Editor’s Note: These 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings are a starting point for your dynasty rookie draft. Make sure you’re ready for your draft by checking out our 2021 Rookie Draft Guide, which is now updated with post-draft profiles for all your favorite prospects, our current Dynasty Rookie Rankings and our convenient Rookie Draft Cheat Sheets. Looking to move or acquire some of those picks? Make sure you take a look at our Dynasty Trade Analyzer and import your leagues to get maximum value. There are simply no better resources out there for dynasty fantasy football draft preparation.
Every draft has its own uniqueness. This year’s version promised some real talent at the receiver and quarterback position and clearly delivered. In the end, we saw a whopping ten receivers and six quarterbacks taken in the first two rounds. We also had two premier running backs taken on the draft’s first day. As always, there are going to be some tough choices in dynasty drafts and we’ll be here all off-season to help you make the best moves possible. Let’s dig in to these early 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings and start breaking it down!
The tiers and commentary I’ll make on this post are my own, comprised of my opinions. The rankings are based on our consensus rookie rankings. Tier one is comprised of the two players we’re most likely to see taken at picks one and two in early rookie drafts.
1.01 = Ja’Marr Chase, WR CIN
Chase was a bit of a one-year wonder in college, though he was poised for a huge 2020 campaign before opting out to prepare for the NFL Draft due to COVID-19 concerns. When we last saw him In 2019, he produced 84 receptions, 1,789 yards and 20 touchdowns playing with his former (and now current) quarterback Joe Burrow and helping bring a National Title to back to LSU. He is listed at 6’1″/200 lbs. and is a route technician who projects to the next level very well. The Bengals thought enough of him to punt on their offensive line and pass on the sure thing in Penei Sewell to secure his services.
Cincinnati promised Joe Burrow some weapons and now have one of the best young wide receiver duos in the form of Chase and Tee Higgins. Simply dominant in 2019, Chase will immediately become an alpha receiver for the Bengals and add a serious receiving threat in the offense. The Bengals now have the best combination of receivers on their roster since Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadeh tore up the league with Carson Palmer a decade ago and the best young receiver they’ve had since AJ Green. Remember, Chase was widely presumed to be a better prospect than his teammate, Justin Jefferson, and we all saw how that turned out. Chase will be a candidate for the top pick in rookie drafts this Spring and Summer and really only has one player to likely contend with.
1.02 = Najee Harris, RB PIT
Alabama has churned out running backs at an amazing rate over the past decade and Harris is the latest and possibly greatest of them all. After posting 1,466 rushing yards, 43 catches, 425 receiving yards, and a ridiculous 30 combined touchdowns last season, Harris was widely regarded as the best running back prospect this season and the Steelers made no effort in hiding their interest in him, eventually (and predictably) taking him in round one. Harris may not be the fastest runner, but he has great size, shows incredible decision making and is a violent runner in traffic. His running style could lead to concerns about durability, but he’s shown no signs of slowing down thus far.
Harris will immediately step in as the starting running back in Pittsburgh, ending the committee experiment that has featured the likes of Benny Snell, James Conner and Jaylen Samuels over the past couple of years. He has clear RB1 upside if Pittsburgh can shore up their blocking and gives the Steelers their best option since Le’Veon Bell. This seems like the perfect spot for Harris, who rounds out the first tier this season. Mike Tomlin has always preferred to have a bell cow and he has just that once again.
This tier consists of five players, all of whom could be likely candidates for any of the five picks here, making this a truly solid tier. In early mock drafts, these five have been all over the place, but rarely higher than three or lower than seven.
