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Dynasty Football 2017 Rookie Preview

Dynasty Guru Rookie Ranks Preview

This being my first solo post for the Dynasty Guru I thought it only fitting to talk about rookies.  Rookies are easy to dream on – we have never seen them fail as professionals, so they offer hope for the future. Football is a young man’s game, which is why I believe in the merits of investing in youth, despite the inherent risk involved with trying to pick the right prospects. When investing in youth I like to diversify the risk between high ceiling moon shots (e.g. Kevin White) and safer, high probability players with lower physical ceilings, such as Sterling Shepard.

For each position group my goal is to list the top players to watch going into the draft along with some mid-round values. I’ll identify their realistic ceiling, floor, and where I expect they will get drafted. With all that said – the number one predictor of future prospect success is draft pedigree. That’s truer for some positions (wide receiver) than others (running back), but as much as we like to play scout and look at combine numbers, we’ll have much more clarity after draft day when the professional GM’s make their picks.

Quarterbacks

Draft Class overview:  

It’s been two years since dynasty owners have had legitimate potential superstars at the top of the draft (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota). If you weren’t thrilled by the 2016 class, then buckle up for this year’s load of “meh.” In recent drafts Derek Carr and Dak Prescott have once again shown that you can find value outside the first round. This would be the year I’d be looking to stockpile multiple mid-tier quarterback prospects as opposed to investing heavily in a single top option. Speaking of which…

Top Options:

DeShaun Watson:  Watson’s College Playoff performance appears to have reinvigorated the hype that could potentially end up with him being selected number one overall.  While he has all the athleticism you want he appears to be a long way from being a polished NFL quarterback.  The risk with Watson boils down to the 30 INTs he has thrown over his final two collegiate seasons.  His 67% completion percentage is good, but if you have problems with turnovers in college NFL defenders aren’t likely to be an easier obstacle.

Other Recent 1st Round Quarterbacks:

Player (Yrs as Starter) Completion Percentage Career INTs
E.J. Manuel (2) 66.9 28
Blake Bortles (2) 65.7 19
Johnny Manziel (2) 68.9 22
Teddy Bridgewater (3) 68.4 24
Jameis Winston (2) 66.0 28
Marcus Mariotta (3) 66.8 14
Jared Goff (3) 62.3 30
Carson Wentz (2) 64.1 14
Paxton Lynch (3) 62.9 23
DeShaun Watson (2) 67.4 32

If everything goes right Watson absolutely could turn into the quarterback everyone thought Robert Griffin would be after his rookie year. There’s substantial bust potential, which could lead to Watson becoming the quarterback Griffin has turned into (for comparison purposes, Griffin’s college completion percentage was 67% with 17 career INTs).  

Hope he gets drafted by: Cleveland could be an interesting option at 12.  With all their picks and a few interesting offensive weapons (Coleman, Crowell, and Duke Johnson), Watson would have more to work with than the 49ers or Jets currently offer and could grow with the Browns other high upside prospects.

Mitch Trubisky: If you are going to be a one year wonder Trubisky definitely delivered the one year, but it remains to be seen if he can sustain it.  Trubisky has a reputation as an accurate quarterback with decent arm strength and mobility (but I wouldn’t expect him to be true running threat in the NFL).  I see a lot of Alex Smith in Trubisky’s game as a guy who is solid and efficient but rarely puts up top 10 quarterback numbers.  In a two quarterback league I think he could be a decent second option, but I wouldn’t want to count on him as a starter in a 10 or 12 team league.

Hope he gets drafted by: Ideally Trubisky would drop to a team like Kansas City and sit for a year before taking over an offense with a solid offensive line and experienced weapons.  If he went to San Francisco or the Jets the pressure to play early could derail his career like Blake Bortles or Mark Sanchez.

