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.
Follow along for real-time analysis the NFL draft’s Day 3 impact on fantasy football plans for 2021. Not all skill players will be covered, unlike our first two days of coverage. We’ll focus on guys with any remote shot at being a roster-worthy contributor, unless a unique path to playing time presents itself.
107) RB Michael Carter, New York Jets: The North Carolina back shared with Javonte Williams, a second-round pick by Denver, but has NFL-caliber skills in his own right. Only 5-foot-8, Carter is a solidly built 201 pounds, and brings a decisive nature to this rushing attack. He has a noticeable second gear and is a capable weapon from the backfield. There is some Clyde Edwards-Helaire in his game, and NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah used Devonta Freeman as a comparison, which may be more apt. New York has bolstered its offensive line the past two drafts and invested a pair of early picks in the passing game. Carter should compete with Lamical Perine and fellow newcomer Tevin Coleman. There’s enough to like about Carter to give him the benefit of the doubt to eventually take over the primary chores as the season goes along. He’s an RB3 target in single-year drafts and could stand out as a rookie in this zone-blocking scheme.
109) WR Dez Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans: This offense needed more receivers, so it was only a matter of time before the position was addressed in the draft. Fitzpatrick will compete right away for a top-three spot, and his biggest opponent for touches will be free-agent addition Josh Reynolds. A product of Tulane, Fitzpatrick is a midrange possession guy, and he has the size to compete in the red zone at 6-foot-2, 208 pounds. The offense remains focused on Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown as the primary weapons, as well as the tight ends getting theirs, so there’s not a great deal of upside, despite the opportunity. Fitzpatrick is a late-round flier in 2021 drafts.
112) WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions: This fourth-rounder has a chance to immediately see the field and matter in fantasy leagues. Jared Goff loved throwing to the slot in LA, which is the spot where one can expect St. Brown to reside most of the time. The younger brother of Green Bay Packers WR Equanimeous St. Brown, Amon-Ra is highly competitive and plays larger than his 6-foot-0, 197-pound frame suggests. He’s not overly fast, and his fantasy game will be stronger in PPR leagues … there’s a real opportunity in this situation for St. Brown to thrive as a rookie. He has WR3 potential in Year 1 and could be even better.
119) RB Kene Nwangwu, Minnesota Vikings: The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder from Iowa State wasn’t particularly productive in college, but he measured off the charts at his pro day. No. 3 RB Mike Boone left in free agency, and Nwangwu will get a shot a competing with Ameer Abdullah for the role. Unless something happens to both Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, there’s no reasonable expectation for touches going the way of this rookie.
120) RB Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots: Bill Belichick loves himself a big-bodied running back. Stevenson enters the franchise buried on the roster behind veteran’s Sony Michel, James White, Brandon Bolden and third-year bruiser Damien Harris. The rookie is a load at 6-foot-0, 231 pounds, and despite lacking explosiveness metrics, he plays with urgency once his blocks have developed. Stevenson has a promise for fantasy utility in a year or two, but he’ll be effectively a bystander in 2021, barring several injuries. Michel is an ailment waiting to happen, but one has to believe Harris will be the next man up for two-down work.
126) RB Chuba Hubbard, Carolina Panthers: Adding a backup to Christian McCaffrey was a major need after Mike Davis walked in free agency. The Panthers may opt to incorporate Hubbard quite often to keep CMC healthy. The incoming rookie has a between-the-tackles style, above-average burst, and pretty good contact balance. Hubbard can pull away if he has a step on a defender, but he’s not particularly explosive. The overwhelming concern is ball security after seven fumbles in the past two years combined. Hubbard is a must-handcuff target for McCaffrey owners, and there’s an opportunity for a speculative value buy for everyone else.
131) RB Tylan Wallace, Baltimore Ravens: There is plenty to like about Wallace’s potential as a player, although the opportunity is murky as he enters a rather crowded group of targets. He’s talented in the open field and has natural skills as a route runner. Wallace (5-foot-11, 194 pounds) is competitive and has quality hands, too. The Ravens have Hollywood Brown, Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman, Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay at receiver; all of those guys tend to be behind TE Mark Andrews on any given play in the pecking order. Tuck away Wallace’s name in case he surprises in camp.
145) TE Luke Farrell, Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags chose to let Tyler Eifert walk into free agency, and there’s a clear need for a pass-catching option at the position. However, Farrell isn’t it … he’s a far better blocker and special teamer, so gamers shouldn’t assume an opportunity will translate into production. The pick is good for RBs James Robinson and Travis Etienne’s value, at least.
