The arrival of NFL Draft season brings with it many things that we as dynasty owners thirst for including transactions in the NFL and our own dynasty rookie drafts. As we dive into our rookie drafts, it is our nature as dynasty players to compare the current crop of rookies to the previous year as a way to gauge the potential value of draft picks and the players they will soon become. Another exercise many complete as during a rookie draft is to look forward to the rookie class a year down the road. This is often done as owners contemplate trade current picks for future value.
With this in mind, I thought it would be a fun exercise, and hopefully a useful tool, to rank the past two rookie classes, along with the potential rookie class of 2016, from a dynasty perspective.
My ranking methodology will be simple. I’ll rank my top 75 players from the rookie classes of 2014, 2015 and 2016 as I value them today. This means the potential rookies from 2016 are at a bit of a disadvantage since they are a year away from an NFL roster and are of course, more of an unknown asset. Ranking this same group on talent alone without factoring in team situation or NFL Draft position would look quite different. Also, as often as I make adjustments to my rankings, things could change quickly by the time this series concludes. Finally, I will admit if I performed this task ten more times, I would come up with ten differing lists.
In this edition, I’ll complete the series by ranking the top 25 players of the past two classes, along with the potential class of 2016.
- D’haquille Williams, WR AUB
Auburn’s D’haquille Williams has been a favorite of mine since I first discovered the former JUCO wideout. I expected Williams to follow the Cordarrelle Patterson path of JUCO to SEC powerhouse to NFL in succession, but Williams chose to return to school after he had some late-season trouble, which resulted in a suspension for the team’s bowl game. Williams should be a dominant force in college football during his senior season, but he will also be older than most of his peers in the 2016 NFL Draft, which we have found can be a predictor of future fantasy relevance, or lack there of.
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- Corey Davis, WR WMU
I was aware of the talent of Corey Davis, small school receiver and brother of current rookie Titus Davis, but it was my cohorts Nick Whalen and Jon Moore who truly turned me into a believer in Davis. Praised specifically for his route running, Davis can really do it all. It his has only been his lack of presence in the national spotlight that has kept him lower in devy rankings thus far, but expect that to change.
- Mike Williams, WR CLEM
Yet another college receiver and yes, yet another Mike Williams. Hopefully the Clemson version will have better results than the USC and Syracuse varieties of years past. With recent success of DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, Clemson is quickly developing a reputation for churning out pass catchers, and along with Artavis Scott and Deon Cain, Williams will see plenty of targets from quarterback Deshaun Watson.
- TJ Yeldon, RB JAX
I loved watching running back TJ Yeldon as a dominant freshman back for Alabama. While his next two years featured up and down play, that’s come to be expected in the always-crowded Crimson Tide backfield. Now, Yeldon has landed in a young NFL offense in Jacksonville, where he should see all the carries he wants following the disappointing year from Toby Gerhart. It would be no surprise if Yeldon is an every down back from day one and with that opportunity will come an increase in dynasty value.
- Dorial Green-Beckham, WR TEN
I believe in the talent of rookie receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, but that’s where the love affair ends. His documented off-field issues are obviously a concern and even with highly ranked quarterback Marcus Mariota throwing him the ball, landing with the Titans is clearly not the ideal situation for a potentially elite receiver.
- Kelvin Benjamin, WR CAR
Since he entered the league over a year ago, it’s been trendy to knock Panthers’ receiver Kelvin Benjamin. His age, weight, route running and drops have all opened him up to criticism. In the end though, his production during his rookie year speaks volumes and unless rookie Devin Funchess surprises us with a huge season, Benjamin is in for another strong year as Cam Newton’s top target.
- Derrick Henry, RB ALA
While the rookie class of 2015 has been viewed as the saving grace for the running back position as a whole, next year’s rookie class has a lot to offer as well and one of the best is Alabama’s Derrick Henry. I mentioned Bama’s constant running back depth earlier and while they have restocked again with high school All-Americans, the 2015 season should be Henry’s to dominate. I have Henry penciled in as a top four rookie pick for 2016 drafts.
