*Originally published January 13, 2016
I’m proud that our top-four Dynasty Rookie Draft picks now (if we were doing this today), contains the four highest rated guys we had before the season started. No one else can claim that, as all others have to pull David Johnson into their top 3 from the #10-20+ they had him in the preseason.
I don’t include Melvin Gordon as a ‘miss’ in our top 4-5 preseason discussion, because we only had him top-five to trade him to a sucker…and that was also the right call.
A couple of notes before you read on…
*The number in parentheses next to each name was our final rank of the player before the regular season started.
**’DND’ means the player was on our ‘Do Not Draft’ list before the season. Players on that preseason list were either way overvalued or ones we absolutely hated…and were also overvalued.
***The psychology and rankings on this list is a little different than the Dynasty Stash rankings. This is a more long-term view, and judging one vs. the other. The Stash list is more who is more available, and likely to pay-off short term.
The re-do list…
#1: RB David Johnson (3)
How is he not #1 overall now? I would argue he ran the ball better than Todd Gurley this year, and that’s not an insult—Johnson’s just that good. As runners…it’s a debate on who’s the best. Factor in the passing game, and this isn’t even a debate. Consider coaching staff/style he plays for/with…and Johnson leaves Gurley in the dust.
#2: RB Todd Gurley, St. Louis (1b)
You have to go Gurley #2. In a world where workhorse/difference-making running backs are becoming obsolete, if Gurley-Johnson stay healthy over time, then this 2015 NFL Draft/Dynasty Rookie Draft will go down as one of the greats for running back prospects.
#3: WR Amari Cooper, Oakland (1a)
My metrics tell me Cooper is a little better than Tyler Lockett as a long-term talent, but after watching them play this year…I’m not so sure. They are both great. Why do I give Cooper a slight nudge now? Oakland is committed to Cooper. Lockett is a ‘surprise’ untapped resource for Seattle.
If I see Cooper-Lockett as “future Antonio Browns”, then I want the Antonio treatment for targets in judging the best FF-option…not the Stefon Diggs-like target treatment. Cooper has his coaching staff’s and QB’s full attention…Lockett, maybe…depends. That’s the difference in ranking them.
#4: WR Tyler Lockett, Seattle (5)
I would not be shocked, in five years from now, we look back and judge that Lockett was the #1 in this class. He’s a special WR. I don’t have him #1, or #3 (and thus the #1 WR), because I am very worried how Seattle is using him. Oakland tries to feature their rookie Amari Cooper. Lockett is seen/used as ‘a guy Seattle has’. There is no real, strong purpose from the offensive coordinator wioth Lockett…yet.
I can’t get over the offensive coordinator acting so surprised how good Lockett was when he first saw him, and how Lockett pushed his way into playing time because they thought he was just a return guy. I mean, it’s beyond the pale. That’s what we have to deal with in Fantasy…these people. Someday, Lockett-Wilson could be magic.
#5: QB Marcus Mariota, Tennessee (18)
In 2015, previously scouted bad/weak quarterback prospects almost all became plausible-to-good…out of nowhere. The rise of the new breed of young QBs is upon us—QBs ready for advanced NFL passing games day one. The NFL passing game may actually be a step back for experienced, high-volume passer QBs coming out of college. Bortles, Carr, Winston…QBs who I thought would be mediocre-to-poor, are now putting up nice numbers…whether in garbage time, off easy schedules, or whatever. Mariota is better than any of the highly drafted QBs of the past two seasons…with the exception of Teddy Bridgewater (who is sadly locked in a 1970s offense).
Mariota had several big games his rookie season…made it look easy at times—and struggled at other times. Given that his team/organization stinks, he will have plenty of passing opportunity in more garbage time…plus, he is arguably the best open-field runner at QB among the starting QBs today (Cam a better pounder, physical running freak). Mariota finishing among the top 3-5 Fantasy QBs in a 4pts-per-pass-TD league next year would not shock me…if they let him off the chain to run at will.
