Last summer, I wrote a three-part series ranking the rookie classes of 2014-2016, based on current and projected dynasty value. The thinking was we as dynasty owners so often compare the current rookie class to both the previous class as well as the upcoming group of rookies. In the summer edition, I ranked my top 75 players and want to revisit that as many things have changed.
Looking back at the preseason list, I realize that I was greatly overvaluing the current college, or devy, players. Many of the players I ranked in the summer didn’t even declare, while others suffered injuries or struggled through the college season. This will serve as a reminder when I look forward to future rookie classes beyond a year in advance.
As I was formulating this updated list, I realized some important things. Most importantly, I think my current rankings posted here on DLF had become a bit stale. I had been hesitant to move players drastically higher or lower from their original spot in my early season rankings. This process was an eye-opener for me, which will really help revolutionize my rankings.
Another thing I learned was the three rookie classes combined for more than 75 relevant players. Because of that, I’ll be ranking my top 100 players from the three classes. While the title remains Rookies and Sophomores and Devys, Oh My, the players included will soon see their titles adjusted, as the incoming rookie class includes players like Ezekiel Elliott and Laquon Treadwell. For now though, they’ll still be included in the “devy” group. Don’t worry, I’ll be back later in the off-season with a comparison of the 2015, 2016 and 2017 rookie classes.
For now, onto the rankings! I’ll also be including their previous rank and you can take a look at last summer’s series:
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- De’Runnya Wilson, WR Mississippi State PR:28
Former Mississippi State receiver De’Runnya Wilson was a highly sought after prospect just a year ago, but after another season with very modest numbers on the field, his value has cooled off entering the draft process. Based on some early mock drafts, Wilson looks like a player who could be a late day two or early day three NFL Draft pick, likely pushing him to the second round of rookie draft picks. He’s drawn comparisons to another big bodied wideout, Kelvin Benjamin.
- Eric Ebron, TE DET PR:58
Wrapping up a solid second season in the league, Lions tight end Eric Ebron has to be near the top of the list of players who could enjoy a breakout campaign in 2016. Ebron finished just outside the TE1 range this past season, even though he missed a couple of game. With Calvin Johnson considering retirement, a huge amount of targets could be available and both Golden Tate and Ebron could be in store for more looks. That also likely means more red zone action for the big tight end.
- Duke Johnson, RB CLE PR: 38
Former Miami running back Duke Johnson didn’t do much on the ground in his rookie year, but he certainly established himself as the Browns’ pass-catching back. Johnson had just over 100 carries on the season, but he caught 61 balls for over 500 receiving yards and those numbers were good enough to make him a low end RB2 in PPR leagues. Expect that to continue and Johnson should even see a higher volume of carries under Hue Jackson. He’s another player who could really climb this list early in the 2016 season.
- Karlos Williams, RB BUF PR:NR
The story of Bills’ running back Karlos Williams is an interesting one. In the middle of his Florida State career, he was converted from safety to running back and the glimpses he showed were enough to make him a hot devy prospect two years ago. What followed that was a disappointing final season for the Seminoles and landing in what looked like a crowded Bills’ backfield. Williams showed enough though to make the team comfortable with parting way with veterans Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown and he nearly turned this into a full timeshare. With veteran LeSean McCoy potentially facing a suspension, Williams’ stock could see even more of a burst.
- Melvin Gordon, RB SD PR: 13
One player whose dynasty value has gone in the wrong direction is Chargers’ back Melvin Gordon. Following a record breaking career at Wisconsin, Gordon was a near consensus top four rookie pick, sometimes even going at 1.01 ahead of Todd Gurley and Amari Cooper, but he failed to live up to that draft position. Gordon couldn’t find the end zone at all during his first season in San Diego and was outplayed by veteran third down back Danny Woodhead. The team is not ready to give up on Gordon, but some dynasty owners might be. He is a good buy low candidate if you still believe in the talent, as I do.
- Davante Adams, WR GB PR: 17
Yet another player who disappointed dynasty owners this season was Packers’ receiver Davante Adams. Adams was already a hot dynasty asset but when Jordy Nelson suffered a season-ending injury, his value got out of hand. Adams, and really the entire Green Bay offense, struggled as the second year receiver continued to struggle to make routine catches. I’m still a believer in Adams, but his value has plummeted and some are ready to label him a bust, which is tough to argue against.