- Nelson Agholor, WR PHI
A pair of rookie wide receivers has seen their value rise in a huge way since the end of the college football season and the first of those is Nelson Agholor. Already a favorite of many fantasy analysts, Agholor was the first round selection of the Philadelphia Eagles, instantly boosting his value, as he will play under offensive guru Chip Kelly. With the departure of Jeremy Maclin, there are plenty of targets available and Agholor is sure to claim many of those.
- Davante Adams, WR GB
Packers’ second year receiver Davante Adams has been one of the most talked about players of the off-season and his actual value is in dispute by many. Presumably playing behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb certainly limits his short-term opportunity, but I’m still a big believer in Adams’ talent and that hasn’t changed.
- Breshad Perriman, WR BAL
Breshad Perriman is the second rookie receiver to experience a huge value jump, along with Agholor. No one had Perriman pegged as a first round draft pick in the winter and not only was Perriman selected on day one of the draft, but he also landed with the Baltimore Ravens where targets will be plentiful. With that opportunity, I expect Perriman’s value to rise even higher as the 2015 NFL season begins.
- Tyler Boyd, WR PITT
There is a lot to like about the potential rookie class of 2016 and one of my favorites is Pittsburgh receiver Tyler Boyd. Although Boyd has a slight frame, he’s proven to be a big time playmakers for Pitt and has first round upside when it comes to the NFL Draft. Boyd was recently popped for driving under the influence and with the depth of the 2016 class that could be enough to push him down the ranks. He’ll need to overcome that transgression with his play on the field.
- Ezekiel Elliot, RB OSU
I already mentioned one of the potential early rookie picks among the 2016 running backs in Henry, but the jewel of the class appears to be Ezekiel Elliot, who broke out for National Champion Ohio State last season. After a productive freshman season, I’m not sure anyone projected Elliot to take off like he did, finishing with three consecutive games of 220 or more rushing yards, and those came against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon. If Elliot picks up where he left off, this ranking will actually be underrating his dynasty value.
- Melvin Gordon, RB SD
Melvin Gordon did it all at Wisconsin, setting records and showing his game breaking skills. He’s often been compared to Jamaal Charles and Gordon landed in an ideal situation, where he is expected to be the starting back for San Diego. I have some concerns about Gordon long-term, but running back is no longer a long-term position for most in the league. Gordon’s floor seems to be an RB2 for the next three years and that safety net has a lot of value.
- Kevin White, WR CHI
I have to admit, I am not a huge fan of Bears’ rookie receiver Kevin White. Like many, I have some concerns about his “one hit wonder” potential, but in the end, he gets my attention thanks to his lofty draft status and the opportunity made available with the Bears’ trade of Brandon Marshall to the Jets. The other storyline White will have to overcome involves the small role rookies often play in the game plan of head coach John Fox. With Marshall gone, I’m not sure Fox can afford to keep White on the sidelines.
- Jordan Matthews, WR PHI
Even with the loss of Maclin I mentioned earlier, the Eagles’ cupboard is far from bare. In addition to the selection of Agholor, they also return second year receiver Jordan Matthews, who showed flashes of greatness in 2014. Now, he should see an even larger opportunity and a ton of looks from new quarterback Sam Bradford in the Eagles’ high-powered offense.
- Allen Robinson, WR JAX
Another sophomore who has been at the center of many dynasty debates this off-season is Jaguars’ Allen Robinson. Some see the next tall, athletic playmaker. Others have legitimate concerns about Robinson’s injury history and the upside of the Jacksonville offense. Obviously with this lofty ranking, I am a Robinson fan and expect him to be the top receiver in that offense for the next several years. I would say it rests on Blake Bortles, but I think Robinson can even overcome poor passing efficiency to become a fantasy star.
- Jeremy Hill, RB CIN
The Bengals’ selection of running back Jeremy Hill a year ago was curious, especially since they had just added a playmaker in Giovani Bernard the year before, but it ended up being just the right move. Bernard was slowed with injury and failed to show improvement following his rookie season, but the bruising Hill filled in the gaps and more as he became one of the most valuable running backs in dynasty football. I do expect somewhat of a bounce back year for Bernard, but expectations are sky high for Hill in year two.
