NFL
June 17, 2021

5 Most Underrated Fantasy Football Rookies in 2021

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 do whatever it takes to acquire at current ADP.

5. Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers

Everyone is justifiably working to land Steelers rookie running back Najee Harris in their fantasy football draft this summer. However, it would be foolish to overlook the other rookie the team invested in: Pat Freiermuth. The Penn State product is a great pass catcher and is walking into a starting job as a rookie.

The Steelers' offense is built to feed the position. Eric Ebron totaled 558 yards on 56 receptions and 91 targets in 2020, and now Freiermuth will inherit that workload. Ebron may have been more athletic but Freiermuth is a balanced player who can win with more reliable hands.

It's surprising to see the rookie being undrafted. Though he doesn't have a high upside, he's a high-end backup who can spot start. Ben Roethlisberger has a deep array of weapons but has always fed his tight ends, so we can expect a consistent output from the local star.

4. Nico Collins, Houston Texans

Sometimes a great fantasy year comes from a player who merely made the most of a big workload. That could be Nico Collins in 2021 even without Deshaun Watson playing. The Texans have a barren roster and could offload receiver Brandin Cooks before the trade deadline. 

Collins would naturally fill the team's primary pass catching role as he develops for the future. The athletic receiver shockingly fell to the third round despite profiling as a solid starter early in his career. Houston should prioritize getting him the ball early and often to see if he can raise the offense's ceiling.

His route-running is smooth and his sharpness for being a bigger-bodied receiver is surprising. Everything Collins put on film at Michigan screamed a potential star. Hopefully, he gets decent enough quarterback play to put his tools together. I'm keeping Collins on my bench in hopes he'll break out as the season progresses. 

3. Josh Palmer, Los Angeles Chargers

One of the big storylines on the Chargers is how their receiver position will play out. Mike Williams is a great talent but failed to find great chemistry with Justin Herbert in 2020. It's a no-brainer Williams will start again in 2021, but it's possible the team could trade him or reduce his role as the season goes on if history repeats itself.

Enter Josh Palmer. The third-round rookie from Tennessee is more tools than substance right now but his movement ability is enticing. He has the look of a well-rounded receiver who can simply do more than Williams can from a smoothness standpoint.

With Palmer and Williams flanking Keenen Allen in the slot, the Chargers can be more versatile than they were last year. Palmer is a perfect late-round flier who can grow as the season goes on. 

2. Michael Carter, New York Jets

The least impressive running back depth chart in the league belongs to the New York Jets. With veterans La'Mical Perine and Tevin Coleman ahead of him, North Carolina rookie Michael Carter could easily step into a starting role from Day One. 

Carter had an impressive stretch in college in tandem with Javonte Williams as his partner. Carter was more elusive when it came to avoiding contact, and is a smooth runner who should've been drafted higher. He's not a huge home-run threat but he doesn't leave meat on the bone and has the quickness to get to the third-level of the defense.

Give me all of the shares of a wide-zone run offense with a rookie quarterback. Carter will be a great flex option, especially considering he's going late in drafts. You can't find another starter for that price. 

1. Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers

Investing into the San Francisco 49ers' backfield is always a good idea. Kyle Shanahan's ability to squeeze production from late-round talent and other team's castoffs is incredible. The 49ers' offensive line, combined with this scheme, is a recipe for destruction against foes.

Injecting a great physical talent like Trey Sermon is going to bring a ton of big plays. Sermon doesn't have the vision usually required for wide-zone plays, but his physical style and ability to cut upfield with power are perfect. He's going to impress these coaches with his raw talent over speedster Raheem Mostert.

Sermon will likely be in a committee for much of the year but he can take over the lead role. Wilson will miss a chunk of the season after tearing his meniscus. The Ohio State product could form an ideal one-two punch with Mostert while being the goal-line and short-yardage back. 

Take Sermon because there's not a backup in the league except Kareem Hunt who offers the same upside. 

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