Welcome back all of you Dynasty Lifers! I greet you that way for two reasons. One, that’s my opening line on every episode of the Dynasty Life podcast (that I probably should have retired by now). And two, if you’re reading up on 100 incoming NFL offensive playmakers in January or February then dynasty is likely (a huge part of) your life.
If you missed the November edition of this series there’s a blue hyperlink to click on, aptly placed on the word “November” because I like keeping things easy for my readers.
If you checked that out, then welcome back again! Ha! I’m not that funny, but at least I make sad attempts in that direction. Anyway, I’m done with that. I promise (*crosses fingers*).
Seriously though, we are less than a month away from NFL Combine week! It is (well past) time to dive head first into rookie draft planning and take the necessary steps to crush our league mates in the off-season. That’s why I put these lists together a few times every year. They’re just one step in the big picture process that is building your fantasy football dynasty (or maybe just building a knowledge base to impress your friends at the bar next week). Regardless of your reason for binging on rookies in January or February, I’m glad you’re here.
Keep in mind, as I say every time, I’m not saying that this list is your magical ticket to dynasty championship land. You are most definitely going to disagree with (at least) one or two of these player rankings. And that’s great! You should. The whole point of this exercise is to share my knowledge, and give you another set of data to analyze and test against your own current understanding of the incoming draft class.
So yes, Kalen Ballage truthers, I promise things will be okay even if I have him lower than you. And yes, I am probably insane for ranking DJ Moore that high. It’s fine. Let’s just tackle this class together and hopefully, we’ll teach each other something along the way.
Please do make sure and leave a comment. I want to learn something from you all. And of course, feel free to reach out to me on the Twitter (@FF_TravisM). That’s the best way to antagonize me concerning your favorite players or perhaps become my best friend.
And yes, I know this piece is incredibly long (Sorry James, the GOAT editor). There are 100 players to talk through. That takes a sec.
1) Saquon Barkley – RB1, Penn State
Surprise! Everyone’s number one player is still sitting on his throne (of Bud Light probably spouting off “Dilly Dilly!”). Saquon Barkley has been unanimously perched atop the majority of dynasty rookie ranking lists ever since he dropped 358 total yards (305 from scrimmage) on Iowa in a nationally televised prime-time game last fall. Barkley did everything in that game. He carried the rock 28 times for 211 yards. He doubled his career record (at the time) for receptions in a game by grabbing 12 passes for 94 yards. The young stud king even showed some burst in the return game. From that point on the great BAEquon could do no wrong.
It almost didn’t seem to matter that the very next game Saquon averaged 2.8 yards per carry against a less-than-stellar Indiana team. Yes, some people wanted to make a big deal out of his putrid performance against Ohio State in which he put up some of his worst tape of the year. But even then, most people chalked that up Ohio State’s dominant defensive line just eating Saquon up in the backfield before even Superman could evade a tackle.
At the very least, Saquon showed he was indeed human this past season when it came to decision-making in hitting the hole. The majority of us dynasty fanatics want to view Saquon a la “vie en rose” (all googly-eyed no matter what) but the truth is this king has a few chinks in his armor. I’m not saying he isn’t the best player in this draft class. He most definitely is. However, the last time the dynasty community was this sure on a consensus number one player this early (in the fall of his final collegiate season) it was Trent Richardson. Let that sink in. Then select Saquon first overall and move on anyway.
2) Derrius Guice – RB2, LSU
I can’t remember any time in dynasty that the number one and two picks seemed so clear this early. Obviously landing spot could change things, but Derrius Guice seems like the pick here in his own tier.
Guice runs like a madman when he’s healthy. It’s truly comical watching just one defender trying to tackle Guice with a full head of steam. He invites contact. He seeks it out and then mutilates his opponents in the second level of defenses. Derrius exhibits all of the physical traits you want to see in a feature back. Plus he’s shown decisiveness, balance, vision, and extreme perseverance through some tough nagging injuries.
The only real concerns with Guice may be health (given his playing style) and perhaps his receiving chops (given the small sample size), but most dynasty owners will look past that. Guice has RB1 potential. Treat him that way.
