Top 100: RSO Rookie Rankings

Updated: July 23rd 2017

To answer the question right at the top… Yes, I still have Leonard Fournette as my 1.01.  I’m sure we’ll spill much digital ink over the coming months debating the pick but I think he will be dominant and with so much draft capital invested, the Jaguars will have to stay dedicated.

The lifeblood of every dynasty team are it’s incoming rookies, like Fournette.  The only problem is that few rookies are as well-known as Fournette and so many owners don’t have the time to devote to doing research on who the rookies are and how their landing spot impacts their RSO outlook.  Throughout the last three months, I have done the research for you and have come up with what you will see below: RSO’s top 100 rookies.

This was a fascinating exercise for me because after I started, I realized there were still a number of players even I needed to do more research on.  For example, at one point I realized I was getting the two RB Elijahs mixed up (Hood: UNC and McGuire: LA-Lafayette) despite having opposite skill sets because I had them listed consecutively on my RB ranking (for the record: even though I prefer Hood for his bigger frame and the way he always fights forward, I pushed McGuire above him because of his fit with the Jets and path to touches).  I first started making rankings for each position so I could easily compare players and develop tiers within each position.  Next, I decided how I would value positions based on my league assumptions (see below).  Then, I massaged the positional rankings together using my tiers and positional values to help determine the overall rankings.  Finally, I fine tuned throughout the draft to adjust positional and overall rankings based on team fit.  It was a time consuming exercise for sure, but one I would recommend for RSO owners, just on a smaller scale (I would suggest however many rookie picks your league has + 5).

Before we get to the rankings, a few notes:

  1. I created these rankings assuming the following starting lineup in a 10-12 team league: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, OFLEX, DL, LB, DB, DFLEX.
  2. I assumed 0.5PPR but otherwise standard scoring (i.e. a slight bump to WR and pass catching RBs).  IDP scoring can vary quite significantly in my experience but I assumed the typical key stats of tackles, sacks and INTs.
  3. If you are in a Superflex or 2QB league, I would recommend moving the QBs up about 10-15 spots.
  4. If your IDP league uses more starters (meaning more will be drafted) you should move IDP players up about 5 spots as the value of the best IDP players will increase.
  5. I ranked at least 10 QB, TE, DL, LB and DB and at least 20 RB and WR.  I figured all but the deepest of leagues would need to go deeper than that at each position.  Determining how some DE/OLB will be listed is tough at this point but when in doubt I used NFL.com’s listed position.
  6. As you go down the list, the amount of research done on a given player admittedly decreases, so to do the strong opinions.  I feel much more strongly about Mixon over Cook than I do about Clement over Pumphrey.
  7. Keep in mind that these rankings are being finalized on Saturday, April 29.  Much can, and will, change before you draft.

Rank First Name Last Name Position Pos Rank
1 Leonard Fournette RB RB1
2 Corey Davis WR WR1
3 Christian McCaffrey RB RB2
4 Joe Mixon RB RB3
5 Mike Williams WR WR2
6 John Ross WR WR3
7 OJ Howard TE TE1
8 Chris Godwin WR WR4
9 Dalvin Cook RB RB4
10 Zay Jones WR WR5
11 Kareem Hunt RB RB5
12 David Njoku TE TE2
13 Marlon Mack RB RB6
14 Curtis Samuel RB RB7
15 D’onta Foreman RB RB8
16 Taywan Taylor WR WR6
17 JuJu Smith-Schuster WR WR7
18 Evan Engram TE TE3
19 Carlos Henderson WR WR8
20 Cooper Kupp WR WR9
21 Jeremy McNichols RB RB9
22 Samaje Perine RB RB10
23 Mitch Trubisky QB QB1
24 Myles Garrett DL DL1
25 Wayne Gallman RB RB11
26 Pat Mahomes QB QB2
27 Jake Butt TE TE4
28 Alvin Kamara RB RB12
29 Solomon Thomas DL DL2
30 KD Cannon WR WR10
31 Malik Hooker DB DB1
32 Deshaun Watson QB QB3
33 Zach Cunningham LB LB1
34 Josh Malone WR WR11
35 Taco Charlton DL DL3
36 Jonathan Allen DL DL4
37 Jonnu Smith TE TE5
38 Haason Reddick LB LB2
39 Jamal Adams DB DB2
40 Jabrill Peppers DB DB3
41 Josh Reynolds WR WR12
42 Amara Darboh WR WR13
43 Jamaal Williams RB RB13
44 James Conner RB RB14
45 Josh Dobbs QB QB4
46 Tim Williams LB LB3
47 Takkarist McKinley DL DL5
48 Malachi Dupre WR WR14
49 Reuben Foster LB LB4
50 Ardarius Stewart WR WR15
51 Charles Harris DL DL6
52 Deshone Kizer QB QB5
53 Nate Peterman QB QB6
54 Joe Williams RB RB15
55 Elijah McGuire RB RB16
56 TJ Watt LB LB5
57 Marshon Lattimore DB DB4
58 Raekwon McMillan LB LB6
59 Gerald Everett TE TE6
60 Derek Rivers DL DL7
61 Isaiah Ford WR WR16
62 Bucky Hodges TE TE7
63 Chad Hansen WR WR17
64 Obi Melifonwu DB DB5
65 Elijah Hood RB RB17
66 Derek Barnett DL DL8
67 Jarrad Davis LB LB7
68 Brad Kaaya QB QB7
69 Brian Hill RB RB18
70 Davis Webb QB QB8
71 Ryan Anderson LB LB8
72 Tyus Bowser LB LB9
73 Marlon Humphrey DB DB6
74 Adam Shaheen TE TE8
75 Jalen Robinette WR WR18
76 Donnel Pumphrey RB RB19
77 Jordan Leggett TE TE9
78 Corey Clement RB RB20
79 Duke Riley LB LB10
80 Dede Westbrook WR WR19
81 Seth Russell QB QB9
82 Aaron Jones RB RB21
83 C.J. Beathard QB QB10
84 Malik McDowell DL DL9
85 Budda Baker DB DB7
86 Carl Lawson DL DL10
87 Marcus Maye DB DB8
88 Jeremy Sprinkle TE TE10
89 Adoree’ Jackson DB DB9
90 Kevin King DB DB10
91 Gareon Conley DB DB11
92 Mack Hollins WR WR20
93 Tarik Cohen RB RB22
94 Chad Williams WR WR21
95 Jordan Willis DL DL11
96 Chad Kelly QB QB11
97 Amba Etta-Tawo WR WR22
98 Chidobee Awuzie DB DB12
99 Kenny Galloday WR WR23
100 George Kittle TE TE11