Sleepers

DeShone Kizer has all the physical tools, but looks like a more of a long term project.  If everything breaks right he could end up as a Tyrod Taylor type of quarterback, but it will take some time.  Pat Mahomes comes from the Texas Tech offense that produced college superstars such as Kliff Kingsbury (now Texas Tech coach) and Graham Harrell. He is a better NFL prospect than both; in the right system he could develop into a Kirk Cousins type of quarterback.  My “deep” sleeper pick is Brad Kaaya from Miami.  He has the prototypical pocket passer size (6’4” 210), was a three year starter with solid stats, but could never overcome the Hurricanes dysfunction to take the leap into a top quarterback.  If he ends up in the right situation (maybe San Francisco or Houston in the middle rounds) I could see him developing into a solid starter over the next few years.

 

Running Backs

Draft Class overview:  

As underwhelming as the quarterback class appears to be, the incoming running back class is LOADED.  If you have been attempting the no running back strategy over the last few years this is the year to flip the script and grab a workhorse back.  Going through recent Mock Drafts I’ve seen four or five different backs projected as possible first round picks.  Coming off a strong season from the 2016 class we could see a renaissance of the 300 carry running back that you can build your fantasy team around for years.

Top Options

Leonard Fournette:  If you are looking for the next AP or Zeke this is your best bet.  He’s huge (6’1” 240), fast and has been slowly improving as a receiver (went from seven receptions in 2014 to 19 in 2015 to 15 in seven games during 2016).  As a bonus his injury plagued season resulted in a low college workload that should leave him fresh and ready to dominate in his rookie season.  His ceiling is right up there with Elliott’s and he is the presumed first pick in any rookie draft.

Hope he gets drafted by: In Carolina he could form an interesting one two punch with Cam Newton, but that could hold back his Touchdown upside.  As long as he goes to a team without a current superstar running back he should be the unquestioned lead back from day one.

Dalvin Cook: Cook is closer to the top spot than conventional wisdom would suggest and there is an argument that he is a better fit with modern passing offenses.  He has a reputation as a big play threat but he does have the size (5’11” 210) to be an every down back in the NFL.  I think that Cook is the clear second pick this year and he could have some Chris Johnson type seasons.  The downside is the weak side of a running back platoon in a Reggie Bush type role.

Hope he gets drafted by: I’d like to see him in Tampa Bay if Doug Martin is released.  Philadelphia and Indianapolis would be interesting as well.  In each case he would pair with a young quarterback and add a new dynamic to a developing offense.

Christian McCaffrey: McCaffrey probably has the highest floor of any back in this draft with his NFL bloodlines (Father Ed won a few Super Bowls with John Elway in Denver) and broad range of skills.  He showed off an explosive skill set at the combine, but may be a bit undersized (5’11” 202) to be a true workhorse.  If he can overcome the durability questions he could have some Ray Rice or LeSean McCoy type years as an running back who catches 70 to 80 passes and threatens 2,000 total yards.  The risk is his extreme college workload (748 touches over final two seasons) limits his effectiveness and he becomes a Darren Sproles like receiving back.

Hope he gets draft by: Ideally he gets drafted into a creative offense that will get him the ball in space as a receiver.  Kansas City, Green Bay or New Orleans would be ideal fits.

Alvin Kamara:  If you’re looking for a boom or bust prospect then Kamara is the guy.  Was recruited by Alabama as the fourth running back in the 2013 HS class, but never played a down due to injuries, suspensions, and off-field issues.  After spending a year at a community college he ended up at Tennessee and showed his high school skills were still intact in a limited role.  He has the prototypical size (5’10” 215), 4.5 speed, and receiving ability (74 receptions in two college seasons) to rank second or third on this list.  If he has put his past problems behind him his NFL production could quickly eclipse his college stats or he could be benched and out of the league before his rookie deal is done.

Hope he gets drafted by: Kansas City could be an excellent fit with an offense that would utilize his diverse skill set.  If he drops to round two, hope he falls to Philadelphia, Indianapolis, or Tampa Bay if they don’t select Dalvin Cook in round one.

D’Onta Foreman: The FBS leading rusher in 2016 would fit perfectly in the late 90s as a 20-25 carry back that wears defenses down.  He has excellent size (6’1” 233) and more speed and agility than you would expect, but his limitations in the passing game (13 career receptions) and ball security issues (six fumbles in 2016) could derail his career.  His ceiling is a two down back who threatens double digit touchdowns (think LaGarrette Blount, Alfred Morris, or Jeremy Hill) or he could end up as the unreliable touchdown dependent weak side of a two-back committee.

