With the 2019-2020 college football season completed, we’re already looking ahead to next season with our way too early 2021 dynasty rookie rankings. Even with the college football season wrapping up a couple of hours ago, it’s never too early to start planning ahead for future dynasty drafts.
After helping lead his team to a 42-25 victory over Clemson in the CFP National Championship, LSU Tigers wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is the current #1 player in my initial 2021 dynasty rookie rankings. The 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner had already risen above Purdue’s Rondale Moore and Clemson’s Justyn Ross in my rankings before Monday night. Still, the wide receiver’s outstanding performance in the National Championship further cemented his status.
The 2021 NFL Draft sets up as one extremely deep at wide receiver, while the return of Chuba Hubbard and Najee Harris significantly boosts a running back class once lacking a true #1 option. With elite quarterbacks and tight ends in play, the 2021 NFL Draft sets up as an even deeper draft than the vaunted 2020 class.
Without further ado, here are my way too early 2021 dynasty rookie rankings. With the deadline for underclassmen to declare approaching on Friday, you should also expect an update to my 2020 dynasty rookie rankings to release this weekend.
Note: An earlier version of this article didn’t include Travis Etienne due to the overwhelming sentiment that the Clemson running back was entering the 2020 NFL Draft.
2021 Dynasty Rookie Rankings
1) Ja’Marr Chase (WR – LSU) – Fresh off a 9-221-2 TD performance in LSU’s National Championship victory over Clemson, Chase leads our crop of draft-eligible 2021 dynasty prospects. Chase used his world-class speed and play-making ability to win the 2019 Biletnikoff Award after a terrific regular season. Then the sophomore WR used those talents to expose Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell on Monday night. It’ll be interesting to see how LSU’s offense responds to life after Joe Burrow, but there’s no denying Chase’s absurd potential at the next level.
2) Travis Etienne (RB – Clemson) – After consecutive 1,600+ yard rushing seasons, Clemson running back Travis Etienne was a near-lock to enter his name into the 2020 NFL Draft. So much for that. In the biggest surprise of NFL Draft season thus far, Etienne decided to forego the opportunity at millions for another ride with his teammates in Clemson, South Carolina. While I already had Etienne penciled in as my RB1 in the 2020 NFL Draft, the amount of running back depth available in this year’s draft certainly played a role in his decision. Etienne decided on graduating college and the opportunity to be the standalone RB1 in the 2021 NFL Draft rather than risk getting lost in the shuffle of a draft featuring fellow stud running backs D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, and J.K. Dobbins.
3) Rondale Moore (WR – Purdue) – The Purdue wide receiver exploded on the national scene with 313 all-purpose yards in his very first college contest. Moore went on to finish his freshman campaign with 2,215 total yards (1,258 receiving yards, 213 rushing yards, 744 return yards) and 14 touchdowns. The 2019 season was the complete opposite for Moore as the wide receiver never returned after suffering a hamstring injury in Purdue’s late-September loss to Minnesota. Even with Moore only appearing in four games, the WR continues to have a tremendous amount of fantasy football appeal moving forward.
4) Justyn Ross (WR – Clemson) – After suffering through an injury-riddled sophomore campaign, the Clemson wideout will look to push his stock back up in 2020. With Tee Higgins headed to the NFL, Ross will move into the vaunted X-Receiver slot, which has generally drawn more targets in Clemson’s offense.
5) Chuba Hubbard (RB – Oklahoma State) – After mulling an early entry into the 2020 NFL Draft, Chuba Hubbard recently announced his return for at least one more season in Stillwater, Oklahoma. With Hubbard regarded in the RB 5-8 range in 2020 dynasty rookie rankings, the running back likely made the correct business decision to return for another year. Instead of being a likely second-round pick in 2020 dynasty drafts, Hubbard is the current RB2 in my initial 2021 dynasty rookie rankings. Hubbard also has some holes in his game (pass-protection, fumble rate) that should hopefully improve with another season of play.
