Dynasty Watch: Updated Rookie Top 50

Dynasty Watch: Updated Rookie Top 50

This article is part of our Dynasty Watch series.

This article is an updated dynasty Top 50 for the 2021 rookie class, assuming 1QB format and PPR scoring. It probably won't be updated until most of the pro day circuit has run its course.

The list is broken into eight tiers.
 

Tier 1

1. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Justin Jefferson was pretty good last year, and Chase was at least as good or better as a younger player in the same offense in 2019. There are nearly endless reasons to recognize Chase for the great prospect he is, but if someone needs a snapshot to get the point they should focus on that one detail.

Projected round: Top 10


 

2. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

Etienne's most objective comparison is probably Jamaal Charles. People are doing the most ambitious mental gymnastics to convince themselves that it's enlightened to doubt a player with his production but it isn't.

Projected round: 1-2

3. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

Lawrence is both the best quarterback and the best player overall in this draft. If someone takes him first overall in a 1QB league rookie draft I wouldn't criticize them. Ignore all the confused overanalysis – Lawrence is the quarterback version of Megatron and he has no peers in this draft, good as some of the other quarterbacks might be.

Projected round: Jacksonville


 

Tier 2

4. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Waddle was outrageously explosive even among Alabama's other talented wideouts. It's easy to see another Steve Smith or something along those lines.

Projected round: 1


 

5. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Smith is skinny, but other skinny wideouts who disappointed in the NFL never approached the level of production Smith did.

Projected round: 1


 

6. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

I normally refuse to consider tight ends this early, but this is not a case like Noah Fant or even T.J. Hockenson. Pitts is a once-a-decade type of pass catching threat with tight end eligibility, and there's a chance he emerges as a Travis Kelce-like loophole at that position while almost entirely functioning more like a wide receiver on the real field. Pitts only turned 20 this fall, meaning his already exceptional production gets a bit of an age-adjustment boost. Going back to his age-19 2019 season, Pitts has caught 97 of 146 targets for 1,419 yards and 17 touchdowns in 21 games. That's a catch rate of 66.4 percent at 9.7 yards per target in an offense that completed 68.6 percent of its passes at 8.9 yards per target. That's only barely above baseline at a glance, but considering Pitts was 19 and 20 years old and competing for targets against the much older Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain, Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes, Pitts' overall context gives his production grade a boost it frankly doesn't need.

Pitts' agent might want to insist on a position change to wide receiver, which carries a higher franchise tag value, and if that happens I might need to reevaluate ranking him quite this high. Again, I'm normally stingy about tight ends in dynasty drafts but I see no reason to encourage caution here. Some upside is worth chasing.

Projected round: 1


 

Tier 3

7. Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU

Marshall deserves more attention for his legitimate WR1 upside.

Projected round: 1-2


 

8. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

I'm not worried about Fields 'getting through his reads,' but the number of aborted plays in his tape makes me concerned that he's hesitant to pull the trigger in moments where he shouldn't be. You don't get many unambiguous openings as a passer in the NFL, so anticipation is usually necessary. I think Fields would do well in a Shanahan or Daboll type offense that schemes these issues to the periphery, but Fields lacks Lawrence's otherworldly instincts. For fantasy this might not matter much – Fields can make exceptional throws when he knows where he needs to go, and he should provide top-grade rushing production at quarterback.

Projected round: 1 (Top four)


 

9. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Harris is a good prospect and will probably turn out to be a viable starting running back in the NFL, but he'll be the first player with his frame to do it in recent memory if so. The Steven Jackson comparisons are a reach – Harris was 6-foot-1 7/8 , 230 at the Senior Bowl and Jackson was 6-foot-1 ½, 241 at his pro day. Jackson ran a 4.55 40 with a 37.5-inch vertical on that frame, so if Harris is going to weigh 11 pounds less at 3/8 of an inch taller then he's going to need to run around a 4.50 or better to offer similar size-adjusted athleticism to Jackson. The Jackson comp is less of a reach than the Matt Forte one, though, and I've seen Harris advocates rationalize their fervor with that one too.