 

1st Round NFL Draft Trades

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Another NFL draft began with a boom in 2017. We only waited until the 2nd pick of the night for a trade.  But who came up ahead and which teams were the proverbial babies having their candy taken away. I look at some of the trades occurring in the 1st round this year, analyzing the value and implications for each team involved.

My trade values in parentheses below were taken from Kevin Meers study on NFL draft pick values.  The value chart is a modification from the standard NFL Draft Trade Chart (NDFT) utilized by many NFL teams.  There are many different analytical studies on the value of draft picks but most agree that the NDFT tends to significantly overvalue early picks and undervalues mid to late-round picks.  The reliance on the NDFT leads to big overpays for many teams trading up in the draft.

Another issue that comes up when examining trades is how to value future picks. There are two primary problems which present themselves.  First, we do not know where a team will finish in the standings next season.  Second, the value of draft picks (like most things) tends to diminish over time.  The 18th pick in 2017 is generally worth more than the 18th pick in 2018 for example.  To address these issues, I estimated next year’s finish and discounted the pick value by 20% (a somewhat heavy discount).  Now, on to the trades.

San Francisco gives #2 (435.7)

Chicago gives #3 (401.3), 67 (125.8), 111 (87.4), and 2018 3rd (94.4)

There is no other way to put it. Chicago took a pounding on this deal.  The Bears have massive question marks all over the roster including secondary, wide receivers, and tight end.  They simply could not afford to give up this amount of picks, particularly in a draft considered very deep by most analysts, for a quarterback with the amount of question marks associated with Trubisky.  The new Bears signal-caller must become a top-ten quarterback for this trade to work out.

New San Francisco General Manager John Lynch, on the other hand, absolutely nailed his first trade. They crushed the value side (708.9 to 435.7).  The 49ers move down one spot, get the player they were going to take at two, while also accumulating valuable picks on a team needing talent across the roster.  Great trade for San Francisco.

Buffalo gives #10 (299.1)

Kansas City gives #27 (214.7), 91 (102.7), and 2018 1st (182.7)

This was one of the more bizarre moves of the night. Kansas City is one of the more solid teams across the board, but has some big depth issues, particularly on defense.  The Chiefs could have used playmakers on a true contender which has won 23 games over the last two seasons.  Mahomes has major mechanical and decision-making issues plus will need to learn the basics of NFL QB play coming from Texas Tech. There are certainly extraordinary physical gifts, but trading up (at a big cost) for a long-term developmental quarterback is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Buffalo demonstrated that they understood the many holes on their team. The Bills addressed a big need with cornerback Tre’Davious White at the end of the first round, while accumulating more picks for a new coaching staff, and handily won the value game big-time here (a continuing storyline for teams trading down).

Cleveland gives #12 (283.6)

Houston gives #25 (221.3) and 2018 1st (207.4)

This trade was a direct development of the previous two trades for quarterbacks. Houston, without any clear plan at quarterback, panicked after two QBs went early in the draft.  This is what happens when a team has most of the pieces to compete except for the all-important quarterback.  The Texans are hoping for a Dak Prescott-type performance from DeShaun Watson but the odds are against rookie quarterbacks succeeding in the first season.

For Cleveland, this is simply what the new management team does. The Browns trade down for great value and collect future high-end picks.  After taking Miles Garrett at number 1, Cleveland adds one of the more intriguing prospects, safety Jabrill Peppers, at 25.  Peppers is a tremendous athlete who can play a variety of positions at the NFL level.  Cleveland has time to develop and mold the former Wolverine into a true weapon.

Seattle gives #31 (203)

San Francisco gives #34 (170.3) and 111 (87.4)

John Lynch made day 1 of the NFL draft look easy. San Francisco pounced on the hammer-hitting linebacker, Rueben Foster, when he fell down the draft due to character concerns and a diluted drug sample at the NFL combine.   Lynch revealed Foster was a top-3 player on the 49ers draft board.  This is a perfect example of when trading up works.  San Francisco takes a moderate risk and gives up a little draft value for a high-upside player who could easily make up the value difference and a lot more.

The move also makes a lot of sense for the Seahawks continuing their strategy of accumulating mid-round picks for small drops in draft position. Seattle has massive holes on the offensive line and somewhat surprising, only one offensive lineman was off the board when the trade occurred.  Seattle moves back and is guaranteed one the top-4 offensive lineman on their board if that is the direction they choose.


