If you haven’t drafted for your fantasy leagues yet then you will be in the very near future. We are just under three weeks away from the NFL season being in full swing and the world of fantasy football is back with a vengeance. Fantasy Football is the escape that we all need from a hard day at the office and just the thing that gets you even more excited for football on Sundays.
Despite looking forward to it all week it can still make for a stressful weekend. Who’s playing who? What defense is most likely to give up the most rushing yards? Which quarterback is going to rack up the most points? Once these questions have all been answered you are left with the minefield of the new rookies in the league.
College football is extremely competitive but it isn’t the NFL. Trying to work out who will make the grade isn’t always easy as we have all seen our fair share of busts in the league. Tim Tebow for example. Lit up the college game but never amounted to much in the NFL. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have three rookies that you can go out and draft with 100% confidence that they will produce throughout the 2021 season.
Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
My pick for the Offensive Rookie Of The Year. Is there a rookie that is going into a team that needed them more? Pittsburgh had absolutely no rushing attack in 2021 and other than James Conners’ first season they haven’t had a viable rushing attack since the departure of Le’Veon Bell.
Not only is Najee Harris going straight in as the lead back in the Steel City he is playing for a team with an aging quarterback. Now, I am still firmly on the Ben Roethlisberger train and believe that he is unfairly criticized as a quarterback in this league but the fact is he is getting old. He can’t continue to throw the ball as much as he did last year and a direct result of that is that Najee Harris will get plenty of opportunities.
The question is can Harris make the most of this opportunity. Simply, yes he can. Whilst in his final year at Alabama he totaled 1,891yards from scrimmage and 30 touchdowns. In other words a fantastic season. Now, he won’t reach those totals in his first year in the NFL but he might not be far away. In his final year in Pittsburgh, Bell managed 1946 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns. Granted, he had a more solid and experienced O-Line but from the Steelers pre-season games so far, the O-Line might be better than expected.
Harris is a powerful runner and extremely good coming out of the backfield as a receiver. In the game against the Detroit Lions, he caught a short pass from Big Ben and trundled on for over forty yards duking defenders out in the process. There are plenty of similar traits to the game of Le’Veon Bell and with an extra week in the season, there is nothing to say that he won’t better the numbers posted by Bell.
Prediction: 1450 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns, 45 receptions, 5 receiving touchdowns.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
First of all, have you seen the wingspan of this guy? 83 ⅜!! That is not far from seven feet. Get the ball anywhere near him and he will be catching it. Not only will he be able to catch it but no defender will be able to get close to his hands. A couple of great traits to have before you start your NFL career. On top of that, he produced a 4.44 forty time. All in all, making him as close to impossible to defend.
Now that his incredible physical traits are clear to see, what about the position he finds himself in as a Falcon. With Julio Jones out of the picture, Calvin Ridley is the new number one receiver in town. That being said there are plenty of targets that need to be picked up by someone and that someone is going to be Kyle Pitts. Throughout training camp, he has lined up in every position on offense from tight end to the slot, to out wide, and even in motion. He is primed to get plenty of opportunities and moved around on the offense depending on where the best match-up is.
Another bonus for anyone who drafts Pitts is the fact that Atlanta has no real weapons in the running game. Yes, they have brought in Mike Davis but he hasn’t established himself as a true running back one. Matt Ryan loves throwing the ball and without a true run game, you better believe he will be airing it out as often as possible. Just what you want to hear as a rookie receiver with incredible physical traits.
Physical traits combined with his ability to play anywhere and the fact that there is no real running game of note in Atlanta makes for great reading for any Kyle Pitts owners or soon-to-be Pitts owners. We haven’t even touched on the fact that Atlanta will probably find themselves down in a lot of games and have to throw the ball a ton. In other words, draft Kyle Pitts…..now.
Prediction: 93 receptions, 1050 yards, 8 touchdowns.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Firstly, I know he has had a few drops in pre-season but who hasn’t? Also, he has barely played any football in the last year and is just getting back into the swing of things. Let’s not panic about a player who was better than last year’s rookie standout Justin Jefferson whilst they were both at college. Remember how good Jefferson was last year? Ja’Marr Chase is better than Jefferson. He is going to be a stud in 2021 and here’s why.
Chase was considered the best wide receiver in the 2021 draft and that was despite sitting out the 2020 season. In the season prior he produced one of the best college wide receiver campaigns ever at LSU. His quarterback that year was Joe Burrow. His quarterback in the NFL will be Joe Burrow. So much is made about a connection between quarterback and receiver and the benefits that it has. Look at Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, Tom Brady and Julian Edelman, and even Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. None of these players developed their connection at college before the NFL and they still dominated. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have years of playing together under their belt already and all the nuance that comes with that.
Just like the Atlanta Falcons, the Cincinnati Bengals don’t have much of a running game and they will find themselves behind in a lot of games. Both of which mean Burrow will be tossing the rock more than other quarterbacks. There is the question of the offensive line. Burrow tore his ACL last year as a result of a poor offensive line and there haven’t been huge strides taken to improve the line for 2021. But, this could work for Chase in a roundabout way. If Burrow is running for his life then he is more likely to throw to a player he has a connection with, a player who already knows where Burrow is looking to go with the ball before he does.
If the Bengals can work in the pre-season to bolster the offensive line and keep Joe Burrow upright then Chase could be a contender for offensive rookie of the year. At Cincinnati, he has his quarterback and he will get plenty of balls thrown his way. Forget about the drops in pre-season I predict he will be ready to go come Week One against the Minnesota Vikings and outperform his former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson.
Prediction: 120 receptions, 1250 yards, 8 touchdowns.
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