Editor’s note: Happy Thanksgiving! To celebrate, here’s the first version of Travis May’s Top 100 Rookies for 2018 for free. In order to ensure you catch every version leading up the NFL draft, make sure you take advantage of our DLF Cyber Week Super Sale by signing up to DLF Premium and using the code Cyber2017 at checkout. The sale begins at midnight Eastern on Black Friday.
It’s about time for turkey, songs about snow, and family get-togethers. But more importantly it’s time again to talk about the top 100 draft eligible offensive rookies for fantasy football in 2018.
If you missed the series last year, we (or at least I) had fun in November, January, and April. There were some impressive hits…and some horrible misses. But in November it’s less about having everything right, and more about getting ahead of your league mates while they’re all still distracted trying to win a championship or something. (Who does that?)
It’s very early. Things will change. Many of these players will choose to go back to school. Others will flat out bust. However, like any part of our dynasty life, building a rookie big board in November is just one part of the process that helps set us apart in our journey to attempted fake sports greatness.
As I mentioned last year, I like to frame my thought process before jumping into anything.
When I build a big board, I mixed 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 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 88th (I see you, Trenton Irwin 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) Saquon Barkley – RB1, Penn State
Last year around this time it was Dalvin Cook who sat by himself atop this list for me. This time (to the surprise of absolutely no one) it’s another stud running back that does it all. Saquon, just like Dalvin, has been extremely productive in college since his freshman season. In fact, when you look at it closer their production profiles are incredibly similar. They both just barely made it to 1000 yards on the ground as true freshmen, caught about 20 passes and scored eight total touchdowns. But then they absolutely exploded in their sophomore and junior seasons, both in the run and pass games, showing that they could carry the majority of an entire offense.
Why do I even compare Dalvin Cook to Saquon? The key thing they have in common is that they both possessed balanced production profiles that highlighted their elite talent and development throughout their college careers.
Saquon is just the most complete skill position prospect heading into 2018 NFL Draft season. Everyone else is a step down likely missing something that you want to see on paper or on tape.
Can he run well inside and out? Yes. How is his balance off contact? It’s elite. Does he create his own yards with decisiveness and vision? Check. Can he contribute in all facets of the passing game? You know it.
As the draft approaches, Saquon will be picked apart to find some glaring weakness. Don’t waste your time. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy selecting Saquon Barkley with the first pick in 100% of all dynasty rookie drafts next year.
2) Courtland Sutton – WR1, SMU
3) Derrius Guice – RB2, LSU
4) James Washington – WR2, Oklahoma State
5) Nick Chubb – RB3, Georgia
This tier would have to have something go terribly wrong between now and April to not hear their name called in the first half of your rookie drafts next year. Landing spots will shuffle them around quite a bit when the time comes, but they’re all elite prospects in more ways than one that deserve to be selected early.
Courtland Sutton is a name that the devy and dynasty community have been excited about for a couple of years now. It’s hard to believe that the 6’4”, 225 pound wide receiver used to play defensive back until you watch him leap to the heavens and use his “my ball” mentality to crush the hopes and dreams of his opponents. There’s a good chance that NFL Draft experts push this physically dominant WR1 candidate into the top ten overall conversation.
Derrius Guice and Nick Chubb are both elite runners in between the tackles. College defenses know that LSU and Georgia are going to run the ball and just cannot do anything about it as they both average nearly seven yards per carry. Chubb tore just about everything you can tear in his knee back in 2015, but finally looks like he’s at least 85% of the stud he once was. Guice also struggled to stay healthy early this season, but is looking like his old ferocious self now. Both of them haven’t shown much in the receiving game, but that doesn’t mean they can’t catch. Guice and Chubb could be feature backs if they show competence on third downs.
James Washington is a big play machine at wide receiver. It’s one thing to average 20 yards per reception in a small sample, but James has caught 213 passes. He could be end up being a thicker DeSean Jackson or Mike Wallace who wins deep frequently at the next level. However don’t let that fool you. Washington is a polished route runner who can win in the short and intermediate range as well.