Bio: Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

NFL Mock Draft: Picks 17-33+

Updated: July 16th 2017

We’re now less than a month away from the NFL Draft and hopefully you’re well into your rookie research.  I think doing a full 32 pick mock draft is a good, albeit time consuming, exercise for dynasty owners because it can help you identify the landing spots for the best offensive talent.  Hopefully, that offensive talent will feature prominently on your 2017 RSO team.  Below you will find the second half of the first round – to start at the top, click here (INSERT LINK)

#17 – Redskins – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

The Redskins had signed six defensive players in free agency by the time I wrote this piece so I don’t foresee them drafting defense in the first round.  I also don’t see them going for a WR because they have a fair amount invested in new signing Terrelle Pryor and 2016 first rounder Josh Doctson.  John Ross would be a good replacement for the departed Desean Jackson but I feel they’ll compare their WR and RB depth and go for Cook.  Cook did not perform well at the combine but his tape is spectacular, he could end up being a steal here if the tape doesn’t lie.

#18 – Titans – John Ross, WR, Washington

Ross comes with myriad injury concerns (both knees, shoulder) and they do worry me.  If it weren’t for them, his 40-yard dash at the combine alone would be enough to push him 6-8 spots higher in this draft.  Ross is a burner who would pair well with Tajae Sharp, Rishard Mathews and Delanie Walker to create a solid but under-the-radar receiving corps.

#19 – Buccaneers – David Njoku, TE, Miami

This was a surprise pick even to me, having Njoku go before OJ Howard, but I couldn’t talk myself out of it after I put pen to paper while doing my research.  The Bucs had Njoku in for a private workout and must have immediately realized the potential of having Njoku alongside Mike Evans in the red zone.  Howard is bigger and faster than Njoku, but Njoku can jump far higher (7.5″ higher vertical).  Njoku is young (just 20 years old, about 18 months younger than Howard) and started playing football later than most so he has room to grow, literally and figuratively.  Plus he grew up about 5 miles from where I live so maybe this is partly a “homer” pick.

#20 – Broncos – Garrett Boles, OT, Utah

The Broncos suffered a sack on 6.6% of drop backs which was the 8th worst in 2016.  Then they lost Russell Okung to the Chargers in free agency so they need a long term replacement.  I’m not sure that Boles ultimately is that franchise cornerstone LT, but at the least he will provide depth to a position of need.

#21 – Lions – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

Ezekiel Ansah is the freakiest of athletes but he needs help so offenses cannot constantly double team and chip him.  In 2016 the Lions only had 26 sacks, second worst, and only 2 of those came from Ansah.  Barnett was a three year starter for the Vols who had at least 56 tackles and 9 sacks.  He would help put a pass rushing threat opposite Ansah so offenses couldn’t key on him so much.  The Lions have addressed their defensive line in the past two years, taking 3 DTs, so they may feel that taking another lineman is overkill but they definitely need it.

#22 – Dolphins – Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple

I really struggled to identify the biggest need for Miami.  Ultimately, I decided to go BPA for them and that was Reddick for me.  Reddick really upped his draft stock with an impressive 2016 totaling 65 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and 1 INT.  He’s a stat sheet stuffer.  He did well at the combine, running the fastest 40-yard dash for a DE/OLB and was in the Top 12 for the other drills.

#23 – Giants – OJ Howard, TE, Alabama

As I mentioned above, I was surprised to have Howard fall this far after reading so much about him when doing my research.  I think the Giants would feel the same if they find him here at #23.  He is an amazing athlete for his size, no doubt.  He is 6’6 and 251lb and ran the second fastest 40-yard dash for a TE (4.51) and ran the best times in the 3 cone and shuttle.  My concern with Howard is that he is riding the wave from two massive performances on the national stage against Clemson in 2015 and 2016.  More than 18% of his career receiving yards came in those two games against Clemson.  What was even more surprising is that he only has 7 career TDs and 3 of those came against Clemson.  Don’t assume he must be a redshirt sophomore coming out early and just doesn’t have many games under his belt; he was a four year player who played in 46 career games.  When 2 of your 46 career games account for so much of your production, I have my eyebrows raised.  Those brief flashes of brilliance make Howard a 1st round pick at a position largely devoid of stars but I’m not going to be the guy reaching for him in my rookie draft.

#24 – Raiders – Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma

There is a non-zero chance that Joe Mixon goes completely undrafted due to his off the field issues.  Even though NFL teams have black balled other violent offenders, I think they will be enticed by Mixon’s combination of size, speed and pass catching ability and give him a chance any way.  The Raiders are courting Marshawn Lynch currently, but if that falls through expect them to grab Mixon here to replace Latavius Murray.  Despite splitting touches with Samaje Perrine, Mixon still amassed over 1,800 total yards and 15 TDs last season.

#25 – Texans – Jabril Peppers, LB/CB/S, Michigan

The Texans lost 168 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 7 INTs this offseason when LB John Simon, CB AJ Bouye and S Quintin Demps departed.  What better way to replace all of that production than with a versatile and dynamic player like Peppers?  None of Peppers counting stats jump out (just 3 sacks and 1 INT, all coming in 2016) but there’s no denying how athletic he is.  When he first landed in Ann Arbor in 2014 he started at CB but lost most of the season to injury, in 2015 he moved to safety and in 2016 he mostly played LB (oh, and RB, KR and PR).  He does not have a defined role which could be a problem for some coaches but I believe Bill O’Brien, of the Bill Belichick coaching tree, would find ways to make use of him.  The Texans were fourth worst in yards per kick return last year, so Peppers could help there immediately.

#26 – Seahawks – Kevin King, CB, Washington

The Seahawks love tall CBs.  Seven of the eight currently on their roster are 6 foot or taller.  The tallest of the bunch is Richard Sherman and as you’ve heard he is on the trading block.  Sherman is 6’3″ and 195lb meanwhile, King is 6’3″ and 200lb – a near perfect match.  Seattle should try to trade Sherman before the draft because once they take King, it will be obvious to the rest of the NFL that they have no intention of holding Sherman and will lose some of their leverage.

