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Rookie Roundup: Next Men Up

Taking a closer look at the next set of prospects after the top six of a rookie draft board.

Free agency is well under way. Veteran players are being re-signed by their current team or other teams, getting cut, or being traded. While dynasty owners are certainly keeping track of the fluctuating market value of existing veterans, they are also preparing their personal draft boards for upcoming rookie drafts. A week ago, I created a list of six rookies as the top of my draft board. I continue that list in this installment by adding six more names to the mix. If you would like to read the previous article that outlines the top six, you may do so here.

These rankings assume default PPR scoring and stock settings. Also note that these spots are not necessarily where I would take these players in rookie drafts -- I am ranking them according to how I like them stacked next to one another and then I am using this information to trade and move up or down my rookie drafts accordingly. I am a firm believer in exploiting the market and moving down to gain additional draft capital when I think a superior player will still fall to me later. I am also in favor of moving up in short-bench leagues, or when I feel a talent has the chance to establish himself as a top option in the league for a very long time.

Saquon Barkley

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Nick Chubb

Derrius Guice

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Royce Freeman

Ronald Jones

Sony Michel

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D.J. Moore

James Washington

Christian Kirk

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Courtland Sutton

Kerryon Johnson

Calvin Ridley

D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

Thoughts: The buzz on Moore has reached a fever pitch; but in this case, it’s not without merit. Quickness out of breaks and a second gear to beat cornerbacks deep were refreshing first impressions when sitting down to watch his tape. His run-after-catch ability reminds me somewhat of Golden Tate. Moore’s route running needs some polishing, but I didn’t see anything glaring. I know he’s not the tallest guy at six feet even and it’s not particularly his style of play, but I would like to see him win jump balls more consistently. The comparison between Moore and Stefon Diggs goes beyond the fact they played at the same school. All in all, the raw material an NFL team will have to work with is intriguing and worthy of spending a middle or late first in your dynasty draft.

James Washington, WR Oklahoma State

Thoughts: Washington is thick in the upper part of his frame in a way that reminds me of Ty Montgomery. Like Montgomery, he could be used as a runner in certain situations, which would add to his fantasy appeal. He’s got deceptive build-up speed and wins down the field when corners underestimate this speed. When opposing corners play press, he can out-quick them early and get into his route. Washington has the best ball tracking ability of any receiver in this class. When Washington finds space in coverage, he has the speed to take it the distance. His ability to catch through contact will make him an asset to his quarterback. The big reason he was not higher on my board was his route running, which needs work. Too often, I see Washington’s routes lack the crispness and refinement that you expect of a top level college player. It will be necessary for Washington to work with a good positional coach who can teach him more about the nuances of route running in order for him to hit his apex in the League.

Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Thoughts: The most natural pass catcher and route runner in this class, Kirk has a very safe profile to return on investment, if not exceed it. Comparisons to Taywan Taylor have been made. While their games are similar, I feel Kirk is a better version. I put him closer to Brandin Cooks in terms of his long-term potential. His sturdy build and quick releases make him well suited for slot work, but he’s capable of being a field stretcher if a team so chooses. He breaks off routes with a quickness that leaves defensive backs scrambling to recover. I did note some minor struggles with press against quality college corners, but nothing that I think will significantly mar his outlook.

Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist University

Thoughts: In dynasty formats, I tend to gravitate toward valuing the higher ceiling prospects more than those with safer floors. Though I like him, I decided in this case that Sutton’s bust potential is too great to put him over Washington, Moore, or Kirk. While he’s got the frame and “my ball mentality” of someone like Julio Jones, his route running, separation, and speed just are not in that ballpark at this stage of his development. The difference between Sutton becoming just a possession guy and a true featured receiver in the NFL will be predicated on how well he can clean up his routes. I doubt Sutton will be able to get faster, so this is the only path that I see leading to Sutton being a true number one receiver.

Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn

Thoughts: Burst is the first thing you notice when you watch Johnson run, and that is a good standout trait for a runner to have. Vision, patience, and flexibility to squeeze through tight holes are other traits I saw Johnson regularly display as I watched. Despite being smaller, Johnson does not shy away from contact. The reason Johnson did not end up ranked higher for me is a slender lower body that is not ideal for the wear and tear of his position, especially since he is not one to elude hits. I’m not sure he can hold up to a full NFL workload. Still, if Johnson ends up a change of pace option, he’ll be one of the better ones around.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Thoughts:  Ridley has built his college career on speed and route running ability. This fact paired with him being a top recruit and coming from the vaunted Alabama program will get him drafted in the first round. He’ll get consistent targets because of his pedigree. However, Ridley is a player to avoid for me at the price you’ll have to pay to get him in most rookie drafts. Historically poor athleticism, a thin frame that I question if he can add much to, relatively high rookie draft age (24), frequent drops when he feels a defender about to hit him, and the inability to deal consistently with press coverage — all are reasons I’m just not going there with an early or mid first round rookie pick.