Aside from the great best ball leagues over at Draft.com, there is not much fantasy football fun to be had in the spring. That makes the NFL Draft and the Dynasty rookie drafts which follow a welcome oasis in the desert.
Ranking those rookies is difficult, however. It is a complicated calculus which has to take into account talent, landing spot, and draft stock, an important factor which is far too often overlooked in these discussions. With all of those things considered, what follows is how I rank the Dynasty rookies by position followed by an overall top-50.
Two-quarterback formats are the exception, but in most cases it is important not to overvalue rookie quarterbacks in Dynasty, especially in shallower leagues. While streaming is more difficult, the principles which make drafting quarterbacks late in redraft leagues still apply in Dynasty, and it is better to spend a roster spot at receiver or running back than on a dart throw at quarterback. Following that philosophy, it does not make sense to rank anyone except the top quarterbacks who have a real shot a seeing meaningful playing time in the next couple seasons.
1. Baker Mayfield, Browns (1st Round, Pick 1)
My top quarterback heading into the draft, odds are Mayfield is not going to start as early in his career as Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, or even Josh Rosen, and that certainly narrows the gap. Still, it is highly likely he starts at some point as a rookie, Cleveland has surrounded him with a quality supporting cast, and he is the best combination of accuracy, decision-making, and playmaking in this class. All of that keeps him atop the rankings.
2. Sam Darnold, Jets (1st Round, Pick 3)
Aside from Allen, Darnold probably has the clearest path to a starting job. He also comes with concerns, however, because of his turnover history and gun-slinging mentality. It is possible he turns into a high-end starter who tops fantasy lists for years, or it is possible he tops out as a solid but mistake-prone starter. Either way he would have fantasy value, but those concerns along with questionable talent around him on the Jets’ roster are enough to put him behind Mayfield on my board.
3. Josh Rosen, Cardinals (1st Round, Pick 10)
Rosen’s road to early starts could be blocked by Sam Bradford, who has been a quality starter at times when healthy. Unfortunately, staying healthy has proven to be the issue for Bradford, and Rosen is ready to go right now. In fact, it would not be surprising if Rosen pushes Bradford hard for the starting job even without an injury. Still, the somewhat blocked path hurts him, the Cardinals do not have a good supporting cast outside of David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and perhaps Christian Kirk, and his lack of mobility puts a cap on his fantasy upside.
4. Lamar Jackson, Ravens (1st Round, Pick 32)
Jackson has a game which should provide fantasy value as soon as he lands a starting job, but it might be a while before that happens. Baltimore trading up to grab Jackson in the second round certainly puts the clock on Joe Flacco, but it is not a given they move on after the season. Cutting Flacco next spring would free up some cap space, but it would leave $16 million in dead money. That move will be warranted if Flacco continues his downturn, but it is not crazy to imagine a 33-year-old quarterback bouncing back. Moreover, the Ravens seem content to take it slow with Jackson, confirming Flacco remains the starter and laying out a plan of how they want to develop the rookie. Circumstances can certainly change those plans, but there is a scenario in which Jackson does not make starts until his sophomore season and perhaps beyond. That makes it difficult to rank him ahead of the other options.
5. Josh Allen, Bills (1st Round, Pick 7)
It is possible Allen should be higher based on his landing spot. He only has to beat out A.J. McCarron and Nathan Peterman to earn the starting job, making it likely he is under center Week 1 unless he completely falls on his face. Based on his profile, however, completely falling on his face seems like a real possibility, and I have zero faith in his ability to develop into a long-term quarterback. If I am right, he will be a wasted pick. If I am wrong, I have not missed out on much at fantasy’s least valuable position.
Honorable Mention: Mason Rudolph would have earned a ranking if rumors about him coming off the board late in the first or early on Day 2 would have been correct, but quarterbacks who the NFL perceives to have real starting upside do not last until the third round no matter what the general manager says after the fact. Perhaps Ben Roethlisberger actually retires instead of threatening it in the next year – he reportedly has told teammates he plans to play for three more seasons – and Rudolph moves into the starting job, but it is also possible they just go get another quarterback at that point. Ultimately, drafting Rudolph in a standard Dynasty league means spending a roster spot on what can be at best considered a dart-throw at a low-value position, which is not a great way to construct a roster. Kyle Lauletta, who ended up with the Giants in the fourth round, also falls into that category.
