It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The fantasy football playoffs are upon us. Time with family, holidays, and hopefully some fantasy football victories will be had. But most importantly, it’s time again to talk about the top 100 draft eligible offensive rookies for fantasy football in 2019.
If you missed the past couple years of the November Top 100 Rookies editions, you can find them here and here. Every year there are some impressive hits and a few gross misses. But hey, we’re still five months away from the NFL Draft. Players have until mid-January to declare. A lot will change between now and next summer when everyone is drafting these rookies. This particular article isn’t about having everything figured out already – it’s about helping you identify game-changing playmakers well ahead of your league mates.
Back in the fall of 2016, you would have known to start doing your research on guys like Cooper Kupp, Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara, and that you should stick to your guns with JuJu Smith-Schuster. And last year you could have gotten a major head start on players like D.J. Moore, Kerryon Johnson, Ito Smith, or Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Hopefully this piece will help you find more players like that.
Like I say every year, when I build a board, I mix together several things: tape, stats, 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.
This year, even more than most, you may find yourself disagreeing with this big board quite a bit. And it’s not that I just want to make you angry. This class of prospects is just a little more complicated than usual. There are nearly 50 wide receivers that will (should) receive an NFL Combine invite. There’s definitely not a consensus top pick (unlike last year with Saquon Barkley). The running backs all seem to have some warts. Regardless of how frustrated you are with my takes on your favorite college players just use this list as one data point in the grand scheme of your fantasy football research.
Feel free to reach out to me on the Twitter @FF_TravisM. I’m always looking to talk college football, NFL Draft, learn, and get better. But without further ado, enjoy the first NFL Draft 2019 edition of the Top 100 Rookies series.
Tier One – The Elite Eight
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1) A.J. Brown – WR1, Ole Miss
2) N’Keal Harry – WR2, Arizona State
3) Kelvin Harmon – WR3, North Carolina State
4) Dekaylin Metcalf – WR4, Ole Miss
5) Bryan Edwards – WR5, South Carolina
6) David Montgomery – RB1, Iowa State
7) Rodney Anderson – RB2, Oklahoma
8) Noah Fant – TE1, Iowa
Last year, everyone and their mother knew Saquon Barkley was the number one pick by Halloween. This year no one has any clue, but this top tier is the best of the best that this draft class has to offer. Let’s start at the top.
A.J. Brown has primarily functioned as the big slot wide receiver for Ole Miss, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that’s all he can do. At 6’1”, 225 pounds, Brown dominates with both route running and physicality. He’s logged back to back seasons with over 1,250 receiving yards against some of the toughest competition in the country (but has disappeared in a few big games, I’m aware, haters). The only legitimate worry with Brown is possibly his athletic ceiling. He won’t jump out of the building or be the fastest wide receiver at the NFL Combine. Just know that he’s going to profile athletically similar to JuJu Smith-Schuster (in unimpressive, average fashion by NFL standards) and that it’s not really going to matter.
N’Keal Harry has been a dynasty fantasy football favorite for three years now. Why? For the stats nerds like me, it’s largely due to his impressive freshman season dominator rating. What’s that? Simply put it’s a weighted percentage of team receiving yards and touchdowns. Essentially, Harry accounted for more than 25% of Arizona State’s receiving offense as a true freshman. And he’s only improved ever since. Harry was mainly just a jump ball specialist early on, but he’s added some yards-after-catch ability, and decent route running as well. At 6’4”, 215 pounds, Harry has a chance to one day become the next A.J. Green.
Kelvin Harmon is another big bodied wide receiver, but instead of the A.J. Green comparisons, there are some that believe he looks more like Julio Jones. Obviously, both comparisons are extremely premature, but that’s just how talented many believe this wide receiver class could be. Harmon shows a little more flexibility than Harry, but may need to add some routes to his tree. N.C. State didn’t ask him to run much more than slants, gos, fades, and curls. If he learns to add some nuance the sky is the limit for Harmon.
