Not only is quarterback the most valuable position in pro sports, it is also the toughest to evaluate. Just 10-of-26 (38.5%) quarterbacks drafted in the first round between 2006 and 2015 could be characterized as successes, and that’s stretching to include Jay Cutler, Ryan Tannehill, and Sam Bradford. So we have a projection problem. We also have a quarterback worth problem in fantasy football, where the position is severely devalued in leagues that require you to start just one. It is fantasy’s most replaceable weekly position. Therefore, I’m mostly letting my competition draft rookie quarterbacks in Dynasty leagues. If I do draft one, it will be far later than his ADP and that rookie must offer a big weekly ceiling.
I think Rotoworld draft analyst Josh Norris put it well when he stated 2015 Kizer was the best quarterback prospect in the 2017 class. The bottom fell out on Kizer during a dumpster-fire 2016 Notre Dame season. Kizer’s college coach didn’t support him during the year or during the pre-draft process, and he wound up as the lowest-cost quarterback in terms of real-life draft capital among the top four. Kizer’s floor is almost nonexistent, but like Patrick Mahomes his ceiling is sky high in a Hue Jackson offense with Corey Coleman, David Njoku, Kenny Britt, Duke Johnson, and perhaps even Josh Gordon in place as potential-ridden pass catchers behind a Browns offensive line that has a chance to be among the best in the league. Indications from the 2017 preseason are that Kizer could be this year’s first rookie quarterback to see the field.
While Deshaun Watson provides a decent ceiling, it’s nowhere near as high as Mahomes’, whose sheer physical tools ranked among the league’s elite the moment the Chiefs turned in their draft card. We can’t anticipate Mahomes seeing the field before late in 2017 or even the 2018 season, so he’ll likely occupy a non-producing Dynasty roster spot the entirety of his first year. Alex Smith’s guaranteed money runs out after this season. The Chiefs’ in-place pass-catcher corps is average, but Andy Reid’s tutelage is a major plus as a proven quarterback maximizer. From Brett Favre to Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, and now Smith, Reid has shown a consistent willingness to adapt his offense to highlight strengths and minimize weaknesses. Mahomes also offers rushing upside after scoring 22 TDs on the ground as a 29-game starter at Texas Tech.
Watson is the best bet to provide year-one fantasy contributions in this quarterback class, and his plus mobility to go with a respectable supporting cast give Watson short- and long-range upside. An 81st-percentile athlete with 4.66 speed, Watson piled up 26 rushing TDs as a 35-game starter at Clemson. Physical route technician DeAndre Hopkins, 4.32 lid-lifter Will Fuller, and capable possession tight ends C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin form a talented pass-catcher corps yet to be fully unlocked. In terms of accuracy and arm strength, however, Watson is the worst prospect among the top-four quarterbacks drafted this year.
Again, upside is one of my primary criteria when evaluating quarterbacks as Dynasty prospects. Of the four QBs drafted in the first two rounds, Trubisky would appear to have the lowest ceiling based on skill set, supporting cast, coaching history, and team philosophy in Chicago. I see him as a Ryan Tannehill-level player at his peak. As a small-sample, 13-game college starter, Trubisky also has one of the lowest floors. With all of that said, Trubisky impressed enough in his first training camp and preseason game to be worthy of a fourth-round Dynasty rookie pick.
5. 49ers QB C.J. Beathard (Third Round, No. 104)
A career 58.1% passer who slumped to 56.5% as a senior at Iowa, Beathard does have a few things going for him. He has a rifle arm, tying Mahomes for the second best ball velocity at the Combine (55 MPH) behind Davis Webb (56). And according to Peter King’s MMQB article on the 49ers’ draft, Beathard was coveted by offense-savvy coach Kyle Shanahan. “He processes the game so well,” said Shanahan. “Tough as sh–. Got a chance. He reminds me a lot of Kirk Cousins.” King reported Beathard was “the only quarterback Shanahan wanted in this draft.” Beathard played well enough in his first training camp and preseason opener to put heat on Matt Barkley for the 49ers’ No. 2 quarterback job behind journeyman placeholder Brian Hoyer.
A heady prospect with a degree in aerospace engineering, Dobbs set Tennessee all-time records for rushing yards (2,160) and rushing touchdowns (32) by a quarterback, averaging a crisp 4.93 yards per career carry. While Dobbs is a major work in progress as a passer, he offers more long-term appeal than current Steelers backup Landry Jones behind 35-year-old starter Ben Roethlisberger, who is going year to year with his career after considering retirement this offseason. The Steelers, of course, are loaded with talent at the skill positions and on the offensive line. Dobbs drew some pre-draft comparisons to Dak Prescott. Dobbs impressed in his preseason debut, bouncing back from two early-game interceptions to turn in a largely promising performance.
Smart, coachable, and fundamentally sound, Peterman has drawn comparisons to Kirk Cousins and Andy Dalton. Tyrod Taylor’s “two-year, $30.5 million” deal contains just $1 million guaranteed beyond 2017, and there are strong indications the Bills would prefer to move on from Tyrod after this season. They saw enough from Peterman in his preseason debut to promote him over T.J. Yates as Taylor’s main backup. Although Peterman appears closer to playing, I ranked Dobbs ahead of him because I prefer Dobbs’ dual-threat upside.
