By Scott Brock-Wilson
Some leagues have already had their rookie drafts, but with training camps starting up the rookie drafts start to become even more frequent. Now, before training camp gives you false hope or negativity about the rookies, here are the top 10 dynasty rookies.
This ranking provides you with a realistic view of the top ten rookies for dynasty fantasy football. With that, we know many dynasty leagues don’t stay competitive after 5 years, so there is a slight emphasis toward players with more of shot at fantasy stardom in the near future.
1. Leonard Fournette - RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Fournette is in his own class. Cook and Davis have also seen time in the number one slot for others, but in Fournette is still the clear number one. On the Jags, Fournette is surrounding by offensive talent with Allen Robinson, Hurns, Thomas and Bortles; however, the worst unit is by far the offensive line. I believe Fournette will be able to overcome this, similar to Trent Richardson in his first year. Fournette has been compared to many of the top backs from recent drafts including Richardson, Gurley and Elliot. Let’s get this out of the way now: he is not going to put up Zeke numbers. Zeke was in a perfect situation that many predicted, including here at the Breakdown. He also won’t be as bad as Gurley last year. The concern with Fournette is his catching ability, but supposedly the Jags want to utilize him in the passing game. News has come out that he has been catching the ball well, which should be the icing on the cake.
During the past several seasons with Bortles at QB, the Jags have found themselves trailing throughout the game, always playing catchup while gunning it down the field through the air. Look for Jacksonville, who bolstered their defense yet again this offseason, to attempt to control the pace. That means Fournette will get the bulk of the carries with Yeldon and Denard Robinson (keep fighting) getting some 3rd down touches worst case scenario.
2. Joe Mixon - RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Mixon has a real shot to be the Bengals starter by the end of the season. Jeremy Hill has proven he isn’t a starter, and Geo Bernard will miss significant time at the beginning of the season with a torn ACL. Last season, Mixon was second in all-purpose yards with 1812 yards on 60 less touches than McCaffrey (1913 yds). Mixon can be their RB for this year and for years to come, but on the downside, the Bengals will suffer on the offensive line this year with the losses of Whitworth and Zeitler. However. the offense remains potent with Green, Boyd, Dalton, and fellow rookie John Ross. Mixon has been deemed the problem child in this draft class, but then again that’s what Zeke has turned into for last year’s draft class.
3. Corey Davis - WR, Tennessee Titans
After Fournette there is a cluster of great players. Davis is one who rose up boards late in the season, all the way up to #5 in the draft. He is one of the safest players in your fantasy draft with an incredibly high floor. A great route runner with good speed on a team that needs his skillset. The Titans also drafted Taywan Taylor in the 3rd round potentially securing their wide receivers for the future alongside Mariota. That is why I love Davis; he gets to grow with Mariota, while having two backfield threats in Henry and Murray. We expect Davis to get the majority of the targets, and as a plus, Tennessee’s defense still contains many holes, leading the Titans to play catch-up in most games this year.
4. Dalvin Cook - RB, Minnesota Vikings
Cook was my number two rookie entering the draft in April, but he didn’t fall because he got drafted to the Vikings, rather the players that jumped him went into perfect situations. His speed, athleticism, agility and elusiveness have all be extensively analyzed, but I like the situation in Minnesota as well.
Many demoted him after the draft due to how far he fell and the fit. How can people honestly be worried about the fit? Please, Latavius Murray has had several seasons on a good offense and behind a top three offensive line but has yet to produce big numbers. He competed with Taiwan Jones, DeAndre Washington, Roy Helu, and Jalen Richard - none of which are even great backup RBs. Therefore, Murray is not a starting running back in the NFL. He will be the farthest thing from a workhorse back for the Vikings, and I expect Cook to earn the starting role by mid-season this year. We know the Vikings love McKinnon, but he has never been able to translate the bursts into consistent talent, and I don’t expect anything different this year that would affect Cook’s usage.
5. Mike Williams - WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Williams was hovering around the #3/#4 spot before his back injury. Williams has supposedly had this since the draft, and the only thing more scary than a WR with lingering back issues is a WR with foot issues. For the long-term, I hope he has surgery, making him miss this season but allowing him to fully recover heading into next year. Consequently, this would also cause his draft stock to fall potentially allowing you to get a steal later in the draft. Williams missed nearly his entire junior season (2015) with a broken neck and obviously bounced back with an incredible year putting up double digit TDs and 1300+ yards on nearly 100 receptions.