Tier 3 (The “Sure Things”)
3) James Washington – WR1, Oklahoma State
4) Courtland Sutton – WR2, SMU
5) Ronald Jones II – RB3, USC
6) Calvin Ridley – WR3, Alabama
7) Nick Chubb – RB4, Georgia
8) Sony Michel – RB5, Georgia
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Every rookie pick comes with some risk. I call this tier the “sure things” because the mix of pedigree, production, physical traits, and expected draft capital here is impossible to pass up. The landing spots will juggle these guys around, but all of these players should receive significant opportunities to succeed in the NFL.
Courtland Sutton and James Washington are two incredibly different wide receivers, but right now I’ll give JWash the edge at WR1 due to his more consistent dominant production and balanced skill set. Sutton is a 6’4” former defensive back with reach and body control that will instantly gain him favor with any quarterback. James Washington is a 5’10” speedster with boxer arms and strength to win at every level down the field. Sutton will likely make his career moving the chains and winning in the red zone, but also has sufficient explosiveness to work the screen game. Washington will destroy defenses with splash plays evidenced by his career average of 19.9 yards per reception (on 226 receptions). Both should succeed early in the NFL.
Ronald Jones II scored 20 touchdowns in 2017 and almost no one seemed to notice. “RoJo” is a home run threat that can wiggle his way through contact inside similar to Alvin Kamara at Tennessee. Expect him gone by pick 40 of the NFL Draft.
Calvin Ridley is already almost 24, but I’m not one to care given his skill set. He caught 63 passes for 967 yards and five touchdowns this season. The second highest reception total for any other player on Alabama was 17. Calvin took the Alabama passing offense and put it on his back with below average quarterback play. Imagine what he could be in a decent landing spot given his intermediate and deep route running skills.
The end of this tier is sure to ruffle some feathers, but the truth is that both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are phenomenal players. Both can run with success inside and out. Both have shown adequate pass-catching ability in small sample sizes. They’re both incredibly aware players. I like Chubb a little more as a true runner. I like Michel’s balance across all relevant positional skills. Landing spot will decide this battle.
Tier 4 (The Next Best Thing)
9) Rashaad Penny – RB6, San Diego State
10) Auden Tate – WR4, Florida State
11) Kerryon Johnson – RB7, Auburn
12) DJ Moore – WR5, Maryland
13) Christian Kirk – WR6, Texas A&M
14) Mark Andrews – TE1, Oklahoma
15) Anthony Miller – WR7, Memphis
16) John Kelly – RB8, Tennessee
17) Michael Gallup – WR8, Colorado State
18) Equanimeous St. Brown – WR9, Notre Dame
This tier feels the same every year. There are definite questions about these players. They may not be classified as sure studs. But hey, at least they’re the next best thing.
If you like feature backs that post 2,383 yards from scrimmage in one season then Penny is your man. Unless he tanks the Combine, Rashaad is an easy late first in rookie drafts (at least).
Auden Tate is a flexible, strong, huge wide receiver that will haunt the nightmares of NFL defenses. At times he reminds me of a young AJ Green. However, his lack of consistent production may knock his draft stock down a bit. Don’t buy that noise. Tate’s skill set could lead him to the best NFL career in this class.
Kerryon Johnson is already being compared to Le’Veon Bell. This tough stud put the Auburn offense on his back and almost single-handedly carried them to victory over both Alabama and Georgia in 2017. Kerryon’s patience, strength, and burst for his size set him apart from many RBs in this class.
I’ll cover DJ Moore in more detail for the upcoming 20/20 rookie series (because he’s amazing), but to help illustrate how dominant he was this season just check out a few fun numbers. Moore accounted for 45.71% of total receptions, 53.25% of total receiving yards, and 53.33% of the receiving touchdowns for Maryland this past season. Big Ten defenses didn’t have an answer to stop him.
Christian Kirk is a former 5-star recruit who may be the most athletic slot receiver in this class. He will likely be drafted early and given solid snaps right away. I just don’t believe Kirk is very complete yet. He didn’t run even close to a full route tree until maybe this season. Kirk is good, but just doesn’t boast an elite ceiling.