#27 – Chiefs – Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

When researching the Chiefs, I found one writer on Draftek.com who went back and looked at decades of their draft history.  He found that the Chiefs have not taken a first round QB since 1983.  They haven’t even taken one in the second round since 1992.  I think the time has come in 2017.  I believe Pat Mahomes is the best combination of talent, potential and value in this draft class.  His mechanics need work, he rarely throws with his feet set, but his arm strength and awareness are evident when you watch his film.  If needed to start tomorrow, Trubisky and Watson would be better choices, but the Chiefs still have Alex Smith.  Smith is a good-enough QB who can give Mahomes the time he needs to improve and mature.

#28 – Cowboys – Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky

The Cowboys should go the same route they did in 2013, when they took C Travis Frederick, and make a surprise pick by taking the highest rated interior lineman.  The Cowboys definitely need DL help too but I think they will forego that need for now.  Lamp was a tackle predominantly in college but projects more as a guard in the pros.  The Cowboys invested heavily in their OL from 2011-2014 using three of their four first rounders on linemen.  With a young backfield of Zeke Elliott and Dak Prescott to protect, there’s no reason to stop now.

#29 – Packers – Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

Ladarius Gunter was embarrassed by opposing offenses on multiple occasions last year so the team signed Davon House to try and stanch the bleeding.  House isn’t enough to vastly improve a passing defense that was in the bottom ten in most categories and was worst in passing yards per attempt.  Conley had 4 INTs last year and 8 passes defended which will definitely help.

#30 – Steelers – Zach Cunningham, OLB, Vanderbilt

The Steelers have lost LBs Lawrence Timmons and Jarvis Jones to free agency.  I was between Cunningham, Tak McKinley and Charles Harris for this pick.  I chose Cunningham because of his combine performance in the vertical and broad jumps which show his burst and lower body strength (even though they they beat him in the speed drills).  Cunningham is not a real threat to sack the QB (zero sacks in 2016), likely because of that lack of elite speed, but neither was Jarvis Jones (1 sack in 2016).  For me it’s all about Cunningham being a volume tackler (125, 10th most in the NCAA in 2016).

#31 – Falcons – TJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

You can’t go wrong with a Watt, right?  Watt is the best combination of strength and speed in the pass rushers remaining at this point and will immediately help what was a bad defense in 2016.  Watt ran a better 3 cone and shuttle drill than highly touted athletes Dalvin Cook and Curtis Samuel.  In the Falcons 4-3 system, Watt will probably slot in at DE rather than OLB but he likely has the ability to play anywhere in the front seven if needed.  My only concern on Watt is the sample size.  He played minimally in 8 games as a sophomore in 2015 (just 7 tackles, 0 sacks) so all of the hype is based off his 63 tackle, 11.5 sack junior season and his combine performance.  At this point there are other pass rushers with a longer track record (McKinley, Harris) but Watt gets the nod because of the bloodline.

#32 – Saints – Obi Melinfonwu, S, UConn

Melinfonwu would be a luxury pick for the Saints here at #32.  I’m not sure they need him but if he doesn’t go in the first round, he’s somebody teams will target with a trade at the top of the second.  Melinfonwu has moved up draft boards after a stellar performance at the combine.  He ran the fastest 40-yard dash among safeties (4.40).  He had the highest vertical jump (44″).  He had the longest broad jump (141″, best by a huge 9″ gap).  If he ran the 3 cone and shuttle drills, I bet he would have dominated those too.  Not only is he a great athlete but he is a tackling machine (118 tackles in 2016, 18th best and one of the few safeties on the list) who also had 8 career INTs.  Not a bad addition to a passing defense that was third worst per attempt last year.

#33 and beyond

These are the players whom I believe teams will be targeting at the top of the second round.  With the break between the first and second rounds, it gives teams time to re-evaluate their board and see what highly rated players fell to a point that they just need to snap them up.  Based on projected rookie contracts by Sportrac.com, the difference in total contract value for the #32 and #33 picks is about $1.6mil.  For comparison, that’s about the same difference as the value between #24 and #32.  So, there is real value at the top of the second.  There’s an RSO lesson here too… If you do your homework and have your own “Big Board” you can package picks together to move up to 2.01 and grab a first round talent at a steep discount.

  • Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State – I really wanted to find a spot for McDowell but didn’t.  He’s a huge space eater (6’6″, 295lb).  He isn’t much of a pass rushing threat but who needs to be when you’re that big.
  • Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama – Robinson is the best of the rest of the poor OT class.  I originally figured he would go in the first before I started but the value on many of the defensive players was just much better.
  • DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre DameI am not a fan of Kizer but others are.  I believe he lacks awareness and good decision making on the field.  However, he is big and fast and somebody is bound to fall in love and try to grab him and hope they can fix him.
  • Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss – Engram is the fastest of a fast group of rookie TEs but he is also the smallest.  He is “just” 6’3″ and 234lb.  I would not be surprised to see him play more on the outside and essentially transition to WR similar to how Devin Funchess did when Michigan realized he didn’t really have the size to be a pro TE (Engram is bigger though so it’s probably not going to be an official change).  Size wise, he is about the same as Jordan Reed but Engram ran a much quicker 40-yard dash (4.42 vs 4.72).  If you told a coach he could have a faster Jordan Reed without the long injury history they would jump at that.
  • Nate Peterman, QB, Pitt – Mel Kiper believes that the Texans might be interested in Peterman.  He’s brought it up on the First Draft podcast and worked it into his most recent mock draft.  I’m thinking there may be something he’s been told by a team official but he can’t just admit that.  No way should they take him in the first, but I think they could make a move up to pick #40 or so and grab him then.  With Romo retiring and Osweiler shipped to Cleveland, the Texans are left with Tom Savage.  As a Rutgers season ticket holder, I have first hand experience of what happens when you rely on Tom Savage.

