Tight ends don't ordinarily get picked as high as Kyle Pitts is projected.— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) April 12, 2021
But Kyle Pitts is no ordinary tight end. pic.twitter.com/uoGhwLAcOR
By Ryan Bickerstaff
Back into the insanity.
A long-time follower of my work (you know who you are, thanks for the idea) made a request for some tier groupings involving the incoming 2021 NFL rookie class, so I’m back with another piece that is sure to ruffle a few feathers.
In this article, I’m going to build a top 40 big board, then attempt to break this 2021 class of rookies at fantasy-relevant positions into tiers. This big board will be a whole hell of a lot more honest than my previous mocks and will not account for projected draft position.
Butts will be hurt by what is contained within this piece and I can hear the screeching begin as I type this. Before you accuse me of attention seeking, note the generic title of this article and consider what I’m about to tell you:
If you dislike or can’t handle differing opinions, click out of this article now and find something else to read. Exercise your confirmation bias elsewhere. To put it another way, if you’re reading this by way of Reddit, consider this your trigger warning.
Okay, enough chatter. Let’s get into it.
@thedevydirtbag’s 2021 Rookie Big Board (at Fantasy-Relevant Positions):
1- Kyle Pitts, “TE,” Florida
2- Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
3- Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
4- Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
5- Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Pitts is the best overall prospect in this class. He’s going to be a menace in the NFL and ascend to dynasty TE1 in time. For now, he’s already dynasty TE3 for me… Wilson is the best QB prospect in this class and is closer to being a generational talent than a certain someone we’re mindlessly handing that status to. His overall arm talent is better than that of everyone not named Trey Lance. He’s arguably the most accurate QB in this class and has the best ball placement. His deep ball is the best in class, so is his release, and ability to throw off-platform. Plus, he’s a film room junkie with a high football IQ… If you’re looking for a running back with 2000 YFS potential to go along with upwards of 20 touchdowns, draft Harris. Sure, he’s older but he only had 638 carries in four years in college. This year in rookie drafts is the cheapest you’ll get him for a long time… In terms of ceiling, Lance has the highest of any QB in this class. He is the confluence of immense arm talent and natural athleticism. He’s smart with the football, to boot. For now, he’s relatively inexperienced and has some accuracy issues. The experience will come with time and the accuracy can be improved with coaching (see: Josh Allen). My biggest concern, from a fantasy standpoint, is that he won’t play in 2021, but I see a superstar in the making… Short, intermediate, deep, Waddle is a savage at every level and nearly impossible to cover. His speed cannot be matched, his 0-60 and ability after the catch are the best in this class, and his hands and ability to get open are fantastic. He’s a good enough receiver that he would still be a 1st round talent even if he ran a 4.5 forty time. WR1, don’t @ me.
6- Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
7- DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
8- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
9- Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
10- Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
For those of you keeping count, Fields is QB3 for me. He’s almost as talented of a passer as a certain someone in this class, outplayed that certain someone both statistically and head-to-head, runs a 4.4 forty time, and showed actual improvement as a player over the course of his college career. Even the idea that Fields is a one-read QB is a myth… Sticking to my guns at receiver, Smitty is a better prospect than Chase. There’s nothing Chase can do that Smitty cannot aside from weigh 200 pounds. In fact, Smith is more well-rounded than Chase (separation, route running). I’m not worried about his size… That said, Chase will be the first WR drafted and the top WR drafted is always the best in his class, so obviously I’m an idiot and I’m wrong and the Re(eeee)ddit mob will be sure to express their displeasure over having to read a differing opinion for once. Groupthink City’s worst Superfund site. Look, Chase is a fantastic prospect but the dude wasn’t even the best receiver on his own team in 2019. That was Justin Jefferson. Then he opted out before we could see what he looked like on a dumpster fire of a football team in 2020. I’m simply not as impressed as everyone else seems to be… I question religious belief in people, ideas, everything, especially when no one can articulate why they are right. It’s just rhetoric, talking points. Some are better at reciting their memorized lines than others but I don’t buy bullshit. Take Lawrence, for example. I like him. He seems like a good dude and is a talented quarterback prospect, but there are three guys in this class I view as more talented. I hope he succeeds – I hope all these guys succeed. It’s a certainty, however, that Lawrence fails to live up to the hype around him. No one can live up to the billing placed on this kid. He can still be good but I’d rather sell 1.01 to a true believer (there’s no shortage of them) for a Brinks truck of assets and let someone else make this pick… I’ve been on about Bateman for a long time. He’s going to fall in rookie drafts due to positional scarcity elsewhere, but I consider him to be in a similar tier to Smith and Chase. Stud in the making.
11- Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
12- Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
13- Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
14- Kenny Gainwell, RB, Memphis
15- Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
16- Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
As mentioned in the introduction, this list does not take projected draft position into account. Freiermuth is a better prospect than where he will be drafted in rookie drafts becausebhe;’s a tight end. He’s a bit raw but oozes potential. He’s already a top 10 dynasty TE for me and his upside is top 3… I went back and forth between Williams and Etienne at RB2 before finally landing on Williams there, then placing the RB3 designation on the ACC’s all-time leading rusher. Williams doesn’t have the same kind of speed as Etienne, but he’s an upgrade in the power department. While Etienne will produce a larger yardage output, Williams will be a hammer on the goal line and outproduce Etienne in the touchdown category… Gainwell plays like an Austin Ekeler clone. I really want to rank him higher, but it’s difficult to do because he opted out of the 2020 season and we’re going off of only one season of tape. Meanwhile, Williams and Etienne have multiple. I’ll still be drafting him everywhere I can… Marshall was a sleeper in this class. Now everyone knows about him and he’s shooting up draft boards, almost to a ridiculous degree. We place too much weight on forty times… Jones is the 5th-most talented QB in this class. He’s not being drafted by the 49ers either. He is going to get an opportunity to start somewhere, though, which makes him worth a 1st round rookie draft selection in superflex leagues, even if there are overall better prospects available.
17- Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
18- Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina
19- Elijah Moore, WR, OIe Miss
20- Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
21- Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina
22- Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M
23- Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State
24- Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
25- Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
St. Brown is a stud and the consensus is lower on him than where he should be. Translation: you’ll be able to draft him at a value… Sam Howell’s favorite target looks the part of a high-end WR2 for an NFL team. He may never be “the guy,” but he will produce for your fantasy squads… I’m a little late to the party on E. Moore, but better late than never. He’s going to be one of the game’s better slot receivers and a valuable asset in PPR leagues… After an incredible freshman season, R. Moore is suddenly polarizing and feels like a much riskier prospect than a couple years ago. Here’s to hoping he stays healthy and lands with an OC who is willing to be creative with him… The Robin to Javonte Williams’ Batman, Carter is going to be a good NFL back. He’s well-rounded and can stay on the field for all three downs if called upon to do so… Mond feels like a Dak Prescott-lite type of prospect. He isn’t quite as good of a prospect, but can be a serviceable starter in the right situation… Hill is a guy I was low on for some time who has been quickly shooting up in my rankings. Effective both as a runner and receiver, he has “sleeper” written all over him… Wallace won’t “wow” you at all but he’s just a solid receiver who will be a decent contributor to your fantasy squads, even if he never rises above a WR3/Flex role… Toney is boom-or-bust to me. He has the athleticism, which is why he’s still this high, but his injury history and production profile are sketchy at best. For where he’s projected to go, I’ll have zero shares, and I’m good with that.
26- Seth Williams, WR, Auburn
27- Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana
28- Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
29- Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
30- Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
31- Jaelon Darden, WR, North Texas
32- Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
33- Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
Williams produced despite horrific quarterback play in college but he will mostly be relied upon in contested situations, as he isn’t the best separator, and in the redzone. I’m not sure how much fantasy production that will equate to… Mitchell is one of “my guys” in this class. He’s big, fast, elusive, a decent receiver, just the total package at running back. He was in a heavy rotation, so there’s plenty of tread left on those tires… For a quarterback guru looking for a project with starter potential, look no farther than Mills. Just know that if he ever starts, it won’t be for some time… The Sermon hype is getting a little ridiculous. Some are saying he’s a top 3 back in this class. Much like Toney, I’ll have zero shares, and I’m good with that… Jordan’s testing numbers suggest he isn’t as good of a tight end prospect as I previously thought he was. He’ll find a role, but will he ever be a featured starter? I’m guessing not… I’ve become quite a big fan of Darden. If he had played at a larger program, we’d be discussing him as a top 10 receiver in this class… After years of being overshadowed by the likes of Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross at Clemson, Rodgers had a breakout year in 2020. He’s going to be a nice value pick… Overcoming the putrid quarterback play at Michigan, Collins managed to be productive from ‘18-’19. He opted out of 2020 but is a physically imposing prospect with some real potential to be a good pro.
34- Demetric Felton, RB, UCLA
35- Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State
36- Hunter Long, TE, Boston College
37- Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
38- Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
39- Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma
40- D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan
Looking for an Antonio Gibson-type prospect? Check out Felton. He’s smaller than Gibson but is a WR/RB hybrid who hasn’t been run into the ground and has put some really nice stuff on film… After two productive years in ‘18 and ‘19, Terry failed to eclipse 300 yards in six games in ‘20. He has a lot of talent, but his floor is the basement… Great size, productive, athletic enough. That’s Long in a nutshell. Of the remaining tight ends, he has the best shot at becoming a regular contributor… While Hubbard is the most boring 2000-yard rusher I’ve ever seen, he’s a former 2000-yard rusher and belongs in the top 40… Whatever hype there was around Trask has since fizzled out. He’s not a 1st or 2nd round NFL talent. The 3rd round feels like home for him, perhaps there’s a season as a starter within him… Another player I’m failing to see the hype around is Stevenson. He’s fine, but I don’t see a starter. More like a short yardage situation and goal line back. Could be a TD vulture… What Eskridge lacks in size and polish as a receiver, he makes up for with blazing speed and great burst. He’ll likely be better in a bestball league than one that requires you to set a lineup.
That’s it. If you’re still with me, thanks for reading.
There will be no more content from me until after the draft when I publish my final rookie mock. That one will finally be able to account for landing spots and, while it will still cover five rounds, it will be substantially shorter than the previous installments. The intent is for it to serve as a quick reference rookie draft guide that won’t require a lot of reading.
Enjoy the draft. Just a little while longer. Remember that it begins Thursday, April 29 @8 PM (ET).