The dust has settled on the NFL draft and dynasty rookie draft season is about to pick up in full swing. As I wrote in my pre-draft previews, NFL draft capital is an important indicator of future success, and we now have that piece of data in our holster. While it’s critical for us to consider when a player gets taken, a core dynasty tenant is not to overvalue where a player ended up in terms of team surroundings. This is dynasty, and you should be in it for the long term. Talent always wins out over situation in the long run. It's also important to keep positional value in mind. Wide receivers tend to have the longest shelf life of dynasty assets, but the positional value of stud running backs due to scarcity at the position puts them at a premium. It’s on us to figure out where the line is between positional value and a reach that costs you a better long-term asset.
Below is what I think a typical 1QB dynasty rookie draft is going to look like in the coming weeks based on sentiments gathered from the community as well as two drafts I have participated in myself this week.
1.01 Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets
There are two clear top picks for me in rookie drafts this year: Hall and Treylon Burks. I usually lean towards wide receivers early in rookie drafts, but Hall would seem to fall into that category of three down back you simply can’t pass up if you get the chance to latch onto in dynasty. He gained early Round 2 draft capital to go with stellar production and athletic profiles. The Jets offense is on the come up with their plethora of additions the last two offseasons, making this a more appealing landing spot than it was in the past. While he could be a thorn in Hall’s PPR side, 2021 fourth rounder Michael Carter has never had more than 177 carries in a season in either college or pros, a number Hall exceeded all three seasons at Iowa State. Hall himself is a strong blocker/receiver, so if he establishes himself as the lead back it is only a matter of when, not if he takes over third down duties as well. With him drawing comparisons to Jonathan Taylor after the season Taylor just had, I fully expect most 1.01 owners to go in this direction.
1.02 Treylon Burks, WR, Tennessee Titans
Burks was a divisive prospect during draft season. Opinions on him seemed to be either highly favorable or bordering on a bust, with not much in between. I fell on the former side of the spectrum as he was my WR1. Five receivers went ahead of him in the first round, but it is generally agreed upon that all those players are in the same ballpark in terms of prospect valuation (with perhaps one reach that went ahead of Burks in Jahan Dotson). As a result, I expect dynasty drafters to react a little more to landing spot than they normally would or should for the receivers. Burks walks right into the lucrative role vacated by A.J. Brown after he was traded to Philadelphia. The former Razorback’s dominator ratings in a feeble Arkansas offense against SEC competition would indicate he is ready to shoulder the load for Tennessee sooner rather than later. Ryan Tannehill will easily be the best quarterback Burks has ever played with. 30-year-old Robert Woods coming off a torn ACL does not worry me about the rookie’s short or long term value.
1.03 Drake London, WR, Atlanta Falcons
London was the first wide receiver off the board on draft night, which was in line with Vegas betting odds. His age adjusted production combined with his size/athletic profile make him worthy of such draft capital; he doesn’t even turn 21 until late July. He was my WR2 pre-draft, and he remains in that slot now entering an Atlanta offense that was absolutely desperate to add receiver help following Calvin Ridley’s season-long suspension. He should immediately step in as one of their starters and garner a decent target share out of the gate. Marcus Mariota is not what you would call an ideal quarterback situation, but it would be short sighted to tie London’s dynasty value to him. Atlanta is going to be one of the worst teams in the league this year and should have another top ten if not top five pick in next year’s stacked quarterback draft class. If there were to be any concerns based on Atlanta’s existing roster, it would be the presence of Kyle Pitts as a potential roadblock to true WR1 volume after he became just the second rookie tight end ever to eclipse 1,000 yards. It shouldn’t be a long-term concern assuming Atlanta gets a franchise signal caller that can support two pass catchers. I highly doubt Ridley ever steps on the field again for the Falcons.
