Updated 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings
With the key NFL free agents signed and the free agency season winding down, its time for the Dynasty Fantasy Manager to switch their focus to the upcoming NFL draft. Earlier this offseason I brought you all my top-10 rookies by skill position. Today I bring you my final pre-draft 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings. Interested in all positions, be sure to check out 2021 Mock Draft from out one and only Kraig Rueth that dropped earlier this week.
Without further ado, here are my top-12. Enjoy!
12. Elijah Moore WR Mississippi
21 Years Old
5’9” 181 Lbs.
Elijah Moore appeared in 31 games at Ole Miss in his three-year college career. He totaled 189 catches for 2441 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. He pitched in 21 carries for an additional 71 yards. Moore finished with the second-most receiving yards in all of college football in 2020 despite matching up against tough SEC defenses on a weekly basis.
His size will deter teams from seeing him as the talent he is. He is an explosive home-run-hitting skill player who consistently turns in big plays whenever the ball is in his hands. He has soft hands, that enable him to extend to make the reception away from his body. Moore is likely a talent worthy of better in my 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings.
11. Terrace Marshall Jr. WR LSU
20 Years Old
6’6” 192 Lbs.
Terrace Marshall played in 28 games for LSU from 2018-2020. In those 28 games he had 106 receptions for 1594 yards, and he scored 23 touchdowns. His performance in 2020 in a terrible offense with poor QB play is especially impressive.
Marshall has prototypical outside WR size, that will benefit him in contested catch situations. He is a good route runner, moving quickly into and out of his breaks. He has strong hands and excellent body control. In addition, he tracks the ball well and has proved to be able to hold onto the football on plays with contact. Marshall is sneaky good and although he comes in at 11 in my 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings, he is capable of finishing much higher.
10. Kenneth Gainwell RB Memphis
22 Years Old
5’11 201 Lbs.
Kenneth Gainwell appeared in 18 games for Memphis in 2018 and 2019. Prior to the 2020 season, Gainwell made the decision to opted out. When we last saw Gainwell on the field in 2019, he broke out with 1459 yards rushing and an additional 610 receiving yards. He leaves college football with a final season total of 2069 yards and 16 touchdowns on 282 touches.
Gainwell is an explosive ball carrier who is also a good pass catcher. He is quick, creative, and plays with balance. Gainwell has burst through the hole, and he gets to his top speed quickly. In addition to his quickness he has enough speed to turn the corner. Gainwell has good vision, and consistently finds the running lanes. His pass catching abilty is the cheery on top for me. There are those with concerns about his size, I do not have those same concerns. He has bulked up to 201 Lbs. this offseason, and at 5’11” his size isn’t an issue.
9. Rondale Moore WR Purdue
20 Years Old
Rondale Moore played in 13 games as a freshman in 2018, he totaled 114 catches on 1258 receiving yards and scored 12 touchdowns. Since that season he has appeared in a total of 7 games since. His productivity has remained high, posting 64 catches, 657 yards and a couple of touchdowns, in those seven contests.
Rondale is as talented a WR as there is in this draft class. He has game-breaking skills and can score from any point on the field. Moore displays tremendous initial quickness with a burst, then he kicks into into second gear, and runs away from defenders in the open field. He tracks the pass in the air extremely well, and adjusts to the errant throws. Despite his frame, he displays strong hands with the ability to snatch the ball out of the air at full speed.
The two concerns that I have are likely the same two concerns everyone has. These concerns are why he comes in a nine in my 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings. The concerns are his abilty to stay healthy and his size. 5’7 is going to scare teams away, even though Moore could be Tyreek Hill light.
8. Travis Etienne RB Clemson
22 Years Old
5’10” 215 Lbs.
In four seasons at Clemson from 2017-2020, Travis Etienne carried the football 686 times for 4952 yards and scored 70 touchdowns. In addition to his rushing yardage, Etienne caught 102 passes for 1155 yards and another 8 touchdowns. In total he turned 788 career touches into 6107 yards and 789 touchdowns in 55 games.
Many anticipated that Etienne would enter the 2020 NFL Draft class, but he elected to return to Clemson. I won’t argue with those that have Etienne ranked as their No.1 or 2 RB, as he has the skill set to become be a three-down back. He has the speed and the ability to provide his offense with big plays. In addition, he has good hands in the receiving game and the ability to turn short passes into big gains.
My only concern with Etienne thus the ranking at eight in my 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings, is his vision between the tackles is, in a word average. Where this man did a lot of damage at Clemson, was off the edge where he could utilize his world class speed to run away from defenders. I don’t see Etienne being able to get to the edge as easily in the NFL and the defenders in this league are bigger, faster, and stronger. You will not see the homeruns at this level with the regularity we did in college, and that will have a negative impact on his fantasy value.
7. DeVonta Smith WR Alabama
22 Years Old
6’1” 175 Lbs.
