Editor’s Note: Make sure you’re ready for your dynasty league rookie draft by checking out our 2018 Rookie Draft Guide, our current Dynasty Rookie Rankings and our convenient Rookie Draft Cheat Sheet. There are simply no better resources out there for dynasty fantasy football draft preparation.
This year’s rookie draft is pretty exciting based on the perceived depth of the running back position. In fact, you can make a strong case that 1/4 of the teams in the NFL found a new starting running back in the draft, including the Giants (Saquon Barkley), Redskins (Derrius Guice), Browns (Nick Chubb), Seahawks (Rashaad Penny), Patriots (Sony Michel), Buccaneers (Ronald Jones II), Lions (Kerryon Johnson) and Broncos (Royce Freeman). While many of those backs will likely find themselves in a committee and history showing us some will simply be busts, this is a first round that’s going to be dominated by the talent at the ball carrier position. If you’re a contending team from last year and have a late pick, it’s also looking like a great year to need a receiver as the depth of the running back class will likely push pass catchers like DJ Moore, Calvin Ridley, Courtland Sutton and more down further than you could get them in most years. In short, the depth of this class looks solid. The challenge is there’s a lot of debate (more than any year I can remember) in terms of what order players should be ranked from right around 1.02 through 1.07. We’ll be working all Spring and Summer to sort it out!
Let’s dig in with this year’s top twelve, as comprised by our initial consensus rankings. Keep in mind, these will continue to fluctuate throughout the off-season as we get news from rookie minicamps and see some more free agents sign. For more information on all of these players, make sure you click on them and view their initial rookie profiles.
The tiers and commentary I’ll make on this post are my own, comprised of my opinions. Tier one is comprised of one player, and one player only.
1.01 – Saquon Barkley, RB NYG
As we’ve said all off-season, Barkley is in a tier of his own. There have been a few running backs over the past ten years or so who have generated excitement like Todd Gurley, Leonard Fournette and Reggie Bush, just to name a few. However, nobody has taken rookie drafts by storm like Barkley since Adrian Peterson so many years ago. There are high (likely unrealistic) expectations for Barkley but he’s truly talented and physically gifted in every area. He landed with the Giants who should give him the keys to the offense from day one. Barkley will be the 1.01 in virtually every rookie draft this off-season and will likely be a top ten selection in dynasty start up drafts as well. The only risk you take with taking Barkley is turning your back on some amazing trade offers that will come your way.
[am4show have=’g1;’ guest_error=’sub_message’ user_error=’sub_message’ ]
As we said before, this is where things get very close. These players are going all over the board in spots 1.02-1.07 in early rookie drafts.
1.02 = Derrius Guice, RB WAS
Guice was clearly the second best choice in dynasty drafts all the way up until his freefall in the NFL Draft. While that should cause some concern and worry amongst dynasty owners, the fall has only represented him being at the top of the second tier instead of in a tier of his own. Guice is extraordinarily gifted and when the dust settles, we could very well see NFL executives overreacted a bit and played it a little too safe – we won’t do the same. A powerful back like Guice will make the Redskins running game exponentially better and gives the always fun NFC East some amazing running backs to watch, including Ezekiel Elliott, Barkley and Guice. There is risk with Guice but there was risk in taking Dalvin Cook last year as well and that seemed to work out just fine. The talent is there and so is the opportunity.
1.03 = Nick Chubb, RB CLE
The draft really gets interesting at 1.03. I’ve seen several players ranked third, including Rashaad Penny, Sony Michel, Ronald Jones II and Chubb. We ultimately have Chubb ranked third but it’s awful close. There are legitimate concerns with him, including the fact he’s likely going to lose a lot of passing down work to Duke Johnson, still has to battle Carlos Hyde for carries and hasn’t completely shown his old form after his catastrophic knee injury in college. Still, the talent he has and the physical ability he may possess if he truly gets healthy is second to none, even Barkley. With Hyde’s contract easy to get out from under after a season and Johnson becoming a potential free agent, this will be a huge year for Chubb. If he can grab the reigns to this offense, he could be the first Browns bellcow running back to truly rely on in dynasty leagues since Jamal Lewis. In short, Chubb has RB1 upside with obvious risk associated with him.