**Note: When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability.  If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents.  Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com
  • Film: draftbreakdown.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, ESPN’s First Draft podcast, draftek.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

NFL Mock Draft: Picks 1-16

Updated: July 16th 2017

We’re now less than a month away from the NFL Draft and hopefully you’re well into your rookie research.  I think doing a full 32 pick mock draft is a good, albeit time consuming, exercise for dynasty owners because it can help you identify the landing spots for the best offensive talent.  Hopefully, that offensive talent will feature prominently on your 2017 RSO team.  I have included the first sixteen picks below, check back next week for the rest of the first round.

#1 – Browns – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Garrett is the consensus first overall pick and will be an instant impact on the Browns defense.  He was a starter for three years at A&M and produced each season (31 sacks, 47 tackles for loss).  His closest combine comparison over the last few years would be the Vikings Everson Griffen who started out slow his first three seasons but is now coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons.

#2 – 49ers – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

Thomas is a versatile DE who showed out in the Sun Bowl against Mitch Trubisky’s Tar Heels (7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 very important late sack).  He can move inside when needed and will give flexibility to a team that finished 2016 in the bottom half of sacks.

#3 – Bears – Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama

The Bears have other needs but will go Best Player Available (BPA) here and go for offense later.  Like Thomas, Allen is versatile and can get to the quarterback from either his interior DT position or from the end.  He had 22.5 sacks over the last two seasons.

#4 – Jaguars – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

The Jags signed Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson but neither is the long term answer, more like a stop gap.  Jacksonville was dead last in 2016 with just 7 INTs, meanwhile, Hooker had 7 himself with the Buckeyes last season.  He is coming off injury so he won’t immediately take over but should be firmly entrenched come midseason.

#5 – Titans – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

CB Jason McCourty is a UFA in 2018 so I expect the Titans to draft his replacement at #5.  They can take that luxury pick because they have the #18 where they can go for an offensive weapon for Marcus Mariota.  Lattimore is young, he’s only a redshirt sophomore, and only had 16 career games at Ohio State.  He would benefit from that time behind McCourty if they don’t push him into the lineup beside him right away.

#6 – Jets – Jamal Adams, S, LSU

I don’t believe any of this year’s QBs are worth the #6 pick so the Jets should go BPA and take Adams.  His stock has fallen slightly recently so he might still be available here rather than going in the Top 5 as was previously thought.  Many mocks have Fournette going here but with the serviceable duo of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell I don’t think they would invest this heavily at RB.

#7 – Chargers – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

I’m sure the Chargers would prefer safeties Hooker or Adams but they will likely miss out.  Instead, they will have to settle for the next best CB to help their secondary.  This feels like a great spot for a team to trade up and grab the first QB (I think the Panthers, Bengals and Bills are pretty solid with who they want and who will be available so don’t think those three would trade back) or for somebody to grab Fournette before the Panthers do.

#8 – Panthers – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Fournette won’t come into the NFL as much of a sure-thing as Zeke Elliott was last year, but he’s pretty close.  Dynasty players have been planning for Fournette for two years now.  The Panthers did just extend Jonathan Stewart’s contract but Ron Rivera has a history of using multiple RBs (i.e. Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert) so I don’t think that precludes them from taking Fournette.  I could foresee two seasons of a Fournette-Stewart combo that helps Cam stop taking so many hits on short-yardage plays and extend his career.

#9 – Bengals – Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama

The Bengals lost Karlos Dansby in free agency, signed Kevin Minter to replace him and still have Vincent Rey on the roster.  Foster totaled 115 tackles and 5 sacks in 2016, including 12 tackles and a sack in the championship game against Clemson.  Foster will instantly be the best ILB on the roster so this is a no-brainer.

#10 – Bills – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Personally, I have Williams ranked below Corey Davis but I’m not sure if most NFL teams would agree.  Now that he got his new contract, Tyrod Taylor will need some help; the Bills lost Robert Woods this offseason and Sammy Watkins is unreliable due to injury.  I also would not be surprised to see the Bills go for OJ Howard or David Njoku here and be the first team to start the run on TE.  Williams injury history (he missed all of 2015 with a neck injury) does worry me but he did return just fine in 2016.  He has a big frame that helps him catch off target passes which is good when you have an average quarterback.

#11 – Saints – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

Charlton is the biggest DE in the Top 100 or so prospects and had more tackles and sacks than Myles Garrett last year.  If Charlton’s 40-yard dash wasn’t so bad (4.92) he could have snuck further up the draft board.  The Saints were 28th in sacks last season and Charlton will help get pressure on the QB.  And, just think of the marketing possibilities with a guy named Taco.

#12 – Browns – Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC

If the Browns only had one pick in the first round, I don’t think they would use it on Trubisky.  However, to leave the first round with Garrett AND Trubisky is huge – that could set up the franchise for a decade to come if both hit.  Trubisky is a hometown guy (from Mentor, only about 30 min outside of Cleveland) and seems to be the consensus best QB in this class.  I don’t think Trubisky is good enough to start from Day One since he is so inexperienced but maybe since he doesn’t go #1 overall the Browns can be more patient.

#13 – Cardinals – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

We all know that the QBs will be drafted higher than their value warrants and I think this is the most “reach” of a pick thus far.  I don’t like Watson but he does have a championship pedigree and seems to have good leadership skills.  He won’t need to start at all in 2017, barring an injury to Carson Palmer, and that should help his long term prospects.

#14 – Eagles – Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford

Matt Waldman has compared Christian McCaffery to Brian Westbrook.  Eagles head coach Doug Pederson played with Westbrook on the Eagles in 1999 and was on the coaching staff at the back end of Westbrook’s career there so you’d assume there is some synergy there.  I still believe McCaffery is a better football player than a RB but given the lackluster options ahead of him on the depth chart (Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood), McCaffery could see significant time right away if taken by Philly.  McCaffery had a staggering 6,000+ all-purpose yards combined in 2015 and 2016.