- Braxton Miller, WR Ohio State PR:NR
It was difficult to predict how the transition would go for Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, who moved to wide receiver after losing out on the three-way battle for quarterback. Miller had a huge opening game on national television and set the stage for the rest of the season. While that proved to be Miller’s best game as a receiver, he did enough, at least in my opinion, to show he could play in the NFL. While I don’t expect this, some have even mocked him in the late first round of the NFL Draft. Based on what we know now, he’s a late first round dynasty rookie pick who has some upside. For whatever reason, his age is not being talked about as a negative, though he’s in the Kelvin Benjamin range as an older the normal rookie.
- Leonte Carroo, WR Rutgers PR:52
You’ll see a lot of parity in the rookie wide receiver ranks and I’ve grouped a few of them together in this range. Right now, they are tough to separate. I loved how dominant Leonte Carroo was on the field for Rutgers, but the off-field incident that landed him on the sidelines isn’t being discussed enough. Carroo reportedly assaulted a female and it looked like his college career could be over. Like they often do, the charges went away and Carroo returned to the field. Based on talent alone, I’d rank Carroo higher on this list, but I am concerned about these off-field issues.
42.Pharoh Cooper, WR South Carolina PR: 31
At South Carolina, Pharoh Cooper did a little bit of everything. Because he took snaps as a quarterback, running back and receiver, while also playing special teams, he’s been compared to Randall Cobb. I don’t see them as the same type of player, but Cooper could have an impact in the NFL. His size is a bit of a concern, but utilizing smaller receivers is becoming the trend in the league. Cooper is a player who is being somewhat overlooked in the pre-draft process, which could result in him falling to the second round of rookie drafts.
- Will Fuller, WR Notre Dame PR:NR
At Notre Dame, Will Fuller overcame a deep group of pass catchers to emerge as the star. Fuller plays bigger than his 6-foot-0 and 172-pound frame might suggest, but does have top end speed you’d expect from a “smaller” receiver. Fuller is a guy who might have to land in just the right spot to succeed. I actually could see him falling down this list by the next installment.
- Breshad Perriman, WR BAL PR:16
After an impressive pre-draft performance, Breshad Perriman’s dynasty value exploded as he became a lock for the first round of rookie drafts after not receiving much fanfare throughout his final college season. Perriman never made it to the field though as he dealt with a leg injury all season and now reports say he still hasn’t been cleared. The concern is growing if Perriman can ever be a factor in dynasty leagues.
- Allen Hurns, WR JAX PR:NR
Looking back, I really wonder what I (and many others) were missing when it comes to Jaguars’ receiver Allen Hurns. He had a very impressive rookie season in which he outplayed his teammates, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, who missed time with an injury. But still, we essentially ignored him as a dynasty asset. After a late season injury issue, Hurns finished the season as the WR18. While he was overshadowed by the emergence of Robinson, Hurns has shown he can be a fantasy starter, and he’s still being underrated.
- Stefon Diggs, WR MIN PR:NR
After an up and down college career, Stefon Diggs entered the NFL with very low expectations placed upon him from fantasy owners. There didn’t seem to be many believers left, but Diggs proved us wrong as he was clearly the Vikings’ best receiving threat. Like many smaller, speedy receivers, he was a boom or bust weekly option, but showed some clear upside. I have some concerns about Diggs if the Vikings try to make him their WR1, as I see his game being more suited as the Robin to someone else’s Batman.
- John Brown, WR ARZ PR:51
Another small receiver who has flourished in his first two years is John Brown of Arizona. Despite playing alongside both Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, Brown has put up some big time fantasy numbers, showing there is enough to go around as long as Carson Palmer is playing quarterback. Brown is a bit older than you might think, as he will enter his third NFL season at age 26. This hurts his long-term dynasty value somewhat, but considering his production has been greater than his price tag, it may not matter.
- Devin Funchess, WR CAR PR: 43
Following the injury to Kelvin Benjamin during last pre-season, we all assumed rookie Devin Funchess, who had already been compared to Benjamin, would step right in and fill the void. While the Panthers had a tremendous season, Funchess wasn’t really part of that success. Funchess caught just 31 passes on the season, with a large number of those in the final four regular season games. Mind you, that is a good thing as we move forward towards the 2016 season. With Benjamin back to draw the attention of the defense, the Panthers can continue to ease Funchess into their offense. I am expecting a big sophomore season from the former Michigan Wolverine.
