By Alex Kurpeski
If your team is stuck in a rut, it may be already time to look forward to your league’s rookie draft. With prospects like Trevor Lawrence, Ja’Marr Chase, and Travis Etienne expected to declare, this could be a fruitful draft class for any rebuilding team. Though we don’t know yet whether some of these guys will be declaring, it’s never too early to speculate.
1.01 QB Trevor Lawrence
The Clemson star is a safe bet to be the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and start immediately for the team that drafts him. Unless he lands on the Jets — a strong possibility — there should be doubts about taking Lawrence first overall in your SF leagues.
1.02 RB Travis Etienne
Etienne is a plug-and-play starter who could be a first-round selection. I expect a team like the Dolphins, Texans, or Cardinals to target Etienne thanks to his ability to catch passes. Etienne could be an immediate RB2 like Josh Jacobs and CEH from the past couple of drafts.
1.03 RB Najee Harris
Harris is a dominant rumbler built in the mold of Derrick Henry. He’s improving as a pass-catcher as well, which could prompt a team like the Bears, Steelers, or Bills to install him as their lead back.
1.04 WR Rondale Moore
Moore is a freak of nature. Though he’s only around 5’8, 195 lbs, Moore runs like a gazelle and moves in the open field like a running back. Whoever drafts him will be getting a truly unique playmaker with WR1 potential.
1.05 WR Ja’Marr Chase
Penciled in as the WR1 in this class, Chase will likely land on a team in the top ten — limiting his immediate upside. Like Jerry Jeudy last year, I expect Chase to slot in as his team’s WR1 and draw a ton of coverage from the get-go.
1.06 QB Trey Lance
Lance is a superb athlete. While he’s got a great long-term upside, I expect him to land with a team that will stash him on the bench for a few years. That being said, we saw how well this strategy worked for Patrick Mahomes’ development. We can only hope the same can be said for Lance.
1.07 QB Justin Fields
Like Lance, I see Fields as a guy who could be drafted to backup an entrenched starter for a year or two. The Vikings, Falcons, and Patriots could all be a fit for Fields, who I see having a Dak Prescott type of ceiling. If you can be patient, Fields should be worth the wait.
1.08 WR Jaylen Waddle
Waddle is a safe bet to be one of the first receivers off the board in this year’s draft. Depending on where he lands, Waddle could go much higher. He’s a crisp route-runner with the ability to be a WR1.
1.09 WR Rashod Bateman
Bateman is a bigger receiver at 6’3, 215 lbs, and he has the ability to be a true No. 1 wideout in the NFL. I’ve compared him to Courtland Sutton in my scouting reports, though I think Bateman is a bit more explosive.
1.10 TE Kyle Pitts
Pitts could go much higher in TE premium leagues, however, he should be a first-round pick in most dynasty leagues anyway. The 6’6, 245 lb matchup nightmare may be the best tight end prospect we’ve seen from a fantasy football perspective. He’s been arguably the best pass-catcher in College Football this fall, making him a near-lock to be the first tight end off of the board in 2021.
1.11 RB Chuba Hubbard
Hubbard is an absolute horse. He’s not a plug-and-play starter, but he may be the best running back from this class if he lands in the right situation. Like Nick Chubb, Hubbard is a powerful runner who has no trouble breaking through contact. If he lands with a team like the Titans or Steelers, Hubbard could be a true RB1 by his second season.
1.12 RB Kenny Gainwell
Gainwell is a dynamic ball carrier with great receiving chops. He could be a very special playmaker for a team that needs a satellite back. I don’t throw around the name Alvin Kamara often, but Gainwell has the potential to be a Kamara-like player.