A lot of people confuse dynasty fantasy football owners with being NFL Draft experts. Don’t get me wrong, there are similarities, but ultimately they’re very different.
In dynasty, you’re more concerned about “skill” position players (WR, RB, QB, TE) and their potential landing spots than you are about what inside linebacker the Dallas Cowboys select in the fourth round. That doesn’t mean they are mutually exclusive, though. Many dynasty players take pride in having some universal knowledge of all players coming into each year’s NFL Draft.
So why does this matter, you ask. Well, I will be putting together a series of the top three incoming NFL rookies at each skill position in terms of future dynasty value.
It’s an important distinction.
I’m not saying who will be drafted first, second and third at their position, but rather, what players I feel will have a lasting impact as a dynasty fantasy football asset. Again, there’s a difference.
Now that I got that off my chest, first up are the wide receivers, which, to me, may be the most exciting of not just the skill positions, but all positions in this year’s NFL Draft.
WIDE RECEIVER CLASS – SUMMARY
In 2020, the wide receiver class was arguably the deepest it had been in quite some time. All you have to do is look at a record number of 13 of them taken in the first two rounds of the draft.
If you believe the hype, that record may be challenged by this year’s class. Both 2020 and 2021 seem to be top heavy. Last year, Henry Ruggs, CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy were the clear top target players. This year, it’s Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle who will likely all go in the top 10 to 14 selections.
But, does that mean these three are the top three dynasty wide receivers?
Short answer: Close, but no.
The biggest difference between this season and last, is there are a number of positions that are similarly deep – including quarterback and offensive line. There are a ton of wideouts down the list that will be drafted in the mid rounds that could legitimately be a top three dynasty wideout when all is said and done. Only time will tell.
Dynasty fantasy football is about the short term and long term viability of a player, where they land, who their coaches and teammates are, even their off-the-field resume, among many other things.
In terms of my rankings, I take into account an abundance of criteria when determining rankings. For this article, I have trimmed that criteria down to a select few, including size/physical stature, ability and production transfer, and intangibles.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at my top three dynasty fantasy wide receivers for the 2021 NFL class.
#1: Ja’Marr Chase – Wide Receiver – LSU
Peds’ Rank: WR #1, OVERALL #2
At 6-1, 200 pounds, I’m going to utter an overused saying in the sports world because it fits oh-so-perfectly for Ja’Marr Chase – he plays bigger than he is. I mean, he’s still big, but his leaping ability, length and catch radius makes it feel like he’s that much bigger.
Ability and Production Transfer
There are so many positive traits Chase encompasses it’s hard to list them all. However, there are particular things he does that make him the number 1 Dynasty wide receiver.
- His ball tracking ability is phenomenal. It’s almost like he’s running to get a kite that’s floating down from the sky. And while everyone else is running all over chasing after it, he’s already at the spot the kite will eventually end up.
- The other area he thrives in that will transfer to the NFL is his route running ability. From slants, to digs, to fades, his passing tree is unlimited, and there’s no wasted movement.
- Chase is smooth and has enough speed and quickness to get himself open.
- To top it off, his hands are near flawless.
As for the actual numbers in his production, he averaged an insane 21.2 yards per catch in 2019, while hauling in 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was obviously helped out by the prolific offense that included Joe Burrow, Justin Jefferson and Clyde-Edwards Helaire, but as a true sophomore, showed a ton of promise. Jefferson’s ability to transfer his production to the NFL makes Chase’s chances to duplicate his own success even better.
— FQSEC (@FifthQuarterSEC) August 9, 2020
Listen, the “who cares if he played in the SEC” argument you have with your buddies, unfortunately, means something. Certainly the college game is a lot more offensive oriented than it used to be – the SEC included. But you can’t ignore the fact that Chase got significant time as a true freshman, then absolutely blew up the SEC as a sophomore, before opting out his junior year. That, and he comes from potentially one of the best wide receiver schools in the past 8 years that includes Brandon LaFell, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Justin Jefferson.
Chase may not even be the first wideout off the board at the NFL Draft, but he will be a top 10 pick. He’s been mocked to go to Miami, Philadelphia or Detroit. It doesn’t matter. Wherever he lands, he will be productive, so dynasty fantasy football owners shouldn’t worry about a landing spot.
Chase has some transcending qualities. In retrospect, he’s similar to former teammate Justin Jefferson in this way. There were a few question marks about Jefferson because of the offensive system inflating his numbers at LSU, but he totally flipped that on its head with one of the best rookie wide receiver seasons in NFL history. Chase literally has the ability to do the same.
#2: Jaylen Waddle – Wide Receiver – Alabama
Peds’ Rank: WR #2, Overall #5
If you read the profiles out there, you’ll notice a lot of analysts compare Waddle to former teammate Henry Ruggs, as they are almost the exact same physical stature at 5-10, 180 pounds. It’s fair to say that it’s concerning, simply because if you take a look at how Ruggs was banged up in his NFL rookie season, it may foreshadow issues for Waddle – who is coming off of a serious ankle injury himself.
