*On 2/18/17, we re-drafted/re-ranked our listing started in early January. Beginning on 2/20/17, we’re adding a 2017 prospect per day (for a week or two) to show early valuations on the top prospects in 2017 draft class for trading rookie draft picks purposes or to get into position to draft someone, etc., leading into the NFL Combine.
1/10/2017: Using only the players taken from the 2015 and 2016 NFL Draft, I am conducting my own dynasty draft (from a ‘best player available’ mindset). We’re trying to show some of our valuation logic involving players from the last two draft classes…to help you with your dynasty planning as well as ‘best ball’ drafting coming up.
1) RB David Johnson, Arizona
This decision is pretty easy now. It was ‘arguable’ a year ago, but not anymore. No more debate between Gurley-Amari-DJ…Johnson has emerged as the clear winner out of the 2015 draft class, and from the 2016 draft class. The combination of running skills, power at the goal line, and hands in the receiving game…you can’t stop him.
We knew all this a year ago, but the question was – “How would Arians use him?” We have our answer…and it’s way better than the Rams’ plans for Todd Gurley. No-brainer. Johnson #1.
After Johnson, I have a problem…I have 5–10 names to consider for the #2 spot.
2) WR Tyreek Hill, Kansas City
I look at all the names I could consider here and I am perplexed. Trying to pick the #2 after D.J., the deciding factor for me – there is nothing like Tyreek Hill on this list. There are a ton of great players, and many of them I can argue ‘this RB or that RB’ or ‘this WR or that WR’…I don’t have an either/or argument quite like Hill…so I go Hill #2.
Unlike Todd Gurley getting bottled up by bad blocking or a bad coach, or Amari Cooper suddenly ignored by his QB…and very much not ignored by opposing shutdown corners – you can’t shut down Tyreek Hill. He’s too dynamic.
Dynamic + his team ‘gets it’ (for the most part). They gave into Hill pretty quickly…whereas the Minnesota Vikings sat on Cordarrelle Patterson (the tall Tyreek Hill). Because of his unique skills and his team’s awareness…Hill is at #2.
If your league ignores return TDs for scoring…then send Hill down 1-2-3 spots on this list.
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
Two things made me pause from putting him at #2 overall…(1) The 240-pound weigh-in is a bit of a head-scratcher. He might run a 4.40 40-time at 240 pounds and then be in a debate of whether he is better than David Johnson. (2) The more draft momentum he gets, the more likely a bad team is going to take him and then he could get “Gurley’d” by landing with some joke of an offense (with a joke of a QB).
After Fournette runs at the NFL Combine (if he does), then we’ll see if he belongs at #1, #2, #3…or further on this list.
If Fournette runs in the 4.4s at 240 pounds with his hands…he may be the single greatest prospect we’ve ever witnessed at running back. We can argue about his ankle issues later…
3) QB Dak Prescott, Dallas
I have to go with Dak Prescott because as I look over my entire list of 70+ players to do a top 25–50+ on…there are not many QBs at all. Prescott and Marcus Mariota, and that’s about it. All kinds of WRs and RBs and LBs…but not QBs.
Considering Dallas is becoming the new New England Patriots, but with the owner getting in the way, Dak could be a nice B+ quarterback that’s pushed to A-level fantasy output because of the O-Line and the weapons they will surround him with. I think this team will transition from a heavy run game to more of a pass game unit – because Dak is so talented.
Partly on his talent, and mostly on the positional scarcity…Dak is placed up high on the list.
4) RB Todd Gurley, Los Angeles
Update – I’m going to start buying into Sean McVay/a change at head coach being a help for Gurley + Gurley is as talented as it gets. He’s superior to Ezekiel Elliott…just a vastly different offense/O-Line. I think we saw the best of Elliott last year…and Gurley can top that.
Here we are…what was once the NFL’s brightest RB star of the future is now behind Jordan Howard on a draft/rank like this. Unbelievable. Part of me looks at the Rams O-Line and organization and thinks I have Gurley too high on this list. However, like with Amari Cooper, I am drawn in by the talent – they don’t make RBs like this. He should be rivaling David Johnson at the top of this list, not nearing a fall out of the top 10.
The new head coach and what kind offense he brings with him will change everything…or doom Gurley for a few more seasons. I’m a ‘believer’, but I’m having a hard time holding on to my faith after witnessing 2016.
5) RB Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas
I do not like Ezekiel Elliott the person. I think he’s a pretty good RB. Everyone else is over the moon with him, but I’m not. The way we all feel about David Johnson…everyone else feels about Elliott. Gimme DJ in that battle.
However, I’m not dumb. I’m a fantasy profiteer. I’ll take production from anywhere I can get it. I love Todd Gurley…but I ain’t taking Gurley over Elliott today. Ezekiel has a silver spoon in his fantasy mouth – the media adores him and he has the best O-Line in the recent history of football to work behind, and now a new age Tom Brady developing at QB. Elliott is going to produce until they finally throw him in jail.
My main reason to take Elliott, and thus the case for him #2 on this list – I take him to trade him for David Johnson.
TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
Why this high? One part Howard is a fantastic tight end prospect and one part the economics of the tight end position…Howard can be a top 5 fantasy tight end right away if he falls in with the right offense. I believe Howard can hit/impact quickly because he ‘checks all the boxes’ for head coaches. None of us will likely be whining “Why isn’t Howard starting/being used more?” in 2017.
