As soon as the curtain closed on the 2018 NFL Draft, most responsible fantasy owners began arranging (or rearranging) rookie dynasty ranks. Many of us play in leagues in which first-year pros are drafted apart from other free agents. For some of us, those drafts are happening soon.
Today, I’m giving you an early back-of-the-envelope look at my ranks for rookie dynasty drafts, in the form of a three-round mock. I reserve the right to reshuffle or fully repudiate these ranks at a later time. Even though we’re thinking dynasty here, I’m going to place a premium on projected first-year production. It rarely pays to make plans three or four years in advance in the NFL.
Once again: Everything here is written in pencil, not pen. Things will most certainly change. Well, except maybe not this first name…
1. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants — Barkley is the no-doubt top pick, a dynamic three-down talent and the most pro-ready runner in his draft class. He’s a gifted receiver, adept in pass protection and a terrifying runner. All of your Gallman and Perkins shares have become worthless. New York also patched its offensive line both through free agency (Solder) and the draft (Hernandez), so that unit should be less disastrous in 2018.
2. Derrius Guice, RB, Washington — Guice’s furious running style should make him the ideal early-down complement to Chris Thompson. His slide to the late second round was absurd, but he landed in an excellent spot for fantasy purposes. Guice was basically a non-factor as a receiving threat at LSU, so he has no special PPR appeal.
3. Ronald Jones, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Let’s just set aside those Jamaal Charles comps, because, um … no. Jones is not that guy. But he’s a quality runner coming off a hugely productive season at USC (1550 rush, 5.9 YPC) and, like Guice, he landed in a spot that offers a clear path to carries. Jones was only minimally involved as a receiver in college, so don’t expect an every-down, all-situation role for him in year one.
4. D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers — Moore was a monster at Maryland last season, despite dealing with a parade of sketchy passers. He can play inside or out, he’s terrific after the catch, and he has excellent speed and leaping ability. Carolina didn’t have a true WR1 on its roster, until Thursday. If you don’t trust my opinion, take a listen to the greatest receiver in Panthers history…
8️⃣9️⃣ has spoken.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) April 27, 2018
5. Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks — Penny is a very good player from a lesser conference who ran in a system that’s produced back-to-back 2,000-yard rushers (first Donnel Pumphrey, then Rashaad). It’s a big leap from the Mountain West to the NFC West, and Penny has seen only limited opportunities as a receiver. Seattle’s O-line was nothin’ special last year, which somewhat limits Penny’s appeal.
6. Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots — Sure, Michel was a committee back in college and he can expect similar usage in New England. But he’s joining an offense that ranked second in the NFL in scoring (28.6 PPG) and first in total yards (394.2 YPG). He should see 12-14 touches per game immediately, sharing snaps with Rex Burkhead and James White. (The Pats aren’t going to sit a first-round running back in favor of Jeremy Hill. Don’t fret about that dude.)
7. Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons — Julio Jones has averaged 10.5 targets per game over the past four seasons, so Ridley will be battling for scraps behind a dominant No. 1 receiver. If you’re looking for short-term production, this probably isn’t your guy. But Ridley has a shot to leapfrog Mohamed Sanu, a player who caught 67 balls for 703 yards last season.
8. Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys — Entering the draft, Dallas’ receiving corps was absolutely dreadful. And it’s still a pretty dreadful group, to be honest. Gallup will be competing for targets with such luminaries as Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley. He should find himself starting in September.
9. Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns — When a quarterback is selected first overall, he generally plays. Don’t expect a redshirt season behind Tyrod Taylor. Mayfield completed 70.5 percent of his throws last season, averaging 11.5 Y/A and tossing only six picks. He’s as ready as any QB in this year’s class, and the receiving corps in Cleveland is loaded with fun names (Gordon, Landry, Coleman, Njoku, et al.)
10. Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos — As is the case with Ridley, Sutton found his way to a very good team that probably can’t offer more than 70-80 targets in the year ahead, unless a veteran receiver is dealt. Sutton is a high-ceiling player, however, and both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are north of 30.
11. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens — Honestly, I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t take Jackson as high as sixth or seventh, particularly if my dynasty roster was already solid at QB entering the season. He’s obviously a developmental quarterback who won’t start ahead of Joe Flacco anytime soon, but he’s a thrilling, inventive runner with enough arm for the NFL. Jackson’s rushing ability is rare — here’s a sample — and it should make him fantasy-relevant as soon as he sees the field.
12. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns — Good player, complicated backfield. Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson aren’t going away. Chubb doesn’t have as easy a path to touches as the backs listed above. He caught only nine passes over the past two seasons at Georgia.
13. Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears — A receiver-needy team grabbed a speedy, versatile, highlight-producing wideout with red-zone ability. Miller won’t lack for opportunities in Matt Nagy’s offense, running opposite Allen Robinson. This team suddenly has weapons to challenge at all levels. Here’s hoping Mitchell Trubisky doesn’t face-plant.
14. Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos — Freeman isn’t going to slip this far in most rookie drafts, I realize. But it’s hard for me to see him as the unchallenged lead back in Denver. He was outrageously productive in Oregon’s wide-open offense, but he’s also a high-mileage back (1026 career touches) who lacks any single special trait. John Elway described him as a “bellcow-type” player, which is nice. It still seems likely he’ll share the load with Devontae Booker.
15. Dante Pettis, WR, San Francisco 49ers — The Niners traded up to grab Pettis in Round 2, so you know they love him. The team has a clear need for receiving weapons, and Pettis is capable of playing outside or in the slot. He’s a deadly punt returner, too, for what it’s worth.
16. Josh Rosen, QB, Arizona Cardinals — Rosen and Mayfield entered the draft as the most field-ready QB prospects. But Rosen landed in a spot where he isn’t likely to be rushed into action. An injury to starter Sam Bradford seems inevitable, however, so it wouldn’t be much of a shock if the rookie were to play, say, half a season. Rosen is an advanced prospect, quick to process information and adept at manipulating defenders. He’s fun. Long-term, he should produce a bunch of nice moments with another member of Arizona’s rookie class…
17. Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals — Kirk is a talent, s kid who was projected by many as a first-rounder. He seems like the eventual slot replacement for Larry Fitzgerald, which of course makes his short-term outlook is a bit murky. He caught 70 or more passes and delivered 900-plus yards in three straight collegiate seasons, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he produced similar stats in his prime NFL seasons.
18. Keke Coutee, WR, Houston Texans — Coutee was a pre-draft favorite of mine, an explosive player with terrific deep speed who gets easy separation. He found his way to a roster that offers an immediate slot opportunity. Coutee is just a terrific complement to Nuk and Fuller. Enjoy some highlights. I can’t say with certainty that I won’t draft Coutee ahead of both Kirk and Pettis. This is my guy. Coutee was a top-five receiver prospect on my (mostly meaningless) draft board. (Please note: I am often wrong.)
19. Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins — Gesicki basically exhibited mutant/superhero-level athleticism at the combine, performing as a 99th percentile SPARQ athlete. He’s the clear top-of-depth-chart tight end in Miami, a rare situation for a rookie. It’s uncommon for rookies to emerge as fantasy factors at this position, but Gesicki has a great chance to deliver an outlier season.
20. J’Mon Moore, WR, Green Bay Packers — Moore has size (6-foot-3), leaping ability and quickness; he was a 78th percentile SPARQ athlete, if you’re into such things. It helps that he’s now tied to an all-time quarterback, playing in an offense that has a clear need for a playmaking receiver.
21. Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints — Smith was a 1,000-yard receiver who averaged 20.0 yards per catch for UCF, and he’s now attached to a loaded offense. He has good speed and size, plus a freakish wingspan. Smith will eventually challenge for second/third receiver status in New Orleans.
22. Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets — There’s more to clean up in Darnold’s game than with Mayfield’s or Rosen’s, and his supporting cast in New York is less than stellar. He’s gonna play by midseason, of course, because he was the No. 3 overall pick. But it probably won’t be pretty in 2018.
23. James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers — When the Steelers like a receiver, we should all pay attention. Washington was monstrously productive over his four-year career at Oklahoma State, winning the Biletnikoff Award last season and leading the nation in receiving yards (1,549). His combine wasn’t special, and, for now, he’s no better than the fourth receiving option in Pittsburgh.
24. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detrit Lions — Here’s another name you’ll probably find as a first-rounder in ranks elsewhere, but he never struck me as a wow runner. (Again, I am often wrong.) It should be clear to all that Detroit’s backfield is stuck in committee.
25. Daurice Fountain, WR, Indianapolis Colts — He’s a developmental receiver prospect from Northern Iowa with track speed and obnoxious athleticism (42.5-inch vertical). Indy’s receiving corps isn’t an impressive group behind TY Hilton, so Fountain should see the field. This team added Clemson’s Deon Cain a round after drafting Fountain; I’m giving the nod to the more dominant athlete.
26. D.J. Chark, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars — Chark is a raw talent drafted by a team with a scattershot quarterback, so he doesn’t seem likely to help us in 2018. But he was arguably the best vertical threat in his draft class, and his combine stats are silly: 6-foot-3, 4.34 speed, 40-inch vertical, 129-inch broad jump. On upside alone, he deserves a long look.
27. DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Denver Broncos — Hamilton is not a special athlete by NFL standards, but he has a shot to carve out a meaningful supporting role. He’s buried in the receiving hierarchy for now, however. He never topped 900 receiving yards in his four seasons at Penn State.
28. Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles — It’s a huge jump from South Dakota State to the NFL, obviously, but Goedert is a gifted, versatile player with excellent hands. Trey Burton managed to emerge as a valuable player behind Zach Ertz, so there’s a chance Goedert can do the same.
29. Hayden Hurst, TE, Baltimore Ravens — Hurst is pulling the rare Reverse Tebow, transitioning to football after an undistinguished stint in minor league baseball. So he’s older than your standard draft prospect (25 in August), yet still raw. He looks the part of an NFL tight end, no question, and the Ravens grabbed him in Round 1. His fantasy value took a small hit the night after he was selected, however, when Baltimore used a third-round pick on Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews.
30. Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts — Hines is a smallish back (5-foot-9) with exceptional speed (4.38). He rushed for over 1,100 yards last season at N.C. State and he caught 89 passes in his three-year collegiate career. Hines was a fun addition to a less-than-spectacular backfield depth chart.
31. Jordan Wilkins, RB, Indianapolis Colts — Wilkins was a committee runner at Ole Miss, and that’s probably his ceiling as a pro. Once again, you have to like the fact that Indy’s offense isn’t overstocked with playmakers.
32. Mason Rudolph, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers — Gotta admit, I didn’t love everything I saw of Rudolph as a collegiate passer. His numbers were obviously great, because that’s life in the Big 12. He gets a spot in my third round on the chance that he can be developed as Big Ben’s eventual replacement (and on the possibility that he may someday find himself throwing to Brown, Bell and Smith-Schuster).
33. Bo Scarbrough, RB, Dallas Cowboys — Yup, we’ve already reached the handcuff backs. Not much to see here, really. Scarbrough is a super-sized, hyper-athletic back and a talented two-down runner, but he’s obviously no threat to Zeke.
34. John Kelly, RB, Los Angeles Rams — Fun prospect, but he landed in a spot where he’s strictly a ‘cuff. Kelly will serve as caddie to Todd Gurley, but nothing more. Had he landed with a running back-needy franchise, he’d be much higher here.
35. Akrum Wadley, RB, Tennessee Titans — If I’m doing the ranking, you know you’re getting an Iowa skill player. Wadley is the only UDFA to make this list, and he’s here because he joined a team that offers the opportunity to ascend to the No. 3 spot on its RB depth chart. Wadley is a missed tackle machine with a Dion Lewis-ish skill set. Behold. He’s a quality pro.
36. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills — I’m pretty much only including Allen here so no one accuses me of forgetting him. There’s almost no chance I’ll draft him in dynasty, despite his path to playing time. Allen was a game-wrecker in college; his tape against power conference schools was horrid. Buffalo’s receiving depth chart is probably the league’s worst, so it’s not as if Allen will be surrounded with weapons. Do not want.
Other notable names, unsorted: Kyle Lauletta, QB, New York Giants; Antonio Callaway, WR, Cleveland; Deon Cain, WR, Indianapolis; Mark Walton, RB, Cincinnati; Josh Adams, RB, Philadelphia; Kalen Ballage, RB, Miami; Allen Lazard, WR, Jacksonville; Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore; Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Green Bay.