Football fans across the world got a much-needed break from the current state of affairs in the world this past weekend as the NFL completed its first-ever, fully virtual NFL Draft. For three straight days dynasty football degenerates like myself parked themselves in front of the television for hours on end to see where the stars of tomorrow would begin their NFL careers. Now, I’m going to go round-by-round and give you my key takeaways on the guys you will be targeting in your upcoming rookie drafts.
Check out my breakdown of the other rounds here:
Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Rounds 5 – 7 & Top UDFAs
1.01 Joe Burrow – QB – Cincinnati Bengals
In the 2011 draft, the Cincinnati Bengals used their top two picks on AJ Green and Andy Dalton, locking in the key components of their passing attack and effectively closing the door on the Carson Palmer-Chad Ochocinco era. Flash forward to the 2020 draft and the Bengals have hit the reset button again, selecting their Quarterback of the future with the top overall pick, Joe Burrow. They immediately went to work in finding Burrow quality weapons, using their second-round selection on the electrifying wideout Tee Higgins before attending to their needs on the defensive side of the ball. Burrow will go into battle with a quality supporting cast that features Green, Higgins and fellow Clemson alum Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Auden Tate, and assuming there’s no holdout, Joe Mixon. He will need the offensive line play to improve around him, as the Bengals allowed 48 sacks and 84 QB hits last season, but you can definitely see the long-term potential with Burrow. Burrow is locked in as a top-2 rookie pick in Superflex leagues, and a mid-to-late 1st rounder in 1QB dynasty leagues.
1.05 Tua Tagovailioa – QB – Miami Dolphins
If it wasn’t for the devastating hip injury late in the season, I believe Tua Tagovailoa would have firmly been in the conversation for the No. 1 overall selection in the draft. He has shades of Russell Wilson and Drew Brees to his game, and he demonstrated that he was one of the most dominant players in college football for multiple seasons. While Tua’s health is definitely a concern, I have to applaud the Dolphins approach in immediately investing part of their stockpile of draft capital (picks 18, 39, and 111) into the offensive line to build a squad to protect and keep Tua upright. He would benefit mightily from a redshirt season to learn the ropes of the NFL game and give his body some time to recover and learn how to properly prepare for the grind of an NFL season. The Dolphins made a ton of big splashes (see what I did there?) in free agency, but I still don’t see them as anything close to a playoff team this year so there’s no reason to rush their 1st-round pick into action before he’s 100% ready. I would use a mid-1st round rookie pick on Tagovailoa in Superflex leagues and would look to snag him around the 1st/2nd round turn in 1QB leagues. You need to be prepared to stash him and get little-to-no production this 1st season, but he has the makings of the top overall fantasy quarterback in this class if he can regain his pre-injury form.
1.06 Justin Herbert – QB – Las Angeles Chargers
Herbert finds himself in a similar situation as Tua where a redshirt rookie season is his most likely outcome, but I could see more realistic paths to Herbert earning snaps in his rookie season. However, I’d prefer to see Herbert spend a season on the bench to learn the ropes for a few different reasons. First, the Chargers offensive line was widely regarded as a bottom-5 unit last season, and despite some improvements there (acquiring Bryan Bulaga and Trai Turner helps) I don’t expect a huge jump into the top half of the O-Line rankings this year. Secondly, it would mean the Chargers are likely running him out there with a limited version of the playbook, because for as talented as he is, Herbert just doesn’t have the legs to run the same system that they are putting together with Tyrod Taylor at the helm. While Herbert has all of the physical tools (6’6”, 225 lbs with an upside-arm) he is going to be a project and is far from guaranteed success at the NFL level. I’d use an early 2nd round pick on Herbert in Superflex leagues, and a late 2nd/early 3rd rounder in 1QB leagues with deep enough benches to stash upside project players.
