Last summer, I wrote a three-part series ranking the rookie classes of 2014-2016, based on current and projected dynasty value. The thinking was we as dynasty owners so often compare the current rookie class to both the previous class as well as the upcoming group of rookies. In the summer edition, I ranked my top 75 players and want to revisit that as many things have changed.
Looking back at the preseason list, I realize that I was greatly overvaluing the current college, or devy, players. Many of the players I ranked in the summer didn’t even declare, while others suffered injuries or struggled through the college season. This will serve as a reminder when I look forward to future rookie classes beyond a year in advance.
As I was formulating this updated list, I realized some important things. Most importantly, I think my current rankings posted here on DLF had become a bit stale. I had been hesitant to move players drastically higher or lower from their original spot in my early season rankings. This process was an eye-opener for me, which will really help revolutionize my rankings.
Another thing I learned was the three rookie classes combined for more than 75 relevant players. Because of that, I’ll be ranking my top 100 players from the three classes. While the title remains Rookies and Sophomores and Devys, Oh My, the players included will soon see their titles adjusted, as the incoming rookie class includes players like Ezekiel Elliott and Laquon Treadwell. For now though, they’ll still be included in the “devy” group. Don’t worry, I’ll be back later in the off-season with a comparison of the 2015, 2016 and 2017 rookie classes.
Unfortunately, real life got in the way and this final installment has been greatly delayed. Many events in the NFL have occurred impacting the value of the players in my top 25, so much so that some will certainly not maintain their spot upon the next version of Rookies and Sophomores and Devys, Oh My! For now, bear with me as I rank the final 25 players in the classes of 2014, 2015 and 2016.
On to the rankings! I’ll also be including their previous rank and you can take a look at last summer’s series:
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- Martavis Bryant, WR PIT PR: 26
While it appears based on my ranking of the Steelers’ young receiver Martavis Bryant from last year until today that his dynasty value may have increased, that is probably not the case. He’s the first of a few players on this list who are set for a lofty fall in the next installment. Of course in Bryant’s case, that is due to the year ban he will serve after again violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Bryant missed four games a season ago due to suspension (and a fifth as the Steelers chose to let him sit an extra game) and now another offense has his value in the tank. We’ve seen in recent days and weeks that reinstatement to the league is no sure thing. I’m not ready to say Bryant never steps on the field again, but I see little reason to risk holding him on my dynasty roster.
- Tyler Boyd, WR Pitt PR: 15
Former Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd is set to enter the league and many fantasy analysts have spent much of their off-season advising readers to avoid Boyd. He was once viewed as a high end devy player and a potential top three rookie pick, but some off-field issues and on-field weaknesses in his game have him falling. You’ll likely be able to land Boyd in the middle or late first round of rookie picks and I’m willing to gamble on him at that point.
- Jeremy Langford, RB CHI PR: NR
It seems as though there are several running backs around the league who are just waiting for the other cleat to drop, meaning that they currently look like the hands down starter for their team, but almost no one believes that will last. One of these backs is Jeremy Langford, who surprised in his relief appearance during Matt Forte’s injury last season. Langford proved himself both as a runner and a pass-catcher out of the backfield and while the Bears have to add someone, I see Langford holding down the starting job. If I’m a Langford owner, I’m more concerned about the loss of former offensive coordinator Adam Gase than I am about a new running back coming to town.
- TJ Yeldon, RB JAX PR: 22
I mentioned that NFL events had affected player value and one player hit the hardest, at least by the perception of most, is Jacksonville running back TJ Yeldon. The Jaguars kicked off free agency by signing Chris Ivory and the Yeldon dynasty stock took a major hit. The more I think about it though, the more I consider Yeldon a player to buy. Ivory has never shown he could stay healthy, even in his career year last season with the Jets. By the end of the season, it was Bilal Powell who was taking command of the backfield. I can easily see that being the case again in 2016 and I want to roster Yeldon so I can take advantage.
- Kevin White, WR CHI PR: 12
It has been a tough year for Kevin White. After being selected high in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, White’s dynasty stock exploded, putting him in the top three of nearly every dynasty rookie draft. Things went poorly from there though as White dealt with a mystery leg injury that cost him his rookie year. He’ll now be suiting up as essentially a 24-year-old rookie. That is not to say he can’t succeed, but not only does he have less time to show he can be a valuable dynasty asset, but his best college season came as a 22-year-old playing almost exclusively against younger players.
