were Superflex ranks, Wilson of course would be a late first-rounder. New York without question had a very nice draft, addressing key needs and enhancing a seriously under-talented roster. Wilson's numbers were silly last season — 73.5 cmp%, 43 combined TDs, 3 INTs, 11.0 Y/A — and the lack of high-end competition certainly wasn't his fault. I'd rate his fantasy ceiling a tier below the top three QBs here, but Jets fans are encouraged to denounce that take.

20. Amari Rodgers, WR, Green Bay Packers

A talented, tough slot receiver coming off a 77-catch season at Clemson, Rodgers has a skill set that complements other Packers receivers well. I'd bump him at least two spots if I was convinced Aaron Rodgers was actually going to be his quarterback.

ROUND THREE

21. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions

Detroit's wide receiver depth chart is basically a list of past fantasy mistakes, so St. Brown has a clear opportunity to see slot targets early in his career. I can't say he was a favorite prospect, and we rarely see fourth-round rookie wideouts make an immediate splash, but this team has an immediate and dire need for capable pass-catchers.

22. Nico Collins, WR, Houston Texans

Collins has size (6-foot-4) and untapped ability, but it seems likely Houston's offense will be a wasteland.

23. Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Yet another Memphis skill player for the fantasy community to love — and hey, sometimes they work out. Gainwell caught 51 balls in 2019 and gained over 2K scrimmage yards for the Tigers, but I don't think he can do anything as well as Miles Sanders is capable of doing it.

24. Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England

Stevenson isn't a burner (4.64), but he also wasn't an easy man to tackle at Oklahoma:

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

There's already been speculation that he might make Sony Michel expendable, which would result in first-year touches.

25. Josh Palmer, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

Finding his way to a Justin Herbert-led offense was clearly a huge win. Palmer had some nice moments against excellent SEC corners, though his overall numbers weren't anything special (which had a lot to do with the Vols' uninteresting passing game).

26. Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots

At some point, we have to assume he'll start for the Pats as a rookie. He's the rare quarterback who arguably gets a downgrade at receiver upon entering the league, which isn't ideal. Unlike the four QBs above him, there's no rushing element to his game either. For now (and probably next year), he's only fantasy-relevant in Superflex formats.

27. Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers

He'll work behind Eric Ebron in 2021 and we can't really say who his quarterback will be in future seasons. So he's a pure flier at a minefield of a position.

28. D'Wayne Eskridge, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Any pick is a reach at this point. At least Eskridge is tied (for now) to a great QB, though it's hard to see a path to targets while Seattle's top receivers are healthy. Also, Eskridge is already 24 years old, having spent forever in the MAC.

29. Kellen Mond, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Mond is a mobile QB who improved in pretty much every meaningful area in each of his four seasons at Texas A&M. He found something close to an ideal situation — a spot in which he can further develop without immediate pressure to leapfrog an incumbent starter. Whenever the Vikings move on from Kirk Cousins, Mond would be the guy who gets to target Justin Jefferson. So that works.

30. Kyle Trask, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Trask is coming off a huge season at Florida in which he was throwing to exceptionally gifted receivers (see above). He's the latest — and probably not last — quarterback to inherit the title of guy-who's-supposed-to-succeed-Tom Brady.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting