Early Look at Top 10 Rookie Picks
I have begun to research and watch film of the incoming NFL rookie class. Below are my way-too-early Top 10 rookies. Expect several of these players to move up, down, or out of the list between now and the NFL Draft. These rankings reflect Points Per Reception (PPR) scoring in leagues that start just one quarterback.
- Corey Davis – Davis put together three consecutive 1,400-yard seasons and looks the part of an NFL receiver. I was hesitant to put him in the top spot on the list until the NFL Combine. The poor performance of the next two on the list also helped buoy him to the top. If a dynasty rookie draft was held today, I would take Davis with the 1.01.
- Leonard Fournette – Weighing in at a robust 240 pounds at the Combine, Fournette still ran well. He will need to play in the low 230s to be most effective. To illustrate the point, the LSU star stunk up the agility drills in Indianapolis and would have caught more heat if Cook (below) was not even worse. Fournette has the speed and power to be a very good NFL player. But, he will need to lose weight in order to be at optimal effectiveness.
- Dalvin Cook – The tape does not lie. Cook put up great production at Florida State. He has the chops to run between the tackles and the speed to take most touches to the house. Most onlookers were disappointed in Cook’s Combine numbers because he looked faster and quicker on the field for the Seminoles. He showed neither speed nor agility in Indianapolis. Add in the history of off-the-field issues and shoulder surgeries and Cook drops to third on the list. He was tops heading into the Combine.
- Mike Williams – Williams created a stir by not running at the Combine, but was able to rectify the situation with a strong pro day. He is a big, physical player who excels down the field. My biggest concern is whether Williams will be quick enough to create separation against NFL cornerbacks who are his size. He will not be able to overpower corners in the NFL like he did in college. Williams looks like Plaxico Burress to me. Like Burress, he is able to use his size to create space, especially in the red zone.
- Christian McCaffrey – McCaffrey had an awesome 2015 campaign and was ok in 2016. His fantasy outlook will be determined by situation. To be worth the 1.05 rookie pick, McCaffrey needs to be drafted by a team who will use the quick back as a runner, receiver, and returner. His 200-pound frame might be too light for more than 200 touches per season. This could still be enough if he lands in Denver or New Orleans or a different team who will be able to use him in a variety of roles. While McCaffrey ran ok in the 40-yard dash, he showed elite agility in the shuttle and cone drills. This short-area quickness is what makes him special.
- Joe Mixon – Mixon was not invited to the Combine. This has been the subject of much debate the past few months. However, he looked like the top ball carrier in the draft at the Sooners pro day. Mixon is a strong runner who wins as a receiver. His speed and vision are top notch. Given Mixon’s well-chronicled run-ins with the law, it will be interesting to see how far he falls in the draft … if at all. The pressure on teams to win is very real and I expect a team to select Mixon in the second round on NFL Draft weekend.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster – The Trojans star was elite in 2015 with Cody Kessler under center. His numbers suffered a little in 2016 until Sam Darnold took over at the helm. Many question Smith-Schuster’s quickness and ability to create separation. I do not. He put up strong numbers against the top cornerbacks of the Pac12 in 2015. I see Alshon Jeffery when I watch the very young receiver. Smith-Schuster is still just 20 years of age and will only get better.
- John Ross – Ross set the Combine record for the 40-yard dash. His speed will thrust the Washington star into the first round of the NFL draft. But, the myriad of injuries will cause some teams – and fantasy owners – to pass on the speedster. With the thought of Will Fuller’s failure to emerge for fantasy owners, it might be held against Ross. The two players are very different. Ross is a good route runner. He does have good hands. On a good passing team, Ross could put up T.Y. Hilton-level numbers.
- Samaje Perine – Perine is a pounder who has excellent balance and vision. Many have forgotten that the Sooner star broke the single-game NCAA record as a Freshman. One worry for both Perine and Mixon is that they shared time in college and neither were able to be the bell cow runner.
- Carlos Henderson – After playing in relative obscurity throughout college, Henderson has shown very well this postseason, culminating at the Combine where he ran well, caught everything in sight, and emerged as a dark-horse first-round NFL pick. Some analysts have Henderson as high as WR2 on their rankings.
I do not see any of the rookie quarterbacks worthy of a first-round rookie pick. The lack of consensus for the top four passers will enable most fantasy owners the ability to wait on the position in rookie drafts. The top four, not in any order are: DeShone Kizer, Patrick Mahomes, Mitchell Trubisky, and Deshawn Watson. You will also notice that I have no tight ends ranked in the Top 10. I addressed why in two earlier articles (Dynasty Theory 1, Dynasty Theory 2). The depth at the position will also allow dynasty owners to wait and still draft solid options in the second or third rounds.
Feel free to email me (Tefertiller@Footballguys.com) with feedback. Also, I am on Twitter (www.Twitter.com/JeffTefertiller), LinkedIn, and Google+, so you can ask me questions on one of these as well.