1.04 Garrett Wilson, WR, New York Jets
Wilson was WR1 for many fantasy analysts ahead of the draft, and like London ended up going in the top ten. His landing spot is perhaps the most difficult to decipher. The Jets suddenly deep offense includes 2021 second round pick Elijah Moore, who performed well as a rookie and will provide strong target competition. Ultimately, Wilson is more talented than Moore and should establish himself as the Alpha, but it is something to consider. The bigger question mark with the landing spot is quarterback Zach Wilson and whether he can progress after a rookie season where he showed flashes of his BYU brilliance but at times looked like he didn’t belong in the league. It’s a high risk/reward situation for the rookie. (Zach) Wilson taking a step forward would mitigate the presence of Moore as a rising tide lifts all ships, and Garrett would then be tied to a young franchise quarterback. If things go in the other direction, the first couple seasons of the rookie’s career could be held hostage from a production standpoint. Still, (Garret) Wilson is the type of player at the receiver position whose talent you should gamble on in dynasty no matter the situation. I can’t see him falling any lower than this in rookie drafts.
1.05 Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints
I personally have had Olave over Wilson this entire process, and their similar draft capital has done nothing to sway me from that opinion. Wilson however is a “sexier” pick and I expect him to go over Olave in most rookie drafts. Olave was a model of production at Ohio State, where he set the school record for touchdowns and broke out as a 19-year-old true freshman. His combination of route running, body control, and nose for the end zone should translate seamlessly to the NFL. It’s tough to say what his target competition is going to look like as we haven’t seen Michael Thomas play on a consistent basis in the last two years, but there’s no denying Thomas was a target hog when healthy and the Saints realistically can’t get out from under his contract until 2025. Jameis Winston just signed a two-year contract, which is not as bad as some would make it out to be for his receiver’s fantasy prospects. Look no further than 2019, when Winston had over 5,100 passing yards and both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans eclipsed 1,100 yards and 8 touchdowns with him at the helm. Outside of Burks, Olave may be in line to have the most immediate success among this year’s rookie receivers, which should be just the start of a long productive NFL career.
1.06 Jameson Williams, WR, Detroit Lions
I was slightly lower than most on Williams during the pre-draft process given his inability to beat out Wilson and Olave before transferring from Ohio State to Alabama, where he put up his lone year of significant production. While it was only one season, it was the best statistical season any receiver in this class had in their careers. He also possesses the game changing speed which we have seen NFL teams value more and more over recent years (to varying degrees of success). All reports are that he has been given a clean bill of health in his recovery from a torn ACL. Williams landing in Detroit is going to be an interesting test case of talent vs. situation. The rookie steps onto a team with a clear stop gap quarterback in Jared Goff, whose skill set does not exactly mesh with Williams’ downfield abilities. There also is promising 2021 rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown, who garnered 119 targets last season, along with TJ Hockenson and D’Andre Swift to siphon targets. Williams is undeniably more talented than St. Brown, who is more of a possession receiver anyway. They should complement each other well, but it’s unlikely both are useful fantasy assets until Detroit’s quarterback situation improves, which may happen at the top of next year’s draft. There is a clear drop off in value after this pick in rookie drafts. Don’t get trapped into immediate opportunity vs. raw talent; Williams should not fall further than this pick.
1.07 Kenneth Walker, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Walker was the clear RB2 coming into the draft and couldn’t have landed in a much better situation given his early down skill set. Seattle was run heavy with Russell Wilson at quarterback, so the sky is the limit as to how much Pete Carrol will ESTABLISH IT with Drew Lock under center. Incumbent starter Chris Carson is coming off a December neck injury which required surgery, and his status is still unclear at this point in time. Rashaad Penny, praised as he should be for his post-hype mini breakout, does not present much of a threat as a historically injury prone player on a one-year deal. I would expect Walker to establish himself as the lead back for Seattle relatively quickly. Seattle rarely throws to their backs anyway, so Walker should be given the leash to develop that part of his game while doing what he does best in the meantime. There are some receivers that may offer better long term dynasty value here, but RB hungry teams are sure to scoop up Walker once the top 6 are off the board.