Howard went Alabama. Which is instant credibility with the media and coaches (check).
The mainstream football analysts and media are behind him – there will be pressure on his head coach if he isn’t being used (check).
Howard is a talent – the right size and athleticism. One of the best tight end prospects in years (check).
Howard can block…so, no excuses for coaches to pull him out of the lineup in situations (check).
Howard will be drafted by a team among the top 10 overall, on purpose and thus will be starting right away (check).
There aren’t many prospects from a draft that can be considered elite at their position — Howard could be one of them…depending upon his NFL Combine, and landing spot.
6) LB Jatavis Brown, San Diego
You may be shocked by Brown being this high on the list, but he might just be the best fantasy linebacker in the NFL. Arguably as good an athlete or better than Luke Kuechly. With Brown, you’re going to get your chance at 8–10 tackles a game, because he’s a monster hitter…but you also get a guy who can get to the QB for sacks…plus cover receivers as needed. He’s going to give a cornucopia of IDP numbers…not just ‘lots of tackles’.
7) WR Amari Cooper, Oakland
Last year, I would have bet my life on Cooper as a star for fantasy in 2016 or by 2017. Now, I’m not so sure. His disappearing act was one part extra coverage and one part Oakland making no effort. I think the Raiders should have attacked with Cooper-Andre Holmes. Instead, Holmes was on the bench for dropsy Seth Roberts and dropsy/knucklehead Michael Crabtree…Jack Del Rio was doing exactly what opponents wanted. He did that with WRs and RBs. I don’t get Del Rio. He scares me on Cooper ahead.
Cooper is one of the best technical WR talents in the NFL. He should be a superstar already. He wasn’t even a WR3 the second half of 2016…but working with a decent QB. I still push him this high because I believe in his talent…and because his upside is ‘best PPR WR in all fantasy’, and that’s worth something.
QB Mitch Trubisky, UNC (on San Francisco)
At this stage, I’m a ‘true’ believer in Trubisky. We’ll see if the NFL Combine changes any of that – we have to get through a ‘scare’ happening with his height, and I want to see his 40-time. He runs very well for a non-run-first QB; kinda like an Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck runner. I see some Jimmy Garoppolo in Trubisky – polished quarterback with impeccable timing and reading of defenses. Guys who just need a chance to be ‘unleashed’.
Obviously, getting paired with Kyle Shanahan is a hell of a lot better than getting stuck in Cleveland.
8) RB Jordan Howard, Chicago
Update – In the end, I don’t trust the Bears yet…and looking over Howard’s receiving numbers, I worry that the Bears are going to bring in a 3rd down back to steal PPR opportunity (I would if I were the Bears GM).
No quarterback. A weak offensive line. Opponents knowing the Bears would run with Howard (later in the season, once he established himself). All that, and then they still couldn’t stop Howard. I have a slight fear the Bears will try to tinker with Jeremy Langford too much. Why he is their goal line RB is frustrating, but there is some logic. Howard needs space to operate a dissect a defense. At the goal line, they just need speed/power straight ahead. Howard is not speed/burst…he’s patient and then surgically slices through every crevasse there could be. He needs a head of steam. The goal line thing is a slight issue and is a minor knock on Howard for fantasy output. Other than that, what a fantastic, unique runner.
9) LB Kwon Alexander, Tampa Bay
Update – I didn’t fully grasp how very good Kwon’s numbers have been until I looked at them more.
10 or more tackles in 9 of his last 20 games.
7 or more tackles in 16 of his last 20 games.
145 tackles in 2016 + 7 passes defended + 3.0 sacks + a TD.
The guy had 1.5 sacks in his college career and was a mediocre tackler (with totals) at best. In the pros, he’s as good an IDP as there is. I’m not fighting it.
Still only 22 years old.
10) WR Tyrell Williams, San Diego
Update – The new coach/offensive philosophy scares me to death. I almost put Meredith over him.
I see true #1 WR potential in Tyrell, I always have back to 2015. However, I am nervous on how fast Philip Rivers is tailing off, who the new coach will be, and what Keenan Allen’s return will do to the offensive flow. If the new coach is another Philip Rivers lapdog…I fear for Tyrell ever hitting the next level. Regardless, Williams is going to be a force whether as a #1 or #2 WR. An offseason of work with Rivers, plus a delayed or not-fully-back Allen may help launch Tyrell to that next level.
Hope for an upside, risk of management stupidity as well.
11) WR Cameron Meredith, Chicago
Update – I almost put him over Tyrell…I want to, but I don’t trust the Bears either. I’m a major Cam Meredith guy.
I almost went Meredith higher than Tyrell…or Amari. I held back because I don’t know who the Bears’ QB will be in 2017, and I fear the worst from John Fox and friends. I also fear this Bears’ group will push Kevin White because ‘draft status’. Still, Alshon Jeffery will gone…so it should be a Meredith-White duo. I like Meredith to emerge.
Tyrell had the numbers in 2016, but to my eyes…the better technical WR – it was Meredith. What’s the difference between Amari and Meredith right now…on tape…Meredith is bigger/better. But Cam didn’t go to a big-name school so we have to see if he gets denied opportunity again like he did most of the past two years. This guy was just sitting on the bench for the Bears for 1.5 seasons…and as soon as he got the chance – POW. Instant star. Great personnel management Chicago!!
I could argue Meredith #2 among all WRs on this list. Depending on what Chicago gets at QB…I might have him there.
WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan
Likely to be drafted ahead of Zay Jones or Cooper Kupp, giving his team more investment into him…’draft status’. Plus, Davis is not likely to be drafted top 10 or #1 WR overall…so he does not have to come in as the team’s savior. I could put him here or after Kupp among the 2017 guys.
The ‘tall Antonio Brown’ vibe I’m getting watching him more and more is drawing me in. I hope he can go at the NFL Combine to show what his speed-agility times are.
WR Zay Jones, East Carolina
If I think Cooper Kupp is the best WR prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft…then why is Zay Jones ranked ahead of him? Two reasons…
1: The difference between them is not that far apart at this early stage of scouting, in my mind.
2: Scouts are moving towards Zay now. He’s going to be a first rounder, potentially…and thus taken with a purpose. More status. More targets. Potentially.
For fantasy, I suspect Zay will come out of the gates quicker than Kupp…purely, speculating on potential landing spots and overall number drafted.
WR Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
I moved Kupp around from #14…right after Stefon Diggs, then I moved him just in front of Diggs. However, the more I thought about it – Diggs underperformed in college and shined in the pros, but also plays on an awful offense for him to shine in. Kupp was a college stud and should shine in the NFL. The question is – does he land on the right team to maximize himself for fantasy?
I thought about Kupp over Tyrell and Meredith, but those guys are now proven. Kupp we suspect will be good, but Williams-Meredith are already confirmed ‘good’+. I love what Kupp brings to the table, but fear how he might be misused in the NFL. I’m excited by what could happen in the right spot.
12) QB Marcus Mariota, Tennessee
2016 ended with a broken fibula. Two NFL seasons…both cut short with injury. Not devastating injuries, but the fear of what can happen to skinny mobile QBs has to be on your mind when taking a QB for your dynasty-fantasy squad. Given the lack-of-impact fantasy QBs from the last two drafts…Mariota gets an extra bump higher on this list/rank.
Mariota has been a much better passer in the NFL, and hasn’t pushed it as a runner – and that might be a good thing for fantasy…less likely to get hurt, except he keeps getting hurt.
I originally liked Mariota for fantasy as a decent passer with an exciting upside as a runner. Now, I’m encouraged by how talented a passer he’s become. In the middle of the 2016 season, Mariota was running as a top 3–5 fantasy producer until the schedule crushed him late and then the injury. Things could only get better if Tennessee found him more explosive WRs to work with.
13) WR Stefon Diggs, Minnesota
I could argue him as the best WR on this list and should be in the top 5 overall here…not so playing in Minnesota with Mike Zimmer – the place where offensive players go to die.
Diggs is a next Antonio Brown-type for sure. You want to be invested/sitting on him if you can because if he ever gets lit by a change in offensive philosophy or coaching change – it’s going to be sweet. I want to move him up higher on the list, but I can’t bring myself to do it.
14) DB Landon Collins, NY Giants
Update – In the end, you can’t deny the numbers he produced in 2016. Low risk pick.
You get the same amount (approximately) of tackles per game from Collins as you do many top safeties. Johnathan Cyprien had as many tackles in 2016 (actually two more)…and no one cares much about Cyprien. Collins has ‘New York’ and ‘Alabama’ to help push his ‘star’ power. On a certain level, Collins is just a top 10 DB…not THE best DB for IDP.
People will jump up and proclaim his PD counts (13) and interceptions (5) in 2016 set him apart. I agree – that made him the top IDP in 2016…but there are holes in thinking he’s ‘that guy’ every year. First, his five picks came in a four-game span midseason…against Keenum (2)-Wentz-Dalton-Cutler. Most all of them thrown right to him…he just had to make the catch.
His high PD counts are because teams have a tendency to go at him. He’s beatable. He gambles a bit. Bad for the NFL, good for IDP.
I’m not a huge Collins fan, as a scout, but I recognize he’s about to get a Tyrann Mathieu hype push – so he’s going to play and do what he wants. When he signs his five-year $70M deal in a few years…then bail. Until then, game on for IDP.
15) DB Byron Jones, Dallas
One of the most gifted defensive players in all the NFL. If Dallas is going to stick with him at safety, then we should all be excited. After a slow start in 2016, Jones posted 7.8 tackles per game the second half of the season. 7.5 tackles per game in his final 11 games.
Jones also defended 10 passes because he has shutdown corner skills – and that’s my great IDP fear there…is that Jones is moved to corner and away from huge IDP numbers.
When you are strictly talking the most talented players on this list – Jones is top 3–5.
QB Mitch Trubisky, UNC (on Cleveland)
The label ‘on Cleveland‘ represents what happens when a potentially great QB prospect lands with a crappy organization and/or with a weak head coach. ‘On Cleveland’, Trubisky would be stuck with Hue Jackson for at least one season…and Hue has shoved all his chips in on Cody Kessler. It would take a ‘big man’ to admit he’s wrong and go for the better QB prospect. I don’t think Hue, not unlike any ‘fake tough guy’ NFL he’s coach, will be admitting to anyone he’s wrong about anything…ever. You’re about to find out who is in charge of the Browns – Jackson/the media or the Moneyball guys. Either way, if drafted there, Trubisky gets buried by Hue to prove his point.
It’s a shame because Cleveland is sitting on some great WR talent, but I’m starting to believe that three of them (Pryor, Coleman, Gordon) don’t have one collective brain combined. I would be depressed to see Trubisky go to Cleveland…you’d have to wait a few years for a new coach, new offense, etc. if he goes there in 2017.