#15 – Colts – Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

This OT draft class is historically bad as we have investigated.  In most years, Ramczyk would be the 3rd or 4th best tackle but this year he is probably the best despite being injured.  I would hope that by now the Colts brass are tired of Andrew Luck missing games due to injury or playing hurt and are willing to invest some draft capital to fix that problem.  Unfortunately this is not a more talent rich class at the position but that doesn’t mean they can just ignore the need.

#16 – Ravens – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Steve Smith has retired (presumably), leaving Mike Wallace (who was the team’s leading WR in 2016) and injury prone Breshad Perriman at the top of the depth chart.  Wallace is already 30 and is just not very good so to rely on him in 2017 is likely a mistake.  Enter Corey Davis who is a great route runner with a good combination of size and speed.  Davis is #1 on the all-time NCAA receiving yards list and is #2 in TDs and #4 in receptions.  Davis doubled, or nearly doubled, Mike Williams in most counting stats.  It shouldn’t be surprising that Davis’ numbers are better given that Williams missed 2015 but to see the stats doubled is surprising (Davis played 50 career games, Williams played 38).  He’s good and he’s the guy I’m targeting at the top of my RSO rookie drafts.

To be continued…

**Note: When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability.  If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents.  Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com
  • Film: draftbreakdown.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, ESPN’s First Draft podcast, draftek.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

NFL Combine Aftermath

Updated: July 23rd 2017

We take a look at some of the top offensive skill position rookies this week following the NFL combine. The article focuses on how individuals and position groups as a whole performed relative to perceptions prior to the combine and what that could mean for draft status.

Running Backs

PLAYER HGT WGT ARMS HANDS 40 225 VJ BJ 20S 60S 3C
Cook, Dalvin 5′-10″ 210 32.375 9.25 4.49 22 30.5 9′-8″ 4.53 DNP 7.27
Foreman, D’Onta 6′-0″ 233 31.375 10.125 DNP 18 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Fournette, Leonard 6′-0″ 240 31.625 9.25 4.51 DNP 28.5 DNP DNP DNP DNP
Hunt, Kareem 5′-11″ 216 31.375 9.625 4.62 18 36.5 9′-11″ DNP DNP DNP
Kamara, Alvin 5′-10″ 214 32.75 9.25 4.56 15 39.5 10′-11″ DNP DNP DNP
Mccaffrey, Christian 5′-11″ 202 30 9 4.48 10 37.5 10′-1″ 4.22 11.03 6.57
Perine, Samaje 5′-11″ 233 30.375 10 4.65 30 33 9′-8″ 4.37 11.71 7.26
Mixon, Joe * 6′-1″ 228 10.25 4.50 21 35 9′-10″ 4.25 7.00
Table 1: Selected Running Back Performances from 2017 Combine * Pro Day Results

Leonard Fournette confirmed his freakish size-speed status running the forty yard dash in 4.51s at 240lbs.  Other consensus top pick, Dalvin Cook, disappointed in most drills compared to pre-combine expectations spotlighted by agility and explosion drills near the bottom of the class. Players with this type of athletic profile rarely get drafted early and do not often succeed at the NFL level. It was the type of performance that will have evaluators reviewing film and watching his pro day carefully. Christian McCaffrey shined throughout the combine process highlighted by exceptional agility marks and ultra-smooth receiving drills.  The question remains what fit the Stanford Cardinal will play at the NFL level.  McCaffrey’s traits profile more as a slot receiver but his diverse skill-set should ensure a significant role wherever he lands. Joe Mixon’s off the field issues are well documented but he has the least on-field questions of any running back in this class.  The Sooner possesses prototypical size, breakaway speed, strong athleticism, and superb receiving skills.

Most analysts predicted the running back group as the strength of the 2017 rookie class coming into the season.   We seem to have more questions than answers after an underwhelming combine for the group.  There are few complete top end prospects without question marks and no one from the lower tier of backs really emerged from the combine as someone challenging the top-tier prospects.  The group is very deep with individuals of varying skills who should contribute to NFL teams immediately.

Wide Receivers

PLAYER HGT WGT ARMS HANDS 40 225 VJ BJ 20S 60S 3C
Davis, Corey 6′-3″ 209 33 9.125 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Dupre, Malachi 6′-3″ 196 31.5 9 4.52 11 39.5 11′-3″ 4.26 11.88 7.19
Jones, Zay 6′-2″ 201 32.5 9 4.45 15 36.5 11′-1″ 4.01 11.17 6.79
Kupp, Cooper 6′-2″ 204 31.5 9.5 4.62 DNP 31 9′-8″ 4.08 DNP 6.75
Ross, John 5′-11″ 188 31.5 8.75 4.22 DNP 37 11′-1″ DNP DNP DNP
Samuel, Curtis 5′-11″ 196 31.25 9.5 4.31 18 37 9′-11″ 4.33 DNP 7.09
Smith-Schuster, Juju 6′-1″ 215 32.875 10.5 4.54 15 32.5 10′-0″ DNP DNP DNP
Williams, Mike 6′-4″ 218 33.375 9.375 DNP 15 32.5 10′-1″ DNP DNP DNP
Table 2: Selected Wide Receiver Performances from 2017 Combine

Two top receivers, Corey Davis and Mike Williams, provided very little information at the combine.  Davis did not perform due to an injury and Williams did not perform in any running drills. John Ross and Curtis Samuel both blazed incredible forty times highlighted by Ross’ combine record-setting performance.  These are completely different players, however.  Ross will be utilized primarily as a lid-lifting deep threat whereas Samuel is more of a do-it-all player in the mold of Tyreek Hill and Percy Harvin with value in the receiving, rushing, and return game. Zay Jones turned in one of the more impressive all-around performances of any receiver, excelling across the board in every drill.