- Laquon Treadwell, WR MISS
Over 20 current college players cracked this top 75 list, but the lead dog when it comes to my devy rankings is still wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, even after his sophomore season ended early with a nasty broken leg. Treadwell has the size and ball skills to make a major impact on the NFL and he should be valued among the top 15 wide receivers as soon as he hits the league.
- DeVante Parker, WR MIA
DeVante Parker’s dynasty stock has taken a minor hit with recent news of a procedure on his foot, which he broke a year ago, causing him to miss much of his senior season at Louisville. Nonetheless, I like Parker’s chances of breaking free from the Miami depth chart to form a nice bond with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. In my eye, Parker is the most talented pass catcher on the team and as the Dolphins continue to move to more of an up tempo offense, his value will rise.
- Brandin Cooks, WR NO
The final of the trio of hotly debated second year receivers, along with Adams and Robinson, is Brandin Cooks of the New Orleans Saints. Like Robinson, Cooks was flashing some high upside ability during his rookie year before suffering an injury and like Adams, Cooks has one of the great quarterbacks in the game throwing him the ball. With the trade of both Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills, the depth chart is wide open for Cooks in the Bayou and he should be one of the most targeted receivers in the league. If that equates to fantasy production, and it should, Cooks has a chance to outperform his already lofty dynasty ADP.
- Sammy Watkins, WR BUF
Things have not gone well for Sammy Watkins this off-season. A coaching change looks like it won’t help Watkins and the passing game at all, which may not matter much since the team has no real direction at the quarterback position. I am sold on Watkins’ talent, as evidenced with a top five ranking, but his situation is almost as bad as it gets. The assumption is the Bills will draft a rookie quarterback in 2016, but it’s tough to say if that will ease the doubts and concerns that abound now.
- Amari Cooper, WR OAK
Another star receiver who might have landed himself in a not so ideal situation is rookie Amari Cooper, drafted fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have lacked a premiere wideout for as long as you can remember and with the addition of Derek Carr a year ago, are finally set on improving their offense. Carr struggled in his first season, but really had no one to throw the ball to. With Cooper and the signing of former 49ers’ receiver Michael Crabtree, the team may finally be moving in the right direction. Much like Watkins, I think Cooper is situation-proof.
- Todd Gurley, RB STL
I had the top overall pick in one rookie draft this year and it was a very difficult decision. My team was fairly balanced, but had some needs at both running back and receiver and as you probably know from my past writing, I always like to build around pass catchers. This time though, I opted for the running back, selecting former Georgia back Todd Gurley and bypassing Cooper. Gurley was the surprise first round pick of the Rams, and vaults ahead of Tre Mason, once he’s fully healthy that is. I already value Gurley as the RB2 in dynasty and I don’t think it will take much before I and others consider him the most valuable running back in all of dynasty football.
- Odell Beckham, Jr., WR NYG
While the rookie receiver class of 2014 took the NFL and dynasty football by storm, the ultimate star of the show was Giants’ Odell Beckham, Jr. From the one handed catch to touchdown after touchdown, Beckham proved to be a star in every way and was a chief force in many league titles across all fantasy football leagues. It’s unfair to expect a full repeat of what Beckham did across a 16 game schedule in 2015, but his upside was on display and even if he doesn’t hit it, he is still one of the best in the game.
- Mike Evans, WR TB
As amazing as Beckham was in 2014, I still slightly prefer Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans. Don’t get me wrong, they are both in the same tier. So close in fact, that I likely wouldn’t trade one for the other. Evans too had a dominant streak in 2014, though it didn’t stretch as long as Beckham’s, but it was still enough of a sneak peek to get dynasty owners truly excited about his ability. With the arrival of first overall pick Jameis Winston and the diminishing role of Vincent Jackson, I expect greater things from Evans in 2015. It will be hard to top his touchdown ratio, but Evans should be much more consistent in his second year and that means even more fantasy points for his dynasty owners.
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