The NFL Draft is in the books, and as a result many fantasy football dynasty owners are coming out of short hibernation to get their league rookie-only drafts underway. These are the golden children of the fantasy football landscape. The next superstars in the making to set your dynasty team on the winning path for years to come.
Who is the next Odell Beckham Jr. or Jeremy Hill? Who is the next Bishop Sankey, Tavon Austin or Cordarrelle Patterson? Hmm…
While dynasty owners have stars in their eyes for the incoming rookie class, it is always good to keep things in perspective. Early returns on last year’s class are very good, but that was very likely an exceptional year. It isn’t like that every year.
Very good and even great players emerge each season, and the rookies are a good place to start searching for those, but if your fellow owners are gaga for some of these guys and you can parlay it into a bounty of future draft picks, then you have to consider it.
All that said, we still have to think about the short and long-term fantasy outlook for this crop of rookies, and judge how they should be valued or ranked relative to their peers. Here is a three round, 12-team mock draft that does exactly that.
1. RB Melvin Gordon, Chargers
While Gordon rates a hair below Todd Gurley in pure ability, he gets to join a Chargers offense that is light years ahead of where the Rams are, in particular at quarterback and along the offensive line.
2. RB Todd Gurley, Rams
One highlight is all it takes to see that Gurley is a special player. However, he is coming off a torn ACL and joins a Rams team with major issues along the offensive line and which currently only has two players that would rate as starters on most NFL teams.
3. WR Amari Cooper, Raiders
The choice between Cooper and Kevin White amounts to polish vs. potential. We’re going with polish and also recognizing that, while David Carr currently rates below Jay Cutler, we like the long term quarterback potential more in Oakland than we do in Chicago.
4. WR Kevin White, Bears
White has potential superstar written all over him but it was a little disconcerting to notice that, despite his blazing speed, his highlight reel didn’t show a player capable of gaining consistent separation.
5. WR DeVante Parker, Dolphins
At some point, Parker will emerge as the Dolphins top wide receiver and it just might happen during his rookie season. Of all of the Dolphins receivers, he is the only one who possesses the ability to emerge as a long term top wideout. The only caveat here is quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s lack of touch on the deep ball.
6. RB Tevin Coleman, Falcons
While not the shiftiest running back, Coleman possesses blazing speed and a willingness to take on opposing tacklers. He fits best in a zone blocking scheme and has a clear lane to a starting position with only the disappointing Devonta Freeman ahead of him.
7. WR Breshad Perriman, Ravens
Let’s run down the check marks: good size, outstanding speed, opportunity to start from Day 1. Yep, Perriman has all that and a strong armed quarterback in Joe Flacco that is a good fit to Perriman’s ability to make plays down the field. He may struggle early but he has tremendous upside.
8. RB T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars
The good news is that Yeldon has a chance to open the season as a starter with Jacksonville. The bad news is that Yeldon was drafted by Jacksonville. While Yeldon lacks the upside of some of his fellow rookie running backs, as the third running back taken in the draft, he will be in the starting line up early in the season, if not on opening day.
9. WR Nelson Agholor, Eagles
Agholor possesses solid, not outstanding speed and lacks ideal size at 6’1” and 190 pounds. While he can line up outside, he may spend most of his time working out of the slot and that would limit his upside.
10. WR Jaelen Strong, Texans
By all accounts, the Texans got a steal by selecting Strong in the 3rd round of the draft. While DeAndre Hopkins is entrenched as the team’s leading wide receiver, Strong figures to unseat Cecil Shorts for a starting position by mid-season.
11. RB Jeremy Langford, Bears
While Matt Forte is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season, initial reports indicate that Langford is unlikely to be viewed as a potential long term replacement should Forte leave Chicago.
12. WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Titans
Green-Beckham has solid upside and comparisons to Brandon Marshall and Kelvin Benjamin are warranted. However, the Titans in general lack leadership and this pick would look a whole lot better if the team had a veteran wide receiver to mentor him. This is as boom or bust as it gets.
1. RB Matt Jones, Redskins
Doesn’t possess major upside but, with Alfred Morris scheduled for free agency at season’s end, could have an opportunity to start in 2016.
2. RB Jay Ajayi, Dolphins
Miami’s backfield is devoid of depth and they had little choice but to end Ajayi’s draft freefall in the 5th round. He has little chance of supplanting Lamar Miller in 2015.