6) Ronald Jones II – RB4, USC
RoJo sits in his own third tier because he’s that not quite perfect prospect, but could also end up being the best player in this class. Ronald Jones checks every single box for a running back prospect that you want to see except for his physical build at 6’0”, 200 pounds. He’s been extremely productive at USC. RoJo finishes his runs falling forward incredibly well for a leaner back. He bounces off contact similarly to Alvin Kamara. You’ll hear his detractors ramble on and on about his BMI (Body Mass Index). And on the flip side you’ll hear his fans call him the next Jamaal Charles. I’m a fan, but I also recognize that Jamaal Charles was a major outlier and ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash. Ronald Jones will likely run in the mid-4.4 range (did so in high school). If this home run hitter tests well at the Scouting Combine and lands in a decent spot, he could find himself in tier two.
Tier 4 (Next Best Thing)
7) Calvin Ridley – WR3, Alabama
8) Deon Cain – WR4, Clemson
9) Rashaad Penny – RB5, San Diego State
10) Bryce Love – RB6, Stanford
11) Christian Kirk – WR5, Texas A&M
12) Damien Harris – RB7, Alabama
13) Mark Andrews – TE1, Oklahoma
I like to call this tier the “Next Best Thing” because if you own a late first you’ll wish you had an earlier pick, but you’ll settle for the “next best thing” in this group. In fact if you’re reading a piece on top rookies for 2018 in November, then you’re probably already pretty excited to grab one of these guys next year.
Calvin Ridley is “old” already, but there’s a chance he is the first wide receiver off the (real) board next spring. He can do it all from the screen game, to run blocking, to burning DBs deep on polished double moves. Ridley profiles more like a WR2 in the pros, but he could be an incredibly good one.
Deon Cain hasn’t produced huge numbers for Clemson, but he’s a clutch catch waiting to happen. He’ll likely get the Clemson bump and be selected early on day two of the NFL Draft.
Rashaad Penny is a 5’11”, 220-pound explosive running back having a 2000-yard season. Did I mention he catches passes too? Penny will fly up rankings and draft boards all spring. His tiny former team mate Donnel Pumphrey was a fourth round pick and Penny is markedly better. Expect greatness.
Bryce Love may be the most confusing, yet enticing prospect in the entire NFL Draft class for 2018. Love is averaging nearly nine yards per carry on his way to about 2000 yards this season just like Penny. However, for a smaller guy he gets next to zero work in the passing game. That wouldn’t be especially strange if we hadn’t just seen his former team mate Christian McCaffrey feature as Stanford’s lead receiving option just last year. Bryce also sees about three to four yards before contact on just about every running play. It will be interesting to see if NFL decision-makers credit Love for his extreme success in 2017 or just simply chalk it up to scheme and offensive line play.
Christian Kirk is a former five-star recruit who should be a solid slot receiver at the next level. He needs to work on his route tree if he wants to earn a starting role early, but Kirk has produced well given the circumstances and competition for targets at Texas A&M. He may return to college for another season due to his down year in 2017.
Damien Harris has been improving every year for Alabama and will continue to rise up draft boards. He’s absolutely shredded every level of competition this year for 8.2 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns.
Mark Andrews is head and shoulders above every other tight end prospect in this class. His easy comparison will be Travis Kelce, but he’s possibly even faster. Expect Andrews to come off the board late round one or early round two as the first tight end in 2018.
Tier 5 (Crazy Upside)
14) Auden Tate – WR6, Florida State
15) Equanimeous St. Brown – WR7, Notre Dame
16) Myles Gaskin – RB8, Washington
17) Michael Gallup – WR8, Colorado State
18) Anthony Miller – WR9, Memphis
19) Josh Rosen – QB1, UCLA
20) Lamar Jackson – QB2, Louisville
21) Richie James – WR10, Middle Tennessee State
22) Royce Freeman – RB9, Oregon
23) John Kelly – RB10, Tennessee
24) Sony Michel – RB11, Georgia
Tier five is absolutely packed with players who could present round one rookie upside given the right opportunity.
Both quarterbacks in this tier could end up being the best in the class. Lamar’s mix of mobility and rocket arm could show to be reminiscent of Michael Vick. Rosen could be a good version of Eli Manning (no offense, Giants fans).
Auden Tate and Equanimeous St. Brown are giant red zone targets who are victims of their inept passing offenses. They both have all of the physical tools to absolutely wreck smaller defensive backs on the outside. The sad part is that because 2017 was so mediocre statistically for both of them, they might actually stay in school for another season.
