If there’s one thing you likely have learned during your time at DLF it’s that we love our rookie coverage. With the introduction of Dynasty Scouts in 2014, we knew that we could cover the incoming rookie class like no other fantasy site can. Combined with Devy (Developmental) league coverage, Dynasty Scouts is a key offering to help our members keep their fingers on the pulse of the incoming rookies in addition to the future stars of the NFL that still have at least a year of collegiate play remaining
This past weekend was all about the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. And as we do every year, all year, we’ve got you covered. The Combine is quite possibly my favorite event of the NFL season. To be sure, the NFL Draft followed by my own rookie drafts hold the same level excitement for me, but the Combine is where it all begins. Draft eligible players that I’ve been watching over the previous year get to shine on the field within their own individual spotlight, for better or worse. Following the Combine, I like to get my initial Top 50 Rookies up so that you can begin sorting through the stats, hype and movement as the off-season unfolds. As the days pass, you’ll see other DLF writers post their top 50 as well, so stay tuned!
First a couple quick notes about the 50 that I have ranked:
1) It’s VERY early. Every year I get the “How in the heck do you have Player X unranked or ranked so low?”. It’s early and the Combine doesn’t end my film review or analysis. Much work is yet to come.
2) Focus on the top 30 and go easy on me beyond that number. In most cases, those at the bottom half of the list haven’t yet had a tape review/assessment
3) Expect changes – often! Perhaps daily even as I watch film, rewatch Combine footage, or just can’t shake a feeling about a particular player.
Once again, you can find our Rookie Top 50 Rankings HERE. Let’s get to the discussion.
Tier one is the only one I will list on this early ranking as it’s the only one I’m comfortable with at this time. I can also say that I see very little chance of this tier shrinking and in all likelihood, it won’t be growing save the possible addition one potential player. Time will tell.
I can’t recall a draft quite like this before. The first tier has six solid players within and choosing the first overall is nearly an impossible exercise. Whether your team has needs at running back or wide receiver, this draft has something for you through pick six. Furthermore, I could make a case for any of the six within this tier as the headlining player, with relative ease. Find me another draft where the player at 1.06 is likely as valuable as the one occupying 1.01.
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1. Melvin Gordon, RB
2. Todd Gurley, RB
3. Amari Cooper, WR
4. DeVante Parker, WR
5. Kevin White, WR
6. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR
I can hear the groans and gasps already. Kevin White at #5? DeVante Parker over Kevin White? The running backs over the receivers? The Colossus at #6?
At this early stage of review, I do have Gordon slightly above Gurley and judging by the relative weakness of running backs in general, 2015 appears to be a very good year. Therefore, I am slightly elevating the value of the running backs over the volume of big receivers. NFL teams have turned the tables in the recent past, making first round receivers a much safer investment. When once considered a crap-shoot, a first round receiver is trending as a valuable selection in fantasy. Because of the existence of numerous higher quality receivers, I believe you can elevate the value of what appears to be two elite running backs. This is arguable, of course, and I may change my mind as I watch more tape.
At the top Gordon fits my mold of a NFL back more than that of Georgia’s Todd Gurley. That said, Gurley is a dominating presence who has performed for multiple years and is only 20 years old. Coming off an ACL however, there is unquestionably more inherent risk, there has to be. A big back seeking out contact will be at an increased risk of injury and backs only have so many significant lower leg injuries in them. The count has started for Gurley and he has had an ankle injury as well. Gordon’s compact 6’/215 lb. frame is built for getting small through the hole, phone booth agility and deflecting impact. His 4.52 forty is slightly disappointing but not to a degree such to cause a downgrade in value. Gordon and Gurley are different backs. On talent alone, Gurley ranks higher on my board but the injury flag combined with ridiculous vision and patience elevates Gordon. The Wisconsin effect combined with less receiving experience could slightly dampen his value and elevate Gordon by the time my rankings are final. Todd Gurley has been a coveted prospect since entering college and it may be unfair to downgrade him due to injury. More to come.