Compared to Nick Foles by Rookie Scouting Portfolio’s Matt Waldman, Webb offers plus size (6’5/229) and a strong arm but wasn’t an efficient passer or rushing threat at the college level. Webb is appealing only on the basis of draft capital and 36-year-old Eli Manning’s steep downward trajectory. In Webb’s first training camp, he was unable to make any headway on Josh Johnson and Geno Smith for the Giants’ primary backup job.
Truly one of the most intriguing Mr. Irrelevant picks of all time, Kelly showed an early-round skill set in two years at Ole Miss, but nearly fell out of the draft altogether due to injury and off-field concerns. As neither Trevor Siemian nor Paxton Lynch is remotely a surefire franchise quarterback, there is a non-zero chance Kelly could emerge as the Broncos’ best signal-caller option by 2018.
Not particularly strong armed, accurate, or athletic, Kaaya was drafted because of his smarts (34 Wonderlic score) and pro-style-offense experience at Miami. He strictly profiles as an NFL backup.
Running backs are colossal injury risks and increasingly viewed as replaceable by NFL teams, who have no qualms moving on from them if they make on- or off-field mistakes or show the slightest hint of decline. Due to running backs’ short shelf lives, I factor early expected impact into these rankings just as much – if not more – than long-term bankable talent. Regardless of scoring format, I want running backs who already excel at catching passes or have shown potential to become assets in the passing game.
1. Bengals RB Joe Mixon (Second Round, No. 48)
Draft capital was the lone missing piece for Mixon’s post-draft projection, and the Bengals’ willingness to select him in round two addressed it. Mixon has drawn Le’Veon Bell comparisons as a runner and is a skilled enough pass catcher I believe he could start at wide receiver in the NFL. On size and athletic measurables alone, Mixon compares favorably to Ezekiel Elliott. Giovani Bernard is coming off a torn ACL, while Jeremy Hill’s effectiveness has dipped each year he’s been in the league. Hill’s contract is up after this year. In an explosive offense where his receiving ability is sure to be highlighted, Mixon is a safe bet for short-term impact with the highest long-term ceiling in this running back class.
2. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (First Round, No. 8)
Mixon, McCaffrey, and Leonard Fournette were all in near-even contention for my No. 1 post-draft Dynasty rookie back, with Dalvin Cook a very close fourth. I wouldn’t have any problem with someone taking McCaffrey over Mixon, and when on the clock I might even do so myself. Initially in Carolina, McCaffrey will have to compete with Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton for goal-line carries, while Newton’s averseness to targeting running backs in the passing game is a short- and long-term concern. A landing spot like Indianapolis, Philadelphia, or New Orleans would have been better for McCaffrey’s outlook. There’s a chance he turns out to be a better real-life than fantasy back.
3. Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette (First Round, No. 4)
All five of my Dynasty leagues use PPR scoring. If I were in a non-PPR Dynasty league, I would rank Fournette ahead of McCaffrey and quite possibly Mixon. Fournette is a passing-game question mark with shaky pass-blocking tape who dropped 8-of-48 catchable targets (credit: PFF) in his college career. Still, Fournette possesses the top Speed Score in this year’s running back class with 4.51 jets at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, and the Jaguars’ No. 4 overall selection of him suggests they will treat Fournette as a true offensive centerpiece. In terms of sheer carries, Fournette offers the best upside among the top-four backs. He will have to overcome sub-par quarterback and offensive line play to realize his potential. It is discouraging that Fournette suffered a foot injury in his first training camp after he battled recurring foot problems in his final year at LSU, severely diminishing his effectiveness much of the season.
4. Vikings RB Dalvin Cook (Second Round, No. 41)
The off-field and medical questions that kept Cook out of the draft’s first round are less concerning now that he’s in the NFL as an early second-round pick for whom the Vikings traded up. Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon do pose potential obstacles — Murray for early-down/goal-line work and McKinnon for targets – but Cook’s all-around game should be viewed in the same tier as Mixon, McCaffrey, and Fournette’s, and like them Cook was drafted specifically to be his team’s new lead back. For me, Cook brings up the rear of the big four due to the Vikings’ low-scoring offense, sub-par line play, and present-day backfield competition. Fournette faces a few of those same issues, but his draft capital was much stronger than Cook’s and gives Fournette greater margin for error.
5. Saints RB Alvin Kamara (Second Round, No. 67)
One of fantasy’s biggest post-draft risers, Kamara landed in an ideal PPR spot with the Saints, who perennially lead the NFL in running back targets. Sean Payton clearly coveted Kamara, trading a 2018 second-round pick to draft him in the third. “There are a handful of players you just have a clear vision for and he was one of those guys,” said Payton. Stretched as a featured runner but perfectly suited for a receiving-back role, Kamara never reached 20 carries in a college game but averaged more receptions per game (3.64) than McCaffrey (3.36), Mixon (3.08), Cook (2.54), and Fournette (2.14) last year and posted the highest SPARQ rating among all running backs at the Combine. Kamara should fill the Travaris Cadet role early with a chance at a lot more down the line. Unlike Saints “scatbacks” of the past Darren Sproles (5’6/187) and Reggie Bush (5’11/201), Kamara offers plus size (5’10/214) and could conceivably handle more rushing work. Mark Ingram has shuttled in and out of Payton’s doghouse, while 32-year-old Adrian Peterson’s roster spot is year to year
6. Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt (Third Round, No. 86)
Albeit a poor man’s version, Hunt shares some similarities with Cook as an all-purpose back who didn’t test well at the Combine but has excellent tape and was active in the passing game throughout his college career. Spencer Ware underwhelmed as the Chiefs’ 2016 lead back, wearing down as the season progressed and never earning a consistent receiving role. Charcandrick West has established himself as just a guy. A candidate to be this year’s Jordan Howard, Hunt has a chance to lead Kansas City’s backfield in touches as soon as 2017.
