The NFL draft is the most exciting time of the NFL offseason. Players are drafted earlier than expected, later than expected and some don’t get drafted at all. Each NFL team is ecstatic about the young talent that they added to the roster. Everything feels nice and peachy, with no thoughts of “this might not work out”. All 32 NFL fan bases have high hopes and expectations for the upcoming season that their team might be the last one standing in February raising the Lombardi trophy.
After the NFL draft is when dynasty fantasy football managers begin dissecting each roster and figuring out how each incoming rookie will fit into their respective offense. Hot takes start flying about which rookies are going to be superstars and which rookies are going to fall flat on their face and be the 2021 version of N'keal Harry (it is time to move past Harry, he isn’t good). So let’s sift through some of the picks that transpired over the 2021 NFL draft weekend in the beautiful city of Cleveland, Ohio.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons: There are not many landing spots that could have been more perfectly matched than having Kyle Pitts wind up in Atlanta. Particularly now that Julio Jones has been traded away to the Tennessee Titans, Pitts will step into the #2 pass-catching role behind Calvin Ridley. Hayden Hurst is still on the depth chart in Atlanta, however, I wouldn’t be very worried about Hurst stealing a sizable amount of targets from Pitts, just due to the draft capital the Falcons invested in Pitts. Hurst had 88 targets in 2020 as the starting tight end and that was still with Julio Jones (68 targets in 2020) on the field for nine games. Pitts will step in as the day one starter at tight end for the Atlanta Falcons and will soak up a large portion of the targets that Julio and Hurst received in 2020. Pitts should be in line to be a surefire top 12 tight end in 2021, with the upside to finish in the top five at the position.
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins: Waddle going to Miami in the top ten was easily one of my favorite fits in the NFL draft. Waddle will join a Dolphins team that has a very bright future with head coach Brian Flores and second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Waddle joins an already talented wide receiver room in Miami, with Will Fuller and DeVante Parker in the fold for the Dolphins. This will take some pressure off of Waddle’s shoulders, due to him not being immediately forced into being the number one wide receiver from day one. I don’t anticipate Waddle having a phenomenal rookie campaign due to the limited amount of targets that will be available in the offense with Parker (103 targets) and tight end Mike Gesicki (85 targets) both returning. Even though Waddle’s 2021 outlook doesn’t look incredible at the moment it could change very quickly going into 2022. Will Fuller was signed in the offseason to just a one-year contract and DeVante Parker’s dead cap hit in 2022 would be just about $5 million if they wanted to move on from him. I would expect that one of Parker or Fuller to be back in 2022 and to form one of the more solid wide receiver duos in the AFC alongside Jaylen Waddle.
Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets: The 2021 running back class was unusually very shallow at the top in terms of high-end talent at the position. Michael Carter seemed to be the cutoff from top-end talent down to the lower range of running backs that NFL teams still wanted to take a shot on. Although Carter does not have a bunch of draft capital invested in him with only being a fourth-round pick, he enters a very good situation in New York. 37-year-old Frank Gore was the leading rusher for the Jets in 2020, which clearly indicates that they did not feel good about any of their long-term options at running back (La’Mical Perine). Drafting Carter at the start of the fourth round would cause me to lean towards the idea that he should get a good opportunity to be the team's starting running back coming out of training camp. The 2020 Jets had a much improved offensive line behind one of the better young tackles in Mekhi Becton (2020 1st round pick). In the 2021 NFL draft, they also added Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round to help free up some space for Carter. Carter should be in line for 200+ carries in this offense behind a much improved offensive line and a team that seems to be moving in the right direction to be a contender in the AFC east.
Devonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Don’t hear what I am not saying with this designation for Devonta Smith (I guess I should say “don’t read what I’m not writing”). I absolutely love Smith’s talent as a wide receiver and I even ranked him as my number one receiver in the 2021 rookie class. The fit in the Eagles offense does not excite me much, but I fully realize that I could be completely wrong in this situation. Devonta Smith joins the Philadelphia Eagles as the unquestioned wide receiver one in the offense after 2020 first-round pick, wide receiver Jalen Reagor, had a very poor rookie campaign. I am rarely a fan of a wide receiver joining a team where he is immediately forced into the wide receiver one role because I do not like the pressure that it puts on the young player. On top of that, the Eagles quarterback situation is one of the least steady positions on the team. Carson Wentz was traded in the offseason and 2020 second-round pick Jalen Hurts will step in and continue to try and lead the team. Hurts was solid as a rookie, but oftentimes struggled with accuracy. This is very apparent when you look at Hurts completion percentage, which was right at 52%. The combination of dealing with a young, inaccurate starting quarterback and also being immediately pushed into the wide receiver one role is enough to scare me away from touting Devonta Smith in 2021.
Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman was one of my favorite wide receivers in this rookie class and it pains me that I have these feelings about him after the draft. The Baltimore Ravens just have not been a good spot for wide receivers in fantasy football. This has nothing to do with Bateman's talent, it’s really all about the Baltimore offense and the way it is operated. Of the quarterbacks that started 15 or more games, only Cam Newton had fewer pass attempts than Lamar Jackson. In 15 games in 2020, Jackson attempted 376 passes which average out to about 25 pass attempts per game. When a quarterback only passes the ball 25 times per game it limits the number of impact receivers the team can have and it also increases the volatility of the receiving options. Mark Andrews (88 targets), Marquise Brown (100 targets) are both returning and the Ravens also added Sammy Watkins and Tylan Wallace in this past offseason. With the additions of Watkins and Wallace and the already existing volatility that comes with having a Ravens wide receiver on your team, it is hard to not look at Bateman as a draft loser when it comes to fantasy football.
Brevin Jordan, TE, Houston Texans: There was a hive of fantasy football Twitter that was all over Brevin Jordan, hyping him up as the second-best tight end in the class. Those people started to subside after his pro day when he put up mediocre athletic numbers and his hype came crashing down when he slipped all the way into the fifth round of the NFL draft. Not only was he a later-round pick, but he was drafted to a team that is projected by most to be the worst team in the NFL. With Deshaun Watson’s off-field issues, weird offseason additions, and a questionable coach addition; it would be difficult to sit here and talk about how good of a spot Jordan is in. If Deshaun Watson did end up suiting up for the 2021 season that would definitely improve Jordan’s outlook, but he still wouldn’t be exciting. The leading target getter at tight end for the Texans last year was Jordan Akins at 49 targets. The tight end does not seem to be a position that Watson targets much when he is on the field. If Watson does not end up playing in 2021, then Jordan would be relying on Tyrod Taylor or Davis Mills as his starting quarterback. Taylor is notorious for being a low pass attempt kind of quarterback and Davis Mills is a third-round rookie quarterback. No matter which way you slice it, this situation is not one that lines up well with Brevin Jordan succeeding in the NFL and he winds up a big loser from the 2021 NFL draft.