1.03 = Travis Etienne, RB JAX
Prior to the NFL Draft, it seemed to be a two-horse race between Etienne and Harris to be the first running back taken in dynasty rookie drafts, but that distinction will go to Harris more often than not after Etienne landed in Jacksonville to pair with last year’s standout performer, James Robinson. After taking the league by storm last year, Robinson will now share a backfield with the dynamic Etienne and form one of the league’s most potent 1-2 punches at the position. This move is a classic pick that’s better in reality than fantasy, at least for now. Etienne is a great prospect, but he won’t just make Robinson completely disappear early in his career. While Etienne should rise to the top at some point and be the 1A to Robinson’s 1B, there were better landing spots for the former Clemson star. Still, he was a first round draft pick for reason and Urban Meyer clearly wanted him. Etienne is a solid top five selection and his talent will make him a weapon in dynasty leagues for years to come – owners may just need to be a little more patient than they had hoped.
1.04 = Kyle Pitts, TE ATL
The Falcons passed on a quarterback and have now doubled down with Matt Ryan by drafting the uber-talented Pitts, who is the best tight end prospect in history according to many beat writers and draftniks out there. With an offense featuring Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and the dynamic Pitts, Atlanta should score early and often. Pitts should replace Hayden Hurst in the starting lineup right away (Atlanta has already declined Hurst’s fifth year option) and become a matchup nightmare for cornerbacks and linebackers alike. The problem with taking Pitts this highly is he’ll simply have to evolve into a true difference maker like Travis Kelce, George Kittle or Darren Waller to justify a pick this high. However, he could simply produce numbers more in line with the rest of the TE1s, making his value much less attractive. For dynasty owners who take a risk, the reward here could be great and they’re going to have to use a high or mid-first round pick to get him, maybe in the top four – a crazy price for a tight end.
1.05 = Javonte Williams, RB DEN
While some are looking at the landing spot in Denver as a bad thing for Williams, count me as one who likes it more than most. While dynasty owners have been burned by Denver running backs before (think CJ Anderson, Devontae Booker, Ronnie Hillman, Knowshon Moreno, Mike Bell, Tatum Bell, Reuben Droughns, Phillip Lindsay, etc.), this is a new time, a new scheme and very different running back. Williams is explosive and talented and while he’ll join a crowded backfield currently consisting of Melvin Gordon, Mike Boone and Royce Freeman, he should rise to the top rather quickly. With the talent to share carries at worse at the beginning of his career, he should make Gordon expendable sooner rather than later. While he may not get the featured job right out of the gate like he would have in other places, savvy dynasty owners could take advantage if he drops into the middle of round one. Take talent over situation here.
1.06 = DeVonta Smith, WR PHI
While Ja’Marr Chase is the easy favorite to be the first receiver taken in dynasty drafts, the battle to be second is an interesting one and it’s likely between former Alabama teammates. At this point, we have the Heisman Trophy winner here. Smith has drawn comparisons to Marvin Harrison and posted an amazing 117 catches for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns last year, becoming the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Desmond Howard. The Eagles needed to add skill players around new quarterback Jalen Hurts and now have Smith and Jalen Reagor to build around. Smith could prove to be a value in fantasy leagues as a mid-first round selection with some salivating upside. If he’s anything close to being what Harrison was, he’s a steal in the middle of round one.
1.07 = Jaylen Waddle, WR MIA
For owners who believe Smith benefitted too much from Waddle’s injury last year, they may get themselves a future WR1 falling right in there laps in the middle of round one. Waddle has Tyreek Hill-level explosiveness should add another explosive option to Miami’s offense and give their young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a legitimate chance to succeed. Waddle averaged a ridiculous 19 yards per catch over his three years at Alabama and is a threat to take any play to the house. If Tua can develop into the quarterback Miami thought he could be when they drafted him last season, Waddle could exceed expectations earlier than expected. His ceiling is as high as any receiver in this class.
And now the fun begins. While not set in stone, the top seven seem to have established themselves as the best of the 2021 class, at least in terms of 1QB leagues. However, the draft is far from over after seven as this tier features some high-caliber dynasty prospects.