Ability and Production Transfer
Waddle didn’t necessarily have the eye-popping numbers that players like Chase, or Alabama teammate DaVonte Smith did. His 2020 season was disappointing solely because he broke his ankle in Week 5. His unfulfilled bust out season ended early, but his numbers prior to the injury were gaudy. He had 28 catches for 591 yards – a 21.1 yard per catch average – and four touchdowns. This included a six catch, 161 yard performance against Georgia, where Waddle smoked probable first round Georgia corner Tyson Campbell on a go route for 90 yards.
- Waddle is a big play receiver. Not that he can’t run the whole passing tree, but he has a knack for deep, explosive plays.
- His quickness and burst is probably the best of any wide receiver in this class. His frame may be a bit slight, sure, but if you can’t catch him, you can’t hurt him.
- He’s also, simply, straight line fast. Add the agility in the open field to the mix, and you have yourself a Tyreek Hill-like player.
The key though, is if he can build on his frame. Let’s be honest, at the NFL level, it’s not often you will simply outrun corners. At some point, he’ll have to go up and get it.
Blessing your timeline with some Jaylen Waddle “YAC” highlights
— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) December 7, 2020
Although he has a smaller frame, Waddle should be able to play both the slot and X or Z. So his ability to move all over the field will be useful for whoever drafts him. Similar to Chase, he comes from an SEC where the competition is fierce. He’s also delivered against some of the best teams Alabama has faced, so he is a gamer.
Unlike Chase, where Waddle gets drafted matters a bit more. Some teams may take it slow with him, try to build up his physicality, and expand his route tree, since he may be playing multiple spots. But just watching tape he flashes the best big play ability of anybody in this draft.
A great landing spot would be to the Chargers at number 13. With the potential emergence of Jalen Guyton, San Diego probably won’t re-sign Mike Williams. So Waddle may fit in nicely with Keenan Allen and Guyton to give quarterback Justin Herbert another weapon. It wouldn’t come as a shock to see Waddle lower on Dynasty evaluators’ Big Boards because of his small frame and injury concerns, but the upside for me is just way too high.
#3: Rashod Batemen – Wide Receiver – Minnesota
Peds’ Rank: WR #3, OVERALL #6
At 6-2, 210 pounds, Bateman is bigger than the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, and yet nearly as fast as Jaylen Waddle. He may not have the lateral and open field jitterbug-style like Waddle, but he’ll run a sub 4.40 40-yard dash. So add that to his already mature frame, Bateman has the physical goods that are a tick below Julio Jones. Um, I’d say that’s solid.
Ability and Production Transfer
To me, one thing stands out about Bateman – if he was in a more prolific college offense, he would be talked about as the best at his position.
The Minnesota passing game garnered just about 2,700 yards during Bateman’s freshman season. He still put up 704 yards and six touchdowns. His sophomore year, when he teamed up with Tyler Johnson, was his best. He snagged 60 balls, 11 touchdowns, and averaged over 20 yards per catch. This past season Bateman did what he could before opting out after just five games. He went over 100 yards in three of those contests. Minnesota was so bad in 2020 they only threw four touchdowns in the five games Bateman played in, and he caught two of those.
- You can’t teach size, and that’s where the conversation starts with Bateman. Minnesota used him a lot as their bail-out guy. He would often out maneuver his defender and go get it.
- A lot of Bateman’s ability rivals Jamar Chase with the exception of Chase being a bit more fluid and explosive off the line.
As for landing spots, it would help Bateman to go to a team where he’s not necessarily the guy right away. He would be a dynamic number two wide receiver for a team such as the Green Bay Packers, who has an accurate deep-ball quarterback. No doubt he has the tools to turn into a number one wideout.
I thought Rashod Bateman had decent tape — physical, crafty route runner, hands-catcher. Was a 92nd percentile WR prospect in my initial model. pic.twitter.com/OyEq1aTzqy
— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) March 2, 2021
Bateman didn’t just break a bunch of records and earn All-State high school honors in Georgia as a football player. You can also find highlights of him dunking basketballs left and right for his high school squad. He’s an all-around athlete that was recruited by plenty of Division 1 football schools – but not any of the blue blood programs. So it often seems like he plays with a little chip on his shoulder. Cliché, I know.
It’s just so weird how perspectives change. Waddle and Bateman are in pretty much every Dynasty fantasy analysts’ Top 6-8 wide receiver rankings, but if they each had a full complimentary season, it’d be hard to leave them out of the top three. Bateman is one of those unicorns that has the size, speed and athleticism all wrapped up in one NFL wide receiver.
His dynasty value is probably the lowest it could be right now. He’s mocked to go in late first round rookie drafts, to even early second round picks. I think owners will start jumping on the Bateman bandwagon though, and he’ll be looked at as a top 10 rookie draft pick, if not higher.
WIDE RECEIVER – HONORABLE MENTION
I will have my top 30 Rookie Rankings out soon, but this wide receiver class, as mentioned, is deep. A couple players that have a shot at moving into my top three rankings include Rondale Moore (Purdue), DeVonta Smith (Alabama), and Terrace Marshall Jr. (LSU), among others.
Look for my top three dynasty running backs coming out soon!