Rookie draft season is upon us. While we all know the biggest names to target at this point in the year, our writers share five late-round options for the end of your drafts.
Rhamondre Stevenson (RB – NE)
We often hear about how risky it is to invest in the New England backfield, but to me that has everything to do with opportunity cost. Bill Belichick doesn’t care about our fantasy teams and therefore utilizes a number of RBs throughout games and throughout the season as a whole. It can often be maddening, especially if you used an early-to-mid round selection on someone. Stevenson, however? The cost to acquire him is minimal. A fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma, Stevenson’s arrival could reportedly threaten Sony Michel‘s roster spot. The 23-year-old doesn’t have superstar fantasy upside, but I certainly anticipate his value to rise in the coming months.
– Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)
Marquez Stevenson (WR – BUF)
Stevenson is a player who is not likely to contribute immediately in fantasy football. Stefon Diggs is the franchise receiver and Gabriel Davis was promising enough as a rookie that he should have an expanded role in 2021 and beyond. The two big question marks for the future are Cole Beasley and Emanuel Sanders. Both of those wide receivers are on the wrong side of 30. Beasley becomes a free agent in 2023 and Sanders is only under contract through 2022. That means there is an opportunity for some young wide receivers to make a name for themselves in the next two years with the hope of having an expanded role by 2023. Stevenson had a very good Pro Day, posting a 4.45 40-yard dash. That confirmed what we saw on tape, that Stevenson has very good speed with big-play ability. He averaged a healthy 15.4 yards per reception for his college career at Houston. He also averaged 26.1 yards per kick return, which could open the door for him to contribute as a returner on special teams before he earns time in the offense. I do not see him having much value in fantasy in 2021 or 2022. The timetable could be accelerated if he makes exciting plays in special teams that give the coaching staff a reason to want to put him on the field and give him a role in the offense, though. Injuries to their older receivers could also have him on the field sooner rather than later. Any receiver playing with Josh Allen in this explosive passing offense has a chance to have immediate fantasy value. Stevenson does not have the name recognition of the star receivers taken earlier in the draft, but he is still a very talented player that should have an opportunity playing with a great quarterback on a team that is going to need receiver help in the next year or two.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)
Jaelon Darden (WR – TB)
Coaching scheme, roster, and skill set are three of the biggest factors that determine the success of a rookie player entering the league. The 2021 NFL Draft saw several elite players go off the board during its second and third days but only a few of these prospects landed in prime situations for the immediate and long-term future. North Texas WR Jaelon Darden meets all three of these criteria to return value as my favorite late-round pick in dynasty rookie drafts. Darden used his speed and agility to create separation from defenders throughout his career at North Texas, setting Conference USA records for career receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. He is the exact type of gadget receiver that will complement Tampa Bay OC Byron Leftwich’s pass-centric offense, which ranked second in passing yards and sixth in passing attempts during the Buccaneers’ victorious 2020 season with 43-year old QB Tom Brady at the helm. Darden lands in a great system for his skill set and can use his 5’8″, 174-pound frame to evade defenders with his elite elusiveness in open space or against soft coverage. Expect the rookie to make an impact in 2021 with the potential to usurp Scotty Miller as the WR4 behind returning Pro-Bowl wideouts Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown. The Bucs may consider incorporating new play-calling to improve an offense that ranked bottom five in rushing yards during the 2020 season, which would create additional opportunities for Darden to return value. His speed and nose for the end zone, having totaled 31 touchdowns across his final two seasons at North Texas, are assets Leftwich and Brady will be eager to use, which could make Darden a relevant Flex play during his rookie season.
– Matt MacKay (@Matt_MacKay_)
Javian Hawkins (RB – ATL)
For me, rookie drafts are a great way to add some variance and risk to my fantasy team. There’s no better place to take a risk than in the later rounds of your rookie drafts. This year there are a lot of great lottery ticket options in the later rounds, but one I find myself gravitating to earlier than most is Hawkins, rookie running back for the Atlanta Falcons. Hawkins went undrafted so his risk is very low for the team, but the talent and opportunity are there for him to play a significant role on that high powered offense. The team really only has Mike Davis and Cordarelle Patterson for Hawkins to beat out. While that’s not exactly likely, it’s definitely possible, and that possibility alone is worth taking the chance. So yeah, I’m happy to take a flier on him with a late round pick. If I’m wrong, so be it, but if I’m right I’m flying high. Worth it.
– Andrew Hall (@AndrewHallFF)
Anthony Schwartz (WR – CLE)
Schwartz was selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns and is currently 39th among all rookies in the latest expert consensus rankings. He has the size and speed to threaten NFL defenses. The 20-year-old WR is a track star and his 4.27 40-yard dash speed was the fastest among all wideouts in this class. Schwartz is a boom-or-bust stash in dynasty leagues as it will take time for him to develop. Cleveland needs a deep threat to keep defenses honest and that’s where Schwartz comes into play. Schwartz will complete with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, and Donovan People-Jones for targets. Schwartz is a project who is worth taking a flier on in the later rounds as a lottery ticket.
– Brad Camara (@Beerad30)
Whether you’re new to fantasy football or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Football 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with Starting Your Own Fantasy Football League or head to more advanced strategy – like What is the Right Amount of Risk to Absorb on Draft Day? – to learn more.