Combined Rookie Draft Board

A visual look at a full offense-IDP rookie draft board with position-by-position commentary

The consensus rookie rankings at Footballguys are one of the strongest features we produce each season. However, despite embedded commentary, the consensus rankings can be light on context. If you look carefully, you can see tiers, but it can be difficult to compare players within their position and across multiple positions.

Knowing Player X is the consensus RB3 is clear from the rankings. Knowing how nearly Player X was to being ranked RB2 or RB6, or how Player X compares to the WR5 or TE1 or LB2 is much less clear.

I prefer a more visual approach, one that tiers players by position but also shows the value of one position relative to another across my draft board.

NOTES ON THE DRAFT BOARD

  • The first version of this feature is based on limited information. Coaching comments, mini-camp observations, debate within the fantasy community, and the clarity that comes from testing this board in my own drafts will bring changes to future versions.
  • I build this draft board with the following league parameters in mind: 12-14 teams, PPR, balanced IDP scoring, and full IDP lineups that include defensive tackles and cornerbacks. The commentary that follows the draft board will sometimes address modifications for leagues that provide bonuses for tight end scoring, big play IDP systems, etc.
  • There may be more than 12-14 players listed in a given draft round. That's a function of the tiered approach. It's also a natural reflection of the wide range of ADP valuations we always see as a rookie draft moves into the deeper rounds. In some years, there may be fewer than 10-12 players in a draft round. Drafting trends may change from year to year, but it’s important to recognize when to trade for a future pick than to reach for a clearly less valuable talent now.
  • This board reflects my personal drafting philosophy. I prioritize upside over floor within tiers. I'm willing to accept a higher bust risk in all rounds. I prefer to draft players who are likely to be successful sooner if other variables are equal. And I'm not afraid to trust my evaluations of defensive players and draft a second-tier IDP over a third-tier offensive prospect -- regardless of positional scarcity.
  • The offensive columns of this draft board are informed by the in-depth process and work of Matt Waldman, Matt Harmon, Sigmund Bloom, Cecil Lammey, as well as Josh Norris, Dane Brugler, Mark Schofield, Emory Hunt, Evan Silva, J.J. Zachariason, Gary Davenport, and many others. I have also relied on the rankings of Bob Henry, John Norton, and Jason Wood at Footballguys for years. If you have other evaluators on your shortlist and they differ greatly from this board, tweak accordingly.

The draft board is designed to be read from top to bottom and left to right. Each position is tiered from top to bottom in its own column. Separations within the columns represent relative tiers and the players are ranked by preference within those tiers. Relative value between positions can be tracked from left to right. The "suggested" draft rounds are based on my view of a player's value, with some consideration given to keeping the number of players with a given draft round grade to a reasonable total.

Positional commentaries can be found after the draft board.

CLICK HERE to download an Excel file to modify this draft board to better fit your player evaluations, draft philosophy, and league parameters.

2021 Combined Draft Board

Round 1
Quarterback
Running Back
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Tackle
End
Edge Rusher
Linebacker
Cornerback
Safety
Harris, Pit
Chase, Cin
Pitts, Atl
talent gap
Waddle, Mia
Williams, Den
Lawrence, Jac
Sermon, SF
Smith, Phi
Lance, SF
Parsons, Dal
Fields, Chi Etienne, Jac Marshall, Car
Collins, Ari
Round 2
Quarterback
Running Back
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Tackle
End
Edge Rusher
Linebacker
Cornerback
Safety
Carter, NYJ
Bateman, Bal
Davis, Was
Wilson, NYJ
Moore, NYJ
Moore, Ari
Owusu-Koramoah, Cle
Jones, NE
Toney, NYG
Bolton, KC
Rodgers, GB
Werner, NO
Stevenson, NE
St. Brown, Det
Phillips, Mia
Fitzpatrick, Ten
Round 3
Quarterback
Running Back
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Tackle
End
Edge Rusher
Linebacker
Cornerback
Safety
Palmer, LAC
Freiermuth, Pit
Barnes, Det
Eskridge, Sea
Collins, Hou
Ojulari, NYG
Brown, Was
Round 4
Quarterback
Running Back
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Tackle
End
Edge Rusher
Linebacker
Cornerback
Safety
Mills, Hou
Rountree, LAC
Williams, Den
Paye, Ind
Phillips, Mia
Gainwell, Phi
Schwartz, Cle
Rousseau, Buf
Ojulari, NYG
Hubbard, Car
Darby, Atl
Tryon, TB
Herbert, Chi
Round 5
Quarterback
Running Back
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Tackle
End
Edge Rusher
Linebacker
Cornerback
Safety
Wallace, Bal
Harris, LAR Cox, Dal
Powell, KC
McKitty, LAC
Smith-Marsette, Min
Tremble, Car Basham, Buf Paye, Ind
Grant, Atl
Darden, TB Long, Mia Turner, NO Rousseau, Buf
Moehrig, Las
Round 6
Quarterback
Running Back
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Tackle
End
Edge Rusher
Linebacker
Cornerback
Safety
Trask, TB Nwangwu, Min Atwell, LAR
Jordan, Hou
Barmore, NE Ossai, Cin
Oweh, Bal
Holland, Mia
Mitchell, SF
Odeyingbo, Ind
Tryon, TB
Cisco, Jac
Hill, GB
Ossai, Cin
Round 7 - Free Agents
Quarterback
Running Back
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Tackle
End
Edge Rusher
Linebacker
Cornerback
Safety
Jefferson, Det Fehoko, Dal Granson, Ind Onwuzurike, Det Golston, Dal Odeyingbo, Ind Surratt, Min Horn, Car Holland, Mia
Patterson, Was Newsome, Chi Bates, Was Williams, Phi Perkins, NE Rice, Ten Surtain, Den Cisco, Jac
Hawkins, Atl Camp, Jac Gray, KC Odighizuwa, Dal Basham, Buf Jones, LAR Newsome, Cle
Scott, NO Johnson, Sea Reyes, Was Nixon, Car Turner, NO Browning, Den Farley, Ten
Johnson, Sea Stevenson, Buf Yeboah, NYJ Wilson, Cle Diablo, Las Samuel, LAC
Smith, Car Nasirildeen, NYJ Stokes, GB
Terry, Sea Robinson, NYG
Adams, Det Joseph, Dal
Surratt, Det Campbell, Jac
Watkins, SF

