After trading down in Round 2, the Falcons selected S Richie Grant from Central Florida. Grant racked up 10 INTs and 258 total tackles over the past 3 seasons. In Atlanta, he should be in line for starting duty right away in a defense that shed safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen from last year's defense.
The Patriots nabbed DT Christian Barmore with the 38th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. After redshirting as a 2018 freshman, Barmore collected 15.5 tackles for loss in 2 seasons at Alabama. He blew up last year, racking up 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 3 pass deflections. Pro Football Focus gave him the top pass-rushing grade in the nation among interior D-linemen, a group he also led with 39 total pressures. Barmore lands in a New England system that tends to deploy its weapons well.
S Jevon Holland went to the Dolphins in the 2nd round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Holland brings good size and above-average speed. He opted out of 2020 but grabbed 9 INTs over his 1st 2 seasons with the Ducks. In Miami, Holland figures to challenge Bobby McCain for a starting spot.
The Broncos traded up 5 spots in the 2nd round to take North Carolina RB Javonte Williams with the 35th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Williams shared UNC’s backfield with Michael Carter, forming a thunder and lightning duo over the past 2 seasons. 2020 was a true breakout for Williams (5’10, 212) with 1,140 yards and 19 TDs on 157 attempts. He added a strong 25-305-3 receiving line. The Wallace, North Carolina native wins with incredible contact balance and power; his 0.48 broken tackles per attempt marked the best rate ever charted by Pro Football Focus. Despite the physical playing style, Williams has never missed a college game due to injury. He joins Melvin Gordon in Denver’s backfield in what figures to be a committee attack in 2021. Gordon hits free agency next offseason.
The Jets took Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore with the 34th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. They reportedly passed on multiple trade offers to sit and take Moore, who many had pegged as a 1st-rounder. Moore led the entire country in catches (10.8) and receiving yards (149.1) per game this past year, while setting an Ole Miss record with 86 catches. The market shares were huge for the junior: 44.8% of the receptions, 41.8% of the receiving yards and 32% of the TDs. Moore also led the Rebels with 67 catches, 850 yards and 6 scores as a sophomore -- after playing behind A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf as a freshman. Moore smoked a 4.35-second 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, while also posting elite marks in the agility drills. That all shows up on tape, where he wins both before and after the catch with acceleration, speed and wiggle. Moore also has some of the most reliable hands in this WR class, with a career 5% drop rate. While he’s only 5’9, Moore weighed in at 185 pounds at his Pro Day and plays with a big receiver’s mentality. We see a lot of Steve Smith in his game, while an anonymous scout told The Athletic’s Bob McGinn that Moore reminds him of Antonio Brown. Moore took 90% of his college snaps from the slot and figures to play primarily on the inside as a pro. His arrival might mean the end of WR Jamison Crowder’s time with the Jets.
The Chiefs are signing RB Jerick McKinnon, according to NFL Network's Peter Schrager. We'll see about the contract details, but we'd expect some sort of low-risk 1-year deal. McKinnon averaged just 5.1 carries and 2.1 receptions per game with the 49ers last season, after losing 2 years to an ACL tear (plus complications). McKinnon figures to compete with Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams for roster spots. We'll see how the backfield sorts out -- and whether Kansas City adds a RB in the draft -- but aren't interested in McKinnon for best-ball drafts right now.
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst didn't mince words when discussing the Aaron Rodgers situation on Thursday night. "No, we’re not going to trade Aaron Rodgers," Gutekunst said. "He's our quarterback. He's our leader. We've been working through this for a little while now. I just think it might take some time. But he's the guy that makes this thing go." We'll continue to keep a close eye on this, but Rodgers seems less likely to be dealt this year with the 1st round of the draft behind us.
The Panthers picked up QB Sam Darnold's 5th-year option on Friday morning. Carolina had a shot at QBs Justin Fields and Mac Jones in last night's 1st round but passed. Darnold is now set to make $18.9 million guaranteed in 2022, so there's a good chance he's the Panthers' guy for the next 2 seasons. Finally out of Adam Gase's shadow -- and with a nice pass-catching corps in Carolina -- Darnold is a good bet for a career-best year in 2021.
Jaguars HC Urban Meyer talked up RB Travis Etienne as a "matchup nightmare" after Jacksonville drafted him 25th overall. Meyer says the backfield plan is developing, which you'd expect at this point in the year. But he added (according to Jaguar Report): “I see Carlos [Hyde] and James [Robinson] the 1-2, downhill, powerful running backs. And I see Travis—there’s times where we could be in two-backs and Travis is a guy that goes out. Or we’re still playing with it, but he’s certainly a third-down back and he’s a guy that’s a match-up issue for the defense.” Etienne no doubt adds an element that neither Robinson nor Hyde provides. But the risk for fantasy football managers is obviously that he doesn't get enough touches to pay off as an early-round fantasy selection. We're downgrading the outlook for a guy who could have been the class' top fantasy option in a better landing spot.
The Athletic's Dan Duggan doesn't expect Giants 1st-round WR Kadarius Toney to win a top 3 role this season. Toney played 82% of his snaps in the slot at Florida last season and figures to be primarily a slot guy in New York. So he'd either need to beat out Sterling Shepard -- or have the Giants kick Shepard outside to replace Darius Slayton. The 1st-round draft capital should help Toney get on the field. And he's a guy who can also contribute via end arounds, jet sweeps, etc. But he still doesn't look like a great bet to be a reliable fantasy producer as a rookie.
