We’re through the first day of the 2021 NFL Draft, and there’s a lot to take away from Thursday’s selections. Some players landed in ideal situations that could help them boost their fantasy value. Others could see their value drop because of impending roster changes. We’ve identified some of the biggest winners and losers on the fantasy football front from Thursday night .
Day 1 Winners
QB Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
Lance hasn’t won the starting job just yet, but he’s inherited a better offense than any other rookie quarterback in the 2021 draft class. He’ll have one of the NFL’s best tight ends in George Kittle at his disposal, and two uber-athletic, young receivers in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. San Francisco has a sturdy offensive line and a versatile running back group that can contribute to the passing game. Jimmy Garappolo is the only thing standing in Lance’s way, and the rookie is capable of putting up big numbers once he gets in the lineup.
TE Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons ranked fifth in total passing yards last year despite Julio Jones missing significant time and managed to add what many consider to be a generational talent at tight end. Some might argue that Pitts will face a ton of competition because Jones and Calvin Ridley will be competing with him for touches, but Austin Hooper was a top-seven tight end there for two years before he signed with the Cleveland Brown. Atlanta still needs to address its abysmal running back situation, so don’t expect a pivot away from the pass. Pitts can be a focal point for the Falcons as a rookie.
QB Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
Hurts had a ton of success last season despite his depleted receiving corps. No Eagles pass catcher caught more than six touchdowns in 2020, and there’s no clear WR1 for Hurts to depend on in Year 2. Tight ends Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz are just fine, but Philly drastically needed weapons on the outside. Smith was the best receiver in college football last year, creates a ton of separation, and can play on the outside or in the slot. If Jalen Reagor gets better in his sophomore season, Hurts could have a solid one-two punch that’s capable of raising his ceiling as a passer significantly.
Day 1 Losers
QB Andy Dalton, Chicago Bears
Dalton entered Thursday as the Bears’ presumptive Week 1 starter, but Chicago made an unexpected move on draft day and traded up for Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Chicago’s front office has faced a ton of criticism for passing on Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes for Mitchell Trubisky, so the masses will push for Fields to play early on. Dalton was never supposed to be anything more than a filler quarterback. Fields is a dual-threat option who could add another wrinkle to Chicago’s offense.
RBs Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers
Snell and McFarland appeared to be poised for larger roles once James Conner left to join the Arizona Cardinals, but now they’ve got a versatile, first-round talent joining their running back room. Najee Harris led the country in rushing scores last season with 26 and ranked third in rushing yards (1,466). He’s a legitimate three-down back with solid hands. If he’s healthy all season, it could be hard for Snell and McFarland to be impact players.
RB James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Robinson made a lot of noise last season as an undrafted rookie. He finished ninth in yards from scrimmage with 1,414 as a featured option, but his involvement in the offense is about to be cut significantly. The Jags selected Travis Etienne in the first round of the draft, and the Clemson product played alongside No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence in college. The former Tigers have great chemistry, and Lawrence tallied more passing yards on screen passes (1,758) during his collegiate career than any other quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft. Etienne is a great pass-catching back and will likely take a hefty number of touches from Robinson.