NFL Dynasty Rookie Draft Superflex Rankings 1.0 (Post-Combine)
Welcome to the first of what will be several NFL Dynasty Rookie Draft pieces. I’m Bryan Joiner, the new football editor over at TDG, and this is the first edition of my rankings. Let us rejoice, and draft receivers.
I’m starting small, with just the first round, because I’m not a college football guy. Wait, what? Am I not supposed to say that? Too late, but you should know that it doesn’t seem to hurt me come rookie draft time—it helps, if anything. Since I’m agnostic about players and teams, I’m focused only on projected NFL production and I’m not swayed by much else.
Anyhow I’m starting small, with my top 12 prospects for Superflex Rookie Drafts. I’m still learning about all these players, but I’ve had my eye on the first round for a long enough time that I’m as confident as I can be before the NFL Draft, which will necessarily change parts of this list around, perhaps even drastically. And just know I have the top 2 picks in my main league and 5 of the first 13, so this is not purely an intellectual exercise. The top two guys you see are the top two guys I’d take.
And that’s the main story of this year: It’s good but not great, with ample room for interpretation. I could see 3 or 4 these 10 guys going with the first overall pick, and beyond that, I could see this shanking out in virtually any order .I’m already guessing most of the quarterbacks I have listed will go higher than I listed them, but that’s not my problem. That’s everyone else’s problem. Don’t make it yours. Follow these rankings instead:
1. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
On the first draft of this list I had Willis at 7. Then I bumped him up to 6. After the combine, I initially put him at 2. Then, 20 minutes later, I just bit the bullet and put him 1. As someone who has the first two rookie draft picks in his main league, I’m currently taking Willis first and I’m done trying to talk myself out of it.
The lesson of the last few years of dynasty football is to draft and stick with the running quarterbacks. To wit, I didn’t draft Josh Allen, but during his rookie year I traded for him, and then traded Allen and two first round picks for… Sam Darnold. Lesson: learned. Take and keep the guys who run. Allen is a unicorn, but Jalen Hurts is not, and he’s a good fantasy quarterback whose only real problem is that he might not be a decent enough real one to start actual games, but as long as he does, he’s gold.
Some important context here is that I think your window should be a full season away at most, and you shouldn’t worry too much about whether the quarterback, in particular, is still going to be a star 10 years later. It’s cheaper and easier to roll with a find-and-replace system for QB2s than to try to find two long-term guys; the benefits someone like Willis brings can help you win a title during the Biden Administration what he’s doing in a decade. Long story short: value points now over points later.
It’s possible Willis is more Hurts than Allen, but I think he’s better than Hurts, and that being the case, he’s worth the risk because his floor as a starter should be extremely high. Beyond that, the Combine revealed that teams love his brain, too. While another quarterback in this class may end up being better for longer than Willis in real or fantasy terms, if nothing else, Willis will get you fantasy points as long he plays. Now imagine if he’s good!
2. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
There’s been a lot of talk about how there’s not a clear number one skill position player in this draft, but I disagree. Treylon Burks is my clear first choice, albeit not by much and in a class without a standout talent, but I don’t think that before the draft there’s a great argument for anyone else. Or at least I didn’t until the Combine, where he ran a not-slow-but-not-as-fast-as-hoped 40 under strange circumstances, but I’m going to hold my ground for now.
This isn’t a bold take, as he’s No. 1 in FantasyPros’ non-Superflex rankings, but I think the concerns about him—specifically, his catching and route-running ability—are akin to D.K. Metcalf’s were at the same point, and we know how that turned out. Lots of players are bigger, stronger and faster than their college competitors, but very few are obviously likely to be bigger, stronger or better than NFL defenses. Burks is one of them. Who cares if he’s not JaMarr Chase or Jordan Jefferson? Not me. Most people aren’t.
The only real question I have is whether or not he’s worth drafting over my top quarterback, even in an ostensibly quarterback-light draft, although I think the top quarterback could be amazing in fantasy, if not real life. It really depends on what you need, but if ever a wide receiver was going to go ahead of a quarterback, it’s this year and if anyone’s gonna be that guy, it’s Burks. All that said, the distance between picks 1 and 5 in this draft is almost negligible. Rankings are good for traffic because people love to argue about them, but I don’t hate any of the top 5 here at all.
3. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Yeah, I said it. The good news is that any of the next few guys could justifiably go in any order, and landing spots could and probably will shuffle the deck quite a bit. That said, I think Olave has the tiniest of edges on this spot, but your mileage may vary.
Most people have Olave’s teammate Garrett Wilson ranked above him, but some die-hard Buckeyes fans aren’t having it, and I’m inclined to believe them. Nor do I share the idea that Drake London’s skillset is better than Olave’s. By way of an purported compliment, Danny Kenny said on the Ringer NFL Draft Show that Olave could be a perfect No. 2 receiver, but I think that’s underselling it. I see an Antonio Brown-type game in Olave; I think he walks into pretty much any team as the No. 2 and goes from there. With the right quarterback, he could be an absolute monster. I think his game is a perfect mesh with the modern NFL and that he’s likely to be a target hog at all levels. The sub 4.4 speed is just a cherry on top, but it’s atop a stupefyingly delicious treat.
4. Drake London, WR, USC
I wanted to have London above Olave but I couldn’t pull the trigger. This is a personal preference call, and I prefer the smoothness of Olave’s game to the boxy, brawny tilt to London’s, but in the end it’s basically a 51/49 proposition. Again, the quarterback will make a huge difference and could push one considerably higher than the other.