While situation is important and will break ties among similarly talented running backs, both Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt are shining examples of how quickly “bad” situations can change whether through injury or trade. That said, the shelf life of running backs is so short it makes sense to value landing spot a little bit more heavily than at receiver.
1. Saquon Barkley, Giants (1st Round, Pick 2)
There is no reason to belabor this point. While there are concerns about Barkley’s ability to consistently create on the ground behind a questionable offensive line – he struggled at times behind a bad Penn State line last season – he is clearly the best back in this class and should make up for any running struggles with his elite ability in the passing game.
2. Rashaad Penny, Seahawks (1st Round, Pick 27)
Penny was second on my board heading into the draft, so he certainly is not moving after being selected as the second back off the board in the first round. While the situation in Seattle leaves a lot to be desired, he should immediately step into a workhorse role in an offense quarterbacked by Russell Wilson. That has not worked out for the running game the last couple years, but there have been mini-pockets of success with Thomas Rawls and Chris Carson, and Penny is a better player.
3. Derrius Guice, Redskins (2nd Round, Pick 27)
Guice is right on Penny’s heels, and I would not argue strongly with someone who ranked him second. It is that close. Like Penny, Guice landed in a situation where he should immediately take over the lead job – neither Rob Kelley nor Samaje Perine is a formidable obstacle – and he will get to work behind a better offensive line. Especially with Chris Thompson around in Washington, I expect Penny to be more involved in the passing game both this season and moving forward, however, and that puts him over the top. Neither player is a bad pick.
4. Sony Michel, Patriots (1st Round, Pick 31)
I did not group Michel with Penny and Guice in my initial rankings, but he is in that tier now. It was frankly shocking to see the Patriots spend a first-round pick on a running back, and that alone speaks to the kind of player he is and the role they expect him to fill. The depth chart is a little crowded with Rex Burkhead re-signed, James White and Mike Gillislee still around, and Jeremy Hill in the mix, but Dion Lewis saw 212 touches last year in a similarly crowded situation despite a limited workload early in the season. Michel should get work and has the talent to thrive.
5. Nick Chubb, Browns (2nd Round, Pick 3)
The best inside runner in this class, Chubb still deserves to be a high pick in rookie drafts despite a landing spot which is something of a mixed bag. Cleveland does have a great interior line and an offense which looks to be on the way up, but Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson offer tough competition for touches right out of the gate. That said, Chubb was never a real threat as a pass catcher in college, so he and Johnson are not really competing for the same work, and the Browns can get out of Hyde’s deal without many cap ramifications after this season. Even if Chubb spends this season in something of a timeshare, his long-term upside is worth an early pick.
6. Ronald Jones, Bucs (2nd Round, Pick 6)
Someone who believes Ronald Jones is a better player than Chubb or Michel should have him higher in their rankings. I do not, however, and that pushes him down a bit despite his wide-open path to rookie playing time. There is no reason for Jones to be afraid of Charles Sims, Peyton Barber, or Jacquizz Rodgers, and barring a veteran signing, it would be a shock if he does not have the lead job when the season opens.
7. Royce Freeman, Broncos (3rd Round, Pick 7)
There is not much special about Freeman’s game, but he is a solid player who ended up in a wide-open situation following Denver’s release of C.J. Anderson. While he will face competition from underrated duo Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson, GM John Elway has already said they view Freeman as the back they “needed” on early downs. He should get every chance to earn rookie carries.
8. Kerryon Johnson, Lions (2nd Round, Pick 11)
Johnson is very similar to Freeman in that he does most things well but does not jump off the screen in any one area. Also like Freeman, Johnson has a good shot at an early role, even though his path to carries is a bit more treacherous with LeGarrette Blount around. Blount is on a one-year deal, however, Ameer Abdullah appears to be on his way out the door, and Theo Riddick is only a factor on passing downs. The door is open for Johnson to be a long-term starter.