Mark Andrews logged 210 more receiving yards than any other Division-I tight end in the country last season. Mark’s mix of size, receiving ability, and overall versatility slots him in at TE1 easily.
Anthony Miller walked on to the Memphis football team with zero scholarship offers coming out of high school. In 2017 he caught 96 balls for 1,462 yards and 18 touchdowns. This wide receiver has an unbelievable story of his climb to greatness and it’s only just begun.
If you get in John Kelly’s way he’ll hit you into next week and jog back to the huddle ready to do it again. Tennessee football was an absolute travesty last year, but Kelly was the lone bright spot. He’s a mid-round steal waiting to happen who can catch passes, block, and succeed on any type of run.
Michael Gallup is potentially a better version of Davante Adams. They posted similar college production. Gallup may be a tad leaner, but their physical builds are close. Gallup creates separation with a mix of both finesse and physicality just like Adams as well. He’s likely a day two selection with huge upside.
Equanimeous St. Brown is a 6’5” monster who got stuck with possibly the worst throwing QB in Division-I college football in 2017. ESB looked like a future star with DeShone Kizer throwing him the ball in 2016, but never found any consistency this season. His production profile screams late round pick while his athletic gifts say round one. ESB may have the widest possible range of outcomes of any WR in this class. His upside is the only thing keeping him in tier four.
Tier 5 (The Almosts)
19) Josh Rosen – QB1, UCLA
20) Richie James – WR10, Middle Tennessee State
21) Royce Freeman – RB9, Oregon
22) Mark Walton – RB10, Miami (FL)
23) Deon Cain – WR11, Clemson
24) Simmie Cobbs – WR12, Indiana
25) Lamar Jackson – QB2, Louisville
26) Sam Darnold – QB3, USC
27) Dante Pettis – WR13, Washington
28) Kalen Ballage – RB11, Arizona State
29) Baker Mayfield – QB4, Oklahoma
30) Justin Jackson – RB12, Northwestern
This is the part of the rookie draft where my excitement begins to wane just a bit. Am I really excited about drafting a quarterback? Do I feel super confident that any of these skill position players will start in year one? No. But they all still offer a unique skill set, upside or implicit long-term value insulation.
Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, and Baker Mayfield should be the clear top four at the quarterback position in this draft. Josh Rosen is likely the most pro-ready balanced prospect without many clear flaws. Lamar Jackson just needs to get a chance and he’ll destroy with his improved accuracy and Michael Vick mobility. Sam Darnold is a magician who can create something from nothing just as easy as he can fumble a drive away, but he reminds me of a young Matt Stafford. Baker could be the steal of the draft though. He has the most complete production profile of any quarterback in the draft. If Baker was two inches taller he would be a top-five pick, easy.
Richie James is one of my favorite players in this entire class. He may only be 5’9” or 5’10”, but don’t let that fool you. Richie plays big and wins from the slot, out of the backfield, and after the catch. The only reason Richie isn’t higher is that he missed a significant portion of the 2017 season with an injury, so I’m not sure his real NFL Draft stock is going to be very high. If he lands in a decent spot he’ll creep into the top 18 for me.
Deon Cain dropped down this list significantly from November. Why? After breaking down his numbers and watching several games of him again it was clear that Cain never offered consistency at Clemson. He may be an NFL team’s WR2 someday, as he possesses enticing raw ability, but I’m hesitant to rank him even this high right now.
Kalen Ballage may be way too low, but for now, he simply doesn’t belong any higher. Ballage had a putrid 2017. He logged just one carry of at least twenty yards on the season, one 100-yard game, and disappeared in the passing game. If Kalen succeeds it will be due to his freak athleticism. Kalen could run a 4.4-second forty in February at 6’2”, 222.
In November I called Justin Jackson the most underrated and unnoticed player in the 2018 NFL Draft class. That still hasn’t changed for the most part. Jackson may be slightly undersized, but he put together four straight seasons with at least 1,387 yards from scrimmage and can stay on the field for every down.