Michael Gallup and Anthony Miller are two of the most productive college wide receivers in recent memory. As of this writing, if you combine their statistics from 2016 and 2017 you would have 340 receptions, 5124 receiving yards, and 48 touchdowns. Gallup profiles almost exactly like Davante Adams. Anthony Miller is quite similar to Sterling Shepard.
Richie James has struggled with injury in 2017 and will likely return to MTSU for another season, but he would still be a mid-round steal if he came out this year. James is a supremely productive WR who can run the full route tree and plays bigger than his listed size would indicate.
Royce Freeman could very well rise into round one if he shows any speed at all at the NFL Combine. Freeman has all of the physical tools but top end speed to succeed at the next level.
Tier 6 (The Almosts)
25) Akrum Wadley – RB12, Iowa
26) Dante Pettis – WR11, Washington
27) Kalen Ballage – RB13, Arizona State
28) Sam Darnold – QB3, USC
29) Troy Fumagalli – TE2, Wisconsin
30) Mike Gesicki – TE3, Penn State
31) Josh Adams – RB14, Notre Dame
32) DJ Moore – WR12, Maryland
33) Simmie Cobbs – WR13, Indiana
34) Baker Mayfield – QB4, Oklahoma
35) Kerryon Johnson – RB15, Auburn
36) Deontay Burnett – WR14, USC
“What? How is Kalen Ballage this far down your list, Travis?”
I know. I hate it too. I really want to get excited about Kalen Ballage. He’s 6’2”, 230 pounds, runs possibly sub-4.5 in the 40-yard dash, and catches passes like a receiver. But his success in college has been extremely spotty and baffling. We can blame the strange offense and poor offensive line play all we want, but if Ballage was truly elite he would have been a lot more consistent.
“Also, what? Baker Mayfield was on prime time television and threw a bunch of yards and against Oklahoma State! He should be ranked higher than interception machine, Darnold!”
Darnold may actually stay for another year at USC. His hype got out of control leading to an inevitable let down. Both Darnold and Mayfield can improvise and make incredible throws quite often. I like Darnold’s physical tools a little more than the smaller (and less mature) Baker Mayfield.
Troy Fumagalli and Mike Gesicki are consistently performing a magnificent tango together as they dance for my TE2 slot. Troy has the edge right now simply because for fantasy football you want a guy that can produce as the focal point of an offense. Wisconsin doesn’t throw a ton, but when they do it’s often towards Fumagalli. Mike Gesicki may have the physical edge given his his 6’6”, 257-pound Gronk-like frame.
Simmie Cobbs could end up being ranked much higher, but he’s mainly just a red zone threat.
DJ Moore is the real treat in this tier. He’s in danger of being the most “my guy” of my guys in this draft class. DJ looks like a running back but is actually an impressively polished wide receiver. He’s taken the Maryland offense and put it on his back over the past two seasons. Moore actually accounts for 46% of the receptions, 53% of the receiving yards, and 53% of the receiving touchdowns for the Terrapins in 2017. I’ll spend plenty of time talking up DJ Moore in the near future if he leaves for the draft in 2018.
Tier 7 (What If)
37) Mason Rudolph – QB5, Oklahoma State
38) Darren Carrington – WR15, Utah
39) DJ Chark – WR16, LSU
40) Allen Lazard – WR17, Iowa State
41) Dallas Goedert – TE4, South Dakota State
42) Mark Walton – RB16, Miami
43) Rodney Anderson – RB17, Oklahoma
44) Antonio Callaway – WR18, Florida
45) Justin Jackson – RB18, Northwestern
46) Bo Scarbrough – RB19, Alabama
47) Jaylen Smith – WR19, Louisville
48) Josh Allen – QB6, Wyoming
I call this tier the “What If” tier because they all have at least one pretty significant “what if” question that could change everything about their immediate future.
What if Mason Rudolph is actually better than Baker Mayfield? I know Oklahoma defeated Oklahoma State this season, but Rudolph very well could still present similar upside when you mix his arm, accuracy, and pocket presence. He could easily rise ten spots if the right team selects him early.
What if Darren Carrington hadn’t made a few horrible decisions early on in college? Carrington kicked off his college career for Oregon on a hot streak. He looked like the best receiver on the team as a true freshman. Since then he has been suspended and eventually dismissed from a football team. Carrington has been pretty productive for Utah in 2017, but will it be enough for a team to invest with confidence?
