After an unconventional selection experience last year, the 2021 NFL Draft returns to a sense of normalcy.
Fantasy football draft season may not be close to hitting its crescendo, but hardcore gamers have been selecting players prior to the conclusion of bowl season.
The real thing is finally upon us! Follow along for real-time analysis the NFL draft’s Day 2 impact on fantasy football plans for 2021.
34) WR Elijah Moore, New York Jets: The Ole Miss product plays a lot like Seattle’s Tyler Lockett, a teammate of Moore’s former receiving mate in DK Metcalf. The 5-foot-9, 178-pound Moore is an explosive slot receiver who blazes a sub-4.40 40-yard dash and has excellent route-running skills. It’s unclear if he’ll see immediate playing time in 2021, since Jamison Crowder stands in his way at present time. The veteran could be released with just a $1 million penalty vs. the cap in 2021, and he’s in the final year of his deal. For now, expect Moore to effectively redshirt his rookie year, but keep tabs on Crowder’s situation. Should he be traded or cut, then Moore has a hint of appeal as a late-round flier. He’s an exciting pick for 2022 and beyond.
35) RB Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos: There’s tremendous upside in Williams beyond 2021, and he will have a notable role in the upcoming season as a backfield partner of Melvin Gordon. It is the final year of the veteran’s deal, and at 28 years old, he’s trending in the wrong direction at this stage of his career. The Broncos have a quality offensive line, but the passing game must keep defenses out of the box to give this backfield a chance. Williams is a violent, aggressive ball carrier whose receiving skills are underrated. He plays with an edge and would have been a solid first-round pick in years gone by. For Year 1, his fantasy value is that of a fringe flex or fourth back in more casual circles. All Gordon owners should look to pair the two, and Williams will be inflated to RB3 status in leagues with more competitive ownership.
49) WR Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals: Clearly, drafting for immediate need isn’t what Arizona general manager Steve Keim had in mind. In 2022, though, the Cardinals will be looking at A.J. Green and Christian Kirk hitting free agency. Green’s age (33) and injury history could get Moore in the mix this upcoming season, and Kirk has been banged up, too, but this is more of a luxury pick than anything. The Air Raid offense now has all of the personnel needed for a huge offensive showing, and Moore’s explosive nature probably will get him into the end zone a few times this season. He’s purely a late-round flier in any best-ball format. Traditional redrafters can ignore him for now, unless something changes with Kirk’s status prior to your draft. Moore’s game-breaking style will make him an exciting option for dynasty leagues, and his career ceiling is low-end WR2 with a reasonably safe floor of a weekly flex option. He has notable injury history and is only 5-foot-7, 181 pounds, so it’s not all rosy.
55) TE Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers: A talented blocker and receiver, the Penn Stater is versatile enough to line up as a traditional “Y” and also flex into the slot. He is recovering from shoulder surgery and could be delayed, but his career will begin behind veteran Eric Ebron anyway. Freiermuth often draws comps to Rob Gronkowski, but Zach Ertz might be the more apt reflection of his game. In 2021, there’s no expected value from the rookie, unless Ebron misses significant action. Freiermuth has all of the makings for a TE1 in time.
56) WR D’Wayne Eskridge, Seattle Seahawks: The loss of No. 3 receiver David Moore in free agency opened the door for another target, and Eskridge brings a similar weapon to that of Tyler Lockett. At 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, the Western Michigan product excels from the slot and has home run ability to give Russell Wilson a trio of deep threats. The grill will be set to “sear” this season. Lockett played 54 percent of his snaps last year from the slot, and this year’s system under new OC Shane Waldron will feature a ton of three-wide sets. Eskridge could be a productive but erratic flex option in deeper leagues, and he’s a natural replacement for Lockett whenever his days in Seattle are done.