- Josh Doctson, WR Texas Christian PR:64
There are many reasons to be concerned about incoming rookie Josh Doctson if you are box score scouting. His thin frame and “advanced” age are knocks when comparing him to some other rookie receivers, but when you watch him in action (I suggest checking out some of his Draft Breakdown clips) the opinion often changes. There is little Doctson can’t do and even though I focus heavily on age when building dynasty teams, I am willing to overlook that in Doctson’s case.
- Sterling Shepard, WR Oklahoma PR: NR
There are a pair of college receivers who I was simply not a believer in entering the 2015 football season, but the play on the field changed my opinion. The first is Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, who I had originally pegged as a solid college player who couldn’t play on Sundays. While there is plenty left for Shepard to prove as a professional, he sure looks like a player who will fit right in from day one and contribute to an NFL offense. Shepard is just one of that deep group of rookie wideouts who could go anywhere from 1.04 through the early second round of rookie drafts.
- Marcus Mariota, QB TEN PR: 55
Even in today’s dynasty world where quarterbacks are not valued much at all, Titans’ Marcus Mariota earns a fairly high spot on my list. He had a solid rookie season and overcame a sub-par offense and coaching staff to put up quality fantasy numbers. Expectations are that Mariota will get to run the ball a bit more in 2016, which could boost his fantasy production and dynasty value. He’s easily a top 10 dynasty quarterback, even given the current depth of the position.
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE TB PR:34
Currently, there is a well-established top tier of tight ends that is five players deep, including Rob Gronkowski, Tyler Eifert, Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed and Greg Olsen, but after that, the next tier is deep and wide open for a player to make the leap. I believe that player will be Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Tampa quarterback Jameis Wiston worked well with ASJ during their first year together and with veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson expected to be a cap casualty, more looks could be there for Seferian-Jenkins in the Buccaneers’ young offense.
- Jameis Winston, QB TB PR:46
I’ve already mentioned the current state of the quarterback position in dynasty leagues and much like Mariota, Jameis Winston is already being valued very highly after just one season in the league. Many, myself included, consider Winston the dynasty QB5 due to his combination of age and upside. His big arm and rushing ability are both attractive in a fantasy quarterback and he’s surrounded by some young playmakers who could help him maintain his value for years to come.
- Carlos Hyde, RB SF PR:27
Last season was pretty much a wasted year for 49ers running back Carlos Hyde as he dealt with injuries and the team struggled to stay competitive. Even with the addition of head coach Chip Kelly, there are still many reasons to be concerned about the next two years in San Francisco. Overall, this is an offense I will be avoiding, despite Hyde’s talent.
- Derrick Henry, RB Alabama PR:19
The big-bodied Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry had another huge season for Alabama as they won a National Championship, but now he’s preparing for the NFL and there are some reasons to doubt Henry’s game-breaking ability will transcend to the NFL ranks. Henry weighed in at the NFL Combine at nearly 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds. It is very rare for a running back of that size to even enter the league, let alone turn into a productive player. I’m not of the belief that Henry’s size will be a negative though and can’t wait to see him in an NFL offense.
- Jay Ajayi, RB MIA PR:54
After falling in the NFL Draft and being slowed by an early season injury, running back Jay Ajayi finally got rolling as the season neared an end. Ajayi’s value really hinges on the choice of free agent Lamar Miller, the Dolphins’ starter. If he opts to sign with another team as a free agent, the job should be Ajayi’s to lose and his dynasty value will explode. Now is the time to buy Ajayi, while we wait for Miller’s decision.
27. Michael Thomas, WR Ohio State PR:NR
As I’ve said, there are so many rookie wide receivers in that second tier. If I conduct this activity again in a couple weeks, my rankings would likely be wildly different. For now, Michael Thomas is one of the safest wideouts available in this rookie class. He’s another player whose dynasty value could really boom in the right situation.
26. Jeremy Hill, RB CIN PR:9
One of my favorites a year ago, and a popular pick after coming off his big rookie season, Bengals’ running back Jeremy Hill was a huge disappointment in his second season. He continued to score touchdowns, but that’s about all the fantasy scoring he offered as Giovani Bernard bounced back and claimed the lead job back. With Hue Jackson now gone, there are a lot of questions about what this Cincinnati backfield might look like. Hill is a talented player, but he may not be the dynasty asset we thought he was.
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