- Corey Coleman, WR Baylor PR: NR
Former Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman is a player I had little faith in entering the 2015 college season, but it was impossible to not come away impressed by his game on a weekly basis. He shot up my devy and then rookie rankings and now seems to be a near lock to be a top four pick in upcoming rookie drafts. Coleman should be a first round pick and there are many teams looking for a second wideout. I expect Coleman to make an instant impact in the NFL.
- Tyler Lockett, WR SEA PR: NR
Much like Coleman, I was not a fan of Tyler Lockett, even after his impressive final college season. I wrote him off as too small and that burned me. Lockett was a playmaker from day one for the Seattle Seahawks, especially on special teams. He also established himself as a viable NFL receiver, though it was Doug Baldwin stealing the show. I love Lockett’s game, but wonder if the low volume of the Seahawks’ pass offense limits his upside over the next year or two.
- Thomas Rawls, RB SEA PR: NR
One player that could benefit from that Seattle offense is running back Thomas Rawls, who went from undrafted rookie to starter on a playoff contender. With Marshawn Lynch hanging up his cleats, literally, the job now belongs to Rawls. While Lynch was out with an injury, Rawls showed he could handle the load and be an ultra-productive player for fantasy owners. This is another team, like the Bears, that are likely to bring in another back for depth, but I am even more confident that Rawls keeps this job entering 2016.
- Kelvin Benjamin, WR CAR PR: 20
It was a lost season for Kelvin Benjamin, who suffered a torn ACL in training camp, but we still saw what that Carolina offense could do. Expect more of the same, only with many of those Ted Ginn targets shifting to the big man, Benjamin. Unlike many players in the past, Benjamin’s injury hasn’t really affected his value much at all. He remains a top 25 player, based on our most recent dynasty ADP data.
- Donte Moncrief, WR IND PR: 32
A few days ago, I asked my Twitter followers which player they were buying before his price got too high. One of the most popular responses was Colts’ receiver Donte Moncrief, showing that many in the dynasty community foresee a breakout season in 2016 for Moncrief. While he showed flashes over the past two seasons, the former Ole Miss star has yet to establish himself as a top dynasty asset. Part of that is due to the injury to Andrew Luck last season, not to mention Moncrief had anything but a clear path to being the top target for his team. I do see a more consistent season coming for Moncrief and a good chance for him to overtake TY Hilton as the team’s top receiving threat.
- Devonta Freeman, RB ATL PR: 61
Obviously, one of the biggest breakout players from last season, Devonta Freeman heavily reward dynasty owners who stuck with him not only through the addition of Tevin Coleman, but even when Coleman earned the starting job out of training camp. After an early season injury to the rookie, Freeman took the job and never looked back. While he did most of his damage in a one-month span in the middle of the season, Freeman established himself as a top dynasty back, with some ranking and valuing him just behind Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley. You have to expect some regression from Freeman, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check the trade value of the Falcons’ back in your league.
- Jordan Matthews, WR PHI PR: 11
Through two seasons, one of the toughest players in the league to place a firm value on is proving to be Eagles’ wide receiver Jordan Matthews. After a promising rookie season under “offensive guru” Chip Kelly, Matthews was dangerously close to the first round of startup dynasty drafts. Now, after a second season and the departure of Kelly, Matthews’ value has slipped. He was still nearly as productive as his heralded rookie year, but lacked the support from dynasty owners.
- Jarvis Landry, WR MIA PR: 41
As you can judge by his previous ranking, Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry was a player I greatly underrated this time last year. He enjoyed another huge season, especially in PPR leagues and with the addition of Gase as head coach, there is hope that Landry continues to rack up the catches, even with the emergence of his teammate, DeVante Parker.
- Dorial Green-Beckham, WR TEN PR: 21
Coming off of a year away from football and a troubled college career, Dorial Green-Beckham landed with the Titans and paired with Marcus Mariota to form a dynamic young pair. DGB had an up and down rookie season, but showed enough to make him one of the hottest names in dynasty fantasy football. It seems that every dynasty player around is pegging Green-Beckham as the next superstar wide receiver and the best news is he has evidently turned his personal life around. After multiple off-field incidents in college, he has stayed off of the back page in Nashville. Let’s hope that continues!
- David Johnson, RB ARZ PR: 53
Another surprised running back in the 2015 season was Cardinals’ rookie David Johnson. The third rounder took advantage of injuries to Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson to stake his claim to the lead role, active in both the rush and pass game. While Ellington remains in Arizona, the veteran Johnson is still looking for a new job and the Cardinals seem content with the former Northern Iowa star. I expect the Cardinals’ offense to look much like it did last season, which is excellent news for all involved.
