What to do with the 1.02 ?
With the 2021 NFL season only three months away, some fantasy leagues have already conducted their dynasty rookie draft(s). There are also many of you who haven't drafted yet and some of you may find yourself scratching your head, not sure exactly what to do with certain draft spots. Fear not my friends, many fantasy football managers are in the same boat as yourself!
In superflex league formats (where you’re able to start a second QB in a flex spot) the consensus slam dunk pick is Trevor Lawrence (which is something I may dispute in a later article). But what are you supposed to do if you find yourself with the 1.02? Which player should you select? Do you immediately smash the draft board for a QB? If so, which one? San Francisco 49ers Trey Lance? The next great hopeful QB in Chicago, Justin Fields? The New York Jets second overall pick in Zach Wilson? Like many others before me, I’m sure you’ve been told that in a superflex league, the QB is king and a big factor to winning a championship. While that is true, not all teams are kingmakers and more often than not, the potential king turns out to be a pauper. With that in mind, I’m going to present my case for two players at the 1.02 position that do not play the QB position.
RB Najee Harris - Pittsburgh Steelers
First up is a big bodied back who for many has been the projected RB1 heading into the 2021 class for years, and that is former Alabama Crimson Tide RB Najee Harris.
You might think it’s crazy to pass on a QB at the 1.02 slot in a superflex rookie draft but let me try to convince you otherwise. Not many players have “IT” and Najee has more “IT” than Tim Curry and Stephen King combined! In 2021 while QB Mac Jones was lighting it up for Alabama with 4500 yards and 41 TDs, it was Najee Harris and his ability to pound the rock that impressed me, rushing for 1466 yards with 26 rushing TDs. What’s even more impressive was his consistency; he led the SEC in TDs from scrimmage the past two seasons. He’s not a one year wonder that’s for sure, but alas that’s the past and we can't be like the Bruce Springsteen song Glory Days, because let’s hope the best is yet to come for Najee. Being drafted as the first RB off the board in 2021 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, there are big expectations for the rookie.
Let's take a look at the Pittsburgh offense and what we can expect for 2021. Gone is the incumbent RB James Connor and, I don’t think you’ll find anyone who would argue that Najee isn’t an immediate upgrade at the position. In 2020, Connor saw 29 redzone rushes and, almost had an even split with Snell in the red zone. Inside the 5 yard line they combined for 22 attempts (the same amount both Dalvin Cook & Ezekiel Elliot had), with Snell actually out touching Connor 13 to 9. Ultimately, there is an opportunity for success for Najee based on the amount of touches available.
Many will say the Steelers offensive line is atrocious but with the free agent signing of center B.J. Finney and the drafting of Kendrick Green (who is expected to be moved to guard) I see an improvement in the line for 2021. With the return of WR Juju Smith-Schuster for at least one more year, alongside fellow WRs Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, the Steelers will have three dynamic weapons that last year acted as an extension of the run game.
As well, history shows that Head Coach Mike Tomlin has always preferred a workhorse style RB, finding fantasy success in the past with Le’Veon Bell and even DeAngelo Williams. I’d expect Tomlin to utilize Najee as the offense’s workhorse RB in 2021. Is Ben Roethlisberger an elite QB? Hardly, but what he is, is savvy and that is exactly what a rookie RB needs. Ben knows defenses and can see things that a younger QB might miss such as audibling out of bad situations and being able to get a pass off quickly.
On a "win now" fantasy team, I have no qualms if someone drafted Najee Harris at the 1.02. The kid is special and, head and shoulders above any RB in this class.
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WR Ja’Marr Chase - Cincinnati Bengals
Before the 2021 NFL draft, I wrote an article on Chase articulating many of the WRs outstanding skills and attributes. And while none of the landing spots that I forecasted in the article happened (sometimes even the best of us are wrong lol) let us take a look deeper into the situation for Chase in Cincinnati.
QB and former LSU teammate Joe Burrow asked for his guy and the Bengals went out and made it happen, even if it did shock a few of us that they passed on OT Penei Sewell.
The drafting of Chase immediately made the Cincinnati’s offense an absolute headache for opposing defensive coordinators and a case can definitely be made for them having the best WR trio in the AFC North in rookie Ja’Marr Chase, last year’s rookie sensation Tee Higgins and the veteran of the group Tyler Boyd (although I’m sure Steelers fans would have something to say about that).
There are not many WRs that come out of college as highly regarded as Ja’Marr was. Perhaps football and the fantasy community are being spoiled because of the performances of the 2020 WR class and specifically former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson. However, not every draft class is loaded with high end WR talent and, this year the high end player is Ja’Marr Chase. Make no mistake about it, if Chase had declared for the draft last year, I’d have him rated above CeeDee Lamb.
While I’m not expecting a Justin Jefferson type rookie season from Chase, (if you are expecting that then I’m sorry but you will be disappointed) I do expect him to hold significant trade value heading into 2022, and that is the reason I have no problem with the selection of Chase at 1.02.
What to do?
Truth be told, the 2021 QB class scares the hell out of me! There seems to be no consensus #2 QB behind Trevor Lawrence and the one that was actually drafted second overall by the Jets is dropping to 1.07 in rookie drafts (as seen in TNFF’s Round 1 superflex roookie mock draft).
In the end, if you ultimately decided that you want or need to draft a QB in with the 1.02, I’d suggest shopping the pick and trading down to try to acquire either a veteran and or more draft picks in the process. Either way this year I’m advocating to pass on the QB position and take either the RB1 or WR1 in this class.
Thank you for reading my article. Do you agree or disagree with my analysis of the 1.02? Please leave a comment or message me @goldjacketqbs
Editor: Joe Simonetti (@joesimonetti77)
Graphic work: Dan Made Graphics (@DanMadeGraphics)