Analyzing Rookie ADP Data (2021 Dynasty Fantasy Football)
If there’s one thing that I know, it’s that dynasty owners tend to overvalue incoming talent. It’s weird even typing that because I believe in talent, but there’s something that’s much more important in the NFL. Opportunity. You need to get it or that talent will never come to life.
Do you really believe that there aren’t players who were nobodies that would’ve been great with the right opportunity? We almost didn’t get to see Ryan Tannehill have a chance in this league because of Adam Gase. Remember Robert Woods when he was in Buffalo? Yeah, not many people do, but it wasn’t pretty. We saw JuJu Smith-Schuster with Antonio Brown and we’ve seen him without him. Situation matters more than most would like to tell you.
As of now, we don’t know who will get what opportunity, so all we have to go on is talent, right? Well, sort of. You have to look at a player objectively and figure out how he fits into the NFL, what he does well, and the likeliness that a team takes a shot on him in the early rounds. Like it or not, that matters.
If there’s one piece of advice I have for those in dynasty leagues, it’s to hold your rookie drafts after the NFL Draft, as you don’t have the biggest part of the puzzle shown to you. Our friends over at Dynasty League Football host 10 mock drafts to get an early gauge on rookie ADP, and it’s led to these results. Let’s take a look at where you may find the best/worst values based on current perception.
1. Ja’Marr Chase (WR – LSU)
2. Najee Harris (RB – Alabama)
3. Travis Etienne (RB – Clemson)
4. Javonte Williams (RB – North Carolina)
5. Rashod Bateman (WR – Minnesota)
6. Devonta Smith (WR – Alabama)
7. Kyle Pitts (TE – Florida)
8. Trevor Lawrence (QB – Clemson)
9. Rondale Moore (WR – Purdue)
10. Jaylen Waddle (WR – Alabama)
11. Terrace Marshall (WR – LSU)
12. Kenneth Gainwell (RB – Memphis)
The last time we saw a wide receiver go No. 1 in rookie drafts was N’Keal Harry in 2019. Yikes. In fact, the only other wide receiver who’s been the consensus No. 1 pick since 2009 was Sammy Watkins in 2014. Let’s hope that Ja’Marr Chase has greater success than both of them (I’m confident he will). Najee Harris and Travis Etienne should be in the conversation for the No. 1 pick, though landing spot will dictate the order they go. In the 10 mock drafts that DLF hosted, Chase went No. 1 in five of them, Harris in three of them, Javonte Williams in one of them, and… Trevor Lawrence in one of them. While I’m a fan of Williams, he’s not likely to come off the board in the first round like Harris and Etienne, so he might be a tad overvalued in early drafts.
When I saw Rashod Bateman ahead of Devonta Smith, I won’t lie – I was shocked. Bateman reminds me of Keenan Allen, so he’s clearly high on my board, but over Smith is tough to say in a neutral situation. If Smith didn’t have any questions around his weight, he’d be the 1.01 pick in rookie drafts. The biggest discrepancy in this early ADP is Jaylen Waddle being down at No. 10. He’s worthy of 1.04 consideration in the right spot, but I don’t see how he falls past 1.08 once the real picks start being made.
Kyle Pitts is slated to be the next “big thing” at tight end, and you won’t see me disagree with that, as he moves like a big wide receiver. This is the highest we’ve seen a tight end go in quite some time, and it’s not even wrong, though he’s a better pick for those who are in the rebuilding process, as rookie tight ends rarely ever make a big splash. Trevor Lawrence is the real deal and might turn out to be worthy of a top-six pick, even as a quarterback. He has mobility that can carry him up the fantasy leaderboard in year one.
My least favorite picks in this range would be Rondale Moore and Terrace Marshall. While Moore is a natural football player, I don’t think he’ll perform like a star in just any offense, so landing spot is crucial. Marshall was someone who felt like his value was boosted due to the offense he played in and not necessarily the other way around.
13. Jermar Jefferson (RB – Oregon State)
14. Tylan Wallace (WR – Oklahoma State)
15. Elijah Moore (WR – Ole Miss)
16. Justin Fields (QB – Ohio State)
17. Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – USC)
18. Chuba Hubbard (RB – Oklahoma State)
19. Kadarius Toney (WR – Florida)
20. Michael Carter (RB – North Carolina)
21. Dyami Brown (WR – North Carolina)
22. Seth Williams (WR – Auburn)
23. Trey Sermon (RB – Ohio State)
24. Zach Wilson (QB – BYU)
After watching three running backs come off the board in the first four picks, just five of the next 24 picks are allocated to the position. Jermar Jefferson might move into the first round with a good landing spot, as he has the size/skillset to be a three-down back. Hubbard was someone who took a big step back in 2020 and might fall further than most think in the NFL Draft, plummeting his value in fantasy. Michael Carter is very interesting because he’s a smaller back, but one who plays much bigger than his size and is NFL-ready. If he lands with a team who knows how to best utilize him, he should move up.