- Ezekiel Elliott, RB Ohio State PR: 14
For most dynasty players, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott has locked himself in as the 1.01 pick in rookie drafts and for good reason. After a pair of amazing seasons with the Buckeyes, Elliott has done everything he needed to at the NFL Combine to impress teams and dynasty players. I will reserve complete judgment until day one of the NFL Draft, but I feel fairly confident that Elliott will debut in my dynasty running back rankings as my third back, behind only Gurley and Bell.
- DeVante Parker, WR MIA PR: 7
While his rookie season got off to a slow start due to that recurring foot injury, DeVante Parker ended his inaugural NFL year on a hot streak and that has vaulted him into the top 15 overall dynasty players, according to our latest ADP. For many, myself included, this is far too rich. While I expect Parker to continue his ascension, especially with Gase in South Beach, he’s already being valued near his ceiling based on the early second round ADP, so acquiring him now does not look like a wise move.
- Laquon Treadwell, WR Ole Miss PR: 8
For much of the off-season, I’ve read reasons why Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell will not be a successful NFL player, why he shouldn’t be a top two rookie pick, or even the first wideout drafted in dynasty leagues. While Coleman and Josh Doctson have been climbing up the ranks, Treadwell’s value has been stagnant, at best. For me, Treadwell has been my top devy player for years and I now consider him my top ranked rookie. Nothing I’ve seen in the past few months is enough to change my mind about his past three seasons of work.
- Brandin Cooks, WR NO PR: 6
With Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills sent out of New Orleans, second year receiver Brandin Cooks was left to be the top target of Drew Brees and the Saints’ passing game and he didn’t disappoint. Although Cooks did get off to a slow start, he finished just outside the WR1 range at WR13 overall. With another veteran, Marques Colston, now gone, expect Cooks’ targets and opportunities to continue to grow.
- Mike Evans, WR TB PR: 1
With his touchdown numbers declining from his rookie season, many viewed 2015 as a disappointment for Tampa’s Mike Evans. In actuality, his targets, receptions and yardage all improved from his previous numbers in 2014. The nine fewer touchdowns from year one to year two represents over 50 fantasy points. I don’t expect Evans to post 12 touchdown seasons every year, but I feel confident he’ll rebound on the three scores from last season, making him a WR1 yet again.
- Todd Gurley, RB STL PR: 3
Although he didn’t even play the season’s first pair of games, running back Todd Gurley wasted little time making his presence felt in the league. After being eased in with a six carry debut in Week Three, Gurley exploded for 146 yards the next week. That began a string of four consecutive games with 125 or more rushing yards and that, combined with the injury to Pittsburgh’s Bell boosted Gurley to overall RB1 on most people’s dynasty boards. While the team deals with a move out west and they lack any semblance of a passing offense, Gurley is the face of their offense. The only concern is will he be able to overcome constant attention from a defense that doesn’t respect the passing game.
- Sammy Watkins, WR BUF PR: 5
Like Cooks and Gurley, Sammy Watkins’ 2015 season also got off to a slow start. In part, that was due to a nagging injury, along with the transition to a new coaching staff and quarterback. Soon though, things were clicking and Watkins was dominating defenses. It’s hard to believe many were calling Watkins a bust in the early part of 2015. He serves as a good reminder how important it is to have patience with talented young players.
- Amari Cooper, WR OAK PR: 4
When comparing some of these top young wideouts, it becomes very difficult and is really a tedious process. There is very little separation between Watkins or Evans or Amari Cooper, etc. Cooper is coming off an excellent rookie season and as part of an up and coming Oakland offense, Cooper should continue to be a top ten dynasty asset for years to come.
- Allen Robinson, WR JAX PR: 10
As a member of the loaded class of 2014, wide receiver Allen Robinson was somewhat overlooked thanks to the hype surrounding Watkins and the huge seasons put up by Evans and Odell Beckham. That was not the case in 2015 though, as Robinson was a dominant force for the Jaguars, catching 80 balls for 1,400 yards and 14 scores. I expect some regression from Robinson, at least when it comes to scoring plays, but he should remain a top dynasty asset for the next few years and is safely in the top tier of receivers.
- Odell Beckham, WR NYG PR: 2
Despite the evidence from his rookie season, I was slow to give Odell Beckham the respect of being the top player in last season’s list. I won’t make that mistake again. Beckham had another huge year as a sophomore, posting a top five season in PPR leagues. With no disrespect intended to Antonio Brown or Julio Jones, who both posted near record breaking reception numbers last season, given the age disparity between Beckham and those two, I can’t imagine a scenario where Beckham is not ranked as the top receiver, and overall player, in all of fantasy.
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