News & Analysis

Ranking the top 50 fantasy rookies before the combine

By Jeff Ratcliffe
Feb 27, 2018

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Jan 8, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb (27) carries the ball past Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Rashaan Evans (32) and Raekwon Davis (99) during the third quarter in the 2018 CFP national championship college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL Scouting Combine here, it’s time to roll up the sleeves and dive into this year’s rookie class. Of course, a lot will change between now and early May, but it’s important to evaluate the players now in order to accurately assess their fantasy football value following the NFL draft.

An initial look at the top fantasy prospects in this class reveals a group chock full of talent at running back. There are also some potential future fantasy standouts at quarterback and tight end. And like the 2017 class, this is a group that lacks standout studs at wide receiver.

Below you’ll find my early rookie rankings. This list will be updated multiple times over the next two months and we’ll also be providing more detailed fantasy profiles for all of this year’s fantasy prospects.

1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State – The complete fantasy package. Barkley is the No. 1 pick in rookie drafts regardless of landing spot.

2. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU – Marshawn Lynch 2.0? Averaged 3.97 yards after contact per attempt in 2016.

3. Ronald Jones, RB, USC – A dynamic home-run hitter who forced 50 missed tackles as a runner in 2017.

4. Sony Michel, RB, Georgia – Powerfully built back who was very effective after contact with an average of 3.8 yards per carry last year.

5. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia – Bounced back in 2017, but hasn’t been the same player following the knee injury that cut short his sophomore season.

6. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama – Ridley isn’t the best fantasy wide receiver prospect in recent memory, but his speed and polish make him the best of this year’s bunch.

7. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State – A big play waiting to happen, Washington had doubl- digit scores in each of his last three seasons.

8. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn – A glider who has a bit of Arian Foster to his game. Not a great bet to reach Foster’s fantasy potential, but will likely be a fantasy asset.

9. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU – Big-bodied receiver who figures to be a red-zone asset. That typically means good things for fantasy purposes.

10. Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State – The opposite of former teammate Donnel Pumphrey. Penny is a bruiser who led the nation in forced missed tackles with 80.

11. Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State – A versatile receiver with the ability to get downfield, Gallup ranked third among draft-eligible receivers with 3.47 yards per route run.

12. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville – The most dynamic dual-threat signal-caller since Michael Vick.

13. Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State – Despite lackluster stats as the college level, Ballage has a very intriguing profile for fantasy purposes.

14. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon – A big back whose numbers declined since 2015 but could make an immediate fantasy impact in the right landing spot.

15. Cedrick Wilson, WR, Boise State – Can play inside and outside, and posted an FBS-leading 4.58 yards per route against Power-5 schools.

16. D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland – Heavily targeted at the college level, Moore showed the ability to create yards after the catch with a career YAC of 6.8.

17. Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State – A small-schooler with a basketball background who plays more like a wideout, Goedert averaged 8.2 yards after the catch in 2017.

18. Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis – Likely a slot receiver at the NFL level, Miller racked up a combined 2,891 yards and 32 touchdowns on 191 catches over the last two seasons.

19. Sam Darnold, QB, USC – Took a slight step back last season, but still has a very favorable long-term fantasy outlook.

20. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma – Perhaps the biggest question mark at quarterback in terms of how his game will translate to the NFL level, but Mayfield has serious chops as a passer.

21. Mark Walton, RB, Miami (Florida) – A short and stocky back with three-down potential, but is coming off a season-ending ankle injury.

22. Deon Cain, WR, Clemson – A downfield threat who projects as a boom-or-bust fantasy option.

23. Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame – Tall and lean, St. Brown figures to be a red-zone presence at the pro level.

24. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M – A slot receiver with short area quickness who is a good bet to surface on the PPR radar.

25. Marcell Ateman, WR, Oklahoma St. – Has size you can’t teach, and used his body to make contested catches. Racked up 320 yards on contested catches, which ranked ninth in the nation.

(Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports)

26. DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Penn State – Primarily a slot receiver, but one who excelled downfield with a catch rate of 73.3 percent on deep balls.

27. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA – He’s a talented passer, but Rosen doesn’t quite have the fantasy ceiling of the three quarterbacks ahead of him in these rankings.

28. Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame – A big back who led the class with 5.2 yards after contact. Despite the big-play ability, his short-area quickness is a question mark that could limit his fantasy value.

29. Tre’Quan Smith, WR, UCF – Big-play receiver who broke out in 2017 with an average of 19.9 yards per reception and 13 touchdowns.

30. Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma – Extremely athletic move tight end who led all FBS tight ends in receiving yards with 959.

31. Javon Wims, WR, Georgia – Big receiver with a wide catch radius who emerged in 2017 with 724 yards and seven touchdowns on 46 catches.

32. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming – A polarizing prospect with a cannon for an arm and great athleticism. He’s just as likely to be a long-term fantasy as he is to never surface on the fantasy radar.

33. Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA – Fast and athletic receiver who excelled after the catch with 11 forced missed tackles and a YAC of 6.8. Has home-run fantasy potential, but also dropped 11-of-92 targets last year.

34. Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech – Likely a slot receiver with some value as a gadget player, Coutee racked up 542 yards on just 18 deep-ball targets.

35. Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama – A physical specimen, but there are questions about what sort of workload he can handle. Scarbrough only carried the ball 267 times in three years at Alabama.

36. Auden Tate, WR, Florida State – He isn’t the fastest receiver, but Tate is massive and uses his frame to make contested catches (he tied for sixth in the nation with a catch on 66.7 percent of contested targets).

37. D.J. Chark, WR, LSU – Another big receiver with straight-line speed. Ranked fourth in the nation with 572 yards on targets traveling 20-plus yards in the air (caught 14-of-28).

38. Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State – Another move tight end who excelled in contested situations with 9 catches on 12 contested balls in 2017.

39. Dante Pettis, WR, Washington – A solid, but unspectacular player who may surface down the road in PPR formats.

40. Ito Smith, RB, Southern Mississippi – Smaller back who was extremely elusive at the college level with 188 forced missed tackles on 829 carries.

41. J’Mon Moore, WR, Missouri – Deep threat with intriguing athleticism, but also a player who ran a limited route tree and Missouri.

42. Boston Scott, RB, Louisiana Tech – Undersized, but productive back who averaged 4.2 yards after contact over his career at LSU.

43. Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina – He’ll entered the NFL in his age-25 season, but Hurst has fantasy appeal as an athletic move tight end or H-back option.

44. Demario Richard, RB, Arizona State – A think and powerful back who projects as a two-down option in the NFL. That will likely limit his fantasy value.

45. John Kelly, RB, Tennessee – Intriguing fantasy dark horse who emerged in 2017 with 1,077 total yards and nine touchdowns.

46. Jordan Akins, TE, UCF – Athletic pass-catcher who didn’t post massive numbers at the college level, but did rank third among draft-eligible tight ends with 1.93 yards per route run.

47. Trey Quinn, WR, SMU – Sure-handed slot receiver with just two drops on 154 targets in 2017. Could ultimately surface on the PPR radar.

48. Deontay Burnett, WR, USC – Productive receiver with 1,106 yards and nine scores last season. Slightly undersized and projects more as a slot option at the pro level.

49. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State – Massive, muscular, and extremely productive at the college level. However, speed could be an issue that prevents him from being much of a fantasy factor.

50. Simmie Cobbs, WR, Indiana – Has NFL size, but posted inconsistent numbers in college.

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