One of my favorite things to do right after the NFL season is going back and look at the previous years’ rookie drafts to evaluate how players performed based on their ADP. The 2020 class managed to live up to the hype, producing an unprecedented number of fantasy-relevant rookies. Using MyFantasyLeague’s Average Draft Position, I will go through the first three rounds of 2020 rookie drafts and discuss the biggest risers and fallers in fantasy value based on where there were taken last season.
Riser: Justin Jefferson
2020: 88 REC – 1400 YDS – 7 TDS
This one was easy. Justin Jefferson burst onto the scene in Week 3, when he shredded the Titans for 175 yards and a touchdown, and he hasn’t looked back since. Despite starting the first two weeks as the third WR on the Vikings depth chart, behind Adam Thielen and Olabisi Johnson (remember him?), he still managed to finish as the WR6 in fantasy football. If you only look at Weeks 3-17, he was the 4th highest scoring WR. Breaking both Anquan Boldin’s receiving yards record and Randy Moss’ receptions record for rookies, Jefferson has already established himself as a top 10 Dynasty WR.
Most yards after the catch among rookie WRs in 2020:
1. Justin Jefferson – 450
2. Chase Claypool – 342
3. Michael Pittman Jr. – 331
4. CeeDee Lamb – 312 pic.twitter.com/G8lsz8eDn6
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 5, 2021
Faller: Jalen Reagor
2020: 31 REC – 396 YDS – 1 TD
Going into the 2020 NFL Draft, many had Jalen Reagor pegged as the third-best WR in the class, behind Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb. Philadelphia felt the same way, drafting Reagor 21st overall, which was one pick before Jefferson went to Minnesota (ouch!). There are several factors that we can attribute to Reagor’s disappointing rookie campaign, including a thumb injury in Week 2 that put him on IR and erratic QB play. At the end of the day, he just didn’t show much of the playmaking ability that we saw from him on a regular basis at TCU.
Riser: Tee Higgins
2020: 67 REC – 908 YDS – 6 TDS
When the Bengals selected Tee Higgins to start the 2nd round of the NFL Draft, many fantasy managers expected him to slowly work his way into the lineup behind A.J. Green and become fantasy relevant in 2021, and beyond, once Green was gone. Tee had other plans. Higgins and QB Joe Burrow quickly found a connection and, by mid-season, he was out-snapping AJ Green on a weekly basis. Even though he had to compete with Boyd and Green for targets all season, he still finished 4th among rookie WRs in targets (105). With Green set to become a free agent and optimism that Burrow will return from his ACL tear in 2021, Higgins should be in the WR1 conversation this upcoming season.
In NFL history, we’ve only had 9 WRs finish their rookie year
▫️At age 21 or younger
▫️w/ +900 rec yards
▫️w/ +50 receptions
3 of those 9 are from the 2020 class:
— Marvin Elequin (@FF_MarvinE) February 3, 2021
Faller: Ke’Shawn Vaughn
2020: 26 ATT – 109 YDS – 0 TDS
After Ronald Jones’ inconsistent 2nd year and the announced start of the “TOMPA” Bay era in Tampa, the Buccaneers became a highly desired RB landing spot for fantasy managers last off-season. Ke’Shawn Vaughn shot up rookie draft boards when he was selected by Tampa in the 3rd Round of the NFL Draft. While we expected a position battle between Jones and Vaughn for the starting RB role, things quickly went south for the rookie when the team signed Leonard Fournette after his release from Jacksonville. That move ended up burying Vaughn on the depth chart, leading to minimal touches week-to-week (other than garbage time in a Week 16 blowout against Detroit). Whether or not Fournette returns to Tampa in 2021, Ronald Jones’ strong season should cement him as the team’s lead RB going forward. This puts a bleak fantasy outlook on Vaughn, who will be 24 years old at the start of the ’21 season.
Riser: Cole Kmet
2020: 28 REC – 243 YDS – 2 TDS
With all the hype surrounding the RBs and WRs in the ’20 class, the TE position ended up being an afterthought in most rookie drafts. Fortunately, this allowed managers to get a major bargain by taking Cole Kmet in the 3rd round. Like most rookie TEs, he got off to a slow start, as Jimmy Graham operated as the Bears’ top TE for most of the season. However, after Chicago’s Week 11 bye, Kmet averaged 5.5 targets/game to finish the year. That’s a 16-game pace of 88 targets, which would have tied for 10th most among TEs in 2020. Chicago will likely release Graham to save $7 million in cap space, putting Kmet in the driver’s seat as the top TE on a team that has shown they want to feature the position.
Jimmy Graham said on the Hoge and Jahns Podcast that he would like to finish his NFL career with the Bears.
Graham on Cole Kmet: "I enjoyed playing with him. The kid is going to be a beast. The kid really has unlimited potential. He is always going to be my little brother."
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) February 4, 2021
Faller: Joshua Kelley
2020: 111 ATT – 354 YDS – 2 TDS
There was a lot of speculation around which Chargers RB would play the “Melvin Gordon” role after they let Gordon walk in free agency and extended Austin Ekeler. The top candidates were Justin Jackson and rookie 4th rounder, Joshua Kelley. Opportunity came early for Kelley after Jackson was injured in Week 1. He put up 60 yards on 12 carries and scored a touchdown in his debut, but unfortunately, he didn’t do much else for the remainder of the season (3.19 YPC and only one more TD). Even when Ekeler tore his hamstring and went on IR, the Chargers opted to bring in Kallen Ballage instead of giving Kelley more work. Opportunities don’t come around often for 4th round picks, and Joshua Kelley was not able to capitalize on his.
Check back all offseason for great Dynasty content from Club Fantasy!