7. Redskins RB Samaje Perine (Fourth Round, No. 114)
Oklahoma’s all-time leading rusher despite sharing time with Joe Mixon for two years, Perine entered a great-looking situation in Washington with only second-year UDFA Rob Kelley to beat out for early-down carries. While more-versatile Mixon’s presence in the Sooners’ backfield made it so Perine wasn’t featured in the passing game, he did catch 40 balls in three years and is a better receiving back than Kelley, who managed six receptions in his final college season and dropped 4-of-18 targets for the Skins last year. A tackle-breaking power runner, Perine is an inarguable talent upgrade on Kelley. Unfortunately, Perine got off to a woefully slow start in camp, struggling with ball security, pass protection, and finishing runs. At very least, we should temper early-rookie-season expectations for this player.
8. Packers RB Jamaal Williams (Fourth Round, No. 134)
Williams caught only 15 passes over his final two college seasons, missing time due to injuries and suspensions. On college tape, I thought he was just one step too slow in terms of burst and acceleration. Still, Williams was drafted into one of the best offenses in the league and has some potential to force an immediate committee with Ty Montgomery. Although I preferred Packers fifth-round RB Aaron Jones as a prospect, Williams’ early rise in Packers camp certainly raises his intrigue, making Williams one of my biggest Dynasty rookie risers in August. It didn’t hurt that Montgomery fumbled in Green Bay’s opening preseason game.
9. 49ers RB Joe Williams (Fourth Round, No. 121)
Williams carries off-field concerns after getting kicked off the team at UConn for credit card theft and briefly retiring at Utah, but he posted the second-highest Speed Score among running backs at the Combine and was so coveted by run-game guru Kyle Shanahan that the 49ers traded up to draft Williams, even after GM John Lynch initially left Williams off his board. “I’m telling you right now: If we don’t get him, I’ll be sick,” said Shanahan, according to Peter King’s MMQB piece on the 49ers’ draft. “I will be contemplating Joe Williams all night.” Before the draft, Lynch openly questioned contract-year starter Carlos Hyde’s fit in Shanahan’s scheme, and Tony Pauline reported the Niners were “ready to give up” on Hyde. Williams runs 4.41 at 5’11/210 and averaged an absurd 190.3 rushing yards over his final seven college games. One PPR concern is Williams’ spotty track record in the passing game. He managed 20 receptions across 19 college games and dropped 5-of-27 catchable targets (PFF). After an allegedly slow start in training camp, Williams busted several big runs in the 49ers’ first preseason game.
10. Texans RB D’Onta Foreman (Third Round, No. 89)
Finesse runners in power back bodies with minimal pass-catching experience aren’t my personal cup of tea, but there are positives for Foreman. He stands 6-foot, 233 and ran 4.45 at the Longhorns’ Pro Day after winning the 2016 Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back. There is reason to believe Foreman could push Lamar Miller for first- and second-down carries in Houston, vulture goal-line touchdowns, and perhaps eventually threaten Miller’s starting job. At Foreman’s aggressive Dynasty ADP, however, he’s more likely to be someone I’ll let one of my competitors draft. As of mid-August, Foreman had shown up to rookie minicamp out of shape, gotten arrested on a weapons charge, and failed to overtake Alfred Blue.
11. Broncos RB De’Angelo Henderson (Sixth Round, No. 203)
Coastal Carolina’s all-time leading rusher, Henderson runs 4.48 at 5-foot-8, 208 and caught 70 passes across four college seasons while averaging 6.2 yards per carry and showing workhorse ability with 300-plus rushing attempts in each of his final two years. The Broncos’ backfield is unsettled in both the short and long term with no guaranteed money left in C.J. Anderson’s deal, no guaranteed money in Jamaal Charles’ contract at all, and Devontae Booker presently out of the picture with a fractured wrist. Henderson certainly helped himself with a game-winning 41-yard touchdown run in the Broncos’ preseason opener, drawing post-game praise from new coach Vance Joseph.
12. Seahawks RB Chris Carson (Seventh Round, No. 249)
Shortly after the draft, I largely wrote off Carson as a factor based on his draft position and wholly unimpressive college resume. He spent just two years at Oklahoma State after transferring from JUCO, earning only 213 career carries, averaging an underwhelming 5.1 yards per carry, and losing his starting job to freshman Justice Hill as a senior. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein noted that Carson never fumbled in college, but he also never broke a run longer than 26 yards. Nevertheless, Carson immediately asserted himself as Seattle’s No. 4 back in his rookie training camp, placing Carson behind shaky-footing early-down competitors Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy, in neither of whom the Seahawks have invested very much. Purely on chasing potential early-career opportunity, Carson joined Henderson as one of my biggest training camp risers.
13. Colts RB Marlon Mack (Fourth Round, No. 143)
Mack is a big-play specialist with plus versatility who found a plum spot. Frank Gore turned 34 in May and journeyman Robert Turbin is a replacement-level No. 2 back. I never envisioned Mack as a future lead runner in the league, but landing with the Colts raised his short- and long-term appeal in Dynasty leagues with a potential Tevin Coleman-like role in his future. At present, Mack’s big-play ability makes him an outlier in an otherwise plodding Indy backfield.
14. Steelers RB James Conner (Third Round, No. 105)
Similar to Perine, Conner is a between-the-tackles grinder with just enough receiving ability to be functional on all three downs. Le’Veon Bell is currently on a one-year deal in Pittsburgh. Should he indeed win the Steelers’ No. 2 back job, Conner would become a potential league winner if Bell got injured or suspended again, or left after this season. I’m still approaching this with skepticism because Conner battled a shoulder injury for most of his rookie training camp, and free agent DeAngelo Williams makes all the sense in the world to return to Pittsburgh.
15. Packers RB Aaron Jones (Fifth Round, No. 182)
One of my favorite sleeper running backs in this class before the draft and after, Jones is a better prospect than Packers fourth-round pick Jamaal Williams. Ty Montgomery is their main competition for touches. I love Montgomery’s upside in both re-draft and Dynasty leagues, but he is a converted wideout and special teamer who got benched repeatedly for pass-protection slipups last season. While I am going to maintain that Jones is a more talented back than Williams based on a combination of athleticism, film, and college production evaluation, it can’t be denied that Jones fell behind Williams concerningly quickly early in his rookie training camp.
16. Jets RB Elijah McGuire (Sixth Round, No. 188)
McGuire immediately became the favorite to open his rookie season No. 3 behind aging Matt Forte and Bilal Powell, then spent almost all of Jets training camp as the first-team back as Powell (neck) and Forte (hamstring) nursed injuries. Powell turns 29 in October and Forte turns 32 in December, and neither has any guaranteed money left in his deal beyond this season. McGuire wasn’t a good Combine-measurables athlete, but he broke Louisiana-Lafayette’s all-time record for career all-purpose yards and touchdowns and caught 129 passes as a four-year starter. For as much as any low-cost running back can be a team’s “running back of the future,” McGuire indeed has a chance to be the Jets’ running back of the future.
17. Buccaneers RB Jeremy McNichols (Fifth Round, No. 162)
McNichols’ ground game is a major work in progress, but he is one of the top receiving and blocking backs in this class. The depth chart is murky in Tampa with the Bucs seemingly recommitted to Doug Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers returning, and passing-game specialist Charles Sims also back. McNichols’ range of outcomes is wide. I think he could hit big or go the Bishop Sankey route if his inside running doesn’t improve. McNichols got off to a painfully slow start, missing the entire spring due to shoulder surgery and getting buried on the depth chart early in camp.
18. Giants RB Wayne Gallman (Fourth Round, No. 140)
Gallman is a stiff, upright runner with barely-baseline NFL athleticism, and he was one of the worst pass-blocking backs I watched on film. While I am not a big fan of his game, Gallman’s situation keeps him intriguing with 2016 fifth-rounder Paul Perkins sitting atop the depth chart after a ho-hum rookie year.
19. Eagles RB Donnel Pumphrey (Fourth Round, No. 132)
Pumphrey has a scatback build at 5-foot-8, 176, but he was a workhorse at San Diego State. The Eagles want Pumphrey to become their next Darren Sproles. Sproles has told people around him he plans to retire after this year. Despite some spring hype, I’m not buying Pumphrey as a legitimate short- or long-term fantasy asset at his size and low-grade athleticism.
20. 49ers RB Matt Breida (Undrafted)
Breida was an up-and-down college producer after a piping-hot start, but he tested as the highest SPARQ-rated running back in this year’s rookie class and made a quick impression in 49ers OTAs and camp. Breida even spent practices running ahead of fourth-rounder Joe Williams. Breida is sub-200 pounds, but his athleticism and assertiveness make him intriguing.
Other Rookie Running Backs: Bears RB Tarik Cohen (Fourth Round), Falcons RB Brian Hill (Fifth Round), Cardinals RB T.J. Logan (Fifth Round), Raiders RB Elijah Hood (Seventh Round), Titans RB Khalfani Muhammad (Seventh Round), Packers RB Devante Mays (Seventh Round), Browns RB Matt Dayes (Seventh Round), Eagles RB Corey Clement (Undrafted), Rams RB Justin Davis (Undrafted)
The NFL is increasingly a man-coverage/Cover 3 league wherein pass catchers constantly have to deal with defensive backs in their hip pocket. I want wideouts who win 50:50 balls, and if not, I want them to be able to outrun their opposition. I downgrade receivers I believe are one-trick-pony deep threats and project as complementary pieces. I want chances at big volume.
1. Titans WR Corey Davis (First Round, No. 5)
The best receiver in the draft on the basis of game film and college production lands with one of the best young quarterbacks in the league in Marcus Mariota, and steps into an abundance of immediate opportunity. Rishard Matthews is best suited for a No. 2/3 receiver role, Eric Decker is playing on a cheap, one-year deal, and Delanie Walker is going on age 33. The Titans flashed their big plans for Davis by immediately inserting him as their starting X receiver when he was healthy at camp. Unfortunately, Davis has missed offseason time with ankle and hamstring injuries. I’m still leaning Davis at 1.01 in Dynasty rookie drafts with PPR scoring. But I would truly consider all four of this year’s top running backs in contention with Davis at the 1.01 spot.
