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Pre-NFL draft rookie fantasy rankings

Which rookie is coming into the league with the best fantasy value?

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we are almost there. After a month of speculating and writing profiles, the NFL draft is just two days away. Soon we’ll get to see which of these lucky quarterbacks get to be the Browns’ latest sacrificial lamb to the Football Gods. My money's on Mitchell Trubisky.

Hopefully come Thursday, some of my dream fantasy fits will come true and we’ll see Mike Williams catching balls from Marcus Mariota or Leonard Fournette taking the handoff from Cam Newton. If we saw O.J. Howard some how make it to 11 and land in New Orleans, you can bet I’ll be doing everything in my power to draft him onto every single one of my fantasy teams. Yea, I’m all aboard that fantasy pairing.

But until Thursday comes, we are trapped in the world of just potential.

So, I decided to exist solely in that world and rank these rookies’ fantasy value heading into the draft. I’ve broken it down into three different tiers; Firstly, the “Can’t Miss, Must Have” prospects, then the “High Upside” guys and finally those with “Some Potential”. These rankings will of course change after the draft once we know where these players will be playing in 2017.

Without further ado, here are my top 30 fantasy rookies:

Can’t Miss, Must Have

1 Leonard Fournette RB LSU
2 Mike Williams WR Clemson
3 Corey Davis WR Western Michigan
4 Christian McCaffrey RB Stanford
5 Dalvin Cook RB Florida State
6 Joe Mixon RB Oklahoma
7 John Ross WR Washington
8 O.J. Howard TE Alabama
9 David Njoku TE Miami

Starting at the top, I just feel it in my plums that Fournette is going to be a force to reckon with his rookie season. He can handle any workload that’s thrown at him and his power and speed is something that we haven’t seen in one package since some really, really great running backs.

To be perfectly honest, I wanted to put Christian McCaffrey above Mike Williams and Corey Davis. I know that may sound ridiculous but I think in an NFL where versatility is king, McCaffrey is going to reign supreme. He might be my number one rookie in PPR leagues simply because in this draft he’s a top five running back, top three slot receiver and a top three return guy. He’ll put up stats. But I couldn’t bring myself to put him number two in my rankings. I love both Williams and Corey’s big play potential and ability to step in and be a number one receiver on any team they join.

I had the tight ends higher on this list until I realized that even the top tight end last year (Travis Kelce for those wondering) only averaged 8.6 points per game. I know Howard and Njoku are going to be great fantasy prospects but I can’t pretend like their 8-9 FPPG is going to be better than John Ross or Joe Mixon’s 9-10 FPPG. However, they both have potential to be TE1s for me especially if they land with the right teams.

NCAA Football: Memphis at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

High Upside

10 Alvin Kamara RB Tennessee
11 Evan Engram TE Ole Miss
12 D’Onta Foreman RB Texas
13 Samaje Perine RB Oklahoma
14 Zay Jones WR East Carolina
15 Carlos Henderson WR Louisiana Tech
16 JuJu Smith-Schuster WR USC
17 Kareem Hunt RB Toledo
18 Jamaal Williams RB BYU
19 Curtis Samuel WR Ohio State
20 Cooper Kupp WR Eastern Washington

Most of these guys could see their rankings jump based on which team selects them. Alvin Kamara is unproven but could have a big impact on any team’s roster. He reminds me a little of Jamaal Charles and could quickly take over a backfield. Evan Engram is another guy who, on the right team, could see his value drastically increase.

I spent a bit of time trying to figure out exactly the receiver rankings from here on out. There is definitely a drop off from the round one guys to everyone else in the draft, but that’s not to say there aren’t any potential sleepers among the later receivers. Cooper Kupp and Curtis Samuel are two guys I’d keep an eye on. Kupp doesn’t drop passes (something that helps you stay on the field) and Samuel, while still making the transition from running back, is a threat with the ball in his hands.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Some Potential

21 Chris Godwin WR Penn State
22 Taywan Taylor WR Western Kentucky
23 Gerald Everett TE South Alabama
24 Jeremy McNichols RB Boise State
25 Josh Reynolds WR Texas A&M
26 ArDarius Stewart WR Alabama
27 Deshaun Watson QB Clemson
28 Chad Hansen WR Cal
29 Mitchell Trubisky QB North Carolina
30 DeShone Kizer QB Notre Dame

We see our first quarterbacks! Wahoo! If there is any position that could make the biggest jump in these rankings based on the draft, it’s obviously quarterback. By themselves, I don’t really like any of these quarterbacks as fantasy options and even in the perfect environment—I’m struggling to even think which team that’d be, maybe Houston?—I wouldn’t be too thrilled with any of these signal callers on my fantasy team. It’ll be interesting to see how the draft plays out to see where the QBs will go because if history tells us anything, it’ll be a lot higher than at least I expect.

Let me know your thoughts on these initial rankings in the comments and make sure to check back after the draft for my updated rankings.


Who do you think is the best fantasy rookie in this draft?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Leonard Fournette
    (31 votes)
  • 2%
    Mike Williams
    (2 votes)
  • 2%
    Corey Davis
    (2 votes)
  • 5%
    Dalvin Cook
    (4 votes)
  • 26%
    Christian McCaffrey
    (18 votes)
  • 17%
    Joe Mixon
    (12 votes)
69 votes total Vote Now