With the second wave of dynasty rookie drafts approaching, now is the time to (re)formulate your draft plan. This breakdown of DLF’s updated dynasty rookie rankings will get you started. Be sure to check out all of our dynasty rankings as well as our 2017 Rookie Draft Guide for much more detailed dynasty and rookie analysis!
Fantasy football analysts (almost) unanimously agree on Davis as the top dynasty rookie wide receiver. He gained more than 1400 receiving yards in each of his final three seasons at Western Michigan. That earned him the highest wide receiver draft spot in 2017, despite not testing at the combine or a pro day. But he faces a wide range of outcomes in his rookie season. At best, he quickly becomes Marcus Mariota’s top option and posts a low-end WR1 season. At worst, he gets stuck behind capable veterans Eric Decker and Rishard Matthews and isn’t worth a spot in your lineup all season.
Fournette is a rolling ball of butcher knives. Not like Trent Richardson. The real kind. His game is exactly what you expect from a 240-pound running back who runs a 4.51-second 40-yard dash. He fights for every yard and feasts on defensive backs. With the Jaguars intent on running the ball, Fournette can threaten top-12 running back production as a rookie.
NFL teams don’t use top-10 draft picks on running back-wide receiver “tweeners.” It didn’t go so well the last time. And even arguable successes like Reggie Bush have disappointed in dynasty fantasy football. Still, McCaffery is tempting, in part because he can stand on his rushing production alone; the receiving work is a (substantial) bonus. Even if he is just a more durable version of Bush, he’s well worth a top-three dynasty rookie draft pick.
Our dynasty rookie rankings are more divided on Mixon than any other top-six rookie, ranking him anywhere from first to sixth. They’re not divided only by his off-field risks. Some analysts see Mixon as an almost Ezekiel Elliott-level prospect, while others question his run-after-contact abilities and his failure to wrestle the primary workload away from Samaje Perine at Oklahoma. Likewise, some shy away from Cincinnati’s crowded backfield and poor offensive line, while others see Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard as veteran underachievers who don’t dampen Mixon’s near-term outlook. The good news: if you’re on the clock at 1.04 and Mixon’s available, you should have one or two eager trade partners.
Not long ago, Cook contended for the top overall pick in dynasty rookie drafts. But his momentum switched faster than … well, faster than Dalvin Cook cutting in the open field. The combine triggered the change. Cook’s explosion drills (vertical and broad jump) and timed agility drills disappointed, and his 4.49-second 40-yard dash at 210 pounds didn’t make up any ground. And leading up to the draft, NFL analysts focused a spotlight on Cook’s off-field concerns, with some claiming he was a bigger off-field risk than Joe Mixon. Finally, he landed in Minnesota, where he will compete with Latavius Murray for opportunities behind a poor run-blocking offensive line. Still, I don’t see much difference between Cook’s prospects and Mixon’s. I’ll gladly take the discount and grab Cook at 1.05.
Six months ago, dynasty drafters were taking Williams ahead of Corey Davis. Now, Williams is clinging to the final spot in the top tier of dynasty rookies. None of our rankers has Williams ranked below sixth, but only one ranks him higher than fourth. I’m not so worried about San Diego’s depth chart. Are Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams really much better than Eric Decker and Rishard Matthews? Not in the short term. But I do fret about Williams’s back. He’s missing extensive offseason time due to a “mild disc herniation,” and latest word is he’ll be out until training camp. Add this to the neck fracture he suffered in 2015, and dynasty drafters are reasonably skittish.
I predict Howard will have the most disappointing fantasy football season among top rookies. Tight ends must score touchdowns for a productive fantasy season, but Howard caught only seven touchdowns in his four-year college career. Plus, Jameis Winston already has two favorite end zone targets in Mike Evans and Cameron Brate. Howard should become a more complete tight end than Brate, but run blocking doesn’t score fantasy points. If you draft Howard, be prepared to exercise patience.
Dynasty fantasy football drafters are good at identifying future production, but NFL front offices aren’t bad themselves. So when a wide receiver picked in the top 10 of the NFL draft falls into the late first round of dynasty rookie drafts, I take notice. Ross — fresh off the fastest 40-yard dash in combine history — profiles as a supercharged (and supersized) Will Fuller. Like Fuller, I expect Ross to flash early in his NFL career and gain value quickly in dynasty leagues.
Our rankers love Smith-Schuster, ranking him five spots higher than his MFL Rookie ADP. Smith-Schuster is a “talent over opportunity” option in dynasty rookie drafts. Before the NFL draft, dynasty drafters were treating him like a top-eight rookie. After landing in a crowded Steelers wide receiver corps, he’s now a second-round rookie pick in most dynasty leagues. But he’s best suited as a secondary weapon in a high-end passing attack, so his landing spot shouldn’t scare you away.
Rookie tight ends rarely produce, but rookie tight ends also rarely seize the top spot on the depth chart as soon as they’re drafted. Njoku displaced Gary Barnidge, and only second-year prospect Seth DeValve threatens his playing time. Njoku wasn’t a major producer in college, but he did score eight times in his final season. That’s no surprise, given his 37-inch vertical. I wouldn’t expect more than 50 receptions in 2017, but he could post four or five touchdowns. That would be a promising rookie season.