2. Lions WR Kenny Golladay (Third Round, No. 96)
I foolishly viewed Golladay as a raw project before the draft, but he landed in a plum spot with better draft capital than expected, and therefore needed to be reevaluated. A well-above-par, 67th-percentile SPARQ athlete at 6-foot-4, 218, Golladay dropped just 5-of-165 catchable targets (PFF) in two years at Northern Illinois after transferring from North Dakota and graduated as the only two-time 1,000-yard receiver in school history despite dealing with five different starting quarterbacks in his two-year stay. Golladay profiles as a perimeter receiver opposite Marvin Jones, with Golden Tate moving back into the slot. Although Golladay has not earned a first-team job as of this writing, all signs point to a significant early-career role after a dominant run throughout OTAs, minicamp, training camp, and the preseason opener. Golladay is big, athletic, produced in a transcendent manner in college, and at every stop so far has shown himself to be equal at worst and superior at best to his peers. I am signing up for this in Dynasty.
3. Bengals WR John Ross (First Round, No. 9)
Ross reached 400 yards in just one college season and battled myriad injuries, suffering a right meniscus tear followed by microfracture surgery, a torn left ACL and meniscus, and a torn shoulder labrum from which he is now recovering. In both the short and long term — albeit to varying degrees — A.J. Green, Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, and Tyler Boyd all have secure target shares in Cincinnati’s going-forward offense. Brandon LaFell is far from a worrisome obstacle, but he is under contract affordably for the next two years and is probably going to play snaps. Tyler Eifert is in a contract year, but he is a valuable commodity the Bengals will surely work to extend should Eifert show any signs of improved durability. Ross is a better bet for real-life than fantasy impact in Cincinnati.
4. Bills WR Zay Jones (Second Round, No. 37)
Whereas first-round picks Mike Williams and John Ross caught unideal situations, Jones’ path to a featured role is easier to parse out. The Bills traded foot- and hip-hobbled Sammy Watkins to a California desert wasteland, while Charles Clay has struggled with knee and back injuries and shown zero on-field rapport with Tyrod Taylor. Beyond that, half-hearted trade pickup Jordan Matthews is in a contract year, and Anquan Boldin is on the verge of retirement. It doesn’t hurt that the Bills traded up for Jones and reunited him with college position coach Phil McGeoghan, who now coaches the Bills’ wideouts. In terms of talent based on film study, Jones for me landed somewhere between Robert Woods and Jordan Matthews coming out of ECU.
5. Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (Third Round, No. 84)
Godwin dominated in the Big Ten at a young age, is a plus athlete at 6-foot-1, 209, and has a trump card as a consistent winner in contested-catch situations. His chances of seeing the field early are debatable and ultimately unclear. Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Godwin are all boundary types, and the Bucs seem intent on using more two-tight end “12” than three-wide “11” personnel after pairing O.J. Howard with Cameron Brate. Ranking Godwin as a top-five receiver pick is mainly a bet on talent with an understanding that Jackson is on the wrong side of 30 and the Bucs’ wideout depth chart remains thin. Godwin eventually pushing for slot snaps wouldn’t be surprising. On college tape, he showed similarities to Anquan Boldin. I ranked Godwin ahead of JuJu Smith-Schuster because I largely grade them similarly as prospects, but Godwin’s long-term quarterback stability is superior. I liked Taywan Taylor‘s talent better than Smith-Schuster’s.
6. Titans WR Taywan Taylor (Third Round, No. 72)
Another high-end producer and athlete, Taylor drew pre-draft comparisons to Emmanuel Sanders and Kendall Wright. He showed an ability to win inside and outside at Western Kentucky and succeeded against SEC schools, dropping a 9-121 stat line on Alabama and 9-112 on Vanderbilt last year. While Corey Davis is likely entrenched as Tennessee’s long-term No. 1 receiver, No. 2 duties in a high-efficiency passing game are up for grabs with Eric Decker on a one-year deal, Rishard Matthews year to year, and Delanie Walker entering his age-33 season. Albeit at least a year or two down the road, it’s not inconceivable Taylor emerges as Marcus Mariota‘s long-term No. 2.
7. Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (Second Round, No. 62)
As the Steelers were forced into using “Cobi Hamilton” as a near every-down player during their 2016 late-season and playoff run, it’s no surprise they invested an early-round pick into a pass catcher. Cody Kessler and Sam Darnold’s go-to guy at USC, Smith-Schuster is an exceptionally young prospect who won’t turn 21 until around Thanksgiving. In Pittsburgh, Smith-Schuster’s outlook is very much tied to Martavis Bryant, who is probably one strike away from career-long NFL banishment, but who will be on the field ahead of Smith-Schuster if eligible to play. All of that makes Smith-Schuster an uncomfortable Dynasty gamble, albeit one with every-week WR2 upside if Bryant again finds himself banished from the league.
8. Broncos WR Carlos Henderson (Third Round, No. 82)
With 29-year-olds Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders flanking each other and nothing between them, the Broncos are desperate for a receiving threat in the middle of the field. It’s why they traded for Vernon Davis and AJ Derby the past two years, and dabbled with Bennie Fowler and Jordan Norwood in the slot, amongst others. Built like Golden Tate at 5-foot-11, 199 with 4.46 wheels and a hyper-explosive 10-foot-11 broad jump, Henderson was the most physical tackle-breaking receiver in the nation last season. A thumb injury cost Henderson traction in his rookie training camp, but he is a confident talent-based bet with forward-thinking opportunity.