3. TE Maxx Williams, Ravens
Williams is a talented player and the Ravens draft well so there is a solid chance that he will have a long, productive career provided he remains healthy. I would have him ranked higher except for the fact that there are so many tight ends that fit within a certain tier of ability that there isn’t a need to use a high pick on Williams unless you think he will emerge as a superstar. The track record at TE for that is not happening is not stellar.
4. RB Ameer Abdullah, Lions
Not that big, not that fast, Abdullah will most likely work as a chance of pace and receiving option in his rookie year. However, the 2nd round pick has a chance to take over for Joique Bell as early as next season provided he can prove adept at running between the tackles. He will almost certainly never emerge as a workhorse type back.
5. WR Devin Funchess, Panthers
His selection by Carolina in the 2nd round rates as a head scratcher as he is basically a slightly less talented version of 2014 1st round pick Kelvin Benjamin.
6. WR Chris Conley, Chiefs
By now you’ve heard that Kansas City wide receivers failed to catch a single touchdown pass last season and Jeremy Maclin was brought in from Philadelphia to lead the rebuilding project. Well, Conley rates as the second piece of the project and he has a decent chance to emerge as a starter in his rookie season.
7. RB David Johnson, Cardinals
There are two narratives on Johnson. One is that he rates as Andre Ellington’s replacement in Arizona’s starting lineup. The other is that he’s strictly a soft running, 224 lb. backup with little upside.
8. RB David Cobb, Titans
9. WR Sammie Coates, Steelers
Coates has some pretty serious talent and upside for a 3rd round pick but alas the path to playing time in Pittsburgh is somewhat blocked with Antonio Brown and a pair of productive youngsters in Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton in the way.
10. WR Phillip Dorsett, Colts
Not sure why the Colts felt the need to add Dorsett unless there are some concerns about T.Y. Hilton’s availability. We don’t see much of a role for him in 2015 especially since the Colts often line up in two tight end sets.
11. QB Jameis Winston, Bucs
With so many solid fantasy options at quarterback, it just doesn’t make sense to reach for one in dynasty rookie drafts. Especially one with Winston’s checkered past and concerns of maturity issues. And he’s joining the Bucs, who just can’t seem to ever get it right.
12. QB Marcus Mariota, Titans
You have to be skeptical of his ability to transfer his college strengths to the pros, especially if coach Ken Whisenhunt fails to appropriately tailor his deep passing offensive philosophy. And where exactly are the playmakers on the Titans offense to help shoulder the load?
1. RB Duke Johnson, Browns
Johnson has some serious agility skills but in Cleveland he will likely operate as a change of pace, receiving back behind Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West in an offense that will struggle to move the ball.
2. RB Javorius Allen, Ravens
3. WR Devin Smith, Jets
Smith’s solid speed and big play ability fill an obvious need in the Jets offense but new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s affinity for short and intermediate throws don’t bode well for Smith’s target count as a rookie nor does the presence of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
4. RB Cameron Artis-Payne, Panthers
Aging Mike Tolbert is joined by a cast of retreads on Carolina’s depth chart behind Jonathan Stewart. Artis-Payne could emerge as Stewart’s handcuff, making him a potential contributor given Stewart’s lengthy injury history.
5. WR Ty Montgomery, Packers
Any wide receiver selected by Green Bay in the 3rd round warrants fantasy consideration. It’s just hard to predict much of a role for him until Jordy Nelson departs since Randall Cobb and Davante Adams are young, productive players.
6. TE Clive Walford, Raiders
A late-comer to football, Walford lacks the speed necessary to emerge as an upper tier tight end. However, he figures to ascend to the starting lineup early in his career.
7. WR Vince Mayle, Browns
Despite the abundance of talent at the wide receiver position in each of the last two drafts, Cleveland failed to address the position last year and waited until the 4th round this year before draft Mayle, who shapes up as a possession receiver.
8. RB Mike Davis, 49ers
While San Francisco’s current running back depth chart runs three deep with Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush and Kendall Hunter, there is a decent chance that only Hyde will return to the team for the 2016 season, giving Davis a shot at earning some carries in 2016.
9. QB Bryce Petty, Jets
10. WR Tyler Lockett, Seahawks
I have pretty much zero faith in the Seahawks ability to either develop or properly utilize their wide receivers. It’s that point in the draft, folks.
11. WR Rashad Greene, Jaguars
Despite having a solid trio of promising second year wide receivers, Jacksonville added Greene to the mix as their 5th round pick. Puzzling.
12. QB Sean Mannion, Rams
Recently acquired starter Nick Foles isn’t signed beyond this year and will need a solid season to earn a new contract. Given the current state of the team’s wide receivers and offensive line, the odds of that happening aren’t great.