Dekaylin Metcalf and Bryan Edwards have question marks (small ones) for different reasons, but are both still fantastic. Metcalf is the most ridiculous freak of an athlete (6’4”, 225 pounds, built like a demigod) at the wide receiver position in the entire class, but missed half of 2018 with a neck injury. He should be fine long-term, but he may miss all of NFL Combine and draft prep season. Edwards is nearly the athlete that Metcalf is, and he broke out with 20% of his team’s receiving production at age 17. However, South Carolina’s offense and Deebo Samuel have prevented him from extreme WR1 production. A savvy team will see his unreal potential with elite speed, hops, and body control. Let’s just hope it’s early in the draft.
David Montgomery has consistently been one of the most elusive running backs in the nation since entering college. While Montgomery is not the typical RB1 of an entire draft class he does everything well as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. He uses every pound of his 5’11”, 216-pound frame to churn extra yards. Truthfully the 2019 NFL Draft may not give us even one first round running back, but Montgomery might be the closest thing to it.
Rodney Anderson on the other hand could have the highest ceiling of any running back in this class. He has the feature back build, speed, agility, and receiving chops you want to see in a true lead back. However, he’s struggled with significant injuries throughout his entire college career. In fact he’ll miss all of draft season recovering from an injury he suffered early in the 2018 season. If his health checks out and he lands somewhere nice, he has a chance to become the 1.01. However, he could also struggle with injury forever and disappear in the “Not For Long” abyss.
Noah Fant is the only one in this first tier who likely has no shot at being the first rookie off of fantasy football draft boards next year. However, that’s really only due to his position. He’s probably going to clear 42 inches or higher in the vertical jump. He could run close to a 4.5 in the forty. Fant is going to wow everyone on the planet next spring. Get your draft picks ready and early if you want some Noah Fant on your teams.
Tier Two – The Could Be Greats
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9) Marquise Brown – WR6, Oklahoma
10) Darrell Henderson – RB3, Memphis
11) Trayveon Williams – RB4, Texas A&M
12) Damien Harris – RB5, Alabama
13) Justice Hill – RB6, Oklahoma State
14) Miles Sanders – RB7, Penn State
15) Tyler Johnson – WR7, Minnesota
16) Hakeem Butler – WR8, Iowa State
Yes, I have these players this high. Yes, I have them in this order for a reason. Each and every one of these players could work their way into the early first round of rookie dynasty fantasy football drafts.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown received zero division one scholarships entering college, but that didn’t stop him. He produced so well for the College of the Canyons junior college that he garnered 16 scholarship offers and landed with Oklahoma. Although he’s undersized at 5’10”, 168 pounds, that hasn’t stopped him. He’s racked up 2,359 yards and 17 touchdowns in his two seasons with Oklahoma burning teams deep and underneath. Plus, he’s Antonio Brown’s cousin, so he can’t be too bad.
Darrell Henderson has averaged 8.0 yards per carry on 415 rushing attempts. He’s averaged 12.3 yards per reception on his 61 career catches out of the backfield. He’s scored 33 times on the ground and eight through the air in his three seasons with Memphis. Henderson’s going to finish the season with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage this year. Last time I checked that was an “okay” year. Don’t let anyone tell you this “small school” back is going to be overlooked in April.
Trayveon Williams, Damien Harris, Justice Hill and Miles Sanders all trade places in my ranks about every five minutes. Williams has pushed ahead of the stragglers with his 2018 being the most impressive as both a runner and a receiver (over 1,800 yards from scrimmage). Harris will likely get the Alabama bump with draft stock, but he deserves it given his technique, strength, and underrated speed. Hill has incredible strength for his size and can be an excellent receiver. He’s just recently seen his stock drop with a rib injury, but is still definitely an early round candidate. And Miles Sanders was supposed to be the next great college running back, but found himself buried in the shadow of Saquon Barkley for a couple years. If Sanders kills the NFL Combine he’ll be an early round selection.
Tyler Johnson is another dominator rating phenom at wide receiver for Minnesota. Even though he’s dealt with a couple different horrible quarterbacks this season, Johnson still has 74 receptions, 1,112 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns. Minnesota only averages 215 passing yards per game, but Johnson accounts for about half of that. He’s an unstoppable dominant force NFL teams won’t pass on for long.
Hakeem Butler is 6’6”, 225 pounds, and has averaged 22.5 yards per reception in 2018. That is some scary Calvin Johnson stuff right there that NFL defenses aren’t going to want to touch with a fifty foot catch radius. He doesn’t have a huge production sample size, but Butler could see some early draft capital.
Tier Three – The Draft Capitalists
17) Devin Singletary – RB8, Florida Atlantic
18) J.J. Arcega-Whiteside – WR9, Stanford
19) Collin Johnson – WR10, Texas
20) Myles Gaskin – RB9, Washington
21) Justin Herbert – QB1, Oregon
22) Will Grier – QB2, West Virginia
23) Dwayne Haskins – QB3, Ohio State
24) Caleb Wilson – TE2, UCLA
25) Jace Sternberger – TE3, Texas A&M
26) David Sills V – WR11, West Virginia
27) Deebo Samuel – WR12, South Carolina
28) Benny Snell – RB10, Kentucky
This crew is all incredibly talented, but could see their stock swing in a huge way depending on their draft capital. We’re entering the range where these guys have a few chinks in the armor of their prospect profiles.
Devin Singletary has the most insane production profile in college football. He has scored an absurd 66 rushing touchdowns, and accumulated 4,684 yards from scrimmage in just three seasons with FAU. Singletary can do everything well, but won’t likely test in any elite way at the NFL Combine. Take advantage if league mates overreact to that.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Collin Johnson are two more #TeamBigWR guys that should be touchdown monsters at the next level. Neither will wow with speed but can destroy in contested situations.
Not many players drop 1,200 yards from scrimmage four years in a row and don’t see some draft capital. Myles Gaskin looks like a more productive Gio Bernard that can handle a bigger workload.
Justin Herbert, Will Grier, and Dwayne Haskins could all end up being the best quarterback in this class. Herbert needs to learn to stay healthy, but he’s shown to have the physical tools and production metrics that the typical top quarterback prospect should have. Grier is having a near Heisman senior season. He’s averaging 9.7 yards per pass attempt (third in the nation behind only Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray). Haskins is leading the nation in passing touchdowns and completing 69% of his passes. If all three declare (although Herbert & Hasksins may actually stay) they are the clear top three quarterbacks.
David Sills has scored 33 touchdowns in the last two seasons. A converted quarterback, Sills is still refining his craft and could end up being a steal for the right NFL team as he continues to improve.
Deebo Samuel has been a part of the South Carolina Gamecocks since the summer of 2014, but it’s finally his time to enter the NFL Draft. His impressive final season may boost his draft stock, but he likely settles in as a round three rookie draft pick given his age and lack of high end production.
Benny Snell will likely earn higher rookie draft consideration for many given his three consecutive 1,100-yard seasons with Kentucky. However, there will be a learning curve for Snell wherever he goes in the pros. Kentucky’s gadget scheme and affinity for the wildcat in Snell’s tenure there did him no favors in preparation for a professional running back role.
Tier Four – The Upside Targets
29) Kaden Smith – TE4, Stanford
30) Bryce Love – RB11, Stanford
31) Albert Okwuegbunam – TE5, Missouri
32) Riley Ridley – WR13, Georgia
33) Parris Campbell – WR14, Ohio State
34) Lil’Jordan Humphrey – WR15, Texas
35) Emanuel Hall – WR16, Missouri
36) Jalen Hurd – WR17, Baylor
37) Drew Lock – QB4, Missouri
38) Mike Weber – RB12, Ohio State
This entire tier has gobs of upside, but I consider them third or early fourth round rookie draft values for a reason.
Kaden Smith destroys defenses up the seam consistently with his size and ball skills. However, he’s not been the red zone threat that you’d like to see out of your tight end. Smith has essentially functioned as Stanford’s second leading wide receiver and can block well. Even in this stacked tight end class expect him to go early in the NFL Draft.