9. Rams WR Cooper Kupp (Third Round, No. 69)
Kupp generated false first-round January hype for running crisp routes at the Senior Bowl and was exposed as a low-end athlete at the Combine. Still, the Rams were an intriguing landing spot with 296 targets missing from last year’s roster, only Robert Woods added in free agency, and one-year rental Sammy Watkins arriving for his contract season. Kupp’s exceptional college production can’t go overlooked, and his 6.75 three-cone time is indicative of the quicker-than-fast slot receiver Kupp’s tape shows him to be. I expect Kupp to open this season as the Rams’ version of Jamison Crowder in the slot, with Watkins in the DeSean Jackson role and Robert Woods copying Pierre Garcon. Kupp’s short-area separation skills make him a candidate to riff early with short-ball thrower Jared Goff. Albeit without Henderson’s athletic upside, Kupp is a savvy PPR Dynasty pick.
10. Panthers WR/RB Curtis Samuel (Second Round, No. 40)
Samuel will be listed at wide receiver initially in Carolina, although I wouldn’t rule out the possibility he eventually gains running back eligibility. He had more rushing attempts (172) than receptions (107) at Ohio State and in some ways projects as a handcuff for Panthers first-rounder Christian McCaffrey. Samuel and McCaffrey can be used in similar ways. Samuel has superior straight-line speed (4.31), although McCaffrey is far more refined with a more defined role. Expected to be used in the slot and as a manufactured-touch player, Samuel also shares commonalities with 2016 Chiefs sensation Tyreek Hill. Samuel admittedly lost some luster due to a hamstring injury that cost him almost all of the spring and all of his rookie training camp.
11. Cardinals WR Chad Williams (Third Round, No. 98)
I suspected Williams would go seventh round or undrafted after he wasn’t invited to the Combine, but GM Steve Keimand coach Bruce Arians clearly felt confidence in their evaluation. And their small-school track record is strong, hitting on John Brown (Pittsburgh State), David Johnson (Northern Iowa), Rodney Gunter (Delaware State), and J.J. Nelson (now-defunct UAB) recently. Williams offers plus size (6’1/207) and speed (4.43) and was a dominant college producer, leading the SWAC in every receiving category last year. Michael Floyd is gone, Larry Fitzgerald is considering retirement every offseason and is in a contract year, Brown’s health still seems touch and go and he too is in a contract year, Jaron Brown is coming off a torn ACL in a contract year, and Nelson is a role player with two years left on his deal. Cardinals coaches have strongly hinted they want Williams to eventually replace Fitzgerald in the Hines Ward/Reggie Wayne role under Arians.
12. Chargers WR Mike Williams (First Round, No. 7)
Williams was a debatable top-ten talent entering the draft, and San Diego’s pass-catcher corps was arguably its greatest roster strength. On several levels, Williams was a questionable real-life pick whose fantasy outlook was right away more than a little bit murky. Would he even start as a rookie? Even if he did, what was his range of outcomes? Keenan Allen is 25 years old and an established offensive focal point. Tyrell Williams is 25 coming off a 1,059-yard, seven-touchdown season as a second-year pro. All-purpose back Melvin Gordon is 24 coming off a breakout campaign, and Hunter Henry is 22 coming off one of the best rookie tight end seasons of all time. At full health, Mike Williams looks like a short- and potentially long-term role player in San Diego with no clear path to No. 1-wideout ascension. With a potentially severe back injury after a severe neck injury wiped out his 2015 season, Williams is essentially a full-on fade for me at his ADP. I’m not risk averse, but I really want no part of situations like this.
13. Jets WR ArDarius Stewart (Third Round, No. 79)
Stewart draws Pierre Garcon and Golden Tate comparisons for his physicality and run-after-catch skills, and he should not struggle to see the field early as a Jet. Stewart was not a big-time producer at the college level, however, and the Jets lack a forward-thinking direction on offense. At the same time, his competition for targets remains slim and was decreased by Quincy Enunwa’s year-ending injury.
14. Eagles WR Mack Hollins (Fourth Round, No. 118)
Big (6’4/221) and fast enough (4.53), Hollins began impressing in the spring and hasn’t stopped in August. He averaged nearly 21 yards per catch at North Carolina. I was initially, perhaps embarrassingly, concerned Hollins might struggle to become more than an Andre Holmes-like special teams demon. In Philly, Hollins trails only short-term fixes Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in the race for snaps, and could begin putting heat on Nelson Agholor after the Jordan Matthews trade.
15. Jaguars WR Dede Westbrook (Fourth Round, No. 110)
Quietly a 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist, Westbrook made a big play in the Jaguars’ preseason opener and has some DeSean Jackson-level traits. Marqise Lee suffered a high ankle sprain midway through camp and is questionable for Week 1. Both Lee and Allen Robinson are in contract years. Allen Hurns’ guaranteed money runs out soon.
16. Rams WR Josh Reynolds (Fourth Round, No. 117)
Built on ball skills and length, Reynolds’ game is reminiscent of ex-Bengals WR Chris Henry as a natural perimeter player and vertical threat. He scored 13 touchdowns as a 19-year-old in the SEC and averaged 17.4 yards per reception over his final two seasons at Texas A&M. The Rams’ acquisition of Sammy Watkins is a short-term road block, but LAR’s receiver corps is otherwise comprised of interior types Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tavon Austin, and Pharoh Cooper, Reynolds stands out as the best field-stretching option behind Watkins, who is on a one-year deal. Reynolds is a high-upside target if you think the light can flip on for Jared Goff.
