We held our first rookie-only mock draft 10 days following the 2021 NFL Draft, and it was interesting to see the results. It went a little different than I expected in the first round.
This was a 12-team, PPR mock draft featuring members of our CBS Sports staff. We did this three-round mock with the idea of drafting the best player available, which is different from most rookie-only drafts for Dynasty leagues. In those formats, the rookie will enhance an already established roster, and the Fantasy manager could be drafting for need instead of the top talent available.
Now, in most rookie-only drafts in one-quarterback leagues, the first eight picks are likely going to be the same, just in a different order. Those eight players are Ja'Marr Chase, Najee Harris, Kyle Pitts, Travis Etienne, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Javonte Williams and Trevor Lawrence.
But we had a different first round, as you'll read below. And that should show you to be prepared in case your rookie-only draft also goes in a different direction.
Our draft order is as follows, and this is a non-snake draft:
1. Heath Cummings, Senior Fantasy Writer
2. Jacobs Gibbs, SportsLine Fantasy Analyst
3. Will Brinson, Senior NFL Writer
4. R.J. White, Managing Editor, SportsLine and CBS Fantasy
5. Jack Capotorto, CBS Sports HQ Producer
6. Dave Richard, Senior Fantasy Writer
7. Andrew Baumhor, CBS Sports HQ Producer
8. Dan Schneier, Fantasy Editor
9. Jamey Eisenberg, Senior Fantasy Writer
10. Meron Berkson, CBS Sports HQ Producer
11. Adam Aizer, Podcast Host
12. Chris Towers, Senior Editor, Fantasy
1.01. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, CIN
1.02. Najee Harris, RB, PIT
1.03. Kyle Pitts, TE, ATL
1.04. DeVonta Smith, WR, PHI
1.05. Travis Etienne, RB, JAC
1.06. Jaylen Waddle, WR, MIA
1.07. Rashod Bateman, WR, BAL
1.08. Javonte Williams, RB, DEN
1.09. Michael Carter, RB, NYJ
1.10. Trevor Lawrence, QB, JAC
1.11. Terrace Marshall, WR, CAR
1.12. Rondale Moore, WR, ARI
Chase vs. Harris will likely come down to need, but I agree with Chase going first overall here because he has the most upside and likely the most longevity in the NFL. I also wouldn't have a problem if Pitts went at No. 1 overall given the expectations of what he can become as an elite tight end.
If those top three stay the same in most leagues then you could have a tough choice at No. 4 overall between Smith, Waddle and Etienne -- need could be the deciding factor. For example, in one of my dynasty leagues, I had the choice of all of these players, and I went with Smith because I needed a receiver more than Etienne. And I like Smith over Waddle because Smith has less competition for targets, at least for 2021.
The first round took an unexpected turn with Bateman at No. 7. I love him as a talent, but I'm concerned about his production in Baltimore's run-based offense. I'd rather have Marshall and Moore at receiver, as well as Williams, Carter and Trey Sermon at running back. And I would draft Lawrence over Bateman as well.
I struggled with Carter over Sermon, but I like the chance of Carter being an instant contributor for the Jets in 2021, while Sermon has more competition for touches with the 49ers. And Carter is definitely the better receiving threat.
2.01. Kadarius Toney, WR, NYG
2.02. Elijah Moore, WR, NYJ
2.03. Trey Sermon, RB, SF
2.04. Trey Lance, QB, SF
2.05. Justin Fields, QB, CHI
2.06. Kenneth Gainwell, RB, PHI
2.07. Mac Jones, QB, NE
2.08. Josh Palmer, WR, LAC
2.09. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, DET
2.10. Amari Rodgers, WR, GB
2.11. Zach Wilson, QB, NYJ
2.12. Chuba Hubbard, RB, CAR
Toney and Elijah Moore are two other receivers you can consider drafting ahead of Bateman. Toney could be solid as a rookie in 2021, but I love his upside in 2022 when Sterling Shepard is likely gone as a cap casualty from the Giants. And Moore has the chance for a quality rookie season if the Jets move on from Jamison Crowder in June. But Moore is going to need Wilson to develop quickly to become a standout Fantasy receiver.
Wilson, despite being the No. 2 quarterback selected in the NFL Draft, was the No. 5 quarterback picked in this mock behind Lawrence, Lance, Fields and Jones. I don't have a problem with this order, but Wilson could end up as the better pick over Jones.
Lance vs. Fields could be a tough choice for some, but I like the upside of Lance with the 49ers slightly better. However, there's a better chance of Fields playing more games as a rookie if you want immediate results. Hopefully, both quarterbacks are great for many years to come.
Two of my favorite picks in Round 2 were St. Brown and Rodgers. I drafted St. Brown, and he could make an immediate impact with the Lions, who need help at receiver. And Rodgers could be the No. 2 receiver for the Packers behind Davante Adams, but the other Rodgers -- Aaron Rodgers -- is going to have to remain in Green Bay for the rookie receiver to be successful.
3.01. Dyami Brown, WR, WAS
3.02. D'Wayne Eskridge, WR, SEA
3.03. Pat Freiermuth, TE, PIT
3.04. Dez Fitzpatrick, WR, TEN
3.05. Brevin Jordan, TE, HOU
3.06. Nico Collins, WR, HOU
3.07. Elijah Mitchell, RB, SF
3.08. Tutu Atwell, WR, LAR
3.09. Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, NE
3.10. Tylan Wallace, WR, BAL
3.11. Tommy Tremble, TE, CAR
3.12. Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, MIN
Eskridge is going to do a variety of things for Seattle, but don't underestimate him as a sneaky Fantasy option, even though he's the No. 3 receiver behind D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The fact that the Seahawks used their first of just three draft picks to select Eskridge in Round 2 of the NFL Draft shows 1) they are still committed to their passing game and Russell Wilson and 2) they have expectations of Eskridge being a quality contributor in 2021.
Fitzpatrick was another pick I liked in this round, and he also could contribute right away. The Titans have a need at receiver with Corey Davis and Adam Humphries gone, and Fitzpatrick could be Tennessee's No. 3 receiver this season behind A.J. Brown and Josh Reynolds. And if Fitzpatrick is good, he could be the Titans' No. 2 target behind Brown before the end of the year. Reynolds also is on a one-year deal.
I felt fortunate to get Stevenson at 3.09, and he could end up as the best running back for the Patriots this season. He's not going to catch many passes with James White on the roster, and touchdowns could be an issue if Cam Newton remains the starting quarterback. But there's already a report that Stevenson could make Sony Michel expendable this season, and Michel isn't expected back in 2022. And Damien Harris has yet to prove himself, although he should be New England's best running back if healthy. Stevenson is a good rookie to target in the third round.