Fantasy fans all know the names of the top rookies selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, including Trevor Lawrence, Najee Harris, Ja'Marr Chase, and Kyle Pitts (to name a few), but what about the lesser-known players? Many of them might not impact the stat sheets as rookies, but there are many players out there who could push for bigger roles in their second NFL seasons and beyond. That's big for fantasy managers in dynasty leagues looking for that next hidden gem in their upcoming rookie-only drafts.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the rookies who are unlikely to become huge contributors in 2021 but could emerge into valuable fantasy assets in the near future.
Note: Players are listed in the order they were selected in the draft.
Kyle Trask, Buccaneers
Trask is a true pocket passer with size (6-foot-5) and produced huge totals in his final collegiate season. He'll be groomed as the eventual replacement for Tom Brady, but he could play another two or three seasons before his Hall-of-Fame career is all said and done. Trask will have value in dynasty leagues, but that's about it for 2021.
Kellen Mond, Vikings
Mond is an interesting fantasy prospect due to his skills as a runner, as he put up over 1,600 rushing yards during his time at Texas A&M. How soon he gets a chance to be an NFL starter is in question though, as Kirk Cousins still has two more years on his deal with the Vikings. I’d take a late shot on Mond as a draft and stash in dynasty leagues.
Davis Mills, Texans
Mills received some buzz as a potential first-rounder going into the draft, but he landed in Round 2 for the Texans. As Houston's first pick in the draft, the selection is curious, and no one knows if Deshaun Watson will be with the team in 2021 (or beyond). Mills could be an interesting dynasty selection depending on Watson's playing status.
Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots
Stevenson landed with the Patriots, who already have two similar backs on their roster in Damien Harris and Sony Michel. A powerful, downhill runner who can also give NFL teams a good pass-catching option out of the backfield. Unfortunately, he won’t be allowed many targets with James White on the roster. The good news is that Michel and James White are both in contract years, so Stevenson could have more future value.
Elijah Mitchell, 49ers
The biggest redraft and especially dynasty runner among 49ers runners is former Ohio State back Trey Sermon, but I'd keep Mitchell on your radar too. There's a chance that Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., and Wayne Gallman could all be off the Niners roster in 2022, so Mitchell could see more work behind projected starter Sermon in the future.
Khalil Herbert, Bears
Herbert left Kansas for Virginia Tech last season and went on to rush for nearly 1,200 yards and averaged 7.6 yards per attempt. He'll be hard-pressed to see many touches as a rookie (and beyond), as the Bears already field David Montgomery, Damien Williams, and Tarik Cohen. The good news is that Williams is only on a one-year deal, so Herbert could push to become the Bears No. 2 running back in the very near future.
Javian Hawkins, Falcons
Hawkins wasn't drafted by the Falcons, but the team did sign him as a free agent after the draft. With Mike Davis and not much else behind him on the depth chart, Hawkins will be worth a late flier in dynasty drafts. Who knows? He could even have some low-end value in 2021 if he impressed during training camp and in preseason action.
D’Wayne Eskridge, Seahawks
During his time at Western Michigan, Eskridge put up big totals, averaging more than 18 yards per catch. He's not a big wideout at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, however, and he'll be hard-pressed to make a rookie impact behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. He won't be on the redraft radar but could sneak into some dynasty drafts next season.
Tutu Atwell, Rams
Atwell was solid as the Louisville top slot receiver in 2019, posting nearly 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s not a big receiver at 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds, however, and Atwell won’t make a rookie impact with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, and DeSean Jackson ahead of him on the Rams crowded depth chart. D-Jax hasn’t been durable, however, and he’s on a one-year deal. That makes Atwell a dynasty stash.
Josh Palmer, Chargers
Palmer didn't put up great numbers in a poor Tennessee pass attack, but he has good size, hands and will be a competitive receiver. The Chargers don't have any locks at wideout behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and catching passes from a good young quarterback like Justin Herbert makes Palmer a player to watch in camp. What’s more, Williams, Tyron Johnson, and Jalen Guyton are all in contract years.