Tier 6 (Freaks & Geeks)
31) Troy Fumagalli – TE2, Wisconsin
32) Dallas Goedert – TE3, South Dakota State
33) Mike Gesicki – TE4, Penn State
34) Josh Adams – RB13, Notre Dame
35) Jaylen Samuels – TE5/RB14, NC State
36) Allen Lazard – WR14, Iowa State
37) Akrum Wadley – RB15, Iowa
38) Darren Carrington – WR15, Utah
39) Jake Wieneke – WR16, South Dakota State
40) Deontay Burnett – WR17, USC
41) DJ Chark – WR18, LSU
42) Tre’Quan Smith – WR19, UCF
43) Mason Rudolph – QB5, Oklahoma State
44) Josh Allen – QB6, Wyoming
45) Bo Scarbrough – RB16, Alabama
I call this the freaks and geeks tier because it’s full of players with massive (in many cases, physical) potential and/or some huge question marks stemming from size, positional ambiguity, or level of competition.
Let’s kick it off with the tight ends. The only reason Troy Fumagalli isn’t a household name is that he plays for Wisconsin. The Badgers only threw the ball about 34% of the time in 2017. Fumagalli functioned as the team’s lead receiver, but could also punch defenders in the mouth blocking. Mike Gesicki and Dallas Goedert may struggle to create separation, but where they lack speed they make up for it with freak size and contested catch ability. All three of these guys could be selected inside the top 100 picks in the NFL Draft.
Jaylen Samuels (kind of) played tight end in college but is now officially switching his designation to running back for the draft season. At 5’11” there is no way he plays the conventional tight end position in the NFL, but if he finds the right home Jaylen will back one heck of a running back. He can block, catch passes, run inside, and outside. It’s already become cliché when referring to Jaylen, but he is an offensive Swiss Army knife.
Akrum Wadley carried the Iowa offense by himself in 2017 somehow at just 188 pounds. Watch to see if he adds some weight for the NFL Combine. He’ll need to if he wants to be drafted early at all.
Jake Wieneke and Tre’Quan Smith destroyed their opponents when given the chance, but both played lower level competition most of the time. I believe in the right spot they could start in the NFL, but their real NFL Draft stock will give us a better idea of their actual potential to garner professional snaps.
Mason Rudolph is better than Josh Allen in every way imaginable except for perhaps arm strength. However, Mason’s deep ball was clearly more accurate when targeting James Washington and Marcell Ateman. The most inaccurate QB in this draft class (Allen) is only ranked this high because some NFL team is going to make a horrible decision and draft him early.
Darren Carrington is the forgotten wide receiver of 2018. He put together his best season ever for Utah this past year and no one noticed. He offers solid speed, size, route running, and he’s even cleaned up the body catching now too.
Bo Scarbrough truthers are probably screaming right now, but the problem is Bo isn’t that good. His best professional comparison is LeGarrette Blount. And unless Bo gets to fall into the end zone 18 times (like Blount) playing for the Patriots, he won’t have that great of a career.
46) Hayden Hurst – TE6, South Carolina
47) Marcell Ateman – WR20, Oklahoma State
48) Jaleel Scott – WR21, New Mexico State
49) Antonio Callaway – WR22, Florida
50) Nyheim Hines – RB17, NC State
51) Ito Smith – RB18, Southern Miss
52) J’Mon Moore – WR23, Missouri
53) Kamryn Pettway – RB19, Auburn
54) Ralph Webb – RB20, Vanderbilt
55) Chris Herndon – TE7, Miami
56) Cedrick Wilson – WR24, Boise State
57) Trey Quinn – WR25, SMU
58) Phillip Lindsay – RB21, Colorado
59) Jordan Lasley – WR26, UCLA
This is the last tier of players that I would currently consider drafting inside a normal 48-56 pick rookie draft.
Hayden Hurst tried his hand at professional baseball before joining the Gamecocks in South Carolina. He offers a balanced skill set that should earn him early snaps at TE.
Marcell Ateman and Jaleel Scott are both massive humans that offer some fun upside. They could both play huge red zone roles for an NFL team or just end up being Brandon Coleman.
