Dynasty Fantasy Football: Current Value of the 2021 Rookie Class (2022)
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The 2021 rookie class was one of the best fantasy rookie classes in recent memory. The 2021 class had a little bit of everything, including Steelers RB Najee Harris getting an old school level of usage to record-breaking WR Ja’Marr Chase to the unicorn TE Kyle Pitts. And we didn’t even mention the No. 1 overall pick in Trevor Lawrence.
Like any rookie class, however, some players disappointed due to injuries or not adjusting well to the speed of the game, and some just weren’t as good as we’d hoped they’d be. Let’s look at a few players who didn’t live up to their lofty expectations in 2021 but could turn it around and provide some dynasty value.
Trey Lance (QB – SF)
The quarterback class looked like one of the best in recent years, with three QBs going in the first three picks and five in the top 15. Going into Year 2, Lance has the lowest value of the five thanks to a couple of factors: 1) Jimmy Garoppolo has yet to be traded or cut, 2) swirling rumors that’s the 49ers’ coaching staff has been “underwhelmed” with Lance, and 3) he didn’t look all that good in limited action in 2021.
The fact remains, the 49ers traded three first-round picks to move up to draft Lance. He is going to start eventually based on that draft capital alone, and he is the type of player for fantasy that he doesn’t have to be a good NFL quarterback to be good for fantasy. He is a Konami Code quarterback that will rack up yards with his legs, and the coaching staff is good enough to put him in a position to succeed. Of the five first-round QBs, Lance has arguably the best team around him-assuming Deebo Samuel sticks around.
Lance’s value is as low as ever, and as long as Garoppolo is on the team, it will remain low. If a manager in your league wants to move on from Lance, now is the best time to buy.
Khalil Herbert (RB – CHI)
In the two games Herbert started in 2021, he had 37 carries, 197 yards, and a touchdown while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. David Montgomery averaged only 3.8 yards per carry in 2021, and he has a career average of 3.9 ypc. It’s a small sample size, but Herbert outperformed Montgomery on a per-game basis.
Here’s the kicker and why now is the time to buy Herbert. Montgomery is in the last year of his contract and could hit free agency if he and the Bears don’t agree on an extension or new contract. The Bears’ offense centers around a running game, and if Herbert has this backfield to himself in 2023, he would be well worth the price you have to pay for him now. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that Herbert outplays Montgomery this season and takes the starting role from him in 2022.
Michael Carter (RB – NYJ)
The arrival of second-round rookie Breece Hall puts a massive cloud of doubt over Carter and his role in 2022 and beyond. However, you can take advantage of that uncertainty and get Carter at a discount. This is not your father’s NFL, where running backs had the backfield to themselves and would get 25-plus touches a game. The NFL is a league of committees and situational football, meaning Carter will still have a role in this offense.
What that role is, remains to be seen, but remember the hype around Jonathan Taylor his rookie season, and remember how slow he started before ending the season strong? Nyheim Hines was an RB2 that season as a pass catcher, and I think Carter can play a similar role. You’ve heard the narrative, “This coaching staff comes from San Francisco who were known for their two and three-headed backfields.” As a 49er fan, I genuinely believe this is what they want to do in New York. Sure, Hall will be the better running back to have in fantasy, but Carter will have a role, and if the Jets are as improved as we think, he could be in the low-end RB2 range, and you’re probably paying only flex-level prices to acquire him.
Amari Rodgers (WR – GB)
Does anyone remember this guy? No? Apparently, neither do Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Don’t get me wrong. If you were to trade for Amari in dynasty, there is a decent chance he is useless in fantasy like he was last season. However, he’s worth a shot if you can get him as a throw-in on a bigger deal.
First, he was a third-round rookie last season, and most teams don’t waste a third-round pick on a punt and kick returner, which is all Amari did last season. Everyone assumed when he was drafted that he’d play the “Randall Cobb role.” We had no idea at the time that Randall Cobb would be playing the “Cobb Role.” When the Packers traded for Cobb in July, it all but killed any shot Amari would get at decent playing time. He was behind Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Equanimeous St. Brown, and even Juwann Winfree.
Now entering his second season, his path to meaningful offensive snaps is a little easier as he’s competing with oft-injured Cobb and Sammy Watkins, Allen Lazard, and three rookies. Yes, that’s still a very crowded receiving corps, and there’s a chance he ends up fifth on the depth chart, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he beats out the later-round rookies. Also, if Watkins or Cobb get injured, maybe he gets his shot. Maybe.
Terrace Marshall Jr. (WR – CAR)
We go from disappointing third-round pick Amari Rodgers to disappointing second-round pick Marshall. Many people were high on Marshall after the Carolina Panthers drafted him, and he seemingly had a short path to meaningful playing time. Unfortunately, that never happened. In fact, he was a healthy scratch most weeks towards the back half of the season.
Like Amari Rodgers, you probably aren’t targeting Marshall exclusively, but he could be a throw-in player in a multi-player deal. Outside of head coach Matt Rule, the Panthers have an entirely new coaching staff, including new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. That’s not to say that McAdoo will automatically be better for Marshall, but it sure can’t get any worse. McAdoo had some success with the Giants in 2016 and 2017, most notably for Odell Beckham in that 2016 season. McAdoo had four wide receivers with at least 70 targets (Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz and Will Tye). Marshall gets a chance to make a solid first impression with his new coordinator.
Marshall also has the depth chart working in his favor. Ourlads.com’s unofficial depth chart has him listed as the starting slot receiver and there isn’t any real competition behind DJ Moore and Robby Anderson. There is also the possibility that Sam Darnold isn’t the quarterback for all or some of the 2022 season, giving Marshall another chance to make an impression with rookie QB Matt Corral.
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