The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft wrapped up on Thursday night, and it came with its share of surprises. The San Francisco 49ers didn't take Mac Jones, bitter division rivals the Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles made a trade (to block another rival, the New York Giants), and the Bears made a big move to try and remove the bad taste of the 2017 NFL Draft. In all, a total of 13 offensive skill position players were selected, including five quarterbacks, two running backs, five wide receivers, and a tight end.
READ MORE: Breaking Down Day 2 Picks' Fantasy Potential
With at least part of the 2021 roster puzzle no longer a mystery, let's take a look at the fantasy impact of a first-round that saw some good, some bad, and some ugly picks.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Everyone knew Lawrence was going to the Jaguars, and now he'll have a chance to be a hero in Duval County. Maybe the best quarterback prospect to come out of the collegiate ranks since Andrew Luck, Lawrence is an athletic player with an accurate arm who will be under center in Week 1. It'll be tough to expect a Justin Herbert level of production, but Lawrence has top-15 potential. He'll also make all of the Jaguars' pass catchers, including D.J. Chark and Marvin Jones Jr., more attractive in fantasy drafts.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Wilson was tremendous in his final collegiate season, throwing 33 touchdown passes with just three interceptions and rushing for 10 scores. He had just one huge season though, and the Jets don't have great weapons on the offensive side of the ball. That could hinder his development into a viable fantasy option. New York traded Sam Darnold to the Panthers, so Wilson will take over as the No. 1 quarterback for Gang Green in 2021. The question is, will he suffer the same fate as many Jets first rounders?
3. Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The Niners moved up to third overall to grab a quarterback, and Lance was the pick after weeks of Mac Jones speculation. Despite playing against lesser competition, his numbers in his final full collegiate season (2019) were bananas good. He threw for 28 touchdowns without a single interception, and his 1,100 rushing yards were impressive. He might not have a ton of redraft value if the Niners ease him into a starting role behind veteran Jimmy Garoppolo, but his fantasy (dynasty) future is bright indeed.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Falcons didn't need a tight end, but Pitts is a generational talent. A wideout in a tight end's body, he produced over 1,400 yards and 17 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Florida. He might not have elite fantasy value as a rookie in a crowded Falcons pass attack, but Pitts should emerge into one of the five best tight ends in fantasy football once he's in the prime of his career. He'll be picked as a borderline No. 1 tight end in 2021 drafts, but I'd temper expectations in Year One despite the talent.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The last time we saw Chase on the gridiron, he put up 84 catches, 1,780 yards, and 20 touchdowns at LSU. Oh, and he was on the receiving end of some accurate Joe Burrow passes. Guess who'll be throwing him the football at the next level? That's huge, as the two already possess a tremendous rapport that makes Chase the favorite to lead all Bengals wideouts in targets as a rookie. I'm not sure he'll be Justin Jefferson, but Chase is without question the top fantasy wideout in re-drafts and dynasty formats.
6. Miami Dolphins: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Waddle gets to reunite with Tua Tagovailoa, his former Alabama teammate, in South Beach. He was a dynamic playmaker with the Crimson Tide, averaging nearly 19 yards per catch while splitting targets with studs like Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and DeVonta Smith. Waddle might not make a major impact as a rookie with DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, and Mike Gesicki in the Miami passing attack, but he will be worth a middle to late pick in re-drafts and a first-rounder in most dynasty formats.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (trade with Cowboys): Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Eagles traded up with the Cowboys (of all teams) to land Smith, who might have gone to the Giants otherwise. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner doesn't have great size but did still produce big totals during his collegiate career. I think he'll come right in and start opposite Jalen Reagor, and I wouldn't be shocked if Smith is the first Eagles wideout picked in re-drafts. He'll also be a first-round pick in dynasty drafts.
11. Chicago Bears (trade with Giants): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The Bears thrilled their fans by moving up the draft board to acquire Fields, who many saw as the second-best quarterback in this class. An accurate passer in college who can also find success on the ground, Fields has the tools to make a real fantasy impact at the next level. Even if he opens next season behind Andy Dalton, it shouldn't be long before Fields gets his shot to take the reins of the Bears' offense. My No. 2 rookie field general, his presence under center is good for Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney.
15. New England Patriots: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Jones had been linked to the 49ers and Patriots, but he fell into New England's lap when San Francisco took Lance. It might be a good thing, as Jones will have a shot to be the franchise quarterback for coach Bill Belichick. An extremely accurate passer, he completed 77 percent of his attempts while throwing 44 touchdowns with just four picks last season. Cam Newton's presence atop the depth chart could keep Jones from being picked in re-drafts, but he'll be a popular dynasty draft and stash in 2021.
20. New York Giants (trade with Bears): Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
The selection of Toney might be peculiar since the Giants just signed Kenny Golladay to a big deal and also have Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton at wide receiver. The Florida product was a dynamic playmaker in college, recording nearly 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns last season as the Gators' main slot receiver. His 70 catches were tied for the seventh-most in the nation, too. However, consistent targets could be tough to come by as a rookie, so don't expect Toney to be worth much more than a late rounder.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
From a fantasy perspective, this was the best pick of the first round. A three-down back, Harris averaged nearly six yards per attempt in his final collegiate season and put up a ridiculous 26 rushing touchdowns. That led the nation. He also proved he could handle a featured workload, seeing 251 carries and nearly 300 touches. The Steelers do have many questions on their offensive line, but Harris projects to start and could become the next great runner in the Steel City. He'll be worth a top-30 pick in re-drafts and is very likely to be the first rookie back off the board in all long-term fantasy formats.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Fantasy fans love Harris going to the Steelers, but Etienne landing in Jacksonville isn't as appealing. After all, James Robinson came out of nowhere to produce an RB7 year while averaging nearly 18 fantasy points a game in 2020. As a result, Etienne won't have a clear path to touches as a rookie. What's more troubling is that coach Urban Meyer said he envisions Etienne as a third-down back behind Robinson and Carlos Hyde. That is an odd quote for a player you took in the first round, but ultimately I see Etienne emerging as the Jaguars' top runner in a projected committee in 2021. He'll be a tough player to project until this summer, but his rookie ceiling isn't great.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Ravens run the football a ton, and their wide receivers ranked dead last in routes run and targets a season ago. That's bad news for Bateman, who lands in a crowded Baltimore pass attack. Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, and Devin Duvernay remain on the roster, and the team also added Sammy Watkins into the mix. Oh, and let's not forget the target machine, Mark Andrews. I wouldn't expect much in terms of production from Bateman as a rookie, but he'll be worth a late-round look in dynasty.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for all of the latest breaking fantasy football news and the best analysis in the business!
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