At the receiver position, it’s clear as mud. Kevin White ran an eye-opening 4.35 40 and, as such, has vaulted to the top of many draft boards. Amari Cooper’s fluid and mature route running are too good for me to drop him from my top receiver ranking but much like Melvin Gordon is different than that of Todd Gurley, so to is Cooper different from the other names below him within the first tier. The tape on DeVante Parker is too impressive for me to back away from him as my WR2 in this class. Parker’s hands, catch radius and elite high-point leaping are on display on nearly every touch. Even with Kevin White’s Combine performance, Parker still occupies my WR2 position. Dorial Green-Beckham (DGB) has been dubbed “The Colossus” within the hallowed halls of DLF and we hope the nickname sticks. If not for major character flags, he’d likely be sitting alone at the top. At 6’5″/237 lbs., running a 4.49 is impressive. Many scouts believe he’s the top receiver in this class, character problems aside. But with the flags, he’s not a player to gamble with given the five ahead of him.
7. Jaelen Strong, WR
The Arizona State product impressed me and while I was down on him heading into my tape analysis, I have to admit that he’s rising on my board. He won’t ascend into the top six but it would be a weak-seven to round out the first tier. In all likelihood, however, Strong will will stay in the seven to nine range on my board. At 6’2″/217 running a 4.44 40 was better than expected. He’s got strong hands but isn’t a natural and effortless hands-catcher. He can leap to high-point and is reliable. In the back half of the first round in fantasy drafts, he’ll be a high upside talent.
8. Jay Ajayi, RB
I was disapointed with Ajayi’s 4.57 40 but he’s not a speed back. He’s a hard-driving back with a good agility and the ability to lower his shoulder. While many have compared him to Marshawn Lynch, I think the comparison doesn’t fit. Ajayi is more fluid than is Lynch and has a level of finesse beyond Lynch as well. He possesses big 10″ hands, plucks the ball well when receiving and can pick up yards after first contact. He’s not quick to the edge and will need solid blocking at the next level. Ajayi has the upside and every-down ability that is increasing in value as running backs decrease, overall, in value as a position.
9. Sammie Coates, WR
Coates is likely the player that stands to fall the most in my rankings, at least out of the top ten. He turned in a fine Combine performance but doesn’t have the production or consistency that you want as a first round fantasy selection. He dropped nearly 20% of passes at Auburn and is somewhat one-dimensional. But he’s got the size (6’1″/212) and speed (4.43) that are intriguing. I don’t favor receivers that weren’t able to put it all together in college and Coates at my #9 looks tenuous at best.
10. Breshad Perriman, WR
Good multi-speed receiver who couldn’t run at the Combine. Will take a lot more tape review but could rise on my board. Hands can be a bit inconsistent.
11. Duke Johnson, RB
I’m trying to be a fan but I’m having a hard time getting to where I need to be with Johnson. His 4.54 50 was disappointing but he’s a quicker-than-fast back. Has fumbling issues and doesn’t appear to be an every-down player. In the mold of C.J. Spiller or Giovani Bernard, he’s got potential but backs with “potential” are now falling in fantasy.
12. Ameer Abdullah, RB
Much like Duke Johnson above, Abdullah is a quick-twitch back who makes his name in the open field. Of extreme character, he’ll be a coveted addition in the NFL but will need the right offense to be productive. His small (8 5/8″) hands are a concern and, to wit, he fumbled 13 times as a Cornhusker. There’s a lot of work ahead for Abdullah but there’s a lot of upside as well.
13. Tevin Coleman, RB
14. TJ Yeldon, RB
15. Devin Funchess, WR
Coleman was my early #4 player in this draft. More tape review and an injury later and he’s fallen out of my top ten. He’s a long speed back with questionable inside ability but has the frame to add weight and strength. Yeldon has potential and I still feel he’s been slightly overlooked. His 4.61 40 won’t help his situation and it’s hard to make a big case for him as an every-down back with that speed. I expected to see more leg drive and power out of this 226 lb. kid. Much like Duke Johnson, Yeldon’s fumbles are concerning.
Devin Funchess is an interesting case study. A receiver/tight-end tweener, his 6’4″/232 lb. frame could only muster a 4.70 40 which will drop his draft stock. As a tight end, Funchess should be a match-up nightmare and have a shorter path to a starting roster. Funchess is one of those players that may rise or fall three or four positions on my rankings when it’s all said and done.
16. Jeremy Langford, RB
Langford has long been my favorite sleeper of 2015 and he blew up the Combine. Running a 4.42 40 at 208 lbs. helped his draft stock but he’ll need to show that he can get stronger if he wants to be an every-down player. He’s not an inside contact runner but should he develop the toughness and carry more weight, he’s got the speed to give and the hands to be an every-down player. Seems to lack that drive or commitment at times and may be comfortable with just “good enough”. If the light switch comes on, however, look out.
