2021 IDP Rookie Rankings

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·10 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.


This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.


The 2021 NFL draft is in the books. And while the dominant storyline surrounding this year's festivities in Cleveland was the fistful of signal-callers who were drafted in Round 1 (including four in the first 11 picks), there was plenty of drama and intrigue on the defensive side of the ball as well.

Starting with South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn (who went eighth overall to the Carolina Panthers) and concluding with Houston linebacker Grant Stuard (this year's "Mr. Irrelevant"), scores of young pass-rushers, linebackers and defensive backs now know where they will begin their professional careers.

The harsh reality is that many of these youngsters will never see the field in an NFL game that counts. Quite a few others will spend their career relegated to special teams or reserve roles. But there are some who could work their way into starting lineups (and fantasy relevance) in relatively short order.

In IDP leagues, situation can be nearly as important as talent. All the skill in the world isn't much good to a young linebacker or safety who is buried on the depth chart. Edge-rushers drafted by teams that run three-man fronts in base sets could be classified as linebackers by some IDP providers—a move that would strip them of much of their fantasy value. But there are also rookies who hit the proverbial jackpot, landing on teams where there is a clear path to snaps (and opportunities to pile up stats) early on.

This is the part of the fantasy draft calendar dominated by dynasty leagues, whether it's rookie drafts or startups. So the IDP rookie rankings that follow are geared toward that format. But there frankly isn't a ton of difference between how these first-year players slot in dynasty IDP leagues and how they would in redrafts—at least in this writer's opinion.

Too much changes from year to year defensively to look too far ahead. Live in the now.

With that in mind, and assuming a fairly common scoring setup that favors tackles, here's a breakdown of the top 10 rookies at each of the three main IDP positions—and a listing if the top 25 IDPs overall in 2021.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

1. Kwity Paye – DE, Indianapolis Colts: Paye is a great story and showed immense athletic potential at Michigan, even if the production didn't consistently match it. Most importantly, he has easily the clearest path of any of this year top edge-rushers to a starting role off the jump.

2. Jaelan Phillips – DE, Miami Dolphins: Phillips shined at Miami last year, racking up 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He should slot as a Week 1 starter opposite Emmanuel Ogbah on the edge, although positional eligibility as a defensive lineman could be an issue with some IDP providers.

3. Gregory Rousseau – DE, Buffalo Bills: Before opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, Rousseau piled up a gaudy 15.5 sacks for the Hurricanes in 2019. He could be something of a slow starter though with veterans Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison ahead of him on the depth chart.

4. Christian Barmore – DT, New England Patriots: Barmore didn't do a whole lot over the first half of the 2020 season, but he was a monster for Alabama down the stretch. He should see considerable playing time with the Patriots early on and is easily this year's top rookie tackle.

5. Dayo Odeyingbo – DE, Indianapolis Colts: The good news is that the 6'6", 276-pound Odeyingbo landed with a team in the Colts that needs all the help on the edge it can get. But he tore his Achilles in pre-draft workouts, so his rookie year will likely be truncated at best.

6. Carlos Basham – DE, Buffalo Bills: "Boogie" showed considerable potential at Wake Forest, notching five sacks in seven games last year. However, Buffalo's second-round pick has a tall ask ahead of him to work his way into any kind of prominent role defensively before 2022.

7. Payton Turner – DE, New Orleans Saints: Apparently, the Saints are big fans of making head-scratching first-round picks of edge-rushers from small schools. New Orleans must have seem something it likes in Turner, but early snaps could be hard to come by behind Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport.

8 Joseph Ossai – DE, Cincinnati Bengals: Ossai began his collegiate career at Texas as an off-ball linebacker before transitioning to edge-rusher in 2020. As a result, he's raw as a prospect and will be a situational player behind Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard for the foreseeable future.

9. Milton Williams – DT, Philadelphia Eagles: Williams is as well-known for the draft-room kerfuffle that followed his third-round selection as anything he did while at Louisiana Tech. At 284 pounds, a move to end could be in his future. IDP-wise, that would be a good thing.

10. Levi Onwuzurike – DT, Detroit Lions: Another player who opted out of the 2020 season, Onwuzurike possesses plus athleticism and the potential to be a disruptive three-tech tackle in the NFL. But he didn't post big numbers at Washington, and will likely need time to develop in the pros.

LINEBACKERS

1. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – OLB, Cleveland Browns: I will freely admit to being higher on "JOK" than most. But the former Notre Dame standout was my No. 2 linebacker entering the draft, and Joe Woods' 4-2-5 defense in Cleveland is a great fit for his range and coverage ability.

2. Micah Parsons – OLB, Dallas Cowboys: Between his opting out in 2020 and the presence of Smith and Vander Esch in Dallas, there's some risk involved in drafting Parsons. But some draftniks called the immensely athletic Penn State star the best off-ball linebacker prospect since Luke Kuechly.

3. Jamin Davis – OLB, Washington Football Team: Davis may not be the most talented LB prospect in 2021. But the 6'3", 234-pounder topped 100 total tackles last year at Kentucky and will all but certainly be a Day 1 starter at WILL linebacker in the nation's capital.

4. Zaven Collins – ILB, Arizona Cardinals: Collins is an athletic freak who has drawn comparisons to Brian Urlacher, and he could easily wind up the top rookie LB from this class. But concerns about a transition to inside linebacker drop him to the back end of a tightly-packed top tier of linebackers.

5. Nick Bolton – ILB, Kansas City Chiefs: Bolton isn't the fastest linebacker in the Class of 2021, but he's a hard-nosed, productive young linebacker with solid instincts. He could play a substantial role early in his rookie season as well—the depth chart ahead of the former Missouri standout isn't exactly stacked.

