The 2021 Rookie Guide and How to Navigate a Loaded Round 1 in Rookie Drafts
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Shawn Siegele projects the first round of 2021 rookie drafts and explains why the Rookie Guide will help you dominate your league’s festivities.

The 2021 RotoViz Rookie Guide is hot off the presses, and it’s my favorite edition yet. If you want rankings and rookie tiers, the guide offers three sets: 1-QB Classic, TE Premium, and Superflex with TE Premium.

Prefer a three-round mock? We have that for all three formats as well, with Curtis Patrick providing tactical insights along the way.

It doesn’t stop there. Travis May, one of the top devy and CFB gurus in the industry, helps you get to know over 100 prospects, including individual defensive players. Top analysts like Blair Andrews and Dave Caban help you target RB stars and locate sleepers using regression trees and Breakaway Rush Scores. Travis is back with his Adjusted Production Index at WR, and I detail why Breakout Age is still the skeleton key.

If that doesn’t convince you, check out Travis’ appearance this week on RotoViz Overtime. You’ll head to the checkout line immediately after listening.

This, of course, is just the beginning of a full offseason of rookie and dynasty content on RotoViz. We’ll be profiling all of the prospects, bringing you our rankings from the RB and WR Prospect Lab, and helping you understand all of the top comps from the Box Score Scout. The DCC Guide is your chance to eat dessert first.

In today’s exercise I’m breaking down my projection for the first round of 2021 rookie drafts. I’ll be using our prospect tools to explain the strengths and weaknesses of the stars, while providing examples of the advanced analytics available in the Rookie Guide.

2021 Rookie Draft – Projected First Round

* This exercise features Superflex and TE Premium to fully cover all of the positions, but if you’re in a Classic format, just remove the quarterbacks.

1.01 Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

Lawrence enters the draft in competition to be considered the best QB prospect of all-time, and right out of the gates we see why. In the Rookie Guide, Dave discusses the three key metrics for QB evaluation. Lawrence was the only member of this year’s Big 4 to finish above the 90th percentile in all three.

A quick glance at some of the comps from the Box Score Scout hammer home his elite numbers.

Player Height Weight Games DraftPos PaYPG PaAYA RuYPG FinalAYA
Trevor Lawrence 78 220 40 1* 252.45 9.77 23.57 10.2
Jameis Winston 76 231 27 1 294.96 9.41 10.52 7.7
Jared Goff 76 215 37 1 329.73 8.14 -3.08 9.44
Andrew Luck 76 234 38 1 248.16 9.47 25.18 9.42
Justin Herbert 78 236 43 6 245.14 8.82 13.02 8.97
Matthew Stafford 74 225 39 1 198.51 7.37 5.41 9.16
Sam Bradford 76 236 31 1 271.16 10.57 1.16 8.72
Joe Burrow 76 221 37 1 239.22 10.49 22.19 12.53

Lawrence started as a freshman and led Clemson to a 15-0 finish and national title. With 40 games under his belt, we’re not worried about any one-year-wonder issues, and the overall profile checks all of the boxes. Prototypical size and franchise QB arm strength melds with underrated athleticism that led to 23.6 rushing yards per game. That puts him in the same category as Andrew Luck and Joe Burrow, the two most similar players from this group.

1.02 Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds Chase isn’t going to be the next Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a fantasy WR1 for the next decade. He was the best wide receiver in college football in 2019, and that includes every member of the epic 2020 class in addition to the nascent 2021 group that could be every bit as good. His legend has only grown during his year off as former teammate Justin Jefferson set the NFL’s rookie receiving record.

When on the field together, Chase’s explosiveness boggles the mind.

Receiver Seas Age Games Rec RecYds RecYPR RecTD RecYdsMS RecTDMS
Ja’Marr Chase 2019 19.8 14 84 1780 21.2 20 0.32 0.34
Justin Jefferson 2019 20.9 15 111 1540 13.9 18 0.26 0.3

Chase went for more yards and TDs, while averaging 21.2 yards per reception, a metric that helps understand the play speed and vertical ability of prospects. Given Jefferson’s scorched earth campaign in Minnesota, it will be very hard to keep rookie expectations in check.