9. Jordan Wilkins, Colts (5th Round, Pick 32)
While the top of this running back class is excellent, the depth leaves a lot to be desired. With that in mind, it makes sense to take a shot on interesting players who were drafted by running back needy teams, and Wilkins fits that description better than anyone else in this lower tier. While he does not play to his size, he is a solid runner with good speed and elusiveness who is fine in the passing game. Not a glowing endorsement, but worth a shot in an unsettled situation.
10. Nyheim Hines, Colts (4th Round, Pick 4)
A smaller player who lacks the short-area elusiveness to really thrive between the tackles, Hines does not profile as the kind of back who delivers big fantasy numbers. He does have 4.38 wheels, however, and was drafted in the fourth round by a team in need of backfield help. He may never turn into anything more than a limited-touch complementary back, but the same can be said about basically every runner left at this point.
11. Mark Walton, Bengals (4th Round, Pick 12)
Almost a Giovani Bernard clone, it is fitting Walton landed in Cincinnati as perhaps the replacement for Bernard, who the Bengals can move on from after this season with almost no cap pain. While he may not push Joe Mixon for starting duties, the Gio role could be his sooner than later.
12. John Kelly, Rams (6th Round, Pick 2)
A tackle breaker who consistently creates yards on his own and is also adept in the passing game, Kelly had no business falling to the sixth round. He did, however, and now finds himself behind Todd Gurley on the depth chart. The talent is enough to keep him higher than other backs in similar situations, but the draft stock and landing spot are tough to ignore.
13. Ito Smith, Falcons (4th Round, Pick 26)
Underrated in the pre-draft process, Smith is a short but powerful runner who can also make people miss and consistently produced as a receiver in college. He is unlikely to get much run this year, but Tevin Coleman is entering the final year of his deal.
14. Kalen Ballage, Dolphins (4th Round, Pick 31)
It might make sense to have Ballage higher because of his testing numbers, his ability in the passing game, and the somewhat unsettled situation in Miami, but he very simply was not a good running back in college despite his many gifts. If that changes, this ranking will look foolish.
15. Chase Edmonds, Cardinals (4th Round, Pick 34)
A favorite of our own Josh Norris, Edmonds is a do-it-all back who should at worst carve out a career as a complementary player, which is what he will do behind David Johnson in Arizona, and he has the talent to be more if given the chance.
Wildcard: Jaylen Samuels, Steelers (5th Round, Pick 28)
Truthfully, it is difficult to know where Samuels should fit. He played running back at the senior bowl, worked out with the tight ends at the Combine, and then was announced as a running back at the draft. Likely to end up in a low-upside role as a versatile blocker and occasional pass catcher, he is not someone to target in the early rounds, but he is at least interesting in deeper leagues.
Honorable Mention: Justin Jackson would be 16th if non-standard counts for lists worked in my brain. He should start out as a complementary player for Melvin Gordon with the Chargers, but he has the talent to surprise. Bo Scarbrough looks like a snub, but his amazing blend of size and speed did not consistently translate to quality running in college, and now he is behind Ezekiel Elliott. He feels like an upside prayer who ends up burning a hole in the bench. Akrum Wadley (Titans), Boston Scott (Saints), Roc Thomas (Vikings), and Phillip Lindsay (Broncos) offer some appeal as third-down types. I do not know much about Trenton Cannon, but he posted ridiculous numbers at D-II Virginia State and tested amazingly well at his Pro Day. The Jets’ depth chart is not the strongest, so he is a name to watch.
While situation is important for receivers, their long shelf life in comparison to running backs makes it less of a concern, especially since good passing games are able to support multiple fantasy-viable receivers. That shelf life also means receivers should generally be valued more highly than similarly talented running backs in Dynasty, but this year will be a bit different. This is not a great receiver class, especially at the top, while the running back group is extremely top heavy.
1. D.J. Moore, Panthers (1st Round, Pick 24)
While he is clearly the best bet in the receiver class because of his current skills, upside, and landing spot, it is important not to overvalue Moore in rookie drafts. There are at least five backs I would draft ahead of him, and he and Jones are neck-and-neck. Moore is solidly a first rounder, but the top of this year’s rookie drafts should be running back heavy.
