We are on the countdown to the NFL draft, so let’s kick off with some Dynasty Rookie Rankings for standard leagues. These no doubt will change, but here are some early thoughts.
1. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Despite opting out of the 2020 season wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase looks like the offensive superstar of the 2021 draft. Despite DeVonta Smith’s sensational Heisman winning season. Chase is still largely seen as the star prize for teams picking high in the top ten. Certainly one you’d expect that to translate to significant, long-term fantasy value. Chase has a great combination of physical attributes and outstanding production. His 84 catch, 1,780 yard 2019 season was record-breaking at the time and even though he skipped his junior season he’s going to come with strong draft capital. As long as he avoids landing with one of the fantasy disaster zones (I’m looking at you Philadelphia) of the league he should be the 1st player off the board in most rookie drafts.
2. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
There is very little to separate the two top backs in next years draft. Etienne and Alabama’s Najee Harris are both extremely well placed to be very productive NFL backs. I have a personal preference for Etienne. In recent history backs of Harris’ size are generally less popular with NFL teams (outside of Tennessee) these days. I think that currently gives Etienne more potential landing spots and more paths to a lead role. Etienne’s top-end speed will make him a very attractive target for NFL teams who are desperate for explosion in their offense. So basically everyone. His four-year career at Clemson produced a remarkable 6000 yards from scrimmage. His senior year saw a significant development in this receiving production.
3. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
It’s more 2a and 2b between Etienne and Harris and despite a slight personal preference for the former I wouldn’t take much convincing to move Harris ahead. With the right landing spot (Atlanta?) Harris could very easily be the undisputed number one overall pick. He’s a bigger back, but despite his size has shown that he can move and also racked up 70 catches in the last two years. His versatility is hugely attractive but there is a risk that a team may see him as a power back only and he ends up in a committee.
4. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Waddle was all set for a huge break out in 2020 before being struck down with an (almost) season ending injury; the 22-year-old wideout limped his way back into a handful of catches in the National Championship Game. The class is deep at wide receiver and there will be a fierce debate over what order they will settle into rookie draft rankings. Waddle edges out his fellow Crimson Tide teammate Smith, in many ways it’s a “pick your poison” type choice but I’m more convinced by Waddle’s traits. It’s possible that Waddle will take a hit due to the early struggles of teammate Henry Ruggs who was drafted at number 12 last year by the Las Vegas Raiders and had a very uneventful rookie campaign. If, however, there is a player who can recreate the success of Tyreek Hill, it’s Waddle. His speed is off the charts and he’s succeeded outside and, in the slot, and could be used in a variety of creative ways by a good play caller.
5. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Heisman trophy winner enters the draft after a truly incredible senior season. His 1856 yards broke the record set only a year earlier by Ja’marr Chase. With such incredible production you’d be forgiven for wondering how he isn’t top of this list – and that comes down to one rumbling concern – size. Smith lacks the prototypical size that would lock him in as an elite prospect. If suggestions that he would have weighed 160lbs had he taken part in the Senior Bowl physical checks, it’s likely to raise some red flags with several teams. I’d expect by the time the Alabama pro day rolls around he’ll have added weight but there will be questions around his ability to play with any additional bulk he adds. His skill set suggest he’ll be a significant contributor at the next level but don’t be stunned to see him drop a lot further than expected when the draft rolls around.
6. Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
Williams entered his Junior season as a sleeper pick to break into the top tier of draft prospects and he more than delivered despite only having 11 games to show his skillset. Like Harris he’s a bigger back who has shown ability as a runner and a receiver and now has chance to be a 2nd or 3rd round draft choice – more than enough draft capital to make him a high-end Dynasty asset. The Tar-Heel runner has the advantage over Etienne and Harris of coming out after this Junior year and being around two years younger than both, that gives him a very attractive upside in his position group.
7. Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU
If ever a player has suffered from the players around him it’s Terrace Marshall. Being the third guy in a receiving group that includes Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson isn’t anything to be ashamed of though. With both of LSU’s 2019 stars missing this year Marshall stepped up and delivered this past year. 10 touchdowns and an average of over 100 yards a game showed what he was capable of, even without a superstar like Joe Burrow under center. Marshall is the forgotten man of this draft class and he could well be the steal of the season.
8. Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Bateman is an intriguing prospect. Part of you can convince yourself that his game tape shows an elite college receiver. His skill set could convince you there is little need for projection, and he’ll be pro-ready from day 1. The danger though is whether his skill set is, in fact, easily projectable. At his current level he is very successful in contested catch situations and relies on better technique to win. Receivers who win the way Bateman does can be risky bets when they step up, so where he lands could be critical in whether he remains in the top 10.
9. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Anyone who knows me at all, will know I was a huge fan of Laviska Shenault coming out last year. In many ways Moore is this year’s Shenault. A dynamic offensive weapon who has been used in every possible way in the Purdue offense. A talented receiver who runs like a running back after the catch. There is a major question over his injury history. Injuries limited him to a mere 7 games in the last two years – a huge disappointment after his exceptional freshman season. If he is truly healthy and lands in a decent spot, Moore could be an outstanding weapon at the next level.
10. Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis
If there is a prototype for the kind of back NFL teams want these days, it very well might be Kenneth Gainwell. He’s a talented runner but it’s his diversity in the passing game that will make him an attractive target for any number of teams. If you are looking for risks watch out for the limited success of Gainwell’s predecessors in Memphis. The Tigers put Tony Pollard and Darrell Henderson in the league and despite both boasting an explosive skill set, neither has set the NFL alight. He’s also a bit undersized and unless he gains weight could be limited to a passing game role.
11. Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Toney was a huge beneficiary of the improvements in the Gators offense this past season. After struggling to make an impact in his first three seasons in The Swamp, Toney found a connection with Kyle Trask and delivered an impressive senior year. 70 catches and nearly 1000 receiving yards announced Toney on the seen as a top end slot receiver and likely transported him into the top 100 of the draft. There are concerns. He only has one season of top end production and this breakout age will take him off the board of many analysts but the opportunity for him to produce as a slot receiver will make him a strong option if he lands in the right spot. Right now I’m anticipating that draft capital will keep him in the top 10, but there are receivers (Tylan Wallace, Elijah Moore) who I like more and could easily move ahead of Toney by May.
12. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
There is no player I’m likely to have more disagreements on this year than Kyle Pitts. There is little doubting the talent. Pitts excelled in the Florida offense this year with 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns. On the surface there’s not much to dislike, he has size, athleticism and strong college production. Most rankings will have him much higher, but if anything, I think this is the highest I’ll have him. The history of “generational, game changing” tight ends is instructive. Most of what you’ll hear from people pushing Pitts could have been copied and pasted from coverage of OJ Howard, or Eric Ebron, or Noah Fant, or Kellen Winslow. We’ve been here before folks and it rarely works out. If it turns out that Pitts really is Travis Kelce then you’ve hit the jackpot – but it’s worth reflection on the fact that the guys who have turned out of be game changing tight ends (Kelce, Kittle, Gronk) were not the guys everyone was shouting for ahead of the draft. Tight ends are too difficult to project so I’m very reticent to spend a 1st round pick on one.
Standard Dynasty Rookie Rankings -The Rest:
13 Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
14 Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina
15 Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
16 Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
17 Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
18 Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
19 Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
20 Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina
21 Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
22 Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
23 Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
24 Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
25 Seth Williams, WR, Auburn
26 Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest
27 Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
28 Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville
29 Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
30 Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
31 Jermar Jefferson, RB, Oregon State
32 Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State
33 Javian Hawkins, RB, Louisville
34 Jaret Patterson, RB, Buffalo
35 Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma
36 Marlon Williams, WR, UCF
But what do you think about these Standard Dynasty Rookie Rankings? Let us know, you can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We are going to be providing you with dynasty content all offseason.
Image Credit: Mark J. Rebilas – USA TODAY Sports