Impact Dynasty Rookies (2021 Fantasy Football)
When many hear the term dynasty, they think long term. Why? Someone told them that dynasty was all about the long-term investment with players and they accepted it. They built their team with a five-, seven-, 10-year window in mind. Those days should be gone.
Rookies produce in fantasy football now more than ever. Look no further than Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Jonathan Taylor, Brandon Aiyuk, and James Robinson last year. Heck, it was D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Terry McLaurin the year before that. What do most of these players have in common? High draft capital. If you’d like to read about just how much draft capital means to a player, I wrote an article on it here.
For those who are looking to find out which rookies are in a position to succeed right away, you’ve come to the right place. These are the rookies who should be expected to make an impact in dynasty right away. Heck, a lot of them will be drafted in redraft formats, and rightfully so.
Trevor Lawrence (JAX)
If there’s one quarterback I’m comfortable drafting in redraft leagues, it’s Lawrence. He comes into the league with a maturity that you just don’t see. He’s big, has a good internal clock, precision accuracy and touch, and has the mobility factor we seek in fantasy quarterbacks. While he may not be an every-week must-start, he should be someone you’re very comfortable platooning/streaming in year one.
Zach Wilson (NYJ)
He’s going to start immediately for the Jets, so he has value, particularly in Superflex leagues. While many will talk about the mobility of Trey Lance and Justin Fields, don’t sleep on Wilson’s ability to move outside the pocket. The Jets have a new coaching staff that will likely try to limit the number of pass attempts he has right out of the gate, though they’ve obviously got a plan with Wilson’s strengths after selecting him No. 2 overall.
Trey Lance (SF)
This one is tough because I don’t know if he’ll start immediately. The difference between Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo is massive in terms of type of offense they’d run, so it’s not a week-to-week thing, but would require some planning. Lance had just 288 pass attempts in college, so Kyle Shanahan may decide to keep the training wheels on for a little bit. Still, once Lance takes the field (and he will), he’s going to make an impact.
Justin Fields (CHI)
The Bears have tried to say that Andy Dalton is still going to be the starter in Week 1, but I don’t know if I’m buying that. Their franchise has been in stuck mediocrity for too long to go with a mediocre starter like Dalton. The reason I’m hesitant to fully trust Fields this year, however, is due to Matt Nagy and the offense he’s called over the last two years. He hasn’t built around his players’ strengths, and hasn’t changed the offense regardless if it was Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles under center. Fields and Dalton are entirely different quarterbacks.
Najee Harris (PIT)
Not only did Harris get the much-needed first-round draft capital, he got it from a team that’s been known to use their running backs as workhorses. Over the last eight years, first-round running backs have averaged 246.3 touches in their rookie season and finished as an RB2 or better 70 percent of the time. When you add in Harris’ skill set and the Steelers willingness to use him as a three-down back, and you’re likely to have an RB1 immediately.
Travis Etienne (JAX)
He was the only other back that received first-round draft capital, though he’s not the clear-cut three-down, 20-touch back that Najee Harris is expected to be. In fact, his new head coach Urban Meyer claimed that Etienne will be the third-down back while James Robinson and Carlos Hyde will be the early-down backs. I’m not buying that at all, as you don’t spend a first-round pick on a third-down back. Over the last eight years, the only first-round running back who failed to reach at least 197 touches was Rashaad Penny. Etienne will have an impact immediately.
Javonte Williams (DEN)
Some won’t love Williams’ landing spot in Denver with Melvin Gordon there, but he’s got just one year left on his deal and is still facing a potential suspension from the NFL for his drinking and driving incident. On top of that, the Broncos seemed to want a timeshare with him and Phillip Lindsay, so it’s not like Williams won’t have fantasy appeal in 2021. This offense is a quarterback away from exploding, which gives Williams massive upside on his rookie contract.
Michael Carter (NYJ)
If there was a team outside the Steelers with an obvious hole at running back, it was the Jets. Carter might not be the 20-touch back that Najee Harris is, but he’s extremely competent in all facets of the game. With only Tevin Coleman ahead of him on the depth chart, Carter has a clear path to touches this year and should offer flex viability almost immediately.
Ja’Marr Chase (CIN)
It’s one thing for a wide receiver to produce right away in the NFL, as the rise in competition is a big step up. Chase was always shadowed by the top cornerback on the other team (they played some great competition at LSU), and he always schooled them. Not only that, but he’s got instant chemistry with his quarterback, as he and Joe Burrow were teammates during Burrow’s record-breaking season. Chase may not get 140 targets his rookie season with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd on the roster, but he’s going to make a fantasy impact immediately.
DeVonta Smith (PHI)
If there were a landing spot where a receiver could walk into 120-plus targets, the Eagles was probably the best of them. Sure, they drafted Jalen Reagor in the first round last year, but he wasn’t a receiver who should’ve been expected to be the go-to receiver on a team, but rather a solid No. 2 option. Smith is that polished receiver who should get No. 1 target totals. Don’t be shocked if he’s a top-30 fantasy receiver in his rookie season.
Jaylen Waddle (MIA)
He may not have the path to consistent targets that Ja’Marr Chase or DeVonta Smith do, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make an immediate impact in fantasy. He’s likely to start in the slot with DeVante Parker and Will Fuller on the perimeter, which actually makes Waddle’s targets the most valuable. Waddle isn’t someone who’ll likely be an every-week start, but he’s going to have splash weeks that you’ll want a part of.
Rashod Bateman (BAL)
He’s a polished route-runner who should be a force immediately, though the primary issue will be the lack of pass attempts available in the Ravens offense. They threw the ball just 405 times last year, so even if we gave Bateman a massive 25 percent target share, that would amount to 101 targets. He’s someone you’ll be okay playing during bye weeks, but not likely on an every-week basis.
Amon-Ra St. Brown (DET)
It’s extremely rare for a fourth-round receiver to have an immediate impact in fantasy. In fact, of the 35 receivers who’ve been drafted in the fourth round over the last eight years, none of them have finished as a top-50 fantasy receiver their rookie season. Still, with the current depth chart the Lions have at wide receiver, it’s tough to envision him not getting playing time, and his skill set aligns with Jared Goff‘s strengths.
Kyle Pitts (ATL)
It’s not often I’ll say that a tight end will have fantasy impact as a rookie, but if there’s one who should, it’s Pitts. He’s more of a tight end/wide receiver hybrid and is now going to Arthur Smith’s offense that’s been tight end friendly. The one concern he has is being third in line for targets behind Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley in what’s expected to be a less-pass-happy offense than it was under Dirk Koetter. The NFL is changing as we know it. Will Pitts change the way we view rookie tight ends?