Fantasy Football: 5 rookies to steer clear of in your 2021 draft

Fantasy Football
NFL Analysis Network

With the NFL preseason underway, Fantasy Football drafts are now going to be taking place at a rapid pace until the regular season begins. Proven players are typically taken early in drafts, with the running back position still reigning supreme in fantasy football. But with everyone looking for guys that carry upside, rookies are sometimes a solid option as they could earn an expanded role with their respective team as the season progresses.

Everyone would love to find rookies like Justin Jefferson and Jonathan Taylor from a season ago, who were guys that finished as top performers at their positions in fantasy football. On the other hand, there are also rookies that could fail to live up to expectations in their first season in the NFL.

Whether it be due to their situation or needing time to develop, here are a handful of rookies that you should avoid in your fantasy football drafts in 2021.

Zach Wilson (QB, New York Jets)

It was a foregone conclusion that Trevor Lawrence was going to go No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. After Lawrence went off of the board, the New York Jets took Zach Wilson out of BYU.

Wilson had a solid season at BYU in 2020, but I don’t believe he’s going to be better than Trey Lance or Justin Fields. The first-year quarterback that looks like a high schooler still played behind a stout offensive line at BYU that allowed him to hold the ball and create plays that won’t work in the NFL. While he does have a strong arm, there’s going to be growing pains for Wilson as he adjusts to the speed at the next level.

Even Robert Saleh and the Jets have admitted that things are going to have to get worse before they get better for Wilson. Despite New York surrounding him with Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Elijah Moore, and Keelan Cole, I envision Wilson showing signs of struggle in his rookie campaign.

DeVonta Smith (WR, Philadelphia Eagles)

DeVonta Smith is a remarkable talent that won the Heisman Trophy as a wide receiver last season in his final year at Alabama. In the 2021 NFL Draft, Smith landed with the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that could give him an opportunity to be the No. 1 option in the passing game.

However, Smith suffered an injury in training camp that could prevent him from playing in the preseason. With limited time on the field, Smith is going to be behind in his development ahead of the regular season. Also, while Jalen Hurts had flashes of potential in 2020, it remains to be seen if he can be productive as a passer over the span of an entire season.

Taking in all of the concerns with Smith and the Eagles makes me believe that we are at least a year away from seeing Smith become a viable option in Fantasy Football.

Kadarius Toney (WR, New York Giants)

One of the head-scratching selections in the 2021 NFL Draft came when the New York Giants took Kadarius Toney after moving back in the first round. The Giants, who still are uncertain about Daniel Jones, could have taken Justin Fields if they stayed put in the first round. Instead, they added another wide receiver to their offense in Toney.

Toney was a quarterback-turned-wide-receiver at Florida that only had one full year of playing wide receiver under his belt. After signing Kenny Golladay in free agency, Toney is buried behind Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton on the depth chart. On top of that, the reports coming out of training camp haven’t been positive for Toney.

With Toney not having a starting role or a quarterback we can fully trust makes him a waste of a draft pick in Fantasy Football this year.

Rondale Moore (WR, Arizona Cardinals)

Coming into the 2021 NFL Draft, one of the most exciting prospects was Rondale Moore. Moore was an explosive player with the ball in his hands despite being listed at 5-foot-7. With Kliff Kingsbury always wanting to add weapons to his offense, the Arizona Cardinals took Moore in the second round of the draft.

Entering his rookie year, Moore will look to compete for snaps behind DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, and Christian Kirk. Also, there are expectations for Chase Edmonds to handle an expanded workload following the departure of Kenyan Drake. Besides trick plays, I don’t see Moore getting much usage in Arizona’s offense in 2021.

While I wouldn’t take a flier on Moore in redraft leagues in Fantasy Football, Moore is a perfect example of a rookie you could take a chance on in dynasty leagues in later rounds.

Tutu Atwell (WR, Los Angeles Rams)

Another questionable selection in the 2021 NFL Draft came when the Los Angeles Rams took Tutu Atwell with the 57th overall pick. Despite having a deep receiver group that features Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson, and Van Jefferson, Sean McVay wanted Atwell. If the Rams were adamant about taking a wide receiver, Terrace Marshall Jr. was right there for the taking.

Nevertheless, Atwell now joins a crowded offense that is expected to take a massive leap forward with Matthew Stafford under center. As a rookie, Atwell will seemingly spend most of his time as a special teams contributor. Even though some people may take a chance on Atwell due to the offense he’s in, his role in Los Angeles is going to be minimal unless multiple injuries happen to the pass-catchers on the Rams.