Eric Burkholder: @ericburkholder6 on twitter
Following the incredible rookie class in 2020, 2021 has enormous expectations, and for good reason. As it pertains to superflex leagues there will be a lot of talent available in the first round of rookie drafts this upcoming season. With 5 quarterbacks projected to go in the top 15 picks of the NFL draft, multiple prototypical X type wide receivers, several running backs with workhorse potential, and not to mention the matchup nightmare that is Kyle Pitts at the tight end position, the 2021 class is incredibly talented. However; the one thing that stands out to me the most is the number of prospects attempting to break the mold when it comes to prototypical players at their position in the NFL.
First up we have the 2020 Heisman trophy winner Devonta Smith. Standing 6’1”, Smith amassed 3112 yards and 37 touchdowns in the past two seasons with elite teammates at the same position, winning in all phases and with a full route tree. Smith has the numbers and metrics that absolutely pop off the page. However; at sub 175 pounds the list of wide receivers that had truly elite careers is incredibly short. DeSean Jackson, Wes Welker, Steve Smith, TY Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, and Marvin Harrison come to mind and yet every one of these players weighed more than Devonta Smith. With elite production, incredible ability to separate, and projected draft capital, Smith feels like one that can absolutely break the mold and be elite. Metrics and production aside, those that select Smith with a first round pick in rookie drafts are betting on an exception to the rule and an outlier.
Next up is Rondale Moore. As a true freshman at Purdue, Rondale Moore snagged 114 receptions for north of 1200 yards and 14 total touchdowns making him every devy player’s dream. The following two seasons were disappointing to say the least after an injury riddled sophomore campaign and opting out of most of the 2020 season to focus on the draft. Following a pro day where Moore had a 42.5-inch vertical and ran a sub 4.29 40-yard dash, Rondale screams fantasy darling. Although Moore declined to bench press there is video of him putting up 25 reps and footage from 2018 where he squats 600 lbs. The questions for Moore are injury concerns and height. At just 5’7” there are very few players in NFL history that have been productive. In fact only Cole Beasley has been effective at the wide receiver position, though there have been several to produce at running back. The plays he put on tape combined with elite athleticism are undeniable and yet Rondale Moore is a hopeful outlier.
Last on the list is the pure number of quarterbacks that are projected to be fantasy relevant. In the modern day era only 2012 produced 5 quarterbacks that were fantasy starters: Andrew Luck, Russel Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, Robert Griffin III, and Kirk Cousins (drafted to be the backup to Griffin III). Of those only three were selected in the first round of the NFL draft. In 2021 we have Trevor Lawrance, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Mac Jones highlighting the class as potential top 15 NFL draft picks. Even with the draft capital and opportunity, the history of the quarterback position being so difficult to succeed at at the next level and the lack of any class outside of 2012 producing 5 quarterbacks to be fantasy starters, it’s safe to say that 2021 projects as an outlier quarterback class in its own right.
With all of these outlier prospects at each position projecting for first and early 2nd round NFL draft capital, navigating these players in a Superflex (not to mention Tight End Premium) format is going to be difficult. As the pro days wrap up and the NFL draft approaches, the Fantasy Football Affair is going to have articles that highlight where the best value in the first round is, which prospects you should take a swing on, and most importantly… which to avoid.