Fantasy Football 2021: Najee Harris and Top Rookies to Target in Mock Drafts

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIAugust 12, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Najee Harris and Top Rookies to Target in Mock Drafts

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Before drafting players for your fantasy football team, you want to do your research. That includes analyzing players' stats, potentially watching their highlight tapes and dividing them into tiers so that you're completely ready to go when draft day arrives.

    But with rookies, there are no NFL stats to analyze or NFL highlights to look at. These players have never stepped on to the field to play a game at the professional level. So no matter how much hype there is regarding a particular prospect, there's always a risk factor with drafting a first-year NFL player in fantasy.

    However, there's also a ton of potential reward. Fantasy managers who had players such as Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert or Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson had to be thrilled with their production during their rookie seasons. There's a high ceiling, but also a possible low floor if a rookie ends up being a bust.

    So, who are the rookies to target during fantasy drafts for 2021? Here's a look at a few who should be on your radar and potentially added to your team.

Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Harris was one of only two running backs who were taken during the first round of the 2021 NFL draft. And now, he's the clear starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into his rookie season. So he's going to get plenty of touches early on, which will continue as long as he performs well and stays healthy.

    That's why Harris' average draft position in fantasy is in the second round, per Fantasy Football Calculator. All running backs who are clearly going to get plenty of carries are valuable, and if Harris lives up to his potential, he could become a special player in the NFL.

    During his four-year career at Alabama, Harris got better every season. That culminated with his senior campaign in 2020, during which he rushed for 1,466 yards and had 30 total touchdowns in 13 games. And he's already been impressing during his first training camp with Pittsburgh.

    "Harris has shown he’s not an ordinary rookie running back when it comes to his body structure and conditioning," The Athletic's Mark Kaboly recently wrote.

    It can be risky to take a rookie within the first two rounds of a fantasy football draft, but Harris seems like a safe bet to have a strong debut season. So take him if you're on the clock early in the second round and he's available.

Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Moore was taken by the New York Jets in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft, and he now joins a receiving corps that has quickly gotten better. In addition to the returning Jamison Crowder, New York now has free-agent acquisition Corey Davis and Moore as playmakers for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson to throw to.

    While there were five wide receivers taken before Moore in this year's draft, the former Ole Miss standout has a ton of breakout potential. In fact, Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown, who also played his college ball for the Rebels, has high expectations for Moore's rookie season.

    "He’s going to go crazy this year with the Jets, though," Brown recently said on the Raw Room podcast. "Real talk. He’s a real sleeper. I’ll put my money on him for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Without a doubt, over anybody."

    If that turns out to be true, then Moore is going to be a fantasy football steal, because his ADP is currently in the 11th round, per Fantasy Football Calculator. It may even be worth taking him in the ninth or 10th round to ensure that nobody else in your league picks him up ahead of you.

    Once Wilson and Moore develop a connection in New York, that could be a quarterback-receiver duo to keep an eye on for years to come.

Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    There are three top-tier fantasy tight ends: Travis Kelce, Darren Waller and George Kittle. That trio is likely to put up much bigger numbers than anybody else at the position. However, if Pitts quickly reaches his potential, there's a chance he could join that group in the near future.

    Pitts is a 6'6", 245-pound tight end who impressed throughout his three-year career at Florida, which led to the Atlanta Falcons taking him with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. He'll immediately be a starter on their offense, and it's likely quarterback Matt Ryan could look his way quite often this season.

    Because of Pitts' potential, his ADP is in the fourth round, per Fantasy Football Calculator, with Kelce, Waller and Kittle being the only tight ends getting drafted earlier. There's a ton of risk, but it could pay off big time for fantasy managers who take him.

    "The Falcons are likely to throw a ton, like usual, and Pitts is going to be a major part of that. Pitts has league-winning upside at a thin position, and his floor is a lot higher than many give him credit for," The Athletic's Matt Williams wrote.

    Even if Pitts doesn't put up numbers quite like the top three tight ends, expect him to at least be in the top 10 at the position, making him worthy of his high ADP.