By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)
A Look Back
Last year’s rookie class was very impressive coming in, especially at the wide receiver position, and after seeing the immediate impact that Justin Jefferson ($3,280,701) and Tee Higgins ($2,171,696) made in the NFL the year before, many were excited about the next class. The 2021 draft class made an immediate impact in both fantasy and the NFL as players from every position got opportunities early and often. This rookie class ended up providing us with two top-24 Dynasty Owner quarterbacks (Mac Jones at QB18 and Trevor Lawrence at QB24), the RB3 (Najee Harris), four wideouts who finished WR30 or better (Ja’Marr Chase at WR5, Jaylen Waddle at WR13, Amon-Ra St. Brown at WR21 and DeVonta Smith at WR30), and two Top-15 tight ends (Kyle Pitts at TE6 and Pat Freiermuth at TE13). While those players are looking to make more strides in 2022, we have other players who began to breakout later in the season and look to be playmakers for their teams this season. Let’s redraft the 2021 NFL Draft class and look at not only how these sophomores performed last year, but also project how their current situation looks moving forward.
- Ja’Marr Chase ($7,704,910)
Right up there with Justin Jefferson as the top young wide receivers in Dynasty Owner, Chase came in last year and showed an incredible connection with quarterback Joe Burrow ($9,047,534). He’s one of the most expensive players on this list, but as the WR5 overall last year, I don’t think there is any cause for concern. Chase is one of the biggest playmakers in the NFL already and any team that has him is lucky, as he’s nearly un-acquirable in most formats. He’s a cornerstone piece of your Dynasty Owner team and is the easy 1.01 in this redraft.
2.Najee Harris ($3,261,862)
Harris’ volume last year was stunning, as he touched the ball 381 times over the course of the season. Over 300 rushing attempts (307), close to 75 receptions (74) and nearly 100 targets (94), the Steelers’ offense ran through Harris and his ability to handle the workload. With Big Ben gone, Harris’ workload will likely change. We can expect less dump-offs, as no matter who starts at quarterback, they’ll have a stronger arm than Roethlisberger last year. We should also expect a slight reduction in rushes as the coaches have mentioned getting Harris off the field more often to keep him fresh. Nonetheless, Harris is still one of your best bets in Dynasty Owner as the workhorse role continues to disappear around the league.
3. Javonte Williams ($2,216,438)
A back who looks to be able to do it all, run in-between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield, the hype was building for Williams to have his true breakout this coming season. A Melvin Gordon ($2,500,000) signing later, and people are worried about Williams’ workload. Gordon being there last year didn’t stop Williams from finishing as the RB18 in Dynasty Owner and I would expect him to get even more run this year as Gordon is a year older. One of the top running backs for the long-term, Williams is still only 22 years old.
4. Kyle Pitts ($8,227,624)
If not for a string of bad luck in the touchdown department, Pitts would have been a Top 5 tight end last year. Either way, he’s one of the top two or three options at the position and should continue to get better and score points for your Dynasty Owner team. With the departure of Matt Ryan ($30,000,000) and the arrival of Marcus Mariota ($9,375,000), I don’t expect the passing production to improve greatly, but Pitts will still be the top target of the offense and could post similar numbers to last year. The positional advantage that Pitts gives you for the next decade is worth the fourth overall pick in this redraft.
5. Jaylen Waddle ($6,771,498)
Across from Tyreek Hill ($18,000,000), Waddle will be seeing CB2 matchups and should have no problem taking advantage. After posting 104 receptions last year on 140 targets, Waddle showed that he is a versatile weapon who can be used up and down the field. With new coach Mike McDaniel entering the building from the 49ers, the question has already been asked if Waddle can repeat the success McDaniel had last year with Deebo Samuel ($1,811,869). Is Waddle the guy to take on that role? His chances are as high as anyone else and I’d expect to see him see 120+ touches again, even with Hill’s arrival.
