About a year ago (following the conclusion of the 2014 NFL Draft), I continued my new traditional article predicting what dynasty rookie drafts might look like a year in the future. This has become one of my favorite articles to write each year in a season full of enjoyable topics.
With the 2015 NFL Draft and dynasty rookie drafts inching ever so closer, it’s time to look back on that mock that is nearly a year old now. In the past twelve months, we’ve learned much about these specific prospects and the picture is much clearer now.
Note: The current projected draft position is based on the rookie ADP collected by DLF’s Scott Fish.
Todd Gurley, RB Georgia
Projected Draft Position: 1.01
Current Projected Draft Position: 1.01
If I told you a running back prospect dealt with some off-field eligibility issues and then returned only to suffer a torn ACL, you’d probably be sure to avoid that player in your rookie draft. That is not the case with running back Todd Gurley, who is being called the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson and is now rumored to be a top ten NFL Draft pick, despite the knee injury.
Gurley is certainly supremely talented and feels like a can’t miss prospect. Combine the fact that there are so many running back needy teams where he could excel quickly and Gurley has been a popular choice at the top of rookie drafts and mocks.
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Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin
Projected Draft Position: 1.02
Current Projected Draft Position: 1.05
Former Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon is an interesting case study in prospect value. He’s been considered a top two running back in a deep class of potential every down NFL runners, yet he’s seen his value take a dip over the past few months. For many early on in the 2014 season, there was a constant discussion of which back- Gurley or Gordon- deserved to be the top pick in dynasty rookie drafts. Once Gurley missed some time due to suspension and injury, Gordon’s case became even stronger. Yet, once the season concluded in January, dynasty owners began to poke holes in Gordon’s game and the love affair with young wide receivers has pushed Gordon down draft boards.
Gordon did everything he possibly could to show dynasty owners he is both a reliable and electric runner who could be an instant top 12 running back in the NFL. If you’re able to land him in the mid-first round of your rookie draft, enjoy it.
Amari Cooper, WR Alabama
Projected Draft Position: 1.03
Current Projected Draft Position: 1.02
Much like Gordon, Alabama wideout Amari Cooper did his part to maintain the lofty projection I made about his dynasty value a year ago. Cooper led the nation in receptions and was second in receiving yardage, even on a Crimson Tide team that ran it early and often. Cooper is being challenged by former Mountaineer Kevin White for the top receiver spot, but regardless, he will be a top three pick in most rookie drafts.
Mike Davis, RB South Carolina
Projected Draft Position: 1.04
Current Projected Draft Position: 2.11
South Carolina running back Mike Davis is a player who has lost a ton of value in the past year. While I am not on board with taking Davis in the first round of rookie drafts, and certainly not at this lofty spot I previously projected, I am a bit confused about his huge drop off in recent months. Yes, Davis did see a decline on nearly all rushing statistics from his sophomore to his junior season, but I don’t think that equates to nearly falling into the third round of rookie mock drafts.
I think the plunge can be traced back to a couple of factors. First, the aforementioned wide receiver crush that is currently taking over a large majority of dynasty leagues and that is not Davis’ fault. Secondly, I think many dynasty players realized that Davis is not the dynamic back they would need him to be in order to spend a first round rookie pick to acquire. Davis has been described as a plodder, and although I don’t think that’s accurate, he’s not been heavily involved in the passing game and can’t match the agility scores posted by smaller, faster backs.
Karlos Williams, RB Florida State
Projected Draft Position: 1.05
Current Projected Draft Position: 4.07
One of my biggest misses in last year’s is former Seminole running back Karlos Williams, who was set to take over the Florida State backfield entering the 2014 season. Williams, a former defensive back who was deemed expendable enough at that position that the coaching staff moved him to running back, also failed to set himself apart there, even when handed the starting job. After continued poor play, Williams was overtaken by freshman Dalvin Cook, who looked infinitely better out of the backfield than Williams.
At this point, it would not be a surprise if Williams went undrafted in the NFL Draft, and possibly dynasty rookie drafts as well. I’m currently willing to take a shot on him in the late rounds of a draft, but that won’t take away the sting of being so wrong this time last year.
TJ Yeldon, RB Alabama
Projected Draft Position: 1.06
Current Projected Draft Position: 1.10
You might not remember this, but two years ago, devy owners were stuck in a heated debate about which SEC running back was the better player, Gurley or Alabama’s TJ Yeldon. Both were coming off amazing freshmen seasons and expectations were sky high for the future. While Gurley continued to dominate the SEC, Yeldon stumbled. Yes, he improved on his freshman campaign based on rushing statistics, but he was losing carries in critical situations and his value was taking a hit, hence my mid-round projection.
While Yeldon’s current ADP is even lower than I predicted this time last season, I was impressed by his junior year. While Derrick Henry led the Crimson Tide in rushing, Yeldon showed some versatility and gave dynasty owners hope. In the late first or early second rounds of a rookie draft, he’s a solid value.
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR Oklahoma
Projected Draft Position: 1.07
Current Projected Draft Position: 1.06
Much like Gurley, the past year has been a difficult one for receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. At the time of last year’s rookie mock draft, he didn’t even have a team to call his own as he’d been booted from the Missouri Tigers and was in search of a new college team. He eventually landed with the Oklahoma Sooners, though it was clear from the start that he would likely never see the field. After an appeal was rejected, Green-Beckham was left to practice with the team and attempt to rehabilitate his NFL (and dynasty) value.
