Fantasy Football Top 10 2021 Rookies
Hello Heat Seekers, welcome to episode 130 of Sully’s 2 Cents Fantasy Football Podcast. I am you host; I am Rob Sullivan. The Sully’s 2 Cents Fantasy Football Podcast is a proud member of the RotoHeat family of podcasts.
We are officially in the offseason and as I have discussed many times before, this podcast will take on a heavy Dynasty focus throughout the offseason. In episode 130, I am going to take my first of many looks at this 2021 Rookie Draft Class. Today will be a very early look at my current top-10 and I will share with you all my preferred landing spot for these rookies, and my player comp for each of the ten. This list will likely change multiple times prior to the start of the season, draft capital will impact my rankings and to a lesser degree landing spot as well.
I believe that we really tend to make too much out of landing spot, it matters but it is not the be all and end all. AJ Brown is an example of underestimating a player based on landing spot, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire is an example of overestimating a player based solely on the team that selected him.
Draft capital on the other hand I am a big believer in. I shared hit rates with you all last season and I will be sharing those again with 2020 numbers included as we progress thru the offseason. Simply put and it should not come as a surprise, but the higher the player is drafted the more likely they are to have a good NFL career. When we are talking skill positional players, good NFL careers mean good fantasy careers.
Fantasy Football Top 10 2021 Rookies
10. Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
In all honestly there are about 10 players that I could have selected to be here at 10 that I would be comfortable with, this draft is deep. I selected Kadarius Toney after going back and watching his film a second time.
The reason I went back and watched a second time, is because Matt Brown a prominent member of our RotoHeat Dynasty Fantasy Football Community over on Facebook is high on him. Simply put, Matt has proven to be a good evaluator of talent and I respect and trust his judgment. With that said his admiration for this prospect puzzled me.
Well after a second look, I am puzzled no more and I would say that Matt and I are on the same page. I fully understand some of you to think that selecting Toney with the 1.10 is a reach. I recently complete my first rookie mock of the season, and Toney went at 2.03.
First and foremost, Kadarius Toney is a very good route runner. If you don’t know by now, we love good route runners here at RotoHeat and this will not be the first time I reference route running abilty this episode. He is also electric with the ball in his hands, this is a kid that will do some damage.
His breakout season came in 2020. In 11 games this season for the Gators, Toney caught 70 passes for 984 yards and scored 10 times. Toney can line up all over the field, but he is best in the slot. I would prefer to see Kadarius Toney land in Tennessee with the Titans. Sharing an offense with Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown would be fun to watch. Toney has been receiving some 1st round NFL draft buzz recently although I would expect him to be a day 2 pick.
Player Comp – Percy Harvin
9. Terrace Marshall Jr. – WR LSU
With all the great WR talent that we have seen coming out of LSU in recent memory, its easy to overlook the talent of Terrance Marshall Jr. In seven games in 2020, Marshall averaged more than 100 receiving yards per game and hauled in double-digit touchdown receptions for the second consecutive season. In 2019 sharing the field with Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase he had 46 grabs, 671 yards and scored 13 times. Make no mistake this kid can play.
Marshall is a versatile receiver that has proven he can line up both in the slot and out wide and deliver consistency. He has NFL WR size at 6’3” and 200lbs. He can play physical which will benefit him against bigger, stronger, and faster DBs in the NFL. He has great hands, solid run after catch ability, above average route-running skills. Add all those up and this is a WR that I want on my roster. If I had to pick the perfect landing spot for Marshall, it would be in Cincinnati reunited with his 2019 college QB Joe Burrow. Joining Tee Higgins in the Bengals offense would be something to see.
Player Comp – Kenny Golladay
8. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Normally I would never have a tight end ranked this high, but then again Kyle Pitts is not a normal tight end. Pitts is a potential match-up nightmare for NFL defensive coordinators. In his final season in Florida, Pitts had 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in 8 games. He averaged 5.4 catches, 96 yards, and 1.5 touchdowns a game.
Pitts has the size at 6’6” 245 lbs to cause defenses problems. When you combine that size with his athleticism, he hits an entirely different level. He is exceptional on contested catches; he is a really smart route runner and has good speed. Kyle Pitts is a WR playing TE, and I want him on all my dynasty rosters in 2021 and beyond.
