The 2021 NFL Draft featured a lot of high-end wide receivers entering the NFL. Just as we saw with Justin Jefferson last season, there is a lot of fantasy football potential among rookie wide receivers. I’ll be going over my favorite rookies who have the highest chance of being league-winners.
Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
The number one receiver in the class would’ve found his way on this list regardless of the landing spot. Incidentally, he got a pretty good one in Cincinnati. Joining his former college quarterback in Joe Burrow makes Ja’Marr Chase the most intriguing rookie receiver going into 2021. The last time Burrow and Chase were on the field together, Chase put together 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. Chase joins a crowded receiver room consisting of Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, but he’ll receive a solid workload regardless.
Ja’Marr Chase will be taking over A.J. Green’s spot on the outside since Green joined Arizona. That departure, along with Giovani Bernard’s absence, leaves over 160 vacated targets in this offense. Assuming Burrow and Chase maintain that chemistry they showed off at LSU, Chase could very well receive up to 120 targets and put on a show similar to Justin Jefferson last season.
Elijah Moore, New York Jets
Elijah Moore is the next guy I’m high on when it comes to rookie wide receivers. I was super high on him before the draft, and his landing spot isn’t as bad as some people think. The Jets are building something special on offense with Zack Wilson and a revamped offensive line. On the outside, they have Corey Davis and Denzel Mims, players solid enough to draw away primary coverage. Having Elijah Moore out of the slot will be electric. He has great hands, freaky speed, and is as good a route-runner as anyone else in this draft class.
For those concerned about Jamison Crowder, he is a strong cut candidate by the time week one rolls around. Elijah Moore will dominate the snaps out of the slot, and Zack Wilson will be looking his way often. This offense will be completely different compared to 2020 as Moore could very well receive up to 100 targets. Given his breakaway speed and elusiveness, he can take any pass to the house.
DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
While I did just say Elijah Moore may be the best route-runner in the class, DeVonta Smith is just as great. The former Alabama star is coming off the best season out of any college wide receiver ever. He did operate in an offense that saw him as the alpha, which will likely be the same in Philadelphia. Jalen Hurts is coming off a tough situation where he was thrust into the starting role. Yet, after a full offseason and a healthier offensive line, Hurts will be much improved in 2021. Also, I fully expect the Eagles to be playing catch up for the majority of their games meaning more pass attempts to go Smith’s way.
DeVonta Smith will, without a doubt, be the focal point in the passing game. Zach Ertz is a likely trade candidate, giving Smith an even better opportunity to thrive his rookie year. Travis Fulgham and Greg Ward were the target leaders in the Eagles’ offense last season. Neither of them is even comparable to the talent of Smith. The savvy route runner finds space against zone and avoids man coverage with ease. Similar to the previous receivers on this list, Smith will receive a massive workload translating to fantasy success. Hurts will have a new favorite pass-catcher in this improved Philly offense.
Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins
Out of all the other rookie wide receivers, Jaylen Waddle is the next man up to find fantasy success, in my opinion. After the previous three receivers, I believe there will be a drop-off production-wise. However, the talent of Jaylen Waddle is too much to ignore. He is blazing fast and uses that in his route running to create separation. The shiftiness and elusiveness he possesses make him a homerun threat whenever he touches the ball. The only reason I’m not as high on Waddle is the landing spot in Miami. After adding Will Fuller, there just may not be enough targets to go around in an offense that wasn’t as pass-heavy as other teams on this list.
Unlike the Bengals, Jets, and Eagles, the Dolphins own a solid defense. Therefore, they won’t be playing from behind as much. All these factors make me temper expectations for the sixth overall pick. Reasons for optimism are purely based on Waddle’s yards after the catch ability. Tua is known for dumping it off to his playmakers in space and letting them go to work from there. Waddle joining this offense makes him an intriguing fantasy option. He may have some down weeks, but don’t be surprised when Waddle takes a couple of slant passes 70 yards for a touchdown.