All offseason, we’re obsessing over prospects; watching games, projecting impact at the next level, re-watching games, debating, arguing, agreeing, and everything in between.
A lot changes between the early stages of the offseason, as we move into all-star circuits, and of course, all culminating at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. These testing scores are going to serve as confirmation for many, or perhaps illuminate some issues that were largely being ignored prior. Results will directly affect draft stock.
Ranking these players post-Combine is a useful exercise as final, pre-draft opinions are coming into focus. Knowing how you feel about a player’s talent level, as it relates to impact and ceiling, is important. However, nothing is final until we see the draft capital that the front office is investing, and subsequently, the landing spot (opportunity). Once selected, we’ll be able to better dissect and discern workload and production. You like a lot of fantasy points, right?
When evaluating rookies, we’re obviously looking at all the factors laid out above. Depending who you talk to, they may weigh one factor more than the others. They may attempt to consider all three. They may also not care about capital or team and instead just solely focusing on testing numbers in hopes that front offices choose to value athleticism similarly.
Keeping all three of these factors in mind, below is my list of the top-50 for the 2018 class from a dynasty rookie draft viewpoint:
1.01: Saquon Barkley, RB | NYG (1.02)
Regardless of your feelings toward early-round running back selections, Barkley’s talent is rare.
1.02: Derrius Guice, RB | WAS (2.27)
Despite the early-coach speak from Jay Gruden, it’s hard for me to ignore Guice’s talent. He was a top-10 talent and now walks into a wide-open Washington backfield. Chris Thompson is a productive satellite back, but his injury history should be taken into consideration.
1.03: Rashaad Penny, RB | SEA (1.27)
Penny checks every box that we highlighted earlier. Seattle invested early, and we can comfortably assume that he’ll be fed the volume and given every chance to succeed in a Russell Wilson-led offense. He’s a true workhorse.
1.04: Nick Chubb, RB | CLE (2.03)
Cleveland’s offense is retooled and ascending, but many had legitimate concerns about Chubb’s ability as a pass-catcher. The only factor keeping Chubb outside of the top three is Duke Johnson‘s presence. I don’t consider Carlos Hyde a threat, and the thought of the former-Bulldog getting feature work with Todd Haley on the play sheet is good enough for me.
1.05: Royce Freeman, RB | DEN (3.07)
With C.J. Anderson now in Carolina, Freeman only has to beat out Devontae Booker, who’s just a guy, to unlock the lion’s share.
1.06: Ronald Jones II, RB | TBB (2.06)
Questions about Jones’ size and receiving ability are notable, but he’ll be given every chance to carry the load in an RB1-less Buccaneers backfield.
1.07: D.J. Moore, WR | CAR (1.24)
Much like Guice and Chubb, I keep coming back to the raw talent. There was a first-round investment for Moore’s services, but he goes to an offense with a few mouths to feed. It’s worth noting that Curtis Samuel is expected to return from injury.
1.08: Sony Michel, RB | NEP (1.31)
The Hoodie doesn’t draft running backs early (we’d have to look back to 2006, with Laurence Maroney). Take that for what it’s worth.
1.09: Christian Kirk, WR | ARI (2.15)
Set to learn under the ageless Larry Fitzgerald during his rookie campaign before being locked into a voluminous slot role where he consistently produced in College Station.
1.10: Michael Gallup, WR | DAL (3.17)
Unsure what the Cowboys’ plan was post-Dez Bryant, but Gallup might’ve walked into a room with an open or rarely-occupied WR1 chair.
1.11: Anthony Miller, WR | CHI (2.19)
Immediately commands WR2 work opposite Allen Robinson under young and exciting head coach Matt Nagy.
1.12: Kerryon Johnson, RB | DET (2.11)
There are currently bodies in Detroit’s backfield, but with an early second-round selection, could we finally see the Lions moving away from the committee approach?
2.01: Mike Gesicki, TE | MIA (2.10)
A prolific athlete with Vernon Davis-esque workout numbers able to step in and gobble up vacated Jarvis Landry targets.
2.02: Courtland Sutton, WR | DEN (2.08)
Looks to saddle-up as the de facto WR1/new Demaryius Thomas, once Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders depart which could be as early as 2019.
2.03: James Washington, WR | PIT (2.28)
Mega-producer at the college level now running as the WR3 and stuck behind future Hall of Famer Antonio Brown and young JuJu Smith-Schuster.
2.04: Calvin Ridley, WR | ATL (1.26)
First-round selection with age and general athleticism concerns playing opposite Julio Jones.
2.05: Tre’Quan Smith, WR | NOS (3.27)
Sadly, Drew Brees cannot play forever so the landscape will be changing sooner rather than later. Currently behind both Michael Thomas and a now-healthy Cameron Meredith.
2.06: Dante Pettis, WR | SFO (2.12)
An above-average athlete playing catch with Jimmy Garoppolo, with Kyle Shanahan on the mic.
2.07: Lamar Jackson, QB | BAL (1.32)
Could push mediocre Joe Flacco as early as this year but looks to lock-up a full-time role in 2019. The new Video Game Vick; The Konami Code.
