Rookie draft season is in full swing. I have already participated in several myself, so I thought it would be insightful to analyze one of them and apply any lessons learned to upcoming dynasty drafts. This is a full PPR Superflex league (meaning you can start two quarterbacks), which is one of the most fun formats in dynasty. Quarterbacks don’t really matter in 1QB dynasty leagues, where there is a readily available supply. In a Superflex league, franchise quarterbacks are a scarce resource to be coveted with the utmost value. As a result, they should dominate the first round of a draft like this, which they did. Below are the first two rounds of a four round draft.
1.01 Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville
No surprise here as the generational quarterback prospect comes off the board first in a format where the position reigns supreme. While there are certainly question marks about Urban Meyer’s NFL staying power, he knows how to run an offense and Lawrence is so talented that it may not matter either way. You shouldn’t be messing around at the top of Superflex leagues. This is an easy pick. Lawrence’s combination of incredibly high floor and ceiling should make him a dynasty asset for the next 10-15 years.
1.02 Justin Fields, QB, Chicago
The gap has certainly closed between Fields and Trey Lance given their draft capital and landing spots, and I honestly wouldn’t blame an owner for taking either one here. Fields is in line to start sooner than Lance and has a wealth of big-time college experience to fall back on. He is the safer choice of the two while still possessing similar upside if utilized and groomed properly. The question is if that will happen with Matt Nagy at the helm. I think much of the pre-draft question marks around him were overblown and have him just ahead of Lance in my ranks as well.
1.03 Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco
Lance rounds out what is a clear top three picks in Superflex drafts right now, so this is the right pick. The concerns with him stem from his lack of experience and level of competition, hence why Fields has a higher floor. Clearly, Kyle Shannahan was not too concerned as he gave up multiple first round picks to move up and take him. Lance offers immense rushing upside that Shanahan evidently has a plan to utilize. I wouldn’t expect much from him early on, but he couldn’t have landed in a better spot to develop as a raw prospect and reach his ceiling.
1.04 Zach Wilson, QB, New York Jets
This is where things get interesting. The owner of this pick desperately needed a QB in a format where you can start multiple, and as a result passed on the top skill position players in this class for a prospect with some significant question marks because of positional need. The pick is not egregious, but I would have a hard time taking Wilson over any of the guys who went with the next three picks. Wilson would need to hit his ceiling to justify taking him over these blue-chip skill position players, which is a gamble I’d rather let someone else take.
1.05 Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh
Harris also presents an intriguing dilemma, particularly in Superflex. He’s a bit on the older side (23), which is fine considering he should come in and hit the ground running as a locked in RB1 with little competition for touches. However, if you are going to pass on younger players who play positions with longer shelf lives than running back to begin with, you better be damn sure Harris is the piece that will take your dynasty team over the top. In that scenario, the scarcity of bell cow running backs makes it an justifiable pick. Unfortunately for the owner who made this pick, he is still in rebuild mode and probably will be looking to sell Harris in the near future.
1.06 Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati
These next two picks are of immense value at this point in the draft. Chase is my 1.01 in non-Superflex, and even in this format I can’t see a scenario where I forgo taking him for Wilson or Harris. At 21 years of age and tied to a young quarterback who he has an established chemistry with, Chase offers a high floor combined with elite upside. While I still like Tee Higgins, Chase is going to be the alpha in this offense and is the type of cornerstone player you build dynasty rosters around.
1.07 Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta
I may get roasted for this, but I have made the mental leap of Pitts as my dynasty TE1. Not able to take a legal sip of alcohol until this coming October, at 20 years old Pitts is 7 years younger than George Kittle , 8 years younger than Darren Waller , and 11 years younger than Travis Kelce . At No. 4 overall he became the highest drafted tight end of all time, and I don’t think it was a reach. Similar to Chase, he is a massive building block for any dynasty roster that offers elite upside and a seemingly bust-proof floor.
1.08 Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami
The next four players form a clear tier after Chase, Pitts, and Harris in terms of skill position players, and all are good values late in the first round of rookie drafts. Waddle comes off the board here before his more productive Alabama teammate, as was the case in the NFL draft. Clearly the NFL is enamored with Waddle’s top end speed, and the fact that he has played with Tua Tagovailoa before is a plus. He should be given every opportunity to come in and earn targets right away, even in a crowded receiver room in Miami, but Waddle hitting his ceiling in the NFL will hinge on Tua taking a big step forward from what we saw in his rookie year.
1.09 Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville
Etienne has suddenly become one of the more polarizing prospects in dynasty after Urban Meyer has referred to him as a receiving back and is lining him up exclusively out wide in OTA’s. This has led some to speculate that his carries would be limited. I think that is patently ridiculous for a guy who averaged 7.2 yards per carry on nearly 700 college totes (not to mention his stellar receiving work) vs. a Power 5 schedule. Etienne’s high end NFL comp is Alvin Kamara , and I am taking Meyer honing his receiving skills to be a good sign for his ability to be a multi-purpose weapon. He was not taken in the first round to be a backup, much to the future chagrin of James Robinson truthers. He is my clear RB2 in this class and if you have the need I’d have no problem taking him over Waddle.
1.10 DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia
After two years of historic statistical dominance, I would personally have Smith at the top of this tier with Waddle, Etienne, and Javonte Williams, but it really is close among the four. Smith should have little competition for targets and like Waddle has college experience with his new signal caller. There were few landing spots that would have been better for him. The only knock on Smith seems to continue to be his weight. I just don’t see how that will all of a sudden affect him after four years of not missing a game due to injury in the SEC in an NFL environment where you can barely touch receivers without getting flagged. Beating press coverage has never been an issue for him either. I think he will be a back-end dynasty WR1 you can build around.
1.11 Javonte Williams, RB Denver
The skill position drop off after Williams is significant, which is why I can understand him going before Mac Jones (or Wilson) in a Superflex league. On the surface, Williams didn’t land in an ideal spot in a Denver offense full of elite pass catchers and a productive incumbent veteran at his position in Melvin Gordon . It was surprising not to see Denver pull the trigger on Fields or Jones with the No. 9 pick, but Teddy Bridgewater can at least lead a functional offense as a stop gap. Gordon is only signed through this year, however, and I would expect Williams to start tilting the carry share in his favor as the year goes on. It wouldn’t be surprising if that happened relatively early on if he has the hot hand and Gordon continues to struggle with fumbles. It should be wheels up for him in 2022 either way with Gordon gone.
1.12 Mac Jones, QB, New England
However you feel about Mac Jones, there’s no debate that he is a value at this point in a Superflex rookie draft as a top 15 overall pick in an offensive system that fits his skill set perfectly. I am not buying the idea that this will be a true red shirt year for Jones. While there certainly were extenuating circumstances with a new team/offense and him getting covid, Cam Newton was simply awful last year. I would bet on Jones being under center by midseason. Given the nature of the Patriots roster as a run heavy/defensive reliant team, his near-term statistical upside is probably limited regardless, but in this format I would much rather gamble on a first round quarterback than the secondary tiers of skill position players.
2.01 Trey Sermon, RB, San Francisco
While it’s inarguable that Sermon landed in one of the best spots he could have in the third round, that does not justify taking him where he is going, which is generally right here. The four receivers taken immediately after him in this draft were all taken in the first or second round of the NFL draft and in my eyes are better long-term dynasty assets. This is where a redraft mindset or reaching for positional need can get you in trouble. Sermon will likely be a successful zero RB darling this year and a serviceable fantasy asset for a few years, but no way am I taking him over these subsequent picks in dynasty.
2.02 Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets
At 34 overall, Moore was essentially a first round pick. After years of carrying the Ole Miss offense, he joins a suddenly talented Jets’ receiver group with Corey Davis , Jamison Crowder , and Denzel Mims. Moore is a slot dynamo who can also win deep, so Crowder will be his main competition for playing time. He is a pro-ready prospect given his route running, has draft capital in his favor, and is already working out with Zach Wilson, so I would expect that to happen sooner rather than later. I would still take Rashod Bateman over him, but it’s a solid pick here.
2.03 Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore
One of the rookie receivers was inevitably going to fall on the Baltimore sword, and unfortunately for Bateman’s potential target volume it was him. While I agree with the sentiment that he could have landed in a better spot, he would still be my first receiver (and maybe player) to pursue when Waddle and Smith are off the board. He is a better prospect coming out than Marquise Brown was and could conceivably lead the team in targets as a rookie, even if that is the smallest pie in the league to get a slice from. He is an excellent value with this pick.
