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. 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 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.
**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, Mark Schofield, Emory Hunt, Charles McDonald, and Justis Mosqueda. I have also relied on the rankings of Bob Henry, John Norton, 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||Barkley / NYG|
|Chubb / CLE|
|Guice / WAS|
|Jones / TB|
|Michel / NE|
|Penny / SEA||Smith / CHI|
|Freeman / DEN||Edmunds / BUF|
|Johnson / DET|
|Moore / CAR|
|2||Rosen / ARI||Kirk / ARI||Gesicki / MIA|
|Jackson / BAL||Gallup / DAL|
|Ridley / ATL||Vander Esch / DAL||James / LAC|
|Mayfield / CLE||Sutton / DEN||Goedert / PHI||Evans / TEN|
|3||Darnold / NYJ||Hines / IND||Pettis / SF||Leonard / IND|
|Washington / PIT|
|Miller / CHI||Chubb / DEN|
|Coutee / HOU|
|St. Brown / GB|
|4||Allen / BUF||Kelly / LAR||Chark / JAC||Hurst / BAL||Landry / TEN|
|Ballage / MIA||Smith / NO||Davenport / NO|
|Scarbrough / DAL||Hamilton / DEN|
|Lasley / BAL||Warner / SF|
|Moore / GB|
|Cain / IND|
|James / SF|
|5||Lauletta / NYG||Walton / CIN||Callaway / CLE||Andrews / BAL||Hurst / OAK||Turay / IND||Jefferson / CIN||Ward / CLE||Harrison / JAC|
|Valdes-Scantling / GB||Baker / MIA|
|Rudolph / PIT||Edmonds / ARI||Scott / BAL||Hubbard / CIN||Fitzpatrick / MIA|
|Smith / ATL||Fountain / IND|
|Wilson / DAL|
|6-FA||Falk / TEN||Jackson / LAC||Watson / TB||Akins / HOU||Vea / TB||Key / OAK||Burks / GB||Alexander / GB||Edmunds / PIT|
|WATCH||White / DAL||Wilkins / IND||Tate / CIN||Conklin / MIN||Payne / WAS||Haynes / CAR||Carter / NYG||Hughes / MIN||Bates / CIN|
|LIST||Samuels / PIT||Cantrell / LAC||Thomas / CAR||Bryan / JAC||Armstrong / DAL||Nwosu / LAC||Jackson / GB||Reid / HOU|
|Scott / NO||Cobbs / WAS||Schultz / DAL||Shepherd / NYJ||Lewis / IND||Okoronkwo / LAR||Davis / TB||Gaulden / CAR|
|Nall / CHI||Quinn / WAS||Herndon / NYJ||Senat / ATL||Sweat / PHI||O'Daniel / KC||Stewart / TB||Walker / DET|
|Wadley / TEN||Ateman / OAK||Hand / DET||Thomas / CLE||Jewell / DEN||Dawson / NE||Whitehead / TB|
|Adams / PHI||Wims / CHI||Philliips / BUF||Green / SEA||Griffin / SEA||White / LAC|
|Cannon / NYJ||Lazard / JAC||Speaks / KC||Street / SF||Ejiofor / HOU|
|Warren / FA||Robertson / MIN||Holmes / MIN||Fitts / CHI|
|Kiser / LAR|
***You can view a cleaner image of the draft board with full player names and teams here. Email me at email@example.com 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
Taking running backs early and often in rookie drafts was the consensus strategy many years ago. More recently, as the league has seen its pass-run ratio continue to skew -- particularly in the red zone -- and trended toward using pass-catching specialists in many different offensive situations, wide receivers have gained favor as top-tier options.
That won't be the case this year.
I may be in the minority, but I don't have a quarterback, wide receiver, or tight end in the top half of the first round this year. D.J. Moore is close and the quarterback crop has reasons for optimism. But my draft board has the top eight running backs clearly ahead of the offensive skill positions. That's due to the caliber of running back talent on the board and the lack of immediate elite upside at other positions.
It's also notable to see two linebacker prospects tiered above the first prospects at all other positions.
After the first 10-15 names on the board, this draft board is as murky as ever. There's not much separation among the wide receiver tiers and I'm not pining after any of the later tier running backs, tight ends, or defensive prospects. Though the linebacker group is more attractive than it's been in years -- I have five linebackers with a mid-third round grade or higher -- the edge rushing talent is extremely light and the safety group will need time to develop. I have just eight IDPs worthy of a fifth-round pick or higher today.
Make that murkiness work in your favor. Don't be afraid to move up or take players you like earlier than the consensus.
Four quarterbacks make up my top two tiers. All will likely begin the season as reserves. I have Josh Rosen very narrowly ahead of Lamar Jackson, primarily because it's not yet clear how Baltimore may reshape the offense after moving on from Joe Flacco. Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold are a half tier behind Rosen and Jackson. I may be underrating Mayfield's accuracy and the upside of his young receiving corps, however, especially if Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, and David Njoku play to their full potential.
I'm more likely to target Kyle Lauletta at his anticipated late-round ADP than Josh Allen. I've learned to listen carefully when Matt Waldman questions a young quarterback's pocket awareness -- as he does with Allen. In much the same way I prefer a mature understanding of route-running over measurables in a wide receiver, I'm looking for comfort in the pocket over arm strength in quarterbacks. If you value Allen in the same range as the other four first-round prospects, move him up the board.
Saquon Barkley will deservedly be the top overall pick in every rookie draft. There are other attractive running backs on the board but none with Barkley's combination of talent, depth chart opportunity, and projected heavy usage in his team's passing offense.
Tiering the next seven prospects is more difficult. Nick Chubb's talent is unquestioned but the depth chart is crowded and it's hard to overlook Hue Jackson's struggles in Cleveland. Jay Gruden told reporters Derrius Guice would not play on passing downs. Ronald Jones has a wide-open depth chart but there are questions about how effectively Tampa Bay will run the ball.
Sony Michel has the ability to be the first New England back in years to consistently see 20+ touches regardless of matchup but has ball security issues that could put him in Bill Belichick's doghouse with a quickness. Rashaad Penny will start his career behind a questionable offensive line but his draft slot and comments for John Schneider and Pete Carroll suggest he'll be used heavily immediately. Royce Freeman and Kerryon Johnson are talented backs that project to all-around roles when they ascend to the top of their respective depth charts.
I see a half tier difference between Chubb/Guice and the rest but it's a thin line. I expect many of you will see enough upside in Jones, Michel, or Penny to move them alongside or above Chubb and Guice. And you'll get no argument from me.
Nyheim Hines doesn't have the size the top eight options have but his skill set makes 15+ touches per week possible. There are indications he'll be moved all over the formation on passing downs, too. He's well ahead of John Kelly and Bo Scarbrough -- who could quickly earn primo backup roles -- on my board.
I artificially added tier breaks into the wide receiver column. On my first pass, the column was one long contiguous set of names. That's primarily because I have eight running backs with a higher draft grade than D.J. Moore, my highest graded receiver. And that pushes the first round and second round grades close together, which compresses the entire column.
I like Moore to emerge as Cam Newton's primary wide receiver in time. But Greg Olsen signed a contract extension and Christian McCaffrey should see more targets, too. It's hard to project 140+ targets and mid-WR1 or better ceilings for Moore. After Moore, it's tough to predict roles and potential targets. Undoubtedly, some of these players will prove every-week fantasy options. I like Christian Kirk narrowly over a long list of others but will be watching mini-camp reports carefully to see if Michael Gallup is ascending early, if Courtland Sutton is showing consistency and chemistry with Case Keenum, and if Dante Pettis is seeing enough routes outside to emerge as Jimmy Garoppolo's primary weapon sooner than later.
The second tier is populated by high-upside slot options (Anthony Miller, Keke Coutee, Daesean Hamilton) and high-upside downfield threats (D.J. Chark, Tre'Quan Smith). I'm also intrigued, as always, by any wide receiver with a pulse who could join Aaron Rodgers in the huddle.