17. Packers WR DeAngelo Yancey (Fifth Round, No. 175)
Yancey is big (6’2/220) with adequate speed (4.53) and led the Big Ten in yards per reception (19.4) last season. The Packers’ offense has struggled when it has lacked a vertical dimension, something Yancey can provide. While Yancey’s early opportunity seems limited, keep in mind Jordy Nelson is turning 32, Randall Cobb has trended downward, and Davante Adams is entering the final year of his rookie deal.
18. Jets WR Chad Hansen (Fourth Round, No. 141)
Hansen is a sure-handed Chris Hogan type with a shot at immediate opportunity.
19. Seahawks WR Amara Darboh (Third Round, No. 106)
Darboh lacks standout traits, but Jermaine Kearse on hot seat. Richardson, Lockett can’t stay healthy.
Other Rookie Wide Receivers: Chiefs WR Jehu Chesson (Fourth Round), Cowboys WR Ryan Switzer (Fourth Round), Bengals WR Josh Malone (Fourth Round), Eagles WR Shelton Gibson (Fifth Round), Vikings WR Rodney Adams (Fifth Round), Broncos WR Isaiah McKenzie (Fifth Round), Redskins WR Robert Davis (Sixth Round), Dolphins WR Isaiah Ford (Seventh Round), Vikings WR Stacy Coley (Seventh Round), Seahawks WR David Moore (Seventh Round), Cowboys WR Noah Brown (Seventh Round), Packers WR Malachi Dupre (Seventh Round), Cardinals WR Krishawn Hogan (Undrafted), Raiders WR Ishmael Zamora (Undrafted)
My criteria for tight ends is similar to wide receivers. I want big tight ends who can run. As tight ends persistently struggle for early-career relevance, lowered initial expectations push tight ends down an overall Dynasty rookie board. Rare is the tight end who’s worthy of a first-round rookie pick. There are three fringe first-rounders this year. Tight ends additionally run into a similar problem as quarterbacks. Many leagues require you start just one — enhancing the replaceability of the position — and wide receivers and running backs tend to outscore tight ends in bulk fantasy points, thereby decreasing tight ends’ value in leagues with extra flex spots.
1. Browns TE David Njoku (First Round, No. 29)
Ranking the big three tight ends is extremely difficult. I initially had O.J. Howard first, then Evan Engram, but settled on Njoku, whose pass-catching ceiling I believe to be highest in the group. Njoku’s run-after-catch ability is the best of any college tight end I’ve seen since Travis Kelce. His ball skills and routes are superior to Howard’s, and Njoku is a much better blocker than Engram, which should ensure Njoku gets and stays on the field early. While he is rough around the edges and the Browns’ quarterback situation is a concern, I think Njoku has the best chance to become a fantasy difference maker within three years.
2. Giants TE Evan Engram (First Round, No. 23)
A path for Engram to emerge as the No. 2 option in New York’s pass-catcher corps by 2018 isn’t tough to envision. 33-year-old Brandon Marshall’s two-year contract contains no guaranteed money beyond this season, while the Giants’ offseason moves suggest they envision slot man Sterling Shepard as strictly a role player. Engram is every bit a wide receiver first and tight end second. He almost never lined up on the line of scrimmage at Ole Miss, and he runs 4.42 at 6-foot-3, 234. Those are the measurables of a big receiver, not a tight end. Still, Engram’s utter lack of blocking ability is a concern for his near- and long-term playing time, and his odds of becoming the true focal point of his team’s passing game are much lower than Njoku’s. On the Giants, everyone else is a complement to 24-year-old Odell Beckham.
3a. Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard (First Round, No. 19)
I believe Howard was the best all-around tight end in this class from a three-down standpoint. He’s the best pure blocking tight end I’ve ever seen come out of college, and he is a top-shelf athlete with the same stop-watch speed as Leonard Fournette (4.51) despite carrying 11 more pounds. Howard’s catches at Alabama consisted largely of pitches and dump-offs, however, and he wasn’t nearly as productive as Engram or Njoku from a yardage or scoring standpoint. It doesn’t help that Howard landed on a Tampa team where he will be a complementary pass catcher for the foreseeable future, and where Cameron Brate has an entrenched role as the Buccaneers’ F tight end to Howard’s on-the-line-of-scrimmage Y.
3b. Cowboys TE Rico Gathers
Gathers isn’t technically a rookie after redshirting his rookie year, but this is where I’d rank him if available on waivers during Dynasty rookie drafts. Gathers has looked like so much of a Jimmy Graham-level beast this preseason that the Cowboys immediately began implementing two-tight end sets to pair Gathers with Jason Witten. Albeit maybe as only an Erik Swoope-level producer in 2017, I’m buying Gathers as the long-term real deal.
4. Bears TE Adam Shaheen (Second Round, No. 45)
It should be common knowledge that tight ends take more time than other positions to transition into the NFL. They have to learn how to block on the line and from an H-back or detached alignment. They have to know how to play slot receiver. Even a “pro-style” tight end like O.J. Howard has minimal pro-style route experience. Tight ends have to learn how to block and catch passes lined up in the backfield without disrupting the timing of their quarterback. Some tight ends line up out wide. Others are asked to operate as sixth offensive linemen. Adding to that transition for players like Shaheen (Ashland), Gerald Everett (South Alabama), Jonnu Smith (Florida International), Michael Roberts (Toledo), and Eric Saubert (Drake) is that they are coming from small schools and facing colossal jumps in competition and opponent speed. With all of that said, Shaheen brings a big ceiling to the table as a high-end athlete entering a pass-catcher corps that’s entirely up for grabs.
