No subset of players has more question marks, or more advantages, than NFL rookies.
With no experience in a highly competitive league, first-year players are a gamble. but in fantasy football, those bets often pay off. Rookies Jonathan Taylor and James Robinson were the fourth and ninth-best running backs in all of fantasy football last season, respectively. Justin Jefferson ranked seventh in fantasy points among all wide receivers in 2020, while quarterback Justin Herbert also landed in the top 10 at his position (ninth).
NFL coaches aren’t afraid to give their top draft picks a heavy workload, and this year should be no different: Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be given the keys to their offense, while Trey Lance and justinfields may not be far behind. Najee Harris and Kyle Pitts are expected to start at their respective positions in Year 1.
Reading: Top rookie fantasy football 2021
2021 fantasy football draft team: position rankings, cheat sheets and more
If you’re in a dynasty league where you can keep players from previous seasons, talented rookies are a valuable commodity. So which first-year players will have the biggest impact in 2021?
Here’s our ranking of the top 10 rookies in fantasy football this season.
- 1 1. najee harris, rb, pittsburgh steelers
- 2 2. chase ja’marr, wr, cincinnati flares
- 3 3. kyle pitts, you, atlanta falcons
- 4 4. javonte williams, rb, denver broncos
- 5 5. devonta smith, wr, philadelphia eagles
- 6 6. trevor lawrence, qb, jacksonville jaguars
- 7 7. jaylen waddle, wr, miami dolphins
- 8 8. michael carter, rb, new york jets
- 9 9. trey sermon, rb, san francisco 49ers
- 10 10. justin fields, qb, chicago bears
1. najee harris, rb, pittsburgh steelers
From le’veon bell to james conner, the steelers have a history of fielding young workhorses. harris appears next in line. The Alabama product saw seven touches in the first half in Pittsburgh’s preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys and is the clear no. 1 back ahead of benny snell jr. and Jaylen Samuels. The Steelers’ new offensive line should prove some doubters wrong, but Harris’ volume should be high on one of the best offenses in the NFL.
projected round: second
2. chase ja’marr, wr, cincinnati flares
Bengalis did not use no. 5 chooses Joe Burrow’s former teammate at LSU to take things slow. Chase has been working extra after every training camp practice and could easily top Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins as the No. 1 mid-season wide receiver. It may not produce early on, but as long as the Burrow stays healthy, the chase could be a fantasy weapon by the end of the season.
projected round: sixth
3. kyle pitts, you, atlanta falcons
pitts, the highest drafted tight end in nfl history, is a matchup nightmare that should feature prominently in the falcons passing game with new head coach arthur smith, whose duo of Tight ends consisting of Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser combined for 80 receptions. 835 yards and nine touchdowns at Tennessee last season. With Julio Jones out of the picture, Pitts should be Matt Ryan’s third target behind Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage while used in a wide receiver type role.
projected round: seventh
4. javonte williams, rb, denver broncos
there’s a reason the broncos traded in the second round to draft williams. Melvin Gordon is at the top of the depth chart, but he has missed nine games in total in the last three seasons.
related: williams among top 10 fantasy football sleepers
Unless Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater become elite quarterbacks overnight, Denver should run a lot, and Williams is well positioned to see a lot of touches.
projected round: ninth
5. devonta smith, wr, philadelphia eagles
smith may miss the entire preseason due to a sprained mcl, but as nbc sports philadelphia’s adam hermann observed, the reigning heisman trophy winner was “clearly the best wide receiver” in eagles training camp before your injury. smith could easily be the no. The No. 1 choice in Philadelphia’s small receiving corps, so as long as they pull hurts and get enough air, the speedy wide receiver could become a good wr3 or even wr2.
projected round: ninth
6. trevor lawrence, qb, jacksonville jaguars
can lawrence be this year’s justin herbert? He doesn’t have the weapons that Herbert had in Los Angeles last season, but Lawrence is billed as a generational talent who can lead the Jaguars back to relevance. While there may be growing pains under new head coach Urban Meyer, Lawrence should air it out and has top 10 QB potential.
projected round: 14th
7. jaylen waddle, wr, miami dolphins
waddle has the talent and physicality to outmatch smith, his old teammate from crimson tide. However, his ankle injury adds some level of risk, and he will have more competition for targets from Devante Parker, Will Fuller V and Mike Gesicki. That said, there is wr3 potential here.
projected round: 11th
8. michael carter, rb, new york jets
Carter has the physical tools to thrive in offensive coordinator Mike Lafleur’s zone-blocking run scheme, and he looks like the leader of New York’s trio of running backs ahead of Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson. The question is whether the Jets’ young offensive line can open up enough holes and whether the Jets can be competitive enough to present the running game consistently.
projected round: eighth
9. trey sermon, rb, san francisco 49ers
Sermon writing may require patience: The presence of Raheem Mostert and Wayne Gallman means Kyle Shanahan could help the rookie get into action. But the 49ers’ third-round pick out of Ohio has a head start if he can stay healthy, and San Francisco’s offense should move the ball this season with either Trey Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo under center. he should be off the board by the tenth round in goalkeeping leagues.
projected round: ninth
10. justin fields, qb, chicago bears
fields should be available in later rounds considering the bears technically have andy dalton as their starter (for now). But if the fields flicker in the preseason and Dalton is lackluster from the start, both very real possibilities, then the Ohio State product should have the starting job in no time. is a potential qb1 at a price of qb2.
projected round: 18
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