Hope he gets drafted by: Jacksonville early in round two would give him the opportunity to dominate early down touches and take some pressure off Blake Bortles.

Sleepers

If not for his 2014 assault arrest and other off-field problems Joe Mixon would rank right up with Fournette and Cook. He has all the tools (6’1” 228 with 4.45 speed) to be a superstar.  T.J. Logan was the breakout running ack at the Combine with a 4.37 in the 40.  He is undersized (5’9” 196) and didn’t dominate at UNC.  Look for him to find a role as a third down back.  De’Angelo Henderson was another combine star (4.48 at 5’8” 208), and he did dominate against lower level competition at Coastal Carolina.  Wayne Gallman had good college production (3,429 yards at Clemson).  He’s a physical back who would fit best in a one-cut, Mike Shanahan-type, system.  As a Pitt alum I have to mention James Conner.  He may not have the athleticism to be a starting NFL back, but if Alfred Morris can have three 1,000 seasons why not Conner.

 

Wide Receivers

Draft Class overview:

The 2017 Receiver class doesn’t have the sure-fire superstars in the Cooper, Jones,  Evans, or Beckham mold, but I expect a few solid starters to come out of this draft  If you drafted Doctson, Treadwell, Coleman, or Fuller to fill a wide receiver need last year you’re probably still looking so I’d suggest doubling down with a 2017 prospect as well.  

Top Options:

Mike Williams: We’ve seen two other Mike Williams drafted in recent history (USC version in 2005, Syracuse version in 2010), but I am confident the 2016 version will finally relegates those players to “Other Mike Williams” status.  The Clemson version has great size (6’4” 215) and the ability to contribute down the field as a deep threat.  He missed the 2015 season due to a neck injury and still has to develop a more well rounded skill set to become a complete receiver.  I like Williams to become an Alshon Jeffrey-type of big play receiver and expect him to threaten top 10 wide receiver status.

Hope he gets drafted by: Tennessee still needs a true number one wide receiver and the strong running game could help create one on one matchups down the field for Williams to exploit.

Corey Davis:  The all-time receiving yardage leader in FBS dominated throughout his four years at Western Michigan.  Over his last three seasons he averaged 88 receptions, 1446 yards, and 15 touchdowns, which is amazing against any level of competition.  He has a slightly lower ceiling than Williams, but appears ready to make an impact from Day One.  Davis profiles as Reggie Wayne or Anquan Boldin type of receiver who doesn’t have incredible speed, but is a just a good football player.

Hope he gets drafted by: Tennessee is the best case scenario for any pass catcher, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Davis fall to Kansas City where he could become the lead receiver in a year or two.

John Ross: After his record breaking combine performance it is tempting to place Ross at the top of the list, but we have enough examples (Darius Hayward-Bey, Coradelle Patterson, Ted Ginn, etc.) to warn that speed doesn’t instantly translate to success.  Ross had an inconsistent career at Washington due to injury (ACL injury in 2015) and was briefly moved to Cornerback as well.  If Ross proves the breakout is real then it’s exciting to think what a slightly bigger, faster version of T.Y. Hilton or DeSean Jackson could do to NFL defenses.  There is the significant risk he never develops the consistency to be a full-time starter and becomes a frustrating third wide receiver.

Hope he gets drafted by: If Al Davis was still around Oakland would already have his name at the top of their board, but I do like the dynamic he could add starting as a third wideout and taking over for Crabtree within a couple years.

Sleepers

Zay Jones and Cooper Kupp are smaller school prospects who have good size (both around 6’2” 200) and set reception records at the FBS and FCS level respectively.  While they get less hype than the top options it’s easy to see either ending up as solid secondary receiving options in the right offense.  Curtis Samuel was a gadget player at Ohio State, but he showed the ability to find the end zone when he got the ball (15 career rushing touchdowns and nine career receiving touchdowns).  If the right team finds a creative way to use him he could have this year’s Tyreek Hill type of breakout.  Dede Westbrook had a great senior season at Oklahoma, but projects as a more of a slot receiver in the NFL.