1.08 = Rashod Bateman, WR BAL
Baltimore had one of the worst passing games in the league last year and really needed to shore up the position – they did just that by adding the talented Bateman, then Tylan Wallace a bit later. It’s easy to forget just how dominant Bateman was, but he too could very well end up being the best receiver in this entire draft. Still, this landing spot isn’t ideal as Lamar Jackson has yet to show he can consistently support a top receiver in fantasy. That being said, Bateman should be the top target over Marquise Brown, Wallace and Sammy Watkins in short order and there are few players in the draft with the ceiling he has. Unfortunately, his floor is now low being in a run-centric offense with the Ravens. Bateman represents a high risk and high reward pick in the mid-to-late first round of rookie drafts.
1.09 = Trevor Lawrence, QB JAX
Much like Kyle Pitts at tight end, Lawrence is considered a once in a generation prospect at his position. He won 86 of 90 games in college while throwing for 10,098 passing yards, posting 943 rushing yards, accounting for 108 total touchdowns (18 rushing) and throwing only 17 career interceptions. When you consider the level of competition he’s faced, that’s incredible. Lawrence is said to be the best quarterback prospect since the likes of Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning. Along with plus size and athleticism, he has incredible accuracy, elite pocket awareness, a strong arm, a striking element of toughness, a competitive motor and shows fantastic leadership ability. With James Robinson, Travis Etienne, Marvin Jones, DJ Chark, and Laviska Shenault, Lawrence should be set up for success early if his offensive line can hold up. He is the undisputed 1.01 in superflex leagues and a top ten pick in conventional formats as what looks to be a plug and play QB1 option for the next decade. Few quarterbacks are given skill players like he’ll have early on their careers.
1.10 = Terrace Marshall, WR CAR
Marshall dropped a bit and ended up being the tenth receiver taken, surprisingly falling behind players like D’Wayne Eskeridge and Tutu Atwell in the process. Still, he landed in a decent spot and that’s really all that matters. While DJ Moore and Robby Anderson are clearly the first two wide receiver options in Carolina, the Panthers don’t have a ton of others on the depth chart who inspire a ton of excitement and Marshall will comepete with David Moore early on in camp. It’s hard to remember now, but Marshall, Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson each caught more than 10 touchdowns for LSU in 2019. This is a sleepy good pick by the Panthers and Marshall could be a serious value pick by dynasty owners. He looks like a late first or early second round pick, but he’s more the victim of an extraordinarily deep receiver class than anything else. In short, Marshall can play and shouldn’t be simply looked at as a consolation prize.
1.11 = Elijah Moore, WR NYJ
Moore was expected to go in round one, but instead fell to the Jets, who happily took him with the second pick of the second round and paired him with new quarterback Zach Wilson. He is an explosive playmaker who will immediately compete with Jamison Crowder for slot reps if the Jets keep the veteran around for another season. A tough nosed player who can work all parts of the field, Moore has a high ceiling, though his fate is going to be sealed with that of Wilson’s. It was rumored some teams had Moore as high as first on their draft board when it comes to receivers. While that seems a bit far fetched, Moore did post a very impressive 86/1,193/8 line last year in the SEC. Moore is an uber-talented fast riser who projects well at the next level. In time, he could prove to be the Jets best receiver, especially if Corey Davis and Denzel Mims don’t step up.
1.12 = Trey Sermon, RB SF
After Najee Harris, Travis Etienne and Javonte Williams, every other running back is a true wild card this year. Sermon had a huge end to the season before getting injured in the National Championship game but still remains a bit of an enigma. On the plus side, running backs in a Shanahan offense have to be taken seriously. While the 49ers already have Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, Wayne Gallman and fellow draftee Elijah Mitchell, none of those players have every truly established themselves as the alpha back in “Denver West.” While Sermon has a long way to go in order to earn playing time, he could be very productive in this run-centric scheme and he’s going to be a popular rookie pick in the second round this off-season. Sermon is a classic late first round pick – they don’t have a consistent hit rate, but can be absolute bargains when they do. On the plus side, league winners likely don’t need an impact player and taking Sermon with the last pick in round one could be a well-calculated risk.
Thanks for checking our round one 2020 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings! Please stay tuned for future rounds and check out all of our other terrific resources for preparing you for you dynasty rookie drafts!