#6: FS Byron Jones, Dallas (23)
Why should I suddenly leapfrog Byron Jones over all the other defenders? I’m doing so on two premises: (1) Jones is a super-talent, arguably the best talent in the 2015 NFL Draft. (2) Dallas is talking about using Jones as a safety. As a safety, Jones could be a top FF/IDP producer—8+ tackles with cover skills to see 4–5+ INTs. He could be the J.J. Watt of safeties.
If Jones is at cornerback, his IDP numbers will dip for FF, obviously. He would/could/should be a shutdown corner, and if so then he’ll not see a ton of FF action as most QBs throw away from him, most likely.
#7T: LB Ben Heeney, Oakland (6)
Heeney was just a special teamer to start the year, but worked his way to a main linebacker by year’s end. He’s a starting, Pro Bowl–level NFL linebacker, and you’ll see that in 2016. We were the highest of any scouting firm on Heeney, and that started to show itself in his play later in the 2015 season.
My only fear is that Heeney is so athletic, and the NFL is using RBs as receiving weapons so much that he gets put out in coverage as an drop-back OLB too much…and loses his chance at racking tackles for Fantasy as an ILB.
#7T: LB Eric Kendricks, Minnesota (7)
Kendricks is right up there with Heeney, as we maintained since February 2015. No real change. We have Heeney higher by a hair, because our scouting models say Heeney is the better all-around player and athlete.
#9: WR Kevin White, Chicago (9e)
It’s not a sure bet that Alshon Jeffery is back with the Bears. We scouted White as a possible star, but it’s still an unknown because he’s not been seen in any real NFL activity. Betting blind on the scouting here. Possible issue with his shins going forward as well. Possible issue working with Cutler if Jeffery is back…because Cutler will favor Jeffery for targets.
#10: WR Stefon Diggs, Minnesota (45)
Diggs would be in the top 5 on this list if not for the offense he is stuck in. He has Antonio Brown skills, a quality quarterback, and the league’s worst offensive coordinator (and been so for many years). If father & son Turner leave Minnesota’s coaching staff, then I get super-excited on Diggs. Until them, I’m a skeptic.
#11: WR DeVante Parker, Miami (9d)
I did not like his 2015, but I am willing to look past the tape, and stay focused on the 2014 tape from Louisville. I know Parker has talent, but I cannot shake some of the tepidness I saw in 2015…and my nonbelief in Ryan Tannehill doesn’t help a ton. Parker started percolating, and looking better late. I think he’s going to be a fine #2 WR, but might be miscast as a #1 WR…Jarvis Landry really helps him here.
#12: RB Jeremy Langford, Chicago (73)
We all assumed Jeremy Langford will be the new Matt Forte in 2016, and that’s not crazy to believe. However, Langford is not quite the talent that Forte is, and there seems to be a late move by the coaches towards Ka’Deem Carey as a short-yardage back. The smart FF-money is on Langford in 2016 as the starter and heavier workload, but it may not be as great as people think.
#13: RB Thomas Rawls, Seattle (72)
For two years, I’ve been trying to kill off Marshawn Lynch. The third time/year may be a charm. Between cost and attitude, and now ineffectiveness, I don’t know why the Seahawks keep putting up with Lynch. I also think Lynch has one foot out the door on his NFL career. Just collecting a paycheck. Thomas Rawls is in line to take over the top spot. If Lynch was gone, Rawls jumps to the top 5-10 here. With the Lynch dark cloud ever present—he’s lower on the list.
#14: WR Breshad Perriman, Baltimore (9c)
I so fear this is going to be Torrey Smith 2.0; a WR3 we all complain that the Ravens should throw the ball more to…and they never really do. Steve Smith returning is not good here.
