2021 NFL Rookie Review
Last offseason, I wrote an article profiling 25 rookies that I thought had a chance to make a significant impact for their NFL teams and your fantasy teams. Whether it was the 1st overall selections, mid-round steals, or potential late-round sleepers every rookie seemed primed to make big splashes for their respective teams in some way…. or so I thought. While big name college players jumped right out the gate and were instant superstars, some flailed and failed to find their footing to start their NFL careers. So, for this article, I will revisit the past in the order that I listed each player, how they performed, and what their fantasy value is going forward into 2022 and beyond.
25. Ian Book, QB New Orleans Saints – Book made one appearance in 2021, a Monday Night Matchup with a white-hot Miami Dolphins football team in Week 16. It was a disaster from the start as he was intercepted twice, including his very first pass being returned for a touchdown, and was sacked 8 times, making his first career start one to remember for all the wrong reasons. Book will have little to no value in 2022, as Jameis Winston is expected to return and compete with Taysom Hill for the starting role along with potentially drafting of another Quarterback.
24. Larry Rountree III, Los Angeles Chargers – I thought Rountree had a chance to make an immediate impact last season, due to my concerns about the health of Justin Jackson, the mistakes of Joshua Kelley, and the durability of Austin Ekeler. Ekeler proved himself to be a true workhorse as both a receiver and runner, scoring 20 times. The only game he missed wasn’t because of a physical injury but rather due to COVID-19 protocols, so he more than proved his durability as an RB1 and should be treated as such going into 2022. Rountree however will be a mere insurance backup should Jackson or Kelley not be retained, although the team has said they would like to keep Jackson going forward.
23. Demetric Felton, WR/RB Cleveland Browns – Coming into the season I was intrigued by Felton due to his ability to make an impact as a rusher, receiver, and returner. His contributions mostly came as a receiver, recording 18 catches for 181 yards and a pair of scores. Ball security was his biggest issue, fumbling 4 times (amazingly, none were recovered by the defense.) Nevertheless, Felton’s role could very well increase in 2022 because the skill positions in Cleveland appear to be in a state of flux. Jarvis Landry is the only established player on the team after Odell Beckhams’ in-season trade to the Rams but behind him are several question marks: Is DPJ (Donovan Peoples-Jones) a legit, consistent starter? What about Rashard Higgins? Who’s going to be the featured Tight End? Keep in mind that this is still a run-based attack led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt but due to the number of unproven players at receiver, the Browns could increase Felton’s workload next year. He’s worth a selection in the last few rounds in deeper leagues.
22. Amari Rodgers, WR Green Bay Packers – I thought that Rodgers could have worked his way into a prominent spot as the #2 receiver alongside Davante Adams, but Allen Lazard would have none of it. With a line of 40-508-8, Lazard became Aaron Rodgers’ secondary target and a red zone safety valve due to his big frame. The Packers also became a more run-centric offense as well, possibly discovering a new bell-cow in Bowling Ball back AJ Dillon. (More on him in a later article during the off-season.) Rodgers only had 4 receptions to his name in 2021 and had no value. That said, the Packers’ offense could look drastically different in 2022 following a shocking home playoff loss to the 49ers; Aaron Rodgers has publicly stated he does not want to be part of a rebuild and there are a number of contractual mountains that need to be climbed, one of which is that of the Packers star receiver in Adams. Keep an eye on the Packers throughout the offseason and depending on how things play out, Amari is a name that could generate some mild buzz.
21. Michael Carter, RB New York Jets – Carter had a fair season as a rookie for the Jets, finishing with 639 yards and four touchdowns. He added 36 receptions for 325 yards, which is promising for his PPR value in the future. He missed some time with an ankle injury, but he was serviceable in the games he did play. He’s one of several building blocks for Gang Green and head coach Robert Saleh as the Jets look to rise out of a seemingly eternal fantasy slumber. He will enter 2022 as a weekly flex play with solid upside as the youthful Jets continue to grow.
20. Elijah Moore, WR New York Jets – Staying in the Big Apple, Carter’s rookie teammate showed tremendous promise as a potential go-to target for the Jets, the first such one since the team had Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall several years ago. Starting with a Week 7 loss to the Patriots on October 24, Moore had at least 6 targets in every game until he was placed on IR in Week 14 with a quad injury. He had several monster games in November, scoring twice against the Colts on a Thursday Night and truly breaking out two weeks later against the Dolphins with an 8-141-1 line. All in all, he scored 5 touchdowns in as many weeks, chipping an additional touchdown on the ground, and giving Jets fans a reason to hope. Moore will enter 2022 as a mid-level WR3 with a lot of hype and if he can stay healthy, he could easily vault into high-end WR2 territory.
19. Tylan Wallace, WR Baltimore Ravens – Nothing to see here for this entry. Wallace made no impact for the Ravens, and it looks like more of the same with Mark Andrews, Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman, and Hollywood Brown all ahead of him in the receiving pecking order. Even Antonio Brown, Hollywood’s cousin, has stated that he would like to join in on the fun too.