57) WR Tutu Atwell, Los Angeles Rams: Speeeeeeeed … Atwell’s game can be summed up in one word. The 5-foot-9, 155-pounder takes the meaning of “explosive” to a new level, and his game-breaking ability will be utilized immediately from the big arm of Matthew Stafford. The Rams have three layers of attack in the passing game, and now two of those guys (DeSean Jackson) can uncork one any given play. Atwell is awfully small, though, and he’ll be a situational player, which drastically limits his utility in fantasy. For now, keep him on the wire in 2021 leagues. He is a mid-tier gamble in keeper setups.
59) WR Terrace Marshall Jr., Carolina Panthers: The LSU standout is physical and can play inside and out, although he’s better on the perimeter. He’s a tough one to gauge in terms of his hands, because it’s not hard to find drops on his tape, but he also has made some ridiculous catches in traffic. His new offensive coordinator is his old offensive coordinator at LSU, allowing the rookie to have a firm grasp of the system coming into the league. It’s not 100 percent clear right away just how Marshall will see enough targets to matter. The Panthers have a suspect quarterback situation, and three veterans currently sit ahead of the rookie Marshall. It may take time before we see any meaningful play from him. For as close as he is to be a true WR1 for the Panthers, it will have to wait. Robby Anderson is a free agent in 2022, which is likely when we’ll see Marshall get his shot to shine.
64) QB Kyle Trask, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This is an ideal situation for the Florida quarterback to learn behind the best the game has seen in an offense known for posting huge fantasy stats from the position. Who knows when Tom Brady calls it a career at this point, so the obvious forecast for Trask is he has no value in the immediate future. In 2053 or so, when Brady finally retires, one of Trask’s eventual offspring might be ready to replace TB12. Kidding aside, assume Brady plays two more years … hanging on to Trask in a dynasty league will require either an insanely deep league or a taxi squad to justify the decision.
66) QB Kellen Mond, Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins is under contract through 2022 with a damning salary cap figure that year, so something will have to give there. It will cost $45 million in dead money to cut or trade him after this upcoming season, and keeping him through his current deal also charges the same figure against the cap. Long story short, it’s highly improbable we’ll see Mond before 2023, which gives the team time to work on his inconsistent mechanics and try to make him more comfortable in the pocket. He brings athleticism, great arm strength, and the ability to extend plays. Avoid him for now in all fantasy formats, but he has a little bit of Dak Prescott in his game, so don’t write him off entirely.
67) QB Davis Mills, Houston Texans: Well then … just when the Deshaun Watson saga seemingly couldn’t get more unpredictable, the Texans spend their very first pick in this draft on a quarterback. Tyrod Taylor is the immediate backup, which means we won’t see Mills at all in the upcoming year if Watson somehow sticks around. However, the rookie has a shot at playing if something changes with that situation. Mills comes from Stanford and is obviously bright enough to handle the mental side of the game. He stands 6-foot-4, 217 pounds, and is a pretty good spinner of the ball when given time. He’s a rhythmic passer, and the coaching staff will need to improve his nuances, such as looking off defenders and expediting his progressions. Keep tabs on what happens with Watson before investing in any league format.
77) WR Josh Palmer, Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert gets a blindside protector on Day 1 and another receiver in Round 3. Behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, LA has several guys in reserve, including a pair who flashed a little last year, namely Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson. A pair of late-round picks from 2020’s draft — KJ Hill and Joe Reed — also are in the mix. Palmer (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) brings plus-size and length to the passing attack. He is competitive and can create yards after the catch, but route running is a concern. Don’t expect much of anything from him in Year 1, though the Bolts have Williams entering the final year of his rookie deal, and none of the aforementioned reserves are even locks to make the roster.
81) TE Hunter Long, Miami Dolphins: Tough and brilliant … what more could a coaching staff want from a first-team All-ACC selection? How about he led all tight ends in grabs last year, showing Long has the chops. He also is raw in terms of nuances, so it will take a year or two before he’s polished enough to be a reliable starter. The Dolphins still have Mike Gesicki under contract through the 2021 season, and this is a system not known for utilizing the position. In time, Long’s athletic traits and skills as a receiver will put him on the radar in fantasy as a fringe starter.