#15: WR Justin Hardy, Atlanta (15)
I would have him top 10, if I saw any sign that Atlanta was ready to make him a legit #2 WR for them. All I heard in 2015 was how much Matt Ryan loves Hardy…but nothing really ever happened. I still believe, but I’d sure love to see some proof. I think Hardy might shock some people in the next year or two…if Matt Ryan doesn’t fall completely apart.
#16: LB Jake Ryan, Green Bay (22)
A starting linebacker for years to come for the Packers. I think he’ll play ILB more, and have a chance to be an 8–10+ tackle per game guy…with a few sacks thrown in there. He could get shuffled more into OLB, and covering TEs, but my hunch is he won’t.
#17: LB Denzel Perryman, San Diego (40)
Perryman is a ‘C’ athlete who gives an ‘A’ effort with nice instincts. Because he is not super-athletic, Perryman will likely be planted in the middle…a true middle linebacker, which will allow him to post bigger tackle numbers over more talented, more athletically gifted guys like Ben Heeney or Eric Kendricks—who may be forced to cover receivers more often.
#18: OLB/DE Vic Beasley, Atlanta (20)
Your major hope here is that Beasley is reclassified/stays classified (depending upon your league) as a defensive end and not moved to linebacker for IDP purposes. His only value is as a pass rusher, nothing else.
#19: LB Kwon Alexander, Tampa Bay (31)
I was a little surprised when Alexander got thrust right into the starting lineup, and was calling defensive plays for the team as a rookie. However, after an up-and-down start, he was really becoming an impact player before he got suspended. He was racking up tackles, forcing fumbles, picking off passes; he was really playing great ball before he was suspended late in 2015. I’m not sure how much the PEDs made a difference. We’ll see.
#20: RB T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville (DND)
I’m not a fan, but at some point taking the bigger workload FF-matters. I fear he’ll see good touches, and do nothing FF-worthy with them—because he’s an average RB on a bad team.
#21: CB Eric Rowe, Philadelphia (24)
Eric Rowe is going to be a good-to-great cornerback in the NFL for years to come. He covers receivers with athleticism and physicality, and he also hits like a safety. He’s a corner that can rack up tackles.
#22: LB Shaq Thompson, Carolina (21)
Thompson can be a do-it-all IDP in 2016+. He can rack tackles, he can cover tight ends, he can play safety or linebacker. You should see him with more snaps in 2016. He’s one of those guys that is going to become relevant because he such a playmaker, such a talent.
#23: RB Javorius Allen, Baltimore (41)
He’ll begin 2016 behind Forsett-Taliaferro, but eventually will move into his role as a 3rd-down, possibly a heavy-duty receiving RB. Limited upside on being ‘the man’ unless injuries force him to be a main-touch guy. It could be a few years before he pushes Forsett away, and Taliaferro could thwart him because Lorenzo can be a nice three down RB. It’s a muddy situation to project the next 1-2-3 years.
#24: RB Jay Ajayi, Miami (DND)
If I knew Ajayi would stay healthy, he’d be much higher on the list. However, he is a high-probability injury risk with his knee—the reason most teams were scared off him in the 2015 NFL Draft. I assume he is at least the split-starter for Miami in 2016 on opening day.
It’s hard to place his value, because I feel like his knee is a ticking time bomb. The buzzer will sound, and if you are holding the hot potato, you have nothing when disaster strikes.
#25: WR Tyrell Williams, San Diego (26)
How about that 80-yard touchdown on his first NFL catch? My concern is that Mike McCoy didn’t push him more until the very end of the season…and not on purpose even then it seemed. That makes me pause, and wonder if this is the guy I am going to complain about for three years—the guy you’ll get sick of hearing me talk about. However, I’m telling you there are superstar metrics at play here. He’s raw, he needs reps, but there could be something special hiding here. That’s worth a gamble for the price for sure.