2. Courtland Sutton, Broncos (2nd Round, Pick 8)
On paper, there is not much to like about Sutton’s destination. He is stuck behind both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, 2017 third-round pick Carlos Henderson will return from injury this season, and DaeSean Hamilton was added in the fourth round. Both Thomas and Sanders are in their 30s and can be cut without many cap ramifications after this season, however, and Sutton profiles as a perfect replacement for Thomas if he develops. While I have him behind Moore, there is a future in which Sutton is the clear No. 1 from this class.
3. Michael Gallup, Cowboys (3rd Round, Pick 17)
Having Gallup this high might seem like an overreaction based on landing spot. He was my fourth receiver heading into the draft, however, so it is really not that large of a bump for a player who ended up in a perfect situation. A Pierre Garcon-type who can win underneath but also has the ability to create down the field and with the ball in his hands, Gallup profiles well as the replacement for Dez Bryant. He should be the No. 1 option in the passing game right out of the gate.
4. Calvin Ridley, Falcons (1st Round, Pick 26)
Ridley is tough because he is clearly a talented receiver with first-round pedigree, but there were always concerns about him being anything more than a No. 2 option, concerns which are in no way appeased by him ending up on the same team with Julio Jones. A high-volume receiver throughout his career, Jones has averaged over 10 targets a game over the last six seasons and over nine the last two even with Mohamed Sanu in the fold. Julio also just turned 29 and is under contract through 2020. Likely to be the No. 2 option at best through the majority if not all of his rookie contract, Ridley has to be bumped down the rankings.
5. Anthony Miller, Bears (2nd Round, Pick 19)
Christian Kirk landed in a better short-term situation and probably has a higher floor than Miller, so I would not strongly argue with ranking him in this spot. In my eyes, however, Miller’s upside as a playmaker who can win both outside and in the slot makes him a more interesting Dynasty investment. Like an angry Tyler Lockett, Miller plays bigger than his size both down the field and after the catch, and he can get open quickly underneath. Allen Robinson is the unquestioned No. 1 in Chicago, but Miller has the talent to earn a big role right out of the gate.
6. Christian Kirk, Cardinals (2nd Round, Pick 15)
Kirk is not that big and not the best athlete – he has a 31st percentile SPARQ score and 14th percentile agility score – but he consistently got open and made plays in college both on offense and in the return game. With essentially no one besides Larry Fitzgerald to compete with for targets, Kirk should be involved early and often.
7. James Washington, Steelers (2nd Round, Pick 28)
Washington is not my favorite player, but his draft stock and landing spot mean I have to take him seriously. While I have questions about his ability to recreate his college success down the field in the NFL, on paper he is a perfect replacement for Martavis Bryant, and the Steelers likely plan to use him in that role right from the start.
8. Antonio Callaway, Browns (4th Round, Pick 5)
One of the best pure talents in this class, Callaway slipped to Day 3 because of off-field concerns including being suspended all of 2017 for his role in a credit-card fraud ring and a failed drug test at the Combine. His path to early work is blocked by Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, and Corey Coleman, and he is a long-term risk because of those off-field concerns. Sometimes, though, you just have to make a bet on talent.
9. Dante Pettis, 49ers (2nd Round, Pick 12)
Pettis was an underrated prospect who has the speed and ball skills to be a real factor in the vertical game, but him being the fourth receiver off the board was legitimately shockingly. While that draft position had quite a bit to do with his return ability, the organization talked him up as a receiver who can play every position in their offense following the draft. That suggests he is going to get every opportunity to earn targets both this season and moving forward, meaning he has to be bumped up the board.
10. D.J. Chark, Jaguars (2nd Round, Pick 29)
With legit 4.34 speed, Chark is probably the best deep threat in this class, but he ended up in a run-first offense quarterbacked by Blake Bortles which has a veritable log-jam at receiver. Donte Moncrief is on a one-year deal, but Marqise Lee is under contract through 2022, Dede Westbrook is signed through 2021, and Keelan Cole’s deal runs through 2020. With both short- and long-term concerns about his role, Chark needs to be knocked down a few spots.
11. Jordan Lasley, Ravens (5th Round, Pick 25)
This will probably be the highest Lasley is ranked, so it is possible I am simply wrong about how good he is, although the Ravens did think he was good enough to spend a fifth-round pick. None of Lasley’s testing numbers jump off the page, but he is a smooth athlete who plays faster than his times because of his change-of-direction ability. His hands are a real concern, but he bring upside to an unsettled receiver room.