6. Pete Werner – ILB, New Orleans Saints: The Saints may well have reached a bit (stunner) when they drafted Werner in Round 2. But as things stand right now, the former Ohio State Buckeye appears to have a relatively clear path to both starting in the middle and playing in sub-packages.

7. Ernest Jones – ILB, Los Angeles Rams: This is a situation where opportunity is even more important than talent. Given their limited draft capital in 2021, the Rams didn't draft Jones so he could ride the bench, and the inside linebackers ostensibly ahead of him on the depth chart aren't world-beaters.

8. Chazz Surratt – OLB, Minnesota Vikings: With Eric Kendricks and a healthy Anthony Barr in town, it may be a while before Surrat earns a three-down role. But beating out Nick Vigil to start on the weak side in the Twin Cities is well within reason.

9. Jayson Oweh – OLB, Baltimore Ravens: Oweh's production at Penn State admittedly left something to be desired—he didn't have a single sack in 2020. But between his ridiculous 4.39 speed and Baltimore's history of developing edge-rushers, there's more than a little to like here.

10. Azeez Ojulari – OLB, New York Giants: Ojulari was widely regarded as a first-round talent before medical concerns caused him to drop into Day 2. Still, the former Bulldogs star appears to have all the tools necessary to be an impactful 3-4 rush linebacker in the pros.

Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news and updates. Plus, it allows you to easily track your favorite players. Get it here!

DEFENSIVE BACKS

1. Richie Grant – S, Atlanta Falcons: Grant wasn't the first defensive back drafted in 2021. He wasn't the most talented safety drafted in 2021. But a quick glance at the Falcons depth chart shows that he'll most likely be a starter out of the gate—and that's all that really matters.

2. Trevon Moehrig – S, Las Vegas Raiders: Coming out of TCU, Moehrig was widely regarded as the No. 1 safety prospect in the Class of 2021. His role as a deep safety in Las Vegas isn't ideal from an IDP perspective, but he has the potential to crack DB2 territory as a rookie.

3. Jevon Holland – S, Miami Dolphins: Selected early in Round 2 by the Dolphins out of Oregon, Holland is an athletic, hard-hitting 6'1", 207-pounder who has drawn comparisons to Jordan Poyer of the Buffalo Bills—a comparison that should most assuredly appeal to IDP managers.

4. Divine Deablo – S, Las Vegas Raiders: At 6'3" and 226 pounds, Deablo is actually a bigger player than Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, although he's slated to play strong safety in Las Vegas. Given how much trouble Johnathan Abram has had staying healthy, he could see action sooner rather than later.

5. Hamsah Nasirildeen – S, New York Jets: This ranking comes with a sizable caveat—the Jets have stated that Nasirildeen will switch to WILL linebacker at the NFL level. But if he does that, sees playing time and maintains his safety eligibility, there could be quite a bit of "loophole" value to be had.

6. Andre Cisco – S, Jacksonville Jaguars: A wildly aggressive 6'1", 216-pounder out of Syracuse, Cisco made it just two games into the 2020 season before suffering a season-ending injury. Assuming he's 100 percent by Week 1, the depth chart in front of Cisco isn't exactly loaded.

7. Jaycee Horn – CB, Carolina Panthers: That a cornerback (even one as talented as Horn) cracks the top seven rookie defensive backs is more an indictment of the safety crop than an endorsement of the first defensive player drafted in 2021. Still, he's the best of this year's corners.

8. Jamar Johnson – S, Denver Broncos: When he was forced into action by injuries at Indiana last year, he seized the opportunity, displaying excellent athleticism and the versatility that NFL teams covet in today's safeties. Kareem Jackson isn't getting any younger in the Mile High City.

9. Talanoa Hufanga – S, San Francisco 49ers: Hufanga is something of a throwback player—a thumping downhill run-stuffer of a box safety who could even play some subpackage linebacker. He'll have to up his coverage game in the pros to earn significant playing time.

10. Paulson Adebo – CB, New Orleans Saints: Adebo, who opted out of the 2020 season at Stanford, is a perfect candidate for some "rookie corner rule" IDP production. He's good enough in coverage to play, he'll be targeted a lot opposite Marshon Lattimore and the 6'1", 198-pounder can tackle.

TOP 25 ROOKIE IDP FOR 2021

  1. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – OLB, Cleveland Browns

  2. Micah Parsons – OLB, Dallas Cowboys

  3. Jamin Davis – OLB, Washington Football Team

  4. Zaven Collins – ILB, Arizona Cardinals

  5. Nick Bolton – ILB, Kansas City Chiefs

  6. Kwity Paye – DE, Indianapolis Colts

  7. Pete Werner – ILB, New Orleans Saints

  8. Jaelan Phillips – DE, Miami Dolphins

  9. Ernest Jones – ILB, Los Angeles Rams

  10. Gregory Rousseau – DE, Buffalo Bills

  11. Richie Grant – S, Atlanta Falcons

  12. Trevon Moehrig – S, Las Vegas Raiders

  13. Chaz Surratt – OLB, Minnesota Vikings

  14. Jevon Holland – S, Miami Dolphins

  15. Christian Barmore – DT, New England Patriots

  16. Jayson Oweh – OLB, Baltimore Ravens

  17. Divine Deablo – S, Las Vegas Raiders

  18. Dayo Odeyingbo – DE, Indianapolis Colts

  19. Hamsah Nasirildeen – S, New York Jets

  20. Azeez Ojulari – OLB, New York Giants

  21. Cameron McGrone – ILB, New England Patriots

  22. Andre Cisco – S, Jacksonville Jaguars

  23. Monty Rice – ILB, Tennessee Titans

  24. Carlos Basham – DE, Buffalo Bills

  25. Payton Turner – DE, New Orleans Saints