2.04 Terrace Marshall, WR, Carolina
I also love this pick as Marshall was right behind Bateman for me in my pre-draft rankings. A size/speed freak with solid age adjusted production in an elite LSU receiver fraternity, Marshall slipped to the end of the second round while multiple teams seemed to reach for role specific players rather than best player available at the position. Their loss is Carolina’s gain as Marshall and DJ Moore should form a formidable 1-2 punch that compliment each other’s skill sets. I would not let him slip because of the presence of Moore. We are playing the long game in dynasty. I would still take him right after Bateman and before the two (rookie) Moore’s.
2.05 Rondale Moore, WR, Arizona
While my fading of Moore as a dynasty prospect due to his height and manufactured production is well documented, that was because people were putting him in the same tier as Waddle and Smith. At this point of the draft, he is a perfect pick. Taken in the second round, Kliff Kingsbury is sure to have designed plays in mind for the rookie, which is what he needs to succeed as he is sure to struggle to win the farther he gets from the line of scrimmage in the NFL. The presence of DeAndre Hopkins should allow him plenty of opportunity underneath.
2.06 Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets
Carter is the last running back on the board to have any potential standalone viability in 2021, and after the run on receivers that just took place this is good value on him. I guarantee there will be rookie drafts where he goes in that Sermon range, which would be a reach. I think both players belong right here in the middle of the second round behind the aforementioned wide receivers. Carter should be a consistent PPR asset for a long time, but just keep in mind his upside as a team’s true top back is limited. Fortunately for him, the Jets backfield offers little competition.
2.07 Dyami Brown, WR, Washington
Brown slipped to third round of the NFL draft, where Washington scooped him up to be a deep threat next to Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel . I love Brown’s talent and age adjusted production, but there is no denying this a crowded receiving corps that may hinder his target volume early on in his career. Fortunately, he has a skillset that is at a premium in today’s NFL as a field stretcher. He is a strong pick at this point in the draft who could develop into an NFL team’s top receiver down the line.
2.08 Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Philadelphia
I am a big fan of Gainwell and had him in the same tier as Sermon and Carter pre-draft. While he certainly takes a ding from falling to the fifth round of the NFL draft, that ding should have the asterisk that NFL teams clearly downgraded players who chose to opt out this year outside of established elite talent. I’m fine with him in this range of the draft, but I would probably have leaned towards the next quarterback available or the first-round wide receiver still sitting on the board based on draft capital alone.
2.09 D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Seattle
The dynasty drumbeat for Eskridge was rumbling before the NFL draft, but I don’t think even the biggest truther expected him to go in the second round. He is already 24 years old and played college ball at Western Michigan. He ran a 4.38 and is a one trick pony as a deep threat who got drafted by a team with two established deep threats. Granted, if he finds his way into three receiver sets, Russell Wilson may make him viable, but only in the deepest of leagues. Like the previous pick, I’d rather gamble elsewhere here.
2.10 Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina
Hubbard probably should be taken ahead of Gainwell based on landing spot as the direct backup to Christian McCaffrey . We all saw how productive Mike Davis was when he was injured last year, and even when he returned Davis still offered some standalone flex potential. While he may not be a special talent, Hubbard has a 2,000-yard season under his belt vs. a Power 5 schedule and should be serviceable at the next level. He’s an excellent bench stash, and this class falls off quickly after him and Gainwell.
2.11 Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants
I’m not the biggest fan of Toney at all. He was a one-year wonder at Florida and has a lot of development to do as a route runner. That being said, he is an explosive athlete and playmaker with the ball in his hands and an NFL team (insert Dave Gettelman joke here) invested a first round pick on him. Draft capital is not a perfect metric, but it is heavily correlated to long term fantasy success. With that in mind, Toney is an excellent value pick at this point in a rookie draft.
2.12 Kellen Mond, QB, Minnesota
Some people may think this is a reach but in Superflex I think it is a worthwhile gamble. The Vikings reportedly were interested in Justin Fields, confirming everyone’s suspicion that Kirk Cousins ’ is not long for Minnesota. They spent a second rounder on Mond, who as I have written about has striking similarities in his college profile to Dak Prescott . Unless the Vikings are in contention, Mond should start at some point this season. This time next year, he could be valued similarly to how we view Jalen Hurts right now for dynasty value.