What if Dallas Goedert only really found significant success because he was playing FCS competition? Goedert sure looks like he can play on Sundays. His unreal production of 152 receptions for over 2000 yards and 16 touchdowns in the past two seasons is pretty unbelievable for a college tight end.
Mark Walton would be a top ten running back in this class if healthy. He likely stays for 2018.
Rodney Anderson has next to zero production outside of 2017, but is technically draft eligible. His raw athleticism and impeccable production in a small sample size could tempt him to make the leap now. He’ll have to compete with a healthy Abdul Adams and stunning freshman Trey Sermon if he returns.
Antonio Callaway would have been in first round rookie consideration had he not been suspended for credit card fraud this season. Callaway is big enough, fast enough, and savvy enough to win at the next level right now, but should stay and possibly play again in 2018 before putting his name in the hat.
Justin Jackson could have the most underrated and most unnoticed production profile in the 2018 NFL draft class. But no one cares because he plays for Northwestern. Jackson has run for over 1000 yards and caught at least 20 passes four seasons in a row in the Big Ten. He could be the beast we all missed.
Bo Scarbrough wouldn’t even be considered interesting if he didn’t play for Alabama and that’s being nice. He should stay another season, but even then isn’t guaranteed to see a huge workload.
Josh Allen’s college statistics should nearly eliminate him from your rookie draft boards, but because an NFL team is going to make a bad decision and invest early, he should stay on your radar at the end of most standard-length rookie drafts.
Tier 8 (Underdogs)
49) Adam Breneman – TE5, Massachusetts
50) David Sills V – WR20, West Virginia
51) Jaleel Scott – WR21, New Mexico State
52) Jake Wieneke – WR22, South Dakota State
53) Jaylen Samuels – TE6/RB20, NC State
54) LJ Scott – RB21, Michigan State
55) Luke Falk – QB7, Washington State
56) Cedrick Wilson – WR23, Boise State
57) Hunter Renfrow – WR24, Clemson
58) Ito Smith – RB22, Southern Miss
59) Jester Weah – WR25, Pittsburgh
60) Trey Quinn – WR26, SMU
The Underdog tier is a lot of fun. Every single one of these players have something bizarre about them that truly does make them somewhat of an underdog.
Adam Breneman is a former Penn State tight end that transferred to UMass to showcase his talents and has dominated with his opportunity there against some pretty paltry competition. He’s a longshot to be drafted early, but could be an absolute steal later in the draft.
David Sills is a former quarterback still figuring things out at wide receiver. That didn’t stop him from grabbing 18 (yes, 18!!!) touchdowns this season.
Jaleel Scott plays for New Mexico State, but stands at 6’6”, 220 pounds. Scott could see draft season ascension similar to Kenny Golladay.
Jake Wieneke is an FCS wide receiver who has all of the production in the world like Cooper Kupp last season. Wieneke could be a mid-round selection if he impresses in the spring.
Jaylen Samuels is a 5’11” tight end. Or in other words he really can’t play tight end in the NFL. He may convert to running back.
Luke Falk was a former walk-on at Washington State. Now he could be drafted as early as the end of day two in the NFL Draft.
Expect this tier of longshots to make some noise next spring.
61) Chris Herndon – TE7, Miami
62) Cody Thompson – WR27, Toledo
63) Phillip Lindsay – RB23, Colorado
64) Deebo Samuel – WR28, South Carolina
65) Parris Campell – WR29, Ohio State
66) Karan Higdon – RB24, Michigan
67) Ralph Webb – RB25, Vanderbilt
68) Lavon Coleman – RB26, Washington
69) Nick Fitzgerald – QB9, Mississippi State
70) Drew Lock – QB8, Missouri
71) Hayden Hurst – TE8, South Carolina
72) Ian Thomas – TE9, Indiana
Tier nine has it all: injured, overrated, underrated, and a couple fast risers.
Cody Thompson and Deebo Samuel should have both impressed in 2017, but were stopped short with injury. Both of them could be drafted on day three.
Parris Campbell is probably the most overrated player on this list. THE Ohio State University churns out intriguing playmakers, but Parris just probably isn’t one. An NFL team will likely reach for him.
Karan Higdon should return to Michigan for another year, but he is the best back for Michigan. Karan logged a four game stretch with 603 rushing yards and eight touchdowns this season.