This is the area of drafts where fantasy owners must fight their urges to draft the players they liked talent-wise and start to overvalue those who landed in a great situation or were drafted inside the top three rounds. Historically, receivers drafted in Day 3 of the NFL Draft have a much lower rate of success. It’s not to say that they aren’t more talented than those who go ahead of them, but rather don’t get the opportunity because the team isn’t heavily invested in them.
If there’s a wide receiver that stands out as falling further than I expected, it’s Kadarius Toney. There are a lot of insiders projecting him to go in the first round of the NFL Draft, which would boost his stock in rookie drafts. He’s somewhat of a gadget player, but if he lands in the right offense, he’s a weapon. Tylan Wallace is a very sturdy wide receiver who I believe is safe in the second round of drafts, while Elijah Moore could be converted to a third-down back at the next level. Seth Williams has the size you want out of a “X” receiver, but is he talented enough to earn starter snaps? It’s tough to see that right out of the gate.
Despite Zach Wilson being the one who’s projected to go second overall in the NFL Draft, it’s Justin Fields that dynasty managers are coveting in early drafts. For what it’s worth, I believe Fields will go No. 2 overall in the draft and should go before Wilson in rookie drafts.
25. Trey Lance (QB – North Dakota State)
26. Pat Freiermuth (TE – Penn State)
27. Brevin Jordan (TE – Miami)
28. Tamorrion Terry (WR – Florida State)
29. Kylin Hill (RB – Mississippi State)
30. Mac Jones (QB – Alabama)
31. Rhamondre Stevenson (RB – Oklahoma)
32. Amari Rodgers (WR – Clemson)
33. Tutu Atwell (WR – Louisville)
34. Javian Hawkins (RB – Louisville)
35. Jaret Patterson (RB – Buffalo)
36. Sage Surratt (WR – Wake Forest)
The hit rate on third-round rookie picks who play running back or wide receiver is pitiful, so seeing Trey Lance last until this round is a blessing for early drafters. He has the upside to be a top-five fantasy quarterback if we see the quarterback he was in 2019 continue to develop. Even if Mac Jones is a solid NFL quarterback, he’s not going to be worth much of anything in 1QB leagues, as he has precisely zero mobility.
While Kyle Pitts is the tight end everyone wants, Pat Freiermuth has some potential to make some waves in the NFL, too. He’s worth considering in the second round if he lands in the right spot with opportunity available. Brevin Jordan is more of that “move” tight end who teams will have to get creative with, so there’s a lot of risk with moving him any higher than he is.
My favorite pick right now in this round is Jaret Patterson, as I feel like he’s a discounted Michael Carter. They’re both undersized backs, but have shown the ability to handle work on early downs, as well as in the passing game. Patterson wastes no movements or time and kind of reminds me of Darren Sproles in a way (though he’s bigger than Sproles was).
37. D’Wayne Eskridge (WR – Western Michigan)
38. Demetric Felton (RB – UCLA)
39. Anthony Schwartz (WR – Auburn)
40. Nico Collins (WR – Michigan)
41. Larry Roundtree (RB – Missouri)
42. Jaelon Darden (WR – North Texas)
43. Pooka Williams (RB – Kansas)
44. Khalil Herbert (RB – Virginia Tech)
45. Kyle Trask (QB – Florida)
46. Elijah Mitchell (RB – Louisiana)
47. Dazz Newsome (WR – North Carolina)
48. Hunter Long (TE – Boston College)
This is where the players who are coming off the board weren’t high on most boards to begin with, but that doesn’t mean that most are correct. Last year, we watched Justin Herbert, Antonio Gibson, Chase Claypool, Cole Kmet, and Jalen Hurts all going outside the top 25 rookie picks this time last year. This year, I believe D’Wayne Eskridge is going to be a tremendous steal in rookie drafts that are hosted before the NFL Draft. The other pick in this range that could pay dividends is Larry Roundtree, as he has the size/agility that most teams covet out of three-down backs. If there’s a team who decides they don’t want to spend high draft equity on a running back but need a back to handle 12-plus touches per game, Roundtree is capable.
Notable Prospects Outside the Top Four Rounds
I don’t expect Johnson to stay out of the top four rounds for very long, as his Senior Bowl performances shot him up the big boards of NFL teams. If someone invests a Day 2 pick on him, he should move into the second round of rookie drafts. Cornell Powell didn’t flash until his senior year at Clemson, but that’s what happens when you play behind Tee Higgins. Based on what I’ve seen out of him, there’s potential for him to be a starter in the NFL. Marquez Stevenson plays at a different speed than most and it’s a trait that can be deadly if he lands with the right play caller.