16) RB Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore
If I were drafting for my expansion football team, I would choose Dixon over Thomas Rawls for sure. I think Dixon is a 1,000+ rusher and 500+ yard receiver per season waiting to happen. The reason why I Rawls ranked close to Dixon is because Seattle has shown huge love for Rawls…and the Ravens have been ‘meh’ on Dixon.
Terrance West is a very solid RB…so Dixon has that battle. The Ravens have been inexplicable to me for RB workloads and WR targets. The fear of ‘What will John Harbaugh do?’ makes me hit the governor on a running back I am growing to love.
Dixon is almost assuredly a potential NFL star…I just don’t know if and when it will happen.
17) WR Corey Coleman, Cleveland
No clue anymore.
Coming out of my 2016 studies, I thought Coleman would be the only top fantasy rookie to get excited about. I was excited. You were excited (some). We made deals to get to the #2–3 overall spot in the dynasty rookie draft…and then nothing in the preseason…
…and then 2 TDs in a quarter in Week 2, and perhaps I was right all along.
…then he broke his arm the following practice and missed seven weeks.
He finished the season with a whimper. Is it the QB play? Is it Coleman? Honestly, I don’t know. I watched him like a hawk…looking for clues. I saw more to scare me than anything else. A lot of drops. Not much of a sustained ‘wow’ factor. However, then he’d do something that would suck me back in – he’s so fast and has such tremendous leaping skills. I just don’t know if he can catch well enough.
Cleveland pushed him…they started him, got him targets, a few carries…they didn’t give up. I’m not giving up, but I’m very leery right now.
Consider how good Brandin Cooks or T.Y. Hilton were as rookies…and then the mild flop Coleman was in 2016. I keep thinking if Coleman is so good he shouldn’t have had such a nothing rookie campaign.
TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss
Believe the hype that Engram is ‘the next Jordan Reed’…the ‘next Reed’ minus concussion worries. If you bank on the fact that Engram is Reed-like, then you have two competing thoughts on how to value him for fantasy at this stage: (1) What if he goes to a team that DOESN’T know how to best utilize a tight end with these unique gifts? (2) What if he goes to a team that DOES know how to best utilize a tight end with these unique gifts?
I’m leaning towards the side that an NFL team coveting Engram’s skillset will pursue him and use him as ‘Reed’ right away. If that happens, he might be a top five fantasy/PPR producer in year one…rare for a rookie tight end, but I think rookie tight end conventional wisdom is about to get thrown out the door in 2017 with the depth of talent in this class.
If I knew for sure that Engram would be taken by a team that would utilize him properly, say the L.A. Rams with Sean McVay or Green Bay or Dallas (then we’d wait until 2018) as possibilities – then I’d move Engram higher on this list.
18) LB Eric Kendricks, Minnesota
Kendricks is a legit 10+ tackle per game linebacker, and because he’s such a great athlete he also gives you action in the passing game – 9 PDs and a 77-yard INT TD this season…stellar from an ILB. Kendricks got banged up midseason and had some lower output for a few weeks and then ramped back up the final four games of 2016 – 9.5 tackles per game in that stretch. His 2016 was better than it averages up on paper.
Kendricks is as talented a linebacker prospect as there is over the past few drafts and he has ‘draft status’ with mainstream acceptance. He’ll be a Pro Bowl’er soon.
19) RB Jay Ajayi, Miami
I had a difficult time making this pick, but looking at the pool of options remaining – I pulled the trigger.
My hesitation: I don’t think he’s that talented. Straight-ahead runner with bad hands in the passing game. Issues with his mindset and a degenerative knee issue that supposedly could go anytime.
My interest: He exploded in 2016. 200+ yard games don’t grow on trees. The coach loves him and is going get him 20+ touches. You could do worse when that O-Line is intact and Ajayi is Marshawn Lynching off tackle. I am not worried that Ajayi is going into some kind of split role at this point…like I am with Thomas Rawls or a Tevin Coleman (coming up later on this draft/list).
20) RB Tevin Coleman, Atlanta
If you just came up to me and told me Devonta Freeman retired from football…I re-do my list with Coleman in the top 10. I knew he was a good-to-great RB talent as a runner from our scouting metrics and what I saw with my eyes scouting him in 2015. What I did not realize is how good of a receiver he is – not just a screen pass guy, I mean…down the field, quasi-WR for Atlanta at times this year. Impressive year. So sad (for us) he has to split with Freeman.
Take/move him higher on this list – you’ll get no argument from me. I love him. I just have to factor in his erratic touch counts…and he usually draws the short end of the stick in most games. I love Coleman…they love Freeman.
RB Christian McCaffery, Stanford
I wavered back and forth on where to put McCaffery. I had him after Tevin Coleman…and then right behind Kenneth Dixon…and then just ahead of Dixon. I ultimately went beck to my original spot here.
Why I cannot seem to settle on a spot is because if the NFL is going to mess up an opportunity with a player — it’s going to be with Christian McCaffery. He won’t be brought in as a lead running back, no way. He’s coming in as a receiving back with a few carries thrown in. He could be the better replica of Danny Woodhead…but that takes just the right situation and coach and offense. Too many times guys are brought in with ‘receiving back’ hype but then join an ancient offense and barely see the ball. On a bad offense, he’ll be drafted with every intention to be used heavily, but that means 2-3 targets a game…a radicaltargeting for stoic offenses like Minnesota or Houston.
