The consensus rookie rankings at Footballguys are one of the strongest features we produce each season. However, despite embedded commentary, the consensus rankings can be light on context. If you look carefully, you can see tiers, but it can be difficult to compare players within their position and across multiple positions.
Knowing Player X is the consensus RB3 is clear from the rankings. Knowing how nearly Player X was to being ranked RB2 or RB6, or how Player X compares to the WR5 or TE1 or LB2 is much less clear.
I prefer a more visual approach, one that tiers players by position but also shows the value of one position relative to another across my draft board.
NOTES ON THE DRAFT BOARD
**The first version of this feature is based on limited information. Coaching comments, mini-camp observations, debate within the fantasy community, and the clarity that comes from testing this board in my own drafts will bring changes to future versions.
**I build this draft board with the following league parameters in mind: 12-14 teams, PPR, balanced IDP scoring, and full IDP lineups that include defensive tackles and cornerbacks. The commentary that follows the draft board will sometimes address modifications for leagues that provide bonuses for tight end scoring, big play IDP systems, etc.
**There may be more than 12-14 players listed in a given draft round. (This is particularly true this year between the late second and mid fourth range.) That's a function of the tiering approach. It's also a natural reflection of the wide range of ADP valuations we always see as a rookie draft moves into the deeper rounds. In some years, there may be fewer than 10-12 players in a draft round. Drafting trends may change from year-to-year, but it’s important to recognize when it’s more correct to trade for a future pick than to reach for a clearly less valuable talent now.
**This board reflects my personal drafting philosophy. I prioritize upside over floor within tiers. I'm willing to accept a higher bust risk in all rounds. I prefer to draft players who are likely to be successful sooner if other variables are equal. And I'm not afraid to trust my evaluations of defensive players and draft a second tier IDP over a third tier offensive prospect -- regardless of positional scarcity.
**I do not personally evaluate offensive skill position prospects. I spend the majority of my preparation watching and discussing defensive prospects. The offensive columns of this draft board are informed by the in-depth process and work of Matt Waldman, Matt Harmon, Sigmund Bloom, Cecil Lammey, as well as Josh Norris, Dane Brugler, Emory Hunt, Charles McDonald, and Justis Mosqueda. I have also relied on the rankings of Bob Henry and Jason Wood at Footballguys for years. If you have other evaluators on your short list and they differ greatly from this board, tweak accordingly.
The draft board is designed to be read top to bottom and left to right. Each position is tiered from top to bottom in its own column. Separations within the columns represent relative tiers and the players are ranked by preference within those tiers. Relative value between positions can be tracked from left to right. The "suggested" draft rounds are based on my view of a player's value, with some consideration given to keeping the number of players with a given draft round grade to a reasonable total.
Positional commentaries can be found after the draft board.
|1||Davis / TEN|
|Mixon / CIN|
|McCaffrey / CAR|
|Cook / MIN|
|Fournette / JAX||Williams / SD|
|Ross / CIN|
|Watson / HOU||Hunt / KC||Howard / TB||Garrett / CLE||Foster / SF|
|2||Kizer / CLE||Kamara / NO||Godwin / TB||Engram / NYG||Davis / DET|
|Mahomes / KC||Perine / WAS||Smith-Schuster / PIT||Njoku / CLE|
|Trubisky / CHI||Williams / GB||Stewart / NYJ|
|Jones / BUF||Reddick / ARI|
|Henderson / DEN|
|Westbrook / JAX|
|Samuel / CAR|
|Kupp / STL|
|3||Taylor / TEN||Barnett / PHI|
|Foreman / HOU||Reynolds / LAR||Shaheen / CHI||Harris / MIA||Cunningham / HOU||Adams / NYJ|
|Darboh / SEA||Rivers / NE||McMillan / MIA|
|Hansen / NYJ||Thomas / SF||Riley / ATL|
|Gallman / NYG||Ford / MIA|
|4||Williams / SF||Williams / ARI||Hodges / MIN||Peppers / CLE|
|Jones / GB||Switzer / DAL||Everett / LAR|
|McNichols / TB||Allen / WAS|
|5||Kelly / DEN||Mack / IND||Zamora / OAK||Willis / CIN||Bowser / BAL||Lattimore / NO||Hooker / IND|
|Conner / PIT||Yancey / GB||Charlton / DAL||Watt / PIT||Melifonwu / OAK|
|Golladay / DET||McDowell / SEA||Williams / BAL||Biegel / GB|
|Hollins / PHI||McKinley / ATL||Basham / IND||Baker / ARI|
|6||Kaaya / DET||Smith / TEN||Lawson / CIN||Anzalone / NO||Conley / OAK||Williams / NO|
|Peterman / BUF||Cohen / CHI||Butt / DEN||Hendrickson / NO||Brown / TEN||King / GB|
|Webb / NYG||Hill / ATL||Dupre / GB||Sprinkle / WAS||Tomlinson / NYG||Kpassagnon/ KC||Walker / IND||Humphrey / BAL||Evans / TB|
|7-FA /||Beathard / SF||Pumphrey / PHI||Cannon / SF||Saubert / ATL||Ogunjobi / CLE||Smoot / JAX||Anderson / WAS||Jones / PHI||Jones / GB|
|Watch||Dobbs / PIT||Logan / ARI||Brown / DAL||Kittle / SF||Johnson / MIN||Walker / DEN||Reeves-Maybin / DET||Wilson / IND||Johnson / LAR|
|List||McGuire / NYJ||Malone / CIN||Leggett / NYJ||Vanderdoes / OAK||Wormley / BAL||Beckwith / TB||Jackson / TEN||Maye / NYJ|
|Yearby / SF||Chesson / KC||Carter / CIN||Jones / SEA||Hall / CAR||Lee / OAK||White / BUF||Jackson / CHI|
|Taylor / SF||Smart / LAR||Price / LAR||Tabor / DET|
|Coley / MIN||Douglas / PHI|
|Etto-Tawo / JAX||Moreau / WAS|
***You can view a cleaner image of the draft board with full player names and teams here. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send an Excel file so you can modify this draft board to better fit your player evaluations, draft philosophy, and league parameters.
THE BIG PICTURE
This year's initial draft board is clumpy.
There's little separation among the players within each tier -- at least on my board. I'll be interested to how the consensus rankings and ADP converge over the next few weeks. While I didn't have much difficulty splitting players into tiers this year, I had difficulty separating players within them. I expect -- or at least hope -- to have more clarity after drafting and will reflect that in future versions of the draft board.
Clumpy draft boards suggest a trade down and stockpile picks strategy. And I suspect that's what most will advocate this year. If you disagree and see clear winners within each tier, it may prove easier than usual to move up and aggressively draft the players you like.
This year's group of prospects is deeper than usual on top -- I see about 40-45 players worthy of third round picks -- then drops precipitously. I have another 40-75 names listed as worth considering with a rookie pick in the deepest of leagues. But none of them are more than marginal bets to be better than replacement level in the next 2-3 years.
One of the many clumps on my board is the top quarterback tier. I see each of the top four quarterbacks with a similarly cloudy ceiling and relatively low floor. I can tell a reassuring or worrisome story for each.
Deshaun Watson was arguably drafted into the most favorable situation. He has a strong running game and an intriguing group of young receivers. He will be under center almost immediately, with underwhelming Tom Savage his only competition. But Watson will need development, especially in reading more complicated coverage schemes after the snap and cleaning up some footwork issues in the pocket.
DeShone Kizer has a ton of upside as a dual threat runner and passer. He's a more mature quarterback than given credit -- regardless of what Brian Kelly will tell you. He gets a chance to work with a player's coach and offensive guru in Hue Jackson. But there's a ton of work to be done in Cleveland and no guarantee Kizer will come out on the other side.
Pat Mahomes has the potential to be the next successful gambling and unorthodox quarterback. He'll work with Andy Reid, who's no stranger to guiding such players to success. He has a mature offense and a defense that should keep games close enough to prevent opposing teams from making the Kansas City offense too one-dimensional during Mahomes' early development. But Mahomes won't play right away and there's risk his game will not translate to the NFL.
Mitchell Trubisky has been tabbed as Chicago's franchise quarterback. He'll play soon and was widely considered the top overall quarterback by many. But he'll have high expectations and a ton of unknowns on offense.There are also some concerns with how he'll handle pressure in the pocket.
