As both the fantasy football season and the college football season draw to a close, the attention of many dynasty owners will now shift to the incoming rookie class. The class of 2017 has been viewed for months, or even year, as a game changer for dynasty players. Stocked full of potential impact running backs, this class has had dynasty owners stockpiling rookie picks and in many cases, overpaying for said picks.
Last May, soon after the NFL Draft, I shared my first 2017 dynasty rookie mock draft. Much has changed since then, mostly impacted by the past three months of college football action. Here is a quick reminder of how I projected the first round of rookie drafts to go from one year out.
- Leonard Fournette, RB LSU
- Juju Smith-Schuster, WR USC
- Nick Chubb, RB UGA
- Dalvin Cook, RB FSU
- Mike Williams, WR CLEM
- Corey Davis, WR WMU
- Malachi Dupre, WR LSU
- Christian McCaffrey, RB STAN
- Royce Freeman, RB OREG
- Bo Scarbrough, RB ALA
- James Washington, WR OKST
- Elijah Hood, RB UNC
While many things have changed, the majority of these players remain hot commodities in the eyes of dynasty owners. What makes this rookie class so special is the depth and how closely players are ranked within each tier. There could be an argument made for as many of six players to be the 1.01 dynasty rookie pick. Here is an updated version of what a 2017 dynasty rookie draft could look like.
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1.01 – Leonard Fournette, RB Louisiana State
Despite a nagging ankle injury that has caused him to miss quite a bit of time this season, LSU running back Leonard Fournette remains a projected early first round draft pick and is expected by most to be the top runner drafted. In a competitive draft class, this could serve as the tiebreaker and makes Fournette the favorite to be the 1.01 rookie pick.
1.02 – Dalvin Cook, RB Florida State
After a bit of a slow starter, Florida State back Dalvin Cook has caught fire and is repeating him amazing 2015 season. Cook has 100+ rushing yards in seven of his past eight games and can do it all out of the backfield. I know many dynasty owners plan to take Cook with the first overall pick and I can’t blame them. This year, he’s put injury and off the field issues behind him and has been the best running back in the game.
1.03 – Mike Williams, WR Clemson
I had my concerns about Clemson’s Mike Williams as the 2016 season began, not because of his play on the field, but because of the one play that kept him off of it for nearly a full season. After suffering a neck injury in the season opener in 2015, Williams missed the remainder of the year and we received few updates about his status. He’s clearly back though and maybe better than ever. Williams has already topped 1,000 yards for the second time and has set new career highs with receptions (73) and touchdowns (7). Just like the running back position, there is a three horse race for the honor of the top spot, but for now I project Williams coming off the board first.
1.04 – Corey Davis, WR Western Michigan
Many dynasty players were disappointed after the 2015 season when Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis opted to stay in school for his senior season rather than bolt for the NFL Draft. With his stock sky high, it seemed like a risk, but he’s shown that was the best choice as his team is undefeated and Davis has a career high 16 touchdowns, along with his third consecutive 1,000-yard season. While some are scared off by Davis’ small school status, he’s proven his talents against some of the best teams and players in the college game.
1.05 – Nick Chubb, RB Georgia
It has been a disappointing and frustrating season for Georgia running back Nick Chubb. Coming off a serious knee injury, it was not clear how much or how early Chubb would suit up this season, but he actually was ready for the season opener and rushed for over 200 yards and a pair of scores. Chubb was back! Since then though, he’s continued to deal with minor injuries and a struggling offense featuring multiple freshmen. Chubb has already shown he has the talent to crack this top tier, but a player who once looked like a lock for the top overall spot might now be a value pick in the middle of the first round.
1.06 – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR Southern California
For the months leading up to the 2016 season, USC wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster was my favorite prospect in this class. I will admit that I am sometimes too stubborn to rank running backs ahead of wide receivers, but I loved what I had seen from Smith-Schuster in his first two seasons. This year, with a new quarterback under center, things did not start well for Juju or the Trojans. They eventually made the switch to redshirt freshman Sam Darnold and that has turned their season around. After less than 100 total receiving yards in the team’s first three games, Smith-Schuster responded with a 98-yard performance against Utah and then three straight games with over 100 yards, including a pair of three touchdown games. He remains in my deep top tier, but like Chubb, could fall to the middle of the round.
1.07 – Courtland Sutton, WR Southern Methodist
Just as he had done previously with Davis, about a year ago, DLF’s own Nick Whalen, author of The Devy Report, introduced me to a potential superstar wide receiver named Courtland Sutton. I was familiar with Sutton’s name, but not his game. I hadn’t watched any SMU games and knew nothing of Sutton outside of some box score scouting. Once Nick put me on the trail, I found as many clips as I could and was impressed by the majority of them. Sutton quickly became a hot name in the devy dynasty community and began getting some national attention from the draft community. My only concern, though it would not necessarily be a negative thing, is that Sutton could return to school for his junior season. If he does declare, I think we’ll see him at the to of the second tier in the middle of the first round.
1.08 – John Ross, WR Washington
One wide receiver who has been soaring up both NFL and dynasty rookie draft board is Washington’s John Ross. The Huskies breakout star was not really on the radar at all for dynasty players. He missed all of the 2015 season with a knee injury and before that was playing both sides of the ball for Washington, excelling at neither. This season, his speed and deep play threat has helped break open the Washington offense on many occasions. He’s averaging over 16 yards per reception and has 16 total touchdowns on the season as Washington pushes for a spot in the playoffs. There are a wide range of outcomes when consider where Ross could land in dynasty rookie drafts. At 5’11” and 190 pounds, many dynasty owners might be scared off, but plenty of wideouts under six feet tall have proven they can hang and be very valuable dynasty assets.