Yes, Bryce Love is “all the way down” at 30. For those unfamiliar with Love, he rushed for 2,100 yards just one year ago. But this year he tried to add some weight, lost some burst, and found himself hobbled for much of the season. Love’s size could really limit his feature potential in the pros. He has a very limited receiving profile. But he could also wow everyone and become an incredible lead back with home run threat ability.
Albert Okwuegbunam (Oak-woo-aye-boo-nom) is all of 260 pounds, catches a touchdown on about 25% of his receptions, and has shown to have wide receiver-like ball skills. He was schemed open for most of his collegiate career though. His speed may be the only real concern preventing him from greatness.
Riley Ridley is a huge projection given the nearly unprecedented lack of production for solid pro wide receiver prospects (less than 1000 career yards). He’s fast, with decent size, and his last name is Ridley.
Parris Campbell can be a team’s “ground game through the air” with short passes, but he can also get vertical thanks to his speed. He’s averaged about 30 yards per kick return for his career. Campbell is an electric playmaker. The problem is identifying his specific role in the pros. Is he a slot receiver? Can he win consistently outside despite not always doing so in college? Will he just be a gadget big play guy?
Lil’Jordan Humphrey has been the “other wide receiver” for Texas, but he’s been the team’s lead option in 2018. He’s a little raw in his routes and definitely needs to loosen up his hips, but he can win contested situations much like his overhyped team mate, Collin Johnson.
Emanuel Hall has quite possibly the highest ceiling of anyone in this tier. He has legit NFL deep threat speed (averaging over 20 yards per reception). He wins off the line just about every time against some of the toughest defenses in college football. When healthy he’s been everything for the Missouri air attack. Hall is faster, stronger, and doesn’t struggle with drops like former team mate J’Mon Moore, and Moore was a fourth round pick. Keep an eye out for Hall’s ascension throughout draft season.
Remember when Jalen Hurd was supposed to be a top running back prospect? Yeah, that feels like forever ago. Hurd can apparently play wide receiver too. He grabbed nearly 70 receptions for Baylor this past season and added a couple hundred yards on the ground too. Hurd is a huge question mark given his strange college career, but could succeed at running back or wide receiver.
Drew Lock is pretty two-faced when it comes to consistent production. He’s disappeared in just about every big game of his career to date. But his arm and anticipation will intrigue an NFL team early.
Speaking of disappearing acts, Mike Weber looked like the truth in 2016, but has since been in a frustrating timeshare with J.K. Dobbins at Ohio State. Weber should test well and could rise in a weaker RB class given his pedigree.
Tier Five – The Draftables
39) Anthony Johnson – WR18, Buffalo
40) Jared Pinkney – TE6, Vanderbilt
41) Irv Smith Jr. – TE7, Alabama
42) Damarea Crockett – RB13, Missouri
43) Josh Jacobs – RB14, Alabama
44) Elijah Holyfield – RB15, Georgia
45) Karan Higdon – RB16, Michigan
46) Tyler Vaughns – WR19, USC
47) Jarrett Stidham – QB5, Auburn
48) T.J. Hockenson – TE8, Iowa
Okay, if you’ve made it this far, congrats! This is the point at which I’m going to start speeding it up, skipping some player summaries so I don’t have to actually publish this piece as a full-length novel (and so I don’t hospitalize my editor, sorry James). Just keep these names in mind, and if you have in-depth questions on any of them seriously reach out @FF_TravisM on Twitter.
Anthony Johnson is going to start pulling social security after his rookie contract (he’ll be 24 before the NFL Combine) but it may not matter. He’s been a consistent producer for Buffalo with decent size.
Yes, that’s eight tight ends in the top 48. If all these players declare, this will be the deepest tight end class in a decade. Jared Pinkney, Irv Smith Jr., and T.J. Hockenson should all be matchup nightmares in the NFL.