Williams is a perfect fit for Phillip RIvers’ throw it up mentality. With Keenan Allen’s never-ending injury history and Tyrell Williams capped ceiling, Williams has the potential to produce big numbers from the minute he steps on the field (whenever that may be).
6. Christian McCaffrey - RB, Carolina Panthers
No one knows how the Panthers will run the offense after drafting both McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. We all know McCaffrey was a stud in college, but the big question is can that translate to college. They say he isn’t a three down back, but how many true three down backs are left in the NFL? He also won’t be the goal line running back as those carries belong to Newton and occasionally Jonathan Stewart. On the brightside, Newton may be tired of taking so may big hits. After all of his late hit complaints last season, we may see Newton defer more to his two new rookie running backs in both the running and passing game on check downs. McCaffrey will be a wildcard of this rookie draft with extreme bust and star potential.
7. Evan Engram - TE, New York Giants
Sorry O.J., Engram is the best fantasy TE in the draft. A TE with great hands that acts like a WR and is in a explosive offense. Engram produced better numbers than Howard and with more consistency. There is tough competition for targets between Odell, Marshall, Shepard, and Perkins out of the backfield, but we know Eli likes to sling it. Eli has made terrible tight ends like Larry Donnell, Will Tye, and Brandon Myers fantasy relevant at times. With the double teams on Odell and attention on Marshall, Engram (who has more talent than the aforementioned TEs) may be running free on weaker defenders all season long. With Marshall potentially out after this year, I look for Engram to be the move the chains guy and the main red zone threat for the Giants.
8. O.J. Howard - TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Howard was the first TE off the board in the draft and is paired with the best young QB in the NFL. Winston is in line to take a huge step this year with Evans, Desean Jackson, and Howard as weapons. Howard has the chance to grow with the young core on the Tampa offense. I have Engram ahead of Howard because Howard will be more touchdown dependent and had a tendency to fade during games. With that being said, Howard is still the best overall tight end (not fantasy) in this class, as he possesses all the tools to be a future fantasy superstar. Similar to Engram’s situation, Jackson may decline faster than anticipated forcing Howard to step into a bigger role sooner. Expect these two tight ends to be compared fantasy wise for years to come.
9. Joe Williams - RB, San Francisco 49ers
Joe Williams was a great pick before the rumors that Carlos Hyde may be a surprise cut from the Niners roster. Hyde is on the last year of his contract, and Williams is Kyle Shanahan’s guy. Shanahan pushed the Niners to trade up for Williams after John Lynch had no intention to draft him. That is a big indicator that Williams is there to stay and contribute considering Shanahan received a six year contract. Even with Hyde this year, Williams is an automatic starter next year in a scheme which vaulted Alfred Morris into RB1 contention his rookie year. Look for many to be calling Williams the steal of the fantasy draft as soon as mid-season next year.
10. John Ross - WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Ross has been overrated ever since his record setting 4.22 40 yard dash. Many are taking him much higher in the first round, but with the loaded RB class this year, I prefer the potential RB selections. Like McCaffrey, Ross has bust and star potential due to his injury concerns. Ross is more than just a speedster: he is a great route runner that can thrive alongside Green and Boyd. I am a big believer in Boyd who will prove to be difficult competition for Ross, but Ross’ big play ability can be the fantasy difference equivalent to that of the Will Fuller spurts we witnessed last season. When Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu were in Cincinnati, we saw them take turns being fantasy relevant, and I expect the same from Ross and Boyd.
2nd-Round Steal of the Draft
Alvin Kumara - RB, New Orleans Saints
Especially PPR leagues, Kumara is Darren Sproles 2.0. He is behind two older backs in Peterson and Ingram in the Saints backfield but that won’t even matter much this year as Kumara is a 3rd down back. The Saints traded up for him, which is always a good sign, but the question will be if he can stay on the field with his blocking.
Mid/Late-Round Steal of the Draft
Marlon Mack - RB, Indianapolis Colts
Another speedster who will excel in PPR leagues and who has the potential to steal the starting job from the ageless, most frustrating fantasy player ever, Frank Gore. Mack adds another elusive weapon to the Colts’ offense running outside the tackles and giving Luck a receiving threat out of the backfield.
Other notables to watch for:
Kareem Hunt - RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Samaje Perine - RB, Washington Redskins
Gerald Everett / Cooper Kupp - TE / WR Los Angeles Rams