I just have a feeling that unless he winds up in New England or Green Bay, his rookie season will be a yawn…kinda like Kenneth Dixon’s was last year. Barely used early, then some sparks late…but when a year passes we’ve moved on from last year’s shiny new toys to this year’s new ones. I like McCaffery, I fear what the NFL is going to do to him.
21) DL DeForest Buckner, San Francisco
Update – The news of the 49ers moving to a 4-3 is music to my IDP ears!!
#2 in tackles among DTs and also #7 in sacks this season – a better 2016 than I thought he’d have, and we were pro-Buckner as a top 2016 prospect coming into this season. Where I thought he’d shine for IDP – was using his massive size/reach for batting down passes/racking PDs and pushing the pass-rush up the middle. However, in 2016, he had just one PD. The IDP upside is in him getting PDs, a DT J.J. Watt of sorts – it didn’t happen in 2016. Cautiously optimistic for them to come.
22) TE Hunter Henry, San Diego
Update – Falling because of the surge of good and great TE prospects hitting from college in 2017.
I’m not a big fan of Hunter Henry, but I look over this list and notice a dramatic lack of tight ends. Scarcity is driving this pick some, for me.
Henry is solid, but I don’t think he’s as gifted as the mainstream is pushing. He’s OK. He’s no more talented than A.J. Derby or Cameron Brate (probably less talented than either), but I get that he has ‘draft status’. He’s going to play and get targets…even higher once Antonio Gates ever gets out of the way. I thought that would be in 2017…but now I’m not so sure.
Not excited about this guy, but he did score 8 TDs in 2016…and was at/under 20 yards receiving in seven of his last nine games.
23) WR Sterling Shepard, NY Giants
Update – The biggest mover on my re-do. I didn’t realize how solid a 2016 he had, and how well he finished. He’s a good receiver. Victor Cruz gone helps even more.
Any solid wide receiver opposite Odell Beckham should have nice numbers, and Shepard is a solid/talented WR. Shepard is not off the charts in any one area but is between good-to-very good in all phases. He had a nice debut season (65-683-8). He could be a 10+ TD guy by feeding off lesser coverage due to OBJ sucking up so much attention. Solid WR in a good spot…especially with Victor Cruz about to be gone. Not as overall physically gifted as Parker-Perriman types on the list, but may be in a better place to produce numbers if Eli holds up for another season or two.
24) WR Malcolm Mitchell, New England
Integrated so well with Tom Brady so fast. He was one of our top-rated WR prospects out of the 2016 NFL Draft, but we didn’t think he’d matter as a rookie. He’s ahead of schedule. He has superior talent and impeccable character. This is a great situation – and the Patriots don’t have a loaded roster of similar WRs. However, Brady does tend to spread it around to WRs…and what happens when Gronk returns?
The good news is – once Brady falls off, Jimmy Garoppolo takes over seamlessly. Mitchell doesn’t have to worry about what Tyrell Williams and Odell Beckham are starting to have to worry about with aging QBs with no real backup.
25) WR Josh Doctson, Washington
Update – I’m starting feel/believe and hear Doctson might be ready to splash…to grab the mantle his foot injury held him back from.
At this stage, we’re in a pure guessing game on Doctson. From our college scouting and metrics, Doctson could be a star receiver in the league. However, he missed most all of 2016 with foot issues and there is some speculation he’s not over that battle yet. We have him propped up on this list/draft based on speculation on what he could be…and a possible road cleared with Washington on the verge of losing some WRs to free agency. Valuation held down some by long-term injury concerns. Talent-wise he should be higher on the list.
WR Mike Williams, Clemson
Mike Williams is a very good WR prospect and has nice size at 6’3″/225. There’s a lot to like. What I don’t get as excited about is his production numbers are not all that great considering the offense and opportunity he had at Clemson. I also fear the current hype pushes him as a top 10-15 draft pick, and with that comes an expectation that he walks in as an instant #1 wide receiver – and that is not happening.
Williams is good but overrated. He may get drafted into a weird spot. He also has an ACL surgery on the books.
RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State
We think Cook is good, but not great. We recognize he has a lot of media and fan momentum, and that should get him drafted highly and pushed by his new team due to ‘draft status’. We also recognize he’s a limited talent, so even when he gets ‘too much’ opportunity – it might not be that great. In addition, the off-field whispers of him being a problem off the field and in the locker room are growing louder. He has multiple ‘incidents’ that may or may not be overblown, but like with fellow FSU teammate Jameis Winston – they’ll be swept under the rug by fans and pounced on by critics. There’s a lot of smoke around Cook…one can only wonder if there must be a fire.
Cook’s size is an NFL-translation issue (to stardom). He has fumble issues. His hands are iffy in general. The biggest thing he has going for him is the media and fans adore him…for now. There are too many ‘good’ RB prospects to overinvest in and turn a blind eye on the off-field stuff with Cook.
Ranked ahead of Dwayne Washington, not because of talent — Washington is 2x the talent of Cook…but Cook has a seemingly better path to touches and targets at this stage.
26) RB Dwayne Washington, Detroit
I should have him higher on this list, but his empty 2016 season has me nervous that all the talent is going to get squashed by poor instincts or poor coaching/plans. I don’t know that to be true; just speculating on things that could have caused a weak debut season where he got some opportunity fast…he just didn’t cash in.