1.03 Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

In the Rookie Guide, Blair uses a regression tree to help owners locate key metrics for RB evaluation. Given the fantasy dominance of receiving backs like Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara, it’s no surprise that collegiate receiving numbers play a big role.

Etienne finished his college career with three seasons over 1,500 yards from scrimmage, but the receiving numbers from his final two campaigns stand out even against the backdrop of such a stellar overall resume.

With 49 receiving yards per game as a senior, Etienne destroys the threshold that has historically led to NFL success. In the right offense, he could quickly become the next Kamara or even a poor man’s McCaffrey.

1.04 Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Does this draft have four prospects worthy of the 1.01? Travis ranks Fields No. 2 overall in his Top 100 Countdown and argues that virtually nothing separates him from Lawrence.

This becomes even more apparent when we look at Field’s closest comps from a passing efficiency and rushing upside perspective.

Player Height Weight Games DraftPos PaYPG PaAYA RuYPG FinalAYA FinalComp
Justin Fields 75 227 33 2* 172.76 10.74 33.55 10.09 0.70
Andrew Luck 76 234 38 1 248.16 9.47 25.18 9.42 0.71
Marcus Mariota 76 222 41 2 263.32 10.51 54.56 11.49 0.68
Justin Herbert 78 236 43 6 245.14 8.82 13.02 8.97 0.67
Joe Burrow 76 221 37 1 239.22 10.49 22.19 12.53 0.76
Deshaun Watson 74 221 38 12 267.45 8.73 50.89 8.04 0.67

Many scouts prefer Zach Wilson or Trey Lance, but devy owners have always been insistent that Fields is the guy. His career passing yards per game (173) is held down by his garbage time role for Georgia in 2018, but the last two years were back in line with the rest of the group. He’s been more efficient than all of them, and the rushing numbers provide hope that he can join the Konami Code tier. Eventual landing spot could be crucial in determining whether he’s the next Marcus Mariota or the next Deshaun Watson.

1.05 Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

I’m a Harris devy owner, so I’ve been dreaming about a season like 2020 for a long time. At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Harris combines great size with freakish athleticism, and he caught 43 passes as a senior, a resume that positions him to be the next Le’Veon Bell or David Johnson.

Unfortunately, red flags also abound. The RB Prospect Lab doesn’t love Harris, in part because he’ll be an old prospect. Back at the age you’d expect NFL stars to be dominating their collegiate peers, Harris was playing in the shadow of Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs. His former Alabama teammates are solid NFL backs, but neither is the type of player you’d want to build your fantasy team or NFL offense around. For all of his athleticism – and despite playing in one of the most explosive offenses ever – Harris doesn’t generate a lot of big plays, a note Dave passes along in the Draft Guide during his Breakaway Rush feature.

Harris may eventually eclipse Etienne in the NFL draft and rookie ADP, and I’m hopeful he goes on to stardom. No one is rooting for the Trent Richardson scenario to come true.

1.06 Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Can a WR who just won the Heisman really be the 1.06? If he is, it won’t be because of his collegiate production over the last two seasons. Travis May’s Adjusted Production Index is one of my favorite parts of the Rookie Guide. API marries peak adjusted Dominator Rating with yards and TDs per team attempt to provide a well-rounded picture of a WR’s context-adjusted production.

The 2021 class is loaded with prospects who finished above the 90th percentile, but Smith is the true gem. His 99th percentile finish places him in the type of rare air that you might expect from the first Heisman winner at WR since Desmond Howard (1991) and Tim Brown (1987).

Smith sports a few of the same red flags as his RB teammate, but to a much lesser degree. Even before his 1,856-yard, 23-TD season in 2020, he was the most productive player on Alabama’s 2019 offense that featured four future first-round picks at WR.

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Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.

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