With the NFL offseason nearly over, it's time to focus on fantasy football drafts.
Whether you're in a dynasty fantasy football league or redraft league, deciding where to pick impact rookies is a key component of building a championship-level roster.
The problem with rookies is they are subject to a learning curve. The learning curve can include schematic nuances that are hard for us to adjust for. These nuances are the difference between a disappointing rookie and a sophomore suddenly breaking out.
We found five rookies you should avoid at current ADP thanks to veterans who have a better situation and path to playing time.
5. Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars
We’ve previously broken down Travis Etienne’s role within the Jacksonville Jaguars offense and we concluded that he’s going to have a difficult time being more than a rotational back and occasional slot receiver. He’s a supremely talented player who will certainly add a nice new dimension to the unit. However, his upside is capped as he has to share the backfield with James Robinson and has three uniquely talented receivers to help rookie Trevor Lawrence.
Currently, Etienne is being chosen as a high flex option. The only way he can actually bring value to that draft position is either a reduced role for Robinson or for this offense to force-feed Etienne. It’s hard to imagine an experienced offensive coordinator like Darrell Bevell doing that just to justify his first-round draft status.
We are selling him at this price and going to look at other options unless we can get him at a major discount. With so many new pieces within the Jaguars' offense, it’s unlikely that a rookie will stake his claim as the dominant producer.
4. Kadarius Toney, New York Giants
Kadarius Toney was the most shocking first-round pick as far as his landing spot. The Giants had just signed Kenny Golladay and already had Darius Slayton in place. Don’t forget veteran Sterling Shepard is also on the roster, and the team added John Ross and Dante Pettis.
Although he's extremely fun to watch, Toney is a raw talent. That rawness will show when it comes time to earn key playing time. Quarterback Daniel Jones is not good enough to sustain an offense that can feature five key playmakers.
Running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram are still alive. It’s hard to fathom this rookie making a difference. I’m avoiding him completely in every draft.
3. Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
The problem with Trey Lance is the same problem as Toney. There’s simply not a great path to playing time in his first year. The 49ers already have a strong roster they know can get to the Super Bowl if they can get competent quarterback play.
Jimmy Garoppolo is a major factor in this race. Currently, Lance is being drafted ahead of Kirk Cousins, Trevor Lawrence, and Baker Mayfield. It’s impossible for Lance to outperform each of them unless he's a Week 1 starter.
If you believe he will be, then by all means take him in the 12th round or above. But the current information that we have now suggests that Lance may not play at all in 2021 or if he does, it will be much later in the season and he’ll be more of a spark than a starter.
2. Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals offer one of the most difficult projections of the season thanks to a wide array of explosive playmakers and some veteran progress stoppers. How do we account for an aging A.J. Green, and the dominance that comes with DeAndre Hopkins?
It’s possible the Cardinals struggle to produce another relevant fantasy receiver outside of Hopkins which was the case last season. Quarterback Kyler Murray is a force to be reckoned with but he has limitations.
Rondale Moore is a great speedster and Kliff Kingsberry will surely do his best to manufacture touches for the rookie, however, he’s not a vertical route runner who will dominate in this offense. It’s more likely he’ll be miscast in this offense as someone who's a big downfield threat.
Thus, I’m selling more in 2021 because I think his role will take time to develop.
1. Terrace Marshall Jr., Carolina Panthers
Really, the inclusion of Terrace Marshall Jr. is more of a statement on Sam Darnold than the first-year receiver himself. The Carolina Panthers passer does not fit the offense Joe Brady wants to run with his unit. The transition for Darnold will be difficult and there will be considerable growing pains for the entire unit.
We also have to remember the current playmakers on the roster. There’s Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, and Christian McCaffrey. Simply trying to get targets for all of those playmakers is in itself a challenge. The Panthers would need someone like Drew Brees or Tom Brady just to get each of those players their due.
Marshall will eventually be a stud. It may take someone leaving the roster, such as when Anderson’s contract is up.
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