This class is shallow at the top of with very few players possessing the ideal size and athleticism of traditional high end receiving options from previous years. This group is in no way without talent, however.  The combine brought far more depth into view than many realized coming into the combine and should provide a large number of NFL contributors.  Many small school receivers including Jones, Taywan Taylor, and Carlos Henderson displayed NFL-caliber athleticism confirming their college production was more than just scheme-based against inferior competition.

Tight Ends

PLAYER HGT WGT ARMS HANDS 40 225 VJ BJ 20S 60S 3C
Butt, Jake 6′-6″ 246 32 10 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Engram, Evan 6′-3″ 234 33.5 10 4.42 19 36 10′-5″ 4.23 DNP 6.92
Hodges, Bucky 6′-6″ 257 32.5 10.125 4.57 18 39 11′-2″ 4.45 12.08 DNP
Howard, O.J. 6′-6″ 251 33.75 10 4.51 22 30 10′-1″ 4.16 11.46 6.85
Leggett, Jordan 6′-6″ 258 33.5 10.375 DNP 18 33 9′-6″ 4.33 12.06 7.12
Njoku, David 6′-4″ 246 35.25 10 4.64 21 37.5 11′-1″ 4.34 DNP 6.97
Table 3: Selected Tight End Performances from 2017 Combine

O.J. Howard cemented his place among the top tight end prospects.  He possesses NFL size, great speed (he matched Leonard Fournette’s forty-time weighing 11 more lbs), and he scored highest among tight ends in agility drills. Evan Engram produced a workout which would make most wide receivers jealous highlighted by a jaw-dropping 4.42 forty time.  Engram is the premier split tight end in this class and a matchup nightmare with comparisons to Washington star Jordan Reed common. David Njoku was considered the best raw athlete among tight ends pre-combine and his performance impressed.  The former youth high jump champion from Miami excelled in explosion and agility drills.  Only 20 years old, Njoku has room to grow both physically and learning the position. Bucky Hodges possibly raised his status more than any tight end with a great all around performance.  He routinely beat college defenders on jump balls and that explosiveness was demonstrated at the combine with tremendous best-in-position numbers in the vertical and broad jumps.

Overall, the combine boosted the tight end position to extraordinary heights. Already considered one of the strengths of the rookie class, many now think the position group is among the best in recent memory.  While the top tier of prospects certainly excited, there are intriguing prospects littered throughout the class.  6’-7” 278 lb behemoth Adam Shaheen from Division II Ashland played basketball in college and displays rare receiving skills for someone of his size.  Another example from a small school athlete, Gerald Everett out of South Alabama displayed dynamic hybrid tight end/ wide receiver skills throughout the year and at the combine.

Quarterbacks

PLAYER HGT WGT ARMS HANDS 40 225 VJ BJ 20S 60S 3C
Kizer, Deshone 6′-4″ 233 33.125 9.875 4.83 30.5 8”11″ 4.53 DNP 7.4
Mahomes, Patrick 6′-2″ 225 33.25 9.25 4.8 30 9′-6″ 4.08 DNP 6.88
Trubisky, Mitchell 6′-2″ 222 32 9.5 4.67 27.5 9′-8″ 4.25 DNP 6.87
Watson, Deshaun 6′-2″ 221 33 9.75 4.66 32.5 9′-11″ 4.31 DNP 6.95
Table 4: Selected Quarterback Performances from 2017 Combine

I questioned myself about adding athletic results for quarterbacks from the combine. The information provides limited useful data concerning quarterback evaluation except for those QBs who rely on rushing as a major component of their value (think Michael Vick and Tyrod Taylor).  The combine results tended to reinforce much of what was already known about the prospects. Deshone Kizer checks the physical boxes for a limited-mobility, prototypical-sized quarterback while Patrick Mahomes, Mitchell Trubisky, and Deshaun Watson displayed very good agility in a somewhat undersized frame.  The velocity data featured Mahomes’ (60 MPH) big arm with Kizer (56) and Trubisky (55) displaying solid NFL speed.  Watson’s (49) velocity is at the very low end ever recorded at the combine and the results of similarly measured prospects do not provide much hope for Watson at the NFL level.  Velocity is certainly not the primary trait concerning quarterback success but the lack of velocity will require a degree of decision-making, anticipation, and accuracy which has, at best, been inconsistent in Watson’s college career.

Overall, the combine did not really change the perception of the quarterback class. This is not a good year for NFL teams in need of a franchise quarterback.  In addition to Watson’s issues; Kizer (accuracy), Mahomes (mechanics, decision-making), and Trubisky (experience) possess at least one major red flag that makes each more of a project than an NFL player ready to lead  a franchise.

Overview

2017 is a far deeper class for offensive skill position players when compared with the 2016 class. Just three rookie running backs from 2016 received 150 touches and only 2 wide receivers garnered 100 targets.  Do not expect two rookies to lead the league in rushing again or any wide receiver to see the kind of production of the Saints Michael Thomas, but the talent is available in 2017 to double the number of rookies with the afore-mentioned volume numbers.  This class also contains the tight end talent to impact games in a way we rarely see from rookies at the position.


Bio: Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

Redrafting the 2016 Rookie Draft

Updated: October 9th 2016

As we’re about a quarter of the way into the 2016 season, plenty has changed since our rookie drafts this past summer.  Values have changed, injuries have occurred, and roles have been more clearly defined.  In hindsight there are many picks that we’re all proud of, but also some that we’re ashamed to look back on.  In this piece, I’m going to redraft the first round of a 2016 Rookie Draft assuming that it took place today.

