The 2021 NFL Draft is officially a wrap, and plenty of moves were made that could have a big impact from a fantasy perspective. Here is a look at some of the winners and losers from this year’s draft and a look at how these draft picks could affect fantasy football teams for redraft and dynasty leagues alike.
2021 NFL Draft fantasy winners
QB Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
After the Chargers went with one of the best offensive tackles in the draft on Day 1, they brought in two pass catchers who have a decent amount of upside with wide receiver Josh Palmer and tight end Tre’ McKitty. Justin Herbert should have plenty of talented options to go to this season.
WR Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
The NFL’s Sisyphus for the past seven seasons, wideout Allen Robinson has endured the quarterback play of Blake Bortles, Mitch Trubisky, and Nick Foles. Prior to the draft, it appeared the pedestrian Andy Dalton would add his name to that dubious list. Instead, the Bears managed to trade up to the No. 11 pick and select Ohio State signal-caller Justin Fields. Even if Fields doesn’t start immediately, Robinson finally has reason to feel optimistic about the offense again.
QB Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
Another QB has come up big. He was already going to be playing with an improved set of skill position players, and then the Panthers added Terrace Marshall, Jr. to the mix. That’s a stout group of receivers to go along with running back Christian McCaffrey and an offensive mind like Joe Brady.
RB Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins
Gaskin unexpectedly took over the top spot on the Dolphins’ running back depth chart last year and showcased his ability to be a major threat on the ground and through the air. He finished just inside the top 30 among running backs in standard and PPR leagues in 2020 and is poised to take a big step forward in 2021 if he can remain healthy. Miami kicked the tires on a few high-profile free-agent running backs ahead of the draft before signing Malcolm Brown, so it looks like Gaskin will be a Week 1 starter.
RBs Zack Moss and Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills
The Bills didn't draft a running back for the first time since 2018 despite not having a true go-to guy in their backfield ahead of the 2021 season. Former third-picks Moss and Singletary split the work last year and don’t have to worry about added competition. Neither Moss nor Singletary stands out as the top option, but one could break away from the other as the year goes on.
QB Lamar Jackson
The masses have been clamoring for the Baltimore Ravens to get Jackson a real WR1 for a while, and their prayers were answered on Day 1 on the 2021 NFL Draft. The Ravens selected Minnesota wide receiver, Rashod Bateman, with the No. 27 pick. He possesses top-notch NFL speed and boasts better size and route running than third-year wideout Marquise Brown. Brown, Bateman, Sammy Watkins, and Mark Andrews will be Jackson’s core group of pass catchers. That’s the best talent he’s had so work with so far in his career, so he could be in for a bounce-back season.
2021 NFL Draft fantasy losers
RB Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos
The Broncos traded up in the second round to take former North Carolina Tar Heels running back Javonte Williams, which is terrible news for Melvin Gordon’s fantasy future. Williams is a very talented back who split carries in college, but he definitely has the tools to be a three-down back.
RB Benny Snell/Anthony McFarland, Pittsburgh Steelers
It was no surprise the Steelers drafted Najee Harris following James Conner’s departure, but it stings if you thought Snell or McFarland might get a shot to be the guy. Both will get their share of work, but Harris is likely to step in and take on a big role right away. The best case for Snell and McFarland is one of them maybe splits the work with Harris. The more realistic outcome is they are bit players who offset each other behind the starting Harris.
RB Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
With the 150th overall pick, the Eagles selected Memphis RB Kenny Gainwell. This on its own wouldn’t seem all that damaging, especially considering the fifth-round draft capital, but Gainwell emerges from this class as arguably the second-best receiving back behind Clemson’s Travis Etienne. This comes not long after they signed RB Jordan Howard to a one-year deal. Again, not a huge hit to Sanders’ value on his own, but each of these backs further cloud the running backs room there in Philly, and Gainwell specifically, could bring a hit to Sanders’ upside as a receiver that fantasy managers were hoping for after drafting him as a top-12 dynasty running back over the last year.
RB Raheem Mostert/Jeff Wilson, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers drafted two running backs, including third round pick Trey Sermon, who seems ideally suited for the Kyle Shanahan/Bobby Turner ground game. Mostert and Wilson have proven immensely talented, but neither was able to consistently secure snaps. Mostert in particular has dealt with an assortment of injuries and the team appears to be looking for someone that can remain on the field with more consistency. Shanahan backfields are always difficult to sort through for fantasy purposes and this draft muddies Mostert and Wilson’s value.
RB James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Robinson was a top 10 running back in standard and PPR leagues last season but is about to take a MAJOR step back in 2021. The undrafted second-year back will now have to compete with 2021 first-round pick Travis Etienne and Carlos Hyde, who Jacksonville acquired in free agency over the offseason. There’s no telling how the Jaguars will split carries between this trio, but Urban Meyer referred to Etienne as a “third-down” back. Fantasy footballers should stay away from this situation altogether. Robinson’s reign was nice while it lasted.
QBs Andy Dalton and Nick Foles, Chicago Bears
Ryan Pace is skating on thin ice, so he had to pounce on Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields when he dropped to No. 11 on Day 1 of the draft. Nobody wanted to watch the Bears rotate between Dalton and Foles, but their new rookie’s athleticism could give him a higher ceiling than both veterans. Chicago needs more than a game manager to get better, so it's very likely that Dalton and Foles will be benched for Fields at some point. Dalton and Foles aren’t worth drafting, but Fields could be a great value pick in the later rounds of season-long fantasy drafts.