1.09 – James Washington, WR Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State star James Washington does have the size or speed or even the big name of some of the receivers ranked ahead of him, but he has a good mix of just enough of those qualities to land a spot in the first round of rookie drafts. Washington had a breakout season as a sophomore last year and has already bested most of those receiving numbers, currently sitting at 60 receptions for 1,159 yards and nine scores for the year. If dynasty owners go running back crazy, Washington could even fall to the second round, where he would be a steal.
1.10 – Christian McCaffrey, RB Stanford
Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey had a huge season last year, one that many thought he should’ve earned the Heisman Trophy. McCaffrey proved to be a triple threat as a runner, pass-catcher and return man. He totaled over 2,600 yards from scrimmage and scored 13 touchdowns. While his touchdowns are up this season, his production is way down, putting up 1,600 yards. I guess it says a lot when that much yardage is a disappointment. There are some concerns that McCaffrey cannot be an every down back in the league, but I think he has the size and speed to make a major impact.
1.11 – Wayne Gallman, RB Clemson
Playing alongside the stars of the Clemson offense, including Williams and others, running back Wayne Gallman is often overlooked, but he shouldn’t be. Gallman is a traditional back, often running through contact with a good mix of size and speed. Gallman is likely to end of in the second tier of running backs and his landing spot will make the difference in his dynasty rookie draft spot.
1.12 – Royce Freeman, RB Oregon
Another back in that same group is Oregon’s Royce Freeman, who burst onto the scene as a freshman, racking up over 1,500 total yards. Freeman does not have the speed of some of the other runners in this class, but has a punishing running style. Freeman has had some issues this year and was even benched for reported effort and attitude issues. Freeman will need to get past this to succeed in the league.
Here’s a quick look at the potential second round of a dynasty rookie draft. Picks in this round, and even into the third round, should be more valuable than ever before.
2.01 – Evan Engram, TE Mississippi
Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram has stood out amongst a deep pass catching group for the Rebels. There has been talk the 6’3”, 227 pounder could attempt a move to wide receiver.
2.02 – Dede Westbrook, WR Oklahoma
Like Ross, Dede Westbrook is a smaller receiver enjoying a breakout season. Westbrook has emerged as the star of an up-tempo Sooner offense. If he lands in the right spot, Westbrook could certainly emerge as a first rounder.
2.03 – D’Onta Foreman, RB Texas
Things have not gone well for Texas this season, but one bright spot has been the play of junior running back D’Onta Foreman, who has rushed for over 1,800 yards in a disappointing Longhorn offense. With an expected coaching change, it would not be a surprise if Foreman took advantage of his big season and declared for the NFL Draft a year early.
2.04 – Joe Mixon, RB Oklahoma
There is little reason to doubt the talent of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, but the red flags come off the field. Mixon was suspended for the entire 2014 season after an assault charge and also missed a game this season for an incident with a traffic officer. Mixon must correct these issues or teams could let him slide far down the draft.
2.05 – Alvin Kamara, RB Tennessee
One of the few juniors who has already made his intentions known, running back Alvin Kamara will leave Tennessee a year early. He outplayed and outlasted his former teammate Jalen Hurd and could be a dual threat option out of the backfield.
2.06 – Cooper Kupp, WR Eastern Washington
Many seem to love what small school star Cooper Kupp can do as a receiver. While his numbers have been impressive, I have some questions about his level of competition. He’ll also be one of the oldest skill players in the class of 2017.
2.07 – Isaiah Ford, WR Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech’s Isaiah Ford hasn’t quite matched his numbers from his sophomore season, but he has still made a major impact as the Hokies will head to the conference championship game next week. Ford feels like a solid B+ type of prospect who does everything just well enough.
2.08 – Samaje Perine, RB Oklahoma
With Mixon missing his first season on campus, another freshman, Samaje Perine, enjoyed a surprise breakout season. His rushing numbers have dropped each year but he has shown he can form a solid duo with Mixon, a role he’ll likely hold in the NFL as well.
2.09 – KD Cannon, WR Baylor
It has been a disappointing season for Baylor receiver KD Cannon, suffering through minor injuries, along with the disastrous off-field issues surrounding the program. Cannon will be glad to escape this and leave for the NFL, even following a down season.
2.10 – Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson
Although he’s being challenged by Notre Dame’s Deshone Kizer and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky for the honor of being the first quarterback drafted, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson has shown for three years that he has elite level talent. Even if he is a top five NFL Draft pick, Watson and all quarterbacks should fall to this range of rookie drafts.
2.11 – OJ Howard, TE Alabama
After Alabama tight end OJ Howard starred in last season’s National Championship game, many expected he would jump to the NFL. Like other top tight ends, he chose to return to school and now helps form one of the best tight end groups in years, including Engram, Michigan’s Jake Butt and Bucky Hodges of Virginia Tech.
2.12 – Malachi Dupre, WR Louisiana State
Perhaps no devy player has lost more value during the 2016 college season than LSU receiver Malachi Dupre. It’s not all his fault, as the Tigers struggled under head coach Les Miles, who was fired mid-season. The team also has major questions at quarterback. Dupre has first round talent, but it would be a surprise if he crept up into that range in rookie drafts.