What’s abundantly clear from the highlights is that London is going to catch touchdowns, and is going to be a reliable, big-bodied target, albeit one a little shorter than most people thought. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but his game doesn’t rely on blazing speed; he’s been comped to Mike Evans, which is a best-case scenario (which itself is more a compliment to Evans than a slight to London). The floor, I think, is incredibly high. In the right situation, he could eat. In the wrong one, he could be somewhat stranded, and that’s the pre-draft difference for me with Olave, who I expect to make an immediate and long-term impact basically wherever he goes.
5. Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
I’m not a huge fan of drafting running backs early in drafts, but I am a fan of making trades, and I understand that I am not the cosmos: Other people LOVE running backs. There are people who will pay through the nose for first-round backs for about 18 months following the draft, and the value proposition at the fifth pick would be too high for me to pass up on Hall, the consensus No. 2 pick overall per FantasyPros, for that reason alone.
(But seriously, For every Jonathan Taylor or Najee Harris there are five not Taylor or Harrises, and even Taylor split work in his first season, as does virtually every back outside of Pittsburgh. I’m just saying.)
Of course, landing spot plays an enormous role for running backs, so wherever Hall goes could mess with his stock quite a bit through no fault of his own. All that said he’s clearly the consensus situation-neutral running back in this class. Unless you prefer…
6. Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
Everything I said about Hall, with the relevant words changed, applies here. Landing spot will be everything.
7. Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
You get the point, but if you didn’t—which would be weird because it’s written just above this—landing spot is everything. These three guys stand to be moved around way more than the receivers after draft day.
8. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
If FantasyPros is any indication, you’re not getting Wilson at the eighth pick. He’s the consensus No. 3 for them, in the top tier with Burks and Hall, and ran a sub-4.4 40 at the Combine. So what’s my deal? Am I a hater?
In general, sure For this, I’m not, in theory, but when Ben Solak and Ohio State fans I saw on Twitter but can’t find now (sorry, it’s busy around here) above have questions about Wilson, they trickle down to me. Keep in mind when you read this that I’m still taking Wilson over all but one quarterback, and I don’t even fully expect that QB to return the value I’ve invested in him—I just want to ride the lightning on Willis.
That said, there’s brute strength (Burks) and technical skills (Olave) that obviously project to the next level, and then, from what I can gather, there’s Wilson, who’s fast but not overly huge or technically sound. It just feels like there’s considerably more projecting with Wilson than any other receiver in this class, and given the class’s general strength, he’d be below the running backs for me, and I’d be thrilled if someone drafted him ahead of me. I’d also be thrilled to get him eighth. I contain multitudes and no, I will not explain.
9. Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Fair is fair, and that being the case, it’s possible Williams has the highest upside in the entire draft outside of the receivers. He’s a burner, albeit one coming off an ACL tear, but unlike many rankings of these guys that doesn’t matter much to me. If he was healthy I’d have him in the same spot, for better or worse.
What does matter to me is that guys who are drafted as deep threats, weapons to “stretch the defense,” end up being used as dummies as often as they are used as actual weapons. In real football terms, Williams is probably the second- or third-best option for an NFL team, but a souped-up version of DeSean Jackson is still a souped-up version of DeSean Jackson. Even if Williams is great, he’s likely to be boom-or-bust great. That has value, but less value than consistent performance, and of course there’s always a chance he’s the guy who breaks the mold and the league… I just wouldn’t count on it.
10. Sam Howell, QB, UNC
Most people have Pitt’s Kenny Pickett above Howell, but I’ll take Howell, who’s two years younger and ran for 800 or so more yards than Pickett last year. Plus, he doesn’t have Pickett’s baby hands, which will become fodder for all types of jokes if he struggles.
The point is, this is still a Superflex draft and quarterbacks are still theoretically the main attractions, and I think Howell has a great shot to be the best of the bunch. I’d say Willis’s ceiling is way, way higher, but Howell is the safer play for the price and, I think, the safest of all the signal-callers at their respective prices. I wouldn’t take him until 10, but I wouldn’t begrudge you from jumping on him earlier. I’d just advise against it if you have other options.
11. Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Ritter and Howell are neck-and-neck for me at this point in the draft, and I could see them switching places depending on landing spots, but even after a successful combine for Ridder I’d give the edge to Howell just because of the running aspect. I get strong Andy Dalton vibes from Ridder for both association with Cincinnati and Dalton’s similarly impressive career at TCU, another lower-tier school, and I mean all this as a compliment rather than an insult–and it’s still probably an undersell. That said, early Andy Dalton was a guy you could use, and Ridder could be too. I wouldn’t expect superstar production, but ultimately you need to start two quarterbacks, and Ridder is a quarterback, so he’s a first-rounder.
12. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt(sburgh)
Fine, gimme baby mitts. If nothing else, I’ll flip him. But seriously: The hand thing does worry me, and no, I don’t think Joe Burrow is a fair comparison because he’s got small hands as well. Burrow was the best quarterback college ever for one season in the hardest conference in college; Pickett was good in his senior season at Pitt. The best thing going for Pickett is that whoever drafts him is going to play him, which gives you the chance to sell high after a good game, though I wouldn’t recommend waiting nearly that long to ship him out. Chances are he’ll go earlier than this in Superflex, and if he does, you should count your blessings. At 12, though, you could do far worse.
Good stuff. Appreciate the perspective relative to industry.