New Steeler Najee Harris got the "3-down back" label from GM Kevin Colbert on Thursday night. “He’s a three-down back that played in an NFL system,” Colbert said after taking Harris 24th overall. “His one hidden trait is that he finds invisible yards at that second level. There are times when you think he should be going down and he finds 6, 7, 8 yards. It is really exciting to get a three-down back and add him to the team.” This is a "3-down back" label we can buy into considering Harris will be competing for touches with Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland. Pittsburgh's offensive line figures to be a problem for Harris. But volume trumps all in fantasy football, and the rookie has a shot to finish top 10 in total touches this season.
The Buccaneers finished Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft by selecting edge defender Joe Tryon. The former Washington Husky opted out of 2020. The season before, he tallied 12.5 tackles for loss and 8 sacks in 13 games. Tryon figures to open his career behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett, so dynasty owners will need to be patient with him.
The Ravens chose Penn State DE Jayson Oweh with the 31st pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Much has been made of Oweh finishing 2020 with 0 sacks. But he still earned 1st-team All-Big Ten honors while collecting 6.5 tackles for loss in 7 games. Oweh’s biggest selling point, though, looks like his raw athleticism. He ran an absurd 4.37-second 40 at nearly 6’5 and 257 pounds. Even if you add the .05-second pro day adjustment, Oweh still generates the 2nd-best speed score among all edge prospects over the past 5 years (behind only Montez Sweat). Landing in Baltimore figures to mean an LB designation for Oweh in IDP leagues.
The Bills have selected DE Gregory Rousseau 30th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Rousseau took a medical redshirt as a 2018 freshman after fracturing his right ankle but then exploded in his 2nd season. He racked up 15.5 sacks among 19.5 total tackles for loss, leading the conference in both categories and earning 2nd-team All-America honors. Rousseau opted out for 2020, though. He may need to add strength and refine his technique before earning consistently strong playing time in the NFL. Rousseau played multiple spots along the line in 2019 but likely lacks the bulk to hold up as an inside rusher early in the pros. In Buffalo, he lands in a great situation for developing his natural ability.
In a decision clearly pandering to disgruntled QB Aaron Rodgers, the Packers spent Pick 29 of the 2021 NFL Draft on Georgia CB Eric Stokes. The former Bulldog defensed 22 passes over 3 seasons and grabbed 4 INTs in just 9 games last year. Stokes then ran a 4.29-second 40 at his pro day. He figures to compete for Kevin King's starting job opposite Jaire Alexander.
The Saints picked DE Payton Turner with the 28th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Turner endured some injury issues in college after being a late-bloomer in high school. But he led this edge class in solo tackles per game (3.4) and tackles for loss per game (2.1). He joins a Saints defense that just lost Trey Hendrickson in free agency. Turner figures to start 3rd on the DE depth chart -- at best -- behind Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. (New Orleans exercised the 5th-year option on Davenport on Thursday.)
The Ravens selected Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman with the 27th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Bateman has as strong a production profile as any WR in this year’s class. He turned in a rare true freshman breakout season in 2018, ranking 2nd to only then-junior Tyler Johnson in all major receiving categories (51-704-6). Then he exploded for 1,219 yards and 11 scores on 60 catches as a sophomore alongside Johnson. Bateman was named First-Team All-Big 10 and Big Ten receiver of the year. He contracted COVID last summer and originally decided to opt out of the 2020 season. He eventually changed his mind and played in 5 games before electing to sit out the remainder of the season. Bateman was as dominant as ever, though, averaging 7.2 catches and 94.4 yards per game. He surprised with a 4.43-second 40 time at his Pro Day -- although he came in much smaller than expected at 6’0 and 190 pounds. Bateman looks and plays bigger on tape. And he has an impressive combination of releases and route running. We see shades of Keenan Allen and Davante Adams in his game. A final note: Bateman brings positional versatility after playing 87% of his snaps on the outside in 2019 and then 61% in the slot this past season. This isn’t an ideal landing spot with the Ravens, who have ranked dead last in passing attempts in each of the last 2 seasons.
CB Greg Newsome went to the Browns with the 26th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Newsome defensed 10 passes last season to lead the Big Ten, despite playing in just 6 games. He also lost multiple games to injuries in each of his 3 seasons at Northwestern, though, with a groin issue the most recent culprit. We’ll see if he can prove more durable in the NFL. Newsome will need to compete with Greedy Williams for a starting gig in 2021.
Clemson RB Travis Etienne has landed with the Jaguars at Pick #25 in the 2021 NFL Draft. Etienne comes off a stellar 4-year career at Clemson, including 3 seasons as the clear lead back. He averaged 7.2 yards per rush and 11.3 yards per catch across 102 career receptions. Etienne never topped 14.0 carries per game in a college season, but even his 2020 rate of 18 touches per contest would give him plenty of fantasy upside in the NFL. Given the draft capital spent, we’d be surprised if that’s his pro ceiling. Etienne’s sub-4.5 speed gives him the kind of big-play potential that can win you fantasy weeks. There are shades of Alvin Kamara to his game. Etienne reunites with QB Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville but will also need to contend for touches with 2020 revelation James Robinson.
Alabama RB Najee Harris landed with the Steelers at Pick #24 of the 2021 NFL Draft. The #1 overall recruit in the 2017 class, Harris had to wait behind some other star backs at Alabama before taking over the backfield the past 2 years. He finished his college career, though, with school records for rushing yards, rushing TDs and total TDs. Harris adds a stronger receiving profile than you’d normally find in a 230-pound back. His 70 receptions over the past 2 seasons produced 10.4 yards per catch and 11 TDs, and they included plenty of WR-type plays downfield. Adding 1st-round draft capital makes Harris a strong bet to load up on touches right away. And he has very little competition for touches in Pittsburgh. The concern is an offensive line that ranked dead last in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards last year. Still, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Harris score at the RB1 level in fantasy immediately.
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