12. DaeSean Hamilton, Broncos (4th Round, Pick 13)
Hamilton is not particularly big, fast, or explosive, but he was consistently able to get open and make big plays in college. While his path to targets might looked blocked now, both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are in their 30s and nearing the end of their deals. It would not be surprising if one or both are gone this time next year.
13. J’Mon Moore, Packers (4th Round, Pick 33)
I am not sure Moore is a better player than St. Brown — one spot below — but the Packers seem to think he is considering they drafted him two rounds earlier. It is possible they are right. A big player with better speed than he showed at the Combine, Moore can contribute immediately as a deep threat, and he has the traits to become a much better route runner than he was asked to be in college.
14. Equanimeous St. Brown, Packers (6th Round, Pick 33)
St. Brown is too talented to be this low on this list, but at some point his draft stock has to be considered, especially since the Packers took two other receivers ahead of him. There is a path to targets behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, however, if St. Brown can prove himself to be the best rookie in camp, and his long-term upside is better than other receivers around him on this list.
15. Tre’Quan Smith, Saints (3rd Round, Pick 27)
It was a bit surprising to see Smith come off the board in the third round, but he does have solid speed, long arms, and was an effective deep threat in college. Ted Ginn currently fills that role in New Orleans, but he is 33 and out of guaranteed money on his deal.
17. Daurice Fountain, Colts (5th Round, Pick 22)
A Combine snub, Fountain lit up his Pro Day with a 42.5-inch vertical and an 11-foot-2 broad jump at 6-foot-1, 206 pounds. He will need some time to develop, but he is headed to a lackluster receiving corps and has the type of physical upside which makes sense to bet on later in rookie drafts.
18. Justin Watson, Bucs (5th Round, Pick 7)
Like Fountain, Watson is the type of player it makes sense to bet on in the later rounds. Big, fast, explosive, and productive in college, he has real upside.
19. Keke Coutee, Texans (4th Round, Pick 3)
Coutee has good speed and was a quality deep threat in college, but he probably will never be more than a gadget player and situational deep threat.
20. Jaleel Scott, Ravens (4th Round, Pick 32)
Scott has some appeal as a tall receiver with solid ability in contested situations, but he is a limited athlete who will struggle to separate. His fourth-round draft stock earns him a ranking over guys like Dylan Cantrell, Auden Tate, and Marcell Ateman, but he is in that group.
Honorable Mention: A fifth-round pick of the Packers, Marquez Valdes-Scantling perhaps deserves to be ranked, but he looks more like a tall guy who can run fast than a receiver at this point. Javon Wims (Bears) is a much more interesting prospect. There are several big guys who do not run particularly fast in this class including Marcell Ateman (Raiders), Auden Tate (Bengals), Dylan Cantrell (Chargers), Simmie Cobbs (Redskins), and Allen Lazard (Jaguars). Tate seems to be the favorite of that group among fantasy players, but I am more interested in Cantrell. Neither Cedrick Wilson (Cowboys) nor Trey Quinn (Redskins) is a particularly exciting prospect, but they are solid players who could carve out roles. A slot receiver who landed in New England, Braxton Berrios deserves a mention, and Richie James is a hybrid weapon who should be used in interesting ways by Kyle Shanahan.
Tight end is similar to quarterback both in that only one is played in standard leagues and the position is reasonably replaceable. That means the same principles used at quarterback – only ranking players with a real shot at meaningful fantasy value in the next couple seasons – apply here.
1. Mike Gesicki, Dolphins (2nd Round, Pick 10)
Gesicki was my top tight end heading into the draft, and he landed in one of the better situations. With Julius Thomas out the door, Miami was down to MarQueis Gray, A.J. Derby, Gavin Escobar, and Thomas Duarte at tight end. Gesicki will immediately be the favorite for snaps among that group and a role which sent 19.4% of the targets inside the 10 toward Thomas last season. More importantly, he has the long-term upside to be a Jimmy Graham–esque weapon.
