By Jacob Bourgeois; Twitter: @fantasybantasy
This is the third in a four-part series introducing the top fantasy-relevant rookies of the 2021 NFL draft class (check out The Consensus and The Next Best of the Rest if you missed the first two). In this tier are the top remaining QBs and TEs along with WR and RB risers over the last months. As mentioned in the first segment in the series, these are high level introductions to the relevant names, meant to give us a baseline of value as we look forward to the NFL Draft at the end of April. Message me on twitter for a detailed look into any of the players mentioned, or any of those I missed. The players in this series of articles were selected assuming non-Super Flex, non-Tight End Premium scoring.
All stats unless otherwise noted are from (or derived from) www.sports-reference.com.
Justin Fields – QB – Ohio State
Age: 22, Junior
Weight: 227 lbs.
Pro Day 40: 4.44
Summary: The opinions on Justin Fields have been all over the board during the spring evaluation process, I’ve seen him ranked between 1st and 5th overall on expert boards. Those who credit him point to his speed, QBR, completion percentage, and 6 touchdown winning performance against Trevor Lawrence and Clemson in the 2020 Semi-Final matchup. His detractors point out that he operated primarily a first read offense and hasn’t demonstrated an ability to evaluate post-snap (some NFL expert is quoted saying he made a total of 7 throws to non-first read targets in 2020). He entered the transfer portal after his freshman year at Georgia and started two seasons at Ohio State losing only twice, to Clemson in 2019 play-off semi-final and to Alabama in the 2020 finals.
Comparison: Ben Roethlisberger (in terms of arm strength and poise under pressure, but way faster of course)
Landing Spot: Carolina taking advantage of his touch to CMC on short/intermediate and deep ball strength and accuracy to Moore and Anderson.
Pat Freiermuth – TE – Penn State
Age: 22, Junior
Weight: 260 lbs.
Rumored 40 time: 4.95
Summary: First off, if you’re not drafting Kyle Pitts, don’t draft a rookie Tight End unless its TE premium and even then, hold off until the high likely hits are off the board at WR and RB. Their value will be driven to zero because of their late bloom and you’ll have to drop them for a waiver wire addition. Fant and Hockenson were talked about in the same tier as Pitts as a reminder, so outliers from this point.
Watching his tape you see breadbasket catches in the end zone, getting caught from behind over and over again, falling down trying to make a move with the ball in his hands, all which left me with one thought: he’s a pretty good blocker. He’s regarded more often then not as the second best TE in this class and a top 50 prospect overall. He broke out as a 20 year old freshman, achieving 10% market share (Player Profiler, which is decent for a tight end). That was topped his sophomore year earning 17% market share on 43 catches for over 500 yards. He only played 4 games as a Junior before suffering a season-ending surgery-requiring shoulder injury in November. But it was enough time to break Mike Gesicki’s school record for Tight End Touchdowns (15, now Freiermuth’s with 16).
Comparison: Kahale Warring (similar size and college production, Freiermuth is slower)
Landing Spot: Cincinnati which would give him the inside track to starting role by as soon as end of season.
Zach Wilson – QB – BYU
Age: 21, Junior
Weight: 209 lbs.
High school 40 Time: 4.84
Summary: It’s the arm talent (you see that throw from his pro day! (semi-sarcasm))… and he ranked #1 in 2020 in the Independent Conference in pass completions, pass attempts, completion percentage, passing yards, passing yards per attempt, adjusted passing yards per attempt, passing touchdowns, and passing efficiency rating. The argument against him is his level of competition at BYU, and his only loss being against their toughest opponent Coastal Carolina (then 18th), where he put up a modest 19 Comp. / 30 Att., 240 Yards, 1 TD/ 1 INT and 10 rushes for 55 yards. Outside of that game, Zach got it done from the pocket and although he moves decently athletically, he doesn’t offer too much in the ground game.
Comparison: Russell Wilson coming out as a passer.
Landing Spot: NY Jets, giving them a full reset to take on the steadily improving AFC East.
Trey Lance – QB – North Dakota State
Age: 20, Junior
Weight: 227 lbs.
Discussed 40 Time: mid-4.5s
Summary: He’s only played one season of football (2019) in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, but put on a show with a 171/256 (67% completion) for 2,491 yards, 25 TDs, 0 INTs plus 128 rush attempts for 870 yards (6.8 YPC clip) stat line and a 14-0 record. His size / speed / YPC combo alone would have him in the RB sleeper category. When he throws it deep, it may wobble, but it zips – has the same quick effortless release as Kyler Murray.
Comparison: Josh Allen, as a raw talent with high potential
Landing Spot: Atlanta, with time to learn from Matt Ryan, and a bevy of talent at WR.
Mac Jones – QB – Alabama
Age: 22, Junior
Weight: 214 lbs.