Since 2010 there have only been two TEs that have produced a top-12 fantasy season as a rookie, Rob Gronkowski, and Evan Engram. In 2021 Kyle Pitts becomes the third.
Almost every mock draft I have seen has Pitts going to New England at pick 15. I get it but I don’t like it. The only problem is the two teams that I like him the best with the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams, do not possess the draft pick needed to obtain him. I can live with the Patriots assuming they upgrade at QB.
Player Comp – Darren Waller
7. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Now I know that many of you will be surprised to see that I have Travis Etienne ranked this low. I am fully aware that there are plenty of sites out there that have Etienne as the top ranked asset in this draft class. Clearly, I like Travis Etienne after all he is my 7th ranked player overall.
This is a RB that in 4 seasons at Clemson rushed 686 times for 4952 yards and he scored 70 touchdowns. He also added 102 receptions for an additional 1155 yards and 8 more touchdowns. In 55 college games he found the end zone 78 times.
When watching his tape, what stands out the most is his burst and speed. Etienne might be the quickest accelerator in the 2021 running back class. He can get to top speed in short distances, and his top speed is elite. Etienne has homerun potential on every one of his carries. He is also an exceptional pass catcher out of the backfield. There is a lot to like about this player.
What also jumped out to me was his vision could be a lot better, far too often he attempts to use his speed to hit the hole hard instead of staying patient and waiting for holes to open up. As a runner that gets to the edge, I love him, as an inside runner between the tackles not so much. One other notable picked up on when watching tape is, he struggles with pass protection, which likely takes him off the field on passing downs and negates his pass catching skills.
There are few teams that I believe would be excellent landing spots for Travis Etienne. My favorite is the Atlanta Falcons. Todd Gurley almost certainly will not be back; Brian Hill isn’t the answer and Ito Smith all due respect is Ito Smith. Atlanta is a team that very well may provide Etienne with a three-down role as a rookie.
Player Comp – Reggie Bush
6. Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
There are players that I will admit falling in dynasty love with this time of year. Last season it was CeeDee Lamb, the year before, it was DK Metcalf, and the year before that Calvin Ridley. Pretty sure I have a thing for Wide Receivers. Enter Rashod Bateman, Mr. 2021. Ok this is getting a little weird, even for me.
Bateman was in a word, awesome in 2019. 60 catches, 1219 yards and 11 touchdowns in 13 games. He had an abbreviated 2020 season appearing in 5 games, after opting out, then back in and then out again to prepare for the 2021 NFL draft. In his 5 2020 contests he hauled in 36 passes for 472 yards and scored twice.
He has a NFL WR frame, 6’2”, 210 lbs, he is an exceptional route runner, with decent speed and great hands. Bateman has a shot at being a first-round selection in the NFL draft and in my opinion is one of the most pro ready receivers in the draft. I believe he is on of the safest picks in rookie drafts after the top three are off the board. When my rankings are said and done it wouldn’t be surprised to have him in my top 5.
Bateman would make any team better and the team that I would prefer to see select him is the Green Bay Packers. Now the Vikings fan in my is ill by the thought, but the dynasty manager in me can’t help it. It is well documented the Packers need for an additional pass catcher and Bateman can do for the Packers what Justin Jefferson did for my Vikings in 2020.
Player Comp – At first, I thought Allen Robinson, toyed with Michael Thomas and in the end landed on Keenan Allen. Bateman won’t be the blocker that Allen is, but his route running and his hands, and his frame are or so similar.
5. Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
I really knew very little about Javonte Williams before I started watching film for my ratings over on rookiedraftguide.com. I know more about him now and what I saw in that film I really like. Like enough to be my RB2 at this point in the offseason.
What won me over with Williams and lands him ahead of Travis Etienne, is his abilty to break tackles and extend plays. He’s a strong RB with a solid frame. He is 5’10 220 lbs. and his lower body strength is sick. He breaks tackles like they are an inconvenience not a problem. He is a physical runner that also happened to be an above average pass catcher.
In his career at UNC, he played in 34 games. He had 366 rushing attempts for 2297 yards averaging 6.28 yards a carry. He has 29 touchdowns and 19 of them came in his 11 2020 games. In addition to his work on the ground Williams totaled 50 catches for 539 yards and 4 scores. He did all of this while sharing touches with Michael Carter, another impressive running back prospect who will be drafted this spring.
