Fantasy Football Expert Analysis for Trevor Lawrence, Top NFL Draft 2021 Rookies

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 30, 2021

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence passes against Ohio State during the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
John Bazemore/Associated Press

The new era of Jacksonville Jaguars football begins in September with No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence

In addition to landing Lawrence, the Jaguars took running back Travis Etienne from the Clemson offense with the 25th overall pick. 

Jacksonville's new-look offense is intriguing from a fantasy football perspective, especially with Etienne joining 1,000-yard rusher James Robinson in the backfield. 

The Jaguars have a handful of weapons for Lawrence to work with in the passing game, but that does not mean he should be one of the top fantasy quarterbacks yet. 

Urban Meyer's team faces a daunting schedule, and it still has some defensive issues that could keep it from being competitive in every contest. 

Despite those flaws, Lawrence should enter a better fantasy situation than No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson, who has much less help at running back.


Fantasy Football Outlook

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

With Lawrence taking over in Jacksonville, the Jaguars should be a few victories better than the one-win campaign that landed them the Clemson quarterback. 

The Jaguars have a 1,000-yard running back in Robinson who also caught 49 passes and scored three times through the air. 

Adding Etienne's dual-threat ability out of the backfield and his connection with Lawrence should help the signal-caller feel more comfortable under pressure. 

At wide receiver, Jacksonville returns DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr., and it added Marvin Jones Jr. in free agency.

Chark put up 706 receiving yards one year after having 1,008 yards in his sophomore season, and Shenault had 600 yards as a rookie. 

With those pieces in place, Lawrence has a chance to put up solid numbers. Three Jacksonville quarterbacks combined for 3,955 passing yards and 25 touchdown passes in 2020. 

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Lawrence's over/under for passing yards is 4,150.5. That total may not be attainable with the out-of-division schedule the Jaguars face. 

Jacksonville has to deal with the pass rushes in the NFC West and two top 13 passing defenses from 2020 in AFC East opponents New England and Buffalo. 

In 2020, Justin Herbert was the only rookie quarterback to eclipse the 4,000-yard mark and finish in the top 10 in passing yards. Herbert was given the reins to the Los Angeles Chargers offense in Week 3. 

However, Herbert was in a better place to succeed with an All-Pro wide receiver in Keenan Allen. Jacksonville does not have a No. 1 wideout of that caliber yet. 

If the Jaguars wide receivers progress in 2021, Lawrence could attain the 4,000-yard mark, but for now, he seems like a mid-round fantasy draft selection. 


Zach Wilson, QB, New York Jets 

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Wilson enters an offense with more deficiencies at running back, at least for now. The Jets could land a running back on Friday or Saturday, 

The Jets improved on an offense that did not have a receiver record over 700 yards in 2020 by bringing in Corey Davis and Keelan Cole in free agency. Jamison Crowder is a reliable veteran to call on and Denzel Mims displayed some promise in flashes in his rookie year. 

New York still needs some help at running back, where it added Tevin Coleman to a depth chart that also contains La'Mical Perine and Ty Johnson. Perine and Johnson combined for 486 rushing yards and three touchdowns last season. 

At least the Jets will have more protection up front to run the ball with 2020 first-rounder Mekhi Becton and this year's No. 14 pick Alijah Vera-Tucker securing the interior. 

However, if Wilson does not have a consistent running attack around him, he could struggle a bit with opposing defenses honing in on him. 

Wilson should be targeted as No. 2 fantasy quarterback and is likely to be selected behind Lawrence. To start, he is a potential streaming option for bye weeks with a ceiling to be a mid-level quarterback in his rookie season.


Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Kyle Pitts is a fascinating fit in the Atlanta Falcons offense. 

Tight ends played a major role in Tennessee when new head coach Arthur Smith was the offensive coordinator. 

Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser were third and fourth on Tennessee's receiving yard list in 2020. They combined for 80 catches and nine touchdowns. 

Pitts has to compete for targets alongside Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones, but if he functions in the same role as Smith and Firkser in Smith's offense, he could flourish across the middle. 

In 2020, Matt Ryan attempted 626 passes and helped Jones, Ridley and Russell Gage each record over 700 receiving yards. 

If Ryan throws at a high volume again, Pitts could steal some of the yardage away from the wideouts. 

Because he has three standouts around him, the No. 4 overall pick should not be a top priority compared to other rookies, but he should end up as a solid option in the middle rounds. 


Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati 

Eric Gay/Associated Press

Ja'Marr Chase holds an edge over other rookie wide receivers because of his prior connection with former LSU teammate and current Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. Miami's Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle were the only other duo to be reunited on Thursday. 

Before Burrow suffered his torn ACL, he attempted 404 passes over 10 starts, which equates to over 40 throws per contest. 

With A.J. Green out of the picture, the Bengals will rely on Chase, 2020 second-round pick Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd to carry the load at wide receiver. 

Chase's early-season numbers could be affected by Burrow's recovery from a torn ACL. Even if Burrow is back for September, it could take some time for him to get back up to game speed. 

A lack of chemistry with backup Brandon Allen may hurt Chase's numbers, but if Burrow feels well early, his potential could skyrocket. 

Chase should be worth a look in the early rounds since the Cincinnati offense is tailored to throw at a high volume and the team needs to replace Green in some capacity. 


Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami 

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Waddle was the improvement at wide receiver Miami needed to make to work its way up the AFC East standings. 

The Dolphins have decent depth at wideout with DeVante Parker, Will Fuller V, Preston Williams and Jakeem Grant, but an argument can be made that none of them are No. 1 receivers. 

Parker was the only Miami wideout to record over 400 receiving yards. Tight end Mike Gesicki was second to him on the stat chart. 

Waddle does not have to worry about developing chemistry with Tagovailoa, so all he has to do in the offseason is work on his role within Miami's system.

Waddle has the potential to shine more than Chase because of how poorly some of Miami's wideouts performed in 2020 and because of Fuller's injury history. 

If you have to choose between Waddle and Chase, the Alabama product may be the better option because of his healthy quarterback and lack of competition for the No. 1 spot. 


Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh 

Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

Najee Harris should move to the top of Pittsburgh's running back depth chart. 

The departure of James Conner to Arizona and Harris' status as a first-round pick should put him in a role for a large amount of touches. 

The Steelers need to fill the void left by Conner, who led the team with 721 rushing yards. Benny Snell and Anthony MacFarland may not be viewed as long-term successors because of the team's first-round direction. 

In 2020, Pittsburgh ran the ball on 373 occasions with Conner and Snell both earning over 100 touches. With Ben Roethlisberger aging another year, that total should at least stay the same and likely increase. 

The easiest comparison for Harris' fantasy value would be Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who jumped to the forefront after he was chosen in the 2020 first round by the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Harris' promising workload should make him an early fantasy draft pick, and depending on the size of your league, he could be a late-first-or-second-round pick.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.

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