Antonio Callaway made a poor decision involving stolen school credit cards and went from possible day two pick to a possible undrafted free agent. He’s a big play waiting to happen, but he may be blackballed.
Nyheim Hines and Ito Smith are both little backs who will likely get compared to Ameer Abdullah. They both possess great speed and balance through contact. Neither will get selected before round four but could find change-of-pace roles quickly.
Cedrick Wilson dominated Mountain West competition in 2017 so badly that he nearly led the NCAA in receiving. He was just 13 yards shy of James Washington with 1,531 total receiving yards. He’s a deep threat with some length to help him finish plays. He’ll likely be a mid-round pick at best, but Cedrick’s body control and read on the ball deep downfield are a major threat.
Trey Quinn transferred out of LSU to go play for SMU this past season. In his first year at SMU, Trey Quinn led the country in receptions with 114. He’ll be a fan favorite wherever he lands due to his intensity of play and strength.
Some in the dynasty community (especially west coast college fans) love Jordan Lasley. I watched a lot of Rosen this year and couldn’t ever get excited about him. Jordan exhibited some solid rapport with the best quarterback in college football and made a few big plays downfield, but that’s really all you can say.
Tier 8 (The Draftables)
60) Marquez Valdes-Scantling – WR27, USF
61) Korey Robertson – WR28, Southern Miss
62) Ian Thomas – TE8, Indiana
63) Cody Thompson – WR29, Toledo
64) Steve Ishmael – WR30, Syracuse
65) Keke Coutee – WR31, Texas Tech
66) Luke Falk – QB7, Washington State
67) Adam Breneman – TE9, Massachusetts
68) Lavon Coleman – RB22, Washington
69) Roc Thomas – RB23, Jacksonville State
70) Jester Weah – WR32, Pittsburgh
71) Riley Ferguson – QB8, Memphis
72) Mike White – QB9, Western Kentucky
73) Dalton Schultz – TE10, Stanford
74) Chase Edmonds – RB24, Fordham
75) Demario Richard – RB25, Arizona State
76) Larry Rose III – RB26, New Mexico State
The Draftables tier is exactly what it sounds like. They’re the last players on this list that definitely deserve to be drafted in the real NFL Draft.
I haven’t heard just about anyone talk about Marquez Valdes-Scantling this year. And that may be partially because his name is so difficult to say. But if you like 6’5” wide receivers who move like they’re 6’1” then Marquez is your guy. Thanks to a mid-college transfer Marquez took a while to really break out with any amount of consistency in the box scores, but took the lead WR role in 2017 and ran with it for USF.
Korey Robertson and Steve Ishmael both boast stereotypical WR1 frames with decent production to match. Both exploded out of nowhere to finish among the most productive WRs in the country. Both could be draft day surprises given their recent success. However, I still believe both end up as depth options at best.
Ian Thomas only grabbed 28 passes in college but boasts the necessary frame and speed to become a weapon if given the chance.
Luke Falk’s “spaghetti arm” stereotype needs to stop. He went from walk-on to PAC-12 star in no time. He should be drafted into a situation that allows him to grow and learn for a couple years, but from there he could have a real shot at starting.
Riley Ferguson and Mike White can both place the ball with the best of them but didn’t have the best supporting casts around them (with the exception of Anthony Miller in 2017 and Taywan Taylor in 2016). Both of them should be drafted and will likely become solid career backups that could work their way into a starting role via injury like Matt Cassel and Case Keenum have done in recent memory.
Chase Edmonds is likely the first Fordham player that you have ever heard of, but he’s one to remember. If it weren’t for Edmonds missing some games this season, he could have broken 8,000 (you read that right) rushing yards in his college career. Chase is THE small school running back to watch.
Demario Richard and his teammate Kalen Ballage were a part of one of the strangest and most frustrating offenses in the country at Arizona State last year. And by most statistical measures Richard outperformed Ballage. He deserves a look in round six or so.
