Top Breakout Rookies 2021 Fantasy Football

Aug 24- 20 min read

Top Breakout Rookies 2021 Fantasy Football

Let’s start off by saying, today’s main focus will be on sharing a platform for some of the most underrated rookies on the current fantasy football landscape, avoiding the obvious names being selected in the first 7 rounds such as Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase and Najee Harris- instead, highlighting guys that currently have ADPs later on. Our job as fantasy football players is to be able to identify the top breakout rookies 2021 Fantasy Football- a job that is clear to me with the amount of talent available in your 2021 drafts.

The main premise of this article will be outlining some high upside rookie wide receivers, and validly so considering the extensive history of production since 2018.

Hitting on these late rookies with opportunity would have given many a competitive edge in 2020, as we saw CeeDee Lamb (9.07 half ppr ADP in August 2020), Justin Jefferson (12.03), Brandon Aiyuk (13.11), Chase Claypool (14.11), just to name a few from last year alone.

Young, ascending Wide Receivers are the single best value in all of Fantasy Football, and represents the theme of today’s article, highlighting just how valuable some of these rookie wide receiver upside shots can prove to be for your fantasy football teams!

So let’s kick it off with Lamar Jackson’s new #1 toy, Rashod Bateman:

Rashod Bateman WR Baltimore Ravens 

Breakout Rookies

ADP: WR63 134 overall (Underdog Fantasy)

I’ve talked about it in depth over the offseason, but the Ravens commitment to a balanced approach has been evident over the last couple of offseasons with their recent commitment of resources.

Rashod Bateman & Hollywood Brown (two first rounders), Sammy Watkins, Tylan Wallace (4th rounder) all represent their committed capital towards providing a complement to Mark Andrews.

It is clear- the main goal of Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman is providing his young MVP quarterback with ample weapons to enable this passing attack to incorporate all levels of the field- and specifically attack the deep portion of the field unlike the 2019 and 2020 versions of this offense.

When speaking on his weapons available in the offense, Roman was bullish on “creating more balance” and providing the league with things they have not seen from the Baltimore Ravens offense.

In terms of prospect profile- Rashod Bateman is the most talented WR on the roster and one, given his style of play and acumen/versatility, profiles as the “alpha” of the group. This is a player that thrived both on the outside and in the slot at the University of Minnesota, and is one of the most refined route runners to come out of the draft in recent time. A late first round pick this year- Bateman has the most similar package to that of another late first round pick last year from the Minnesota Vikings……. Justin Jefferson.

According to multiple training camp reports, Bateman went out and balled since opening day of training camp, consistently looking like the teams best receiver, and is “ready to make a day 1 impact”.

I’m not calling Bateman the next Justin Jefferson, but the situations are eerily similar; Talented WRs with elite route running skills landing in supposed “run heavy offenses that will limit their upside”. Bateman has all the talent in the world to join the elite list of booming rookie wide receivers in their rookie season, and is a must draft at current WR63 cost. 

The main question mark surrounding Bateman is a core muscle surgery he underwent in early August potentially postponing his official NFL debut for a “6-8 week recovery” timeframe. According to this, his most likely return to play would find him between mid September and mid October- roughly between week 1 and week 5. By all accounts we have seen thus far, Bateman is on track to return in the early portion of that range, and while it may not be Week 1, a Week 2 or 3 return could wind up becoming fantastic news for those who have bought the dip on Bateman’s ADP. 

At WR63 cost of acquisition, he’s currently going off the board around guys like Gabriel Davis and Emmanuel Sanders, and in this portion of the draft, few receivers truly possess the target potential of Bateman.

Elijah Moore WR New York Jets

ADP: WR50 98 overall (Underdog Fantasy)

Next up, my prized jewel of the 2021 NFL Draft cycle; Jets Wide Receiver Elijah Moore. My WR4 pre draft, Elijah Moore was selected at the 34th overall selection to pair the rookie WR with Jets 2nd overall selection Zach Wilson.

Outlining his efficiencies at Ole Miss in 2020…..

  • #5 in the class w/ 3.85 Y/RR
  • #1 in the class in Drop% only ahead of Smith of receivers that had 50+ targets
  • #2 graded WR in 2021 class according to PFF in 2020 college season
  • Top 5 in the class in avoided tackles, top 8 in avoided tackle %
  • Despite only having 19 deep targets, Moore had 490 yards and 4 TDs on those 
  • 81% of snaps from the slot

Elijah Moore, according to multiple reports, prior to his quad injury (which I will touch up on) had been the Jets most promising player in OTAs- and that shouldn’t change once he eventually works in with the 1s in training camp.