Lavon Coleman could offer feature back skills at his size. He just hasn’t garnered much attention thanks to the consistent success of his team mate, Myles Gaskin.
Nick Fitzgerald and Drew Lock should be mid to late round quarterbacks, but could easily start in the right spot early on. Fitzgerald’s mobility is amazing. Lock’s aggressive style of play could win him a camp battle early.
Ian Thomas is the late round tight end name to put in your back pocket right now. His Division-I resume is extremely short, but this junior college transfer is making a name for himself in 2017.
Tier 10 (Late Round Gems)
73) Terry Godwin – WR30, Georgia
74) Nyheim Hines – RB27, NC State
75) J’Mon Moore – WR31, Missouri
76) Marcell Ateman – WR32, Oklahoma State
77) Demario Richard – RB28, Arizona State
78) Larry Rose III – RB29, New Mexico State
79) Jake Browning – QB10, Washington
80) Will Grier – QB11, West Virginia
81) Steve Ishmael – WR33, Syracuse
82) Tyler Petite – TE10, USC
83) Dalton Schultz – TE11, Stanford
84) CJ Conrad – TE12, Kentucky
Tier 10 is essentially the late round gems worth noting. It’s unlikely that any of these players will be taken inside of the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Terry Godwin has been the only option worth noticing in Georgia’s nonexistent pass game. Georgia WRs just don’t put up numbers. Godwin would plug in as a scrawny, but decent WR3 for an NFL team.
Nyheim Hines shifts through his gears ridiculously quick. Hines can get from 0 to 60 fast enough to worry any and every defense that he faces. If he shows that he possesses some agility to go with his wheels a team could gamble late.
J’Mon Moore checks most every box at wide receiver: size, speed, production, strength at point of catch. He could improve and expand his route running game quite a bit though. Moore deserves to be on a roster.
Both Jake Browning and Will Grier will be lucky to get drafted this season, but could find some relevance in deeper superflex leagues as intriguing future NFL backups or streaming options one day.
The three tight ends in this class are all quite different, but could start one day in the NFL. Petite looks more like a move tight end that could block when called upon but may never block well. Dalton Schultz is a block first, catch later type of tight end, but boasts every-down tight end size. CJ Conrad is more of an H-Back type. If you’re unfamiliar with what I mean, he often lines up directly behind offensive tackles and acts as a pulling guard or even full back in run blocking, but can also peel out and catch passes.
85) Marquez Valdes-Scantling – WR34, USF
86) Ray Ray McCloud – WR35, Clemson
87) Robert Foster – WR36, Alabama
88) Trenton Irwin – WR37, Stanford
89) Kamryn Pettway – RB30, Auburn
90) Travon McMillian – RB31, Virginia Tech
91) Riley Ferguson – Q12, Memphis
92) Jordan Villamin – WR38, Oregon State
93) Cam Phillips – WR39, Virginia Tech
94) Jacques Patrick – RB32, Florida State
95) JT Barrett – QB13, Ohio State
96) Tavares Martin Jr – WR40, Washington State
97) Ka’Raun White – WR41, West Virginia
98) Ty Johnson – RB33, Maryland
99) Chase Edmonds – RB34, Fordham
100) Cam Serigne – TE13, Wake Forest
This last tier is the best of the rest.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a 6’5” WR with a sleek frame, but plays strong. He’ll end up on a practice squad at the very least.
Travon McMillian came out of the gate quick with over 1000 rushing yards as a freshman. Since then coaching changes, rushing quarterbacks, and running back committees have made it impossible to gauge what his potential truly could be. He could be drafted and be a worthy handcuff early on or just go undrafted completely.
Jordan Villamin was supposed to be a big deal there for a while, but he just never developed. Oregon State’s offense is absolutely gross for the most part, but Villamin hasn’t done anything to indicate that he should be drafted before round six.
JT Barrett should be given an opportunity as a solid mobile backup for the right team. I don’t think he offers the pocket presence and arm talent to start in the NFL.
Ka’Raun White is the little brother of Chicago Bears bust of a wide receiver, Kevin White. West Virginia has been airing it out this year hoping to send three wide receivers to the NFL. Ka’Raun will get a fair look next spring.
That’s all folks. I hope you found this helpful and enjoy the read. As I mentioned, feel free to reach out to me @FF_TravisM any time. I would love to talk 2018 rookies and dynasty league football with you.