1.04 = Rashaad Penny, RB SEA
The surprise of the draft was Penny going to Seattle before seemingly higher regarded backs like Chubb, Sony Michel and Guice. Penny will step right in and be the starter in Seattle, though. His path to guaranteed touches is really as great as that of both Barkley and Ronald Jones II (who we’ll get to in a moment). The Seahawks offensive line is a hot mess and they’ve done a great job in getting their running backs injured over the past few years. Still, this is a team that desperately wants to run the football and simply hasn’t been able to by trotting out pedestrian or washed up talents like Mike Davis, Chris Carson, CJ Prosise, Eddie Lacy, JD McKissic and Thomas Rawls. Ironically, the best running back they may have had in the past few years is Alex Collins, who they gave up on and currently finds himself starting in Baltimore. The frustrating carousel will stop with Penny. While the line concerns are legitimate and his pedigree may not mesh with a few of the other running backs in this class, Penny is still extremely talented and a virtual lock to go in the top five of rookie drafts.
1.05 = DJ Moore, WR CAR
The first receiver we have ranked is DJ Moore, who experienced a meteoric rise over the past few months that culminated in him being the first receiver taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. Moore is extremely versatile, tough and productive, despite dealing with terrible quarterback play throughout his collegiate career. Things didn’t work out long-term with Kelvin Benjamin in Carolina and the Panthers really needed an infusion of youth and talent at the position. After all, Devin Funchess caught 63 passes lsat season and the next closest wide receiver in terms of production caught just 17 – that’s next to impossible. With a depth chart including Jarius Wright, Russell Shepard, Torrey Smith and Curtis Samuel, Moore’s path to meaningful playing time is clear – he has future WR1 upside.
1.06 = Sony Michel, RB NE
To me, Sony Michel represents one of the biggest wild cards in the entire draft. If the Patriots truly commit to him as their lead runner and get away from the frustrating weekly running back roulette they’ve played over the past few years, Michel is going to put up some monster numbers. However, it’s fair to wonder just how New England uses him as they traditionally don’t use one featured back. On one hand, it’s easy to say Michel is the most talented runner they’ve had since they truly committed to Corey Dillon so many years ago. On the other hand, it’s just as easy to say Bill Belichick hates all of us and exists only to ruin our dynasty teams. I could see either happening. In short, Michel’s ceiling is great and his floor likely represents the production we’ve seen from Dion Lewis the past few years – that’s not too shabby in the middle of round one.
1.07 = Ronald Jones II, RB TB
The last player we have listed in tier two is one I’ve commonly seen at the top in the last couple of days. Ronald Jones II landed in a great spot with Tampa Bay and has as clear a path to meaningful touches as anyone on this list. After all, he really only needs to compete with Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims for carries, which shouldn’t exactly be a problem. PFF actually had Jones the top rated running back in the class, citing his 3.5 yards average after contact, his ability to run tough with the ball and having the talent to add a consistent big play element to an offense. Tampa Bay was one of the best (if not THE best) destination for a running back and he should produce early and often. There are concerns over his pass blocking, catching ability and durability, so this pick isn’t without some risk. Still, Jones clearly belongs in this tier and he’ll be a very popular pick in this area or higher.
After the “big six” running backs and Moore are taken, we reach a third tier that consists of three receivers with great potential and two running backs who landed in good situations.
1.08 = Courtland Sutton, WR DEN
Sutton has been our top ranked wideout all off-season but had to wait a little longer than expected to find a home. Owners who draft Sutton will have to be very patient as he currently finds himself behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders on the depth chart in Denver. That could actually be a blessing in disguise, though. Rookie receivers rarely take the world by storm and Sutton will have a chance to learn from two of the best while preparing for the grind of an NFL career. Sutton has true WR1 talent and should reward owners who are willing to roster him and wait for him to develop while the two veteran receivers either finish their careers in Denver or simply move on.