Remember when Elijah Holyfield was the surefire devy fantasy football 1.01? No? Most people don’t since he hasn’t done much of anything in college. Elijah “HolyCrapICan’tGetOnTheField” finally saw some action in 2018, but may still not be remembered for more than being the son of Evander.
Karan Higdon is a strange profile to assess. He’s a little undersized, but doesn’t catch passes. His claim to fame will be eight 100-yard games in his final season with Michigan.
Jarrett Stidham likely stays one more year due to his struggles for much of 2018, but will see draft capital eventually given his traits.
Tier Six – The Quite Possibly Good
49) Antoine Wesley – WR20, Texas Tech
50) Preston Williams – WR21, Colorado State
51) Kalija Lipscomb – WR22, Vanderbilt
52) Dillon Mitchell – WR23, Oregon
53) J.D. Spielman – WR24, Nebraska
54) DaMarkus Lodge – WR25, Ole Miss
55) Gary Jennings – WR26, West Virginia
56) Joshua Kelley – RB17, UCLA
57) Dexter Williams – RB18, Notre Dame
58) Travis Homer – RB19, Miami
59) Zack Moss – RB20, Utah
60) Andy Isabella – WR27, Massachusetts
This tier is going to send at least one wide receiver close to the top of rookie draft boards, but good luck figuring out which one it will be.
Antoine Wesley and Preston Williams are one-year wonders with fun size and speed combos.
Kalija Lipscomb and Dillon Mitchell are dominator rating and breakout age freaks with great ball skills.
Andy Isabella projects exclusively as a slot wide receiver, but is a Biletnikoff Award finalist this season.
This class is what scouts like to call “ridiculously stupid crazy deep” at wide receiver.
Joshua Kelley and Dexter Williams are both one-year wonders at running back, but have done enough to possibly get drafted. Kelley just ran for 1243 yards and a dozen scores on one of the worst offenses in college football. Williams has nearly single-handedly kept Notre Dame’s College Football Playoff hopes alive for much of the season.
Zack Moss was on pace for another 1400-yard season for Utah before going down with an injury. If he comes out this year he deserves to be drafted. He’s no elite athlete, but his balanced skill set and technique set him apart.
Tier Seven – The Opportunists
61) Josh Oliver – TE9, San Jose State
62) James Williams – RB21, Washington State
63) Greg Dortch – WR28, Wake Forest
64) Stanley Morgan Jr. – WR29, Nebraska
65) Denzel Mims – WR30, Baylor
66) Ryan Finley – QB6, North Carolina State
67) Brett Rypien – QB7, Boise State
68) Olamide Zaccheaus – RB22, Virginia
69) Mitchell Wilcox – TE10, USF
70) T.J. Vasher – WR31, Texas Tech
71) Damonte Coxie – WR32, Memphis
72) Darius Slayton – WR33, Auburn
73) John Ursua – WR34, Hawaii
74) Patrick Taylor Jr. – RB23, Memphis
75) Alexander Mattison – RB24, Boise State
All of these players in this tier could succeed, but in their current state need the perfect opportunity more so than their peers listed ahead of them.
Both James Williams and Olamide Zaccheaus have caught at least 195 passes in their college careers. Williams actually projects to be more of a James White type while Zaccheaus probably ends up as a slot receiver. Both could be long-time pros given their elite receiving prowess.
The quarterbacks Ryan Finley and Brett Rypien are both likely mid-round selections and future NFL backups. Finley is an incredibly intelligent QB though. His mastery of the strange and creative N.C. State scheme shouldn’t be understated. Rypien is a much better quarterback than fellow Mountain West alum Josh Allen, so there’s that.
Denzel Mims put together a strong 2017 campaign out of necessity given some injuries and departures to the NFL. But this year he was immediately surpassed by team mate Jalen Hurd on the target totem pole. Mims has the size, hands, and body control you like to see in outside wide receivers, but in the end he’s probably not more than a late-round pick at best.