In the later rounds, Deon Cain, Richie James, and Daurice Fountain interest me. All have a skill set that could be put to good use by their talented quarterbacks over the long term.
Tight ends take time to develop. Even so, I may be too low on Dallas Goedert. The presence of Zach Ertz suggests a slow-to-reach-ceiling curve for Goedert. But there's a good argument Goedert's eventual production will be better than Mike Gesicki. I'd have Mark Andrews higher on my draft board if the Ravens didn't take Hayden Hurst earlier in the draft and it was clear how Baltimore planned to deploy both players during the end of the Joe Flacco era.
The NFL may rightly fear whether Maurice Hurst will continue playing through a second contract but you shouldn't. Hurst is the only defensive tackle worthy of a thought in the first five rounds. His penetrating skill set plays well on all downs and he'll see plenty of one-on-one blocking on the interior with Khalil Mack outside. Watch Taven Bryan's role and snap counts in the preseason. He could move up alongside Hurst later this summer.
There will be valuable edge rushing prospects to emerge from this class. Unfortunately, they won't emerge quickly. That's not unusual. Edge rushers need time to finish physical development and acquire a mature array of pass rush moves and counters.
With Bradley Chubb classified as a strong outside linebacker in Denver, he's likely to be given a linebacker classification in most league management systems. That's where he's tiered on this draft board. Harold Landry is the best bet for immediate rotational value in big play scoring systems but you shouldn't expect 40+ solos any time soon. I have Marcus Davenport listed in the same tier but that's partially due to the less-than-exciting lesser running back and wide receiver tiers. There's potential in the later watch list flyers but none are worth a priority draft selection.
The linebacker cycle continues to turn over in the NFL. While there are still good reasons to believe many NFL teams do not see the off-ball linebacker position as a high priority, there are more collegiate talents entering the league ready to compete as run defenders and cover linebackers in subpackages than ever before. This season, five teams drafted an off-ball linebacker in the first two rounds. Five more drafted a linebacker in the third round.
Each of the linebackers taken in the first two rounds project as every-down players likely to contribute immediately. With the exception of Leighton Vander Esch, who will be flanked by two strong all-around talents in Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, each of these linebackers has a wide open depth chart and will see a ton of tackle opportunity.
I'm advocating considering Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds in the back half of the first round. I'll likely draft the running backs ahead of the linebackers but Smith and Edmunds are immediate LB1 values and are stronger bets for sustained production than the running backs. Vander Esch has the imprimatur of Tampa-2 maven Rod Marinelli. I'd have him in the same tier but I'm not certain how the Cowboys will align in subpackages. Fred Warner screams up into the top two tiers if Reuben Foster is released by San Francisco.
Move Bradley Chubb up in your rankings if you're willing to sit on him in the hopes the Broncos flop and change coaches and schemes soon. His ability to play the run and approach double-digit sacks in time projects much better to a defensive end classification than outside linebacker. I'm not sure I see 55-14 upside at linebacker.
I like Malik Jefferson, Oren Burks, Jerome Baker, Dorian O'Daniel, Josey Jewell, and Shaquem Griffin. Jefferson and Jewell seem most capable of earning every-down duty but neither has a clear path to a starting job soon. If the Dolphins decide Baker can play on early downs outside, he may be an every-down player quickly; he projects better in coverage than Raekwon McMillan.
I'd consider Denzel Ward in the fifth round. None of the other cornerbacks excite me enough to target with a draft pick. I'll take my upside shots at wide receiver instead.
Derwin James was drafted to play the Kam Chancellor role in Los Angeles and gets a second-round grade from me. Ronnie Harrison may take a year to see 800+ snaps but he will in time. The watch list includes many intriguing prospects. Unfortunately, all of them were drafted with a subpackage role in mind. None project to a starting job immediately. Still, you should move on any of those players listed who look likely to play on early downs.