Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Travis May of the Fantasy Authority. Please welcome Travis, and enjoy this fantastic look ahead to the 2017 NFL Draft.
Well, it’s November. The fantasy football season is already nearing playoff time. It’s time to buckle down and stay focused, right? Apparently I missed that memo. For some reason I decided I should sit down, take a little time (way too much, probably), and make my top 100 offensive rookie big board for 2017.
Obviously it’s very early. Many things will change between now and the rookie drafts of next summer. If you’re reading this, or spend any amount of time on Dynasty League Football, you’re probably already well aware of this. So, why bother mentioning this?
Before I dive into most articles, I like to frame my thought process.
When I build a big board, I mix together several things: tape, stats, measurable physical attributes, ceiling, floor, projected offensive role, experience, age, and more. All of these things are important, but none of them, in isolation, trump (ha, you just thought of an orange man with bad hair) any of the others.
It is important to remember when looking at this rankings list (and any others) that it is just one data point in a mass of information that could help you win your dynasty league championship.
You will most definitely disagree with this list at some point. But that’s what can make rankings so helpful. We all have gaps in our analysis. When someone has a player ranked higher or lower I always make sure I understand the why. The why behind prospect analysis can completely reshape the perception of any individual player, let alone a list of 100 players.
So please, if you’re curious as to why I have one of your favorite players ranked 85th (I see you, T.J. Logan truthers), feel free to reach out to me on the Twitter (@FF_TravisM). I’m always looking to learn and get better. That is one of my favorite things about the dynasty community. There are so many people looking to help each other. That’s why I share this rankings list with you today.
1) Dalvin Cook – RB, Florida State
Yes, that’s it. Tier 1 is Dalvin Cook, and no one else. Why? Dalvin Cook does it all. He runs it inside and outside the tackles well. He runs routes, pass blocks and catches well enough to start in a three-down role from week one. His fantastic mix of balance and wiggle allows him to bounce off contact and elude tackles with ease. Really, any time Dalvin touches the ball he could take it to the house.
One look at him and it’s clear he has game-breaking speed, but many don’t know that he ran a 4.46 before he even got to college. He has a real chance to break 4.4 at the combine in February.
“Dalvin can’t be a bell cow though. He looks a little small.”
We’ll see about that. Florida State has him listed at 5’11”, 213 pounds. Marshawn Lynch played around 5’11”, 215. Are they the same player? No, but don’t let anyone deter you with a size or future durability argument.
Dalvin has actually been one of the most durable running backs in all of college football. He had a brief hamstring issue (that he played through), and a shoulder injury that he worked through this off-season, but given his workload he’s been a bell cow.
He’s averaged nearly 18 carries, 116 yards, and more than a touchdown per game for his career.
I could go on for days, but the poor editor of this piece probably wouldn’t like that. [Editor’s note: I’d read a 3,000 word piece on Dalvin Cook with great pleasure. I am looking forward to this.]
2) Mike Williams – WR, Clemson
3) JuJu Smith-Schuster – WR, USC
4) Corey Davis – WR, Western Michigan
5) Leonard Fournette – RB, LSU
6) Nick Chubb – RB, Georgia
This tier (along with Cook) seems to dominate the “first half of the first round” conversation for 2017 rookie drafts. The exact order could be shuffled around a thousand times and it would still somehow feel incorrect.
I am obviously not as bullish on Nick Chubb as many in the dynasty community have proven to be. It’s not because I don’t like his talent. The real issue has been what Chubb has looked like this season. He started off so strong against a seemingly talented North Carolina team. But since then he’s looked hesitant at times, lacking the same mind-blowing burst and tenacity that we all fell in love with. Yes, I know. They have a freshman quarterback. Yes, the offensive line has had its issues. However, Nick has also just not been the same. Let’s hope that changes.
I have played musical chairs with all three wide receivers for the past few months. Today, Mike Williams has the edge thanks to his combination of size, speed, pro-caliber defensive competition, and dominant playing style.
Fournette can absolutely pound the ball like no other, but I would love to see more agility and passing game potential.
7) Courtland Sutton – WR, SMU (Southern Methodist)
8) Royce Freeman – RB, Oregon
9) Wayne Gallman – RB, Clemson
10) D’Onta Foreman – RB, Texas
11) Isaiah Ford – WR, Virginia Tech (what am I thinking?!)
12) James Washington – WR, Oklahoma State
13) Malachi Dupre – WR, LSU
14) Christian McCaffrey – RB, Stanford
15) John Ross – WR, Washington
16) Evan Engram – TE, Ole Miss
17) Joe Mixon – RB, Oklahoma
It seems that everyone I talk with has someone in this tier that they would include in Tier 2. I get that.
