While it’s still early, here’s Part 1 of my first rookie mock draft for 2021. Dynasty players know that understanding rookie classes is essential to effectively gauging draft pick value and succeeding over the long term. Rest assured, the ordering, and inclusion of players in this list will change between now and the NFL draft. As such, it’s important to be skeptical and determine which traits you covet in rookies.
For those of you just starting to dig into the 2021 class, I’ll offer a few thoughts. Like last year, this is a very deep wide receiver class that should yield a number of values beyond the first round. At running back, there are two studs at the top and sufficient quantity of depth beyond them. As for tight end, this class is considerably better than last year and has a number of potential studs. Finally, there are two excellent quarterbacks who should have very good NFL careers.
This Mock Draft is created under the premise of a 1 QB league operating with a 0.5 PPR scoring system.
1 – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson (5’10/210 lbs)
Etienne needs no introduction to fantasy players. He’s a unique blend of athleticism, speed, balance and receiving ability. He’s incredibly elusive, and a threat to score any time he has the ball. Still the RB1 of this class.
2 – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama (6’2/230 lbs)
An incredibly well-rounded back, Harris is a close second behind Etienne. At 6’2, 230, Harris has tremendous size, power and balance which help him grind out extra yards and make him a nightmare to tackle. On top of that, he’s refined in pass protection and a tremendous receiver. Look for him to continue to challenge Etienne for the top spot.
3 – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU (6’1/205 lbs)
Chase is a complete wide receiver who brings excellent hands, route running, tracking and tenacity to the table. He won the Biletnikoff award in 2019 after posting a ridiculous 1780 yards and 20 TDs as a key piece of LSU’s national championship squad. He continues to have a stranglehold on the WR1 spot in this class.
4 – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (5’10/183 lbs)
Waddle is the next great Alabama receiver to join the NFL. Blessed with lightning speed, superb quickness and footwork, Waddle was wildly efficient in 2019 playing alongside Jeudy and Ruggs. The ankle injury that cut his 2020 season short won’t hurt his stock much.
5 – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota (6’2/210 lbs)
Bateman is another extremely talented receiver in this class. He has good size, runs great routes and has the versatility to play inside and out. A natural playmaker after the catch, Bateman has the contact balance and strength to consistently pick up extra yards on his receptions.
6 – Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama (6’1/175 lbs)
Smith will finish the season as the unquestioned #1 receiver on Alabama which will lead to monster production. He has reliable hands, separates easily and is tough to take down after the catch. He’ll need to add some weight and get stronger to consistently succeed in the pros, but he shows the effort and compete level necessary to do so.
7 – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue (5’9/180 lbs)
Moore is a ton of fun to watch and easily one of the best playmakers in this class. Tremendous acceleration, home run speed and elusiveness are part of what make him special. His ability to win at all three levels of the field will go a long way to helping him succeed in the NFL. Size and the durability questions that come along with it will be the main knocks on Moore entering the draft.
8 – Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State (6’0/208 lbs)
Chuba has terrific patience and vision as a runner but is a tier below Harris and Etienne. He has the speed to finish long runs and excels at the second and third level. Chuba needs to continue to develop as a pass blocker and receiver to improve his stock. He could easily work his way into the Top 5.
9 – Trevor Lawrence QB, Clemson (6’6/220 lbs)
The #1 QB in the class has been widely known for the past couple years. Lawrence is the complete package, equipped with size, mobility, accuracy and arm strength. As a result, he should serve as a QB1 for years. The comparisions to Andrew Luck aren’t far off.
10 – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (6’6/246 lbs)
Pitts has been nothing short of exceptional in the early going for Florida and that trend should continue throughout the season. With tremendous catch radius, exceptional athleticism and the ability to play in-line and flexed out, he’s the undisputed TE1 in this class right now. If Pitts can further polish his route running he’ll be even tougher to stop.
11 – Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU (6’3/200 lbs)
Marshall has done an exceptional job of filling the void left by Ja’Marr Chase this season. Though a lesser known commodity, Marshall was ranked by ESPN as the #2 receiver in the 2018 recruiting class. He’s a big, fast, capable route runner equipped with elite ball skills. Keep your eyes on him.
12 – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (6’1/188 lbs)
Olave is another polished route runner in this class who’s quickness and ability to change direction is remarkable. His body control is also a strength, and he’s had little trouble getting separation. Getting stronger will go a long way to helping him beat physical corners.
13 – Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis (5’11/190 lbs)
Gainwell is an intriguing RB prospect who’s been compared to Devin Singletary and Miles Sanders. He has the ability to operate effectively as both a ball-carrier and pass-catcher which will certainly draw the interest of fantasy GMs. Gainwell’s also among the most explosive and elusive backs in this class with smooth footwork that allows him to change direction easily. He’ll need to get stronger to have more success in pass protection, and ball security is an area to improve.
14 – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (6’3/228 lbs)
Fields has gotten off to an incredible start in 2020 and could see his stock rise even further by the end of the season. He’s a tremendous athlete who’s mobility, arm strength and toughness will enable him to succeed at the NFL level. His ceiling is extremely high.
15 – Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State (5’11/210 lbs)
Hill is a violent, instinctive and powerful runner who’ll have no issue breaking tackles in his career. Additionally, he flashed solid receiving ability prior to his opt out early in the 2020 season. A lack of top-end speed will likely be his biggest knock entering the draft but there aren’t a ton of holes in his game.
16 – Seth Williams, WR, Auburn (6’3/211 lbs)
Williams has shined during his time at Auburn and continues to impress as we enter the homestretch of the college football season. Williams is a strong, physical receiver who thrives at high-pointing the ball. On top of that, he has strong hands and the ability to dominate in the red zone. Williams still needs to work on separating and route running to truly excel.
17 – Pat Freirmuth, TE, Penn State (6’5/258 lbs)
Freiermuth is a very complete tight end who can block and catch with the best of them. That versatility will make him highly sought after on draft day and he has a great shot at winding up a Day 1 pick. It’s hard to find any flaws in Freirmuth’s game.
18 – Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State (6’0/190 lbs)
Good, tough route runner who some will argue struggles to beat press coverage. While the concerns are valid, Wallace continues to produce while offering plus run blocking, great tracking and a relatively good catch radius. He could also use some improvement creating yards after the catch.
19 – Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State (6’4/203 lbs)
An impressive combination of size and speed, Terry excels in high-pointing balls. He’s deceptively fast for a big receiver and has great vision after the catch allowing him to obtain extra yards. Conversely, his hands and route running have raised questions. If he puts it together, his stock is capable of rising.
20 – Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest (6’2/215 lbs)
Surratt is a big bodied receiver who compliments size with terrific athleticism. He’s shown tremendous ball skills, concentration and body control during his time at Wake Forest. While he’s excelled at the college level, there’s a possibility Surratt may lack explosiveness in the pros. The combine should give us more clarity here.
Picks 21 – 40 can be seen here 2021 Rookie Mock Draft: Part 2