A few months ago, we looked at some early landing spots for incoming rookies according to early NFL mock drafts and how that might impact their fantasy football value. A lot has happened since that first look, including the NFL Combine, some free agent frenzy, and actual prospect declarations. So, with a little more than a month left before the real NFL Draft, it’s time to revisit this exercise with a more focused view of fantasy relevant players and their projected landing spot.
Now that we have even more data to look at and the pool of draft-eligible players is finalized, we can narrow down our scope of analysis to the top 25 fantasy relevant players in the upcoming Draft. Using the DTC consensus rookie rankings and a combination of five multi-round NFL mock draft websites, we can look at the best- and worst-case landing spots for the top incoming rookies. Part II of these top 25 rookies is below, and Part I can be found here.
The sources used for the potential landing spots, and their reference abbreviations for the purpose of this article, are:
WF: Walter Football
(Note: DW offers only a two-round mock, but still contains half of the top 25 players)
DS: Draft Site
Potential Landing Spots: Los Angeles Rams (WF), Carolina Panthers (MM), Cleveland Browns (DW), San Francisco 49ers (DT), Detroit Lions (DS)
Not overly dominant in any one area, Michael Gallup may benefit going to a team where he won’t be relied on from day one, but rather can hone his technique and play as a secondary option. That said, if the 49ers wait until the 3rd round to address wide receiver and make Gallup their selection, his stock would surely rise into the later part of the 1st round. Every other potential landing spot referenced in these mock drafts would have him entering a crowded receiving corps where he could struggle to separate himself from the pack.
Potential Landing Spots: Cincinnati Bengals (WF), Miami Dolphins (MM), Dallas Cowboys (DW), Jacksonville Jaguars (DT), Detroit Lions (DS)
Of the secondary receiving options this year, both Anthony Miller and Gallup seem to be the wide receivers most likely to jump into the next tier as a result of draft capital. How the NFL views these small school standouts can go a long way towards early opportunity chances. If on day two of the Draft Miller landed on a team like Dallas, he would most likely be viewed as the WR4 of this class; a result of being tied to a young quarterback in Dak Prescott and an increasingly open wide receiver depth chart. The other mocked locations have depth charts that are either crowded with talent or are a mess at wide receiver. In either case, Miller will need to rely on strong training camp performances to secure an early role, which isn’t out of the question. He could be a value if he falls further in rookie drafts.
Potential Landing Spots: Oakland Raiders (WF), Detroit Lions (MM), Minnesota Vikings (DT), Washington Redskins (DS)
Slightly polarizing as a prospect, Kerryon Johnson’s landing spot in the pros will go a long way towards validating his rookie draft backers or haters. If an NFL team thinks he can be the next Le’Veon Bell and spends a quality draft pick to find out, you can bet on Johnson’s name being mentioned among the second tier of running backs in dynasty rookie drafts. Conversely, if he winds up on a team like Minnesota, expect his value to fall towards the bottom of the second round.
Potential Landing Spots: Green Bay Packers (DW, DT), Tennessee Titans (WF), Chicago Bears (MM), Buffalo Bills (DS)
Christian Kirk is another wide receiver who may not necessarily ever be a primary target in an offense but could turn into a very strong complimentary one (sensing a theme?). Heading to Buffalo or Chicago and getting to pair with a bigger jump-ball specialist like Kelvin Benjamin or Allen Robinson would serve as a nice yin to Kirk’s yang. Green Bay is the popular pick in these mock drafts and would offer a similar situation. But while the Packers have a history of drafting talented wide receivers, the fact is they already have several talented options opposite of Davante Adams could hinder his short-term development, and value compared to other similar prospects in rookie drafts.
Potential Landing Spots: Washington Redskins (WF), Tampa Bay Bucs (MM), Denver Broncos (DT), Minnesota Vikings (DS)
After a disappointing combine, Mark Walton’s stock has fallen a bit. Developing into a full-time NFL starter may have always been a stretch, but now his ability to excel as a satellite back has also come into question after posting sub-par agility and acceleration scores. The Buccaneers backfield is pretty much completely open at the moment, and even if they do bring in another body, odds are Walton would be able to carve out a nice role and be a good value pick. While the Redskins backfield is also open for competition, the presence of Chris Thompson would hamper Walton’s chances of seeing the field anytime soon.
Potential Landing Spots: San Francisco 49ers (WF, DS), Miami Dolphins (MM), Indianapolis Colts (DT)
Royce Freeman is a name who could surprise some owners once the season starts. He is fully capable of carving out an early-down role for NFL teams that wait until day two or three of the Draft. If he gets drafted to a team lacking suitable options at running back, or injury strikes the running backs ahead of him, the door to seize a coveted three-down role opens. In these scenarios, going to San Francisco and playing thunder to Jerick McKinnon’s lightning seems like the best (and most popular) option and would increase his value, potentially pushing his value up to into late first round consideration.