He tore up the 2016 preseason like a second coming of David Johnson…and then played the regular season like the second coming of John Kuhn – everything was up the middle for 0–3 yards. When he got past the line of scrimmage and out in the open you could see something is waiting to pop with him – size, speed, burst, power. He has an ‘it’ factor. Purely on a talent-wise decision, I’d take him over Ezekiel Elliott for my NFL team. However, Washington is inexperienced by comparison and has been prone to some injury.
Washington could star as a main-carry RB, a strictly receiving RB, or as a converted WR. There is something here waiting to happen, but I’m not sure when…or if. I love him as a prospect but lost some momentum with that 2016…and now for 2017, Ameer Abdullah returns to pair up with Theo Riddick. Could be a buried year in Detroit in 2017. On here because of superstar potential.
27) DB Sean Davis, Pittsburgh
I would have him a little higher on this list, but there’s a baked in risk that the Steelers move him to cornerback at some point and his tackle counts go down. However, I’m becoming less and less worried about that.
Davis was one of our top 5 rated players for the NFL Draft and one of our top dynasty rookie draft options as well. Davis came on strong in the second half of 2016 – 6.2 tackles per game over his last nine games (including the playoffs). He also landed 2.5 sacks and picked off a pass in there as well. He had 9 tackles and a sack versus New England in the playoffs.
Davis has elite speed and agility, plus he’s one of the tougher DBs around. He’s a sure tackler and has the athleticism to get to and make plays. I loved this guy since day one of scouting.
28) DB Clayton Geathers, Indianapolis
Update – Rumors of a move to linebacker is a concern for IDP.
A safety that loves to hit also works on a defense with limited surrounding talent – a unit that’s going to be on the field for a lot of plays – it breeds plenty of opportunities for Geathers to rack IDP numbers. I could see him making a run at leading all safeties in tackles in a season coming up. 7.5 tackles per game over his last six games (missed the last few games with injury).
In a 2016 season where he played nine games, he paced for a 16-game season total of 103 tackles and 9 PDs…which would have put him #5 in tackles and #9 in PDs among safeties in 2016.
29) RB Thomas Rawls, Seattle
Update – I don’t like the Rawls future much at all between Prosise and his perpetual injuries.
I think three things with Rawls for the future…
1: He did not grade as well in our scouting models, but has looked very good as a pro. I liked his tape in college, but his measurables + production analysis said he was more average than great. He looks pretty solid as a pro.
2: Seattle loves him…and that matters. However, I think they could love C.J. Prosise quickly as well…loving a split role between them with Prosise as the PPR favorite.
3: Rawls has been an injury issue for three years running…why would I think next year is the clean year?
I like Rawls, but I see various landmines and speed bumps. I’m not anti-Rawls, but I don’t know that I need to try to build anything around him.
30) RB Derrick Henry, Tennessee
I’m not trying to diss Henry by having him down on the list this far, but here he is.
Two major concerns: (1) Demarco Murray is really good and his contract is very logical – he could be in Tennessee for years to come. These guys could be in a split for years with Henry getting the short end of the stick. (2) Henry is not great in the passing game, so his fantasy scoring opportunities are pinched even more, especially in PPR.
On the plus side – he’s a very good RB talent in the power runner role. He’s built for 10-12+ TDs a year if given the main opportunity. Henry breaks your fantasy heart if Murray is productive and healthy, but if Demarco goes down – Henry will be a top 5 non-PPR RB prospect on TD production alone. He’s a gamble here, but one that if he pays off – he’ll make you look like a genius. You could argue him higher on the list, but given the congested backfield and thought that I trust my ability to find RB talent…I have him this far down.
31) WR Tyler Lockett, Seattle
The guy who has been in my top five for these types of mocks for the past two years…the guy I have been proclaiming ‘the next coming’ for two years…he’s now my #30, and it may be my personal affinity driving him this high.
There are four reasons NOT to like Lockett’s immediate future:
1) Seattle’s offensive coordinator has never fully got/appreciated Lockett. From his shock that Lockett could play WR at a high level his rookie training camp…to the fact that the Seattle O-C is horrific at his job – Lockett’s future usage is unclear, unpredictable.
2) The emergence of Paul Richardson makes the targeting even muddier.
3) Doug Baldwin is CLEARLY Russell Wilson’s ‘guy’. I thought it was becoming Lockett…I was wrong, and that cost us all.
4) More good and great WRs are flooding the NFL. You don’t have to wait around on a guy like Lockett if you see a traffic jam of issues towards his ascension. There are other WR prospects to love.
The reasons to still hold on to hope:
1) He’s still a fantastic WR. He got hurt/sprained PCL early on and faded off. He played through it (ineffectively) for weeks. Once healed he was back to showing the skills that got us all excited. He’s a top WR waiting to happen.
2) Because he is a high-end return man it shows he is more than just a decent WR. He’s a technician at WR plus athletic enough to burn teams in the return game…he’s a different kind of Tyreek Hill. Not as fast, but a far superior WR.
32) WR Kevin White, Chicago
Update – The more I believe in Cameron Meredith, it’s going to effect White.
Coming out of West Virginia, I was with everyone on White – thought he was a top WR prospect. Loved the size and speed, and receiving skills in college. He missed 2015 with injury and then limped into 2016 looking feeble and like he’d never played WR in his life. Dropped passes and tentative moves after a catch. I was ready to toss the towel in – maybe the injury, which was serious, had killed him off as a pro prospect?
