With the 2021 Draft behind us and the regular season still months away, let’s take a way too early, speculative look at which rookies will have the biggest impact on this upcoming fantasy season:
N. Harris (RB), Pittsburgh Steelers
Najee Harris fits in perfectly with the way the Steelers like to run the ball and should handle a bulk of the carries with little competition on the roster. The offensive line has some questions after losing veterans Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villanueva, but Harris also has value catching passes out of the backfield and making plays in space. We have seen rookie RBs excel in the league and we like Harris to be the next rookie to finish the season as a RB1.
T. Etienne (RB), Jacksonville Jaguars
Etienne will be one of our favorite rookies to target in fantasy this season. While we do not expect him to rise to RB1 status, Etienne possess solid pass catching abilities that gives him RB2 upside in PPR leagues. Splitting carries with James Robinson and Carlos Hyde will certainly hurt his value, but Etienne should be drafted in fantasy leagues well before his teammate Trevor Lawrence.
J. Williams (RB), Denver Broncos
Javonte Williams enters a crowded backfield with Melvin Gordon, a top 20 RB last season in his own right, but his talent and potential is undeniable. Last season, Williams lead the FBS in broken tackles and could have some sneaky value in dynasty leagues with the Broncos.
K. Pitts (TE), Atlanta Falcons
While rookie tight-ends have struggled in the past, Kyle Pitts has the generational talent and perfect offensive fit to break the mold. Pitts speed and length creates matchup problems however you decide to cover him. Haden Hurst also seems to be on his way out, leaving plenty of targets for Pitts in this pass-centered offense. Pitts should finish as a TE1 in all scoring formats.
J. Chase (WR), Cincinnati Bengals
Chase has a chance to shine right away in the NFL in his reunion with college teammate Jordan Burrows. What we love most about this opportunity is the volume of passing downs in this offense. Before his injury in Week 11, Burrow was second in the NFL in passing attempts per game. Chase has early potential to be a high-end WR2 or even a WR1 in deeper leagues.
J. Waddle (WR), Miami Dolphins
Jaylen Waddle gets a reunion of his own with college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. While that would sound like a good thing, Waddle’s upside is largely tied to Tua, who finished last season graded outside the top 32 quarterbacks in the league. Waddle has tremendous talent and draws comparisons to some of the league’s fastest players. We like Waddle to have WR2 upside this season.
D. Smith (WR), Philadelphia Eagles
In what has become a trend this season, the Eagles reunited Heisman Trophy winning Devonta Smith with former teammate Jalen Hurts. Hurts played with Smith at Alabama, where they won the National Title in 2017, before transferring to Oklahoma. The Eagles are desperate for help at wide receiver and struggled to have a guy emerge as their top target. Like Waddle, Smith’s potential is largely tied to the success of his young quarterback. Because of some size concerns and more risk at QB, we like Smith to have WR3 potential this season.
T. Lawrence (QB), Jacksonville Jaguars
Since 2010, only six rookie quarterbacks have finished inside the top 10. Nobody expects Trevor Lawrence to come in and set the league on fire, but the rookie quarterback has a handful of returning offensive weapons and the additions of Marvin Jones in free agency and Travis Etienne in the draft leave plenty of upside potential for Lawrence. We would not draft him as our QB1, but Lawrence will have the tools around him to end up as one.