#26: WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Tennessee (9b)
I’m completely unimpressed with DGB, from what I saw during the season. I get that he’s super-tall, I get that he’s raw. However, I just see a lost, tentative wide receiver every time I watch him play. It’s hard to get excited here.
#27: DE Danielle Hunter, Minnesota (124)
Shocking, impressive rookie season for the athletically gifted Hunter. He posted 6.0 sacks in his rookie campaign, eclipsing his sack totals combined over three years at LSU. He’s turned it on some in the NFL, and ‘special’ is on the table (as a pass-rusher) because of his size-athleticism package. He still plays a bit too tentative for me to get fully excited.
#28: DE Frank Clark, Seattle (62)
With Bruce Irvin likely to leave via free agency, we should see an uptick in Clark’s playing time in 2016. He is a boom-or-bust pass-rusher, who I saw flash brilliance at times in the preseason, and has been more quiet in the regular season playing sparsely.
#29: RB Melvin Gordon, San Diego (4—only to trade)
Again, he was only our #4 ranked prospect to draft in order to trade, not to hold/use. We didn’t like Gordon anywhere near like the rest of the world did—and we see how that played out. At some point, like with T.J. Yeldon, you have to respect the fact that his coach is going to force him the ball regardless of the results.
#31: RB Matt Jones, Washington (28)
In some instances, I think Jones should be higher on this list, because Alfred Morris is likely to leave through free agency, which leaves Jones as the main running back on the roster for 2016. However, he played so poorly much of the time in 2015, being a constant fumble concern, with a few good/great moments sprinkled in, that I believe the Redskins will add a running back in some capacity and have a RBBC in 2016 with Jones-Thompson-mystery man.
#32: RB Ameer Abdullah, Detroit (8)
Abdullah is every average-to-good running back prospect to enter the NFL. He only matters because he was drafted so highly, which usually causes the team to force him more touches/have more patience. He could be something as a passing-team/third-down running back, but that’s about it.
#33: TE MyCole Pruitt, Minnesota (46)
Michael Pruitt could be the next Jordan Reed, but that would require vision on behalf of Norv Turner and Mike Zimmer, and we know they don’t have that vision for talent. If it ever happens, watch out—he’s the better Jordan Reed.
Watching Pruitt get a couple of targets in their wild-card game, and Kyle Rudolph just one, and then watching Jordan Reed be unstoppable for the Redskins, again, on the same day in the playoffs…it was eye-opening—Pruitt’s possibilities have me thinking deeper…
#34: RB Corey Grant, Jacksonville (36)
If I thought Gus Bradley was smart enough to make Corey Grant his Dion Lewis, then Grant might be in the top 10 on this list. However, I don’t trust Bradley, so I assume Grant will just be lost until the Jags have a coaching change.
#35: WR Chris Conley, Kansas City (16)
I still have a sneaking suspicion that Conley could be developed into a pro-bowl wide receiver. However, I think it’s going to take a while working in a passing game that doesn’t really throw the ball much. When they do throw it, it’s going to Jeremy Maclin. It’s going to be hard for Conley to get more experience until something changes in KC, or he changes teams via free agency.
#36: WR Phillip Dorsett, Indianapolis (17)
Dorsett is fine, but I don’t know how he becomes a star with T.Y. Hilton, a similar wide receiver, already entrenched with Andrew Luck.
#37: SS Landon Collins, NY Giants (42)
We are not huge Landon Collins fans, but many other people are…and his team seems to be. I get that he is a high draft pick who is going to play, which means he’s going to produce some stats. He good-not-great.
#38: WR Ty Montgomery, Green Bay (25)
With all the Green Bay Packers wide receivers falling apart in 2015, the door is open for a reasonably-talented-with-upside Montgomery in 2016. I just don’t know that he can become a star. He may just be useful/good.
#39: WR Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia (9a)
If Chip Kelly was the reason Agholor was getting such an early push in rookie drafts, then what are we to do now that Chip Kelly’s gone? We always thought he was average-to-good, but had a chance for inflated numbers with Kelly—now, that’s out the door.