Williams is likely a Day 2 pick in the NFL Draft but make no mistake, he is a back that will be relevant as a rookie regardless of his landing spot. Of all the places he could land that I would like, Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco, my desired local for Williams in the Denver Broncos. Melvin Gordon is nearing the end; Phillip Lindsay is likely leaving town via free agency and Williams would add to an already up and coming offense.
Player Comp – Part CJ Spiller part Marshawn lynch
4. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
As a freshman in 2018, Jaylen Waddle had 45 receptions for 848 yards and scored 7 touchdowns. Those are impressive numbers, but they become even more impressive when you consider that Alabama had Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy and Devonta Smith ahead of Waddle on the depth chart.
He took a slight step back in 2019 before bursting out of the gates in 2020 to the tune of 28 catches, 591 yards and 4 touchdowns in 6 games. In reality he did this in 4 games. He was injured on the opening kickoff in Week 5 and didn’t return until the National Championship game at way less that 100%.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see a full season out of Waddle, but it is what it is. I have seen enough to be extremely high on this prospect. Waddle possesses explosive skills. First of all, he can fly, hell A-Train thinks Jaylen waddle is fast. Waddle is really good route runner that is capable of running a variety of routes, he creates separation with ease and had above average hands. Jaylen Waddle possess the talent to line up in the slot, the outside and can also be used a weapon out of the backfield and as a kick returner. This kid is an athlete.
He will be a first-round NFL Draft pick and could provide immediate value for fantasy players in 2021. My desire for a landing spot for Jaylen Waddle is the Philadelphia Eagles. Yup another WR for Philly. Adding Waddle to Jalen Reagor is too juicy not to love.
Player Comp: DeSean Jackson
3. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
My top 3 could go in any order and I am sure that I will make some changes here post the NFL draft. If anyone has any of these three at 1.01, they will get no argument from me.
Of all the players that decided to opt out of the 2020 season, the biggest benefactor from doing so it likely Ja’Marr Chase. See people have been excited to add Chase in 2021 since 2019. In 2019 the then sophomore went nuts. In 14 games, caught 84 of Joe Burrow’s passes for 1780 yards and scored 20 touchdowns. 21.6 yards per reception is good stuff ladies and gentlemen.
Playing in 2020 with Joe Burrow in Cincinnati and the trio of Myles Brennan, Max Johnson, and TJ Finley under centre for LSU, would only have hurt Chase’s appeal. Simply put there was no chance he was repeating his 2019 performance let alone improving upon it.
There is a lot to like about Ja’Marr Chase and very little not to. Starting with his size, at 6’ 208 Lbs, he has the size to play on the outside especially when you combine his leaping abilty, body control and his hands, they are all exceptional. On 50/50 balls Chase is a good bet to come down with it. He is a good route runner, not the best in this class but he runs good clean routes and has the abilty to gain separation as result. He has reportedly run a 4.40 40, which certainly doesn’t hurt. His yards after the catch abilty as you would imagine is pretty darn good as well.
The one thing that stands out above everything else for me when I look at Ja’Marr Chase, is this is the guy that forced Justin Jefferson to play the slot in 2019. We all know how well Jefferson played at the next level and that has to excite us when we think of what Chase could do. The only thing that I can pull from the film reviewed is he looks lazy on plays not directly involving him and he is a lackluster blocker. That wont fly at the NFL level and I am sure he can be coached to address it.
There are 32 teams that would love to add a WR of Chase’s potential and the team that I would like to see him join is the San Francisco 49ers. I really like the idea of Chase and Brandon Aiyuk on the outside with Deebo Samuel in the slot. I especially like this spot should the Niners upgrade the QB position.
Player Comp – Steve Smith Jr.
2. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Opposite of Ja’Marr Chase, if there was a player that benefiting the most by suiting up in 2020, it was likely DeVonta Smith. Playing the 2020 campaign enabled Smith with the opportunity to play without Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs battling him for targets. Combine that with the unfortunate injury to Jaylen Waddle and it was lighting in a bottle for Smith as he was the clear leader of this offense’s pass catchers.
The somewhat unexpected play from QB Mac Jones further elevated Smith’s season.