Our dynasty rookie rankings vary widely on Kamara, with rankers slotting him from 7 overall to 20 overall. He won’t excel as an inside runner, but he thrives as a receiver and as a space player. That’s how the Saints will use him, and it’s a fantasy-viable role in the New Orleans offense. The key to his rookie season will be pass protection. If he can keep Drew Brees clean, he’ll earn enough touches to warrant a flex spot as a rookie, especially in PPR leagues.
Dynasty fantasy football players drafting Engram should hope the Giants use him almost exclusively as a receiver. He’s smaller than big-bodied wide receivers like Kelvin Benjamin and Vincent Jackson. But the Giants say they will at least try to work Engram in as a traditional tight end. That’s bad news for his 2017 prospects, as Engram will have to develop as a blocker to see the field. But he’s probably only the fourth option in the Giants passing attack anyway, as Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard figure to command most of the targets. Once Marshall leaves, Engram can establish himself as Eli Manning’s second option, which would make him quite valuable as a fantasy football tight end.
I’ve likened Hunt to Pierre Thomas: a reliable, adequate runner who will do most of his damage as a receiver out of the backfield. Not exciting, but he should post some top-24 fantasy running back seasons. Spencer Ware is more than an obstacle. He’s a legitimately good NFL running back. But Hunt profiles as a better receiver than Ware, and Andy Reid’s offense usually features a pass-catching running back. If both players stay healthy, I don’t expect either Ware or Hunt to finish in the top 24 on a points-per-game basis, though they’ll be adequate bye options. If Ware misses time, I’ll project Hunt as a high-end RB2 or low-end RB1 those weeks.
If you need a rookie running back to plug into your starting lineup, Perine is your best bet after the top four backs. He outproduced Joe Mixon at Oklahoma in 2015 and nearly matched him on a per-game basis in 2016. Before Mixon arrived on campus, Perine posted 1713 rushing yards as a true freshman. Plus, he bench pressed 225 pounds 30 times (!) at the combine. It probably doesn’t predict NFL success, but it’s impressive regardless. Most importantly, he should overtake Rob Kelley as Washington’s lead back in 2016. The only things holding him back are lack of long speed and use in the passing game.
Christian McCaffery seemed an odd fit for Carolina’s offense. Even more oddly, the Panthers drafted another RB/WR tweener in Samuel with their very next pick. As a “rushing receiver,” Samuel is one of Russell Clay’s favorite 2017 dynasty rookies. He’s the best bet to produce a Tyreek Hill-like rookie season, which would make him look like a steal at his dynasty rookie ADP in the middle of the second round. But I question whether the Panthers will be able to incorporate one tweener into their 2017 offense, let alone two.
Quick: dynasty rookie wide receiver will lead rookies in receiving yards? Dynasty fantasy football players would vote for Corey Davis, but bookmakers say Jones is the most likely answer. Much like Davis, Jones had a hyperproductive college career at a small school. Jones set NCAA records for career receptions (399) and single-season receptions (158) at East Carolina. And he landed in Buffalo, where the wide receiver depth chart consists of Sammy Watkins, Jones, and … Andre Holmes? If you like to draft rookies and trade them in the near future, Jones is a solid investment.
Godwin dropped in rookie drafts due to landing spot, but the talented wide receiver remains high in our dynasty rookie rankings. He has production, including an insane 39.5 percent of Penn State’s receiving yards in his age-19 season. He has measurables, including a 4.42 40-yard dash and a 4.00 20-yard shuttle at 209 pounds. And he has Jameis Winston throwing him the ball. Draft him. You may not have to stash him for long.
Rookie metrics lovers place Foreman high in their rookie running back rankings. He’s a size-speed monster, running a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at 233 pounds. Plus, he dominated in college, averaging 184 rushing yards per game as a 20-year-old junior. Lamar Miller didn’t thrive with a heavy workload in 2016, so expect Foreman to earn a plenty of carries in a Texans offense that ran the ball 456 times, sixth-most in the NFL.
Mack fell into the best rookie running back situation. Only 34-year-old Frank Gore and journeyman Robert Turbin stand between Mack and the Colts’ starting spot, one of the most coveted for fantasy football running backs. And if Mack’s college career is any indication, he’ll be ready to contribute from Day 1. He averaged 100 scrimmage yards per game in each of his three seasons at South Florida, and he never scored fewer than nine touchdowns in a season. But he must learn to rely more on his blockers; he can’t simply outrun linebackers in the NFL.
Every news blurb about the 49ers’ running back depth chart reiterates Carlos Hyde’s shaky grip on the top spot. Head coach Kyle Shanahan tabbed Williams as a draft favorite, and Williams appears a good fit for Shanahan’s outside-zone running game. He’s also a plus athlete, running a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at 210 pounds. But he’s a questionable choice in PPR dynasty leagues, as he demonstrated limited receiving skills in college.
So who are you targeting at the top of your rookie draft? Do your top 20 rankings differ significantly? Share your ideas and rankings below, and good luck in your dynasty rookie drafts!