#40: LB Eli Harold, San Francisco (29b)
The main reason we have him a little higher on the list, not that he isn’t a pretty decent NFL prospect, is because he may get reclassified to defensive end at some point. He’s more pass-rusher than coverage/tackling linebacker.
#41: LB Stephone Anthony, New Orleans (30)
Anthony had a nice rookie season, but I worry what a new defensive coordinator will do in 2016. My fear is that Anthony is just a C+/B- player, and is dependent on what’s around him and coaching.
#42: RB Karlos Williams, Buffalo (DND)
Karlos Williams impressed me, to some degree, in the 2015 regular season. I thought he was one of the most tentative runners I scouted for the 2015 NFL draft…and I saw some of that hesitancy when he was given a bigger workload has a rookie, but in small bursts, versus a worn-down defense late in games—Williams was impressive…a ‘hammer’ late in games. Until LeSean McCoy leaves, Williams is just a part-time/time share running back.
#43: WR Cameron Meredith, Chicago (27)
I love how smooth a WR Cameron Meredith is for an undrafted free agent out of a small school. I would love to have him higher on the list, but I’m not sure whether there will be much of an opening with the Bears next year. It’s possible there could be a lot of openings if Kevin White cannot heal up, and Alshon Jeffrey leaves via free agency.
#44: RB Duke Johnson, Cleveland (38)
Johnson is a solid third-down/pass-game RB. He’s not going to handle much of a ground-getting workload. He’s not built for that. He’s a sketchy PPR option at best, because we don’t know who the new coach will be at this stage. I’m not sure I can tell you the difference between him and Chris Thompson/WAS.
#45: WR Devin Funchess, Carolina (19)
An up-and-down rookie season, mostly down. A very difficult schedule in 2016, and Kelvin Benjamin returning. I like Funchess as part of an NFL roster, but I’m having a hard time seeing him as a key FF asset.
#46: SS Jaquiski Tartt, San Francisco (39)
All Tartt cares about is making tackles, which is great for IDP purposes. We’ll see if the new coach is as enthusiastic by Tartt’s one-track mind…or if he sits because he is less adept in coverage.
#47: DT Leonard Williams, NY Jets (47)
If the Jets can hold onto Wilkerson-Richardson, then Williams is going to be a huge IDP beneficiary of the blocking/attention those two get. I’m still a little disappointed with his rookie campaign. He wasn’t bad, but he didn’t take advantage of his surroundings like I suspected he might.
#48: CB Quinten Rollins, Green Bay (43)
I liked what I saw from Quinten Rollins in bursts in his 2015 rookie season. He’s a guy that can play corner or safety. I suspect he will be a CB, one with decent tackle totals. If he is moved to free safety, then he should race up this list as a DB for IDP.
#49: LB Jordan Hicks, Philadelphia (59)
Hicks had a nice debut, once he was thrust into the lineup due to injuries to others…then he got hurt himself. He looks like he’s going to be a solid linebacker prospect. It’s hard to project him until we see who the new coach will be in Philadelphia.
#50: RB Tevin Coleman, Atlanta (14)
I have Coleman this low not because I fear Devonta Freeman, but I realize that Freeman is going to at minimum see all the passing-game numbers. I suspect Freeman will also split the carries with Coleman at a certain point, rendering Tevin as pretty bland for FF-purposes.
The next 10…
WR Jamison Crowder, Washington (86)
DE Randy Gregory, Dallas (64)
RB Zach Zenner, Detroit (33)
CB Marcus Peters, Kansas City (DND)
RB Mike Davis, San Francisco (32)
LB Kyle Emanuel, San Diego (34)
RB Tyler Varga, Indianapolis (29a)
TE Blake Bell, San Francisco (48)
QB Brett Hundley, Green Bay (35)
TE Nick Boyle, Baltimore (49)