147) TE Brevin Jordan, Houston Texans: Jordan leaves the Miami Hurricanes program as a poor blocker and versatile receiver. He’s athletic and has coachable traits to refine his game, but Jordan’s hands aren’t anything special. There’s potential for a fantasy-relevant role in time, but it’s rare a rookie tight end makes a difference. He’ll enter as depth behind Jordan Akins and Ryan Izzo, so there’s a small chance he could flash late in the season in two-tight end sets.
150) RB Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles: Barring an injury, it likely is a year of watching and learning for Gainwell. He’ll enter behind undisputed starter Miles Sanders and third-down threat Boston Scott at a minimum, with veteran back Jordan Howard returning for a second stint with the Eagles. Gainwell has physical traits to make a difference in fantasy, if given a shot, but it will take time as long as Sanders is healthy. There’s a crack of light shining through for speculative purposes.
157) WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Minnesota Vikings: Fewer fifth-round picks present an immediate upgrade scenario for their drafting team like Smith-Marsette could do for Minnesota. The Vikings have a No. 1 in Adam Thielen entering the twilight of his career, and last year’s first-round selection of Justin Jefferson proved to pay dividends from the get-go. The Vikes still needed a third receiver and heir apparent for Thielen, which is where ISM comes into play. He’s as dangerous as they get in the open field, and his Day 1 contributions on special teams will be obvious. While this offense won’t employ a ton of three-wide sets, Smith-Marsette can play inside and out, which gives him even more upside in the event something takes Jefferson or Thielen off of the field. That said, drafting ISM is ill-advised in typical 2021 formats. He will pop off for a few big plays but is far from a lock to see meaningful action as a rook.
168) TE Zach Davidson, Minnesota Vikings: This is an interesting selection for leagues beyond the 2021 season. Davidson is just shy of 6-foot-7 and weights 245 pounds, making for a nimble athlete with a distinct advantage fighting for 50-50 balls. He scored 15 times for Central Missouri in 2019 and also was the school’s punter. Davidson is super raw, especially after his program didn’t play in 2020, but he has elite traits — 4.62 speed, for starters. Minnesota has Irv Smith Jr. but needs depth and insurance in case he doesn’t pan out. It’s improbable we see much from Davidson in 2021 fantasy circles, although his entire path to this point has been far from likely.
187) WR Frank Darby, Atlanta Falcons: This one is purely for dynasty leaguers who have ample room to roster a puzzle piece for the future. Darby has adequate size (6-foot-0, 201 pounds) and the ability to track the ball well down the field. He averaged nearly 20 yards per grab at Arizona State and made a few spectacular catches, but there’s some question about his focus. Learning behind Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley won’t hurt. Darby has at least two players ahead of him for the WR3 role, and that doesn’t include a pair of tight ends higher up in the pecking order. The future outlook is sound for Darby, especially if this is the last year Julio sports an Atlanta uni.
202) RB Chris Evans, Cincinnati Bengals: Here’s an opportunity for possible fantasy utility from a late-round back. Michigan’s Evans enters a backfield behind veteran Joe Mixon, who missed 10 games last year, RB Samaje Perine, and 2019 sixth-rounder Trayveon Williams. Cincinnati has made modest upgrades along the line, and the passing game should be impressive. The incoming rookie has quick footwork and is a natural receiver — a role in which he could be tasked with filling after the loss of Giovani Bernard. Evans is a handcuff option for Mixon owners and an inexpensive flier for other fantasy players. While the former Wolverine hasn’t played a lot of ball in the past two years (97 total carries), he is fresh and fills a need.
219) WR Seth Williams, Denver Broncos: The Auburn wideout has size (6-foot-3, 211 pounds), a big wingspan, and respectable hands to make the tough catch in traffic. Sound familiar? Williams has some of the same traits as No. 1 Denver receiver Courtland Sutton. If Sutton cannot return to form from knee reconstruction, there’s an easy inroad for Williams to get his feet wet. It’s unlikely we see too much from him this year with Tim Patrick being a similar option, but gamers need to monitor Williams’ progress over the next year or two.
221) WR Dazz Newsome, Chicago Bears: Despite not being particularly fast, Newsome is lethal in the open field. He is so fluid with the ball in his hands, especially in traffic, and the North Carolina receiver could find a role as a gadget player in what could be a significantly improved offense. Chicago boasts Allen Robinson as its top receiver, followed by what looks to be a transition away from Anthony Miller in favor of second-year burner Darnell Mooney. It’s still possible the team moves on from Miller, and 2019 fourth-rounder Riley Ridley has yet to prove he belongs in the league. Newsome could have extra touches available if running back Tarik Cohen (knee) isn’t able to get right after tearing an ACL last year. There’s potential for waiver appeal if a few chips fall in his direction.