DeVonta Smith completed 4 years at Alabama appearing in 47 games. He compiled a total of 235 receptions for 3965 yards and scored 46 touchdowns. His 2020 season was extra special — 117 catches 1856 yards and 23 touchdowns. Smith won the Heisman Trophy in 2020, the first wide receiver to win the award in 29 seasons.
When studying Devonta Smith tape, there really isn’t anything that jumps out to me that I don’t like other than his size (6’1″/175 Lbs.). His thin frame, however, is not enough of a deterrent to me pass on this talent in my rookie drafts. Simply put, Smith is a fantastic WR and an exceptional route runner. Personally, I can not get enough of elite route runners, and Smith is the best in this class and one of the best in recent memory.
Smith is a polished, productive wide receiver who was an unstoppable force for the Alabama offense. He displays outstanding football instincts and awareness. DeVonta possesses terrific eye/hand coordination, and consistently extends to make the reception away from his frame, with his exceptional hands. Smith, initially my top ranked WR, has slipped to WR4 in my updated 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings.
6. Jaylen Waddle WR Alabama
22 Years Old
5’10” 182 Lbs.
Jaylen Waddle appeared in 34 games for Alabama from 2018-2020. In those 34 games he hauled in 106 passes for 1999 yards, and he scored 17 touchdowns. In his true freshman season, he caught 45 passes for 848 yards and scored 7 times. He accomplished this while sharing the field with Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, DeVonta Smith, Irv Smith Jr., Joshua Jacobs, and Damien Harris.
His production dipped a little as a sophomore, and in his 2020 junior season he came out of the gates on fire. In Waddle’s first four contests in 2020 he posted 25 receptions for 557 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was injured in Week 5 against Tennessee on the opening kick off and didn’t return until the National Championship game.
Waddle is an explosive skill player and a lethal force any time the ball is in his hands. The lack of size may be a limiting factor, but the speed and pass-catching skill he has displayed indicate that Waddle offers big-time potential at the next level.
5. Rashod Bateman WR Minnesota
21 Years Old
6’2” 210 Lbs.
In 31 games at the University of Minnesota, Rashod Bateman caught 147 passes for 2395 yards and scored 19 touchdowns. Bateman appeared in 13 games in both 2018 and 2019, with his best season coming as a 20-year-old in 2019 – 60 grabs, 1219 yards and 11 touchdowns. Bateman opted out, in and out again in 2020, limiting his season to just 5 games.
There is a lot to like about Rashod Bateman. Starting with his size, 6’2” 210 lbs. In addition, his smooth and fluid routes. He is the type of WR than can line up anywhere on the field and be productive. He looks best however when coming across the middle of the field and making difficult catch after difficult catch with his big strong hands.
Bateman when on the outside tracks the ball well. He adjusts to the errant throws, and displays good eye/hand coordination. In the film I studied, for rookiedraftguide.com Bateman on several occasions would sense when his QB was in trouble and came back to the ball to make himself an available target. If that isn’t enough, he has excellent work ethic and works hard even if the play is away from him.
4. Javonte Williams RB North Carolina
20 years Old
5’10” 215 Lbs.
Javonte Williams appeared in 34 games for North Carolina from 2018-2020. Williams totaled 2297 rushing yards and 539 receiving yards, with 33 touchdowns. His big season was his 2020 junior season, a year in which he ran for 1140 yards on 157 carries (7.3 YPC). He added in 20 receptions for 205 yards, and he scored a total of 19 rushing and 3 receiving touchdowns in 11 games.
Williams wasn’t on the radar of many but a but a monster 2020 season put Javonte Williams on the 2021 NFL Draft map. Williams is a big back, that is an explosive runner who appears to be getting better with every touch of the football.
He possesses a smooth, fluid style and runs with power. He has good vision and instincts, which he utilizes to find running lanes. He displays a burst of speed that gets him through the hole with authority. Williams is a runner with good balance and he is not easily brought down. Williams picks up a lot of his yardage after initial contact.
Williams is also a terrific pass catcher out of the backfield, adjusting to the errant throws when necessary and making catches with his hands versus his body.
Teams in need of a workhorse running back, will likely consider selecting Javonte Williams. He is most likely a Day two pick that makes sense for teams like the Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons, and Arizona Cardinals. Regardless of the team that ends up calling his name, Williams brings the tools to produce. He’s a powerful playmaker who brings energy and play extension potential, and is worthy of the RB2 ranking in my 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings.
3. Ja’Marr Chase WR LSU
21 Years Old
6’1” 205 Lbs.
Ja’Marr Chase spent three years at LSU, playing in two seasons (2018 & 2019). Chase decided to opt out of the 2020 season in order to focus on preparation for the 2021 NFL Draft. In two seasons with the Tigers, Ja’Marr Chase played in 24 games. He had 107 receptions for 2093 yards and scored 23 touchdowns. His 2019 season was especially good, a year in which he caught 84 of Joe Burrow’s passes for 1780 yards and scored 20 times.
In my first run of ranking the 2021 rookie class, I had Devonta Smith as my time top ranked WR, well now it’s Ja’Marr Chase and, barring something significant in the NFL Draft Chase is likely here to stay.
