Fantasy Football Dynasty Watch List: The 2021 Undrafted Free Agents to Keep an Eye On
Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: Jarret Patterson.
Everyone loves an underdog — which is exactly why it is so easy to root for the undrafted free agents (UDFA) to succeed every year in the NFL.
We’ve seen incredible success stories from players such as Warren Moon, Wes Welker, and Kurt Warner rise from undrafted status to NFL success.
In 2020, the Jaguars relied on UDFA James Robinson to carry their backfield. Robinson finished fifth in rushing yards (1,070), ninth in running back receptions (49), and first overall in Opportunity Share (per PlayerProfiler).
With almost 200 players now signed as UDFA after the 2021 draft, let’s take a look at which ones can make the biggest impact for fantasy football.
Seattle Seahawks: WR Cade Johnson, South Dakota State
Johnson steadily increased his reception total from 23 as a freshman to 72 as a junior and has two seasons of over 1,000 yards receiving.
He had an eye-popping 17 touchdowns in 2018 and has already earned rave reviews from a former Seahawks QB. On a shallow Seattle depth chart tethered to All-Pro Russell Wilson, Johnson certainly has landed in a prime spot for a UDFA.
Buffalo Bills: TE Quintin Morris, Bowling Green
The Bills are looking for an impact tight end, and the athletic Morris could ascend quickly up the Buffalo depth chart.
His 4.71 40-yard dash at 6-foot-2 and 243 pounds provides athleticism that allows him to compete with 24-year-old Dawson Knox and 27-year-old free agent signing Jacob Hollister.
If Knox continues to underwhelm, the converted wide receiver from Bowling Green could see an expedited path to fantasy relevancy.
New York Jets: TE Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss
The Jets just inked Yeboah to a $180,000 fully-guaranteed deal, including a $20,000 signing bonus. At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Yeboah produced a whopping 19.4 yards per target in his one year with the Rebels.
New York has a very beatable depth chart with the disappointing Chris Herndon as the only pass-catching competition among the tight end grouping.
Cincinnati Bengals: RB Pooka Williams, Kansas
Williams burst onto the scene for the Jayhawks as a freshman, tallying 1,400 yards, 33 receptions, and nine touchdowns. He opted out after playing only four games last season.
The Bengals have a crowded backfield and drafted Michigan’s Chris Evans in the sixth round. Williams needs to make the roster but would be worth monitoring if he can pass Evans or 2020 sixth-round pick Trayveon Williams.
Houston Texans: WR Damon Hazelton, Missouri
Houston is such a mess, that the 6-foot-3, 206-pound Hazelton is worth monitoring. He produced consecutive eight-touchdown seasons at Virginia Tech before transferring to Missouri.
The departure of Will Fuller makes this a less daunting depth chart, but Hazelton must battle third-round Michigan product Nico Collins. The unknown status of quarterback Deshaun Watson makes all Texans players a fantasy risk.
Indianapolis Colts: RB Deon Jackson, Duke
Jonathan Taylor certainly rules the Indianapolis backfield, but it is worth noting the Colts gave Jackson the highest signing bonus of any UDFA this season.
Duke running back Deon Jackson got a $45,000 signing bonus from the Indianapolis Colts as a priority free agent, highest signing bonus for an undrafted rookie this year, per a league source. Rushed for 2,267 career yards, 18 touchdowns, 61 catches, 534 yards and four touchdowns
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) May 2, 2021
Jackson brings 4.47 speed at 218 pounds, with 22 touchdowns over his last three years at Duke. Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, and Jordan Wilkins could all be free agents in 2022, making Jackson a worthwhile stash on dynasty rosters.
Indianapolis Colts: WR Tarik Black, Texas
Tarik Black is a vexing UDFA prospect. After three disappointing seasons at Michigan, Black turned pro after just season at Texas despite being granted an extra year of eligibility. He caught only 10 passes in six games in 2020 but did average an impressive 24 yards per reception.
Black is banking on his measurables to help him find success with the Colts. He stands 6-foot-3, weighs 220 pounds, and impressed at his pro day with a 4.53 40-yard dash, 40-inch vertical jump and 11-foot broad jump.