Pro Day 40 Time: 4.85
Summary: He came on the scene in place of an injured Tua, and finished strong in his Junior season (2020) with a 77.4% completion percentage (1st NCAA). He racked up all the passing stats in 2020 also leading the NCAA in completions, yards, yards per attempt (& AY/A), passing efficiency, and yards per play. For reference Zach Wilson was #2 and #3 in NCAA in most of these categories. His only loss came in his fourth start in 2019 to Auburn (finished 12th in CFB 2019). Of course, Alabama walked through 2020 with a perfect record, knocking off no. 7 Florida, no. 4 Irish, and No. 3 Ohio State in the National Championship while Jones racked up 14TD/1INT, averaging 80% completion. The argument against Mac Brown is twofold; 1st he plays on an NFL team against college teams, and 2nd as one analyst put it, “I felt like over and over again I was watching the ball die in mid-air,” the arm talent isn’t at the same level as the other players in this tier. He gets there with effort and a perfect spiral (a nice pro in my book and was a starter at Alabama – which says more than we usually consider).
Comparison: Joe Burrow
Landing Spot: SF, where he can maintain as a distributor on excellent play calling with an offense predicated on balance, and with playmakers all around him.
Brevin Jordan – TE – Miami
Weight: 245 lbs.
Pro day 40 Time: 4.69
Summary: He was used in the slot, ran seem routes and a lot of short passes turned-up field around the line of scrimmage. He goes down at first tackle/contact a lot but has pretty good athleticism. His catches are too close to his body, but he really watches the ball all the way through the catch before turning up field. Has the early break-out age (18 – PlayerProfiler) you look for, and consistent usage in the passing game throughout his three years, steadily increasing in each – finishing with 38, 576 and 7 TDs in 8 games.
Comparison: David Njoku
Landing Spot: Arizona – with an empty TE depth chart and aging receivers
Dyami Brown – WR – North Carolina
Weight: 185 lbs.
Discussed 40 Time: 4.44
Summary: He averaged 20 yards per catch in both his sophomore and junior seasons, which tells you he was used primarily as a field stretcher. All of the talk this offseason about his above average measurables and explosiveness and what you see on film tells you he can do more, and it looks like he’ll be drafted with that can-do-it-all upside in mind. As a field stretcher he doesn’t have the elite top end speed, but regularly gets open downfield.
Comparison: Nelson Agholor
Landing Spot: NO Saints, where they’ve been trying for a while to find the compliment to MT.
Jermar Jefferson – RB – Oregon State
Age: 20, Junior
Weight: 211 lbs.
Pro Day 40 Time: 4.55
Summary: A career 5.7 YPC rusher who was a workhorse from the get-go: 239 attempts as a freshman, averaging 19 carries and one touchdown per game across three seasons at Oregon State. His YPC dipped to 4.8 in his sophomore likely due to nagging injuries resulting from such high usage as a freshman, given his frame. He did bounce back in 2020 to his best YPC average (6.5) but started the season much hotter than he finished.
Comparison: Corey Dillon (nowhere near the talent) only in the way he’ll dip sideways to cut through defenders, otherwise Damien Harris.
Landing Spot: Houston – where he could break out of the shadows once the dust from 2021 settles.
Tamorrion Terry – WR – Florida State
Age: 23, Junior!
Weight: 209 lbs.
Pro Day 40 Time: 4.45
Summary: With Terry it’s all about his 2019 season, going 60 for 1188 (20 YPR) in 13 games. He’s big and has nice size adjusted speed and quickness. In 2020 he battled through injuries including a knee injury and opted out of the second half of the season. His 20 YPR wasn’t there in 2020, but looking back at 2019, a lot of those yards came after the catch which is one of his better traits. It makes sense that injury hindrances would prevent him from breaking many downfield. Can he return to form?
Comparison: Tre’Quan Smith
Landing Spot: MIN with a chance to get right and improve in a limited role behind Thielen and Jefferson.
Amari Rodgers – WR – Clemson
Age: 21, Senior
Weight: 209 lbs.
Pro Day 40 Time: 4.40
Broad Jump: 10’8”!
Summary: Amari was a four-year player, electing to return after a down 2019 playing across from Tee Higgins. The move paid off as he took over the alpha role for Trevor Lawrence coming in 4th in the NCAA in receptions (77 for 1020 yards). He was also heavily used in Punt Returns pulling off 299 more yards and a touchdown, and although he’s built like a running back he was hardly used as one. I think Amari presents one of the higher upside guys in this draft who will be discounted for his height and for coming out as a senior.
Comparison: Albert Wilson, who if not for injuries would probably be a name that evokes more confidence in Amari.
Landing Spot: NE Patriots, to serve as the reliable possession receiver/chain mover.