I shuffled this group multiple times and ultimately listed Watson first. I expect this group to be taken before the late second round. If you prefer one strongly over the other and like the quarterback prospect better than the second tier of running backs, the top tight end tier, or the top three defensive prospects, make him a priority.
He'll likely not play this year, but consider stashing Chad Kelly for 2018 if he's available after the fourth round and your skill position targets are exhausted. With Gary Kubiak gone, the Broncos will give Paxton Lynch a long look in 2017. If his development stagnates, Kelly may be the best quarterback on a strong offensive roster next season.
Like the top quarterback tier, I see the top running back tier as tight and difficult to separate. Unlike the quarterback tier, however, I expect there to be strong individual opinions on which of the four players belong at the top.
Today, I have Joe Mixon narrowly ahead of Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook, with Leonard Fournette just behind. All four of these backs could easily be 300 touch players early in their careers. McCaffrey is likely the safest option -- with injuries and off-field concerns leaving the others with a slightly lower ceiling. I have Fournette at the bottom of this group mostly due to his relatively lower PPR upside. If you strongly believe one of these backs separates himself statistically in the short or long term, move them up alongside Corey Davis on your board and reorder the other three accordingly.
I like Kareem Hunt over Alvin Kamara for now. Kamara's fit in New Orleans is intriguing but there's too many mouths to feed at running back and in the passing game to push Kamara higher yet. If something happens with Mark Ingram between now and training camp, Kamara is in a much better spot. Samaje Perine and Jamaal Williams are favorites of evaluators I trust and headed to good situations. I have more faith in Ty Montgomery as the Packers' every-down back than some, but don't be afraid to take Williams (or Perine) near the top of the second round. Similarly, those I trust have serious concerns about D'Onta Foreman. If you like the talent and fit, he moves much closer to Williams on your board.
I liked Wayne Gallman and Aaron Jones as prospects before the draft but wish they'd landed in more immediately friendly locations. Joe Williams didn't stand out as much, but Kyle Shanahan reportedly loves him and the Niners aggressively pursued depth options behind Carlos Hyde last month. I'm torn on James Conner. While a better back before chemotherapy, there may yet be room for recovery and the potential value as Le'Veon Bell's backup likely mean I'm underrating him a bit here.
I like Corey Davis as the top overall selection in PPR leagues. If your league is not PPR, consider him alongside the top four running backs. The Tennessee offense needed playmakers outside and Davis could be dominant with Marcus Mariota. Demarco Murray and Delanie Walker will compete for offensive production. While the Titans have a number of young receiver prospects, Davis is the most dynamic and talented and should grow into a top 10-15 fantasy wide receiver. I see clear separation between Davis and Mike Williams and John Ross.
I don't see a rising superstar among the second round prospects, which brings me to yet another clump on my draft board. Chris Godwin has the best situation -- young quarterback with upside, stud WR1 to relieve pressure, and a veteran deep threat to learn from this year. But it may be hard to find 120+ targets if Doug Martin returns to form, Mike Evans continues his elite play, and O.J. Howard develops as hoped. JuJu Smith-Schuster goes to a prolific offense but may never be more than a third wheel in Pittsburgh. ArDarius Stewart is an attractive talent but the quarterback situation in New York is beyond ugly.
The tier of players who should be available in the third round -- Josh Reynolds, Chad Hansen, and others -- may provide similar upside at a more palatable price. I'll be hoping to add DeAngelo Yancey late. Waldman's profile of his talent and measurables is favorable and taking flyers on Green Bay receiving prospects is always advisable.
The next offensive clump comes at tight end. I want to separate O.J. Howard from Evan Engram and David Njoku. But Engram and Njoku are strong prospects headed to average or better situations and the nagging wonder about why Howard didn't see more usage in Alabama. I'm leaning toward Howard being a more consistently productive professional than collegian. Those in TE-premium leagues may want to push all three in this tier up a line.
Adam Shaheen needs development and wasn't drafted into a favorable offensive situation. He'll likely be drafted before I'm willing to risk a roster spot on him. But I'll be ready to move should he start slowly and end up on waiver wires. Bucky Hodges was drafted very late but is easily a top six statistical prospect. You can probably get him later than I've listed here if your league worries more about draft position than skill set.