Just as I was about done with him…he started showing the speed and aggression from college in his last game or two of 2016. Just as he got rolling he got injured and missed the rest of the season. A 100% healthy White is still intriguing, and I know the Bears will want to push him to show they didn’t make a mistake. I think Cameron Meredith is far superior, but NFL teams have a tendency of favoring draft status. This is more speculative than confidence.
33) DL Danielle Hunter, Minnesota
#1 among all DEs in sacks in the 2016 season – more than Avril-Wake-Mack-Bosa. Was #9 in tackles among all DEs. Physically gifted, but still coming into his own. There’s still some upside here. As long as he is with Mike Zimmer, I like him for 10.0+ sacks per season and improving tackle totals playing the run game better ahead…hopefully.
34) DL Sheldon Rankins, New Orleans
After playing limited snaps in his Week 9 debut in 2016 (delayed by an injury), Rankins played as a starter in his final 8 games and posted 19 tackles and 4.0 sacks (and didn’t play much in Week 17). His sack pace would have put him at 8.0 for a full season – and that would have been second-best among all DTs in sacks in 2016.
Rankins is a disrupter at DT and has upside from here. He’s going to compete for tops among DTs in tackles and sacks in 2017.
35) LB Vic Beasley, Atlanta
I should have Beasley higher – there’s a reason he isn’t: classified as a ‘linebacker’ for most/all for fantasy. Leading the league in sacks but not making many tackles gets you the #34 spot in PPG in IDP in 2016. His same 2016 PPG numbers would be #3 among DLs. I have him on here for the hope/small odds he gets moved to DL. If you think that’s more realistic – put him in the top 10 overall here.
36) WR Breshad Perriman, Baltimore
I like Perriman’s talent a lot more than this #36 ranking, but I live in abject fear of what the Ravens do to wide receivers in their passing game (underutilize them). Perriman should have been gaining momentum all season – becoming a go-to WR because he has some of the best concentration and hands combo that there is in the NFL. No one made more amazing catches this season than Perriman, but his role never expanded much in 2016.
Steve Smith is gone, so that appears to be a step in the right direction but the Ravens love veteran WRs and will probably go get Pierre Garcon or resurrect Andre Johnson or see a shocking return of Steve Smith…or ‘all of the above’. However, if the Ravens decide to push Perriman he could become a star. His catching ability is stellar and he’s a 4.2-4.3+ runner. He could be/should be a top 20 guy on this list.
37) WR DeVante Parker, Miami
I think he’s more good than great in an NFL that is going to get flooded with similar good-not-great WR prospects. He has a chance to be a nice #2 paired with Jarvis Landry…a solid 1–2 WR punch, but on a so-so pass game with Ryan Tannehill.
The downside – often hurt, and has shown to be too tentative at times on the field. Too easily pushed around. He started making noise in the second half and playing more physical and confident, but then got banged up and played injured the last few games. Not sure what his ceiling is.
There are a lot of interesting, talented WR prospects popping up all over to worry about one who is just ‘OK’. I’m still caught hovering around whether he is very good or good/OK.
38) LB Jake Ryan, Green Bay
One of our top prospects from the 2015 NFL Draft…from the 129th pick in the draft and people wondering where he might play, and whether he’d have any impact, to becoming a starting middle linebacker late in 2015 and the anchor in 2016. He’s an athletic talent with the instincts to be a star linebacker for years and a high IDP stat producer.
In his first 8 games in 2016, Ryan averaged 7.3 tackles per game…and then got hurt the following week and missed a few games and hobbled back to the lineup to up and down tackle counts. He started getting healthy late in 2016 and made 12 tackles in the Packers first playoff game versus the Giants. With all the injuries to the Packers secondary, it led to teams throwing a ton against them in the second half of the season — and taking away tackle count opportunity from Ryan. If this defense gets back to balanced/normal, then Ryan’s tackle counts should rise to 8+ a game.
Ryan’s quick enough to rush the passer/backfield more. He hasn’t registered any NFL sacks yet, but the day may come where he adds 2-3-4 sacks a season and is allowed to shoot into the backfield more for TFLs. He dropped back in coverage to help with the pass so much this season it took some TFL and sack opportunity away.
I see all upside for Ryan ahead.
39) LB Jordan Hicks, Philadelphia
Like a safety playing linebacker – 11 PDs and 5 INTs as an ILB/OLB. He goes into coverage quite a bit so it will hurt his tackle counts some, but he still gets a decent tally – 5.4 tackles per game in 2016, and 6.1 tackles per game in his last 12 games of 2016. He’s become a fixture on defense for Philly (good-bye Mychal Kendricks) and is the kind of linebacker that could score 1-2 defensive TDs in a season off his prowess for covering receivers in the passing game. He may be a better IDP linebacker than an NFL one.
40) DL Emmanuel Ogbah, Cleveland
We believe he will be the best pass rusher from the 2016 draft class…eclipsing Joey Bosa (which looks like a long shot after year-one, but we have faith). Ogbah had 6.0 sacks last season, but has a definite upside to produce 10.0+ sacks per season. If Carl Nassib develops, it’s really going to help Ogbah’s numbers as the young bookend pass rushers come of age. Not only does Ogbah get after the quarterback, but he gives a very good effort in the run game. New D-C Gregg Williams’ aggressive nature may help bump Ogbah’s sack tallies in 2017.