Projected round: 1-2


 

Tier 4

10. Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

Bateman has a lot of big fans in Draft Twitter and I'm open to joining them pending certain details. His 4.39 40 at the EXOS workouts don't mean much to me given the complete lack of disclosure around their protocols so I would like to see him run again at the Minnesota pro day. If he doesn't I'll be forced to assume he's more like a 4.5-to-4.55 guy, which is still fine if he's heavy enough.

Projected round: 2

11. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC

A guy like St. Brown might slide in a wide receiver draft this strong, but if he gets the snaps it's tough to fade him given that he outproduced Michael Pittman at an age disadvantage.

Projected round: 2


 

12. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue

The only concerns with Moore is that he's probably 5-foot-8 and Purdue didn't use him on many real downfield route concepts. If he can get the snaps there should be something good here, even if his skill set is limited to underneath functions.

Projected round: 2


 

13. Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina

Particularly in light of his new weight just under 200 pounds, it's difficult for me to distinguish a prospect like Brown from one like Bateman at this point in the process.

Projected round: 2


 

14. Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson

At 5-foot-9 and around 210 pounds, Rodgers is uniquely dense for a receiver and should be able to avoid the 'slot specialist' label despite his shortness. His production was very clean at Clemson despite playing one of his seasons just around six months recovered from a spring ACL tear.

Projected round: 2


 

15. Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State

Wallace reportedly ran the same 4.39 as Bateman at the EXOS thing, but at 5-foot-11, 193 pounds it isn't quite as impressive as Bateman at a listed 210 pounds. Still, Wallace's production at Oklahoma State is utterly convincing and the only substantive concern with him seems to be his knee injury history. Hopefully everything turns out safe there.

Projected round: 2-3


 

Tier 5

16. Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Lance has a cannon arm and shows a lot of really encouraging traits especially given his age – he doesn't turn 21 until May. His best-case scenario looks a lot like Josh Allen.

Projected round: 1 (Top eight)


 

17. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

I resent listing Wilson this high but he does have job security that the prospects who follow in this list lack at their respective positions.

Projected round: 1 (Top eight)


 

18. Chatarius Atwell, WR, Louisville

I was surprised to see it, but Daniel Jeremiah projects Atwell as a first-round pick. That's enough to convince me the NFL is higher on Atwell than the consensus rankings are, and that's enough reason for me to move Atwell into this range. Atwell seems problematically small and a lot of his big plays struck me as matchups he's unlikely to see in the NFL, but he can definitely burn and his production was very strong at Louisville. At a listed 5-9, 165, though, Atwell doesn't project to be more than maybe a Marquise Brown type, if that.

Projected round: 1-2
 


19. Elijah Moore, WR, Mississippi

Moore's production is utterly compelling to the point that his NFL effectiveness is almost a given. The only question is whether teams will give him a three-down role or limit him to slot functions, but the higher he's drafted the higher we can project his snap count. If he gets the snaps he's going to get targets.

Projected round: 2-3


 

20. Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

Toney is a lesser version of Parris Campbell as a prospect. That could still be something good, I just don't get the hype in the first round. It seems like he's headed toward that range of the draft, though, and he's nothing if not explosive.

Projected round: 1-2


 

21. Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State

It recently struck me that the correct comparison for Hubbard is probably Lamar Miller, which unfortunately invites the possibility that he falls into the fourth round. But Miller fell due to medical concerns, and Hubbard might have the best size-adjusted speed at running back in the class. It's easy to imagine both good and bad-case scenarios.

Projected round: 2-4


 

22. Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis

Gainwell needs to test well to stay solidly in the Day 2 picture, but his production is difficult to question and importantly he projects better than any running back in this class at pass-catching functions.

Projected round: 2-4


 

23. Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina

Most people in the dynasty football scene are way higher on Williams than this, but I just can't see what they do. Fine Day 2 prospect, but I don't see any elusiveness and at the NFL level the tackle breaking won't be a sustainable way to maintain the explosiveness he showed in college. He has three-down upside, though.

Projected round: 2-4


 

24. Jermar Jefferson, RB, Oregon State

To me Jefferson is basically Javonte Williams with a fumbling problem. I don't know how much NFL teams might hold that against Jefferson, but his pure running ability is among the most convincing in the class.