We don’t typically see a rookie wide receiver command headlines and praise the way Moore has, who has even drawn reviews from well respected scout Daniel Jeremiah as “looking like Tyler Lockett” on the football field.

The vibes coming from Elijah Moore have been that of recent league winners at the position- including Justin Jefferson and former teammates DK Metcalf and AJ Brown.

Speaking of AJ Brown, arguably a top 5-10 WR in the league, Elijah is ready to immediately make an impact at the next level (obviously hyperbole, but high words nonetheless).

With Elijah Moore, we are getting an extremely talented football player that has already set himself as a team leader- something that translates straight towards onfield opportunity and success. For Brown to say that of Moore- who he met as a True Freshman in 2018- speaks volumes to the character Moore possess, and has already rubbed off on teammate, and $37.5million man Corey Davis, who has publicly said that Moore “doesn’t seem like a rookie” and “is out there leading the guys”.

Now, on the quad- and potentially the reason as to why Elijah Moore is falling criminally low, enabling a potential steal in your fantasy football drafts.

While there was a clear initial scare from the injury- as there is with every preseason ailment, Moore’s quad appears to be a “minor issue”- one that should see him return to play sooner rather than later.

If this “Tyler Lockett clone” as Jeremiah referred to him as, is healthy and 100% ready to go for week 1, his WR50, 98th overall ADP is laughable. He’s currently a top 30 ranked wide receiver for me, so buy the dip while you still have the opportunity!

Terrace Marshall WR Carolina Panthers

ADP: WR58 120 overall (Underdog Fantasy)

Before getting into Terrace Marshall the player, let’s look over just how promising an opportunity he has to make an immediate impact on a Panthers team that lost wide receiver Curtis Samuel in Free Agency this year. Samuel leaves behind 115 vacated targets from last year, where he finished as the WR28 in half ppr ppg.

But why would a 2nd round rookie that opted out last year be able to fill those shoes left behind from Samuel? Well, a big factor is his familiarity with how he may potentially be deployed on the Panthers….

First, he reunites with his former LSU offensive coordinator- and current Panthers OC- Joe Brady. Under Brady, Marshall was deployed 35.2% of the time in the slot, despite sharing the field with esteemed studs Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, and that number jumped to 82.1% in 2020 when Marshall operated as the Tigers “alpha” with Jefferson leaving for the NFL and Chase opting out of the 2020 collegiate season. There have already been rumblings that the Panthers may view Marshall and an integral “big slot” option in their wide open offense- a role Marshall has dominated in. 

What makes Marshall so great as a player truly lies in his versatility- a respectable big bodied route runner that is well regarded as one of the best possession receivers in this entire class..

In terms of profile, size, system familiarity, and production, there is no reason to not take a flyer shot on Marshall at WR68 cost of acquisition.

In terms of what exactly Marshall is elite at- and something Carolina’s current receiving core lacks, is being able to put the ball in the endzone. Marshall had 23 receiving touchdowns in 19 games played the last 2 years at LSU- a remarkable feat considering who he shared the field with, being able to exist as a dominant red zone threat.

The main concern with Terrace coming out is a lingering injury history, but to many, he was considered a 1st round pick and a fringe top 5 WR prospect- including the Panthers.

However, since then, Marshall has returned to the field, and to form. Terrace has been dominant all training camp according to multiple on site reporters since returning, and has garnered the opportunity to work exclusively with the Panthers first team offense, and in the preseason has logged the majority of the early snaps, with 7 of 7 1st team snaps in week 2 in particular.

So, to recap, we are getting an extremely talented wide receiver that reunites with his college coach, who walks in as the teams most equipped touchdown scorer amongst the receiving core….. at the 120th overall pick in Fantasy drafts? Sign me up; I wouldn’t be at all shocked if Marshall possessed a double digit touchdown upside. 

Hitting on these upside rookies can be the difference in supplementing enough complementary production from your ancillary pieces after your first main staple selections, compounding to help win your championship. As mentioned in the introduction, some of those rookies were genuinely game changers and staples in your lineup by the late season, and I truly believe we are seeing this be the case with another superb wide receiver class. Don’t miss out on the virtually free upside these studs will truly bring to game day in the 2021 seasons!

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Top Rookie Values – 2021 Fantasy Football




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