CLICK HERE to download an Excel file to modify this draft board to better fit your player evaluations, draft philosophy, and league parameters.

THE BIG PICTURE

The consensus among fantasy analysts is that this year's group of rookie prospects is thin. Over the past seasons, I've done less personal analysis and used a consensus opinion of trusted writers to form my own draft board -- so I'm inclined to agree with that assessment.

But that doesn't mean the 2021 rookie class is full of duds. And that leaves room for varying strategies.

When you don't feel strongly about a rookie class, you can trade picks for veteran players, trade current picks for future picks, or trade later-round picks for early-round selections. Unfortunately, when the consensus opinion is less than inspiring, your leaguemates are likely to feel the same.

So these drafts become "shoot your shot" drafts. At some point in your draft, you'll be looking at a list of players you may have difficulty getting excited about. Err on the side of high-risk, high-reward talents. Ignore ADP and grab players earlier than the rankings or tiers may suggest.

This draft is deep at quarterback and linebacker. The list of draftable names at wide receiver is considerable but every player but one has questions to be answered.

Quarterbacks
Tier
Player
Team
Notes
I
Jac
Highly talented player in uncertain situation; offense remains under construction
I
SF
May not start immediately but should earn job quickly, high upside in Shanahan offense
I
Chi
Ignore criticisms about his pocket play; mobile and talented w/ upside in 2022 and beyond
II
NYJ
Arm talent isn't everything and Jets' offense doesn't inspire confidence
II
NE
Not likely to be productive enough to be more than a committee fantasy option
III
Hou
Dumpster fire in Houston but Watson's days may be numbered
Kyle Trask TB Brady shows few signs of slowing down
Kellen Mond Min Chance to develop behind Cousins but not worth roster spot except in deepest leagues

Lawrence, Lance, and Fields all offer upside on varying timelines. The surrounding cast and scheme in San Francisco set Lance up for the highest success -- if he can move Jimmy Garoppolo to the backup role quickly. Fields has the best combination of pocket skill and mobility but don't expect Lamar Jackson numbers until 2022, if ever. Mills is your most cost-effective mid-round target.

Running Backs
Tier
Player
Team
Notes
I
Pit
Limited competition on team known for heavy lead-back usage; offensive line concerns notable
II
Den
Denver traded up but must wrest lead role from Gordon, await long-term quarterback option
II
SF
Niners' running back chart remains crowded but Sermon will get chances to earn volume
III
Jac
Betting on talent and targets rather than volume and goal-line work
III
Michael Carter II II
NYJ
Analysts differ on skill set but likely versatile enough to handle 15+ touches if asked
IV
NE
Latest in long line of Patriot backs who could see runs of high volume
V
Larry Rountree III LAC Crowded depth chart but talent to watch in high-upside offense
V
Kenneth Gainwell Phi Does not profile as volume back, Eagles already have skilled receiving option in Scott
V Chuba Hubbard Car Depth chart looks favorable but no chance at volume if McCaffrey stays healthy
V Khalil Herbert Chi Fell in draft and crowded depth chart, but there's high-volume talent here in time
Kene Nwangwu Min Drafted highly but hard to find an analyst that feels he's worth a high draft pick
Elijah Mitchell SF
Kylin Hill GB
Jermar Jefferson Det
Jaret Patterson Was
Javian Hawkins Atl
Stevie Scott NO
Josh Johnson Sea

This group of running backs is not inspiring. You'll have to be patient with any player you draft from this group -- even Harris behind an unusually suspect Pittsburgh offensive line. Rhamondre Stevenson and Khalil Herbert are your most likely undervalued targets as the draft progresses.