5. Rams TE Gerald Everett (Second Round, No. 44)
A high school basketball star who bounced from community college to UAB and finally South Alabama, Everett was hyper productive in his two years in the Sun Belt Conference and tested like an elite athlete in Indy with top-five SPARQ results at 6-foot-3, 239. At their post-draft press conference, Rams GM Les Snead and coach Sean McVay spoke of placing an increased emphasis on two-tight end sets involving Everett and Tyler Higbee, a former wide receiver with better size (6’6/249) than Everett. While dreams of Everett-Higbee combination packages undoubtedly intrigue Rams coaches, the odds of one or both becoming legitimate fantasy difference makers seem slim. Everett is a late-round Dynasty rookie stab. I did love the quickness in and out of breaks Everett showed in the Rams’ first preseason game.
6. Titans TE Jonnu Smith (Third Round, No. 100)
Although Everett was drafted 56 picks before him, I waffled between Smith and Everett in the No. 5 slot. Everett has a slight athletic edge, but Smith is bigger (6’3/248), was also wildly productive in college, and showed surprisingly well as a blocker on tape, which should help Smith’s big-league transition. Smith’s quarterback situation is also far more favorable. Before the draft, I thought Smith (coincidentally) had a lot in common with Titans TE Delanie Walker. Walker, of course, is now the biggest obstacle in Smith’s playing-time path. It should be noted Walker turns 33 in August and has two years left on his contract.
7. 49ers TE George Kittle (Fifth Round, No. 146)
With 4.52 speed at 6-foot-4, 247, Kittle posted the best SPARQ results among all tight ends before the draft. PFF College gave Kittle its second highest pass-blocking grade in 2016, behind only O.J. Howard. Kittle caught only 48 passes in his four-year Iowa career, but he averaged 15.4 yards per catch and could become a better pro than college player. The 49ers tried to trade Vance McDonald during the draft. Coming out of OTAs/minicamp, some 49ers beat writers projected Kittle for the starting job. He has missed most of camp with a hamstring injury.
8. Vikings TE Bucky Hodges (Sixth Round, No. 201)
A projected second-day pick in most draft circles, Hodges apparently fell to round six due to “off-field issues,” which haven’t been documented. All I could find was a 2015 public-intox arrest. Another freak athlete in a tight end class full of them, Hodges didn’t really play tight end at all for Virginia Tech. He was a 6-foot-6, 257-pound X receiver who was recruited as a quarterback, and will have to learn the position from scratch behind Kyle Rudolph in Minnesota. 27-year-old Rudolph is under contract through 2019.
9. Jets TE Jordan Leggett (Fifth Round, No. 150)
Average athlete and poor blocker with a lot of opportunity in New York.
10. Lions TE Michael Roberts (Fourth Round, No. 127)
Sub-par athlete who scored 16 TDs in his final college season.
11. Broncos TE Jake Butt (Fifth Round, No. 145)
Zach Ertz-level talent coming off second career ACL tear. Likely redshirts in ’17.
12. Falcons TE Eric Saubert (Fifth Round, No. 174)
Small-schooler from Drake ran 4.65 at 6’5/253. Behind Austin Hooper in Atlanta.
Overall Dynasty Top 50
1. Corey Davis (WR1)
2. Joe Mixon (RB1)
3. Christian McCaffrey (RB2)
4. Leonard Fournette (RB3)
5. Dalvin Cook (RB4)
6. Kenny Golladay (WR2)
7. Alvin Kamara (RB5)
8. Kareem Hunt (RB6)
9. John Ross (WR3)
10. Zay Jones (WR4)
11. Chris Godwin (WR5)
12. Samaje Perine (RB7)
13. David Njoku (TE1)
14. Evan Engram (TE2)
15. O.J. Howard (TE3a)
16. Rico Gathers (TE3b)
17. Taywan Taylor (WR6)
18. JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR7)
19. Carlos Henderson (WR8)
20. Jamaal Williams (RB8)
21. Cooper Kupp (WR9)
22. Joe Williams (RB9)
23. D’Onta Foreman (RB10)
24. Curtis Samuel (WR10)
25. Chad Williams (WR11)
26. Mike Williams (WR12)
27. De’Angelo Henderson (RB11)
28. Chris Carson (RB12)
29. Marlon Mack (RB13)
30. ArDarius Stewart (WR13)
31. James Conner (RB14)
32. Aaron Jones (RB15)
33. Elijah McGuire (RB16)
34. Mack Hollins (WR14)
35. De De Westbrook (WR15)
36. Adam Shaheen (TE4)
37. Gerald Everett (TE5)
38. Jonnu Smith (TE6)
39. Jeremy McNichols (RB17)
40. DeShone Kizer (QB1)
41. Patrick Mahomes (QB2)
42. Deshaun Watson (QB3)
43. Mitchell Trubisky (QB4)
44. Wayne Gallman (RB18)
45. Donnel Pumphrey (RB19)
46. Matt Breida (RB20)
47. Josh Reynolds (WR16)
48. George Kittle (TE7)
49. Bucky Hodges (TE8)
50. C.J. Beathard (QB5)
Source Article from http://rotoworld.com/articles/nfl/73793/69/silvas-dynasty-rookie-ranks