6. Devonta Smith ($5,035,348)
Another sophomore wideout who saw legitimate competition added this off-season, Smith shouldn’t worry too much about the arrival of A.J. Brown ($1,413,092). Brown should take the CB1 in most situations and open up even more opportunities for Smith to get the ball on underneath routes and along the chains. It does limit Smith’s ceiling as Brown is going to get his share of the ball, but the two players complement each other well and should help each other be more efficient when targeted. The biggest question mark here is truly the continued development of Jalen Hurts ($1,506,293) as a quarterback.
7. Elijah Moore ($2,235,107)
It does seem like a trend, another sophomore wideout with an addition to the wide receiver room. Garrett Wilson ($5,138,502) adds to a somewhat crowded Jets’ depth chart as the two young wideouts still have to contend with Corey Davis ($12,500,000), when healthy, but all three players should see plenty of snaps as the bona fide starters in three receiver sets. Moore ended last season as one of the hottest receivers in the game and his ability to create yards after the catch should give him a high floor on a week-to-week basis. Garrett Wilson may be the WR1 of the future for the Jets, but Moore will never fall too far behind.
8. Travis Etienne ($3,224,526)
Quite honestly, Etienne should be higher up on this list but the injury, and the eventual return of James Robinson ($763,333) brings up too many question marks to place him any higher. One of my favorite running backs coming out of college in 2021, Etienne was one of the best playmakers in the 2021 draft class and can be used in a variety of ways. With Urban Meyer long gone from Duval, Doug Pederson steps in with a bit more creativity and NFL experience. Pederson is known for his use of a committee in the backfield, and I’d expect that to continue in Jacksonville, but Etienne is capable of high efficiency on every touch and should still produce enough to be a RB2/RB3 week-in and week-out.
9. Trey Lance ($8,526,319)
The quarterback with the highest fantasy upside, this is a risky pick, but the ceiling is so high for Lance that we have to take the chance here. Kyle Shanahan has made it clear that Lance if the QB1 for this year and beyond, so now is the time to buy-in. If Lance is able to run the 49ers’ offense then he’ll be looked at as a Top-8 quarterback in Dynasty Owner by the end of the season. His rushing ability, combined with his big arm, provide too many options for scoring for Dynasty Owners to ignore. Especially when the 49ers have surrounded him with talent. The time to swing for the fences is now.
10. Amon-Ra St. Brown ($1,066,313)
A continuation of our trend with wide receivers, St. Brown watched his team draft Jameson Williams ($4,365,448) in the first round this off-season. I believe that Williams is chock full of talent and is the future of this receiving corps, but he is coming off a late season ACL tear and shouldn’t be returning to the field anytime soon. This keeps St. Brown as the Number 1 option for the Lions despite the addition of DJ Chark ($10,000,000). St. Brown’s production should sustain through the first half of the NFL season. Once Williams get on the field though, how far of a step back will St. Brown take?
11. Mac Jones ($3,896,588)
I have already selected the riskiest quarterback in this redraft, so now I’ll move to the safest. Jones was a solid option last year for the Patriots and ended up as the QB18 on the year despite a game where he only passed the ball three times. The Patriots attempted to boost their wide receiver room a bit this year with second rounder Tyquan Thornton ($1,763,464) and a trade for DeVante Parker ($7,625,000), who should both fit nicely with reception hog Jakobi Meyers ($3,986,000). Jones is a safe option and looks to be one of the best bets as a solid QB2 option for the foreseeable future.
12.Kadarius Toney ($3,429,877)
When Toney was on the field, good things happened. I talked about him in my Sophomore Gambles article, his success vs man coverage and ability to make defenders miss in the open field. The Giants were another team that added a wideout in the draft with second rounder Wan’Dale Robinson ($2,046,292), but at this point Toney could likely be considered the best receiver on the team. As long as Toney can stay healthy and get on the field, he should score Dynasty Owner fantasy points for your team. A little risky with the competition at his position and the lack of consistent health, but Toney has tremendous upside and is worth a shot with our last pick.