It can be argued that he has done just that, mainly by staying out of trouble. Green-Beckham is being mentioned by some as a first round NFL Draft pick, though that still seems to be a long shot. Instead, he’ll likely be selected on the draft’s second day and is a near lock to go in the top half of most rookie drafts. Green-Beckham carries a lot of risk, but has the talent that could reward dynasty owners willing to take a shot.
Devin Funchess, WR Michigan
Projected Draft Position: 1.08
Current Projected Draft Position: 2.08
Michigan’s Devin Funchess played his junior season at wide receiver, after making the switch from move tight end following his productive sophomore season. While Funchess easily led the team in receiving, he struggled with drops and gaining separation. Add in the fact that many seem confused on which position he’ll actually play on Sundays and he’s seen his dynasty stock fall in a big way.
Funchess has drawn many comparisons to last year’s rookie Kelvin Benjamin, who also had dynasty owners confused on what to expect from him. As we now know, he led the Carolina Panthers in receiving yards and touchdowns and became the go to option for Cam Newton. I’m still grabbing Funchess, but not in the first round, and it seems most would agree with that assessment.
Jameis Winston, QB Florida State
Projected Draft Position: 1.09
Current Projected Draft Position: 2.05
I should’ve learned this lesson from previous years writing this article, or my many years of playing in dynasty leagues. Quarterbacks rarely are selected in the first round of typical dynasty leagues. Coming off an undefeated and National Championship season, I though Jameis Winston could be the exception to the rule.
While he maintained his NFL value and it appears he will be the top player selected Thursday evening, his dynasty value has settled in as a mid second round selection in rookie draft, about where we see most top quarterbacks drafted each year.
Winston also gave dynasty players and NFL fans reason to doubt his future considering his continued poor decision making off the field, including shoplifting and a sexual assault accusation. If his presumed landing spot of Tampa Bay does in fact play out, I think dynasty owners will be willing to forget the past and focus on the future with Winston throwing passes to big targets like Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Jay Ajayi, RB Boise State
Projected Draft Position: 1.10
Current Projected Draft Position: 1.07
Former Boise State running back Jay Ajayi is one of the few players in last year’s mock that has actually gained some value in the past season. Ajayi again dominated as a runner, gaining a career high 1,823 rushing yards. What has boosted Ajayi’s value for dynasty owners is his involvement in the passing game.
This time last year, that was a huge question mark about Ajayi and one that needed to be answered before dynasty players spent a first round rookie pick on the back. Ajayi stepped up and Boise State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford changed things up in order to get his backs more involved catching passes. Ajayi more than doubled his careers numbers entering his junior season with 50 catches for over 500 yards and four touchdowns. This could be enough to make him the third back off the board on draft weekend and a first round rookie pick in dynasty leagues.
Stefon Diggs, WR Maryland
Projected Draft Position: 1.11
Current Projected Draft Position: 3.04
Along with Williams, it’s Maryland wideout Stefon Diggs who has seen his value fall off the most of the dozen players I’d tagged as potential first round dynasty rookie picks. Diggs did lead the team in receiving, despite missing three games due to injury, but he’s developed a reputation as a player with an attitude problem and a growing injury history. I won’t be at all surprised if Diggs slips even further than his current rookie ADP of 3.04.
Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon
Projected Draft Position: 1.12
Current Projected Draft Position: 2.04
I basically admitted quarterback Marcus Mariota being taken in the first round of rookie drafts this season was unlikely, but he looked like a safe bet to be a highly sought after fantasy asset, and that remains the case.
The pipe dream of Mariota being reunited with head coach Chip Kelly in Philadelphia is alive and well, for now. That is one landing spit that could actually allow Mariota to sneak into the late first round of rookie drafts. For now, he, like Winston, looks to be a solid mid second round rookie pick.
Who Did I Miss?
Of the current top 12 rookies, based on DLF Rookie ADP, I had included six of them in last year’s mock draft. Obviously, that means I was wrong on six players as well. Those players I left out include:
- Kevin White, WR
- DeVante Parker, WR
- Jaelen Strong, WR
- Breshad Perriman, WR
- Ameer Abdullah, RB
- Nelson Agholor, WR
Parker, Strong and Agholor were all listed as near misses in last year’s first round, so they were clearly on the radar. Strong seasons from each have vaulted them into first round consideration.
I’m still not a strong believer in Abdullah, but his impressive senior season, along with his performance at the NFL Combine has vaulted him into first round consideration.
Finally, I, along with pretty much everyone else, missed on wide receivers White and Perriman. White dominated college football in 2014 and vaulted himself to the top of rookie drafts and in the conversation with Cooper to be the top wideout taken in the NFL Draft and dynasty rookie drafts. Perriman didn’t get a lot of attention during the 2014 season and then wasn’t able to participate in the Combine. Despite that, he’s been mocked as a first round pick in the NFL Draft and ranked among the top ten on Mel Kiper’s big board.
Looking back at these twelve prospects who were once highly regarded reminds me how quickly things can change, not only in the NFL, but even for pre-NFL players. I’ll be back soon with a Flash Forward 2016 Rookie Mock Draft and I can’t wait to see all of the changes over the next calendar year!