1.12 Henry Ruggs III – WR – Las Vegas Raiders
In typical Raiders fashion, they shocked absolutely no one by selecting the fastest WR in the class despite the obvious top-two WR targets still sitting on the board. While I believe the Raiders will go out of their way to find ways to get the uber-explosive Ruggs involved in the offense early, I really dislike this landing spot for Ruggs short-term fantasy value. I always thought he would be slightly big-play dependent in the NFL and a guy you downgrade in PPR leagues, and now he finds himself in a position to catch passes from Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota……. who are not exactly wizards throwing the deep-ball. One thing that does fall in Ruggs favor is the fact that he will arguably step in as the most talented WR on the roster from day one, competing only with Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, newcomer Nelson Agholor, and fellow rookies Lynn Bowden and Bryan Edwards for WR targets. The Raiders offensive line isn’t going to be great but is good-enough when healthy. If they upgrade the QB position next season then Ruggs could elevate himself into a fringe WR1 for dynasty teams, but for now he is likely a flex play with upside. I will probably miss out on a ton of Ruggs shares this rookie draft season, as I value him as more of a late 1st-round target and expect him to get over-drafted due to the Raiders investing such high draft capital in him.
1.15 Jerry Jeudy – WR – Denver Broncos
There may not have been a bigger winner over the offseason than Drew Lock. In the blink of an eye he’s found himself surrounded by several key additions on the offensive side of the ball, but perhaps none more exciting than rookie Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy landed in an amazing spot to put up immediate production, as he will step in right away to form a quality one-two combo with Courtland Sutton. Jeudy is far-and-away the best route-runner in the class, routinely making cuts that left defenders looking foolish and helpless in college. Having a quality target across from him in Sutton will allow the game to come more naturally, as he won’t be pressing to try and create separation against double-coverage or the opposing team’s best defensive back right away. Jeudy’s long-term potential is as high as anyone in this rookie class, and I currently have him ranked as my No. 2 rookie receiver in the class. I’d spend a top-5 rookie pick on Jeudy in Superflex and 1QB leagues.
1.17 CeeDee Lamb – WR – Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys came away with the best value pick in the 1st round when stud WR CeeDee Lamb slid to them at pick 17. He may be slow coming out of the gates in his rookie season as the Cowboys already have a decent glut of talent in the WR room, but he has the most upside of any player in this draft class from a fantasy perspective. He was, and still is my No. 1 ranked receiver in this rookie class and I would be incredibly happy to add him to any of my dynasty rosters. He’s a Deandre Hopkins-level talent that will be worth any wait you have to start adding him into your fantasy lineups with regularity. He will be a fringe-flex option with upside as a rookie. While he may be on a crowded depth chart now, you need to be patient. Amari Cooper has spent his fair share of time with nagging injuries and the Cowboys can fully opt-out of his contract in 2022 so Lambs time to shine maybe sooner rather than later. He has the talent to potentially overtake Gallup on the depth chart for the WR2 spot down the stretch this season as he adjusts to the rigors of the NFL game. I’d spend a top-3 rookie pick on Lamb with a smile on my face, and in certain cases wouldn’t be shocked if he goes 1.01.
1.21 Jalen Reagor – WR – Philadelphia Eagles
When the Eagles fans’ dreams of seeing CeeDee Lamb in green were dashed by their division rival Cowboys, they switched gears and selected Jalen Reagor to try and stretch the field and give Carson Wentz some much-needed help in the Wide Receiver room. While I don’t think Reagor’s dynasty upside is as high as the receivers selected before him (or some picked shortly after, Jefferson, Higgins), we could be looking at him in a different light if he wasn’t a victim of such poor quarterback play during his last season with TCU. As a Sophomore, Reagor hauled in 72 catches for over 1,000 yards and 9 scores before his production fell off a cliff as a Junior. He does find himself in a unique situation in Philly, though, as he could end up having one of the biggest immediate impacts on his new squad in year one. Ahead of him on the depth chart sit Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, the poster-boys of staying healthy and on the field. He has a real chance to start on the outside right away, and there is an abundance of targets waiting for him just one injury away. He also will contribute on special teams in the return game so he’s given a boost in leagues that score return yards. I’m looking at Reagor with a late 1st-round, early 2nd-round rookie pick.
