Rookies With Immediate Fantasy Impact in 2021: AFC Edition
These rookies, though raw and inexperienced, are going to be high impact players in not only dynasty but redraft leagues as well in 2021.
Ja’Marr Chase WR, Bengals: The 2019 Biletnikoff winner, Chase finished his career at LSU with an FBS high 23 broken tackles(for WRs) and deep catches(24) – He opted out of the 2020 season. He’ll be reunited in Cincinnati with former QB Joe Burrow, where he’ll compete with Tee Higgins for the no.1 receiver spot. He’s dominated the top corners in the draft in the past, so Chase shouldn’t have any trouble getting open at the next level. I feel comfortable drafting him as a WR3 with immense upside in redraft leagues, as AJ Green left 104 targets upon his departure.
Javonte Williams RB, Broncos: The 21 year-old Williams managed to top 1,100 yards and score 19 TDs sharing the load with fellow highly touted RB Michael Carter in the NC backfield. As a Bronco, he’ll have to split time with Melvin Gordon, but Gordon’s been a notoriously slow starter as of late, and Williams will get plenty of opportunities to show his mettle on an offense that is currently the frontrunner in the Aaron Rodgers sweepstakes. Whether Rodgers ends up in Denver or not, Williams’ ceiling remains. He offers sweet relief to zero RB acolytes in redraft leagues.
Nico Collins WR, Texans: Nothing is right in the world of the Texans these days, but Collins is primed to compete for a starting job in Houston’s offense right away. At 6’4” with 34 ⅛” arms, Collins will be a red-zone lightning rod on a team where all of the current starting receivers are under 6’. His floor is low, considering the state of limbo the QB situation is in right now, but Collins represents immense value as a player you can take in the latter rounds of your drafts who may end up an every week flex or better.
Trevor Lawrence QB, Jaguars: Perhaps the player with the most potential to win fantasy leagues in his first season, Lawrence steps into the starting QB role in Jacksonville with a bevy of offensive weapons at his disposal. Athletic and crafty, National Championship winner Lawrence can create offense on the fly with his feet and his arm, though he could stand to add a few pounds of muscle. It’ll be interesting to see what this team looks like in Urban Meyer’s first season as an NFL coach, but Lawrence will have little pressure from his backups and a skyhigh ceiling for those willing to take a chance on him as their fantasy QB.
Josh Palmer WR, Chargers: Palmer wasn’t particularly productive in college, in most part due to terrible QB play at Tennessee, but he’s built for success at 6’2”, 210 lbs and a 4.51 forty time. The biggest boon for Palmer’s fantasy prospects is his landing spot in Los Angeles with Justin Herbert under center. He is likely to be the third WR in 3-wide sets alongside Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, a position that would afford him plenty of looks on a weekly basis.
Jaylen Waddle WR, Dolphins: Waddle may be the most naturally talented receiver in the draft, all speed and wiggle with soft hands. He never really got a chance to be an every down player in college, but that will all change in Miami where he’ll be reunited with Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa. With 4.37(alleged) speed and coming in with an 18.9 YPC average, Waddle will consistently be one play away from breaking a big play downfield, but he won’t be relegated to being a deep play specialist. He’ll likely play a lot of slot receiver, so he’ll get the chance to show his evasiveness underneath and over the middle. No trust needs to be built between his QB and him, so Waddle can contribute right away.
Zach Wilson QB, Jets: The second pick of the draft, Wilson wasn’t taken that early to not be used right away. The Jets O-line was one of the worst in football last season, but they should improve this season if only slightly, and Wilson is agile enough and can make enough throws to mitigate the lack of help. His targets, Denzel Mims, Corey Davis, Chris Herndon and Elijah Moore – Jamison Crowder is likely on his way out, are all dynamic and can adjust to poorly thrown balls so Wilson will have a long leash. You’ll be able to take him late, so don’t be afraid to take a chance on Wilson.
Najee Harris RB, Jets: Harris is the big bodied bell-cow that Pittsburgh has been searching for, so don’t expect him to see the bench often in his rookie season. He could easily see over 250 touches in his first season as a Steeler to bolster an already explosive passing game. You’ll have to take him early to get him in drafts, but with fewer teams using workhorse backs he’s a safer bet than many realize.
Dez Fitzpatrick WR, Titans: With only AJ Brown and Josh Reynolds ahead of him on the depth chart, Fitzpatrick is in the perfect situation to make a splash as a rookie in a surging Titans offense. Fitzpatrick has a huge 80 ⅝” wingspan and can win at the catch-point – He was one of only 6 players at Louisville to ever go over 2,500 yards receiving in their career. If he can finds ways to separate in the pros, Fitzpatrick can step in where Corey Davis left off last season.