Wide Receivers
Tier
Player
Team
Notes
I
Cin
Easily class of this group w/ double-digit weekly target upside for long time
II
Mia
Highly talented but crowded depth chart and Tagovailoa's development are near-term issues
II
Phi
Huge talent w/ frighteningly small frame, questionable QB situation, complicated depth chart
III
Car
Longer-term investment w/ high upside if talent overcomes depth chart and QB uncertainty
III
Bal
Better receiving fit for Baltimore offense than anyone else on roster
III
NYJ
Big play slot w/ chance for high target volume despite crowded depth chart
III
Ari
Exciting slot option lands in enticing offense w/ chance to grow into Murray's WR2
III
NYG
Undeniable talent but opinions vary on upside, consistency, maturity, and NYG offense
III
GB
Would be higher if Aaron Rodgers was long-term starter in Green Bay
III
Det
Talent to take advantage of a wide-open Detroit depth chart
III
Ten
Eye-opening draft capital w/ possible path to long-term WR2 alongside Brown
IV
LAC
Doesn't have immediate path to targets but depth chart could open up quickly in 2022
IV
Sea
Seahawks pass offense always frustrating and small chance of volume w/ Metcalf & Lockett
V
Hou
Awaiting clarity in Houston but has WR2 upside if Texans develop viable offensive plan
V
Was
Draft capital notable but depth chart leaves little room for statistical upside
Den
Tons of potential and Denver rumored to be interested in Aaron Rodgers
Anthony Schwartz
Cle
Questionable upside here but speed and ascending Cleveland offense intriguing
Frank Darby
Atl
Longer-term upside bet if Falcons offense turns over; Waldman favorite
Tylan Wallace
Bal
Tough to read Baltimore receiver depth chart but there's upside here to monitor
Cornell Powell
KC
Any receiver with Mahomes under center is a must-monitor option
Ihmir Smith-Marsette
Min
Limited all-around game but chance at future volume if depth chart breaks favorably
Jaelon Darden
TB
Deep threat w/ slot upside if depth chart breaks in his favor and earns Brady's trust
Tutu Atwell
LAR
Second-round pick who's likely valued as a returner more than receiver

The 1.01 in rookie drafts looks like a competition between Kyle Pitts and Chase. You won't go wrong with either selection. After Chase, every player on the board has a meaningful question facing them. Still, with the dearth of options at running back, you'll be throwing multiple darts at the wide receiver and linebacker columns this year.

Tight Ends
Tier
Player
Team
Notes
I
Atl Chance to break rookie tight end records even w/ Jones and Ridley accumulating targets
II
Pit
Steeler tight ends have value but Roethlisberger at end of his rope
III
LAR
Rams plan to use him at tight end, providing intriguing value in a shallow class
III
LAC
Flyer toward the end of the draft in TE-premium setups, depth chart crowded
III
Tommy Tremble
Car
Unlikely to see high volume even with thin depth chart
III Hunter Long Mia Lower ceiling than other players in same tier but has highest floor
Brevin Jordan Hou
Kylen Granson Ind
Noah Gray KC

It's not often you'll see a tight end in consideration for a first-round rookie pick. The combination of Pitts' talent and a lack of stud options at running back and wide receiver make Pitts a favorite to go 1.01 in many drafts. Freiermuth is the only other tight end worth discussing in the top 50 selections.

Defensive Tackles
Tier
Player
Team
Notes
I
Christian Barmore
NE
Talented and disruptive, Patriot stat crew adds value w/ frequent assisted tackles
Levi Onwuzurike Det
Milton Williams Phi
Osa Odighizuwa Dal
Daviyon Nixon Car
Marvin Wilson Cle

Barmore is the only prospect worth drafting. The rest belong on a watch list. Undrafted free agent Wilson could prove to be the best fantasy option on this list if he makes Cleveland's roster.