41) RB Wendell Smallwood, Philadelphia
Six months ago, I would have had Smallwood a few spots higher on this list. After watching the 2016 season, I’m not sure any of us knows what the Eagles are going to do at running back in 2017…for the season or in any given week. They play a smart version of what the Patriots do at RB – change plans weekly to throw off opponents and don’t become predictable. Utilize different guys. Play a hot hand as needed.
If the Eagles lose Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles due to salary cap decisions, then it’s possible Smallwood is in a split backfield…or some chance he becomes the main RB. He’s a smart runner between the tackles for his size. He is above average in the passing game. He has three-down NFL starting RB ability…the question is whether he ever gets a predictable, full workload.
42) DL Frank Clark, Seattle
10.0 sacks last season in a bit of a breakout performance. You could see this coming in his rookie 2015 when he started flashing a bit in the 2nd half of his rookie season. I like Clark’s aggression and ability, but we have to bake in that he’s had ‘issues’ back in college – off-field issues and ‘lazy’ labels thrown around. Clark at his best and playing with a talented D-Line deserves a higher rank, but there is a risk on his work ethic…especially when he gets paid at some point.
43) LB Darron Lee, NY Jets
I was wrong about Lee, potentially. I did not believe he had the heart of an inside linebacker in the NFL…nor did he show me much as outside linebacker at Ohio State – just flashes of athleticism, but a lot of standing around/late to the action. I thought he’d become a coverage linebacker primarily in the NFL because of his high-end speed. However, the Jets stuck him in the middle and he played with an aggression that I didn’t see in my college scouting of him. He has the physical tools of the star linebacker, but I just didn’t trust his heart or tackle ability. I still have some doubt, but there’s a lot to like about this if Lee is a starter in 2017.
44) DB Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville
The best young cornerback in the NFL, and he’ll hit people too. A sensational 2016 season…should have been Rookie of the Year. My fear would be that he’ll be a ‘no fly zone’ and end up like Patrick Peterson or old Darrelle Revis – no one throws/goes his way so his chance to produce numbers is diminished.
45) DL Leonard Williams, NY Jets
Raise him up higher if he ever gets classified as a DT and you play in a league that requires DT (not just DL) spots be filled. As a defensive end he is so-so for IDP, but as a defensive tackle, he could really stand out. Williams will never let you down – the question is whether he can become a big-time producer.
Rounding out the top 50:
46) WR Robby Anderson, NY Jets
47) LB Markus Golden, Arizona
48) DB Keanu Neal, Atlanta
49) LB Ben Heeney, Oakland
50) LB Tyler Matakevich, Pittsburgh
Players I had on the ‘possible’ list when going through teams/names to start the process but they didn’t make in my Top 50 (in no particular order): RB Tra Carson, Cincinnati, TE Jerell Adams, NY Giants, DB Derrick Kindred, Cleveland, DB Kevin Byard, Tennessee, TE Seth DeValve, Cleveland, TE A.J. Derby, Denver, LB Elandon Roberts, New England
You would think them to be in the top 10-20, but…?
I wanted to be sure to hit notes on players of note who are not in my top 10-20-30+ on this draft, but who would go in a top 10-20 if most people did this draft…
RB Melvin Gordon, San Diego
You have David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Howard, the talent and frustration of Todd Gurley, Kenneth Dixon, and soon you will see names like Thomas Rawls and Tevin Coleman…so why not Melvin Gordon among the RB opportunities? Even from a ‘touches’ standpoint — can’t I do a version of what I think about Ezekiel Elliott for fantasy…may not be as big a fan as everyone else but I’m a fantasy profiteer…?
I mean this slight to Gordon more than you know. I never try to get cute for the sake of being cute/to prove a point. I’m only in this to win. I will use fantasy players I don’t like and those who have done things off the field I disagree with…I’m not marrying these guys, I’m just trying to play/win a game for $$$. I have no fantasy shame. With that being said, I really believe Melvin Gordon is one of the worst running back talents in the entire NFL. He’s not so awful he can’t produce numbers…hell, Jeremy Langford and Damien Williams will score TDs from close range if you give them the chance. Rashad Jennings has good games from time to time when shoved all the touches. I get that Gordon is ‘the guy’ for SD…but I don’t think he is going to be for long. If Danny Woodhead is back 100% then it’s a split role. The new head coach may not be as forgiving of Gordon’s low YPC and fumble-itis ways. There are plenty of other RB fish in the sea to mess around with one as shaky as Gordon.
WR Michael Thomas, New Orleans
I know he will probably be better for fantasy than this banishment. He plays in a perfect situation with New Orleans – heavy duty passing game, Brandin Cooks takes the main coverage, and the Saints are leaning on Thomas like a #1. I don’t think Thomas is that ultra-gifted…he’s just seeing a ton of activity in perfect surroundings. I think he could fall like a house of cards if the Saints trade Cooks this offseason, which is possible…or when Cooks leaves in free agency. Thomas cannot handle #1 coverage by corners. He’s a guy who thrives on getting #3 coverage. I think he’s a ‘trap door’ fantasy prospect ahead.
DE Joey Bosa, San Diego
I saw the numbers. I get it – he got sacks and TFLs in 2016. He had a terrific IDP season. I’m not as a big on Bosa as everyone else. Most who would construct this list would have Bosa top 10, and I get that – I’m just not paying that price because I’m not a believer. I’m sticking to my data, and I’ll pay the price if I’m wrong. I just do not think Bosa is a sustainable producer.
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