Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft is in the virtual books and there are plenty of fantasy implications to be gleaned from a first round where 12 fantasy relevant players were drafted, the most since 13 were selected in 2009. I’ve run through the picks and here are my winners and losers from the first 32 picks.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars fans
Drafting Trevor Lawrence was an absolute no brainer for the Jaguars but that’s not to say we shouldn’t appreciate what this could mean to a franchise that has one playoff appearance since 2007. From a fantasy standpoint, Lawrence is a nailed on Week 1 starter and has a bevy of fellow young weapons at his disposal, including his college teammate and fellow first round pick running back Travis Etienne, who joins 2020 rookie breakout star James Robinson in the backfield. This means Lawrence should be fantasy relevant in year one, especially in Superflex and 2 QB leagues and is the presumptive 1.01 in rookie superflex drafts. Happy days in Duuuuuuval.
Loser: Tee Higgins
I was fully expecting the Bengals to sure up their offensive line with the fifth pick, but they took the opportunity to reunite Joe Burrow with his LSU team mate Ja’Marr Chase, a combination that helped win a national title in 2019. This dampens Higgins’ upside in his second year as he finished as the WR24 last season and with A.J. Green moving onto Arizona, was set to see an uptick in targets and production. Chase has already pronounced himself the No. 1 receiver and claims he will set all franchise records, and the connection with Burrow has the potential to help him hit the ground running and be an immediate impact player. Higgins showed enough to be a valuable fantasy asset, but I’ll be looking for him in the late rounds now that Chase in on the scene.
Winner: Allen Robinson
Finally, Allen Robinson has a high upside quarterback throwing him the ball after the Bears traded up to the 11th pick to land Justin Fields. Fields has some serious tools, though it may be Andy Dalton who starts the season under center in Chicago but as we’ve seen so often in recent years, it won’t take long for the rookie to get his start. This move by the Bears is going to give a major boost to them sealing a long-term contract deal done with Robinson who is currently scheduled to play on the franchise tag in 2021. I already had Robinson as a top-10 receiver in my dynasty rankings, but this move for Fields has the potential to see him push for top-5 status. Love, love, love this pick by the Bears.
Loser: Hayden Hurst
I was so high on the Hurst signing for the Falcons in 2020, and though he didn’t fulfil that promise for me, I thought another year in the organisation would see him crack the top 10 tight ends. Then the Falcons took my favorite player in this year’s draft class and drafted Kyle Pitts 4th overall. Adding a total athletic freak like Pitts to a roster already containing a pair of top end receivers in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, means Matt Ryan is going to throw the ball all over the yard as the Falcons go back yard football in 2021 and sadly this means Hurst loses all fantasy relevance for me.
Winners: Justin Herbert
2020’s fantasy quarterback revelation got just what he needed when the Chargers’ brass selected a top end tackle in Rashawn Slater with the 13th pick. Other than giving a young franchise quarterback weapons to throw to, protecting said quarterback is just as important a consideration and Slater fills a big need for the Chargers. If they double down on Herbert on Day 2 and take a receiver to add depth to a thin receiving corps, Herbert will be solidify himself as a top-10 quarterback for me in 2021.
Loser: Jimmy Garoppolo
If this wasn’t obvious before the draft after the 49ers made the move to get up to number three, then the drafting of Trey Lance has made a major dent on Garoppolo’s NFL future as Lance has to potential to do all the good things that Jimmy G does, but then has the athletic assets that is desired in a modern day quarterback. The sky really is the limit for Lance in a Kyle Shanahan offense, and I have no doubt we’ll see him very early on in the season and in an offense filled with the crazy talents of Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuck and George Kittle, Lance will push Trevor Lawrence to be the rookie 1.01 in Superflex leagues. Whether Garoppolo then hangs around around as the backup or has to hope for a trade to continue his career as a starter remains to be seen, but his days a fantasy relevant player are well and truly numbered.
Winner: Jalen Hurts
With one of the oddest trades on Day 1 as it happened within the NFC East in a trade with the Cowboys, the Eagles landed the reigning Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith. I’m not being fooled for one minute that Hurts won’t be the QB1 in Philly and giving him a former Alabama alum and top receiving prospect in Smith helps Hurts in a receiving corps that was one of the worst in the NFL (again) in 2020. If Hurts is to be fantasy relevant in 2021, he will have to rely on Smith being an impact starter, but by drafting him it at least give him a fighting chance.