6) Najee Harris (RB – Alabama) – Much like Hubbard, Alabama running back Najee Harris chose another season of college football rather than taking the chance of getting lost in a crowded 2020 running back class. Harris had a terrific junior season with a career-high 1,224 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, but the running back’s most significant improvement was through the air. After entering 2019 with ten total catches, 52 receiving yards, and zero touchdowns, Harris put up an impressive 27-304-7 TD receiving line this season.
7) Rashod Bateman (WR – Minnesota) – Pairing with Tyler Johnson in Minnesota, Rashod Bateman helped form one of the best receiving duos in all of college football. Bateman had a breakout 2019 campaign with 1,219 receiving yards and 11 touchdown receptions. Bateman has ideal size for an outside wide receiver in the NFL, and the sophomore showed big-play ability with a 20.3 average per catch.
8) Jaylen Waddle (WR – Alabama) – Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle was often the forgotten man in the Crimson Tide offense as the explosive wide receiver finished 2019 with only 560 receiving yards and six touchdown receptions. Waddle was able to display his play-making ability with 662 total return yards and two touchdowns on special teams. He should have the opportunity to shine in 2019 with the departure of two starting Crimson Tide wide receivers.
9) Devonta Smith (WR – Alabama) – After leading the Crimson Tide in receiving yards and touchdown receptions, it was a bit of a surprise to see Devonta Smith announce his return for another season in Tuscaloosa. Even while being often overlooked for teammates Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, I thought Smith was sensational enough to earn a day-two selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. Instead of striking while the iron is hot, Smith will look to work on his craft while showing he’s more than a one-year wonder.
10) Tylan Wallace (WR – Oklahoma State) – Midway through the 2019 season, Oklahoma State wide receiver Tylan Wallace seemed destined for the 2020 NFL Draft. But after suffering a heartbreaking non-contact knee injury in a late-October practice, Wallace chose to return for another season under Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State. You can certainly understand Wallace’s reasoning. Instead of entering the draft this season, where he probably would’ve been a mid-to-late round draft choice, Wallace can return in 2020 to show teams that he’s healthy and ready to contribute to an NFL team.
11) Trevor Lawrence (QB – Clemson) – Don’t let one bad performance in the National Championship soil your opinion of Trevor Lawrence. The Clemson quarterback is still a genuinely elite prospect that seems extremely likely to be the #1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s hard to gauge the value of quarterbacks in 1-QB leagues since it often depends on individual team structure, but you’re likely to see quarterbacks go in this range at a minimum. Once drafted into the NFL, Lawrence will be a 10-15 year starter that one lucky team will build around. It’s not the worst idea for QB-needy dynasty teams to do the same in 2021.
12) Justin Fields (QB – Ohio State) – In most drafts, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields would be the consensus #1 quarterback and likely #1 overall pick. Unfortunately for Fields, he shares a draft-class with all-world prospect Lawrence. Don’t sleep on Fields, though. The sophomore QB was nearly flawless this season with a 41-3 TD/INT ratio while leading the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoffs. Both Fields and Lawrence have shown the ability to run the football when needed, but Fields has demonstrated more of a quick-twitch ability while Lawrence is more of an open-field sprinter thanks to his height advantage.
13) Kyle Pitts (TE – Florida) – The top tight end in the class, Kyle Pitts, rounds out my way too early 2021 dynasty rookie rankings. The sophomore led the Gators with 54 receptions, which he turned into 649 yards and five touchdown receptions. With great size and the ability to make defenders miss in the open field, Pitts is a matchup nightmare across the middle of the field. While the 2020 NFL Draft seems to be lacking an elite talent at the tight end position, the 2021 class has the potential to be unique. Pitts, Pat Freiermuth, and Brevin Jordan are all matchup-nightmare tight ends that I have ranked over any 2020 tight end in my devy rankings.
Others: Zamir White (RB – Georgia), Tamorrion Terry (WR – Florida State), C.J. Verdell (RB – Oregon), Pat Freiermuth (TE – Penn State), Brevin Jordan (TE – Miami).
Jordan Woodson is a writer for the Pro Football Network covering Devy and Dynasty Fantasy Football. You can follow him @Jordan_Woodson on Twitter.