Chase is a dominant WR who projects well to the next level. He is an excellent route runner, with good speed, that enables him to gain separation. While the ball is in the air he tracks it as well or better than any other WR in this class.
It’s difficult to not fall in love with these prospects solely because of the stats they put it. With that said its quite hard to ignore Ja’Marr Chase’s stats. He was absolutely dominant in 2019, and from an analytics standpoint, he’s close to a sure thing. His breakout age speaks to natural talent that will be translatable at the NFL level, and his efficiency will undoubtedly interest the majority if not all NFL scouts.
When watching the Chase footage, you can see just how Chase’s skill set translates to the NFL. Name a metric and this man excels at it. Chase is likely to be the first WR off the board and could go as high as 5th in the draft to the Cincinnati Bengals.
2. Najee Harris RB Alabama
23 Years Old
6’1” 230 Lbs.
Najee Harris appeared in 51 games for the Alabama Crimson Tide from 2017-2020. In his freshman and sophomore seasons, Harris totaled 188 touches. The main reason for the small sample size, was he shared a backfield with Damien Harris, Joshua Jacobs, and Bo Scarborough as a freshman, and Harris and Jacobs as a sophomore.
Harris planted his flag as a legit prospect in his junior season. 209 carries for 1224 yards with 13 scores. He added in 27 grabs for 304 more yards and another 7 touchdowns. There were thoughts that Harris would declare for the 2020 draft, but he elected to return to Alabama.
There are always risks associated with a player who could have entered the NFL when they return to college. If injured, it could be life changing. Harris it turns out made a great decision. He likely would have been a round selection in 2020 and entering 2021 he has a legit shot at hearing his name called in round 1. A 294 touch, 1891-yard season with 30 touchdowns will do that for a guy.
Harris is my top RB in this class by a fairly wide margin. Harris’s blend of size and speed, I believe give him the abilty to be a lethal every-down back at the next level. He is a back that has above average vison that he combines with good instincts and he runs with balance. What Harris does that separates him from other big power backs is his work as a receiver. Harris has demonstrated excellent pass catching ability throughout his career, and he projects as a player you can feature on every play regardless of down and distance.
There are a few teams that stand out as prime landing spots for Najee Harris. Miami is home to Harris’ former collegiate QB Tua Tagovailoa, and the team needs an RB1 on their roster. Arizona is another spot that would certainly work with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray looking for a star RB to round out their potentially potent offense. Regardless of where Harris lands, I like his abilty to make a fantasy impact in his rookie season. When I think of Najee Harris, I see a player that compares to Tennessee Titan’s RB Derrick Henry, but a version of Derrick Henry catching 60+ passes a season.
1. Kyle Pitts TE Florida
20 years Old
6’6” 246 Lbs.
Kyle Pitts in his 24 games as a member of the Florida Gators posted a total stat line of 46 receptions for 1492 yards and he scored 18 touchdowns. In his sophomore season, as a 19-year-old , Pitts caught 54 passes for 649 yards and scored 5 times. He followed that up in 2020 with 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in only 8 games played.
In the NFL, a tight end rarely has the value of a wide receiver or an offensive lineman from a pure positional standpoint, but certain tight ends that can create mismatches at the NFL level are precious. That’s the kind of tight end that Kyle Pitts is. Pitts is a rare prototype who will create opportunities for one lucky NFL offense in 2021, and one very lucky fantasy manager in your league. I am not sure how many will rank Kyle Pitts first overall in their rankings like I have, but I am comfortable ranking him here due to his immense talent and his abilty to give his fantasy manager an incredible positional advantage for years to come.
Kyle Pitts is a wide receiver in a tight ends body. He runs great routes and is a natural pass catcher. He does need to improve his blocking, but I would wager that the team that calls his name on Day 1, is not calling his name due to his blocking capabilities. He is quick off the line and into pass routes, he extends to make the reception away from his frame and is exceptional after the catch. Pitts tracks the ball in the air, well and displays outstanding timing, often coming down with the difficult grab. He highpoints exceptionally well and routinely adjusts and climbs over defensive backs to come away with the contested catch.
Honestly, any team’s offense would benefit from selecting Kyle Pitts. Unfortunately, most teams won’t have the opportunity to draft Pitts in the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s unlikely that Pitts falls outside of the Top 10, and if he does, he won’t fall far beyond that.
Pitts will fit best in an offense that often targets the TE and moves the TE around to leverage mismatch opportunities. In the early first round, teams like the Dolphins, Bengals, Panthers, and Cowboys all have reason to consider Pitts. The team that I would prefer to see him land with is the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers however are scheduled to pick 13th and I believe he is long gone before they have the opportunity to make their first-round selection.
I would anticipate that he is selected at 5 by Cincinnati or at 6 by the Miami Dolphins. Pitts is an elite offensive weapon and playmaking machine. Players like Kyle Pitts don’t come along very often, and he is worthy of your 1.01 in your 1QB rookie drafts, and the top billing in my 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings.
Thank you for reading Updated 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings
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