Amari Rodgers, Packers
Is the selection of Rodgers an attempt to make peace with Aaron Rodgers? Who knows, right? Regardless, he's comparable to Randall Cobb in terms of his size and skill set. However, making a Year 1 impact is unlikely, and who knows if Aaron will even be with the Packers next season. Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, and Devin Funchess are all in contract years, so Rodgers will be a dynasty stash.
Nico Collins, Texans
Collins opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he did put up almost 20 yards per catch in 2019. The Texans have a mish-mash of wideouts behind Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb, but Collins still isn’t on the fantasy redraft radar. He could be worth a dynasty stash, as many Texans wideouts are on one-year contracts.
Dez Fitzpatrick, Titans
Fitzpatrick wasn't considered an elite prospect coming out of Louisville, as his best season saw him produce 833 yards and three touchdowns (he had nine scores as a freshman). However, he landed in a great spot as the Titans lost Corey Davis to the Jets and could push for the third spot on the depth chart behind A.J. Brown and Josh Reynolds. Fitzpatrick should be seen as a late-round dynasty league option who could also have some redraft or waiver-wire value during his rookie season.
Tylan Wallace, Ravens
The Ravens' wide receiver room will be a crowded one with the selections of Wallace and Rashod Bateman in the draft and the addition of Sammy Watkins as a free agent. Still, Watkins is on a one-year deal, and Marquise Brown hasn't lived up to expectations at the NFL level. That makes Wallace worth a late-round flier in most dynasty leagues.
Dazz Newsome, Bears
Newsome isn’t going to make a fantasy impact as a rookie, but he’s a worthwhile pick in dynasty leagues. Allen Robinson is playing on the franchise tag and no lock to be back with the Bears in 2022, and Justin Fields’ presence is good news for all of Chicago’s wideouts. If Robinson leaves the team, Newsome could be a starter in the future.
Pat Freiermuth, Steelers
Freiermuth, nicknamed "Baby Gronk" due to his similar skill set to Rob Gronkowski, can be a playmaker on the next level. He scored eight touchdowns as a freshman and found the end zone 15 times in his first 25 games at Penn State. He was also tough to bring down his final full season, breaking nine tackles on his 43 catches. Freiermuth won't immediately impact what is a crowded Steelers pass attack, so don't look to call his name in redrafts. Instead, he'll be a nice dynasty stash with future upside.
Hunter Long, Dolphins
Long is coming off an impressive 2020 that saw him lead all tight ends in targets (89) and catches (57) while also ranking second behind Kyle Pitts in yards (685). He didn’t land in a great spot from a fantasy perspective, though, as the Dolphins have Mike Gesicki and plenty of mouths to feed in the passing attack. The good news is that the Dolphins could let Gesicki, who is in a contract year, walk after this season. In that scenario, Long could end up being a bigger part of the Miami offense in the future.
Tommy Tremble, Panthers
Tremble’s collegiate stats don’t pop off the page by any stretch, as he finished his two seasons with the Fighting Irish with just 35 catches in 19 games. He played behind Cole Kmet as a freshman and was used as a rotational player last year. Tremble is athletic, however, and his skills as a blocker are excellent. The Panthers lack a true No. 1 tight end too, so Tremble is a player who will be worth a look in most dynasty formats.
Tre’ McKitty, Chargers
McKitty is a huge target at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds who was underutilized during his collegiate career at Georgia. However, he looked very good at the Senior Bowl, and the Chargers could use a tight end of the future. Jared Cook is an older veteran on a one-year deal, and Donald Parham is entering the final year of his deal with the team.
Brevin Jordan, Texans
Jordan is a pass-catching threat who did most of his collegiate damage out of the slot. The Texans have only Jordan Akins and Ryan Izzo at tight end after the release of Darren Fells, so things are wide open for Jordan to earn a big role in the passing game. Most tight ends don’t thrive as rookies, however, but Jordan does have dynasty appeal.
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. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for all of the late-breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!
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