Despite the majority of spring football practices being canceled or shortened this off-season, a lot has changed since our way-too-early 2021 dynasty rookie rankings dropped back in January. Players have transferred, prospects have emerged, and unfortunate career-threatening injuries have occurred.
While the growing top-ten hype surrounding North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance is fun to watch, the Justyn Ross situation in Clemson shows the other side of the coin. Ross was my number four overall player in January and a top-ten devy prospect in my latest update. Now his career is in serious jeopardy after undergoing surgery for a congenital fusion in his spine.
While we await the NCAA’s official decision on how the 2020 college football season will look, these rankings are written under the impression that we’ll have a full season. If games get canceled and matchups altered, we’ll make sure to note them in future rankings.
Are you looking for more dynasty information before you get to our updated 2021 dynasty rookie rankings? Take a look at my 2020 dynasty rookie rankings, our staff devy mock draft, Joe Redemann’s IDP rankings, and Tommy Garrett’s 1QB/SuperFlex dynasty rankings, among others.
2021 Dynasty Rookie Rankings First Round
1) Travis Etienne (RB1 – Clemson)
Prior to Clemson’s Travis Etienne shocking the world by returning for his senior season, I had the standout running back from Jennings, Louisiana, as my RB1 in the 2020 NFL Draft. Nothing has changed a year later in my 2021 dynasty rookie rankings, either.
Etienne’s combination of elite burst and surprising power would be an asset to any NFL offense, while his continued improvement in both catching the ball and pass-protection could push his stock into the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
2) Ja’Marr Chase (WR1 – LSU)
LSU standout wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, an electric playmaker with outside/slot versatility, is the consensus number one wide receiver in early 2021 drafts, and I can’t argue with the reasoning.
Chase capped off his terrific 2019 season (1,780-yard, 20 TD, 21.2 YPR) with a dominating 9-221-2 TD performance in LSU’s 42-25 National Championship victory over Clemson. One big storyline heading into the new season is how LSU’s offense looks with Myles Brennan replacing Joe Burrow under center, but Chase should make things easier for the first-year starter.
3) Rondale Moore (WR2 – Purdue)
Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore burst onto the scene of college football with 313 all-purpose yards in his first collegiate contest. Moore won the 2018 Paul Hornburg Award, given to the most versatile player in all of college football, after finishing his freshman campaign with 2,215 total yards (1,258 receiving yards, 213 rushing yards, 744 return yards) and 14 touchdowns.
After an injury-plagued 2019, Moore desperately needs a healthy and productive 2020 to fend off the talented group of wide receivers currently behind him in my 2021 dynasty rookie rankings.
4) Chuba Hubbard (RB2 – Oklahoma State)
Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard is an intriguing dynasty prospect with dynamic play-making ability and second-level acceleration. Hubbard’s horrific pass-blocking could hinder his three-down ability at the next level, so a return to school to improve his weaknesses was probably the most logical decision for the Cowboys standout.
5) Najee Harris (RB3 – Alabama)
An intimidating, hard-nosed runner in the mold of Alabama predecessors Derrick Henry and Bo Scarbrough, current Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris has the potential to be a three-down workhorse in the National Football League. Harris’ combination of power and surprisingly nimble feet puts his playing-style more in the mold of 2019’s NFL leading rusher Henry than it does Scarbrough. Harris finished 2019 with ten more receptions (27) than Henry had in his entire three-year Alabama career.
6) Rashod Bateman (WR3 – Minnesota)
While former Minnesota teammate Tyler Johnson was beloved by many in the fantasy community, Gophers teammate Rashod Bateman is the better NFL prospect, and thus the better dynasty prospect.
Bateman followed up his 704-yard, six-touchdown freshman season with a breakout 60-1,219-11 TD sophomore campaign. He showed significant improvement as a route-runner in 2019, while continuing to make highlight-reel, toe-tapping sideline catches.
Rashod Bateman is the real deal…
— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) June 4, 2020
7) Jaylen Waddle (WR4 – Alabama)
Sharing time with the deepest wide receiver group in college football significantly affected Jaylen Waddle’s 2019 statistics, but the NFL likely still values Waddle as a first-round talent. We just saw the Las Vegas Raiders draft Henry Ruggs III with the No. 12 overall pick despite Ruggs never breaking 800 yards in any collegiate season. Waddle has a similar skillset to Ruggs, and he’s also one of the best kick returners in the 2021 NFL Draft.
8) Devonta Smith (WR5 – Alabama)
Waddle’s loss was Devonta Smith’s gain throughout last season. Smith entered 2019 as the fourth wide receiver in the pecking order, but he ended the season as Alabama’s leading-receiver. Instead of striking while the iron is hot, Smith shocked some with his return to Tuscaloosa for his senior season.
Even with Tua Tagovailoa now in Miami, Alabama’s offensive system combined with the vacated targets left behind by Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy should be more than enough to maintain Smith’s status as a top-ten player in our 2021 dynasty rookie rankings.
9) Seth Williams (WR6 – Auburn)
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds, Auburn’s Seth Williams is one of the most physically imposing wide receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft class. The most significant question mark about Williams’ game will be his ability to separate at the next level, but the Auburn wide receiver is excellent in jump-ball situations.