1.22 Justin Jefferson – WR – Minnesota Vikings
In his final season at LSU Justin Jefferson showed just how dominant he could be, hauling in 111 catches for 1540 yards and 18 TDs in the Tigers’ legendary run. Now he finds himself in a perfect spot to thrive instantly for dynasty GMs that select him in rookie drafts. The Vikings currently have a Stefon Diggs sized hole in their offense and Jefferson will be the primary beneficiary of the newly found open targets to go around. Adam Theilen will likely lead the team in targets on the season, but I think Jefferson comes on strong down the stretch and leads the team in targets over the second half of the year. Jefferson can operate out of the slot or on the outside, can create separation from his defender, and go up and make contested catches. He’s going to be in the mix for fantasy rookie of the year. I’m looking at Jefferson with a mid-1st round pick, ahead of guys like Jalen Reagor and Brandon Aiyuk.
1.25 Brandon Aiyuk – WR – San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers used the 25th pick to find their complement to Deebo Samuel, adding Brandon Aiyuk to the mix to give Jimmy Garoppolo another quality target as they attempt to defend their NFC crown. Aiyuk is a flat-out playmaker that can stretch the field and make huge plays to change the entire tune of the game. He’s explosive in the return game, as well, averaging over 30 yards per kickoff return and over 16 yards per punt returns in his final season at Arizona St. From a fantasy perspective the 49ers can be a nightmare to predict as they have a tendency to spread the ball around, are incredibly deep and don’t shy away from riding the hot-hand. Couple this with the fact that Deebo Samuel is the superior talent and it will limit Aiyuk’s upside as a flex option with WR2 potential down the road. I’m looking at Aiyuk at the start of the 2nd round in rookie drafts.
1.26 Jordan Love – QB – Green Bay Packers
In one of the biggest shocks of the 1st round, the Green Bay Packers moved up to grab their heir to the QB throne in Jordan Love. It seems like not too long ago the Packers dropped jaws by selecting a young QB by the name of Aaron Rodgers to sit behind some scrub named Brett Favre, and now history has repeated itself. While that worked out pretty well for them with Rodgers, Love is extremely raw and is a few years away from being ready to run an NFL offense. Similar to Reagor, Love had a huge dropoff in production as a Junior after an outstanding Sophomore year. This can partly be attributed to a large turnover of staff and teammates before his Junior year, but there were also several areas where Love got sloppier and clearly regressed so you can’t place all the blame on the new faces surrounding him. I’m looking at drafting Love with a late 2nd round pick in Superflex leagues, and am comfortable spending a late round 3 pick in 1QB leagues where I have a deep enough bench to stash upside projects.
1.32 Clyde Edwards-Helaire – Kansas City Chiefs
With the final pick in the 1st round, the Kansas City Chiefs began their title defense by securing the services of shifty running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. While Damien Williams was a key member and put on a show for the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, I fully expect Edwards-Helaire to unseat him as the featured back in the committee, likely before week 1. Edwards-Helaire will make life easier on Patrick Mahomes, as he can do it all. He’s shown advanced patience and vision when running inside, has the quickness to turn on the jets to break a run outside, is a major factor in the passing game, and is one of the better pass blockers in the rookie class. While he checks in at just 5’7”, he’s got a thick, solid build and weighs in at right around 210 lbs, right in the same range as several other RBs that have had success in the NFL. Edwards-Helaire was one of the biggest risers from my pre-draft rankings, as he landed in arguably the best spot in the NFL for an RB to have immediate and dynasty upside. I’m currently looking at Edwards-Helaire with rookie pick 1.02, but he could easily climb into the top spot by the time most leagues have their rookie drafts.