Defensive Ends
Tier
Player
Team
Notes
I
Kwity Paye Ind Inexperienced and needs development but 800-snap, double-digit sack upside if hits
I
Buf
High ceiling but depth chart deep enough to prevent full-time duty until 2022
II
Buf
Less edge upside than Rousseau but more polished all-around player, similar depth chart concerns
II
NO
Saints love him but isn't classic high-upside edge talent
III
Cin
Edge upside w/ likely rotational role early, would rank higher w/ better run defense projection
III
Ind
Recovering from Achilles injury, has long-term every-down upside

There isn't an immediate difference-maker in this group with Jaelan Phillips likely to be classified as a linebacker. If you're convinced someone has a better-than-average shot at 45 solo, 12 sack upside, it's worth pulling the trigger in the first 40 picks. But I see too much talent at linebacker and wide receiver to be reaching for any edge player in the first three rounds this year.

Edge Rushers
Tier
Player
Team
Notes
I
Mia
Worth a look in second round if your league uses edge designation
II
NYG
Double-digit sack upside w/ outside chance at 50 solos, immediate 700+ snap player
III
Gregory Rousseau
Buf
Like his edge upside better than Paye, may have lower ceiling in tackle-heavy leagues
III
Ind
Inexperienced but 800-snap, double-digit sack upside if hits
Bal
Joe Tryon TB
Joseph Ossai Cin
Dayo Odeyingbo Ind
Ronnie Perkins NE
Carlos Basham Jr Buf
Payton Turner NO

There will be double-digit sack production in time from multiple players on this list. Outside of Phillips, every player here needs an improved pass rush plan. Many aren't likely to see more than 500-600 snaps until 2022. Be ready to move on the bottom half of this list should reports of an impressive training camp surface.

Linebackers
Tier
Player
Team
Notes
I
Micah Parsons
Dal
Immediate every-down starter w/ elite talent and target-rich environment
I
Ari
Aggressive all-around talent w/ size, projects to replace Hicks inside quickly
I
Was
Could be most immediately productive as every-down WLB w/ limited competition for tackles
II
Cle
First-round talent, Browns traded up for him, should soon become productive every-down WLB
II
KC
Will team with Gay as every-down inside backers soon
II
NO
Will start at WLB w/ likely transition to MLB, every-down talent should play in nickel, too
III
Derrick Barnes Det Slated to play MLB but unclear how soon and whether he's capable of every-down fit
III
Jaelan Phillips Mia Moves into Tier 2 in big-play scoring systems
Azeez Ojulari NYG Option in big-play scoring systems only
Jabril Cox Dal Longer-term upside if wins every-down role, capable but Neal's presence limits chances
Chazz Surratt Min Muddy path to every-down playing time but talent is there
Monty Rice Ten Unlikely every-down player but clear path to run-stopping MLB role when Evans moves on
Ernest Jones LAR Drafted higher than projected suggests Rams have plans for him, will struggle to play nickel
Baron Browning Den Depth chart could be favorable but needs lots of snaps for statistical upside
Divine Diablo LV College safety drafted as developmental nickel backer
Hamsah Nasirildeen NYJ College safety drafted as developmental nickel backer

And I thought last year's linebacker group was deep.

There were four players with long-term LB1 upside in last year's class. The depth of the class was in the later tiers, where multiple players looked like developmental talents with every-down upside.

This year, there are six players who project to every-down snaps by the end of 2021. All have the talent to put up 90 solos or better. I have them separated into two tiers but will not quibble if you like any of the second-tier talents at the end of the first round. Derrick Barnes and Jabril Cox are likely to earn every-down roles by opening weekend in 2022 and will ascend sooner with injury or poor play by the veterans currently ahead of them.

Jaelan Phillips is worth a top 25 pick in sack-heavy scoring systems.

Cornerbacks
Tier
Player
Team
Notes
Jaycee Horn Car
Players are listed in relative order of preference but none are worthy of a middle-round selection
Patrick Surtain II Den
Greg Newsome II Cle
Caleb Farley Ten Could be most attractive option but back injury concerns me short- and long-term
Asante Samuel Jr LAC
Eric Stokes GB
Aaron Robinson NYG
Kelvin Joseph Dal
Tyson Campbell Jac

Same advice, new season. You're looking for aggressive tacklers with elite ball skills and a path to immediate playing time. There are no obvious options with immediate 60 solo, 15 pass defensed players. I've listed the most attractive options for deeper leagues.

Safeties
Tier
Player
Team
Notes
I
Atl
Should start quickly at free safety, tackle upside limited in Atlanta's back seven
I
Las
Free safety unlikely to see many run support chances next to Abram
I
Mia
Interchangeable safety with unclear volume in 2021
I
Jac
Can play either position, depth chart open but recovering from ACL injury

There are no players with an immediate path to box-safety snaps and high-tackle volume. Grant and Moehrig should earn 700+ snaps quickly but will likely struggle to reach 65+ solos. Cisco may prove the most productive option but his arrival may be delayed until late 2021 or 2022.

Follow and ask questions on Twitter @JeneBramel. Subscribe to The Audible on iTunes.


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