77) Quinton Flowers – QB10/RB27, USF
78) Cam Phillips – WR33, Virginia Tech
79) Ray Ray McCloud – WR34, Clemson
80) Cam Serigne – TE11, Wake Forest
81) J.T. Barrett – QB11, Ohio State
82) Ka’Raun White – WR35, West Virginia
83) Jordan Wilkins – RB28, Ole Miss
84) Javon Wims – WR36, Georgia
85) Jarvion Franklin – RB29, Western Michigan
86) Tyler Conklin – TE12, Central Michigan
87) Justin Crawford – RB30, West Virginia
88) Chase Litton – QB12, Marshall
This crew makes up the most intriguing group of players that could also very well go undrafted, but deserve a look anyway.
Quinton Flowers put together an unbelievably productive career at USF both throwing and running the ball. However, due to his stature and overall accuracy numbers, Quinton may go the way of Denard Robinson and switch to running back. Flowers should find a home in the NFL.
Cam Serigne is definitely one of the most underrated tight ends in the country. He’s never had fewer than 30 catches or 426 yards in a season. For a college tight end that’s some fantastic consistency. No, Cam isn’t a 6’5”, 260-pound guy, but he definitely boasts adequate size to stay on the field.
Ka’Raun White (Kevin White’s little brother) compiled more than 1,000 receiving yards and grabbed twelve touchdowns in his final season at West Virginia. If you watch him play, you can tell he’s Kevin White’s brother. He may not have quite the muscle or speed, but Ka’Raun can win deep and outside when called upon.
Javon Wims played just one year of high school football and broke his foot just six games into his first year of junior college football, but somehow still made this list. At 6’4”, Wims finally grew into his potential in 2017 leading the Bulldogs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Don’t count him out.
Tyler Conklin has the potential to become a late-riser in draft season. He missed four games in 2017 and still managed 504 receiving yards as a tight end. Conklin has just enough speed, strength, and size to be an absolute value in the later rounds this spring.
89) Justin Watson – WR37, Pennsylvania
90) DaeSean Hamilton – WR38, Penn State
91) Daurice Fountain – WR39, Northern Iowa
92) Ryan Izzo – TE13, Florida State
93) Blake Mack – TE14, Arkansas State
94) Kyle Hicks – RB31, TCU
95) Ryan Nall – RB32, Oregon State
96) Dalyn Dawkins – RB33, Colorado State
97) Robert Foster – WR40, Alabama
98) Jake Roh – TE15, Boise State
99) Jordan Villamin – WR41, Oregon State
100) Chris Warren III – RB34, Texas
If you made it this far, congratulations! These last 12 players appreciate it.
Justin Watson absolutely destroyed low-level competition at Pennsylvania with three consecutive 1000-yard seasons. This 6’3” senior could do some damage if he receives an invite to the Combine.
DaeSean Hamilton and Daurice Fountain are two Shrine and Senior Bowl favorites at wide receiver. DaeSean broke out early for Penn State before they forgot to continue throwing him the ball. Daurice plays for Northern Iowa, so no one knew how clean his footwork and route running were until just a few weeks ago.
Ryan Nall is likely a fullback in the NFL, but if someone decided to give him a shot at RB duties he would definitely run some people over. He’s not the most agile, but Nall uses one decisive cut to churn out solid positive yards.
Speaking of Oregon State Beavers, Jordan Villamin was supposed to be so much more than he turned out to be. He jumped out of the gate early as a true freshman grabbing 35 receptions for 578 yards and six touchdowns. However, after that, he seemed to regress every season. Villamin would be better suited to play tight end if anywhere at the next level.
Last and least for this list is Chris Warren III of Texas. Warren is possibly the biggest running back in this draft class at 6’4”, 250 pounds. That monstrous frame will likely be the only thing that earns him a serious look from any NFL franchise. Chris looked like he was developing nicely in 2016, but didn’t mesh well with the new Texas coaches in 2017. It looked as though he was going to transfer, but it turns out he declared for the NFL Draft instead. If he puts together a good Combine he could fly up most draft boards.
And that’s all I have for now. I hope you enjoyed this and learned something new! Always feel free to reach me on Twitter @FF_TravisM. I’d love to talk 2018 rookies and dynasty league football with you.