Malik McDowell is the only defensive tackle I'm considering currently. Rotoworld has him listed at defensive end but the Seahawks will use him as a penetrating situational defensive tackle. The Seattle locker room should be a positive environment for him and his usage is statistically favorable. Expect him to be reclassified later this summer.
I'm generally against drafting edge rushers highly. They take time to develop physically and transition to playing every snap against smarter and more athletic offensive tackles than what they faced in college. The exceptions are players who are physically mature, explosive in the right metrics, show evidence of mature counter moves to their speed rush on film, and likely to see 500+ edge snaps quickly.
Myles Garrett fits all those criteria. At 6-4, 275 pounds and with an elite vertical leap and three cone time, Garrett showed an ability to convert from speed to power and the awareness of how to win when offensive tackles cheat on his edge rush. Gregg Williams will find creative ways to use him immediately. He may not reach his ceiling in year one, but his upside earns him a look at the end of the first round.
I have Derek Barnett (a favorite to succeed with Jim Schwartz), Charles Harris (an underrated all-around talent who will learn from Cameron Wake), and Derek Rivers (dropped way too far but into an often favorable New England role) with third round grades. All have DL1 upside. Solomon Thomas is a half tier behind those three but could easily hit a similar ceiling. Jonathan Allen isn't far behind. It's a deep class with lots of upside. Consider Jordan Willis, Tim Williams, Carl Lawson, and Trey Hendrickson as watch list options with good long term potential.
Reuben Foster is talented enough to put up elite LB1 numbers. I have him tiered as such despite questions about how San Francisco will use him in their new 4-3 and whether NaVorro Bowman will recover well enough to negative affect Foster's production. Jarrad Davis had a mid-second round grade in earlier deliberations but the Lions told reporters he would play middle linebacker. That's a very favorable every-down role and puts him with Foster as worth considering in the late first round - early second round range.
I really liked Haason Reddick at the Senior Bowl. He looked more natural than many expected playing the run at inside linebacker and showed the coverage and pass rushing skill he'd shown on film. But the Cardinals' defensive depth chart is weird. There's not much bulk to protect the inside backers and it's hard to know how the team will keep Reddick, Deone Bucannon, and their many safeties clean to make plays. It's enough to keep Reddick out of the top tier.
Zach Cunningham will eventually replace Brian Cushing but Benardrick McKinney is the long term stud in Houston. Raekwon McMillan will always be around the ball but I'm waiting to see how the Dolphins plan to use him with Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons. Duke Riley should replace DeVondre Campbell at weak side linebacker in time. I like those three over those with limited talent but favorable depth charts like Alex Anzalone, Jayon Brown, Anthony Walker, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and Marquel Lee.
Nearly every edge rusher with elite upside will be classified at defensive end this year. I like Tyus Bowser and T.J. Watt of those who will be listed at linebacker.
There are no Jalen Ramsey caliber prospects this year. Marshon Lattimore is worth a draft pick late. Everyone else can be considered watch list candidates with a plan to move on Gareon Conley, Kevin King, or Marlon Humphrey later this summer if any are tabbed as clear starters. Sidney Jones would be listed with Lattimore if healthy. If you can stash him on injured reserve in very deep CB-required leagues, it's worth considering.
I'm still disappointed -- and a little confused -- that Calvin Pryor hasn't been a better statistical performer in New York. The talent should be there, the surrounding cast is relatively weak, and the stat crew in his home stadium and divisional opponents is very favorable. The Jets still have yet to decide on his fifth year option and took safeties with their top two picks. Jamal Adams can -- and now very much should -- become what Pryor was hoped to be in run support with better coverage skill. He's the top safety on my board and worth considering in the third round.
I don't know what Jabrill Peppers will be but I do know there will be a ton of tackle opportunity and Peppers will have to play around the box. Obi Melifonwu would be listed higher but he'll be a situational player only this year and isn't likely to see many snaps in the box with Karl Joseph around. If the Raiders improve their linebacker corps before Melifonwu replaces Reggie Nelson, there may not be many scraps to be found.