Projected round: 2-4


 

25. Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State

To me Hill looks like a slightly slower but more violent and consistent version of Miles Sanders. Vague reports of character concerns started to surface after his dealings with Mike Leach, but I think anyone would be a fool to assume Leach as the reliable narrator on that matter.

Projected round: 2-4

Tier 6

26. Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State

I wanted to rank Terry higher than this but his advanced age and injury history at Florida State cast some smoke around him that leaves more cause for concern than some of the cleaner prospects ahead of him. But in terms of size-adjusted speed Terry might be a standout in this class, and his downfield skill set is convincing at the very least.

Projected round: 2-4


 

27. Nico Collins, WR, Michigan

Like Terry, Collins stands out in this class thanks to his 6-foot-4 frame and strong work as a downfield receiver in college. If they both test well at their pro days they could rise in the order.

Projected round: 2-4


 

28. Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn

I think Russell Gage should be a backup but if he ran a 4.25 instead of a 4.50 then he might be good, and Schwartz might be a case study along those lines.

Projected round: 2-4


 

29. Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa

I'm embarrassed to say I overlooked Smith-Marsette in my initial rankings. This is no Matt VandeBerg – Smith-Marsette looks pretty damn fast and his production the last two years was far above Iowa's baseline. I'm almost tempted to rank him higher than this.

Projected round: 2-4

30. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

I actually get the sense that Jones is a bit underrated by most draft observers, but his objective projection is probably something like Andy Dalton, which might not provide as much upside as we'd like considering the bust risk at quarterback.

Projected round: 1

31. Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami (FL)

If someone could assure me Jordan's draft capital I would be inclined to bet on him, but maybe I'm too spooked by how Hunter Bryant went undrafted last year after a dominant Washington career as a similar type of tight end. Jordan would absolutely project as a standout pass-catching option in the NFL if he tests well enough, but as a smallish tight end (6-3, 245) he has a thin margin for error if he wants to get drafted early.

Projected round: 2-4


 

32. Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State

I have trouble figuring out a prospect like Freiermuth without the workout numbers, but his production is very clean at Penn State and it's hard to imagine his worst-case scenario looking any bleaker than a Kyle Rudolph sort of outcome. His floor is higher than Jordan's but his upside is likely lower, at least in the projected target volume sense.

Projected round: 2-3


 

33. Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma

Stevenson is a wildcard because we don't know what his size-adjusted athleticism looks like and we also don't know how NFL teams will evaluate his character after Oklahoma suspended him for much of the 2020 season. His production is very strong, including in passing downs, so if Stevenson tests well he could be novel in this class for his size and three-down ability.

Projected round: 3-6


 

34. Javian Hawkins, RB, Louisville

Hawkins is one of three undersized backs who are interesting in this range. Workout numbers should help settle their projection, but I'm putting Hawkins over Michael Carter and Jarret Patterson in the meantime under the assumption that he will test best athletically.

Projected round: 3-5


35. Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina

Carter is well-built at around 5-8, 200, but he'll need to test explosively to keep himself in play for Day 2.

Projected round: 3-5

36. Jaret Patterson, RB, Buffalo

I hate to hold a guy's level of competition against him, especially when Patterson was so outrageously productive for Buffalo, but all else being equal NFL teams will tend to prefer players from bigger schools.

Projected round: 3-5


 

Tier 7

37. D'Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan

Eskridge is kind of like the MAC version of Terence Newman – a very old but very fast prospect who dominated as a two-way player. Eskridge settled on receiver instead of corner, of course, but the point is that even over-aged players can be good so long as they produce at a dominant level in college and boast top-shelf physical tools. If Eskridge can run a 4.35 or better he could push for Day 2.

Projected round: 3-4


38. Marlon Williams, WR, UCF

I desperately want to rank Williams higher than this but I keep going back and forth on whether that would be irresponsible. Basically, I love Williams as a prospect and I know I'd want him on my team, but I can't tell if the NFL thinks similarly. He's a very well-built receiver who has been exceedingly efficient in his UCF career, and he broke out with enormous volume in 2020 once Gabriel Davis was out of the way. Particularly given how strong Davis' rookie year was in Buffalo, I think Williams deserves more attention.

