Over the past couple of weeks, while Ive been completing my positional dynasty rankings, the NFL offseason has really started to heat up. We’ve seen a number of high-profile trades, and the annual Free Agency period kicked off this week and has been as wild as ever with plenty of fantasy relevant players changing teams. There’s a lot that has happened and will continue to happen with the draft and Free Agency that will affect dynasty values significantly.
But, before we get to the fantasy impacts of all these moves, it’s time to share my first dynasty rookie rankings of the offseason. Part of the recent flurry of NFL activity in the past couple weeks was the NFL combine which gave us our first look at the impending rookie class on an even playing field (even if that playing field involves no pads or tackling). Without further ado, your first look at my 2018 post combine rookie rankings:
1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville – Frankly, I have no idea what the order of the top quarterbacks drafted will be. Until I do, I’m taking the guy who brings unmatched rushing upside. Odds are, when I see the actual draft order Jackson won’t be #1 for me. But his upside as a passer and rusher makes him a potential fantasy star and a solid starter even if he busts as an NFL player.
2. Josh Rosen, UCLA – Rosen seems to be the top QB on most people’s boards. He also seems to be the least connected to the Browns at #1. As long as he goes top 5 though, Im likely committed to him as one of my top 2 QBs.
3. Sam Darnold, USC – Darnold seems to be one of the higher upside options in this draft and by now you should know I’m all about upside. My concern is that he needs development. Darnold turned the ball over a lot last year and didn’t always make great decisions. If he goes to a team where he can develop slowly I’ll feel a lot better about him.
4. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma – Mayfield seems to be a very dividing player. Off field issues and worries about his size seem to knock him down a bit. As do concerns about his ability to adapt to an NFL offense after being in such a great situation at Oklahoma. But his production also blows the other QBs out of the water.
5. Josh Allen, Wyoming – Allen is huge at 6’5” and 233 pounds, with good athleticism (4.75 40 yard dash), and an absolutely ridiculous arm. I totally get why people are falling in love with Allen. But it’s worth noting that he wasn’t even that good of a college player and simply isn’t all that accurate. The upside is immense. But the track record of players like Allen is also not very good.
1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State – The consensus 1.01 basically all season, Barkley blew away the combine as expected. He’s an insanely productive, insanely athletic, 3-down back who will almost definitely be drafted as a top 10 pick. Anybody can bust, but Barkley is as good of a prospect as you’ll ever see.
2. Nick Chubb, Georgia – At one time Chubb was the next big thing in college football. After a serious knee injury, the hype faded. Chubb, however, had over 4400 yards and 44 TDs in his college career at Georgia. Chubb is a powerful and balanced between the tackles runner. At the combine, he erased any concerns about his athleticism with a 4.52 forty, 29 bench reps, and a 38.5 inch vertical at 228 pounds. Chubb rarely caught passes in college which may be a concern in PPR leagues, but I thought he looked comfortable catching the ball during drills at the combine.
3. Derrius Guice, LSU – Guice is many people’s #2 RB (and player) in the class. I narrowly prefer Chubb, but Guice is an excellent prospect. He weighed in at 5’10” and 212 pounds and posted a 4.49 40 yard dash to silence anybody questioning his size and speed. If you put on the tape of Guice it’s hard not to be impressed. He can make people miss with a wide variety of moves, but he’s also a brutally physical and tough runner for his size. Barkley is alone at the top of this class, but Guice and Chubb make up an excellent tier 2.
4. Royce Freeman, Oregon – Freeman is another highly productive 4 year RB. He posted over 5600 yards and 60 TDs rushing at Oregon. He also caught 79 passes in his career, displaying at least a competency in the passing game. A 4.54 40 yard dash at 234 pounds makes Freeman an exciting potential workhorse back at the next level.
5. Sony Michel, Georgia – Michel’s talent was on display all year, but his star seemed to shine brightest during the college football playoff. Many people even began to rank Michel over Chubb. At the combine Michel did measure in as slightly smaller and slower than Chubb, however. Michel does have a little more wiggle and offers more as a receiving option than Chubb. He also has good vision.
6. Rashaad Penny, San Diego St – The only back on this top 10 list not from a power conference, Penny had over 2,200 yards rushing last season. At the combine he came in at 5’11” 220 pounds and ran a 4.46 40, all fantastic numbers. The production, size, and athleticism are there, now the only question is what draft capital an NFL team will invest in him.
7. Ronald Jones, USC – Don’t let Ronald Jones 4.65 40 yard dash from the combine fool you. Jones is a burner. He pulled up with a hamstring injury during his first run so we didn’t get an accurate time, but I expect him to have a low 4.4 time if he runs at USC’s pro day in a few days. The big concern with Jones is that he’s only 200 pounds and therefore may not have the size to be an every down back. Considering, the 6 backs already listed all tested well in both size and speed I have a hard time putting Jones higher than 7th.
8. Kerryon Johnson, Auburn – Johnson was a productive RB at Auburn who carried a large workload for the Tigers. He runs physically and seems to have good athleticism despite not running the 40 yard dash at the combine (he did post a 40 inch vertical which may hint at his explosiveness).
9. Bo Scarborough, Alabama – Scarborough is huge at 6’1”, 231 lbs and had an excellent combine (this RB class is highly athletic if you hadn’t noticed by now). A 4.52 40 and 40 inch vertical at Scarborough’s size are very impressive. The knock on him is that he’s an upright straight line runner, which may keep him from ever being a lead back in the NFL.