 

Tight Ends

Draft Class Overview:

After a bit of a dry spell of first round tight ends 2017 has two elite prospects and a few sleepers in the mid-rounds.  If you’ve been depending on Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker or Jason Witten pick one of the rookies and hope they develop over the next few years to take over as those players decline.

Top Options

O.J. Howard:  Howard has the Alabama pedigree and looks like the type of tight end you would create in a video game (6’6” 251 with 4.5 speed).  With all those tools there are questions about his lack of production; averaged 42 receptions, 599 yards, and two touchdowns over his junior and senior seasons.  Due to the physical demands of the position some tight ends take a while to develop so Howard may not make an instant impact at the NFL level, but you are patient he has the potential to develop into the top tight end within a few years.

Hope he gets drafted by:  Tennessee, New Orleans, or Denver would be ideal fits. Cleveland and Buffalo don’t have quite as dynamic offenses, but Howard would be less likely to be overshadowed and may develop faster with more offensive responsibility.

David Njoku: In most years we would be describing Njoku as the freakishly athletic tight end, but he is a step below Howard in measurables (6’4” 246, 4.6).  As a Miami alum the comparisons to Jimmy Graham are both lazy and warranted.  He fits the “power forward” type of tight end and excels in the red zone (eight touchdowns in 2016) due to his 37” vertical.

Hope he gets drafted by: In addition to the tight end needy teams mentioned above the New York Giants could be an interesting spot as they have a history of developing tight ends and Eli Manning is still talented enough to support multiple passing game options.

Evan Engram: Engram looks like a wide receiver in a tight end body (6’3” 234 with 4.4 speed) and had excellent production as a senior 65 receptions, 926 yards, and eight touchdowns.  He is a bit undersized to be a traditional tight end and needs to go to a creative team that will utilize him as a receiver while hiding his physical limitations.  Jordan Reed has shown this type of athlete can produce great numbers if utilized properly.

Hope he gets drafted by:  While it probably won’t be ideal in the short term I think the LA Rams would be an ideal fit with McVay having a history of developing this type of player and featuring a dynamic offensive system.

Sleepers

If it weren’t for an ACL injury in Michigan’s bowl game Jake Butt would have been in competition with Howard and Njoku for a first round pick.  You’ll have to wait a year, but he could be a solid tight end in the Brent Celek or Heath Miller mold.  Bucky Hodges is another oversized wide receiver at the tight end position (6’6” 257, 4.5 speed).  Hodges was recruited as a quarterback so he has reputation as a raw project, but had decent production at Virginia Tech (averaged 44 receptions 582 yards and seven touchdowns over three seasons).  As with Engram he needs to go to the right team that will develop him as a receiver while limiting his exposure as a blocker.

 

Offensive line

Draft Class Overview

Don’t forget about the lineman!  As we’ve seen teams like Dallas and Tennessee focus on developing first round lineman a solid front five can have a big impact on an offense’s output.  Most of the time we expect an running back to benefit from an improved offensive line, but with good protection an inconsistent quarterback can make a leap as well.  This class doesn’t have the top 10 talents of the last few years (Martin, Lewan, Conklin), but numerous teams could benefit by adding another solid lineman.  Garrett Boles, Ryan Ramczyk, and Cam Robinson profile more as right tackles, but I think each could have a positive impact on the running game.  Forrest Lamp is the top guard and could help stabilize the interior of an NFL line.

Hope they get drafted by:  Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, and Seattle could all use additional offensive line help.  I’d be more confident in each of the Running Back options if those teams can add a solid starter.  In addition, Russell Wilson would be set up for a bounce back season if he can get better protection as opposed to constantly fleeing from pass rushers.

The Author

Chris Flannery

Chris Flannery

2 Comments

  1. […] breaks down all of the incoming rookies that will have a fantasy impact in 2017 and beyond. – […]

  2. March 17, 2017 at 10:39 am — Reply

    You misspelled D’Onta Foreman. It’s also pretty clear that you didn’t actually watch him play and are going off a bunch of numbers you happened to see flash across the screen.

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