Fantasy Football 2021: Rookie Rankings, Top Team Names and League Names

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Rookie Rankings, Top Team Names and League Names

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    NFL preseason football is back, and Thursday night's Hall of Fame Game provided an early look at one rookie who should be fantasy-relevant in 2021.

    Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris served as a three-down back when he was on the field against the Dallas Cowboys. He finished with only 22 rushing yards and three receiving yards, but his role suggests that he will be a workhorse back for the Steelers in 2021.

    That's significant for fantasy managers looking to target three-down backs early on draft day—and particularly important in points-per-reception (PPR) formats. Which other first-year players should be worth a look in fantasy drafts?

    We'll analyze the top rookies for 2021 fantasy and examine some funny team and league names to further help get your season started right.

2021 Rookie Top 20

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    1. Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

    2. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

    3. Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons

    4. Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

    5. DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

    6. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins

    7. Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens

    8. Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos

    9. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

    10. Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets

    11. Terrace Marshall, WR, Carolina Panthers

    12. Rondale Moore, WR, Arizona Cardinals

    13. Zach Wilson, WR, New York Jets

    14. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions

    15. Amari Rodgers, WR, Green Bay Packers

    16. Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears

    17. Trey Sermon, RB, San Francisco 49ers

    18. D'Wayne Eskridge, WR, Seattle Seahawks

    19. Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers

    20. Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants

Rookie Analysis

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    When identifying draft-worthy rookies, it's smart to consider projected roles first. Dynasty leagues are different, of course, and long-term value should take precedence there. However, in season-long leagues, players who are going to start right away and play significant roles should be at the top of the order.

    Harris is a prime example. So is Cincinnati Bengals wideout Ja'Marr Chase. A former LSU teammate of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, Chase should be a go-to target right out of the gate.

    Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne, Baltimore Ravens wideout Rashod Bateman, Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeVonta Smith and Miami Dolphins wideout Jaylen Waddle are all further examples of rookies likely to see big roles in Year 1.

    If you are going to take a flier on a rookie quarterback, it's only worth considering those guaranteed to start from Week 1 onward. While San Francisco 49ers signal-caller Trey Lance may have plenty of fantasy upside, he's likely to open the season behind incumbent Jimmy Garoppolo.

    Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, on the other hand, is expected to be a Week 1 starter with franchise-quarterback potential.

    "Overall, Lawrence is living up to the hype he received as the top high school quarterback in the country and looks like a Week 1 franchise quarterback with the upside to win multiple MVPs, and only injuries or an incompetent franchise will put him on a path toward failure," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.

    While there's no guarantee that Jacksonville will properly develop Lawrence, the Clemson product has all the physical tools needed to be fantasy-relevant as a rookie.

    Rookie role players typically have less value, but rookies in committee backfields do have sleeper appeal. Follow the preseason closely, and it if looks like a rookie runner like Michael Carter of the New York Jets is moving up the depth chart, don't be afraid to take a chance on him.

    It's also worth following injuries throughout the preseason. An injury to a veteran can open the door for a rookie, and if he performs well enough, he may never relinquish his role.

League Names

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    This won't be relevant for everyone, but if you are starting up a new league or are in charge of an existing one, it's always worth adding some personal flair to the experience. It's best to consider the group you will be playing with—family, friends, coworkers, if applicable.

    Use an inside joke with a group of friends or play off of the family name. The Roethlisberger Family Football Pool would work, but Roethlisbergers in Paradise ups the interest level—even if it is a little cheesy.

    Don't be afraid to pun-ish coworkers with an occupational-themed league name. Cutting Players could work for a landscaping crew, for example. For those with more of a mixed collection of managers, here are a few generic examples:

    • Weekend Warriors
    • The No Fun League
    • Race to Avoid Last Place
    • The Dirty Dozen
    • The Greatest Show on Paper
    • All in the Family
    • Spreadsheet Showdown
    • The League of Ordinary Gentlemen
    • Monday Morning Hangover
    • Legion of Zoom

Team Names

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    While coming up with a humorous and personalized team name is not a requirement for fantasy, spending a season as Team 11 can be a little bland. Why not add a personal touch and try to elicit a few chuckles over the course of the season?

    Coming up with a team name can be as simple as playing off the name of one of your marquee draft picks. Combining a name with a favorite song, artist, film or television show can further add an individual touch.

    It's best to make your team name about you and your squad, but here are a few suggestions for the 2021 season:

    • What's Up, Mahomes?
    • You Mad, Burrow?
    • Lawrence of Arabia
    • Zach Attack
    • Najee, I'm Good
    • Return of the Dak
    • Tua and a Half Men
    • Derrick of the Edmund Fitzgerald
    • Game of Jones
    • Wheelin' and Dillon
    • Peaceful, Easy Thielen
    • Fresh Prince of Helaire
    • The Big Gronkowski
    • The Championship Chase
    • A Cook, a Baker and a Touchdown-Maker