There is certainly room to make an impact on this receiving depth chart, but can Black finally achieve consistency on the pro level after struggling at two colleges?
Tennessee Titans: TE Briley Moore, Kansas State
Moore was a solid producer at Northern Iowa before boosting his NFL profile with a big season at Kansas State.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end produced 15.4 yards per target, complementing an impressive metrics profile.
Tennessee’s tight end roster is thinner with the departure of Jonnu Smith to New England, leaving Anthony Firkser and Geoff Swaim atop the depth chart.
Running a 4.71 at his size places Moore on the watch list for any dynasty league roster.
Dallas Cowboys: WR Osirus Mitchell, Mississippi State
Dallas usually speculates on UDFA wide receivers, and Osirus Mitchell of Mississippi State has piqued our interest with his notable measurables.
Cowboys agreed to terms with ex-Mississippi State WR Osirus Mitchell, source said. Ridiculous frame at 6-5, 206 with 82 1/4" wing span (second-largest of any WR in draft). Largest hands (10 7/8") of all WRs and TEs in draft. Caught 47 passes for 505 yards, four TDs in 2020.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) May 1, 2021
It’s a difficult depth chart to ascend with Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup, but a big preseason could cause another team to take notice.
Philadelphia Eagles: WR Trevon Grimes, Florida
There’s DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, and Travis Fulgham? The Eagles’ receiving core is anything but secure with risky high upside starters.
Grimes brings elite size at 6-foot-4 and did produce nine touchdowns for the Gators in 2020, just one fewer than first-round Florida wideout Kadarius Toney.
Keep an eye on Grimes as he battles Greg Ward, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins during the preseason.
Washington Football Team: RB Jaret Patterson, Buffalo
Remember when Patterson posted 409 yards and an FBS record eight touchdowns against Kent State in November? Washington certainly does, as does Hall of Famer Barry Sanders.
Congrats to @__JP26 – Wishing you and your family the best of luck in DC – Us little guys have to have each other's backs.
— Barry Sanders (@BarrySanders) May 4, 2021
Patterson did everything for the Bulls in college and now heads to Washington. While the presence of Antonio Gibson has buried the 5-foot-6 RB on most dynasty rankings, his explosiveness demands the attention of all fantasy gamers.
Chicago Bears: RB C.J. Marable, Coastal Carolina
Cut from the Tarik Cohen mold, Marable is a shifty 5-foot-7 running back who excels as a pass-catcher. He was uber-productive at Coastal Carolina with 69 combined receptions and 33 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
With continued skepticism for dynasty players surrounding lead running back David Montgomery, the production and elusiveness of Marable should at least be intriguing for taxi squads.
Green Bay Packers: WR Bailey Gaither, San Jose State
While Green Bay wonders whether or not Aaron Rodgers will be on the team in 2021, there is a chance Bailey Gaither will be.
The San Jose State product overcame a torn Achilles in 2018 to record 93 receptions, over 1,500 yards, and 10 touchdowns combined in the past two seasons. Gaither is resilient and has great hands, making him a threat to a wide receiver roster with few wideouts currently signed for 2022.
HOW ON EARTH DID HE CATCH THIS?!
Bailey Gaither pulls off one of the grabs of the year. pic.twitter.com/wvqJ4Eifef
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 26, 2019
Minnesota Vikings: WR Blake Proehl, East Carolina
The son of NFL veteran Ricky Proehl chose to sign with Minnesota over several other teams such as Green Bay, Washington, and Detroit.
He admittedly models his game after Vikings’ veteran wideout Adam Thielen, who turns 31 this season.
Atlanta Falcons: RB Javian Hawkins, Louisville
Atlanta is the ideal place for a UDFA running back to land. The Falcons have one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses with journeyman Mike Davis as the leading rusher.
Hawkins has breakaway speed and tallied 1,525 rushing yards in his sophomore season at Louisville. Last year in only eight games, Hawkins caught 16 passes on 20 targets. Hawkins profiles as a sneaky receiving running back that had stifled 2020 production due to a COVID-19 limited schedule.
With Atlanta releasing Ito Smith in April, it’s not hard to envision Hawkins contributing on the fast turf of Atlanta in the near future.