82) WR Dyami Brown, Washington Football Team: The North Carolina star will be a fantastic addition to this offense. He and Terry McLaurin similarly profile to one another, and both guys can get deep in a hurry. Brown stands 6-foot-1, 189 pounds, and plays bigger than he measures. Despite possessing 4.44 speed and quality hands, he’s a victim of a deep receiver class. The offense loves play-action passing and deep balls, suggesting OC Scott Turner will get Brown involved right away. There shouldn’t be a great deal of volume for the rook, given McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries, Antonio Gandy-Golden and JD McKissic being in the fold. Brown has a bright future but will be inconsistently utilized in Year 1.
83) TE Tommy Tremble, Carolina Panthers: The Notre Dame product is more known for his devastating blocking skills than catching the rock, but that’s not to say he’s a slouch in that area. He just wasn’t utilized much in that regard. Tight ends rarely make a dent in Year 1, and Carolina has two veterans presumably ahead of Tremble. The offense has plenty of weapons, too, and it’s difficult to see Tremble mattering in fantasy this season.
85) WR Amari Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: The past two picks by Green Bay have put a center in front of disgruntled quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a chain-moving slot target in the Clemson rookie to help assuage the situation. Amari Rodgers is a well-built 5-foot-10, capable of absorbing impact over the middle and being the reliable hands No. 12 needs in someone not named Davante Adams. One often used comparable is Randall Cobb, a wideout the Packers featured for several years. Amari’s 2021 fantasy value is intriguing as a flex option in PPR. This is still a run-centric system, and TE Robert Tonyan will steal his share of looks, so expect inconsistent offerings form this rookie.
88) RB Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers: The powerhouse backfield gets a drastic upgrade in the Ohio Stater as Sermon’s patience in a zone-blocking system make him an ideal fit. Standing 6-foot-0, 215 pounds, Sermon will have defenders praying they can bring him to the ground before he finds his way into the end zone. He’s also a strong pass protector and will have a role in the backfield from Day 1. The combination of Jeff Wilson Jr. and Raheem Mostert see their values take a major hit, but this coaching staff loves as many effective backs as it can field. Expect several seriously productive games from the rookie, but he may get lost in the mix some weeks. Gamers may overdraft him, though. For the time being, a conservative valuation is RB3/flex, but Sermon easily could emerge as the best fantasy rookie of Day 2’s draft additions.
89) WR Nico Collins, Houston Texans: The team traded up to acquire the Michigan receiver, and it appears Collins will have a fair shot at starting in his rookie season. Houston has Brandin Cooks as the WR1 and Randall Cobb working out of the slot, but there’s little else to speak of in the receiving corps. Collins’ 6-foot-4 frame will give <insert starting quarterback here> a weapon in the red zone. Is that QB Deshaun Watson? Tyrod Taylor? Rookie Davis Mills? Santa Claus? The Texans should give Collins every chance to make a difference, although gamers won’t find him to be particularly useful in traditional formats. He has some upside for best-ball leagues and could emerge in a few years as a regular starting option for fake football action.
91) WR Anthony Schwartz, Cleveland Browns: Unless something happens to Jarvis Landry or Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) suffers a setback, Schwartz probably doesn’t see the field much beyond a few play-action go routes. The Browns re-signed Rashard Higgins, and 2020 rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones showed up more than once as a rookie. Schwartz has game-changing speed and will be used in space to let him showcase it. Stash his name for 2022 when Higgins is a free agent again and leave him for the wire in the upcoming draft season.
97) TE Tre’ McKitty, Los Angeles Chargers: There’s almost no chance he gets on the field right meow, and gamers can all but write him off for the upcoming season. The Georgia prospect is as raw as they come but has all of the natural traits to develop with proper coaching. He’ll get to learn behind veteran Jared Cook in 2021, and there’s a crazy level of upside to McKitty over the two or three seasons to follow his rookie campaign.