Each week, we will be bringing an article focusing on the rookies in the NFL to track their transition into the NFL and how expectations align in the future. You should also expect to get some fantasy football drops me as I manage my 35 leagues (50+ if we include Best Ball) and get the itch to share some of that information.
Just like the 2020 Draft class, the 2021 WRs have a ton of talent and will make an immediate NFL impact. Here are my top 7 rookies from a fantasy perspective for this year with some surprises tossed in.
1. Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
People are freaking out about Chase’s drops in preseason, but as he said, he hasn’t played football in a year and a half. His natural talent and ball skills will come out when he starts to gel with Joe Burrow, especially if he matches up against the 2nd or 3rd best CB on the opposing team. If the Offensive Line isn’t up to par for the Bengals, expect some quick scripted passes to Chase. By year’s end, we will see Chase (along with 2nd year WR Tee Higgins) lighting up the scoreboard.
2. Terrace Marshall, Carolina Panthers
Marshall was the 7th WR off the board in the 2021 draft, so his ranking at #2 may come as a surprise. He is an absolute monster who fell due to injury fears. We already know he fits Joe Brady’s offense where he excelled in 2019 and appears he will get many slot looks this season. Marshall was a top target in the preseason and has the attributes and speed to not only get a solid amount of catches but make some big plays. Don’t sleep on Marshall this year.
3. Elijah Moore, New York Jets
With a bad defense and the lack of a dominant RB, the Jets will be slinging it with rookie Zach Wilson often this year. Jamison Crowder has been hurt, so Moore will step into that slot role and never look back. He has everything going for him. The analytics of his college career are top notch. He has a QB who has built an early rapport with him. Finally, he is so good at getting quick separation. Though Moore was a Day 2 pick, he will make teams regret passing on him.
4. DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
I’m still not 100% sold on Smith being a great NFL WR, but his final season and preseason are turning me around to him. The foot speed and ball skills are great, but the Eagles’ offense isn’t exactly conducive for a top-tier WR. If the offense uses him in unique ways to get good match-ups, there should be enough from Jalen Hurts to push Smith into a solid season with the potential for more.
5. Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins
Waddle is electric and will add to the Dolphins offense, but the statistical accumulation might not be needed from a fantasy perspective. With Tua and a bevy of RBs, there will be more balance in the offense, and they still have veteran options at WR. Waddle will have some good plays and turn some heads with some scripted screens and deep shots, but it may not be consistent.
6. Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals
There isn’t a better situation for Moore than the Cardinals, where he will be in the slot in 4 WR sets (and the Cardinals use a lot of 4 WR sets). Moore’s agility should make him an easy, quick target for Kyle Murray to compile some big games throughout the season. I doubt he will be consistent, but Moore should build toward the future.
7. Nico Collins, Houston Texans
A genuine alpha profile at his size and speed, Collins was underutilized at Michigan and should start for the Texans. The team is a mess with Tyrod Taylor at QB and no defense to speak of, but it may mean a ton of passing when they get down early. Nico could be the best WR on the team and match up with NFL CBs from Day 1 and surprise some people becoming one of the best rookies.
Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens
Bateman was my choice for my 2021 Dream Draft, and I still stand by it. His core-muscle surgery will put him on the shelf for a while, but he will be an excellent weapon for the Ravens when he is back. His first step off the line is top-notch, and now with all their RB injuries, Bateman will be the primary weapon for that team and could have an Odell Beckham-like rookie impact coming back from injury and be near the top of the rookies.
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