2021 Rookie Dynasty Rankings: Way-Too-Early Projections For Najee Harris, Devonta Smith, More

2021 Rookie Dynasty Rankings: Way-Too-Early Projections For Najee Harris, Devonta Smith, More article feature image

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Najee Harris.

Now that the Super Bowl is over, it's time to look ahead to the 2021 NFL Draft.

With that in mind, I've created some way-too-early dynasty rankings for the incoming rookie class.

Dynasty Rankings Methodology

In assessing these prospects, I’ve focused most on projected draft capital, college production, physical profile and recruitment grade.

Whenever I do rankings this early in the year, there are always a few people who bemoan the futility of the project, saying that I can't possibly make informed rankings without first knowing which teams guys will play on.

Even so, I find the task worthwhile.

The tetrad of college production, physical profile, recruitment grade and draft position mean more than our initial perceptions of a guy’s early-career circumstances.

It’s not hard for us to know — to quantify — a guy’s college production, physical profile, recruitment grade and draft position. We can put exact numbers to each category. And once those numbers are in place, they never change.

But we’re not very good, especially shortly after the draft, at evaluating a guy’s landing spot and projecting the usage he’s likely to have with his team. That’s something we just can’t know. And yet that seems to be what most people focus on.

We’re not great at evaluating circumstances anyway — and circumstances can and often do change.

So there's something quite freeing about looking at these players now — months in advance of the draft — and trying to find the signal before the noise sets in.

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Dynasty Factors

Here are some general notes on my ranking process and perspective.

  • Age: I place a premium on youth, which correlates with longevity and degree of future production. As a result, I tend to have younger players ranked ahead of older players: The younger players have more long-term upside.
  • Production window: In creating the rankings, I’ve focused most on the production we can reasonably expect from players within the next three years. After that time frame, projections are highly uncertain, although I still value the unknown long-tailed potential younger players possess.
  • Positional scarcity: I tend to devalue players at positions of depth. As a result, quarterbacks are usually low in my rankings because there are so many viable options at the position.
  • Longevity: Everything else equal, I usually rank wide receivers ahead of running backs because receivers as a group last longer in the league and maintain value deeper into their careers.
  • Projected draft position: In general, the higher a player is selected in the draft, the more productive he’s likely to be in the NFL. I don’t let draft position dictate my entire process, but if I rank contrary to draft position, I need to have a good reason for doing so.

Positional Value in Rookie Dynasty Rankings

In dynasty, it’s hard to build a consistent contender if you aren’t strong at wide receiver and tight end. Patching together production is much easier to do at running back and quarterback, and that knowledge informs the way I rank players, draft rookies and build teams.

I place a high priority on finding wide receivers and tight ends with difference-making potential. Players at these positions take longer to develop than running backs, which is unfortunate, but sharp dynasty investors can use that fact to their advantage.

In search of immediate alpha, too many people take running backs early in rookie drafts. In doing so, they not only buy into volatile short-lived assets but also allow value-seeking patient investors to acquire stable long-term production at a notable discount.

Each year, there are dynasty players who crave the sugar rush of running backs taken in Rounds 2-3, and so they forego the protein of wide receivers selected in Rounds 1-2.

In the long run, such dynasty players lose.

2021 Rookie Dynasty Rankings

Now that I've filibustered for 600 words, here's my three-round, way-too-early 2021 rookie dynasty rankings.

Matthew Freedman is 1,004-797-37 (55.7%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.

Last year, he was 124-88-1 (+26.2 units) betting the NFL draft.

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