John Ursua was one of the most productive wide receivers in all of college football in 2018. He’s going to be a slot receiver, but could be a sneaky guy to add everywhere after your rookie drafts conclude.
T.J. Vasher, Damonte Coxie, and Darius Slayton will all eventually profile as solid pros, athletically, but they all need to add some polish before they’re every week NFL starters. Slayton has ridiculous speed. Vasher has insane ball skills and 6’6” size. Coxie is more of a balanced receiver that could lead a team eventually, but has limited experience in that role.
Patrick Taylor Jr. is the forgotten running back on Memphis thanks to Darrell Henderson’s crazy numbers, but he’s found the end zone 27 times the past two seasons and he’s 6’3”, 223 pounds. Remember the name.
Tier Eight – I Want To Believe
76) Trace McSorley – QB8, Penn State
77) Shea Patterson – QB9, Michigan
78) Diontae Johnson – WR35, Toledo
79) Trevon Brown – WR36, East Carolina
80) Ty Johnson – RB25, Maryland
81) Darius Anderson – RB26, TCU
82) Miles Boykin – WR37, Notre Dame
83) Chase Claypool – WR38, Notre Dame
84) Jaylen Smith – WR39, Louisville
85) Jordan Ta’amu – QB10, Ole Miss
86) Jordan Scarlett – RB27, Florida
87) Alex Barnes – RB28, Kansas State
88) Qadree Ollison – RB29, Pittsburgh
89) Daniel Jones – QB11, Duke
90) Jake Browning – QB12, Washington
This tier is full of players that I want to believe in. However, they’re all missing something pivotal in projecting them for future NFL success.
Trace McSorley, Shea Patterson, Jordan Ta’amu, Daniel Jones, and Jake Browning were all fun quarterbacks to watch at times. None of them should be first or second round picks. Scouts seem to like Daniel Jones quite a bit for some reason. His mobility and big play moments are intriguing, but he’s no stud. They should be on everyone’s radar in superflex and 2QB leagues, but nothing else.
Darius Anderson is a freak athlete, but was chronically underutilized at TCU. He should be a last rookie draft pick flier if drafted to an NFL roster.
Jaylen Smith made a life-changing horrible mistake not declaring for the NFL Draft last year. His 2018 with Louisville this year was abysmal, and that’s putting it nicely. But if he lands in a decent spot snatch him up everywhere. He’ got a great size and speed combo with ball skills to win at the next level.
Jordan Scarlett was suspended an entire season due to a stupid mistake involving credit card fraud, but he’s definitely talented and runs angry. If a team looks past his faults like they did with his former teammate Antonio Callaway then get ready to draft or add him for nearly free everywhere.
Tier Nine – The Replaceables
91) Devine Ozigbo – RB30, Nebraska
92) James Proche – WR40, Southern Methodist
93) KeeSean Johnson – WR41, Fresno State
94) Alize Mack – TE11, Notre Dame
95) Keelan Doss – WR42, UC Davis
96) Travon McMillian – RB31, Colorado
97) Kennedy McKoy – RB32, West Virginia
98) Isaac Nauta – TE12, Georgia
99) Patrick Laird – RB33, California
100) Mecole Hardman – WR43, Georgia
Don’t get me wrong. All of these players are good. But when I started to narrow things down there were still 222 players on this list originally. There are so many playmakers that could easily be inserted into the last ten slots here.
Keelan Doss has a shot to be this year’s non-division one darling. He grabbed 115 receptions for 1499 yards and seven touchdowns this past year for UC Davis.
Alize Mack and Isaac Nauta would normally be higher in any other tight end class. Both were supposed to be the next big thing at the position entering college. Both may be drafted.
James Proche and KeeSean Johnson have next to zero hype surrounding them right now, but were supremely productive for their “small school” teams. Both should test above average athletically.
That’s all folks. I hope this piece helps prepare you for your fantasy football drafts or at the very least the next meeting at the proverbial water cooler. As always, feel free to reach out to me @FF_TravisM on Twitter or leave a comment below. I’m always up to talk 2019 rookies and fantasy football.