Projected round: 3-5

39. Jaelon Darden, WR, North Texas

I love Darden's production and tape, but I can't tell if the NFL values him enough for him to project for realistic snaps. If we get some reassuring reports on his draft capital then I'm diving into the hype, so my fingers are crossed.

Projected round: 3-5

40. Warren Jackson, WR, Colorado State

Collin Johnson showed us that 6-foot-6 receivers can stick in the NFL if they have enough skill, and Jackson's Colorado State production implies he has exactly that. We just need him to test well enough athletically to keep up with the rest of this very strong class.

Projected round: 3-5

41. Cade Johnson, WR, South Dakota State

Johnson's collegiate production is as strong as anyone could reasonably expect, and his athletic testing shouldn't be a hindrance. There are a lot of reasons to like Johnson pending his workout numbers.

Projected round: 3-5


 

42. Isaiah McKoy, WR, Kent State

McKoy is skinny at a listed 6-3, 182 but Robby Anderson already showed us we shouldn't be quick to dismiss a dominant MAC receiver with a 6-3, sub-190 build. McKoy's production is exceedingly strong.

Projected round: 3-5

43. Seth Williams, WR, Auburn

I have trouble figuring out Williams, who most are higher on than this, but I'm open to moving him up if he tests well. As much as I'm concerned about his below-baseline production in 2020, I also have to give him credit for producing more efficiently earlier in his career.

Projected round: 3-5
 

44. Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette

I kind of feel bad listing Mitchell this low – he was a hell of a player at Lafayette and the best of the trio of fringe prospects between himself, Trey Ragas, and 2020 seventh-round pick Raymond Calais – but it's risky to get too invested in smaller school, late-round guys especially before we know their workout numbers. Elijah McGuire is the best Lafayette back ever by a wide margin and he of course only turned out a bottom-of-the-roster type in the NFL.

Projected round: 4-6

45. Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech

I really love Herbert's production but don't like his tape that much. I'm partial to violent, dynamic runners and Herbert is more of a mid-tempo glider, but if he tests well athletically I'll just have to get over it.

Projected round: 4-6


46. Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State

Maybe I'm not giving him enough credit but Sermon gives me Josh Adams vibes – the kind of back who can run like the wind in general but needs more runway space than he's likely to get in the NFL. I need him to test very well to buy in as more than an off-the-bench type.

Projected round: 4-6


 

Tier 8

47. Jhamon Ausbon, WR, Texas A&M

Ausbon is boring to watch and probably won't test very well but he's interesting because his production was generally good at A&M and he's a former high recruit with a biggish build (6-2, 210).

Projected round: 4-6

48. Whop Philyor, WR, Indiana

Injury troubles and concerning 2020 production give me some anxiety, but Philyor's high points at Indiana were convincing and he seems pretty explosive despite his slot receiver-type build. If he tests well I will probably be optimistic about him.

Projected round: 4-6
 

49. Antonio Nunn, WR, Buffalo

Nunn's production the last two years is exceptional and at a listed 5-11, 200 he has a developed frame.

Projected round: 4-6

50. Dazz Newsome, WR, North Carolina

Although he isn't exciting, Newsome is well-rounded and was very productive in the 2019 season especially. He's the kind of guy who might earn snaps earlier than expected just because he looks like a good swing backup between the slot (where he fits ideally) and outside (where he might have just enough to get by).

Projected round: 4-6

Just missed: Justin Hall (WR, Ball State), Marquez Stevenson (WR, Houston), Jonathan Adams (WR, Arkansas State), Josh Imatorbhebe (WR, Illinois), Michael Strachan (WR, Charleston), Sage Surratt (WR, Wake Forest), Demetric Felton (WR, UCLA), Shi Smith (WR, South Carolina), Brandon Smith (WR, Iowa), Larry Rountree (RB, Missouri), Kenny Yeboah (TE, Mississippi), Tony Poljan (TE, Virginia), Davis Mills (QB, Stanford), Jaime Newman (QB, Georgia)


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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