18. Mac Jones, QB New England Patriots – It will take a good, long, and championship-winning career for the Mac Attack to distance Patriots fans’ hearts away from the GOAT, but he got off to a somewhat decent start last year. Jones threw for 3800 yards with 22 Touchdowns and probably could have hit 4000 had Josh McDaniels allowed him to throw at least a couple of passes during a windy Monday Night in Buffalo. The Patriots kept the game plan relatively mild for him on most weeks but when they opened things up, they showed trust in their young signal caller, and he often responded. That said, Jones barely only threw for 300 yards twice this year (307 vs. the Jets and 310 vs. the Titans) and that was due to the Patriots’ Receiver corp. made up of players who are better suited to be slot guys and second and third reads than bona fide go-to targets. Jones still needs time before making a case to be a QB1 but going into 2022 he is a solid guy to have on your bench who can be a good bye-week filler.
17. Kadarius Toney, WR New York Giants – I did not have high expectations for Toney’s rookie season with the Giants. Outside of a 10-catch, 189-yard performance in Week 5 against the Cowboys, Toney did not have the instant impact that most Giant fans would have liked. The silver lining? The other receivers on the team were equally as bad or worse. Kenny Golladay might have been the worst free agent signing we have seen in a long time, Sterling Shepard underwhelmed and ended the season on IR, Darius Slayton was inconsistent way too much and John Ross just can’t live up to whatever hype he had years ago. The team’s best option was Evan Engram who recorded 46 receptions for 408 yards and 3 TDs. The starter, Daniel Jones threw 10 Touchdowns all season. This Giants offense was historically bad in 2021 and the hope is that they can only go up. Toney will have all off-season to show he can be a top playmaker for Big Blue next year, but with the dismissal of Joe Judge and more changes bound to come starting at the top, he will have to prove it to them and fantasy owners everywhere before being considered worthy of a roster spot on your team.
16. Rashod Bateman, WR Baltimore Ravens – Bateman had big expectations coming into the season. He was seen as a possession type, chain-mover that could be a dependable option for Lamar Jackson on the perimeter. However, he missed a good chunk of the beginning of the season with a groin injury and didn’t make his debut until Week 6. It took time for him to get his feet under him, but he had a pair of 80-yard performances in his first 4 games and showed what he can do with a (7-103) game against the Browns. He ended the season with 46 catches for 515 yards and a score; modest numbers but I believe he can be a reliable, solid receiver that can grow with Lamar Jackson. Treat Bateman as a WR4 worth a late-rounder in deeper leagues going into 2022.
15. Zach Wilson, QB New York Jets – Zach Wilson had more downs than ups, as expected, during his rookie year. He traded in his Brigham Young Jersey for the Gotham Green of New York and joined one of the more underrated divisions in football. He struggled when he was healthy (he missed 4 games with a knee injury) and displayed an alarming tendency to be drawn to defensive players, being sacked at least 4 times in 6 of the 13 games he played in and throwing for multiple scores just three times. He is an underrated runner, showing off his wheels during a highlight-worthy run against Jacksonville in Week 15 and scoring 4 times on the ground on the season. Wilson is off the radar as a starter going forward and should be only used as a desperation flex in 2-QB leagues until further notice.
14. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR Detroit Lions – Despite being drafted in the 4th round, I believed that St. Brown was a steal for the Lions. I even dedicated a separate article to his value as super-sleeper, suggesting that he could quickly rise atop the depth chart and be used as a Robert Woods-type player for Jared Goff. Well, 90 catches, 912 yards and 6 total touchdowns later, I think the Lions are happy with the early returns of their young draft pick and savvy fantasy owners who drafted him or even picked him up in season are as well. St. Brown teased owners with his steady catch production over the weeks before turning it up in fantasy playoff time; All 5 of his receiving touchdowns came when the calendar turned to December and he never had less than 8 catches during that run, including a game-winner against the Vikings that gave the Lions their first win. St. Brown figures to be a key piece in the Lions rebuild and will enter 2022 as an excellent, high upside WR3 with added PPR value who is worth a pick as early as round 7.
13. Trey Sermon, RB San Francisco 49ers – Sermons’ name was also a popular sleeper pick and many, including yours, truly thought that he would be the 49ers bell cow, with good reason – He had the perfect look of a lead back at 6 feet 1, 220 pounds; He was a superstar at Ohio State; and he was joining perhaps the most run-heavy team in the NFL. A Week 1 injury to incumbent Raheem Mostert only fueled the Sermon-hype train. Instead, it was fellow rookie and 6th-round draft pick Elijah Mitchell who stole the show in that same game where Mostert was injured. Mitchell ran for 104 yards with a touchdown and never looked back, winning the job for the rest of the regular season. Sermon, meanwhile, never took off like most thought. Even when Mitchell missed some time with injuries, it was reliable veteran Jeff Wilson who stepped in Mitchell’s stead and led the ground attack. The 49ers will continue to run the ball at will and Mitchell is the guy who will benefit most and will be gone by the 3rd round of most drafts. (And judging by how he has been used, Deebo Samuel will get plenty of carries too.) Sermon is the victim of this shift and isn’t worth drafting.