Equanimeous St. Brown
Potential Landing Spots: Indianapolis Colts (WF), Oakland Raiders (MM), New England Patriots (DT), San Francisco 49ers (DS)
Equanimeous St. Brown’s profile is slightly different than that of other wide receiver prospects in this range, as he possesses the ability to develop into a true primary receiving option in an offense. It may take some time, and it may never even work out, but the potential is great enough to make St. Brown a really attractive option in this range if the fit is right. The Patriots don’t seem like that right fit, and if New England is the landing spot, St. Brown’s stock could slip beyond the mid second round. While the 49ers offer the best path to early playing time, St. Brown could end up thriving down the road if paired up with a good young quarterback in Oakland or Indianapolis; somewhere he wouldn’t be relied on for immediate production.
Potential Landing Spots: Philadelphia Eagles (WF) Jacksonville Jaguars (MM) Baltimore Ravens (DT) Buffalo Bills (DS)
Perhaps the most well-rounded of the top tight ends this year, Dallas Goedert is a popular choice to be the first off the board in both real and dynasty rookie drafts. Drafting a rookie tight end is always tricky, as it may take a few years to pay off. The Ravens tight end corps is completely wide open, which could allow Goedert to come in and contribute right away. Any other landing spot would be an investment for the future, which could push Goedert’s value down in rookie drafts relative to some of the other secondary or tertiary wide receiver options.
Potential Landing Spots: Buffalo Bills (WF), Indianapolis Colts (MM), New York Giants (DT), New Orleans Saints (DS)
Dante Pettis is an interesting player. He’s probably not capable of commanding the most targets in an offense, but he could be a solid complementary piece capable of attacking a defense in a few different ways, including special teams. His ability to make splash plays could increase his value throughout training camp and the preseason, so there might even be a quick sell-for-profit period. New Orleans seems like the best fit, providing early playing time in a part-time role in a great offense.
Potential Landing Spots: Kansas City Chiefs (WF), San Francisco 49ers (MM), Los Angeles Rams (DT), Carolina Panthers (DS)
The final secondary wide receiver type in our top 25, Deon Cain, has a wide range of projected draft capital. Some analysts peg him as a first-round talent while others are cooler on his prospects. The 49ers offense would seem like a really good fit for Cain if they were to invest in other positions before wide receiver. It may not be for long, but Cain would arguably be their most talented pass-catcher (sorry Marquise Goodwin) which means his value could go up almost immediately after the Draft. The Rams and Chiefs already have so many other good-to-great receiving options that if Cain were to land there, he would most likely be a “JAG,” resulting in him falling further into the third round of rookie drafts.
Potential Landing Spots: Jacksonville Jaguars (WF), New Orleans Saints (MM), Baltimore Ravens (DW), Indianapolis Colts (DT), Philadelphia Eagles (DS)
Mark Andrews would work best on a team that wouldn’t require him to be an in-line tight end and would occasionally flex him out to take advantage of mismatches. The Saints seem like the obvious choice here for an increase in Andrews’ value, as they are still looking for a Jimmy Graham replacement after all these years. While that’s certainly true, the Eagles are also a sneaky good landing spot. Andrews would be an immediate Trey Burton replacement and could develop for a few years behind Zach Ertz before taking over that primary role. It may depress his value enough to snag later in the third round, but could pay off nicely after a few years.
Potential Landing Spots: Pittsburgh Steelers (WF), Washington Redskins (MM), Miami Dolphins (DT), Philadelphia Eagles (DS)
What to do about Kalen Ballage? Touted as a physical freak, Ballage tested very well at the Combine but was overshadowed by a few other running backs in his class. He possesses extremely inconsistent tape and production, so what is an NFL team getting if they were to invest in him? Ballage probably works best in the NFL as a rotational back who can help several different areas on occasion, though not over the course of an entire game. With that in mind, the Eagles are a pretty intriguing option. They rode their three-headed monster at running back to the Super Bowl last season and are currently looking to replace one of those heads. While not as glamorous of a landing spot as Washington or Miami would be, Philadelphia offers the best chance for Ballage to develop into a useful player.
Potential Landing Spots: Miami Dolphins (DW, DT), Dallas Cowboys (WF), Atlanta Falcons (MM), New England Patriots (DS)
Small confession time: Mike Gesicki is the reason why I’ve extended this article beyond the top 24 rookies and included a 25th. I couldn’t resist including the athletic marvel. Copy and paste the first sentence from Andrews’ paragraph here, because Gesicki isn’t going to help in a blocking role at all. The Saints have been a popular wish list team for Gesicki fans, but he misses that boat in these mocks. The Dolphins are intriguing; Adam Gase has shown a penchant for investing in tight ends who don’t know how to block in his career, albeit with varying degrees of success. They have a lot of targets to fill with Jarvis Landry out of the building, and Gesicki could soak those up with an Evan Engram type of impact if the stars align.