1.08 James Cook, RB, Buffalo Bills
Cook was bunched into my secondary tier of running backs before the draft but separated from that pack based on draft capital when he became the only other running back besides Hall and Walker selected in the second round. On the flip side of the Walker coin, Cook’s landing spot perfectly matches his skill set. He is a slightly undersized receiving specialist who is stepping into a high-powered passing offense desperate for production from the position. While his size and competition at Georgia prevented him from ever garnering a high carry volume, he was extremely efficient (6.5 YPC) on his 230 college carries. I really like everything Cook has going for him as a dynasty asset, but this slot feels like a slight reach when there are receivers with potentially longer career production arcs still on the board. I’d feel much more comfortable with him a few picks later, but I think this is about where he will end up in most rookie drafts as part of the annual tradition of dynasty owners reaching for production at the RB position. In PPR leagues, he may even slide in ahead of Walker.
1.09 George Pickens, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pickens heads the list of receivers who I think should probably go ahead of the two previously picked running backs as a better long term dynasty gamble. He has the pedigree and profile that would suggest a true NFL/dynasty WR1 is in his potential range of outcomes, and he couldn’t have landed in a better spot for that to come to fruition. The Steelers’ history of successfully identifying and developing elite wide receiver talent speaks for itself. Pickens landing with a stable organization and head coach does loads to quell the rumblings about his character and off field concerns. Clearly, they are high on him as they used a second-round pick on him after they used their first rounder on quarterback Kenny Pickett. Those two should get plenty of opportunities to develop chemistry this summer and translate it onto the field at some point in the Fall and moving forward. Mitchell Trubisky is merely a placeholder until Pickett is ready, which shouldn’t be very long into the season. If history is any indication, the Steelers made this pick with the intention of letting Diontae Johnson walk next offseason while grooming Pickens as his replacement. He is in a mini tier of his own for me after the top five wideouts.
1.10 Skyy Moore, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Moore was a pre-draft riser out of Western Michigan, a school which has produced an inordinate number of NFL wide receivers given its place in college football’s hierarchy. He has produced since he was a 19-year-old true freshman and showed strong athletic measurables at the NFL Combine. Moore has some of the cleanest releases among this receiver class, and he can take advantage of that early separation with his athleticism. Without Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs receiver depth chart is fluid. I fully expect JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to be the starters this year, but Schuster is on a one-year deal. I expect Moore to make his way into three wide sets right away and be one of the Chief’s starters by 2023. Any talented receiver tied to Patrick Mahomes is worth rolling the dice on in this range of rookie drafts. Despite the fact that he lacks true WR1 size, Moore is a much better prospect in my eyes than Mecole Hardman, who I’m sure some dynasty drafters will have in mind when sitting on the clock staring at Moore. It is highly unlikely he busts to that degree. I think he’ll be a solid dynasty WR2/3 with room to grow beyond that given where he landed.
1.11 Jahan Dotson, WR, Washington Commanders
Dotson went much higher than expected in the NFL draft, actually being selected ahead of Treylon Burks. This may have something to do with the Commanders believing that Dotson is a better compliment to Terry McClaurin than Burks, but it seems like a mistake to me nonetheless. Dotson was generating late first round buzz, not top 15. For dynasty fantasy football, Dotson is in the same tier as Moore for me as someone who is unlikely to ever become a true WR1 given his physical stature but has a high floor given talent and draft capital. Dotson will compliment Terry McClaurin well and should benefit from the coverage he draws. How much fantasy goodness that situation creates is left to be seen, but Dotson is worthy of this sort or rookie draft capital as someone who has been in the first-round conversation since Day 1 of this process. Despite this, given his lack of long-term ceiling, this is the point in the wide receiver pecking order where I’d be OK taking Walker or Cook over him.
1.12 Rachaad White, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
White was the first back taken after Cook, but it was nearly a full round later in the late third. White has a three-down skill set and truly remarkable receiving production for a player of his size who also possesses an early down skill set. His overall career production was limited as a JUCO transfer, and it also resulted in him being on the older end of prospects in this class. For me, his athletic profile and 2021 production/film mitigate that. I see a player who has true bell cow potential at the next level. The Buccaneers re-signed Leonard Fournette to a 3-year deal, but he is injury prone and has never been more than an average receiver out of the backfield. It’s anyone’s guess as to how long Tom Brady will be in Tampa, but as long as he is White has a real opportunity to develop into his go to back in the receiving game, which should eventually lead to more early down opportunities.
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