17. Jameis Winston, QB
The first quarterback ranked could rise on my board as time goes on. I am favoring true pocket passers to a great degree and Winston needs to be the first slinger taken. Marcus Mariota (16) has potential and the agility to provide a spark to any offense but he needs time to mature. Winston is said to possess a big football IQ, is a big presence in the pocket and has a gifted arm. Likely to be taken first overall by Tampa Bay, there’s a case for Winston to rise into the first round of fantasy drafts.
18. Marcus Mariota, QB
Winston overtook Mariota on my top 50 due to his high football IQ, prototypical size and arm strength. This is not to say that Winston and Mariota are overly different physically, but when in the pocket, they do possess different tendencies and abilities. With mobile quarterbacks taking a hit in fantasy value of late, look for Mariota to slide and Winston to, perhaps, hear his name called in fantasy first rounds time and again.
19. Phillip Dorsett, WR
Dorsett is your typical DeSean Jackson or John Brown slot receiver sort. Unlike Jackson, Dorsett’s future likely remains as a slot receiver and movement laterally into space or angularly to get beyond the secondary. In the right offense, Dorsett could pile up yardage but his 185 lb. frame is slight and small receivers don’t often make for quality fantasy starters.
20. Javorius Allen, RB
A bit of a single speed, single dynamic runner that has good size for the NFL. Runs very high and will subject himself to big hits in the NFL. Would like to see him run more like Jeremy Hill given his size but his upside seems rather limited. Fair hands and should get a chance at the next level.
21. Chris Conley, WR
I want to be excited but I’m very cautious about workout warriors. He doesn’t look that much different than Stephen Hill to me, at least when considering his Combine. More tape review coming.
22. Mike Davis, RB
Whenever I watch Davis, I see Michael Turner, a back that was too stout, in my opinion, to truly be a feature back. In the end, I was very wrong and Davis has that similar size to prove me wrong again. He’ll need a down-hill one-cut scheme but his hips will limit lateral agility and angular elusiveness. I would prefer to see him not add much weight given his 5’9″ frame.
23. Maxx Williams, TE
I’m not in love with Williams nor am I confident in his #23 ranking. Until I see more tape, I’m leaving him here as the top tight end in the class. His 4.78 40 was slower than expected and he’s got room to add weight as long as it doesn’t negatively impact his speed. Has huge (10 3/8″) hands and shows well in the open field. He’s not overly dynamic or sudden in his routes but he’s a reliable target with upside.
24. David Johnson, RB
Johnson had a great Combine and has three-down ability should he develop. The ability to receive the ball through the air and the body to take punishment provides a rare combination of upside variables. At 6’1″/224 lbs., Johnson isn’t overly dynamic as a runner and reminds me a little James Starks in Green Bay. He’s a downhill runner with limited quicks but has the character and demeanor to compete.
25. David Cobb, RB
Cobb ruined his quad on his first 40 attempt and had to withdraw from the Combine. He reminds me of a Alfred Morris type of back with pure downhill ability. Not elusive or skinny through the line of scrimmage but does a great job of picking up yards and delivering toughness late in games. He’s a fluid back and does have some angular ability.
26. Cameron Artis-Payne, RB
Better than advertised and with a good NFL body at 5’10″/212 lbs. A little stiff.
27. Devin Smith, WR
He’s a fast riser in NFL circles but looks very one dimensional to me, like a more dynamic/quicker Mike Wallace.
28. Brett Hundley, QB
The more I see of Hundley the more I think he could be a steal in the early rounds of the NFL draft or the third round of fantasy drafts. He can make all the throws and looks the part but regressed after electing to stay in school last year.
29. Nelson Algholor, WR
His 4.42 surprised me as he doesn’t appear that fast on tape. He works well in space due to his quickness and seems to possess a good receiver IQ. Reminds me a little of a young Greg Jennings.
30. Michael Dyer, RB
I watched as both Dyer and Marcus Lattimore came out of high school as top prospects. Dyer went on to have major issues and transferred from Auburn while we all know the story of Lattimore. He’s your typical 5’8″/218 lb. one-cut compact runner. Tight in the hips and one dimensional but runs with a good pad level and with a degree of toughness.
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