1.09 = Calvin Ridley, WR ATL
After waiting until the end of the first round, Calvin Ridley finally found a new home in Atlanta. To me, this has the smell of a pick that may simply be better in reality than fantasy. I love Ridley’s route running ability, maturity and refinement. The problem is it’s really hard to see him ascending to true WR1 status any time soon playing opposite Julio Jones, who is still going to be the undisputed lead dog in Atlanta. Still, Jones is likely frustrated with his contract right now and is already 29 years old. You may not get the immediate production with Ridley that you would have if he would have landed some place like Dallas but things could materialize in Atlanta eventually. The challenge with that is Ridley’s age – he’ll turn 24 in December. At this point in the draft, he could still represent a steal of a pick, though. The talent with him is clearly evident.
1.10 = Christian Kirk, WR ARI
An ultra-productive receiver, Kirk was consistently productive over the past three years, posting at least 70 catches, 900 yards and seven touchdowns in all three seasons at Texas A&M. The success of last year’s draft steal Cooper Kupp should help vault Kirk right up to the bottom of round one in rookie drafts. Kirk was timed faster than expected at the combine and has true game breaking ability from the slot. He has a keen ability to take high percentage throws and make them into big plays – sounds a little like the perfect recipe for rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, doesn’t it? While not a true replacement for WR1 Larry Fitzgerald (who is), the Cardinals have found themselves a playmaker to help replace the loss of John and Jaron Brown.
1.11 = Royce Freeman, RB DEN
The Broncos cut CJ Anderson because he proved to be a little too expensive and seemingly found his replacement in the form of Freeman. Once one of the most coveted future prospects in dynasty leagues, Freeman’s shine started to dim a little as Oregon lost national prominence and really started to struggle. Freeman himself dealt with some nagging injuries and didn’t seem as explosive in the last two years of his career as he did when he was a Sophomore when he tallied a ridiculous 1,836 rushing yards on 6.5 yards per carry. However, Freeman didn’t exactly tank. Last year, he posted 1,475 rushing yards on six yards per carry and scored 16 touchdowns, both nice bounce back numbers compared to his Junior year where he posted just 945 yards and nine scores. There are legitimate concerns about his workload (900 college carries) but those could also help comfort some in regards to his durability. The Broncos have only the perpetual disappointment in Devontae Booker and young De’Angelo Henderson in the backfield and all the news coming from Denver seems to point at Freeman taking over on early downs. A likely starting running back with legitimate big play ability at the end of round one is just about the best you could hope for – you may want to just protect yourself with Booker and Henderson, though.
1.12 = Kerryon Johnson, RB DET
The Lions surprised nobody when they took a running back in round two. However, they surprised just about everyone when they traded up for Johnson. I’m a sucker when it comes to productive SEC running backs and Johnson fits the bill, though. There were times he simply carried the Auburn offense last season. While not elite in really any part of his game, he could give the Lions the running back they’ve needed for some time. When you go down the list of failures at the position in the Motor City, it’s filled with dynasty busts like Kevin Jones, Kevin Smith, Jahvid Best, and Ameer Abdullah. In fact, the Lions haven’t had a 100-yard rushing game in nearly four years, which is amazing. Johnson could be the latest in the long line of failed runners but he should get a legitimate chance at the starting gig. He’ll lose passing down work to Theo Riddick but I’d still imagine he breaks through for early down work by beating out Abdullah and LeGarrette Blount. While he may have to wait a bit to get his chance, teams typically don’t trade up in round two to draft a running back to sit on the bench. At the end of round one, that’s more than worth a pick. I view Johnson as a nice late first or early second round sleeper.
Ken is on Twitter at DLF_KenK
Latest posts by Ken Kelly (see all)
- Duke of Hazard: The Dynasty Fallout of the Duke Johnson Trade - August 8, 2019
- 2019 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings: Consensus Third Round - May 1, 2019
- 2019 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rankings: Consensus Second Round - April 30, 2019