2021 NFL Draft: Dream Landing Spots for the Top Prospects
The NFL Draft is annually one of the most exciting and unpredictable sporting events of the year. And that’s why I love it.
While I don’t spend much time doing mock drafts, I can’t help but try to play matchmaker. Every year, I try to pair incoming rookies with their dream landing spots for their fantasy football value.
These aren’t necessarily predictions. They’re best-case scenarios that factor in the player’s skillset and the individual team’s needs, depth chart, and scheme. With that being said, here are my dream fantasy football landing spots for this year’s top prospects.
Zach Wilson and Trey Lance: Carolina Panthers
I’m lumping in Wilson and Lance together because they’re both best-suited in a spread offense that takes advantage of their athleticism and maximizes their dual-threat abilities. Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady is one of the brightest minds in the game and an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks.
Brady’s scheme played a big role in helping Joe Burrow win the Heisman Trophy at LSU. And while Burrow set plenty of passing records during his historic season, you might forget that he rushed for 368 yards that season. Last season, Teddy Bridgewater set a career-high with 53 rushing attempts, and he’s hardly the athlete that Wilson and Lance are.
Plus, Carolina arguably has the best situations among teams needing a quarterback in the draft. Having Christian McCaffrey as your running mate is certainly a great start. So is having D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson to work with on the outside.
Justin Fields: Atlanta Falcons
Fields would be a perfect fit in Atlanta for a couple of reasons. First, Fields is probably best-suited in a West Coast offense that emphasizes the running game. That’s likely what Atlanta’s offense will become under new head coach Arthur Smith, the man who turned Tennessee’s offense into a juggernaut by employing a run-oriented attack.
Second, Fields could probably benefit from a year on the bench learning from Matt Ryan. The Ohio State product is still a raw prospect, and exposing him too early could hamper his development. When Fields does see the field, he’ll have the benefit of throwing to both Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones, at least.
Landing in Atlanta might not be great for his short-term fantasy outlook, but it could benefit Fields in the long run.
Travis Etienne: San Francisco 49ers
Etienne would be a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense. The 49ers employ an outside-zone running scheme that mainly requires a running back to hit the edge and make one cut upfield. That style is right up Etienne’s alley.
Etienne is the biggest home run threat in this year’s draft at the position. As evidenced by his 4.40 time in the 40-yard dash at Clemson’s pro day, he has outstanding breakaway speed.
— NFL (@NFL) March 11, 2021
Etienne isn’t great at creating yardage between the tackles, especially when a play isn’t blocked well. We saw this occur a handful of times last season when Clemson was without Trevor Lawrence, allowing teams to hone in on shutting down Etienne. That isn’t as big of a problem in San Francisco, which has one of the league’s better offensive lines.
Shanahan’s system has made pedestrian running backs like Raheem Mostert look great. Imagine what’s possible with Etienne in the backfield. Etienne could dominate touches in one of the league’s friendliest offenses for tailbacks.
Najee Harris: Miami Dolphins
This is a combination of scheme fit and depth chart. The Dolphins desperately need a running back after Myles Gaskin led the team in rushing yards last season. Pairing Tua Tagovailoa with his old teammate Harris is a great idea for many reasons.
Harris can thrive in a variety of schemes. He’s a tall, powerful runner who has taken steps as a pass-catcher each season. While he lacks the game-breaking speed Etienne offers, he makes up for it with power and a determined running style. He may not run past you; he’ll just run through you.
That style could go nicely in Miami, who might prefer to win games with defense and pounding the rock. If Harris lands in Miami, he’d be the early favorite to start right out of the gates.
Ja’Marr Chase: Philadelphia Eagles
We don’t know what to expect out of the Philadelphia Eagles with new head coach Nick Sirianni. But what I know for a fact is the Eagles need playmakers on the perimeter. Chase fits the bill.
While we didn’t see Chase during the 2020 season, we saw enough in 2019 to know he’s got the potential to be a featured wide receiver. He’d be a great complement to Jalen Reagor, who will best operate as a horizontal threat in the NFL.
If the Eagles are committed to Jalen Hurts, they need to set him up for success. Chase is a great step toward doing so.
Devonta Smith: Detroit Lions
I don’t know if anyone dreams of going to the Lions. But one thing’s for sure, the opportunity is there for Smith to be a featured weapon right away.
Smith is one of my favorite prospects in the draft. He can do just about everything, but he’s especially incredible going downfield. He’d instantly be the best receiver on Detroit’s roster. And while Jared Goff isn’t great, he’s not terrible for a rookie receiver.
Jaylen Waddle: Arizona Cardinals
Waddle can play just about anywhere, but he’ll thrive as a slot receiver. Arizona has a stud in DeAndre Hopkins, but the passing game often broke down when Kyler Murray couldn’t get the ball to Hopkins.
Waddle would be an upgrade over Larry Fitzgerald in the slot and Christian Kirk on the outside. He gives Arizona’s offense the speed threat it desperately needs. It might be a luxury pick for Arizona, but getting Waddle could pay big dividends.
Kyle Pitts: New York Giants
Sometimes the most likely landing spot is also the dream landing spot. The Giants need to move on from Evan Engram, the human drop. They also need to arm Daniel Jones with more playmakers. Pitts might be the best receiving prospect in this draft.
While his natural position is tight end, Pitts should be a mismatch nightmare in the NFL. He pairs a 6-foot-6 frame with elite athleticism. He’s too big for safeties to cover but could give linebackers trouble with his speed.
The Giants have the framework to be a decent team in 2021. They just need that dynamic playmaker. Pitts is that guy.
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