10. Kalen Ballage, Arizona State – Ballage is big (6’1”, 227 lbs) and athletic (4.46 40 yard dash), but he hasn’t been a great RB in his college career. He has upside but I wouldn’t commit more than a 3rd round rookie pick to him at this point.
1. James Washington, Oklahoma State – Washington has been very productive in his career at Oklahoma State with 4400 yards and 39 TDs in his 4 years. He displayed good downfield speed and ball tracking to average nearly 20 yards per catch. He lacks high end athleticism or size, but he’s solid in both departments and has enough production and refinement to his game to make him my WR1.
2. Calvin Ridley, Alabama – Ridley is a little older than the typical rookie at 23 and his production at Alabama was underwhelming thanks to poor quarterback play. Ridley, however, is considered a fantastic route runner and may end up being drafted as high as the top 10 of the NFL draft. Route running is a fantastic skill for a prospect to have, but Ridley doesn’t strike me as somebody who will ever be a dominant WR1.
3. DJ Moore, Maryland – DJ Moore’s hype seems to be slowly building as we approach the draft. He was productive while playing with 4 different QBs on a bad Maryland squad. His combine highlighted his athleticism with a 4.42 40 and 39.5 inch vertical. If an NFL team commits to him in the 1st round he may end up my WR1.
4. Courtland Sutton, SMU – Sutton had a lot of hype as the next big WR prospect coming into the year and his size at 6’3” and 218 lbs doesn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, his production dipped his senior season even though he plays in a non-power conference, and he lacks the athleticism and refinement of past dominant WR prospects.
5. Michael Gallup, Colorado St – After posting more than 1200 yards and 14 TDs at Colorado St last year, Gallup ran a 4.51 40 yard dash and had a 36 inch vertical at the combine. Gallup is all around solid with plenty of room to develop as an outside WR. As a possible 2nd round pick Gallup is one of the better prospects in a weak WR class.
6. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M – Kirk is 5’10”, 200 pounds and a likely NFL slot receiver. He has solid route running, solid athleticism, and solid collegiate production (despite a variety of QBs in his career). I’m just not sure there’s anything about him that makes him standout in a crowded group of middling WRs.
7. DJ Chark, LSU – Chark likely made himself some money at the combine. He’s thin at 6’3” and 199 pounds but his height paired with 4.34 speed and a 40 inch vertical will entice plenty of teams.
8. Anthony Miller, Memphis – A quick receiver with excellent footwork (one of my personal favorite skills in a receiver), Miller also didn’t test athletically at the combine. He was productive at Memphis and should be a day 2 draft pick.
9. Auden Tate, Florida St – Tate lost his starting QB in the first game of the season which likely hurt his production. Still, never having more than 600 yards in a season is a red flag. That being said he is a huge red zone target at 6’5” 225 pounds and he caught 16 TDs on 65 career catches.
10. Dante Pettis, Washington – Pettis didn’t test at the combine, but he is an excellent route runner and returner. His agility and quickness aren’t in question. The fact that his production decreased even after John Ross left Washington last year is concerning and he may not be big and strong enough to play on the outside in the pros. Could be a player who ends up a more useful pro than a fantasy asset.
1. Dallas Goedert, South Dakota St – Goedert stands 6’5” and 255 pounds and posted 23 reps on the bench at the combine. Unfortunately, he didn’t run the 40 yard dash at the combine so we don’t have a great read on his speed. That being said, Goedert dominated his junior with a 92 catch, 1293 yard, 11 TD season. If Goedert goes in the first round as some have projected, he should be the first tight end on your rookie board.
2. Mike Gesicki, Penn State – Like his college teammate Barkley, Gesicki posted a fantastic combine in Indianapolis. At 6’5” and 247 pounds, Gesicki still ran a 4.54 40 yard dash, put up 22 reps on the bench, and jumped an impressive 41.5 inch vertical. That’s the kind of athleticism that can make tight ends high upside targets in rookie drafts.
3. Hayden Hurst, South Carolina – Hurst is a solid all around player. He has good size, good speed, great hands, and is a capable blocker. Those qualities will likely make him fairly sought after by NFL teams and make it easy for him to get on the field regularly, and therefore earn targets. The knock on Hurst is that he’ll be 25 at the start of the season so his upside and development may be capped.
4. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma – Andrews had a fantastic 2017 season at Oklahoma posting nearly 1000 yards and 8 touchdowns. The concern here is that a lot of that came from the offense he played in and the quarterback he played with (Baker Mayfield). He doesn’t have many traits that make me think he’ll be anything special at the next level, but his level of production is enough to make him a top 5 tight end in a weak tight end class.
5. Dalton Schultz, Stanford – In all honesty, there are a number of tight ends who could have taken this slot. Schultz and the other options are likely no more than late round fliers in your rookie draft unless a team commits serious draft capital to one of them.
The largest piece of information in ranking the rookie class is still to come – landing spot and NFL draft capital investment from teams. Simply put, the players drafted in the 1st round by teams are more likely to be given chances and succeed than those drafted in the 2nd and so on. Until we know who is drafted when and where, it’s hard to definitively rank the prospects. One takeaway we can make already, is that this is likely a weak WR and TE class, and strong QB and RB class. Barkley is sure to be the top pick and will make the rookie 1.01 nearly impossible to acquire, but Guice and Chubb are excellent options at 1.02 and 1.03.
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