Courtland Sutton is drool-worthy if he comes out this year. He’s a recent defensive back to wide receiver convert, believe it or not. It’s hard to imagine a 6’4”, 225 guy playing DB. Apparently his team did too. He’s caught about half of SMU’s touchdowns since the switch. The one potential (and only) knock has been the fact that he’s had some issues catching a high percentage of his targets. But that may speak more to his quarterback than him. He could easily be a top five rookie pick if he comes out.
Some are a little hesitant to include D’Onta Foreman or John Ross in this conversation, but I am not. I’d love to see a little more wiggle from Foreman, but any time a running back is mentioned in the same conversation as Ricky Williams you should pay attention. Even on a bad Texas team, he missed Williams’ single game rushing record by just nine yards. He’s also going to finish this season with the second most rushing yards in a single season for any Texas RB (behind Williams again).
John Ross has surprised many with his improved route running this season. It was already clear he could burn just about anyone on the planet down the field, but now you have to worry about the short to intermediate range of the field too? He’s not done rising.
Joe Mixon is a talent that belongs in the second tier, but sadly he has admittedly and unapologetically punched a girl in the face. Many people were already high on his backfield counterpart, Samaje Perine, before this season, but he’s even better. He has elite agility and burst through the hole. He does everything you ask a running back to do very well. Not only that, but he has face-melting potential if he’s invited to the combine next February. If this former five-star recruit actually gets drafted by a team willing to look past his baggage, look out.
Last but not least, let’s talk about Isaiah Ford. To my knowledge, no one is higher on Ford than I am. Why? It’s probably because everyone on the planet can’t look past his body-catching habit. I’m not going to deny that one potential flaw. However, he’s shown that he can high point and catch outside his body when needed. The good news is that the list of great things about Ford is much longer than one flaw. Isaiah Ford’s route running has left several future pros on skates on several occasions the past couple years (Cam Sutton, Kendall Fuller and Artie Burns just to name a few). His ability to read the deep ball and adjust mid-route has been impressive since his freshman year (see his 21-yard TD his freshman year against East Carolina). His stats speak for themselves. Ford has accounted for about 30% of Virginia Tech’s offense through the air over the past three seasons. And when you realize that he does what he does with quarterbacks who can barely hit 50% accuracy, Ford becomes even more impressive.
18) Corey Clement – RB, Wisconsin
19) Samaje Perine – RB, Oklahoma
20) K.D. Cannon – WR, Baylor
21) O.J. Howard – TE, Alabama
22) Bucky Hodges – TE, Virginia Tech
23) Deshaun Watson – QB, Clemson
24) Elijah McGuire – RB, Louisiana-Lafayette (yes, McGuire, not Hood)
The only surprises in this tier are probably the two senior backs, Corey Clement and Elijah McGuire. Yes, Deshaun Watson hasn’t been having the Heisman-worthy season that many hoped for this year. But he’s still potentially the best quarterback prospect in this class.
Corey Clement was forgotten by many after his injury in week four of last season. It was a major let down for Corey, since it was his first real opportunity to have the backfield to himself. As a sophomore backup to Melvin Gordon, Clement ran for an impressive 949 yards on 147 carries and nine touchdowns. Now that he’s finally been given nearly a full season as the lead back in Wisconsin he’s impressed. He doesn’t have the gaudy yards per carry that some runners have, but you have to look at the level of competition he’s faced. He churned out solid yardage against LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska. When you take a look at Clement’s overall body of work, form, vision, speed, and underrated receiving ability it is awfully hard to ignore this impressive running back.
Elijah McGuire is this year’s Kenneth Dixon. He’s a small school guy who will be overlooked until the spring mainly because there are just so many good running backs in this class. Why do I love McGuire this much though? He has pro-ready receiving back skills mixed with the strength to survive as a three-down back. He’s proven that even against tough competition he can handle a workload (see November 19th against Georgia). When he wows the world at the combine next February with his strength and speed combo many will start paying attention.
25) Artavis Scott – WR, Clemson (another Clemson player, really?)
26) Cooper Kupp – WR, Eastern Washington
27) DeDe Westbrook – WR, Oklahoma
28) Mitch Trubisky – QB, North Carolina
29) DeShone Kizer – QB, Notre Dame
30) Elijah Hood – RB, North Carolina
31) Amara Darboh – WR, Michigan
32) Travis Rudolph – WR, Florida State
33) Kareem Hunt – RB, Toledo
34) Jehu Chesson – WR, Michigan
35) Zay Jones – WR, East Carolina
36) Jeremy McNichols – RB, Boise State
This tier was just about as difficult as any sort through. Artavis finds himself at the top because he’s simply fantastic at fighting for every last yard out of the slot. Many forget about him because of his teammate, Mike Williams. But Artavis combines decent deep speed with a developing route tree that will make him a major headache to defend, similar to Jamison Crowder or Randall Cobb.
Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kizer are close to Watson for me. They both could rise into the late second round rookie discussion with the right landing spot.
Amara Darboh has pleasantly surprised many college football fans. Jehu Chesson, on the other hand, has not. Chesson may have the attributes to succeed in the NFL, but Darboh has proven to be more reliable.
Cooper Kupp and Zay Jones are two small school wide receivers with absolutely insane production. Kupp is stronger and more refined with routes and technique. Either could find themselves inside the second round of rookie drafts.
McNichols is someone to watch. I have him at the bottom here mainly because Boise State just simply doesn’t play anyone. Everything about McNichols (size, agility, speed, increasing production) says he’ll be a late riser in draft season. This guy is a must watch if his stock stays relatively low heading into rookie drafts.
37) Jordan Leggett – TE, Clemson (yes, really, another Clemson player)
38) Darren Carrington – WR, Oregon
39) Mason Rudolph – QB, Oklahoma State
40) Travin Dural – WR, LSU
41) Kalen Ballage – RB, Arizona State
42) Donnel Pumphrey – RB, San Diego State
43) Alvin Kamara – RB, Tennessee
44) Curtis Samuel – RB/WR, Ohio State (I know…I left out “THE”)
45) James Conner – RB, Pittsburgh (amazing story if you haven’t checked it out)
Darren Carrington may be the only confusing name in this tier for most. Part of this rank may or may not be biased by my devy league shares of Carrington. He missed significant time due to disciplinary reasons before this year, but he’s immensely talented. The entire Oregon football team has been in disarray this season, so it’s hard to gauge how that’s affected Carrington (besides his overall stats). He has fantastic raw ability. If he lands on a team with a good deep ball quarterback, look out. He’ll surprise many in February too.
Kalen Ballage is a physical freak who hasn’t gotten enough consistent work in Arizona State. If he comes out this year he’ll be a mid to late round steal for an NFL team (and many dynasty teams).
Donnel Pumphrey will be compared to Tyler Ervin or Giovani Bernard, but that will be a mistake. Pumphrey has been an absolute workhorse for San Diego State. It takes everything I have not to put this miniature beast even higher.
Alvin Kamara makes really solid SEC defenders look absolutely silly in space. With Jalen Hurd’s recent absence and departure Kamara has shown his elite play-making ability. Alvin’s teammates have compared his elusive ability to Cordarrelle Patterson. He’s another freak athlete who can contribute on every down on Sundays.
46) Baker Mayfield – QB, Oklahoma
47) Brad Kaaya – QB, Miami
48) Jake Butt – TE, Michigan (with a name like that, you know he has to be good)
49) Chad Hansen – WR, California (you now have MMMBop stuck in your head)
50) Amba Etta-Tawo – WR, Syracuse (this is seriously just the “awesome names” tier)
51) Luke Falk – QB, Washington State
52) Simmie Cobbs – WR, Indiana
53) Chris Godwin – WR, Penn State
54) Justin Davis – RB, USC
55) De’Veon Smith – RB, Michigan
56) Josh Malone – WR, Tennessee
57) Jamaal Williams – RB, BYU
58) Joe Williams – RB, Utah
59) Carlos Henderson – WR, Louisiana Tech
60) Allen Lazard – WR, Iowa State,
61) Josh Reynolds – WR, Texas A&M
62) I’Tavius Mathers – RB, MTSU
63) Ryan Switzer – WR, North Carolina
64) Damor’ea Stringfellow – WR, Ole Miss
65) Ricky Seals-Jones – WR, Texas A&M
I call this the late bloomers and confusing upside tier.
Baker Mayfield has looked like absolute money this year. In just two short years he’s given us Sterling Shepard and DeDe Westbrook (look at DeDe’s ridiculous stats). He could easily jump into the early third round rookie discussion.
On the flip side of the QB world, Brad Kaaya has been frustratingly inconsistent. He’s dropped quite a bit in the eyes of many.
Justin Davis, De’Veon Smith, Jamaal Williams and Joe Williams could all be drafted inside the fourth round or go completely undrafted. I can’t tell what real football people will think of them. They’re all great college players that have varying skillsets that show flashes of solid feature back upside. Joe may have the best pro-level speed. The truth is I don’t have any idea where to rank these guys until I see their actual measurables.
I’Tavius Mathers is a do-it-all back for MTSU here in central Tennessee. Many have forgotten that he was originally with Ole Miss. In his first full season with Middle Tennessee I’Tavius has 1291 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns, 60 receptions for 552 yards, and three receiving touchdowns. It’s not all against the toughest competition, but he could earn a starting role in the NFL one day given his balance in talents.