10) Trevor Lawrence (QB1 – Clemson)
Despite this being 1QB and not SuperFlex rankings, it’s challenging to keep a genuinely generational quarterback like Trevor Lawrence out of the first round of our 2021 dynasty rookie rankings. Lawrence is one of the best quarterback prospects of recent memory and seems destined to lead an NFL franchise for a decade-plus.
11) Max Borghi (RB4 – Washington State)
Due to the similar nature of their games, Washington State’s Max Borghi is often compared to NFL All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey. While the comparison is probably unfair to Borghi, you can see a lot of similarities in their playing styles. Just like McCaffrey, Borghi is a pass-catching specialist that wins with tremendous vision and elusiveness.
While it’s yet to be determined how much Leach’s departure to Mississippi State impacts his receiving statistics, Borghi’s put enough excellent film on the reel to maintain his status as a top running back. With Leach gone, Borghi will also have the opportunity to show he can run inside the tackles.
Max Borghi, RB Washington State
•134 receptions in 2 seasons
•6.0 YPC career average
•23.9% of the team’s scrimmage yards in 2019
•25 plays 14+yards in 2019
•10.8 100m dash HS (he’s got juice)
— Ray G 🏁 (@RayGQue) December 20, 2019
12) Kylin Hill (RB5 – Mississippi State)
Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill is a terrific all-around running back looking to boost his stock throughout the 2020 college football season. Head coach Mike Leach’s pass-happy Air Raid offense might under-utilize Hill’s rushing ability, but the running back will get an abundance of targets in the passing game.
13) Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR7 – USC)
USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown, a technician with excellent route-running skills, is often overlooked in a crowded 2021 wide receiver class. St. Brown’s ability to get open shouldn’t be understated, as NFL teams will undoubtedly have their eyes on the talented prospect with NFL bloodlines.
— Receiver School (@ReceiverSchool) November 20, 2019
14) Justin Fields (QB2 – Ohio State)
After a successful career at Harrison High School, quarterback Justin Fields ended his high school career as the consensus number two overall player behind only Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Fields originally signed with the hometown Georgia Bulldogs out of high school, but he transferred to Ohio State after racist comments made by a Bulldogs baseball player. After being granted immediate eligibility at Ohio State, Fields finished 2019 with 3,273 passing yards and a 41/3 TD-INT ratio, while also leading the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff.
15) Chris Olave (WR8 – Ohio State)
Ohio State’s Chris Olave, Fields’ number one wide receiver a season ago, returns for his junior season, where he looks to improve on his 49-849-12 TD sophomore campaign. Olave will pair with rising sophomore Garrett Wilson to give the Heisman-hopeful Fields a terrific one-two punch at the wide receiver position.
16) Tamorrion Terry (WR9 – Florida State)
As an explosive big-play waiting to happen, it wouldn’t have been shocking to see Florida State wide receiver Tamorrion Terry enter his name into the 2020 NFL Draft. It would have been justified after Terry finished 2019 with 1,188 yards and nine touchdowns, but the Seminoles’ standout with the first-round talent returned for his redshirt junior season.
17) Tylan Wallace (WR10 – Oklahoma State)
At one point during the 2019 CFB regular season, Oklahoma State’s offense featured both the nation’s leading rusher and receiver. Running back, Chuba Hubbard finished the job with a nation’s best 2,094 rushing yards, but Cowboys wide receiver Tylan Wallace suffered an unfortunate non-contact knee injury in late October that cut his season short. A return to form would push Wallace’s stock into first-round territory, but we have to adjust our rankings until the wide receiver is 100% healthy.
18) Kenneth Gainwell (RB6 – Memphis)
A favorite of Pro Football Network draft analyst Matt Valdovinos, Memphis running back, Kenneth Gainwell has the opportunity to seriously out-perform this ranking. As noted by Valdovinos, Gainwell finished 12th in the nation in rushing yards and led all running backs in receiving yards in 2019.
Gainwell is always one touch away from a big play, as evidenced by his 2019 season in which 37 of his touches went for 15 or more yards. My only question mark is Gainwell’s draft capital in a loaded running back class, but Memphis seems to put a running back in the NFL every year.
19) Trey Lance (QB3 – North Dakota State)
This ranking could be low for a quarterback getting top five hype right now, but quarterback ADP in 1QB leagues is very much team-dependent. In 10-team leagues where the majority of teams have two quality starting quarterbacks, any quarterback not named Trevor Lawrence could go anywhere from late-first round to early-third.
Lance seems destined to go in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and his film is football porn for football junkies. Lance often looks like a man amongst boys playing in the FCS, so the Bisons’ Week One contest against Oregon is a terrific opportunity for the quarterback to solidify his status as a top quarterback prospect.
20) Kyle Pitts (TE1 – Florida)
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts narrowly edges Pat Freiermuth and Brevin Jordan as TE1 in my 2021 dynasty rookie rankings. I think all three are better long-term dynasty prospects than any tight end drafted in 2020, but I give the Florida prospect the edge due to his fantasy-friendly style of play.
Pitts isn’t going to win many blocking contests, but he excels outside and in the slot similar to a Jordan Reed or Mike Gesicki type. While Freiermuth is the likely TE1 in the 2021 NFL Draft, Pitts presents a matchup-nightmare that would be an asset to dynasty rosters everywhere.