2.08: J’Mon Moore, WR | GBP (4.33)
Draft capital matters, and while Moore was selected outside of the top-100 (133 overall), there are targets to be had in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers on the controls.
2.09: D.J. Chark, WR | JAX (2.29)
Blake Bortles remains under center for the foreseeable future, and there are at least three names of note ahead of Chark on the depth chart, so it’ll be tough sledding initially for the 4.3-speedster.
2.10: Nyheim Hines, RB | IND (4.04)
The Colts would be wise to let Marlon Mack run away with the bulk of the volume, but Hines is another electric runner who will get plenty of looks out of the slot. Will Andrew Luck throw the football again though?
2.11: Mark Andrews, TE | BAL (3.22)
My body is ready for the Jackson-Andrews connection going forward. Big slot receiver with a red zone presence.
2.12: Antonio Callaway, WR | CLE (4.05)
Suddenly, there are bodies at wide receiver in Cleveland, but rumors are, Corey Coleman could be moved for the right price. Talent was never in question for Callaway.
3.01: Dallas Goedert, TE | PHI (2.17)
Stuck behind Zach Ertz but could see some scraps in a post-Trey Burton offense.
3.02: Baker Mayfield, QB | CLE (1.01)
Former Heisman winner and now the number one overall selection commanding the huddle in what appears to be an intriguing Browns offense (on paper, anyway).
3.03: Josh Rosen, QB | ARI (1.10)
Might be considered the steal of the Draft looking back in a few years. No more Bruce Arians in the desert, but Rosen’s talent should carry him far.
3.04: Keke Coutee, WR | HOU (4.03)
Electric QB1 Deshaun Watson‘s new slot weapon.
3.05: Sam Darnold, QB | NYJ (1.03)
Only 20 years young with considerable room for growth and upside as a result.
3.06: Ito Smith, RB | ATL (4.26)
Falcons are planning for life without Tevin Coleman.
3.07: Hayden Hurst, TE | BAL (1.25)
Already looking at 25 years old as a rookie, but the draft capital is notable on a team lacking consistent pass catchers.
3.08: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR | GBP (6.33)
Top-5 receiver based on talent (athletic upside) alone and tethered to Aaron Rodgers, but with some character-type flaws that caused the draft day tumble.
3.09: Justin Watson, WR | TBB (5.07)
Elite athlete with dominant FCS-level production.
3.10: Kalen Ballage, RB | MIA (4.31)
Looks like a three-down, feature runner, but rarely plays like it. Hands are effortless and natural and will prop-up his value.
3.11: Jaylen Samuels, RB | PIT (5.28)
Potential heir to the Le’Veon Bell throne, Samuels can impact the game at several spots.
3.12: Trey Quinn, WR | WAS (7.38)
Coming off a nation-leading 114 reception junior season, Quinn’s game translates.
4.01: Jordan Lasley, WR | BAL (5.25)
Tape looked a lot better than his results at the Combine. Another target for Lamar Jackson.
4.02: Ian Thomas, TE | CAR (4.01)
Greg Olsen isn’t getting any younger.
4.03: DaeSean Hamilton, WR | DEN (4.13)
With Thomas and Sanders still atop the Broncos wide receiver depth chart, Carlos Henderson returning, and coupled with the early-round selection spent on the rookie from Southern Methodist, Hamilton may get lost in the mix early.
4.04: Mark Walton, RB | CIN (4.12)
Arguably the best back in pass protection in the ’18 class with elite change-of-direction and strong hands. Could push Gio Bernard early.
4.05: John Kelly, RB | LAR (6.02)
A Todd Gurley injury away. Wish he wasn’t buried, because I’m a bigger fan than the consensus.
4.06: Chase Edmonds, RB | ARI (4.34)
Backing up the otherworldly David Johnson, who missed all of 2017.
4.07: Justin Jackson, RB | LAC (7.33)
Austin Ekeler flashed during super-limited work, but Jackson provides another spell option for feature runner Melvin Gordon.
4.08: Mason Rudolph, QB | PIT (3.12)
Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t have any interest in bringing him along, but Rudolph should get the chance to win the job once Big Ben steps away. Also rejoins explosive college teammate James Washington.
4.09: Cedrick Wilson, WR | DAL (6.34)
The depth chart in Dallas is a mess; Wilson could impress early and find himself in the shuffle.
4.10: Bo Scarbrough, RB | DAL (7.18)
Backing up Ezekiel Elliot behind one of the league’s best offensive lines.
4.11: Richie James, WR | SFO (7.22)
Hard to shy away from pass catchers in this offense, especially a versatile gadget type player like James who was a stud at Middle Tennessee State.
4.12: Dalton Schultz, TE | DAL (4.37)
The Cowboys are now without Jason Witten, and while Rico Gathers is impressive on paper and during limited reps, Schultz will have a chance to get on the field early.
Rounding out the top-50…
5.01: Deon Cain, WR | IND (6.11)
Classic size and speed player worth the late-round dice roll. High-end flashes, but overall, lacks consistency at the moment.
5.02: Dylan Cantrell, WR | LAC (6.17)
99th-percentile SPARQ score. I’m taking those guys at the tail-end of drafts often.