Ricky Seals-Jones hasn’t improved in four years and is now the third best receiver on his own team. He is an absolutely massive human being. But he needs to learn to use that more often. Many are still high on him. I am not.
Allen Lazard is a name that many have higher, but he has no real elite attributes deserving of more praise.
Chad Hansen, Amba Etta-Tawo, and Carlos Henderson are all late bloomer wide receivers that are destroying the stats sheet. Much of their draft stock will depend on the combine and landing spot because there simply isn’t a large enough sample size on any of them to project pro success.
66) Stacy Coley – WR, Miami
67) J.T. Barrett – QB, Ohio State (O-H…sorry, I’m from Indiana, I don’t know the rest)
68) Pharaoh Brown – TE, Oregon
69) Jeremy Sprinkle – TE, Arkansas
70) Matthew Dayes – RB, North Carolina State
71) Joseph Yearby – RB, Miami
72) Shock Linwood – RB, Baylor
73) Sony Michel – RB, Georgia
74) Davis Webb – QB, California
75) Fred Ross – WR, Mississippi State
76) Josiah Price – TE, Michigan State
77) Taywan Taylor – WR, Western Kentucky
78) Brian Hill – RB, Wyoming
79) Chris Carson – RB, Oklahoma State
80) Darreus Rogers – WR, USC (you will hear JuJu haters praise this guy)
Davis Webb is a name to watch as a steal late in rookie drafts. He has looked like a pro in a limited sample with Cal. When it’s all said and done I may rank him ahead of J.T. Barrett. Barrett’s game simply doesn’t have a high likelihood of transitioning well to the pros.
Fred Ross is a prospect who many in the dynasty community absolutely love. I am coming around to the senior as he has grabbed a ton of touchdowns lately. He’s a big target that could amount to a solid possession receiver one day, but I don’t see it.
Josiah Price may have the highest chance of being a long-term fixture at tight end in the NFL out of any in this tier. He’s been so reliable in all facets of the game for Michigan State. Many young TEs take a while to develop. Josiah may be able to start for the right team in year one or two.
It’s really hard to watch Oklahoma State for a whole game without Chris Carson popping off the screen a few times. While watching James Washington, Carson kept earning more yards than were blocked for him. He has the ideal feature back build, like Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson. A lot will hinge on his combine.
Darreus Rogers is the other wide receiver for USC. We all know JuJu Smith-Schuster, but Darreus has simply been too good not to throw him the ball in his final year at USC. He may not get drafted, but watch this guy next summer. He’s a fantastic route runner with fantastic hands who can win consistently on contested catches.
81) Chad Kelly – QB, Ole Miss
82) James Quick – WR, Louisville
83) Patrick Mahomes – QB, Texas Tech
84) Torii Hunter Jr. – WR, Notre Dame
85) T.J. Logan – RB, North Carolina
86) Dare Ogunbowale – RB, Wisconsin
87) Tarean Folston – RB, Notre Dame
88) Speedy Noil – WR, Texas A&M
89) Quincy Adeboyejo – WR, Ole Miss
90) Gabe Marks – WR, Washington State
91) Mack Hollins – WR, North Carolina
92) Marlon Mack – RB, Florida
93) Troy Fumagalli – TE, Wisconsin
94) Jahad Thomas – RB, Temple
95) Barry J. Sanders – RB, Oklahoma State
96) Corey Smith – WR, Ohio State
97) DeAngelo Henderson – RB, Coastal Carolina
98) Marcus Cox – RB, Appalachian State
99) Robert Foster – WR, Alabama
100) Cam Serigne – TE, Wake Forrest
This last tier is full of players who may go undrafted or stay one more year in college. However, all of them are worth mentioning as potential 2017 prospects.
Patrick Mahomes gives off a Johnny Manziel vibe (minus the poor life choices). He was solely responsible for 100 offensive plays and over 800 yards in just one game this year. The NFL may not know what to do with him, but he is a crazy fun prospect to watch.
T.J. Logan has third down back potential at the next level, but could easily be overlooked by NFL front offices. Take a second to watch some North Carolina football. He’ll catch your eye with his receiving ability and quick twitch right away.
Logan’s teammate, Mack Hollins, was an absolute big play monster heading into this season. That magic came to a halt when he broke his collarbone this year. Hollins will be 24 by week one next year. Many NFL teams may pass on him. He’s probably about as good as he’ll ever be already. If that’s the case, I’ll pass too.
Robert Foster was once a highly touted prospect for Alabama. Calvin Ridley quickly overshadowed any hype around Foster. If he’s drafted, his raw athleticism could earn him a look on many NFL rosters.
That’s it folks. I hope you found this helpful and enjoyed the read. As I mentioned, feel free to reach out to me @FF_TravisM any time. I would love to talk 2017 rookies and dynasty league football with you.