2. Hayden Hurst, Ravens (1st Round, Pick 25)
Hurst is perhaps not the most exciting Dynasty prospect as an average athlete who will be 25 as a rookie, but he is a first-round pick who ended up on a depth chart which essentially had a black hole at tight end. To the first point, there have been 22 tight ends drafted in the first round since 2000. All but four have had at least one TE1 finish. Two of those four, O.J. Howard and David Njoku, were drafted last year, and the other two, Eric Ebron and Anthony Becht, recorded 13th place finishes. It is likely Hurst is at worst a usable fantasy asset at some point in his career. Secondly, Baltimore’s tight end depth chart consisted of Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams, and Vince Mayle heading into the draft. Third-round pick Mark Andrews is a concern, especially since he is basically just a big slot receiver, but Hurst should get every opportunity to produce early.
3. Dallas Goedert, Eagles (2nd Round, Pick 17)
Goedert has more long-term fantasy upside than Hurst, but at some point situation has to trump everything else. Headed to a role which netted Trey Burton 60 catches for 575 yards and six touchdowns total over the last two seasons despite Zach Ertz missing four games over that span, it is possible Goedert fails to produce meaningful fantasy value during his rookie deal – Ertz is under contract through 2021. Considering positional value, that makes investing an early rookie pick difficult no matter the upside.
4. Ian Thomas, Panthers (4th Round, Pick 1)
If someone believes in Mark Andrews, then it makes sense to put him above Thomas even though Hurst also ended up in Baltimore. I think Andrews will struggle to transition, so I have Thomas ahead of him despite some concerns about his path to playing time behind Greg Olsen, who just signed a two-year extension. Both are late-round options.
5. Mark Andrews, Ravens (3rd Round, Pick 22)
A below-average athlete who cannot block, Andrews has some upside because of both his draft stock and landing spot, but I have real concerns about his ability to replicate his college success in the NFL.
6. Chris Herndon, Jets (4th Round, Pick 7)
Herndon is just a late-round option in Dynasty leagues, but he has some athletic upside and ended up on a depth chart which is desperate for talent at tight end.
7. Jordan Akins, Texans (3rd Round, Pick 34)
Akins received some pre-draft love, so it was not shocking to see him come off the board in the third round. Still, he is a developmental prospect who will be a 26-year-old rookie.
Honorable Mention: It is important to prioritize receivers and running backs in the later rounds over tight ends and quarterbacks, but in a very deep league or a non-standard format it could make sense to roster someone like Troy Fumagalli (Broncos) or Tyler Conklin (Vikings). Dalton Schultz (Cowboys) and Durham Smythe (Dolphins) are probably not even on that level.
1. Saquon Barkley, NYG — RB1
2. Rashaad Penny, SEA — RB2
3. Derrius Guice, WAS — RB3
4. Sony Michel, NE — RB4
5. Nick Chubb, CLE — RB5
6. D.J. Moore, CAR — WR1
7. Ronald Jones, TB — RB6
8. Courtland Sutton, DEN — WR2
9. Michael Gallup, DAL — WR3
10. Calvin Ridley, ATL — WR4
11. Anthony Miller, CHI — WR5
12. Christian Kirk, ARI — WR6
13. Royce Freeman, DEN — RB7
14. Kerryon Johnson, DET — RB8
15. James Washington, PIT — WR7
16. Antonio Callaway, CLE — WR8
17. Dante Pettis, SF — WR9
18. Baker Mayfield, CLE — QB1
19. Mike Gesicki, MIA — TE1
20. D.J. Chark, JAC — WR10
21. Jordan Lasley, BAL — WR11
22. DaeSean Hamilton, DEN — WR12
23. J’Mon Moore, GB — WR13
24. Equanimeous St. Brown, GB — WR14
25. Hayden Hurst, BAL — TE2
26. Jordan Wilkins, IND — RB9
27. Nyheim Hines, IND — RB10
28. Sam Darnold, NYJ — QB2
29. Josh Rosen, ARI — QB3
30. Dallas Goedert, PHI — TE3
31. Lamar Jackson, BAL — QB4
32. Tre’Quan Smith, NO — WR15
33. Deon Cain, IND — WR16
34. Daurice Fountain, IND — WR17
35. Justin Watson, TB — WR18
36. Mark Walton, CIN — RB11