Smith was a barley used option in 2017, he had 8 catches in 8 games for 150 yards and he scored 3 times. In 2018 and 2019 he averaged 55 catches, 974.5 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 2020 season saw him breakout in a massive way. 117 grabs, 1856 yards, and 23 scores. If you liked Ja’Marr Chase’s 2019 season you’ve got to love Smith’s 2020.
The breakout season led to a Heisman Trophy, the first by a WR in 29 seasons. I mentioned my admiration for routing running, well Smith is the best route runner in this class and that is the main reason I have him at 2 ahead of Chase.
Smith displayed consistent dominance against high-level opponents, and a showcase of his technical and playmaking skills. I enjoyed watching his film, DeVonta Smith is such a fun player to watch, not because he dominates with size or speed. He’s just good. Very good in fact.
There is some concern with his size, 6’1”175lbs. Honestly, I am not overly concerned. He could stand to put on some pounds, sure but he is far from the first sub 200lb WR to enter the draft. Smith had the same size concerns when he first entered the college, he was 157 pounds, when he showed up at Alabama, and he proved it’s not a problem.
Smith will be an early-to-mid-first-round NFL Draft pick and should be either the first or second WR to come off the board with comparisons being made to Marvin Harrison they hype train is just starting to gain some serious momentum.
Similar to Chase, all 32 teams would love to Add Devonta Smith to their rosters. The team that I am hoping adds him is the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins need a WR upgrade and reuniting him with Tua Tagovailoa his QB in Alabama would be advantageous for both players and their respective fantasy managers.
Player Comp – Stefon Diggs
1. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Coming in a No.1 in my Early look at the Top-10 2021 Rookies, is Alabama RB Najee Harris. Harris concluded his career with the Crimson Tide with 638 carries for 3833 yards and 46 touchdowns. He added 80 catches for 781 yards and 11 more touchdowns.
His first two seasons were quiet ones as shared the backfield with Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris, and Bo Scarborough. In his 2019 junior season, it started to click for Harris, and he took the next step in his play as a runner.
Harris took it to defenders, its like he realized all of a sudden how big he is. He engaged defenders as opposed to avoiding them. Najee Harris became one of the nation’s top rushers and one of the NFL draft’s top running back prospects. What surprised many was Harris deciding to return to Alabama for his senior year.
It turned out to be a good decision as 2020 was his best statistical year and Alabama won yet another National Championship.
Najee Harris finds himself atop my rankings because he brings a skill-set unlike any we’ve seen recently. He’s a massive running back at 6’2 and 229 pounds, nearly the size of Titans’ star Derrick Henry, 6’3, 238 pounds. What Harris does that separates him from other big power backs is his work in the passing game. Harris has demonstrated excellent catching ability throughout his career, and he projects as a player you can feature on every play regardless of down and distance.
Harris is another player that every NFL team would happily find a spot for. I do feel that Harris will come off the board in the first round. There is a chance that he goes with pick 18 to Miami, he could go at pick 23 to the New York Jets, but the pick I want him to come off the board with is pick 24 currently held by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers are likely moving on from James Conner, and the trio of Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels and Anthony McFarland isn’t likely to get it done. Harris provides the Steelers with a back that can play on all downs and the Steelers have proven to like to have 1 lead back.
Player Comp – Derrick Henry
When looking at Superflex leagues, this class has some quarterback depth, next the WR position, QB is the deepest. Trevor Lawrence leads that group and is likely the consensus 1.10. Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Trey Lance will be in the mix for first round rookie drafts selections as well.
That’s going to do it for today’s episode. Thank you for listening to Fantasy Football Top 10 2021 Rookies
If you have yet to subscribe to Sully’s 2 Cents Fantasy Football Podcast you can do so by searching for it pretty much anywhere podcasts can be found. In addition, you can find me on twitter @RotoHeatSully, in both the RotoHeat Dynasty Fantasy Football Community , and RotoHeat Redraft Fantasy Football Community on Facebook and I am @Sully in our Discord chat as well.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the RotoHeat YouTube Channel if you haven’t already. The team is hard at work developing content for rookiedraftguide.com and Brad Menendez is starting to drop his 2021 player profiles. You want to make sure you visit rookiedraftguide.com and you certainly do not want to miss Brad’s profiles on YouTube. Stay safe and stay healthy Heat Seekers.