Last night, the Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes with a score of 52-24. There were a number of players who fantasy football fans were likely keeping an eye on. Who are some of the 2021 fantasy football rookies that could make an impact in the NFL next year?
2021 NFL Fantasy Football Rookies | Ohio State
Justin Fields, QB
In the game leading up to the national championship, Justin Fields scored six touchdowns against Clemon. Six! Now that is some serious fantasy production, and Fields is capable of putting up huge numbers at the pro level as well.
In 2019, Fields threw 41 touchdown passes. He has a big arm and a quick release, the ability to change his throwing platform and make throws downfield even when his feet aren’t properly set or in a muddy pocket. He throws with touch and accuracy at all levels of the field. Obviously, Fields also brings a lot to the table as a runner as well with speed and elusiveness, but also the ability to run with power, which will be useful in short-yardage situations at the next level.
Where could Fields be drafted?
As he showed against Clemson, Fields can clearly play when he isn’t 100% healthy and is remarkably tough. The Jets own the second pick in the draft. Trevor Lawrence presumably will be snagged by Jacksonville with the first selection. I do think there is a very real chance that New York sticks with Sam Darnold and either takes a position player like Penei Sewell or a wide receiver with the second pick, or more likely, shops the pick to a team like Cincinnati or to a quarterback-needy team.
New York could also prefer BYU’s Zach Wilson to Darnold or Fields for that matter. But Fields certainly does have a chance to land with the Jets if none of those things come to fruition. Atlanta at four makes a lot of sense. Would the Eagles consider Fields at six? It is tough to imagine Fields falling out of the first nine picks with the Lions, Panthers, and Broncos picking right after Philadelphia. And in reality, Fields probably goes in the top four in some capacity.
Trey Sermon, RB
Another one of the 2021 NFL fantasy football rookies with a lot of potential is Trey Sermon. Sermon was really gaining momentum at the right time, but unfortunately, an early injury in the national championship might hurt his stock. He won’t be a first-round pick, but going late on Day 2 isn’t out of the question. That is especially possible considering that this isn’t a fantastic running back class overall.
Sermon has good size and strength and runs hard. He possesses a nice burst, but his vision is just average. Sermon is not a really diverse route runner but certainly shows the ability to catch dump-offs and screens, if not more. Most likely at the next level, Sermon projects as a real strong backup or as a guy that is part of a rotation. But we know that for fantasy, such a situation can turn into a bell-cow role with just one injury on the depth chart.
Chris Olave, WR
Olave is Fields’ favorite target, and it isn’t even close. He is super productive, reliable, and he consistently threatens a defense at all levels. Olave has good height and length but isn’t very thickly built. That being said, he has added weight and strength over the past few years and could continue to do so. He plays with toughness and really competes for the football.
Olave has excellent ball skills and soft hands. He is one of the best separators in this class and not only has deep speed but also quickness out of his breaks and the ability to gear down when needed. Olave could find himself getting drafted as soon as the end of the first round, but very well could add to the very long list of second-round wide receivers in the league right now that have been massive fantasy assets. This is a player you will want on your fantasy squad.
2021 NFL Fantasy Football Rookies | Alabama
Mac Jones, QB
One of the 2021 NFL fantasy football rookies that causes debate is Alabama’s Mac Jones. Jones isn’t overwhelmingly physical and obviously has a ridiculous amount of receiving and blocking talent around him at Alabama, but he is a hot name right now in the draft community. He likely helped his draft stock even more with his impressive five TD, 464-yard performance against Ohio State.
Jones is smart and runs the Alabama offense very well. He should have a quick transition mentally to the pro game. He reads the field well and consistently gets the ball to the right receiver in a position where they can do something with it after the catch. Jones also throws the ball with excellent touch and understands when to take something off his throw. He is extremely accurate and rarely is the reason for a negative play. He is also tough and composed.
Jones extends plays within the pocket well and can gain a little yardage as a runner, but unlike Fields, Jones isn’t going to give us a lot of valuable fantasy running production. I envision Jones in a system like the one in New Orleans as Drew Brees’ successor or like what New England ran so well for so many years with Tom Brady.
Najee Harris, RB
Harris is a highly productive power back with great size and speed. But he is also elusive for a man his size and shows cutting ability and agility. He has become more of a no-nonsense runner this year and is quick to get downhill, where he does serious damage. Harris has a lot of untapped potential in the passing game. He will never be at the Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey level catching the ball and running routes, but he has flashed ability as a receiver. Expect that to expand in the NFL.
Harris could have the best fantasy value among rookies in 2021 if he landed with the Steelers late in the first round. There are several other spots early in the second round that would be great for his value including Atlanta.
DeVonta Smith, WR
The Heisman winner has been compared stylistically to Marvin Harrison and Isaac Bruce. His very thin build is a concern without question, but that is about the only bad thing you can say about Smith as a prospect. His production is off the charts. He beats double teams in the SEC with great regularity. He is dynamic in every aspect of the position. And Smith certainly does not play small. He is tough as could be and ultra-competitive.
Despite his size, he beats press man coverage regularly. This target hog is the best college football player on the planet right now. Smith might be the first wide receiver taken in the NFL draft. It isn’t far-fetched to think that Smith could land in Miami with his former quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, a spot where he could quickly become the Dolphins’ top receiving option on an improving offense.
Jaylen Waddle, WR
Another one of the 2021 NFL fantasy football rookies that is set to impress is Jaylen Waddle. This guy just jumps off the tape with the ball in his hands. Waddle is a great returner with rare elusiveness and fantastic speed. He is great after the catch and tracks the deep ball very well. This is a loaded wide receiver class, but Waddle looked good Monday night. Waddle will likely get picked after his teammate Smith and might not project to being a sure-fire top option on his NFL team, but imagine this guy on a team like Green Bay.
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