#1.01 Ezekiel Elliott – RB DAL

2016: 94 car – 412 yards – 3TDs; 6 rec – 44 yards

Analysis: The consensus 1.01 pick throughout the off-season, Elliott has largely delivered on the months of hype that surrounded him.  He’s produced as the number one running back in Dallas, though he has been unluckily vultured at the goal-line a few times.  He’s been less involved in the passing game than I anticipated, but I expect his usage to improve over the next few years.

#1.02 Corey Coleman – WR CLE

2016: 7 rec – 173 yards – 2TDs

Analysis: Coleman, my choice for the 1.02 pick in the off-season, has flashed his immense potential in limited opportunities this season.  The Cleveland offense, headed by Hue Jackson, may no longer be a fantasy wasteland as Isaiah Crowell, Terrelle Pyror, and Corey Coleman have emerged this season as viable fantasy options.  Missing 4-to-6 weeks with a broken hand is unfortunate, but it doesn’t impact my long-term projection of Coleman.

#1.03 Will Fuller – WR HOU

2016: 19 rec – 323 – 2TDs

Analysis: I’m not afraid to admit that I was dead wrong about Will Fuller.  I had him outside of my top 10 and didn’t believe he would be nearly as versatile as he’s proved to be.  Not only a deep threat, Fuller is a weapon in all areas of the field.  His success is currently being limited by poor QB, but the sky’s the limit if Brock Osweiler improves.

#1.04 Sterling Shepard – WR NYG

2016: 20 rec – 263 – 2TDs

Analysis: Of all the 2016 rookies, I have the most shares of Sterling Shepard.  A very polished route runner, I expected Shepard to immediately make an impact especially in PPR leagues.  He has not disappointed and appears on a trajectory towards WR2 status for much of his career.

#1.05 Michael Thomas – WR NO

2016: 21 rec – 229 yards – 2TDs

Analysis: Through 4 games, the 6’3″ sure-handed possession receiver has performed well as many expected.   His quick emergence, as a WR3/WR4 in 2016, make him an excellent value on a 3 or 4 year RSO rookie contract.

#1.06 Derrick Henry – RB TEN

2016: 27 car – 97 yards; 3 rec – 50 yards

Analysis: After a very impressive preseason, I expected that Derrick Henry would be much more involved in the Tennessee offense than he’s been through four games.  Instead, DeMarco Murray has been a true workhouse, leaving little work for the rookie Henry.  In a year or two, Henry should take over the starting job in Tennessee and immediately join the RB1 conversation.  A true physical specimen with a unique combination of size and speed, Henry is one of the most athletically gifted RB prospects we’ve seen in quite some time.  This preseason, he even showed promise catching the ball out of the backfield.  If the Henry owner in your league is growing impatient, now’s the time to buy.

#1.07 Laquon Treadwell – WR MIN

2016: n/a

Analysis: Treadwell was widely considered the consensus 1.02 or 1.03 pick in all rookie drafts, but his value has dropped in the first month of the season.  He’s been a healthy inactive in several games and has seen very few snaps when he’s actually been active.  While the Vikings may want to bring their rookie along slowly, it’s very concerning that he can’t beat out Charles Johnson, Adam Thielen, Jarius Wright, and Cordarrelle Patterson for WR reps.  I’m still a believer in his talent, but red flags have been raised.

#1.08 Kenneth Dixon – RB BAL

2016: n/a

Analysis: Dixon’s expected debut in Week 5 has generated a great deal of buzz in the fantasy community as many expect him to quickly overtake Terrance West.  As a prospect at the draft, I was very high on Kenneth Dixon…love his speed, athleticism, and pass catching abilities.  The knee injury delayed his NFL debut and briefly suppressed his value, but that has now risen likely greater than it was in April and May.

#1.09 Josh Doctson – WR WAS

2016: 2 rec – 66 yards

Analysis: 2016 may end as a lost season for Josh Doctson, but all hope is not lost.  Assuming he enters the 2017 season healthy, he will have a great opportunity to earn a significant target share in Washington.  DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are both free agents after 2016 and it seems unlikely both will return.  

#1.10 Jordan Howard – RB CHI

2016: 35 car – 178 yards; 9 rec – 77 yards

Analysis: The most interesting aspect of Jordan Howard’s impressive start as a rookie is his usage in the passing game.  Largely considered a 2-down back after catching a total of 24 passes in 32 collegiate games, Howard seemed to lack the upside of more versatile backs but clearly that isn’t the case.

#1.11 DeAndre Washington – RB OAK

2016: 23 car – 147 yards; 6 rec – 37 yards

Analysis: Throughout the off-season we kept hearing that the Raiders weren’t 100% sold on Latavius Murray as their workhorse back.  DeAndre Washington became a fantasy sleeper soon after the NFL draft.  Though only 5’8”, Washington is a physical back that can run between the tackles, make a defender miss in space, and is adequate catching the ball out of the backfield.  He may be part of a committee in Oakland long-term, but committees are the new norm in the NFL.  Washington is clearly a talent that runs behind one of the best offensive lines in football.

#1.12 Hunter Henry – TE SD

2016: 10 rec – 153 yards – TD

Analysis: Hunter Henry looks like he may turn into what the fantasy community had hoped Ladarius Green would be.  Henry has produced in Antonio Gates‘ absence and has become a reliable target for QB Philip Rivers.

Just missed the first round:

Wendell Smallwood – RB PHI

Carson Wentz – QB PHI

Tajae Sharpe – WR TEN

Tyler Boyd – WR CIN

Braxton Miller – WR HOU

Devontae Booker – RB DEN

Malcolm Mitchell – WR NE

CJ Prosise – RB SEA

Paul Perkins – RB NYG

Dwayne Washington – RB DET

Let me know which of your rookie picks you’re most proud of – on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO!


Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each.  Follow him on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO