2020 dynasty rookie rankings

2020 dynasty rookie rankings DEFAULT

2020 Dynasty Rookie Rankings: Your Fantasy Draft Guide to the Top 50

UPDATE (Aug. 16): I have made some slight adjustments to the rankings. Most notably, Tua Tagovailoa and Darrynton Evans have been bumped up a tier. I’ve also dropped some Day 3 wide receivers down a tier: I was simply way too high on them in the aftermath of the NFL draft.

UPDATE (Aug. 7): These rankings have held up remarkably well over the past three months, but in the wake of the Derrius Guice release, I absolutely must update them. Antonio Gibson has been moved up significantly, and other changes have also been made. I call attention to updated rankings where I think necessary. 

With the 2020 NFL Draft in the books, it’s time to update my rookie dynasty fantasy football rankings.

Here are the previous versions my rankings.

In creating these rankings, I’ve focused on draft capital, college production, physical profile, recruitment grade, projected opportunity and team fit.

A word on my player-by-player analysis: For the guys in Rounds 1-2, I’ve written extensive notes. For most of the prospects in Rounds 3 and beyond, I’m less verbose. Let’s be honest: Most of the guys after Round 2 won’t be relevant in three years anyway.

Before we dig into the rankings, let’s run through my overall process.

Pre- vs. Post-Draft Rookie Dynasty Rankings

There are a few significant changes from my latest version. For instance, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is now my No. 1 player, whereas before the draft I had him ranked No. 17. That’s a massive move! I had expected him to go in Rounds 2-3, but he went in Round 1 and landed in a fantastic long-term situation with the Kansas City Chiefs.

2020-nfl-rookie of the year-pick-bet-clyde edwards helaire

But for the most part, , because most of my draft position projections were relatively accurate, which means that most of the factors that go into my model were already set.

You might ask: “What about landing spot?”

The tetrad of college production, physical profile, recruitment grade and draft position mean more than our initial perceptions of a guy’s early-career circumstances.

It’s not hard for us to know — to quantify — a guy’s college production, physical profile, recruitment grade and draft position. We can put exact numbers to each category. And once those numbers are in place, they never change.

But we’re not very good, especially shortly after the draft, at evaluating a guy’s landing spot and projecting the usage he’s likely to have with his team. That’s something we just can’t know.

And yet that seems to be what most people focus on immediately after the draft.

Example: Last year, people were way too low on wide receiver A.J. Brown because they focused more on the fact that we expected him to play with quarterback Marcus Mariota and behind wide receiver Corey Davis than on all the other factors that matter.

  • College production: Back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons in the SEC
  • Physical profile: 6-foot and 226 pounds, 4.49-second 40-yard dash, 22 years old
  • Recruitment grade: 4 stars
  • Draft position: Round 2, pick No. 51

We’re not great at evaluating circumstances anyway — and circumstances can and often do change. So there are a few really big changes in these rankings, but because my draft position projections were relatively good, there are also a lot of similarities.

Dynasty Rankings Methodology

Here are some general notes on my ranking process and perspective.

  • Age: I place a premium on youth, which correlates with longevity and degree of future production. As a result, I tend to have younger players ranked ahead of older players: 
  • Production window: In creating the rankings, I’ve focused most on the production we can reasonably expect from players within the next three years. After that time frame, projections are highly uncertain, although I still value the unknown long-tailed potential younger players possess.
  • Positional scarcity: I tend to devalue players at positions of depth. As a result, quarterbacks are usually low in my rankings because there are so many viable options at the position.
  • Longevity: Everything else equal, I usually rank wide receivers ahead of running backs because receivers as a group last longer in the league and maintain value deeper into their careers.
  • Draft position: In general, the higher a player is selected in the draft, the more productive he’s likely to be in the NFL. I don’t let draft position dictate my entire process, but if rank contrary to draft position, I need to have a good reason for doing so.

Positional Value in Rookie Dynasty Rankings

In dynasty, it’s hard to build a consistent contender if you aren’t strong at wide receiver and tight end. Patching together production is much easier to do at running back and quarterback, and that knowledge informs the way I rank players, draft rookies and build teams.

I place a high priority on finding wide receivers and tight ends with difference-making potential. Players at these positions take longer to develop than running backs, which is unfortunate, but sharp dynasty investors can use that fact to their advantage.

In search of immediate alpha, too many people take running backs early in rookie drafts. In doing so, they not only buy into volatile short-lived assets but also allow value-seeking patient investors to acquire stable long-term production at a notable discount.

Each year, there are dynasty players who crave the sugar rush of running backs taken on Day 2, and so they forego the protein of wide receivers selected in Rounds 1-2.

In the long run, such dynasty players lose.

But each year is different, and each draft is its own unique market. This year’s class has notable features for each position. Let’s run through each.

Quarterback

Each year, we get two to three quarterbacks who are likely to start in the NFL as either rookies or second-year players, and that’s the case here with Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert.

What’s different about this class is that it has two quarterbacks — Jordan Love and Jalen Hurts — who are viable long-terms stashes. They both carry significant NFL draft capital, but neither is likely to see extended playing time for maybe three-plus seasons.

Normally, I think long-term quarterback stashes make little sense, because most of these players have almost no draft capital. Examples from this year are Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm, who were respectively selected in Rounds 4 and 5.

Running Back

The top-five backs in this class stack up well against the top five from any other class, but after them, there’s a lot of uncertainty. The 2020 class has a disheartening dearth of backfield depth: In Rounds 5-7, just three backs were selected.

If you want a running back with a decent chance of being a long-term lead back, you’ll almost certainly need to draft him in Round 1.

Wide Receiver

Many analysts think 2020 has the greatest wide receiver class of all time. I’m less certain about that, but it definitely is deep. Even in Round 3 of rookie drafts, sharp dynasty investors have a shot at getting talented receivers.

Tight End

Tight ends are notoriously hard to project to the NFL and slow to develop anyway, and entering the draft, this year’s group looked decidedly subpar.

But five players were drafted in Rounds 2-3. Albert Okwuegbunam and Harrison Bryant still intrigue even though they slipped to Round 4. And in this class, we have three 21-year-old rookies, and such players have historically been prized long-term investments.

albert okwuegbunam-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

I’m cautiously beginning to think that this year’s tight ends will be better than expected.

Positional Priorities by Round

Given the particulars of this class, I think dynasty investors should prioritize positions in the following fashion (subject to team needs, league format, etc.).

  • Round 1: RBs and WRs. Later in Round 1, investors should shift to wide receivers.
  • Round 2: WRs. This round is likely to offer tremendous value at wide receiver.
  • Round 3: WRs, TEs and QBs. A few promising receivers are available here, as well as some upside tight ends, although you’ll need to wait multiple years for them to develop. If you require a shorter time horizon, quarterback is a reasonable option.

2020 Rookies: Supplemental Draft Picks

Before the draft, I broke down my pre-draft rookie rankings on Twitch with Ryan McDowell, Rich Hribar and Curtis Patrick.

On the show, Ryan brought up the possibility that some of the eligible prospects who decided not to declare for the draft in January might choose to enter the supplemental draft in July if it looks like the 2020 college football season will be canceled due to the coronavirus.

If that happens, a number of strong underclassmen could suddenly join the 2020 rookie class, possibly including:

  • RB Travis Etienne (Clemson): 2,046 yards, 23 touchdowns (2019)
  • RB Chuba Hubbard (Oklahoma State): 2,292 yards, 21 touchdowns (2019)
  • RB Najee Harris (Alabama): 1,528 yards, 20 touchdowns (2019)
  • RB Kylin Hill (Mississippi State): 1,530 yards, 11 touchdowns (2019)
  • WR DeVonta Smith (Alabama): 1,256 yards, 14 touchdowns (2019)
  • WR Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State): 903 yards, 8 touchdowns (9 games, 2019)
  • WR Sage Surratt (Wake Forest): 1,001 yards, 11 touchdowns (9 games, 2019)

If these players had declared for the draft in January, all of them might have been top-100 picks in the NFL draft. And if they actually do enter the supplemental draft, they would likely be selected in Rounds 1-2 for dynasty rookie drafts that held later in the summer.

By the fall, the 2020 rookie class could be a lot bigger than it is now — and the 2021 class might be a lot less promising.

Be sure to monitor this situation and plan accordingly.

Rookie Rankings Resources

Here are some of the resources I’ve used in researching the 2020 rookie class.


2020 Dynasty Rookie Rankings


TIER 1

1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs

  • Draft Position: 1.32 | School: LSU
  • Height: 5’7” | Weight: 207 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.60 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 21 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 3-4

UPDATE (Aug. 7): Edwards-Helaire is all the more valuable now that Damien Williams has opted out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus. He could be a top-three dynasty pick in startup drafts next year and is the no-doubt No. 1 pick. 

I expected Edwards-Helaire to be drafted on Day 2, so I had him in Round 2 of my post-free agency rankings.

But I also directly compared him to Brian Westbrook and said this about him.

Given his projected draft position, college production, age and top-tier receiving ability, Edwards-Helaire is likely to have multiple 1,000-yard NFL campaigns as an Austin Ekeler-esque multidimensional contributor.

And now that Edwards-Helaire has Round 1 draft capital, I’m taking my earlier statement and multiplying it by 2.5.

I’m all the way in on CEH.

I probably wouldn’t draft Edwards-Helaire as a top-12 back in 2020, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he were one by the end of the season.

Whether his breakout comes in 2020 or 2021, make no mistake — Edwards-Helaire is going to ball in the NFL, and that’s a somewhat unbelievable statement to make given how slow he is.

I can probably run faster than Edwards-Helaire. Well, maybe not me. But I bet Jonathan Bales could.

Speed is not the name of his game. Based on his combine performance, CEH has a 36th-percentile 92.5 speed score (per PP). He’s not the kind of back who outruns defenders for long touchdowns.

But he’s still a good runner. He has above-average vision and makes sharp cuts. He runs with power and breaks tackles thanks to his bowling bowl-like compact frame. And despite his lack of speed, he is still remarkably explosive, as evidenced by his 39.5- and 123-inch vertical and broad jumps and 89th-percentile 128.7 burst score.

Even with his diminutive size and subpar speed, Edwards-Helaire in 2019 compared favorably as a runner to the other top backs in the class, based on his expected points added per attempt (EPA, per SIS).

  • Clyde Edwards-Elaire: 0.20
  • J.K. Dobbins: 0.17
  • Jonathan Taylor: 0.10
  • A.J. Dillon: 0.07
  • D’Andre Swift: 0.05
  • Cam Akers: -0.03

On top of that, Edwards-Helaire might be the best pass-catching back in the class. He certainly gives Swift a run for his money.

Although Swift has the tactical edge on CEH in that he can run a full, nuanced route tree, Edwards-Helaire is a master at turning checkdowns and screens into first downs and big plays.

And it’s not as if CEH is a single-dimensional receiver: He lined up as a receiver on an astounding 21% of his snaps, more than any other back in the class with the the exception of running back/slot receiver hybrid Antonio Gibson (per SIS).

With his 55-453-1 receiving line, Edwards-Helaire last year had an impressive 0.20 expected points added per target. In Kansas City, he figures to be used immediately as a Danny Woodhead-esque pass-catching threat at the absolute worst.

Essentially, CEH is a complete player: “Not only was he the most valuable running back in college football in PFF’s wins above average, but he was the 13th-most valuable player regardless of position and third-most valuable non-quarterback” (per PFF).

Dude can ball.

The extent to which this information is relevant is uncertain, but it’s at least notable that Edwards-Helaire hails from a program that has produced numerous fantasy-relevant backs over the past 25 years.

2020 fantasy football rankings-rookie-grades-nfl draft picks

Here are all the LSU running backs to enter the NFL since 1995 as fourth-rounders or better. (Apologies, to Jacob Hester, who was more of a fullback than true running back.)

  • Kevin Faulk (1999, 2.46): Two 1,000-yard seasons
  • Domanick Williams (2003, 4.101): Three 1,300-yard seasons
  • LaBrandon Toefield (2003, 4.132): Nada
  • Joseph Addai (2006, 1.30): Two 1,400-yard seasons
  • Stevan Ridley (2011, 3.73): One 1,300-yard season
  • Jeremy Hill (2014, 2.55): Two 1,000-yard seasons
  • Leonard Fournette (2017, 1.04): Two 1,300-yard seasons
  • Derrius Guice (2018, 2.59): Waiting

But with CEH here’s what really matters: He’s a 21-year-old first-rounder. That’s it. Not all of the 21-year-old first-round backs to enter the league over the past two decades have become stars, but with the exception of guys whose careers ended prematurely because of random injuries or criminality — David Wilson, Jahvid Best and Lawrence Phillips — all of them have had multiple seasons of fantasy utility.

And a lot of them became stars.

In the previous five drafts, five 21-year-old rookies have been selected in Round 1.

  • Josh Jacobs (2019, 1.24): One 1,000-yard season
  • Saquon Barkley (2018, 1.02): Two 1,000-yard seasons
  • Christian McCaffrey (2017, 1.08): Three 1,000-yard seasons
  • Ezekiel Elliot (2016, 1.04): Four 1,000-yard seasons
  • Todd Gurley (2015, 1.10): Five 1,000-yard seasons

Each guy has had at least 1,000 yards in literally every season of his career.

How many scrimmage yards do you think CEH will have in 2020?

From Duce Staley (1999-2003) and Brian Westbrook (2002-09) and LeSean McCoy (2009-12) with the Philadelphia Eagles, to Jamaal Charles (2013-15) and Spencer Ware (2016) and Kareem Hunt (2017-18) and Damien Williams (2018-19) with the Chiefs, head coach Andy Reid knows how to get the most out of pass-catching backs.

And when he’s drafted a receiving savant with a high pick — think of McCoy in 2009 and Hunt in 2017 — Reid has put that guy to work pretty quickly, even if an incumbent has already been in place.

And with all respect to Damien Williams, he’s hardly an incumbent. He’s a 28-year-old journeyman who entered the league as an undrafted free agent, has never started more than six games in the regular season and last year had double-digit carries for just the first time in his career.

He’s on a one-year contract.

Sooner or later, Edwards-Helaire will be Patrick Mahomes’ lead back, and I’m betting on sooner.

Some sharp rankers prefer running back Jonathan Taylor as the top pick, but …

… I disrespectfully disagree. They’re wrong.

In 2009, not one dynasty analyst had LeSean McCoy ranked as the 1.01 — but I drafted him with the No. 1 pick anyway. I was right then, and I’m right now.

NFL Prospect Comp: Brian Westbrook with more youth, thickness and draft capital but less production


2. Cam Akers, RB, Rams

  • Draft Position: 2.52 | School: Florida State
  • Height: 5’10” | Weight: 217 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.47 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 21 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 5

Yep, I’m going there.

I’m pretty sure every other dynasty analyst in the industry has Taylor as a top-two pick.

Bohr-ah-ring.

I think it’s almost a tossup between Akers and Taylor for the No. 2 pick, but I lean ever so slightly toward Akers. And I’ve of course bet on Akers at +5000 to be the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year. He might already be a top-12 fantasy back.

If you check out the RV Combine Explorer, you’ll see that a high percentage of the 20 players to whom Akers is most physically comparable as a prospect — 50% of the backs, in fact — averaged at least 10 fantasy points per game in their first three seasons.

Included in that list are Hall-of-Famers LaDainian Tomlinson and Marshawn Lynch and 2019 top-three pick Miles Sanders.

And the RV Combine Explorer looks only at physical profile: It doesn’t even take into account Akers’ age, production, recruitment grade or draft position.

Entering the NFL draft, I had Akers lower in my rookie rankings, but that was simply because I value wide receivers significantly more than running backs in dynasty. In terms of my overall outlook for Akers — what I expect him to do in the league — I might be the most bullish person in the industry.

I expect him to crush. Absolutely crush.

He entered college as a top-five overall recruit and a five-star all-purpose championship-winning quarterback who passed for 3,128 yards and 31 touchdowns and rushed for 2,105 yards and 34 touchdowns as a high-school senior, and in his three years as a starting running back in college, he did nothing to suggest that the evaluation people had of him as a recruit was wrong or that he won’t be able to play in the NFL.

The average college football fan probably thinks that Akers is overrated. And it’s true that he never had an overwhelmingly dominant season. But that’s not entirely his fault, given that he ran “behind one of college football’s worst offensive lines over the past few seasons” (per PFF). To be exact, the fourth-worst Power Five run blocking unit.

As a point of comparison, some of the other top backs in the class had significant better blocking from their offensive lines in 2019.

  • De’Andre Swift (Georgia): 1st
  • Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin): 6th
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU): 14th

That Akers was productive at all is a minor miracle — and he was productive. Even though he never had a full-on in-your-face campaign, in 2017 he broke Dalvin Cook’s FSU rushing record for a freshman, and in 2019 he returned to form after a down sophomore campaign.

  • 2017: 194-1,015-7 rushing, 16-116-1 receiving in 13 games
  • 2018: 161-706-6 rushing, 23-145-2 receiving in 12 games
  • 2019: 132-1,144-14 rushing, 30-225-4 receiving in 11 games

And, in 2019, Akers averaged over 100 yards rushing per game “while facing contact at or behind the line of scrimmage at the highest rate of any FBS back in the country” (per PFF).

Akers is a smooth runner, functional receiver and strong pass protector: In 324 pass-blocking snaps, he allowed only 15 pressures. And it doesn’t hurt that in college he was 5-of-8 passing for 97 yards.

Akers’ over/under for career Tomlinson-esque halfback touchdown passes in the NFL? I’m setting it at 1.5.

Over the past 25 years, there have been five 21-year-old second- and third-round rookie running backs to play at 210-plus pounds and have multiple 1,000-yard seasons in college.

Here’s how they’ve done in the NFL.

  • Ahman Green (1998, 3.76): Six 1,000-yard seasons
  • Bernard Pierce (2012, 3.84): Nada
  • Le’Veon Bell (2013, 2.48): Five 1,000-yard seasons
  • Joe Mixon (2017, 2.48): Two 1,000-yard seasons
  • Alexander Mattison (2019, 3.102): Waiting

Akers might be Pierce 2.0, but I think it’s likelier he’s a premium version of Green.

cam akers-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

Dynasty investors might question Akers’ ability as a receiver. It’s true that he’s not one of the best pass-catching backs in the class. But I think he’s better than Taylor. Per SIS:

In the pass game, he shows that he can make an impact. He mostly ran screens, swings and flat routes out of the backfield, but showed that he has the quick feet to be a good route runner on others as well. While he doesn’t possess natural hands and makes some focus drops, he can make most catches on balls thrown his way. With the ball in his hands, he is able to make defenders miss and create yards after the catch.

As a receiver, he’s good enough.

Dynasty investors also might have questions about his landing spot. Last year the Rams were just No. 26 with a 53.0 PFF run-blocking grade, and they scored only 24.6 points per game after putting up 32.9 the year prior.

I’m not worried. The Rams have been a top-12 scoring team in each year of head coach Sean McVay’s tenure, and I think that many of their offensive problems last season were a result of their reliance on running back Todd Gurley, who is now gone.

But in Gurley’s two pre-2019 seasons with McVay — before he developed his stuck-in-molasses running style — he was an All-Pro producer.

  • 2017 (15 games): 279-1,305-13 rushing, 64-788-6 receiving on 87 targets
  • 2018 (14 games): 256-1,251-17 rushing, 59-580-4 receiving on 81 targets

Even if Akers isn’t a great receiver, he still seems likely to get a decent number of targets if he’s the lead back — and even though the Rams drafted Darrell Henderson last year with the No. 70 pick — it’s hard to imagine that Akers won’t dominate touches given his draft capital and overall talent.

With Gurley’s departure, the Rams entered the draft with a league-high 216.5 vacated expected points at the running back position. In terms of opportunity,

The Rams will need to give the ball to someone in the backfield, and Akers is a prime candidate. Starting in Week 1, he could get 15-plus touches per game. I’m not sure we can say the same for Taylor.

If you’re nervous about Akers, that’s fine. You’re free to take Taylor, who is a perfectly good option at No. 2. But I prefer Akers. They’re both big-bodied 21-year-old second-rounders with above-average athleticism and top-tier running skills, but Akers (I expect) will have more opportunities right away and is a marginally better receiver.

NFL Prospect Comp: Marshawn Lynch with less draft capital


3. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts

  • Draft Position: 2.41 | School: Wisconsin
  • Height: 5’10” | Weight: 226 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 21 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 3

Taylor was the No. 2 player on my board before the draft. That was a simpler time.

His landing spot is good: The Colts were No. 2 last year with an 85.1 PFF run-blocking grade. But Taylor is not a great receiving back, and as a rookie he seems likely to be in an unfortunate timeshare with running backs Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines.

True, Taylor should still lead the backfield in 2020, as Mack is in the final year of his contract and Hines is just a pass-catching complement. And in 2021 he will probably be a locked-in high-volume dominator.

But I still can’t put him above Edwards-Helaire or Akers. Despite his athletic brilliance and collegiate dominance, Taylor has his limitations, especially as a receiver. Per SIS:

His contributions on [passing] downs were essentially nonexistent his first two years and while that has increased this season, his traits need further development. His catching skills are average for a running back and his route running needs refinement to be more than a checkdown option, but he’s still an electric athlete with the ball in his hands. He profiles as a linebacker mismatch if he can improve in this area.

Even though as a junior he had a respectable-looking receiving stat line — 26 receptions for 252 yards and five touchdowns — Taylor is a net negative in the passing game.

jonathan taylor-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

At best, he’s mediocre as a receiver. He doesn’t run routes. He just sort of runs to where he thinks the ball might be thrown. He can’t be lined up across the formation: He’s a backfield-only back. And when it comes to catching the ball, his hands might as well be elbows: On 50 catchable targets for his career, he had eight drops. On passes he should have snagged — passes that were primarily dump-offs — he had a 16% drop rate.

Not even the least reception-inclined early-down backs in the NFL have drop rates that bad.

His career receiving numbers are horrendous for a guy who was on the field for the supermajority of snaps for three straight years.

  • Receptions per game: 1.0
  • Yards per target: 6.1
  • Catch rate: 64.5%

Every once in a while, a guy who doesn’t catch the ball in college does so in the NFL. It happened with LaDainian Tomlinson — but LT is probably an exception. Almost no one compares to him. It would be foolhardy to think that any given prospect would have a career as distinguished as Tomlinson’s.

And yet Tomlinson — as unbelievable as this sounds — actually is the guy to whom Taylor is most comparable as a prospect. With his elite athletic profile and college production, Taylor has an incredibly high floor.

As much as I’m dogging on him as a receiver, I fully acknowledge that Taylor is an impressive player.

PFF has Taylor ranked as the best between-the-tackles runner in the class. He’s a magnificent runner. He glides.

A two-time Doak Walker Award winner as the top back in the country and a two-time consensus All-American selection, Taylor had three straight seasons of 2,000-plus scrimmage yards in college. Based on his production, he looks like the kind of historical back who would be taken high in the draft, maybe even in the top 10.

Taylor’s production — especially his rushing production — is the stuff of legends.

  • 2017 (14 games): 299-1,977-13 rushing
  • 2018 (13 games): 307-2,194-16 rushing
  • 2019 (14 games): 320-2,003-21 rushing

Based on a combination of his PFF rushing and receiving grades, missed tackles per carry, yards after contact per attempt and yards per route run, Taylor is the No. 2 backfield prospect from the 2017-20 draft classes.

Now, I don’t think Taylor is actually the No. 2 running back prospect from the past four years — and I definitely don’t believe that Zach Moss is the No. 1 back — but pretty much any back-of-the-envelope calculation will point to this fact: Taylor is a good football player.

He’s going to see heavy volume in the NFL.

If you take Taylor with a top-two pick, I can’t blame you. I have doubts about his ability to finish consistently in the top 10 in PPR scoring because of his pass-catching shortcomings, but his rushing ability makes him a near certainty to have multiple top-20 campaigns.

NFL Prospect Comp: LaDainian Tomlinson with significantly worse hands and less draft capital — but also younger


4. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Broncos

  • Draft Position: 1.15 | School: Alabama
  • Height: 6’1″ | Weight: 193 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.45 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 21 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4-5

Jeudy to the Denver Broncos at No. 15 is one of the picks I got right in my final mock draft, and I like the fit.

Jeudy is more of a high-end No. 2 receiver than a “show me the money” No. 1 dominator, and in Denver, he’ll get to play a complementary role alongside 2019 breakout receiver Courtland Sutton.

But just because he’s a No. 2 option doesn’t mean that he has diminished fantasy value. While Sutton commands defensive attention, Jeudy will be able to exploit softer matchups all across the formation thanks to his positional versatility.

Whatever targets you think wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders would get if he were still on the Broncos, you should probably assign most of those to Jeudy. He’s basically a Sanders replacement, and in the post-Peyton Manning era in Denver, Sanders averaged 7.9 targets per game.

There are targets available on the Broncos. And of the six Round 1 wide receivers, Jeudy could have the highest market share of 2020 targets.

jerry jeudy-dynasty-rookie-fantasy football-projections-freedman

Like most rookie receivers, Jeudy might struggle early: Because of the coronavirus, it will probably be hard for him to pick up the offense and create chemistry with second-year quarterback Drew Lock, who isn’t the most accurate of passers anyway.

But Jeudy will eventually find his groove, and I like him for the long term.

For most dynasty investors, the No. 1 wide receiver in the 2020 class is probably either Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma). Most of the sharp rankers I know prefer Lamb, who is bigger (6-foot-2 and 198 pounds vs. 6-foot-1 and 193) and more explosive (124-inch broad jump vs. 120) and was more productive in college.

  • CeeDee Lamb (2018-19, 27 games): 127-2,485-25 receiving, 14.0 yards per target
  • Jerry Jeudy (2018-19, 28 games): 145-2,478-24 receiving, 11.9 yards per target

He’s not much smaller than Lamb, but he’s faster (4.45-second 40-yard dash vs. 4.50), and I think he’s the more complete receiver. Lamb might have the higher ceiling, but Jeudy I expect has the higher floor.

Jeudy might never be an All-Pro producer, because he’s not a classic No. 1 receiver. He’s not a go-up-and-get-it dominator. But he does everything well. He’s a smooth route runner with good hands. He plays inside and outside. He can go deep and across the middle of the field. When he’s faced press coverage, he’s usually beaten it.

And he’s unlikely to face lots of press coverage with the Broncos anyway: I expect he’ll line up most in the slot with Sutton and second-rounder K.J. Hamler on the perimeter. Jeudy lined up in the slot on 68% of his snaps in 2018 and 58% in 2019 (per SIS). And going against slot cornerbacks, he could dominate.

The 2018-19 Alabama teams had four wide receivers who all got regular playing time and might eventually be selected in Round 1: Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.

That Jeudy was able to put up back-to-back seasons of 1,000-plus yards and 10-plus touchdowns receiving while sharing snaps and targets with those three other players is nothing short of spectacular.

Although he isn’t built like a No. 1 receiver, he carries himself like one. The dude is swagalicious.

As the 2018 Fred Biletnikoff Award winner, Jeudy is in an elite cohort of past Biletnikoff winners to enter the league as first-round selections and play as 21-year-old rookies.

  • Randy Moss (1998, 1.21): 10 seasons with 1,000-plus yards
  • Larry Fitzgerald (2004, 1.03): Nine seasons with 1,000-plus yards
  • Brandin Cooks (2014, 1.20): Four seasons with 1,000-plus yards
  • Amari Cooper (2015, 1.04): Four seasons with 1,000-plus yards

A Cooks-sized receiver with a Cooper-esque skill set, Jeudy is unlikely to have a Moss/Fitz-caliber career, but he could be a reliable 1,000-yard producer for close to a decade.

NFL Prospect Comp: Calvin Ridley but younger and more productive


5. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Cowboys

  • Draft Position: 1.17 | School: Oklahoma
  • Height: 6’2” | Weight: 198 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.50 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 21 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4

I still can’t believe my Cowboys drafted Lamb.

Nothing will ever make up for their decision not to draft Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Randy Moss in 1998 — but this is a start.

The Cowboys are going all in on offense, and I love it.

Playing alongside wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup — both of whom had 1,000-plus yards last year — Lamb is going to face extremely soft coverage, and although it might seem as if he will struggle to compete with Cooper and Gallup for the ball, he should inherit many of the 166 targets vacated by wide receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Jason Witten.

Lamb will get his opportunities in the short term, and Michael Gallup is slated to be a free agent in a couple of seasons. I’m not worried about whether or how Lamb find production. It will find him.

I love the general advantageousness of his circumstances.

A first-team All-American selection, Lamb actually might be the best receiver in the class. It’s pretty close to a 50/50 tossup between Jeudy and Lamb, who is the more aggressive player (13.2-yard average depth of target vs. 11), the more dynamic after-the-catch producer (11 yards after the catch per reception vs. 7.8) and, frankly, the tougher competitor (0.37 forced tackles per touch vs. 0.19).

On the football field, Lamb simply looks like the guy who is playing harder. He has a ferocity to him that every other receiver in this class lacks.

He plays receiver almost the way that Marshawn Lynch played running back: He’s always in attack mode. When the ball is in the air, he attacks it. When the ball is in his hands, he attacks defenders. He doesn’t seem capable of playing at anything less than full intensity.

Still, I have Jeudy ranked just ahead of him.

Lamb’s fervor — his violence — gives me pause. Guys with his frame don’t normally get away with the big-bodied bully routine in the NFL. If you want to be DeAndre Hopkins or Davante Adams, you probably need be built like them.

  • DeAndre Hopkins: 6’1″ and 214 pounds
  • Davante Adams: 6’1″ and 212 pounds

Instead, Lamb is nearly a doppelgänger for Tyler Boyd (6-foot-1 and 197 pounds).

CeeDee Lamb

There aren’t many receivers in the NFL with Lamb’s thin frame — and not many of them have success. In most instances, they’re unable to push around NFL cornerbacks. They lack the raw strength of their bully counterparts.

  • DeAndre Hopkins: 15 bench press reps
  • Davante Adams: 14 bench press reps

Last year, only two guys standing taller than 6-foot and weighing fewer than 200 pounds had 1,000 yards receiving: Boyd and D.J. Chark.

Boyd has taken the path previously trod by the similarly sized Brian Hartline (6-foot-2 and 195 pounds): Sure, he has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons … but if the Bengals actually wanted the slot-bound player to be their No. 1 receiver, they wouldn’t have franchised A.J. Green and drafted Tee Higgins with the No. 33 pick overall.

Much of Boyd’s production over the past two years has come with Green on the sideline. Boyd, I suspect, is productive by default.

As for Chark, he has the speed (4.34-second 40-yard dash) of a small receiver and the strength (16 bench press reps) of a big receiver — and he’s faster and stronger than Lamb (4.50, 11 reps).

None of this is to say that Lamb can’t have NFL success. I find him excessively intriguing. Even as a true freshman, he had an impressive 44-807-7 receiving campaign on 68 targets at 18 years old despite playing behind John Mackey Award-winning tight end Mark Andrews and future first-round wide receiver Marquise Brown.

Lamb has always found a way to produce.

But in the NFL, I think his success will need to come as a polished route runner and climb-the-ladder receiver instead of an “I’m about to rough you up” dominator.

I know that people will say things like, “He’ll just need to bulk up in the NFL.” Yeah, maybe. But if he does, he’ll lose speed, and I have actual doubts as to whether he’ll be able to add more muscle. He’s the kind of guy who just has a slight build. As a recruit, he was 172 pounds. That he put on 26 functional pounds in three years is amazing. But how much more weight can he reasonably put on?

Basically, I’m saying he’s not Nuk. He might have some Hopkins-esque elements to his game — but he’s not Hopkins. Or at least he won’t be in the NFL. I think he’ll have success. He just won’t get it in a total Nuk-like style.

I don’t want this writeup to come across as a bunch of doom-and-gloom pessimism, because I love Lamb. I love him as much as weatherman Brick Tamland loves lamp.

He’s a 21-year-old first-round receiver with multiple 1,000-yard seasons to his name.

There have been 11 such players over the past 30 years.

  • Amari Cooper (2015, 1.04): Four seasons with 1,000-plus yards
  • Sammy Watkins (2014, 1.04): One season with 1,000-plus yards
  • Mike Evans (2014, 1.07): Six seasons with 1,000-plus yards
  • Brandin Cooks (2014, 1.20): Four seasons with 1,000-plus yards
  • Jeremy Maclin (2009, 1.19): Three seasons with 1,000-plus yards
  • Percy Harvin (2009, 1.22): One season with 1,000-plus yards
  • Kenny Britt (2009, 1.30): One season with 1,000-plus yards
  • Mike Williams (2005, 1.10): LOL – the guy from USC
  • Larry Fitzgerald (2004, 1.03): Nine seasons with 1,000-plus yards
  • Reggie Williams (2004, 1.09): One season with 10-plus touchdowns
  • Randy Moss (1998, 1.21): 10 seasons with 1,000-plus yards

The odds are pretty good that Lamb has multiple top-10 seasons in the NFL.

NFL Prospect Comp: DeVante Parker but smaller, slower and younger


TIER 2

6. Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings

  • Draft Position: 1.22 | School: LSU
  • Height: 6’1” | Weight: 202 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.43 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 21 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 3

Jefferson makes a lot of sense in Minnesota. Drafted with the pick the Vikings received from the Buffalo Bills for Stefon Diggs, the versatile Jefferson will essentially be a one-for-one replacement for the traded wide receiver.

Athletically, they are very similar, given that they have comparable size, 40-yard dash times and vertical jumps.

  • Justin Jefferson: 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds | 4.43 seconds | 37.5 inches
  • Stefon Diggs: 6-foot and 195 pounds | 4.46 seconds | 35 inches

The numbers suggest that Jefferson might be even more athletic than Diggs.

And like Diggs, Jefferson can play in the slot and out wide.

Diggs had only 94 targets last year, but I expect Jefferson to get all of Diggs’ former workload, and the Vikings might throw more in 2020 than they did last year. Jefferson won’t be as efficient as Diggs was in 2019, and he’ll need to compete for targets with wide receiver Adam Thielen, but I like the long-term situation for Jefferson.

Thielen will be 30 when the season starts, and the team could get out of his contract in 2021 (per Spotrac).

One way or another,

justin jefferson-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

There’s a lot to like about Jefferson.

As a high school recruit, he ran a 4.88-second 40-yard dash at 180 pounds, so there was a lot of curiosity entering the combine as to how fast he would run and how much he would weigh.

If the combine were a cat, Jefferson would have killed it: He was bigger, faster and more explosive than anyone thought he would be.

Before the combine, Jefferson was in about half of expert mocks. After the combine, he was a lock to go in Round 1.

A three-star recruit — which is impressive, considering how slow he was — Jefferson did nothing as a freshman: He played just 25 snaps and saw one target. As a sophomore, though, he came from nowhere to lead LSU with 54 receptions, 875 yards and six touchdowns, and then as a junior he burst onto the national scene with an all-time great season when quarterback Joe Burrow transformed into a superstar and he shifted into the slot.

Because Jefferson’s 111-1,540-18 campaign coincided with Burrow’s breakout and his full-time move to the middle of the field, it might be easy to pigeonhole him as a slot-only, passer-dependent receiver.

But that’s not what he is.

Jefferson is better on the interior than the perimeter, and he feasted on zone coverage in 2019, but he can line up all across the formation, and he has excellent hands. For a mid-sized receiver, he fights for the ball with outstanding tenacity, as evidenced by his 92.3% contested catch rate (per PFF).

And he’s good — or at least good enough — with the ball in his hands.

Jefferson needs to improve as a route runner: His technique is average, and his strength is unimpressive. He needs sharper cuts to create separation, and he needs more physicality when facing handsy defenders.

He’s not without flaws: He might never be a true No. 1 wide receiver. And yet I don’t think that matters. He’s basically the ideal Jarvis Landry: A receiver who plays primarily in the slot and gets steady volume — but one who actually has above-average athleticism.

Ultimately, there’s so much to like about Jefferson: He’s a 21-year-old SEC receiver with a good physical profile and a 1,500-yard season to his name. A guy like that tends to have NFL success.

I like his odds to have multiple seasons with 1,000-plus yards receiving.

NFL Prospect Comp: Nelson Agholor but younger


7. Henry Ruggs III, WR, Raiders

  • Draft Position: 1.12 | School: Alabama
  • Height: 5’11” | Weight: 188 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.27 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 21 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4-5

Ruggs went off the board as the No. 1 wide receiver in the draft: Who could have predicted something like that?

Even though the Raiders have wide receivers Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller — not to mention second-round additions in perimeter receiver Bryan Edwards and slot receiver/running back hybrid Lynn Bowden — I expect that Ruggs will be more than just a field-stretching complement.

, just as the comparable Marquise Brown was last year with the Baltimore Ravens. Ruggs will be inconsistent, especially as a rookie, but he will almost certainly have multiple week-winning performances this season thanks to his big-play upside.

And his long-term potential is outstanding. For dynasty best ball in particular, he’s a tempting option.

Ruggs is likely the most polarizing player of the 2020 draft class.

Film-grinding analysts tend to like Ruggs because of his world-class speed, big-play ability and under-appreciated route-running ability.

But most analytics-driven dynasty touts (for lack of a better word) dislike Ruggs because he never had a breakout season. They begrudgingly have him at the bottom of Round 1 in their rookie dynasty rankings because they know it would be utter lunacy to rank a fast 21-year-old big-play star-recruit SEC first-rounder any lower than that. But ultimately, they want nothing more than to bury him in the middle of Round 2 and then watch him fail for the next three years before falling out of the league.

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I usually caucus with the analytics folks — we see most players in a similar fashion. But we part ways when it comes to Ruggs.

I’m not convinced that he’ll be a star.  It’s suboptimal that he never had a big collegiate campaign. But that’s all that he’s lacking. He has everything else.

Dynasty investors who focus on numbers tend to privilege production above all else, and that makes sense. College production is predictive of professional performance. If a guy puts up stats in college, he has a respectable chance of doing so in the NFL.

But strong college production I’ve found is normally accompanied by — or maybe even driven by — good marks in other areas. If a guy does well in college, he tends to be young. He tends to enter the NFL as an underclassman. He tends to have a good physical profile. He tends to have a high recruitment grade. He tends to be selected early in the draft. He tends to play at a good college program. He tends to be efficient with his opportunities.

That’s Ruggs. He checks all the boxes — except for the big one at the top: He doesn’t have the voluminous production.

And that’s what I think a lot of the analytics community is missing with Ruggs: College production I believe is the result of — the evidence of — all these other factors, which are the true determinants of NFL success. Production is just a proxy. A signifier.

But people act as if it is the signified — in the words of King Lear, “the thing itself.” Production is not the thing. It’s merely a symbol of what a player really is.

Ruggs hasn’t declared himself to be a king — but he’s wearing the regal robes and a crown, he’s carrying a scepter and he’s marching toward us with an army. We should probably assume he’s a monarch.

When it comes to prospects, the proof is ultimately in the pudding of the NFL draft. The market is sometimes inefficient, but it never lies, and Ruggs went off the board as the first receiver selected in Round 1. That wasn’t a fluke.

Over the past four years — essentially, since speedster Tyreek Hill’s rookie season — the NFL has privileged speed at the wide receiver position, and as a result, we’ve seen fast receivers go off the board as either the first player at the position or a top-10 pick.

  • 2019: Marquise Brown, 1.25 (1st) – No pre-draft workout because of injury, reportedly ran a 4.33 as a junior college recruit
  • 2018: D.J. Moore, 1.24 (1st) – 4.42 at 210 pounds
  • 2017: John Ross, 1.10 (3rd) – 4.22 at 188 pounds
  • 2016: Corey Coleman, 1.15 (1st) – 4.37 at 194 pounds (pro day)

Unlike Brown, Moore, Ross and Coleman, the electric Ruggs never had a breakout season in college, but I’m not faulting him for that.

2020-nfl mock draft-first round-projections-predictions-picks-smith

With Alabama’s assortment of pass-catching talent and offensive dominance, Ruggs was never called upon to be an alpha receiver. The team didn’t need him to do a lot for it to roll over opponents, and Ruggs had to compete for targets with Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, all three of whom are Round 1-caliber players.

Ruggs’ lack of overall production is understandable and excusable. And it’s not as if he contributed nothing at Alabama. For his career, he turned 100 touches from scrimmage into 1,791 yards and 25 touchdowns.

That’s elite efficiency, and he is a better receiver than most numbers-based analysts think: Ruggs is an above-average route runner with strong contested-catch skills for his size, and his elite deep speed makes him a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. For his career, he gifted his quarterbacks with a 151.4 passer rating when targeted (per PFF).

Among draft-eligible receivers, Ruggs trailed only Lamb last year with his mark of 13.6 yards per target (per SIS).

As you might expect if I told you only that Ruggs is a fast 21-year-old big-play star-recruit SEC first-rounder, he’s actually a good receiver.

Because of how he forces defenses to play when he’s on the field, Ruggs ultimately might be more valuable to his NFL team than his fantasy franchises.

At his best, Ruggs will likely be a Brandin Cooks-caliber producer — and that’s not nothing. People like to forget how good Cooks has been throughout his career: Over the past six years, he has averaged 1,000-plus yards and six touchdowns per season. And he could have a few more 1,000-yard campaigns ahead of him.

At his worst, Ruggs will be John Ross, maybe Curtis Samuel. Let’s keep in mind that Ross had 510 yards and three touchdowns in eight games last year and that Samuel has seven touchdowns in each of the past two years while playing primarily with backup quarterbacks.

If Ruggs turns into Ross or Samuel, that might not be a negative outcome.

NFL Prospect Comp: Mecole Hardman with more speed and way more production


8. Jalen Reagor, WR, Eagles

  • Draft Position: 1.21 | School: TCU
  • Height: 5’11” | Weight: 206 pounds (combine), 198 pounds (pro day)
  • 40-yard dash: 4.47 seconds (combine), 4.28 (pro day)
  • 2020 Age: 21 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4

My comp for Jalen Reagor entering the draft was “Jeremy Maclin with less production and draft capital.”

  1. I guess the Eagles have a type.
  2. I guess I was wrong about the draft capital bit.

As a first-round pick, Reagor has moved significantly up my board. He is likely to play right away, and if/when veteran wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson miss playing time in 2020, Reagor could see a big boost in target volume.

Even though he’s a rookie, and even though he underwhelmed in his final season at TCU, Reagor could finish 2020 as the No. 1 wide receiver on the Eagles.

The landing spot for Reagor is very advantageous … and yet I’m conflicted about him.

jalen reagor-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

Under defensive-minded head coach Gary Patterson, TCU hasn’t sent one successful wide receiver to the NFL over the past 20 years: Josh Doctson, Josh Boyce, Jeremy Kerley … pretty much any TCU receiver whose first name starts with the letter “J.” It hasn’t been pretty. That’s not great news for Jalen.

More importantly, Reagor massively underproduced in 2019 with just 611 yards and five touchdowns on 43 receptions and 92 targets (per SIS). He did manage to chip in with 14-89-0 rushing and two punt return touchdowns, but on the whole, his junior campaign was a catastrophe, given what he accomplished as a sophomore.

Perhaps the depths of his disappointment can best be explored by comparing his 2019 numbers to those of the other Round 1 receivers, specifically expected points added per target (EPA) and positive play rate vs. man coverage (PVM, per SIS).

  • Justin Jefferson: 0.67 EPA | 67% PVM
  • CeeDee Lamb: 0.64 EPA | 48% PVM
  • Henry Ruggs III: 0.59 EPA | 58% PVM
  • Jerry Jeudy: 0.53 EPA | 48% PVM
  • Brandon Aiyuk: 0.50  EPA | 41% PVM
  • Jalen Reagor: -0.08 EPA | 32% PVM

There’s no denying that last year Reagor’s production was subpar. But his poor performance wasn’t entirely his fault.

Per PFF: “There are legit excuses for that, like him statically lining up at right wide receiver every snap, almost never getting thrown screens, and having one of the worst quarterback situations in the country. The ability to consistently get behind defenses was still very much there even if the numbers don’t show it.”

Quarterback play in particular is the primary reason for Reagor’s collapse, per PFF: “Only 30.7% of Reagor’s targets in 2019 were charted as accurate. Only three other FBS receivers had it worse this past season.”

Basically, I’m Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, and I’m telling you over and over that it’s not Reagor’s fault.

Jalen Reagor

But even so — even if Reagor is not to blame for his lack of production in 2019 — it still materially hurts his long-term prospects: He is naturally hindered as a player by the fact that he failed to develop last year. He’s not as far along the path of progress as he otherwise would be if all had gone according to plan.

So there’s a significant bear case to be made about Reagor.

The bull case, though, is not unpersuasive. He’s not strong against press coverage, and he’s more of a speedster than a sophisticated route runner, but he’s physical at the catch point, and he has a wide catch radius thanks to his explosiveness (42-inch vertical and 138-inch broad jumps).

He can play inside and outside, and his versatile skill set as a receiver, rusher and returner speaks to his overall ability. He’s a playmaker. And his 19-year-old sophomore season really was impressive (72-1,061-9 receiving, 13-170-2 rushing).

Entering the combine, Reagor was expected to compete with Ruggs for the fastest 40-yard dash at the position, but he showed up at the event weighing a bulked-up 206 pounds (TCU listed him at 195), and as a result he had a sluggish 4.47-second 40.

He also disappointed with his hilariously slow agility drills (per MD).

  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.46 seconds (8th percentile)
  • Three-cone drill: 7.31 seconds (5th percentile)

But at the combine he displayed elite explosiveness thanks mainly to his jumps, scoring a 99th-percentile 140.4 burst score (per PP), and at an unofficial pro day, he had a reported hand-timed 4.28-second 40 at a slimmed-down 198 pounds.

Am I incredulous about his “pro day” “40 time”? Yeah. But even if you adjust it to 4.38 seconds, that’s still good. The dude is a legitimate athlete.

A boom/bust prospect, Reagor has the upside for multiple 1,000-yard seasons and the downside to be forgotten in three years.

NFL Prospect Comp: Jeremy Maclin with less production


9. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ravens

  • Draft Position: 2.55 | School: Ohio State
  • Height: 5’9” | Weight: 209 pounds
  • 2020 Age: 22 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4

UPDATE (Aug. 7): I have moved Dobbins ahead of Swift. Immediately after the draft, I stuck to my model, which preferred Swift because of his superior draft position, younger age and pass-catching prowess. The market, however, is significantly higher on Dobbins, and although his updated ranking still trails his average draft position, I’m slightly bumping him up as a modest sign of humility. It’s not as if Dobbins is a talentless player, and he has significant upside in the Ravens offense. 

In 2020, Dobbins will likely replace both Gus Edwards and Justice Hill in Baltimore’s committee backfield as the complement to Mark Ingram. While I normally don’t get excited about No. 2 backs,

And next year, Dobbins might take over as the lead back, given that Ingram turns 31 in December and the Ravens could look to get out of his contract after the 2020 season (per Spotrac).

Whenever Dobbins becomes the lead back in Baltimore, he will have top-eight upside playing next to quarterback Lamar Jackson.

jk dobbins-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

That said, I’m almost certainly lower on him than most analysts are, but my ranking has less to do with him and more to do with how I value running backs, wide receivers and draft position.

If you pick in the top half of Rounds 1-2 and you absolutely want to take a running back and wide receiver with your top rookie selections, then you should go with a back in Round 1 and receiver in Round 2. And if some of the top backs are off the board by the time you pick in Round 1, then Dobbins is a great fallback option.

But in a vacuum, I don’t want to put him near the top of my draft board, because in dynasty I value wide receivers ahead of running backs: Receivers in general are longer-lived assets, and their success is easier to project because it’s less tied to the vicissitudes of workload.

Essentially, I can’t put Dobbins as high on my board as I otherwise might because this class is so stacked at receiver, and in 95% of situations, I’m going to rank 21-year-old first-round wide receivers ahead of a 22-year-old second-round running back.

That’s just how I do business, and I believe that in the long run I’ll be more profitable if I stick with my investing discipline.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t like Dobbins: I like him a lot. , because he could arguably be a top-three pick but he almost certainly won’t be selected there in rookie drafts.

Of the big five, Dobbins is the oldest and almost the smallest. But he entered college as a highly desired recruit, and in his three years with the Buckeyes, he put up numbers.

  • 2017 (14 games): 194-1,403-7 rushing, 22-135-1 receiving
  • 2018 (14 games): 230-1,053-10 rushing, 26-263-2 receiving
  • 2019 (14 games): 301-2,004-21 rushing, 23-247-2 receiving

As a runner, Dobbins compares favorably to the other top-five backs with his breakaway percentage and yardage after contact per attempt (per PFF).

  • J.K. Dobbins: 47.6%, 4.01 yards
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire: 44.7%, 3.65 yards
  • Jonathan Taylor: 39.3%, 3.93 yards
  • D’Andre Swift: 37.5%, 3.55 yards
  • Cam Akers: 33.3%, 3.91 yards

And although he doesn’t match CEH and Swift as a receiver, Dobbins is more than just a checkdown option: On almost 10% of his snaps last year, he lined up outside of the backfield, and he holds his own as a pass-catching threat, based on his career marks for catch rate, yardage per target and expected points per target (per SIS).

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire: 85.2%, 7.3 yards, 0.20 EPA per target
  • D’Andre Swift: 81.1%, 7.1 yards, 0.14 EPA per target
  • J.K. Dobbins: 80.7%, 7.3 yards, 0.19 EPA per target

Aesthetically, some film-grinding enthusiasts probably don’t like Dobbins’ running style. To my untrained eye, he’s a one-cut upright downhill runner more than a shake-and-bake juker, which means that he’s not likely to create a lot of yards on his own with great vision and creativity.

That lack of free-lancing improvisation doesn’t bother me. In general, I tend to like the runners who seek to maximize what their blockers give them within the structure of each designed play.

Dobbins’ size also might bother some potential investors. At 209 pounds, he’s not built like a traditional lead back even though he runs with a workmanlike mindset. But I’m not worried about his size. He packs a lot of power in his frame, and he has good functional strength. At the combine, he had a top-five mark with 23 reps on the bench press.

Even though Dobbins did literally nothing at the combine besides the bench, I have absolutely no questions about his athleticism. As a recruit in 2016, Dobbins had the No. 1 overall athletic score at The Opening, where he competed alongside all the other top recruits in the country.

Ranking in the 99th-percentile with his size-adjusted speed (4.45-second 40-yard dash), explosiveness (43.1-inch vertical jump) and agility (4.09-second 20-yard shuttle), Dobbins is one of the most elite all-around athletes in the 2020 class.

Given his productive consistency, receiving ability and elite physicality, it wouldn’t have been a stretch for Dobbins to be the first back selected in the draft.

Dobbins has a good shot to have multiple top-20 finishes in his career.

NFL Prospect Comp: Jerick McKinnon, but a running back instead of a running college quarterback


10. D’Andre Swift, RB, Lions

  • Draft Position: 2.35 | School: Georgia
  • Height: 5’8” | Weight: 212 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.48 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 21 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4-5

Entering the draft, Swift was the No. 1 rookie on my board. And now … he’s not.

I’m probably overreacting by dropping him to No. 9, but given his landing spot, it’s hard for me to justify (at least to myself) ranking a workload-uncertain second-round back ahead of any 21-year-old first-round wide receiver.

So I have Swift at No. 9. I hate the situation, and I hate myself.

I’m still bullish on Swift for the long term. Because of his skill set, he should have multiple 1,000-yard campaigns in his career. But for this year at least, — unless the Lions part ways with third-year second-round running back Kerryon Johnson.

But I doubt that will happen … because the Lions seem to like him … because they just drafted another version of him.

nfl draft-betting-picks-prop-bets-patriots-bears-steelers-2020

If you look in the RV Prospect Box Score Scout, the player to whom Swift is most comparable (based on draft position and a number of college production metrics) is Johnson.

I don’t want to be too down on Swift, because he’s a 21-year-old second-round back, and over the past two decades, those guys have provided great value. I’m talking about guys like Clinton Portis, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Le’Veon Bell and Joe Mixon.

Of course, as fate would have it, the most recent 21-year-old second-rounder to enter the league hasn’t panned out, and I doubt he will … because his team just drafted D’Andre Swift.

My fear is that the Lions drafted Swift not because they want him to replace Johnson but because they want him to replicate him. And if that’s the case, then replication will inevitably lead to cannibalization. Self-cannibalization.

“Soylent Green is people” — and those people are Johnson & Swift.

But perhaps I’m wrong.

Maybe Swift will be the lead back in Detroit and dominate touches: He’s a promising player.

Per PFF, he’s the No. 1 receiving back in the class, and that should give him a significant edge over Johnson.

And as the NFL continues to shift toward a pass-heavy format and as more fantasy leagues shift from standard to PPR scoring, Swift’s value will grow.

As a runner, Swift was efficient and explosive with 6.6 yards per carry and a 37.5% breakaway percentage. He’s a perfectly fine runner.

But his receiving is really what sets him apart. Whether he’s running routes out of the backfield, in the slot or out wide, he’s precise and smooth. He can create separation at will. He has a full route tree. And he doesn’t drop the ball. In 90 targets across three seasons, Swift had just three drops. And he had no drops in his final season.

D'Andre Swift

Swift vs. a linebacker in coverage is just unfair. In his two seasons as the lead back at Georgia, he was a true receiving weapon.

  • 2019: 82.8% catch rate, 7.5 yards per target
  • 2018: 82.1% catch rate, 7.6 yards per target

If he can beat out Johnson and become a true lead back, Swift has some real Christian McCaffrey-esque potential.

Like McCaffrey, Swift enters the NFL as a small-yet-big-enough producer with top-tier pass-catching ability and two lead-back seasons.

The parallels aren’t perfect, but there aren’t many backs like Swift.

He’s a 21-year-old SEC producer with elite pass-catching ability and second-round draft capital. He’s good enough as a runner, and he’s probably already a top-eight receiving back in the league.

Even if all he ever becomes is Giovani Bernard, it’s worth remembering that Bernard averaged 1,146.7 yards and 5.7 touchdowns per season his first three years in the league.

Based on his age, physical profile, college production, receiving ability and draft position, Swift should probably have multiple top-10 fantasy seasons in his career … if the Lions manage not to screw him up.

NFL Prospect Comp: Maurice Jones-Drew with less speed and return ability


11. Antonio Gibson, RB/WR, Redskins

  • Draft Position: 3.66 | School: Memphis
  • Height: 6’ | Weight: 229 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 22 | Class: Senior
  • Recruitment Stars: 3-4

UPDATE (Aug. 7): I was already planning on moving Gibson up before the Guice release, but a move from No. 21 to No. 11 wasn’t what I expected. Life changes fast. Gibson is now securely on the borderline of Rounds 1-2 borderline.

He now has the opportunity to match his upside. I’ll be thrilled if I’m able to get him in Round 2 of any future rookie drafts.

I might need to move Gibson up my board, because he has some real David Johnson-like potential as a receiver-turned-runner offensive weapon.

People are going to sleep on him right now, but he has the talent to take over the backfield for the Redskins.

Although Gibson worked out with the wide receivers at the combine, he has been projected to the NFL mostly as a running back throughout the evaluation process.

And, sure enough, after drafting Gibson, the team said that it intends to use him at running back — or as a running back/receiver hybrid — and to line him up all over the field in two-back sets so that Peterson or Guice could be in the backfield and he could be in the backfield as well or in the slot (per Grant Paulsen and Albert Breer).

So right now the team seems to view Gibson as a supplemental player. He’ll probably start out in Washington by returning kicks and getting occasional usage — just as Johnson did as a rookie.

But what happens if, in a Johnson-esque fashion, Gibson proves to be more efficient and explosive with his touches than are the 35-year-old Peterson and the injury-slowed Guice?

They’ll give him a chance to lead the backfield.

And if Gibson gets his chance, I expect that he will run away with it. He’ll make the full-blown transition from part-time gadget player to full-time lead back with the potential for 250 carries and 100 targets.

And why shouldn’t he? Even though he played 87% of his snaps in the slot in 2019, as a runner he led the nation with 11.2 yards per attempt and 8.0 yards after contact per attempt (per SIS).

Based on the SIS data, I don’t think Gibson ran one single time in between the tackles last year. Oh, man. But does that really matter? That doesn’t mean he can’t do it. Lots of tape-grinding analysts thought that Johnson’s ineffectiveness as an interior rusher would prevent him from being a full-time back in the NFL. It didn’t.

If a guy can catch the ball and turn enough of his carries into big plays, his team probably won’t care if he’s a below-average interior runner — because how many yards do up-the-gut rushing plays get anyway?

As a slot receiver, Gibson can catch the ball, and as an offensive player, Gibson can break enough tackles to make big plays. Last year he led the college ranks with 38 broken tackles per 100 touches (per SIS). Specifically, he had 16 broken tackles on 33 carries and 17 broken tackles on 38 receptions. As a receiver, he led all draft-eligible prospects with 11.7 yards after the catch per reception (per PFF).

Those numbers are beyond elite. The sample is small, but Gibson’s ability is undeniable.

It’s less than ideal that Gibson started out at junior college, but he was the No. 1 receiver as both a freshman and sophomore (50-871-13 receiving in 19 games), and he had an age-18 breakout with 39.1% of the receiving yards and 37.5% of the receiving touchdowns in his first year at East Central Community College (MS).

He leveraged that production into 3-4 stars as a JUCO recruit, and after serving as a depth receiver at Memphis in 2018 while Darrell Henderson, Patrick Taylor and Tony Pollard dominated touches in the offense, he exploded as a senior, playing to perfection the backfield/slot receiver role that launched Pollard to the NFL as a fourth-rounder in last year’s draft.

Gibson’s 2019 production can be described only as pornographic.

  • Receiving: 38 receptions, 735 yards, eight touchdowns on 56 targets
  • Rushing: 33 carries, 369 yards, four touchdowns
  • Kick Returning: 23 returns, 645 yards, one touchdown

That’s 1,104 yards from scrimmage and 13 all-purpose touchdowns — on highly limited usage — in 14 games.

Unreal.

I admit that Gibson might totally fail in the NFL as a running back. It’s a projection, because he didn’t really play the position in college. He just occasionally lined up there. Most of his handoffs came on jet sweeps.

But he was a back in high school, so the position isn’t totally foreign to him.

He’s a boom/bust player, and that’s why I have him ranked after most of the second-round receivers — but I’m willing to bet on his ability to boom.

He’s not a nuanced runner or smooth route runner. He’s just an explosive playmaker, and near the end of Round 2, that’s worth investing in.

In the RV Combine Explorer, the running back to whom he’s most physically comparable is Ronnie Brown; wide receiver, A.J. Brown. Except he’s significantly faster than both. Naturally.

He’s basically the more explosive Shenault.

  • Antonio Gibson: 6’0″ and 228 pounds, 4.39-second 40 time
  • Laviska Shenault: 6’1″ and 227 pounds, 4.58-second 40 time

He’s the arbitrage Taylor.

  • Antonio Gibson: 6’0″ and 228 pounds, 4.39-second 40 time
  • Jonathan Taylor: 5’10” and 226 pounds, 4.39-second 40 time

He’s a league winner.

NFL Prospect Comp: Ty Montgomery but bigger and much faster with more draft capital and less polish


TIER 3

12. Brandon Aiyuk, WR, 49ers

  • Draft Position: 1.25 | School: Arizona State
  • Height: 6′ | Weight: 205 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.50 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 22 | Class: Senior
  • Recruitment Stars: 3

UPDATE (Aug. 7): With Deebo Samuel (foot) uncertain for the start of the season, I remain convinced that Aiyuk belongs in Round 1 of rookie drafts. 

Aiyuk might not be a strong producer right away, but the 49ers needed a wide receiver after Emmanuel Sanders left in free agency, and like Sanders — and Deebo Samuel, for that matter — Aiyuk is a versatile player who can line up all across the formation and even take handoffs out of the backfield and on jet sweeps.

Aiyuk will probably play behind Samuel in 2020, but he will likely be a Week 1 starter, and by 2021, he could be the No. 1 receiver.

, especially since he was selected in Round 1 of the NFL draft.

Don’t sleep on Aiyuk.

He gets knocked as a one-year wonder because he didn’t have a breakout campaign at the FBS level until his 2019 senior season, but that perspective overlooks what he accomplished at Sierra College, where he dominated the junior college ranks.

After a respectable freshman season (29-573-5 receiving), Aiyuk tore up the CCCAA in 10 games as a sophomore in 2017.

  • Receiving: 60 receptions, 960 yards, 14 touchdowns
  • Rushing: 13 carries, 59 yards, one touchdown
  • Kick Returning: 11 returns, 418 yards, two touchdowns
  • Punt Returning: 14 returns, 313 yards, one touchdown

That’s 1,019 scrimmage yards and 18 all-purpose touchdowns at 19 years old. Pretty good.

In fact, it was good enough to get Aiyuk scholarship offers to 10 different FBS schools — including Alabama — but he chose Arizona State because he was promised the opportunity to compete for a starting receiver spot right away. And he did earn a starting spot with the Wildcats in 2018, playing in three-wide sets behind 2019 first-round wide receiver N’Keal Harry and racking up a modest 33-474-3 stat line on 47 targets.

brandon aiyuk-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedmanbrandon-aiyuk

And then in 2019, with Harry gone, Aiyuk stepped up as the No. 1 wide receiver on the team, flashing once again with 1,198 yards and eight touchdowns from scrimmage plus a return score in 12 games.

Clearly Aiyuk is more than a one-year wonder.

He isn’t an overly physical receiver or polished route runner. He’s hardly a contested-catch artist. But Aiyuk is a playmaker and versatile enough to line up all across the formation. He can make plays downfield, as evidenced by his 90.4 deep receiving grade (per PFF), and he’s one of the best after-the-catch receivers in the class, which isn’t a surprise, given how good he is in the return game.

If you look at the wide receiver leaderboard in the SIS Football Rookie Handbook, you’ll see that Aiyuk is a top-five receiver — up there with guys like Jeudy and Lamb — in a number of key statistics.

  • Yards per target: 11.5 (4th-t)
  • Yards after catch: 10.9 (2nd)
  • Yards per route: 3.2 (2nd-t)

He looks like a guy with a reasonable chance of having a couple 1,000-yard seasons.

NFL Prospect Comp: Robert Woods but older and more athletic


13. Tee Higgins, WR, Bengals

  • Draft Position: 2.33 | School: Clemson
  • Height: 6’4” | Weight: 216 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.54 seconds (pro day)
  • 2020 Age: 21 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4-5

I love that Higgins landed with the Bengals. In quarterback Joe Burrow, Higgins has a sharp passer who will throw the ball up and let him make plays.

The Burrow-Higgins connection could be something special.

Higgins figures to start right away, and by 2021 at the latest, he should have a lot of targets coming his way.

Wide receiver A.J. Green is yet to sign the franchise tag. There’s an outside chance he won’t play in Cincinnati this year. And even if he does, it figures to be his last season with the Bengals.

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd has four years left on the contract extension he signed last summer, so he’s probably not going anywhere, but the team could get out of the contract after 2020 if he disappoints (per Spotrac).

Wide receiver John Ross is entering his fourth season, and the Bengals are yet to pick up his fifth-year option, so he might be a free agent in 2021.

And the undrafted wide receiver Auden Tate is probably not much of a concern anyway, but he’s a restricted free agent after 2020.

Higgins sure looks like a future No. 1 receiver.

Of course, I’m saying all of this as an extreme Higgins optimist. You’ve been warned.

Although he went No. 33 overall as the first pick in Round 2, I think Higgins probably should’ve been selected in Round 1.

Higgins saw his draft stock drop after a mediocre pro day, but I still expect him to have a successful NFL career thanks to his difference-making ability.

tee higgins-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

It’s LOL adorable that #NFLTwitter evaluators think Higgins’ athleticism is a problem. Athleticism is extremely overrated for wide receivers, especially for big guys with a respectable amount of draft capital and good college production (Higgins is 118-2,103-25 receiving, 1-36-1 rushing over the past two years).

Based on age, size, speed, college production and draft position, here are the five NFL prospects of the past decade to whom Higgins is most comparable:

  • Courtland Sutton: 2.40 (2018) – 6’3″ | 218 pounds | 4.54-second 40 time
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster: 2.62 (2017) – 6’1″ | 215 pounds | 4.54-second 40 time
  • Davante Adams: 2.53 (2014) – 6’1″ | 212 pounds | 4.56-second 40 time
  • Allen Robinson: 2.61 (2014) – 6’2″ | 220 pounds | 4.60-second 40 time
  • DeAndre Hopkins: 1.27 (2013) – 6’1″ | 214 pounds | 4.57-second 40 time

That’s not a bad cohort, no?

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney played receiver in college and started out at Clemson as the wide receivers coach. His eye for talent at the position is unparalleled. If a guy has the official Swinney imprimatur, he’s likely to exceed expectations in the NFL.

Of all the Clemson receivers Swinney has had a hand in recruiting, here are the six (other than Higgins) to enter the NFL as top-150 draft selections.

  • 1.04 (2014): Sammy Watkins –  1,048 yards, nine touchdowns in second season
  • 1.07 (2017): Mike Williams – 11 touchdowns in second season, 1,003 yards in third season
  • 1.27 (2013): DeAndre Hopkins – five 1,000-yard campaigns and three All-Pro selections
  • 4.108 (2010): Jacoby Ford – 625 yards, seven touchdowns as a rookie with limited playing time
  • 4.118 (2014): Martavis Bryant – 1,102 yards, 14 touchdowns in first 16 NFL games
  • 5.149 (2019): Hunter Renfrow – 504 yards, four touchdowns in final eight games of rookie season

I defy you to name another college program that has so reliably produced NFL-ready receivers over the past decade.

Alabama? Kevin Norwood (4.123, 2014) and ArDarius Stewart (3.79, 2017) beg to differ. Ohio State? DeVier Posey (3.68, 2012) and Devin Smith (2.37, 2015) think otherwise. USC? Patrick Turner (3.87, 2009), Damian Williams (3.77, 2010) and Marqise Lee (2.39, 2014) laugh at you.

Some tape-grinding enthusiasts think that Higgins is too soft to succeed in the NFL. They say he lacks the physicality necessary to beat NFL corners.

Maybe. I don’t know. A lack of physicality hasn’t been a problem in the past.

Over the past two years, Higgins has been a top-10 receiver with PFF grades of 90.5 and 87.7.

In perusing the SIS Football Rookie Handbook, one can see easily that Higgins compares well to the top-tier duo of Jeudy and Lamb in key statistics, such as yards per target (YPT), yards per route (YPR), average depth of target (aDOT), expected points added per target (EPA) and positive play rate vs. man coverage (PVM) for the 2019 season.

  • Tee Higgins: 12.8 YPT | 3.7 YPR | 14.3 aDOT | 0.68 EPA | 62% PVM
  • Jerry Jeudy: 10.6 YPT | 3.2 YPR | 10.8 aDOT | 0.53 EPA | 48% PVM
  • CeeDee Lamb: 14.3 YPT | 3.9 YPR | 11.2 aDOT | 0.64 EPA | 48%PVM

It’s overwhelmingly positive that Higgins has had so much success against man coverage, which he’s likely to see in the NFL.

Higgins has the skills to succeed as a professional perimeter receiver. He tracks the ball well and high points it in contested situations with strong hands and a big catch radius. And with the ball, he’s at worse an adequate after-the-catch producer.

Higgins is not a detail-oriented route runner — but he runs go, post and out patterns. He doesn’t need to be a nuanced technician to run those routes effectively. All he has to do is beat the smaller guy defending him — and he usually does.

With a wide receiver class this stacked, it’s tempting to look at Higgins and imagine the ways in which his athletic shortcomings will limit him. In the big picture, though, it seems foolish to anticipate anything other than NFL success for a productive 21-year-old big-bodied star-recruit Clemson receiver.

NFL Prospect Comp: Mike Williams but younger and with less draft capital


14. Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Jaguars

  • Draft Position: 2.42 | School: Colorado
  • Height: 6’1” | Weight: 227 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.58 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 22 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 3

UPDATE (Aug. 7): I’m still not a fan of the landing spot, but Shenault is just so talented that I had to move him above all the Round 2 wide receivers other than Higgins. He’s a gift from the fantasy gawds at his average draft position.

I’m happy that Shenault went early in the top half of Round 2, but the landing spot is subpar. The Jags are a run-focused team with a second-year sixth-rounder as the starting quarterback. I like Gardner Minshew as much as the next self-proclaimed psuedo-redneck — but maybe he’s not the quarterback Shenault would’ve chosen?

On top of that, Shenault will have to compete with wide receivers D.J. Chark, Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook for playing time and targets — at least as a rookie.

And who knows if Shenault will even start right away? Chark was drafted in Round 2, and he saw almost no action as a rookie in 2018.

So for 2020, I’m pessimistic, and that’s partially why I have Shenault ranked lower than Mims and Pittman.

But I need to remind myself that talent tends to find a way and circumstances can change: Conley and Westbrook are both slated to be free agents after the season, so in 2021, Shenault could be in line for a lot of targets.

Even with the Jags, there’s cause for long-term optimism with Shenault.

Honestly, maybe I’m too low on him.

In a vacuum, I would love to move him into Round 1. He feels like a rookie first-rounder. But this is a loaded year at the position. If he had been a 22-year-old second-rounder in last year’s class, he almost certainly would’ve been a Round 1 pick in rookie drafts.

Even though I have him in Round 2, I really like him.

When asked in a post-game interview about playing through an injury, Shenault said, “When I do something, I feel the pain. But, it’s pain. (Laughs.) It’s just pain. That’s all it is.”

To Shenault, pain ain’t nothing. This dude is a pain factory. He’s the physical embodiment of a Nine Inch Nails song. Of all the receivers in this class, he’s the most punishing one with the ball in his hands. When Shenault is on the attack, defenders aren’t defending just their end zone. They’re defending themselves.

I don’t want to be hyperbolic, but in his free time, Shenault is Chuck Norris’ personal trainer. (Probably.)

In his debut game at Colorado, Shenault scored his first college touchdown on an untouched 55-yard special teams fumble recovery return. That’s the kind of stuff that happens only to players destined for Action Network rookie write-ups.

When it comes to Shenault, I struggle to maintain my objectivity.

He’s not without flaws.

He’s an average-at-best route runner. He has a limited route tree. Much of his production — especially as a scorer — was manufactured for him via screens, short patterns and wildcat carries. In his two final seasons, he dealt with significant injuries that limited his availability and effectiveness (toe, 2018; abdominal, 2019).

In his final season, he was a limited producer with just 56-764-4 receiving and 23-161-2 rushing in 11 games.

And at the combine, despite being widely expected to run faster than 4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash, he had a time of just 4.58, which tanked his draft stock. Before the combine, Shenault was universally expected to go in Round 1. Clearly, that didn’t happen.

But his combine performance needs to be put in proper context. First, Shenault actually has an above-average 40 time for a guy of his size. As a point of comparison: If Davante Adams looked at himself shirtless in the mirror and said, “Nah, I can get buffer,” and then he put on 15 pounds of muscle without losing any speed, he’d be Shenault.

Given his size and 40 time, Shenault had a 78th-percentile 103.2 speed score at the combine (per PP). In no universe is that a bad number.

laviska shenault-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

Secondly, Shenault intentionally ran the 40 with a core injury that he knew needed surgery and in fact was operated on a few days after the combine. Why did he work out despite the injury?

To Shenault, pain ain’t nothing. Don’t forget it.

He’s not a speedster, but Shenault is an Anquan Boldin-esque tackle-breaking bully whom PFF ranked as the No. 1 after-the-catch receiver in the class.

He underwhelmed last year, but he was dealing with the core injury, a new coaching staff and poor quarterback play. As a sophomore in 2018, he had a breathtakingly dynamic campaign, amassing 86-1,011-6 receiving and 17-115-5 rushing in just nine games.

And what Shenault did over his college career, especially in 2018-19, places him in the top tier of his peers.

SIS has tracked yards per route (YPR) for the past two years and positive play rate vs. man coverage (PVM) for the past three years. Over those periods of time, Shenault distinguished himself in those respective metrics relative to the six receivers who went in Round 1.

  • Laviska Shenault Jr.: 3.5 YPR | 62% PVM
  • CeeDee Lamb: 3.5 YPR | 58% PVM
  • Jerry Jeudy: 3.4 YPR | 53% PVM
  • Brandon Aiyuk: 3.0  YPR | 36% PVM
  • Justin Jefferson: 2.5 YPR | 55% PVM
  • Henry Ruggs III: 2.2 YPR | 50% PVM
  • Jalen Reagor: 2.1 YPR | 39% PVM

Shenault didn’t score an unholy number of receiving touchdowns because his offense simply wasn’t that good, but since 2018, he’s been as good as the best receivers in this class at turning routes into yards — and he has outright dominated against man coverage since his freshman year.

Additionally, he leads all receivers in the class with 44 missed tackles forced since 2018 (per PFF). This guy is a juggernaut.

Even with his subpar 2019, Shenault looks like he might be the most dominant receiver in the class — and, remember, he chipped in 40-276-7 rushing over the past two years.

Whether he’s taking a direct snap as a wildcat quarterback, catching a screen pass at the line of scrimmage or running a deep slant, Shenault is simply a playmaker.

That doesn’t mean he’ll have NFL success. Shenault feels a lot like a slower, non-return man version of Cordarrelle Patterson.

That said, we should remember that C-Patz had 479 scrimmage yards and seven touchdowns in the final eight games of his rookie year. There’s a universe in which Patterson becomes an NFL star — and that universe might be Shenault’s.

NFL Prospect Comp: A.J. Brown with less receiving production and speed but more rushing production and attitude


15. A.J. Dillon, RB, Packers

  • Draft Position: 2.62 | School: Boston College
  • Height: 6’ | Weight: 247 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.53 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 22 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 3

UPDATE (Aug. 7): I’ve given Dillon a slight bump to ensure that he stays ahead of his average draft position and to remind Chris Raybon that Dillon is coming from Aaron Jones’ workload.

If I weren’t such a wimp, I’d have Dillon ranked ahead of Vaughn. In fact, I’d have him ranked in Round 1 — right next to Taylor.

Because, really, what is the difference between Taylor and Dillon?

Yes, Taylor is better. Fine. And he’s younger.

But they are still incredibly similar.

Tell me I’m wrong.

If you’re bullish about Taylor, you should be bullish about Dillon.

If you’re a Packers fan and you’re disappointed that the team selected Dillon in Round 2, I get it. It would’ve been better for the team and aging quarterback Aaron Rodgers if a wide receiver had been taken.

But it’s not as if Dillon is a massive reach. He doesn’t address a strong need, but he’s a justifiable pick in Round 2, as I first suggested in February. (Cough.)

As an early-down grinder, Dillon will have limited upside in PPR leagues, but given his college production, physical ability and draft capital, he seems likely to get significant playing time right away.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the lead back for the Packers this year. And if he is — if he overtakes  Aaron Jones — he could be a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown back as a rookie.

In the words of Freddie Mercury, “Get on your bikes and ride!”

A.J. Dillon runs the way Danny Donahue feels on a Saturday morning — with an excess of pain.

He’s a high-volume downhill rusher who intelligently follows his blockers and consistently takes what the defense gives him instead of looking to break long runs every play.

And that’s not to say that he can’t get chunk yardage. He absolutely has the ability to turn short gains into big plays thanks to his tackle-breaking power and elite size-adjusted speed and explosiveness (per PP).

  • Speed Score: 117.3 (97th percentile)
  • Burst Score: 135.2 (97th percentile)

Dillon runs a bit upright, but he cuts through arm tackles like scissors through crate paper — and I’m not even sure what crate paper is. Only Taylor and Zack Moss have more than Dillon’s 198 broken tackles over the past three years (per PP). The dude trucks defenders as well as anyone in the class.

Since his first day on campus at Boston College, he was the lead back.

  • 2017 (13 games): 300-1,589-14 rushing, 0-0-0 receiving on 0 targets
  • 2018 (10 games): 227-1,108-10 rushing, 8-41-1 receiving on 11 targets
  • 2019 (12 games): 318-1,685-14 rushing, 13-195-1 receiving on 16 targets

Like BC forerunner Andre Williams, Dillon doesn’t offer much as a receiver — and that is absolutely cause for concern — but I want to make the case that, perhaps, he’s not as much of a pass-catching nonentity as most people believe.

aj dillon-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

It’s incredibly suboptimal that he dropped three of his 24 catchable targets (per PFF), but he has improved as a receiver each year. Last year, he dropped just one pass.

It’s not as if Dillon was used extensively in the passing game, and he lacks route-running sophistication, but in expected points added per target (EPA) and yards per route (YPR), he was comparable to the top-five backs in the class in 2019 (per SIS).

  • A.J. Dillon: 0.35 EPA | 2.1 YPR
  • J.K. Dobbins: 0.52 EPA | 1.4 YPR
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire: 0.20 EPA | 1.2 YPR
  • D’Andre Swift: 0.06 EPA | 1.3 YPR
  • Jonathan Taylor: 0.05 EPA | 2.7 YPR
  • Cam Akers: -0.21 EPA | 2.0 YPR

It’s not probable, but it’s possible that Dillon has some under-appreciated James Conner-like potential as a receiving back.

And even if Dillon is only ever a two-down grinder, he might still have significant success as the lead back in a committee. We’ve seen several big-bodied early-down grinders have multiple seasons of success in recent history, including:

  • LeGarrette Blount (2010, Undrafted): Two 1,000-yard season
  • Jeremy Hill (2014, 2.55): Two 1,000-yard seasons
  • Carlos Hyde (2014, 2.57): Three 1,000-yard seasons
  • Jordan Howard (2016, 5.150): Three 1,000-yard seasons

As a prospect, Dillon is comparable to Blount, Hill, Hyde and Howard — except he’s bigger and faster, and those factors are significant.

Dillon has a real shot to be a 1,000-10 back for multiple seasons.

Because of his rare physical attributes and voluminous college production, Dillon is unlike the vast majority of backs … but there is one player to whom he is screamingly similar, even if the comparison is imperfect.

And you know exactly who I’m talking about.

NFL Prospect Comp: Derrick Henry minus three inches of height, the SEC pedigree, the Heisman Trophy and a little bit of draft position


16. Cole Kmet, TE, Bears

  • Draft Position: 2.43 | School: Notre Dame
  • Height: 6’6” | Weight: 262 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.70 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 21 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4

UPDATE (Aug. 7): I’m holding my ground. Kmet should be targeted aggressively at his early-Round 3 average draft position.

If it smells like garbage and tastes like garbage, don’t eat it — because it’s probably garbage.

The landing spot for Kmet is not great. The Bears are in disarray on offense, and organizationally they don’t really seem to know what they’re doing.

But it’s important to remember that circumstances change, whereas the factors most predictive of NFL success are static.

I’m still bullish on Kmet: He seems likely to be an every-down contributor in 2021 when the team inevitably moves on from Jimmy Graham, and by 2022 he could be a top-10 player at the position.

But 2020 will be a sewage recycling plant, and 2021 might not be much better.

Still, he’s a 21-year-old Notre Dame tight end with Round 2 draft capital. That’s notable.

Over the past five years, Notre Dame has had something of a dry spell. But in the decade before that, the Fighting Irish sent a high-end tight end prospect to the NFL seemingly every other season.

  • Anthony Fasano: 2.53, 2006
  • John Carlson: 2.38, 2008
  • Kyle Rudolph: 2.43, 2011
  • Tyler Eifert: 1.21, 2013
  • Troy Niklas: 2.52, 2014

In Kmet, the Irish have another top-tier draft pick at the position.

Full disclosure: I’m higher on Kmet than most people in the industry, and I don’t care. I’m planting a flag.

I know that there’s nothing obviously great about Kmet when you watch him play. He’s not a remarkable route runner. He’s not a fierce playmaker. He’s not an after-the-catch dynamo. He’s about average when lined up in the slot and out wide. Per PFF:

Overall, he’s not really a player that is going to create on his own or win consistently in single coverage. Well over half of his 515 receiving yards were underneath the coverage or from finding a hole and when in single coverage he had just a 54.0 receiving grade.

His career positive play rate is significantly better against zone defense than man coverage (per SIS).

  • Positive play rate vs. man: 41%
  • Positive play rate vs. zone: 67%

What he gets is basically what the defense allows him. He’s a chain mover, not a difference maker.

On top of that, he’s a below-average run blocker — and that’s a problem considering that he’s most effective as a receiver when inline.

And as an athlete, he has no agility. At the combine, he had a 13th-percentile three-cone time of 4.41 seconds (per MD). He has no wiggle.

But other than all of that … he’s great. Wait, why are you walking away from me?

Cole Kmet

Here’s what I like about Kmet: He’s an inline-sized Day 2 pick, and most of the best players at the position over the past decade have been second- and third-rounders weighing 245-plus pounds, such as:

  • Rob Gronkowski (2010, 2.42): Six top-six seasons
  • Jimmy Graham (2010, 3.95): Six top-six seasons
  • Travis Kelce (2013, 3.63): Four top-six seasons
  • Zach Ertz (2013, 2.35): Three top-six seasons

And that’s to say nothing of Kyle Rudolph, Jordan Reed, Austin Hooper, Hunter Henry and Mark Andrews … and Jonnu Smith, Dallas Goedert and Mike Gesicki.

Not every second- and third-round tight end becomes a star, but if you want to find a future fantasy starter at the position, Day 2 is a great place to look.

And Kmet will play all of his rookie season at 21 years old. That’s incredibly important. Here are the receiving tight ends over the past 25 years to be drafted no later than Round 4 and to play their first season at age 21:

  • Tony Gonzalez (1997, 1.13): 16 top-10 seasons
  • Todd Heap (2001, 1.31): Four top-10 seasons
  • Jason Witten (2003, 3.69): 11 top-10 seasons
  • Kellen Winslow (2004, 1.06): Four top-10 seasons
  • Martellus Bennett (2008, 2.61): Three top-10 seasons
  • Jermichael Finley (2008, 3.91): One top-10 season
  • Rob Gronkowski (2010, 2.42): Six top-10 seasons
  • Aaron Hernandez (2010, 4.113): One top-10 season
  • Eric Ebron (2014, 1.10): One top-10 season
  • Maxx Williams (2015, 2.55): Career derailed by injuries
  • David Njoku (2017, 1.29): One top-10 season
  • Irv Smith Jr. (2019, 2.50): Waiting

Say what you want about some of those guys, but it would be hard to find a better collection of tight ends with so simple a screen.

Even though he’s not agile, Kmet is an explosive athlete. With his size, 40 time and 37-inch vertical and 123-inch broad jumps, Kmet has an 88th-percentile 126.3 burst score (per PP). He’s a straight-line player — but at least he can move in that straight line quickly.

In the RV Prospect Box Score Scout, the two players to whom he’s most comparable (on the basis of draft position, physical profile and college production) are Rudolph and Kelce.

cole kmet-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

As a young two-sport athlete who didn’t focus fully on football until 2019, when an elbow injury shelved his baseball career, Kmet should be able to develop enough as a route runner and blocker to be a functional three-down contributor.

Like most tight ends — even good ones — he will probably contribute little within his first couple of seasons. But he has top-five tight end potential and could offer great value in rookie dynasty drafts if he slides down the board as fantasy investors focus on this year’s glut of wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks.

NFL Prospect Comp: Kyle Rudolph but younger


TIER 4

17. Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Colts

  • Draft Position: 2.34 | School: USC
  • Height: 6’4” | Weight: 223 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.52 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 23 | Class: Senior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4

“Pittman”: More like “fit, man” — amirite? Because it’s a good fit … get it? N-E-Wayz …

Pittman will be an immediate starter in Indianapolis and a strong No. 2 option for a team that has craved a complementary receiver to pair with the speedy T.Y. Hilton for years. And as much as I love Hilton, he turns 31 years old this year and will be a free agent in 2021. This could be his last season with the Colts.

While he went near the top of Round 2, Pittman actually had some Round 1 buzz entering the draft, and although I never thought he’d crack the top 32, it wasn’t had to see why draftniks were enthusiastic about him: He’s a big-and-athletic Power Five receiver with a physical playing style and an NFL bloodline as the son of a long-time professional running back.

That seems like the kind of guy the NFL would want.

A reserve player as a freshman and rotational receiver as a sophomore, Pittman emerged as a junior to lead the Trojans with 758 yards and six touchdowns receiving, and then as a senior he had a full-on breakout with a 101-1,275-11 receiving campaign in 13 games.

michael pittman-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

Pittman is somewhat limited in that he lined up heavily out wide to the left over the past two years: He’s not a JuJu Smith-Schuster type of receiver who lines up all across the formation. And he’s not the sharpest of route runners.

But Pittman is unbelievably physical at the catch point. He uses his large frame well to box out defenders on contested catches. He naturally high points the ball. He has a huge catch radius. And he has great hands: Throughout his college career, he dropped just five passes on 176 catchable targets (per PFF).

And although he’s best on underneath and intermediate routes, he’s an under-appreciated downfield receiver thanks to his ability to win in one-on-one situations.

Pittman has a disappointingly Mike Evans-esque inability to accumulate after-the-catch production: He’s not quite a catch-and-fall specialist, but he doesn’t do much once the ball is in his hands. But he still has the potential to be an elite NFL receiver.

In 2019, Pittman utterly outclassed the other top-eight receivers by draft rank in his man-on-man dominance of opposing cornerbacks, as evidenced by positive play rate vs. man coverage.

  • Michael Pittman Jr.: 74%
  • Justin Jefferson: 67%
  • Tee Higgins: 62%
  • Henry Ruggs III: 58%
  • Jerry Jeudy: 48%
  • CeeDee Lamb: 48%
  • Brandon Aiyuk: 41%
  • Jalen Reagor: 32%

With his ability to man up defenders, Pittman has a good chance to be a consistent chain-moving and touchdown-scoring NFL receiver, even if he’s not an explosive yardage accumulator.

He has the upside for multiple 1,000-10 seasons.

NFL Prospect Comp: Marques Colston with major-program pedigree and way more draft capital


18. Denzel Mims, WR, Jets

  • Draft Position: 2.59 | School: Baylor
  • Height: 6’3” | Weight: 207 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.38 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 23 | Class: Senior
  • Recruitment Stars: 3-4

Someone had to go to the Jets. Unfortunately for Mims, it’s hims.

You have to figure that if Mims is as talented as we think he is, he’ll find a way to out-compete wide receivers Breshad Perriman and Quincy Enunwa and slot receiver Jamison Crowder for targets.

But even if Mims becomes the No. 1 receiver, he still might not have great production. Adam Gase has stifled and alienated talented receivers in the past — Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker and Robby Anderson — and serious questions surround third-year quarterback Sam Darnold.

But at least Mims should get many of the targets vacated this offseason by Anderson, and outside of situation, Mims has a lot to recommend him to investors.

He is an elite athlete, as evidenced by his otherworldly 4.38-second 40-yard dash and position-best 6.66-second three-cone drill. He has the size to compete on contested catches. And he has multiple seasons of notable production at the FBS level (61-1,087-8 receiving in 2017; 66-1,020-12 receiving in 2019).

denzel mims-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

Mims isn’t a polished receiver. Coming from Baylor, he has a limited route tree. And over the past two seasons, he had an unsightly 12.9% drop rate (per PFF). But with his athleticism and skill set, he could be a top-five fantasy receiver in three years.

He has Chris Godwin-like potential.

If Mims wins in the NFL, it probably won’t be because he’s a smooth technician with jaw-dropping routes. It will be because he’s just so dominant as an athlete and aggressive at the catch point: In 2019, he finished No. 2 in the nation with 20 contested catches (per PFF).

Even a little improvement in his routes could go a long way. An outright track star, Mims needs to work on his release, sharpen his cuts and expand his repertoire beyond curls, fades and slants. Essentially, he needs to transition from a sprinter to a receiver.

And it wouldn’t hurt if he got more work in the slot. In 2019, he played just 49 snaps in the interior; in 2018, zero. He’s an outside-only receiver, and that restriction might limit his upside.

But even with his technical flaws, Mims is an enticing player. He can produce at all levels of the field, and with just a little more development, he could be a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver.

Because he’s raw, he could certainly disappoint. He might never get even 800 yards in a season — especially with the Jets. But because of his talent, Mims might become a smaller Julio Jones-esque playmaker with a peak campaign of 1,600 yards.

NFL Prospect Comp: Martavis Bryant but with much more production


19. Chase Claypool, WR, Steelers

  • Draft Position: 2.49 | School: Notre Dame
  • Height: 6’4” | Weight: 238 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.42 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 22 | Class: Senior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4

It’s hard to know what Claypool’s role will be in 2020, given that the Steelers already have JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Diontae Johnson at wide receiver.

They also have Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald at tight end.

Targets might be hard to come by for Claypool in 2020, and it’s always important to remember that caution is advisable with rookie receivers anyway. They need time to develop.

But if the Steelers were totally satisfied with their three wide receivers, you have to figure that they wouldn’t have taken a fourth one in Round 2, right?

Smith-Schuster is slated to be a free agent in 2021; Washington, 2022. One way or another, there’s a good chance that Claypool will eventually replace one of those guys in the starting lineup.

Or maybe he’ll eventually replace Ebron and McDonald at tight end. They’re both free agents in 2022, and Claypool — who is physically comparable to Darren Waller — has been projected to the NFL as a tight end by some scouts.

But I think he has the tools to be a professional wideout.

He’s a perimeter-only receiver with average route-running technique, hands and after-the-catch production, but he is so physically dominant with his elite size, speed and explosiveness (per PP).

  • Speed Score: 129.8 (99th percentile)
  • Burst Score: 131.9 (92nd percentile)

Even if Claypool maxes out in the NFL as just a downfield specialist, he could still be a high-end producer thanks to his ability to beat overmatched cornerbacks in contested-catch situations.

chase claypool-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

It might take Claypool some time to develop at the NFL level, but it’s encouraging that he markedly improved each year at Notre Dame after playing primarily on special teams as a freshman (per PFF).

  • 2017 (11 games): 61.4 PFF grade, 29-402-2 receiving on 45 targets
  • 2018 (13 games): 69.1 PFF grade, 50-639-4 receiving on 73 targets
  • 2019 (13 games): 83.3 PFF grade, 66-1,037-13 receiving on 108 targets

For his career, Claypool has been similarly effective against both man and zone defense (per SIS).

  • Positive play rate vs. man: 59%
  • Positive play rate vs. zone: 58%

And in 2019, he was just as effective as many of the top receivers in the class at turning targets into expected points added (EPA, per SIS).

  • Chase Claypool: 0.50 EPA per target
  • Brandon Aiyuk: 0.50 EPA per target
  • Laviska Shenault Jr.: 0.41 EPA per target
  • Michael Pittman Jr.: 0.36 EPA per target
  • Denzel Mims: 0.34 EPA per target
  • Jalen Reagor: -0.08 EPA per target

With his talent and skill set, Claypool has the potential for maybe a D.K. Metcalf-esque rookie season and a Mike Evans-lite career.

NFL Prospect Comp: Vincent Jackson with major-program pedigree but far less college production


20. K.J. Hamler, WR, Broncos

  • Draft Position: 2.46 | School: Penn State
  • Height: 5’9″ | Weight: 178 pounds
  • 2020 Age: 21 | Class: Redshirt Sophomore
  • Recruitment Stars: 4

I should be higher on Hamler than I am: He might have the highest odds of NFL success of any Day 2 receiver, based on his young breakout age and college production.

But I don’t like his landing spot in Denver.

Because of his playmaking ability and deep speed, Hamler will have some week-winning performances in 2020 and beyond, but he’ll also be competing for targets for at least two more seasons with wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy and tight end Noah Fant.

And that doesn’t even take into account the targets that will go to running backs Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay, both of whom are above-average receivers.

There’s a real chance that Hamler will never be anything more than a field-stretching complement, which means he could be very inconsistent. As a result, he’s probably most investable in dynasty best ball.

Ultimately, Hamler feels like this generation’s Deon Butler. Oh, you don’t remember who that is?

That’s my point.

Hamler is a college slot receiver with raw routes and the distinct inability to beat press coverage — and in the NFL, he might need to play on the perimeter, because the Broncos might seek to maximize Jeudy’s matchups by giving him the majority of slot snaps.

And Hamler might struggle on the perimeter: If a defender gets his hands on Hamler before he builds up speed, he’s neutralized. Essentially, he’s a scheme- and usage-dependent producer, and he didn’t have a wealth of production in his two years of playing time at Penn State (per PFF).

  • 2018 (13 games): 42-754-5 receiving on 74 targets, 4-44-1 rushing
  • 2019 (13 games): 56-904-8 receiving on 92 targets, 13-43-0 rushing

Hamler is a competent kick returner (23.5 yards per attempt for his career), and it’s notable that he led the Nittany Lions in receiving in both his seasons.

But despite his versatility as a receiver, runner and returner, he’s a limited player.

And here’s the big problem: We don’t have a 40 time for him because he didn’t run at the combine. Everyone assumes that he’s fast — but people made that same assumption about Jalen Reagor too. As a recruit, he ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, which is good, but he ran it at 156 pounds.

Now that he’s 22 pounds heavier — and still small for an NFL receiver, by the way — we don’t know for sure how fast he is.

And as a senior in high school, Hamler suffered a season-ending ACL tear, which caused him to redshirt his first year at Penn State.

So — in summation — Hamler is a production-deficient, scheme-reliant slot-bound receiver with uncertain athleticism and a problematic injury history.

I can see why the Broncos drafted him in Round 2. Frankly, with that kind of profile, I’m surprised he didn’t go in Round 1.

kj hamler-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

In all seriousness, Hamler is not untalented. Last year, he had at least a step of separation on 64% of his targets of 10-plus yards, good for the fourth-highest rate in the country. And since 2018, he has the fourth-most plays of 15-plus yards in the slot with 41 (per PFF).

Although I don’t like to credit receivers with elite speed when we don’t have a verified 40 time, it’s undeniable that Hamler ran by a lot of defensive backs in college. He’s a dynamic athlete.

And in 2019, Hamler was quite comparable to Ruggs against man coverage, judging by their positive play rates (per SIS).

  • K.J. Hamler: 59%
  • Henry Ruggs III: 58%

In fact, over the past two years, Hamler and Ruggs have had somewhat similar production.

  • K.J. Hamler (26 games): 96-1,658-13 receiving on 166 targets, 17-87-1 rushing
  • Henry Ruggs III (26 games): 86-1,487-18 receiving on 123 targets, 2-75-1 rushing

Ruggs is clearly the more explosive player — but he also has one more year of college experience.

They’re both 21 years old. They’re both speedsters. They’re both top-50 picks. They were both highly recruited high-school stars.

NFL Prospect Comp: Ted Ginn but younger, shorter, less explosive as a return man and less invested with draft capital


TIER 5

21. Zack Moss, RB, Bills

  • Draft Position: 3.86 | School: Utah
  • Height: 5’9″ | Weight: 223 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.65 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 23 | Class: Senior
  • Recruitment Stars: 3

Given his draft position, Moss is likely to carve out a significant role as the thunderous touchdown-scoring complement to starter Devin Singletary’s lightning. As electric as he was last year, Singletary scored just four touchdowns.

But Singletary really flashed in 2019, especially in the second half of the season, when he put up 639 yards in the final eight games. There’s a real chance that, for at least 2020, Moss will be nothing more than Alexander Mattison to Singletary’s Dalvin Cook.

To me, Moss looks like an upside backup and maybe a lesser committee contributor. I have to acknowledge that there is significant enthusiasm around Moss in the scouting and draftnik communities, but I’m skeptical.

I appreciate that he was a strong producer for his three final collegiate campaigns.

  • 2017 (13 games): 214-1,1173-10 rushing, 29-243-0 receiving on 35 targets
  • 2018 (nine games): 179-1,096-11 rushing, 8-50-1 receiving on 10 targets
  • 2019 (13 games): 235-1,416-15 rushing, 28-388-2 receiving on 31 targets

And based on a combination of his PFF rushing and receiving grades, missed tackles per carry, yards after contact per attempt and yards per route run, Moss is the No. 1 backfield prospect from the 2017-20 draft classes.

PFF has him ranked as the most elusive back in the class and the No. 2 back overall. His profile in the PFF NFL Draft Guide is glowing.

Moss has been one of college football’s best running backs since his emergence as a true sophomore back in 2017. In each of the last three seasons, Moss has produced a PFF rushing grade that ranked among the 15 best at his position. He’s been one of the more elusive backs in that stretch, breaking 0.33 tackles per rush attempt, which was the third-highest rate. That’s very promising for his NFL future considering that trait translates from college to pro more than any other for ball carriers. He’s also produced the fifth-most explosive rushes of 10 or more yards since 2017, with 103 on his 626 carries. …

Moss ticks pretty much every box you’d like to see at the running back position except for speed. He’s got the size, vision, hands, and especially elusiveness.

The player to whom PFF compares him is Kareem Hunt.

Ugh. I don’t know.

I hate to go against the professional tape-grinding experts, because I openly admit that they know more than I do about what’s happening on the field.

Moss and Hunt are physically comparable, and they probably have similar playing styles, but Moss is unlike Hunt in significant ways.

Hunt was younger as a rookie (22 years old), a four-year contributor (5,500 yards, 45 touchdowns) and a better pass-catching back (41-403-1 receiving in senior season).

In other words, Hunt was simply the superior prospect entering the league.

Without question, Moss is an above-average, well-rounded back who runs with balance, vision and physicality and catches the ball with adequacy. But that’s what is always said about every over-hyped run-of-the-mill running back who gets drafted one year merely to be replaced the following year by yet another league-average back, who happens to look exactly like him.

zack moss-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

Moss might look like Hunt — but he also is pretty similar to Royce Freeman, Kenneth Dixon, Mike Davis, Robert Turbin and a whole host of backs people tend to forget.

And with backs who look like that, no one is very good at predicting which ones will have NFL success and which ones won’t.

If I’m wrong, I can live with it.

NFL Prospect Comp: Montee Ball with a thicker, more compact frame and less production, program pedigree and draft capital


22. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Buccaneers

  • Draft Position: 3.76 | School: Vanderbilt
  • Height: 5’10” | Weight: 214 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.51 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 23 | Class: Redshirt Senior
  • Recruitment Stars: 3-4

UPDATE (Aug. 7): I have bumped Vaughn down from Tier 3 to Tier 5, which is pretty much where I wanted to rank him after the draft — but I felt the pressure of the entire dynasty community to bump Vaughn up my board, and I am nothing if not a man of the people. But now that the Bucs have signed LeSean McCoy and head coach Bruce Arians has tapped Ronald Jones as the “main guy,” I am now free to move Vaughn down to where he belongs.

You hate to see it.

This is a straight-up appeasement pick. If I have Vaughn any lower in my rankings, I’ll have to forfeit my status as a card-carrying member of the dynasty industry guild.

The situation is ostensibly good for Vaughn in Tampa Bay.

He’s bigger than third-year running back Ronald Jones, and he might be the better receiver, given his 41-440-3 pass-catching stat line in his two years as the lead back for the Commodores.

It’s not hard to envision a scenario in which he wins the starting job, and there’s a lot of enthusiasm in the industry for what Vaughn could accomplish as the lead back in an offense led by quarterback Tom Brady.

If we compare what Jones and Vaughn did in college, there’s no question that Vaughn looks a lot better.

But it’s worth keeping in mind that Jones was significantly younger as a college prospect. In fact …

… well, that’s interesting.

You know, it occurs to me that — as a general rule — older players with no NFL experience generally don’t replace younger players with two seasons of professional service. Especially when the same general manager drafted both players, the younger guy at pick No. 38 and the older guy at pick No. 76. And especially when the same coach just saw the younger back get 1,000-plus scrimmage yards the year prior.

People are acting as if Jones is trash. He was admittedly horrible as a rookie (23-44-1 rushing, 7-33-0 receiving), but he was dealing with injuries, and the entire team was bad that year in the final season of head coach Dirk Koetter’s tenure. With Bruce Arians in 2019, Jones had 1,033 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns on just 203 touches.

Other than Jones (and Saquon Barkley), only 23 other backs selected in Rounds 1-3 have had 1,000-plus scrimmage yards as 22-year-old second-season players (per Pro Football Reference). These guys are among the most elite in NFL history.

The first four guys on the list: Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith.

The four most recent guys, right before Jones and Barkley, who did it last year: Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Joe Mixon and Christian McCaffrey.

What did these 23 guys do the year after putting up 1,000 yards at the age of 22?

They dominated.

With the exception of Le’Veon Bell and Edgerrin James — both of whom played only six games because of injury, and both of whom returned to form in their fourth seasons — only one of the 22-year-old 1,000-yard producers failed to lead his team’s backfield the following season: Marshawn Lynch in 2009, when he was benched in Buffalo and replaced by the 28-year-old veteran overachiever Fred Jackson.

You can say that Jones isn’t comparable to Lynch or McCaffrey or anyone else in the cohort. That might be fair.

Counterpoint: I can say that Vaughn isn’t comparable to F-Jax, who had five 1,000-yard campaigns in his career and was literally seven years removed from college when he took over for Lynch in 2009.

Vaughn is a rookie. A 23-year-old third-round rookie.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but based on how people are currently viewing Vaughn, I guess I do.

Over the past 20 years, only three backs to enter the league as 23-year-old third-rounders have had multiple seasons of NFL success: DeMarco Murray (2011, 3.71), Brian Westbrook (2002, 3.81) and Reuben Droughns (2001, 3.81).

I’m just going to assert out of hand that Vaughn is not Murray or Westbrook, both of whom were far superior as receivers in college.

  • Brian Westbrook (46 games): 219 receptions, 2,582 yards receiving
  • DeMarco Murray (50 games): 157 receptions, 1,571 yards receiving
  • Ke’Shawn Vaughn (46 games): 66 receptions, 648 yards receiving

Yeah … not even close.

But if you want to say that Vaughn has some Droughns-esque potential … haha … sure, you do that.

By the way, Droughns had only 258 scrimmage yards in his first three NFL seasons and didn’t accomplish anything in the NFL until Broncos HC Mike Shanahan decided to trade away lead back Clinton Portis and go cheap at the position.

But, yeah, Droughns is definitely the guy you want to hang your Vaughn hat on.

You can say that Vaughn is better than Jones as a receiver. He certainly was more productive in the passing game in college.

  • Ke’Shawn Vaughn (46 games): 66 receptions, 648 yards receiving
  • Ronald Jones (40 games): 32 receptions, 302 yards receiving

But last year Jones had a 31-309-0 receiving line on 40 targets — while splitting snaps with Ronald Jones and Dare Ogunbowale. That’s not bad.

Are we sure that Vaughn can do better than that? Maybe he can, but of the two backs, Jones is the only who has faced major league pitching, you know what I mean?

I don’t want to be in the position of needing to make a case against Vaughn — because entering the draft, I actually liked him as a prospect.

KeShawn Vaughn

As an 18-year-old freshman at Illinois, he led his team in rushing with 723 yards on 157 carries. After he transferred to Vanderbilt, he had two productive seasons against tough SEC competition while playing on a subpar team (6-7 in 2018, 3-9 in 2019). Per SIS:

  • 2018 (12 games): 157-1,244-12 rushing, 12-168-2 receiving on 17 targets
  • 2019 (12 games): 198-1,028-9 rushing, 29-286-1 receiving on 34 targets

Vaughn is a no-nonsense powerful runner and a competent all-around football player.

But he doesn’t make guys miss as a runner, and as a receiver, let’s not pretend as if he’s great. Per SIS: “He isn’t a great route runner and runs most of his routes out of the backfield in the form of check & release, swing and screen routes.”

If Vaughn had landed with any other team in the third round — literally any other team — people would not be talking about how underrated he is.

The circumstances look good for him in Tampa Bay … but circumstances can be hard to evaluate, and circumstances can change.

People are assuming that he’ll be able to beat out Jones for the lead job — and, again, I can easily see how it could happen — but what if he doesn’t?

What if the guy who had 1,000 yards last year and was selected with the higher pick and has two years of NFL experience and one year of credit with the coaching staff and is actually younger — what if that guy turns out to be the better NFL player?

If you like Vaughn, go ahead and draft him. Hopefully he does well for you. But I fear he’ll turn out to be just another 23-year-old third-round back.

I want to draft guys at a discount, and if I have to draft Vaughn in Round 1, I won’t be getting him on the cheap — and I don’t know why anyone would want to pay up for an older third-round running back who doesn’t have 100% unobstructed path to playing time.

NFL Prospect Comp: Kenneth Dixon with more draft capital and a little more speed but much less production


23. Lynn Bowden, RB/WR, Raiders

  • Draft Position: 3.80 | School: Kentucky
  • Height: 5’11″ | Weight: 204 pounds
  • 2020 Age: 23 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 3-4

Bowden worked out with the wide receivers at the combine, but he was announced as a running back when the Raiders drafted him.

Unlike Gibson, Bowden doesn’t have lead back potential, and he’ll probably be used as more of a gadget player and return man than a regular pass-catching change-of-pace back.

But I still like him, and he could develop into either a starting slot receiver or a No. 2 back, because he’s a talented player.

To put this in proper perspective: My mom’s name is Lynn … and I might love Lynn Bowden more than my mother. If she had won the 2019 Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s top all-purpose player and been named a first-team All-American for her all-around play, maybe I’d appreciate her.

But let’s get down to business.

Bowden was a high-school dual-threat quarterback who rushed for 2,277 yards, passed for 1,366 yards and scored 57 total touchdowns as a senior, but he was recruited to college as a converted wide receiver.

After playing as a supplementary offensive weapon and return man as a freshman …

  • Receiving: 17-210-0
  • Rushing: 12-37-0
  • Passing: 3-of-4 for 92 yards, 0-1 TD:INT ratio
  • Kick Returning: 37-869-0

… Bowden broke out as a sophomore slot man with a team-leading 67-745-5 receiving line, to which he added 9-25-0 rushing and two punt return touchdowns. For the season, he had a 79.5 PFF receiving grade and was a dynamic after-the-catch producer with 7.7 YAC per reception and 17 missed tackles forced as a receiver.

As a junior, Bowden was poised to build upon his previous pass-catching campaign, but in the middle of the team’s fifth game, he had to shift to quarterback because of injuries, and he stayed there for the rest of the season, going 6-2 as the starter and leading Kentucky to the postseason and a bowl victory.

While Bowden failed to impress as a thrower — he went 32-of-70 passing for just 364 yards and a 3-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a starter — he absolutely crushed as a wildcat runner.

In his eight full games at quarterback, Bowden rushed for 1,369 yards and 13 touchdowns on 172 attempts. He led all non-running backs with his 87.2 PFF rushing grade, and he bested most backs with his 0.3 broken tackles per carry.

And what did Bowden do in the first four games of 2019, before the team needed him to shift to quarterback? He had 385 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on 27 receptions and seven carries: Not bad.

lynn bowden-dynasty-rookie-fantasy-football-projections-freedman

As an offensive weapon, Bowden will need to be schemed the ball. In addition to traditional halfback runs, we’re talking about wildcat carries, jet sweeps, short routes and screens — and that likely limits his upside.

But he’s my kind of player: His versatility speaks to his overall skill set and on-field ability, and he simply finds a way to produce.

And even though he’s being listed as a running back now, I think he ultimately might end up at receiver. As a sophomore, he had a dominant 30% target share while playing 85% of his snaps in the slot (per SIS.

He has actual receiver capability, and the Raiders have a wide open depth chart at the position. If Bowden ever catches on in the slot, he could have a couple of top-24 fantasy seasons.

NFL Prospect Comp: Randall Cobb but older and thicker


24. Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals

  • Draft Position: 1.01 | School: LSU
  • Height: 6’3” | Weight: 221 pounds
  • 2020 Age: 24 | Class: Redshirt Senior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4

I like Burrow, but I don’t place a high value on quarterbacks outside of the 2QB/superflex format, so I won’t think about Burrow until the very end of Round 2, and even then, I’ll take him only if one of the players ranked Nos. 1-23 isn’t available.

He’s almost certain to start in Week 1, but unlike Kyler Murray last year, Burrow is not a dual-threat option, and so his scoring potential is capped.

Against subpar opponents, Burrow will likely have some startable weeks as a rookie, but not until 2021 is he likely to be a reliable fantasy producer.

It certainly helps that he has an under-appreciated wide receiver unit in A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross and second-rounder Tee Higgins and two strong receiving backs in Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard.

At this point, there’s not much that needs to be said about Burrow.

nfl-rookie of the year-odds-draft-joe burrow-chase young

He’s a Heisman Trophy-winning redshirt senior quarterback who went No. 1 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals and suits up as a 24-year-old rookie after a dominant final college season in which he turned two unknown underclassmen into 1,000-yard producers.

Wait, that is Joe Burrow, right?

Wrong. That’s 2003 Carson Palmer.

His receivers? The original Mike Williams and Keary Colbert.

As the wise man says, “Time is a flat circle.”

History reminds us that we should keep our quarterback expectations in check. Even though Palmer was the No. 1 overall pick, he didn’t even play as a rookie, and in his second season, he passed for just 2,897 yards and had an 18-18 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

In 2019, Burrow had probably the greatest passing season ever for a collegiate quarterback with 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns to six interceptions. His 76.3% completion rate and 12.5 adjusted yards per attempt were immaculate.

But I doubt strongly Burrow will be any better than a low-end fantasy QB1 in 2020 — and even that seems like a stretch. With Burrow, patience is advisable.

I am, though, optimistic about Burrow’s long-term potential. In 2005, Palmer’s second season as a starter, he was the No. 1 overall fantasy quarterback, and even after his serious knee injury in the 2005-06 playoffs, he was the the fantasy QB5 and QB9 for the 2006-07 seasons.

Burrow isn’t a dual-threat quarterback, but he is functional as a runner (3.2 yards per carry, including sacks, at LSU), and he has the pocket presence and accuracy to be perhaps a Tom Brady-esque impact passer: Last year, he led all draft-eligible passers with his 83% on-target rate (per SIS).

Burrow needs to work on his eye discipline: Sometimes he stares down his receivers, and he rarely manipulates defenders out of position with his eyes. And even though he started for two seasons at LSU, he is the epitome of a one-year wonder.

But, again, I like Burrow’s long-term potential and see him as a perennial QB1 in fantasy with top-five upside at his peak.

NFL Prospect Comp: Baker Mayfield with less youth and starting experience but superior size and peak production


TIER 6

25. Bryan Edwards, WR, Raiders

  • Draft Position: 3.81 | School: South Carolina
  • Height: 6’3” | Weight: 212 pounds
  • 2020 Age: 22 | Class: Senior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4

UPDATE (Aug. 7): I have come around on Edwards and decided to bump him up a couple of spots. He broke out as an 18-year-old freshman, and he could see more playing time as a rookie than I originally expected given the recent report that Henry Ruggs III will start the season in the slot.

Like former teammate Deebo Samuel, Edwards never had a truly dominant seasons for the Gamecocks, but he’s a four-year SEC starter who had a small breakout as a freshman and then consistently produced in his three final seasons.

  • 2017 (13 games): 64-793-5 receiving on 106 targets
  • 2018 (13 games): 55-846-7 receiving on 94 targets
  • 2019 (10 games): 71-816-6 receiving on 111 targets

A lot of his production came on screens, so he might not be an NFL-ready player, and he struggled to win consistently in one-on-one matchups. But he’s a big-bodied physical receiver, and even though he didn’t work out at the combine, he had a 4.53-second 40 as a recruit at 209 pounds, so he’s probably athletic enough.

Bryan Edwards

He might not play much as a rookie, but Zay Jones is in the final year of his contract, and the Raiders could easily part ways with Tyrell Williams after the seasons, which means that in 2021, Edwards could be a starting receiver for the Raiders alongside the first-rounder Ruggs and slot man Hunter Renfrow.

NFL Prospect Comp: Brandon LaFell but significantly younger


26. Devin Duvernay, WR, Ravens

  • Draft Position: 3.92 | School: Texas
  • Height: 5’10” | Weight: 200 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds
  • 2020 Age: 23 | Class: Senior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4

Duvernay was a steady if underwhelming contributor with 70-1,082-7 receiving in his three years at Texas, but as a senior he shifted into the slot, where he played 96% of his snaps (per SIS), and he broke out with a strong 106-1,386-9 receiving performance on 129 targets.

He also chipped in with 10-24-1 rushing and 10-205-0 kick returning in his final season.

With his elite speed, Duvernay will be able to stretch defenses vertically, and there could be targets to go around, given that the Ravens entered the draft with the No. 1 overall opportunity receiving score.

An Albert Wilson-esque slot man in his style of play, Duvernay could challenge veteran incumbent Willie Snead for playing time this year, and with Snead in the final season of his contract,

NFL Prospect Comp: Josh Huff but much faster


27. Van Jefferson, WR, Rams

  • Draft Position: 2.57 | School: Florida
  • Height: 6’1” | Weight: 200 pounds
  • 2020 Age: 24 | Class: Redshirt Senior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4

An Ole Miss recruit, Jefferson actually played ahead of A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf as a redshirt freshman in 2016, putting up a 49-543-3 receiving line, but in 2017, he fell behind Brown, Metcalf and also DeMarkus Lodge, so he transferred to Florida.

Because he graduated from Mississippi in three years, Jefferson was able to play right away for the Gators, and he’s led the team in receiving in each of the past two years.

  • 2018 (11 games): 35-503-6 receiving
  • 2019 (12 games): 49-657-6 receiving

I’ll be honest: This is a humility ranking. I’m putting Jefferson at No. 28 because he’s a second-round pick, and he has a decent chance to play a lot of the snaps vacated by the traded Brandin Cooks.

But he’s a 24-year-old mid-sized receiver who never flashed in college. That’s not the type of player I value. He can play inside and outside, and he’s a smooth route runner with above-average speed, but he’s not at all physical, and I doubt he’ll be able to compete against NFL corners.

Maybe I’m wrong. It’s promising that he had a 76% positive play rate vs. man coverage last year (per SIS).

NFL Prospect Comp: Deon Cain but older and with significantly more draft capital


28. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Dolphins

  • Draft Position: 1.05 | School: Alabama
  • Height: 6’ | Weight: 217 pounds
  • 2020 Age: 22 | Class: Junior
  • Recruitment Stars: 4-5

UPDATE (Aug. 16): Tagovailoa has bumped up another tier.

UPDATE (Aug. 7): Tagovailoa bumps up from the bottom of Tier 7 to the top of it thanks to the recent reports that he has been cleared to return to football activities.

The Dolphins actually did tank for Tua, after all.

I like the landing spot for Tagovailoa in Miami. I doubt that he will play in 2020, as the Dolphins will want to give him as much time as possible to recover from his hip injury, but he should be able to learn on the bench as a rookie behind veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, who should be a willing and intelligent mentor.

And whenever Tagovailoa gets the starting job in 2021, he’ll have wide receivers DeVante Parker and Preston Williams and tight end Mike Gesicki at his disposal.

On the whole, it’s a very positive situation for Tagovailoa, and maybe the best he could have hoped for after a potentially career-threatening hip injury in November ruined his hopes of going No. 1 overall.

His talent is unquestioned: In his abbreviated junior campaign, Tagovailoa completed 71.4% of his passes and had an elite 13.4 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A).

If you look at the SIS quarterback leaderboards, you’ll see Tagovailoa at the top of several key statistics for 2019.

  • Yards per attempt: 11.3 (1st)
  • Independent quarterback rating: 146.6 (1st)
  • Expected pointed added per dropback: 0.49 (1st)

And of course Tagovailoa’s numbers are almost as good for 2018, when he completed a nice 69.0% of his passes for 3,966 yards, a 12.8 AY/A and a 43-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

  • Yards per attempt: 11.2
  • Independent quarterback rating: 140.6
  • Expected pointed added per dropback: 0.43

For context: Burrow had only 0.39 expected points per dropback last year. Tagovailoa has bested that number twice.

But he also has massive injury concerns.

For Tagovailoa to be the better player, he actually has to be able to play. In the words of Aldous Snow, “How can you read when you are blind?”

It looks as if Tagovailoa is recovering well.

Sours: https://www.actionnetwork.com/fantasy-football/2020-dynasty-rookie-rankings-fantasy-football-drafts-freedman

Dynasty Rookie Rankings 2021


Dynasty Rookie Rankings

As exciting as the NFL Draft is, the conclusion of another three-day rookie spectacular is one of the most heralded events of the fantasy football calendar. Particularly in dynasty leagues, where rookie-only drafts begin to kick off often before their NFL counterpart even concludes. 

The 2021 freshman class is loaded with talented pass-catchers and also features some intriguing running backs to reinforce thinning depth. Dynasty fantasy managers and analysts have spent countless hours scouting this group and now that we know the landing spots, it's time to evaluate how rookie drafts should play out. 

Here are the top-50 dynasty rookie rankings for skill-position players for dynasty enthusiasts to consider as the 2021 NFL and fantasy season is now open for business. For comparisons to rookie output this season, check out our Fantasy Football Rankings page for 2021

RANKRANKPLAYERPOSTEAMRD(PICK)
11Najee HarrisRBPittsburgh Steelers1(24)
22Ja'Marr ChaseWRCincinnati Bengals1(5)
33Travis EtienneRBJacksonville Jaguars1(25)
44Jaylen WaddleWRMiami Dolphins1(6)
55DeVonta SmithWRPhiladelphia Eagles1(10)
66Kyle PittsTEAtlanta Falcons1(4)
77Javonte WilliamsRBDenver Broncos2(35)
88Rashod BatemanWRBaltimore Ravens1(27)
99Elijah MooreWRNew York Jets2(34)
1010Trevor LawrenceQBJacksonville Jaguars1(1)

Najee Harris checks all the boxes to be an elite, three-down NFL back: Superb size (6-1, 230), speed (thought to be in the mid-4.4 range), and underrated hands. Harris was only credited with 3 drops and caught 43 passes as a senior. The 2020 Doak Walker winner as the nation's top back, Harris reminds many of Steven Jackson and has even been compared to...Le'Veon Bell. Harris walks right into an ideal situation in Pittsburgh and should be a locked-in three-down player in a powerful offense, making him the easy choice as the top overall rookie and worthy of RB1 considerations even in redraft leagues.

When last seen, Ja'Marr Chase looked like the best receiver in college. That year, Chase led all FBS wideouts in touchdown receptions (18) and was second with 1,559 receiving yards snagging passes from one Joe Burrow. At 6-feet and 201 pounds, Chase blazed a 4.38 40 at LSU's Pro Day but really made a name for himself as an excellent route runner and dangerous downfield weapon. In 2019, he led the FBS with 22 broken tackles and ranked third in yards after contact. Now reunited with Burrow in Cincinnati, Chase will immediately take over the starting spot vacated by A.J. Green and gives the Bengals one of the best young skill-position groups in football. Chase looks like the next great LSU wideout and is certainly worthy of top rookie billing.

Ja'Marr Chase NCAA ranks in 2019:

1st in TD grabs (18)
2nd with 1559 receiving yards
2nd w/ 14.2 yards per target
2nd w/ 20.8 yards per catch
2nd w/ 119.8 yards per game
1st with 22 broken tackles
3rd with 346 yards after contact

— Jody Smith (@JodySmithNFL) August 30, 2020

Travis Etienne's 109.7-speed score ranked second among all notable incoming rookie running backs. In addition to generating extra yards via both power and determination, Etienne has superb hands and the ability to run any routes out of the backfield or lined out wide, giving him excellent flexibility in today's wide-open NFL offensive schemes. Etienne should be the perfect fit in the scheme that Urban Meyer wants to trot out in Jacksonville, but could open his career splitting reps with sophomore James Robinson and Carlos Hyde. When you consider the overall lack of depth at running back, Etienne is certainly worthy of being looked at as high as No. 2 and is far more than a third-down back.

Jaylen Waddle is regularly compared to Tyreek Hill due to his 4.37 speed and big-play skills as both a wideout and returner. At 5-9, 180, Waddle is on the smaller side but excelled as a deep threat, averaging nearly 19 yards per grab for a stacked Alabama squad. As the draft approached, Waddle was rumored to be the No. 2 wideout in the 2021 class and that's exactly how things played out as the Dolphins nabbed the dynamic playmaker one spot after Ja'Marr Chase. With the Dolphins, Waddle should immediately be a factor opposite Will Fuller, giving former teammate Tua Tagovailoa two premier downfield weapons. 

There may be a lousy track record for NFL wideouts that weigh 170 pounds, but 2020 Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith is a special talent who wins in all facets of the game-- including with his "Slim Reaper" nickname. Smith led the country with 117 catches and 1,856 receiving yards for the national champs and dominated in every area. Smith is a versatile weapon who can line up in the slot or be a dangerous outside threat, with elite route-running skills and an expansive route tree. He was also great at creating separation off the line of scrimmage and has the speed to be a dangerous big-play weapon. It's too early to tell if the Eagles missed on Jalen Reagor, but Smith is an excellent, versatile fit in Philadelphia and will reunite with QB Jalen Hurts. Smith has an extremely high floor and should start from Day One. He's a solid pick in the top half of the first round of rookie drafts.

Mel Kiper called Florida's Kyle Pitts the highest-graded tight end he has ever scouted and true to form, Pitts is the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history at No. 4 overall. In this case, the hype seems legit as Pitts posted a 99th-percentile 40 time (4.49) at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds. Along with being a physical marvel, Pitts also posted a 98th-percentile speed score and has the largest wingspan of any WR/TE over the past 20 years. In 2020, no quarterback threw more passes than Matt Ryan, so Pitts walks into an excellent spot and should face considerable mismatches as defenders account for Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Rookie tight ends are notoriously slow developers, so keep that in mind in redraft formats, but Pitts' upside at a position with little-to-no depth makes him a serious contender for a top-3 selection in rookie-only dynasty drafts.

Javonte Williams (5-10, 212) has prototype NFL size and is a dynamic between-the-tackles runner who also flashed excellent receiving chops in 2020 by snagging 25-of-30 targets at North Carolina. Williams was second in the nation with 19 carries inside the opponent's 5-yard line and punched in a nifty 22 scores, despite splitting carries. After posting an 11.02 agility score (89th-percentile), Williams was viewed by many in the draft community as this draft class's No. 2 back. The Broncos traded up to select Williams with the third pick on Round 2 and he should push Melvin Gordon for carries immediately. If the NFL announces that Gordon will have to serve a suspension due to an October arrest, Williams could conceivably run away with the starting job, giving him RB2 potential. 

Listed at 6-2, 210, Rashod Bateman actually measured in at 6-0, 190 but may have dropped some weight due to Covid. Regardless of his measurements, Bateman led the nation in yards per route run and was consistently able to create separation due to elite route-running skills. Bateman's landing spot in WR-needy Baltimore gives him the opportunity to start from Day One and his flexibility to play inside or outside makes the 21-year-old rookie a good bet to make an immediate fantasy impact. 

A lot of draftniks thought Mississippi WR Elijah Moore would be selected in the first round, but he managed to make it to the second pick of Round 2. Moore flashed elite athleticism at Mississippi's pro day, posting a 98th-percentile, 10.67 agility score and running a 4.35 40. Over 90 percent of Moore's snaps last season came from the slot, which is currently manned in New York by Jamison Crowder. However, Crowder, who missed four games last season and half of the 2018 campaign, could be a salary-cap casualty, which would open the door for Moore to start inside and build excellent chemistry with No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson. 

Trevor Lawrence checks all the boxes to be one of the top franchise signal-callers in the NFL and could be a QB1 as early as this season. Incredibly, Lawrence has never lost a regular-season game, which is a testament not only to his abilities but his leadership and drive. Jacksonville has some interesting pieces in place and should have an aggressive, quarterback-friendly offense with Urban Meyer at the helm. In superflex dynasty leagues, Lawrence is every bit worthy of top billing, but in standard 1QB formats, view Lawrence as a high-upside target to consider in the bottom half of Round 1.

RANKPLAYERPOSTEAMRD(PICK)
1111Terrace MarshallWRCarolina Panthers2(59)
1212Kadarius ToneyWRNew York Giants1(20)
1313Rondale MooreWRArizona Cardinals2(49)
1414Trey LanceQBSan Francisco 49ers1(3)
1515Justin FieldsQBChicago Bears1(11)
1616Michael CarterRBNew York Jets4(107)
1717Trey SermonRBSan Francisco 49ers3(88)
1818Chuba HubbardRBCarolina Panthers4(126)
1919Dyami BrownWRWashington Football Team3(82)
2020Zach WilsonQBNew York Jets1(2)

Terrace Marshall Jr. has ideal NFL size (6-2, 205) and speed (4.40) and was highly productive at LSU, where he caught 23 touchdowns in the past two seasons. By landing in Carolina, Marshall will be reunited with offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who engineered LSU's potent offense in 2019. Marshall has the ability to play inside or on the perimeter and should immediately start in three-wide sets, replacing Curtis Samuel. With RB Christian McCaffrey, WR D.J. Moore, and WR Robbie Anderson to account for, Marshall could see plenty of mismatches opportunities as a rookie and be quite fantasy-relevant right away. 

Due to his size (5-7, 181), Rondale Moore will be typecast as an NFL slot receiver, but his ability to consistently get open with elite footwork and a solid feel for exploiting zone coverage makes him an intriguing fit as a potential QB-friendly safety valve who could consistently absorb targets. Moore's pro day at Purdue really helped his cause, as the 20-year-old speedster ran a 96th-percentile 40 (4.37) and also boasted a 135.3 speed score (96th-percentile), and 10.78 agility score (94th). With longtime veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald still a free agent, Moore now has a clear path to starting inside for a potent Cardinals' attack and is a sneaky pick to lead all rookie wideouts in targets in 2021. 

Kadarius Toney was a surprise to some as the fourth wideout off the board, but he showed good versatility and athleticism at Florida. Toney has the ability to be a factor on jet sweeps due to his superb tackle-breaking ability, which is evidenced by his 96th-percentile burst score. At 5-11, 193, Toney can play on the perimeter or inside, where over 80% of his snaps occurred for the Gators. Therein lies the problem, as the Giants already have a locked-in slot receiver in Sterling Shepard and signed Kenny Golladay to start opposite Darius Slayton. Toney may have problems cracking New York's lineup early despite the first-round draft billing. His 2021 prognosis isn't great, but Toney is a decent dynasty hold in the top of Round 2.

A pair of superb collegiate quarterbacks each have a shot at posting top-15 fantasy statistics as rookies. Trey Lance is a darkhorse to post QB1 numbers right away. Robert Griffin III made an immediate impact as a rookie in Kyle Shanahan's offense, and Lance might be a better runner and rarely turned the ball over at North Dakota State. It's laughable how the Chicago Bears have never been able to land a long-term franchise signal-caller, but by trading up for Ohio State superstar Justin Fields, those days may finally be over. Fields could open the season behind Andy Dalton, but the rookie's accuracy and elite running ability make it only a matter of time before he sees action. Both of these young signal-callers have extremely high ceilings and warrant second-round attention in rookie-only drafts and top-5 value in Superflex formats. 

Mike Davis saved countless fantasy rosters last season when he performed admirably as Carolina's three-down back after Christian McCaffrey was injured. With Davis no plying his trade in Atlanta, Chuba Hubbard should be the new RB2 target. Hubbard rushed for 2,084 yards and 21 scores as a redshirt sophomore and routinely broke off big gainers at Oklahoma State. At 6-feet and 210 pounds, Hubbard can be a factor in short-yardage but still needs to develop as a receiver. He won't get many touches behind CMC, but is an ideal stash who offers RB2 upside in the event that McCaffrey was to miss time again.

RANKPLAYERPOSTEAMRD(PICK)
2121Amon-Ra St. BrownWRDetroit Lions4(112)
2222Amari RodgersWRGreen Bay Packers3(85)
2323Kenneth GainwellRBPhiladelphia Eagles5(150)
2424Pat FreiermuthTEJacksonville Jaguars2(55)
2525Mac JonesQBNew England Patriots1(15)
2626Nico CollinsWRHouston Texans3(89)
2727D'Wayne EskridgeWRSeattle Seahawks2(56)
2828Josh PalmerWRLos Angeles Chargers3(77)
2929Tutu AtwellWRLos Angeles Rams2(57)
3030Jaelon DardenWRTampa Bay Buccaneers4(129)

Highly productive at USC, Amon-Ra St. Brown is smaller (5-11, 197) than older brother Equanimeous but in a better spot to produce in Detroit's thin receiving corps. Amon-Ra ran a subpar 4.65 40, which will likely force him inside as a potential slot receiver where he can use his above-average burst and agility to create space underneath. With just Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams, and Quintez Cephus ahead of him on the depth chart, St. Brown could see significant snaps right away. 

The Green Bay Packers finally decide to get Aaron Rodgers some help just in time for Rodgers to say he wants out. Perfect. If the two sides can mend fences, third-round rookie Amari Rodgers could play his way into snaps as an inside option. Rodgers caught 77-of-102 targets for 1,020 yards and seven scores for Clemson in 2020 but posted disappointing measurables at his pro day. Still, Green Bay has little depth at wideout, so Rodgers should be on dynasty radars in the second or third round. 

Mac Jones was the favorite to go third overall but may have landed in a better spot in New England with Bill Belichick, who has an affinity for former Nick Saban pupils. While Cam Newton currently sits atop New England's depth chart, Newton was awful as a passer last season and could find himself usurped quickly. Jones has good size (6-3, 214) and lit up scoreboards last season with superb accuracy and touch. With Newton expected to open the season as the starter, Jones may not play right away but should become a factor if Newton continues to struggle. When Jones takes over, the Patriots will have to adjust their playbook quite a bit, but the rookie thrower could become a solid starter if his accuracy and anticipation carries over into the NFL. 

D'Wayne Eskridge averaged over 20 yards per catch in his final three seasons at Western Michigan and also contributed as a plus returner. At his pro day, Eskridge turned heads with a 4.38 40-yard dash and was far stronger than his 5-9, 190-pound frame would indicate. For the Seahawks to use their first pick on Eskridge indicates that Pete Carrol envisions an immediate role for the rookie on special teams and he could also open the season as the club's new No. 3 wideout after David Moore signed with Carolina. 

At 6-2, 210 and with 4.51 speed, Josh Palmer looks the part but put up innocuous numbers at Tennessee but was hurt by subpar quarterback play. Palmer used his size well to fend off smaller defensive backs and looks like he could be a plus option in the red-zone as a contested-catch weapon. The Chargers don't have a lot of depth outside of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, so Palmer could play his way into an immediate role with a strong showing this summer. 

RANKPLAYERPOSTEAMRD(PICK)
3131Kene NwangwuRBMinnesota Vikings4(119)
3232Tylan WallaceWRBaltimore Ravens4(131)
3333Tommy TrembleTECarolina Panthers3(83)
3434Davis MillsQBHouston Texans3(67)
3535Seth WilliamsWRDenver Broncos6(219)
3636Ihmir Smith-MarsetteWRMinnesota Vikings5(157)
3737Cornell PowellWRKansas City Chiefs5(181)
3838Rhamondre StevensonRBNew England Patriots4(120)
3939Elijah MitchellRBSan Francisco 49ers6(194)
4040Tre McKittyTELos Angeles Chargers3(97)

Tylan Wallace is a tough and rugged competitor who played bigger than his 5-11, 194-pound frame. As a sophomore at Oklahoma State, Wallace reeled in 86-of-144 targets for 1,491 yards and a dozen scores en route to being named a Biletnikoff Award finalist. Wallace tore his ACL in 2019 but came back more determined in 2020. Wallace has solid hands, good footwork, and solid ball-tracking skills and adds much-needed depth to a Raven wideout group that has been underwhelming. 

A superb in-line blocker, Tommy Tremble ran a solid 4.65 40 and posted an above-average speed score. Tremble's 124.9 burst score was in the top 15th-percentile and showed tons of utnapped potential in his 6-3, 240-pound frame. As with all rookie tight ends, Tremble will probably take some time to develop into a consistent pass-catching weapon, but the lack of depth at the position makes him worth a look in Round 3 or 4. 

Cornell Powell finally earned playing time with Clemson in 2020 and put up a 53/882/7 line on a 16% target share. Powell (6-0, 204) has solid size but posted a below-average speed score. The good news is Powell showed some burst and was a polished hands catcher. Although he is already 23, Powell landed in a potent offense and should be able to compete with underwhelming Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle.

Rhamondre Stevenson is also 23 and comes with a checkered past but could become an interesting short-yardage weapon if he embraces 'The Patriot Way'. Agile for a 230-pound back, Stevenson runs with power and determination and knows how to step in and pass protect. He also flashed decent hands by snagging 18-of-25 targets last season at Oklahoma. While Cam Newton will punch in most of New England's goal-line carries, Stevenson could shore up that area and be an option when the club turns to Mac Jones under center. 

San Francisco's backfield is crowded, but sixth-rounder Elijah Mitchell posted some impressive statistics and metrics at Louisiana-Lafayette. Mitchell blazed a 4.35-second 40-yard dash, which likely would have led the entire running back class if an organized Combine had taken place. Additionally, Mitchell's speed, burst, and agility scores all ranked in the top 20th percentile. Mitchell may have a tough time moving up San Francisco's depth chart, but he's a name to monitor this summer. 

RANKPLAYERPOSTEAMRD(PICK)
4141Kylin HillRBGreen Bay Packers7(256)
4242Jacob HarrisTELos Angeles Rams4(141)
4343Anthony SchwartzTECleveland Browns3(91)
4444Khalil HerbertRBChicago Bears6(217)
4545Kyle TraskQBTampa Bay Buccanneers2(64)
4646Brevin JordanTEHouston Texans5(147)
4747Simi FehokoWRDallas Cowboys5(179)
4848Kellen MondQBMinnesota Vikings3(66)
4949Jarett PattersonRBWashington Football TeamUDFA
5050Shi SmithWRCarolina Panthers

6(204)

There's no indication that Tom Brady plans to retire any time soon, former Florida QB Kyle Trask is in a great spot to learn behind the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Trask has outstanding size (6-5, 236) and threw for 4,283 yards and produced 46 total scores for the Gators against 8 interceptions. Trask flashed excellent downfield strength as a passer to go along with good touch and timing. While Brady has been very durable, Trask could be one play away from being handed the keys to one of the league's most potent offenses. 

Simi Fehoko is 6-foot-4, weighs 222 pounds, and ran a 4.44 at Stanford's pro day. That gave Fehoko an outstanding 113.7 speed score to go along with solid agility and a massive catch radius. He'lll be buried on deep and talented Dallas wide receiver depth chart, but Fehoko checks a lot of boxes that dynasty football managers with deep rosters will be interested in stashing. 

Jaret Patterson is short(5-6, 195) but was highly productive at Buffalo, where he posted three consecutive 1000-yard seasons as a rusher. It's not unheard of for short but compact running backs to make an impact in the league as change-of-pace options and that's the type of career trajectory that Patterson will be on. Thought by many draft analysts to be a potential fifth-rounder, Patterson went undrafted before joining Washington, where he'll compete with plodding veterans Peyton Barber and Lamar Miller for a roster spot. 

Another favorite of the draftnik community, Shi Smith played both inside and outside at South Carolina but projects to be strictly a slot option in the NFL. Smith makes a ton of sense in Carolina, where he could factor in as a ball-carrier, kick returner, and safety valve in an offense now devoid of Curtis Samuel. 

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Jody Smith

Jody is a member of both the Pro Football Writer's of America (PFWA) and Fantasy Sports Writer's Association (FSWA) and has been covering the NFL and fantasy football for over a decade. Jody won FantasyPro's Most Accurate Expert contest and also garnered the FSTA's accuracy award in 2012. A Houston native, Jody has covered the Texans locally since 2016 for both digital and radio audiences. Past writing stops include CBS Sportsline, Gridiron Experts, Pro Football Focus, Fanball, FantasyPro's. Jody is also a frequent guest on SiriusXM and Houston radio and his work regularly appears in print on newsstands each summer.

Sours: https://fantasydata.com/dynasty-rookie-rankings
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Updated Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings: Top 30 for redraft, dynasty, keeper leagues in 2020

The excitement of a new fantasy football season comes with renewed enthusiasm to tap into NFL offensive rookies who can have immediate impact. Whether you're in a redraft, dynasty, or keeper league, rookies represent the hope of finding fresh starters providing a big statistical boost. The most hyped first-year players, like Clyde Edwards-Helaire, will cost you a high draft pick, but many come at a lower-tier discount and qualify as "deep sleepers" or "lotto tickets," and you have little to lose by drafting one. 

Some fantasy football managers get obsessed with drafting and adding rookies because they love upside. Other fantasy football managers like to avoid rookie running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks because they represent unknown quantities — and prefer to stack rosters with "tried and true" veterans.

DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2020 cheat sheet

There's no right answer on how many rookies a manager should target because the depth of the rookie talent pool varies across positions in a given year. Updated with what we know about the 2020 rookies and their current situations through the middle of training camp, here's how they stack up against each other, with both short- and long-term value in mind:

2020 PPR RANKINGS
Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Superflex | Top 200

h2>Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings 2020: Draft 'em

1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs

Edwards-Heiaire's stock has shot up since Damien Williams' decision to opt out for the season, putting him in prime position to be a heavy-touch lead back in a premier offense. He has higher value in PPR because of his elite pass-catching skills, but he can also help Patrick Mahomes finish a lot of drives with TDs. Draft him as a RB1.

2. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts

Taylor is looking at an initial timeshare on early downs with Marlon Mack, and Nyheim Hines is still there to contribute in a dedicated receiving role. That said, the former Wisconsin feature back is the Colts' only complete option and should see an increasing amount of touches after the early spit. Taylor's value is boosted by being in an elite high-volume rushing offense. Draft him as an RB2.

3. Cam Akers, RB, Rams

Akers, with Darrell Henderson coming off an ankle injury as.a second-year change-of-pace and veteran Malcolm Brown being a simple power back with little upside, has a good chance to take over something close to feature duties sooner rather than later with his somewhat untapped skill set Sean McVay has said the Rams are comfortable with a committee replacing Todd Gurley, but Akers can do everything they need to lean back toward a primary one-back approach. Draft him as an RB2.

2020 STANDARD FANTASY RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Superflex | Top 200

4. D'Andre Swift, RB, Lions

Swift has less competition for significant touches in relation to Taylor, given Kerryon Johnson, who's had knee-related durability issues, is the Lions' other young option. Previous recent Georgia backs (see Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel) also have turned their pedigree into good fantasy value early, The one issue is how well you trust Detroit to run the ball better in 2020. Draft him as an RB2.

5. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ravens

Dobbins is an extremely talented back Baltimore didn't expect to draft. As a luxury pick for the league's most prolific rushing offense with Lamar Jackson, the key for Dobbins' returning rookie fantasy value close to his massive upside is getting significant opportunities along with or ahead of Mark Ingram. Because the Ravens can run so well, Dobbins has a nice flex floor with a chance to do a whole lot more. Draft him as a RB3.

6. Zack Moss, RB, Bills

So much for Devin Singletary getting a chance to greatly build on his 15 rookie touches per game in something resembling a feature role with Frank Gore gone. Enter Moss to take over the power-running duties as Buffalo forms another committee. Singletary will be the receiver of choice out of the backfield, but Moss also has some viable skills in that area. Draft him as an RB3 or RB4.

7. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Cowboys

The Cowboys will continue to employ a lot of 11 personnel under offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and trust Dak Prescott to remain a prolific passer, now armed with his third top weapon to join Amari Cooper (a WR1) and MIchael Gallup (a WR3). The Cowboys have 190 vacated targets with Randall Cobb and Jason Witten gone, second-most in the NFL. There's room for an elite talent such as Lamb to produce pleasing fantasy results, too. Draft him as a WR4

8. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB, Buccaneers

Vaughn has had a tough rookie offseason because of the virtual program and beginning camp on the reserve/COVID-19 list. There's not complete trust he can handle either the early-down or passing-down role consistently enough to the liking of coach Bruce Arians, who for now is sticking with Ronald Jones in the lead and tabbing Dare Ogunbowale for more receiving duties with Tom Brady. The team also signed fading veteran LeSean McCoy for further insurance. But it's not like Jones inspires much confidence, McCoy has much left, or Ogunbowale is capable of an expanded role. The offense may turn to Vaughn's versatility and fresh legs at any point, making him worth a high-end stash. Draft him as a RB4.

2020 FANTASY SLEEPERS:
6 QBs | 16 RBs | 14 WRs | 10 TEs | 5 D/STs | One from each team

9. Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals

Burrow takes over Zac Taylor's offense from Andy Dalton, who finished as QB20 in terms of average fantasy points per game last season. That offense is improved with a healthier line, more receiving depth with A.J. Green and Tee Higgins, and solid returning receiving backs in Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard. The Bengals have a defense in transition and should be throwing often, and Burrow can handle that kind of volume. He makes for a high-end fantasy backup who can creep into the back-end QB1 conversation at some point. Draft him as a QB2.

10. Henry Ruggs III, WR, Raiders

The Raiders drafted Ruggs to fill the spot that was never really occupied by Antonio Brown. Ruggs is a speedy big-play receiver who doesn't have the best big-play QB situation, but he can make it up for it with heavy starter snaps outside opposite Tyrell Williams and in the slot ahead of Hunter Renfrow in some sets. The Raiders want to use more 12 and 13 personnel with Witten joining Darren Waller and Foster Moreau. Waller returns as Derek Carr's top target, and both Josh Jacobs and Jalen Richard will catch plenty out of the backfield. Ruggs steps into a crowded AFC West situation, so also temper your early expectations for him. Draft him as a WR5.

11. Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings

Jefferson has a direct path to the starting lineup, replacing Stefon Diggs opposite Adam Thielen with limited competition in Tajae Sharpe and Olabisi Johnson. But the Vikings will remain an effective run-heavy team with the most limited usage of 11 personnel, which won't facilitate the transition for Jefferson, who exploded as a dedicated slot receiver at LSU. He will make his share of big plays and be involved often — his inexperience just suggests it won't be anything resembling Diggs' 2019 production. Draft him as a WR5.

12. Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Colts

Pittman has gotten high praise from coach Frank Reich because of his size, hands, vertical speed and toughness. That makes him the ideal "X" receiver outside opposite T.Y. Hilton, ahead of re-signed Zach Pascal with second-year quickster Parris Campbell tabbed for the slot. The Colts, in transition at tight end with Philip Rivers, should adjust to using more 11 personnel. Regardless, given Hilton's age and durability issues, Pittman could easily end up looking more like their No. 1 for their new QB at some point. Draft him as a WR5.

MORE FANTASY FOOTBALL:
Auction values | IDP Rankings | Projections | Mock draft simulator | Team names

13. Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington

Is Gibson a running back or wide receiver? Ron Rivera and Scott Turner see him as a bit of both, with some of the short-area quickness and speed attributes of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. Without Derrius Guice, Gibson has a chance to be the top change-of-pace tailored to the passing game ahead of J.D. McKissic to replace Chris Thompson. While Adrian Peterson works to hold off Peyton Barber and Bryce Love for the main early-down work, Washington will find ways to deploy Gibson's big playmaking, as it has little sources of that for Dwyane Haskins after Terry McLaurin and Steven Sims Jr. Gibson has a lot more intrigue in PPR formats. Draft him as a RB5.

14. Brandon Aiyuk, WR, 49ers

Aiyuk may need to see a larger role in replacing Emmanuel Sanders with Deebo Samuel likely to miss some early time with a foot injury. Coming off core muscle surgery and inexperienced in a complex offense, Aiyuk may need a little time to transition into a reliable NFL big-play threat. The key for Aiyuk while Samuel is out is proving that he can be trusted outside in two- and three-receiver sets, eventually ahead of Kendrick Bourne with Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd toggling in the slot. There are a lot of mouths to feed here, however, led by tight end George Kittle. Draft him as a WR6.

15. Jalen Reagor, WR, Eagles

Reagor is another speedy field-stretcher from a deep wideout class. With DeSean Jackson back healthy from core muscle surgery to return as Carson Wentz's primary deep-threat "Z" receiver, Reagor was set to be brought along behind him in that role. Reagor isnt really a slot option, and the Eagles figure to remain 12-personnel leaning with tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. With the early status of Alshon Jeffery (foot) iffy, that could give Reagor opportunities, but second-year receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside may be preferred for that "X" spot outside. Reagor, after coming back from his shoulder injury, likely needs Jackson to be shelved to return good rookie value, but he has a bright future beyond this season. Draft him as an WR6.

16. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Broncos

Jeudy is set to be the No. 2 outside receiver opposite Courtland Sutton, but the Broncos are breaking in a new offense with Drew Lock and have admitted it hasn't been the easiest on the rookies. They also have tight end Noah Fant, fellow rookie K.J. Hamler and DaeSean Hamilton in the receiving mix for Pat Shurmur's 11 personnel. They also still figure to remain run-oriented with Melvin Gordon joining Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. That all gives Jeudy somewhat limited upside at first. Draft him as a WR6. 

DRAFT STRATEGY AND RANKINGS TIERS: 
Quarterback | Running Back | Wide Receiver | Tight End | D/ST

17. A.J. Dillon, RB, Packers

Dillon is going nearly two rounds ahead of Jamaal Williams with the assumption he has more upside as Aaron Jones' backup. That's true to some degree because as a strong power runner, he can also provide the same burst Jones does on early downs. On the other hand, Dillon can't replace Jones as a effective pass-catcher and pass-protector for Aaron Rodgers the way Williams can. As long as Williams remains on the team, Dillon is more of a stash who can only have a big role in case Jones has to miss time. Draft him as a RB5.

x. Darrynton Evans, RB, Titans

Evans replaces Dion Lewis behind reigning NFL rushing champion and fantasy stud workhorse Derrick Henry. Evans is a capable receiver and a major upgrade in terms of being able to explosively run when filling for Henry. Evans won't have too much standalone value, even in PPR, but he makes for a must-have, high-end handcuff for all who draft Henry — and a solid lottery ticket for those who don't. Draft him as a RB5.

24. Bryan Edwards, WR, Raiders

Edwards was the other very talented wideout the Raiders took behind Ruggs. He has the size, hands, and underrated speed to take over the starting role occupied by Tyrell Williams, sooner rather than later given Williams is coming off a tough foot injury and now has a hurting shoulder. Between Williams, Ruggs, Renfrow and Nelson Agholor, how the Raiders will exactly line up in two- and three-wideout sets has become a greater mystery. Should Edwards solve some of it by getting regular snaps with Ruggs, watch out. Draft him as a WR6 or 7

25. Joshua Kelley, RB, Chargers

Austin Ekeler had a highly efficient season in 2020, turning his average of 14 touches per game into 1,550 scrimmage yards and 11 TDs. He will be their non-traditional lead back, certain to see their primary receiving work. But with Melvin Gordon gone, the Chargers have 191 vacated carries, fifth most in the NFL. Justin Jackson, who filled in well for Gordon in stretches when healthy himself, is in line to get the first shot at the bulk of them. But Jackson isn't the most durable back and Kelley has more big-run juice. Kelley might be a handcuff to half a committee, but he's a worthy stash. Draft him as a RB6.

FANTASY DRAFT STRATEGIES: 
Snake draft | Auction | Best ball | Dynasty | IDP

Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings 2020: Watch 'em

21. Anthony McFarland, RB, Steelers

The team isn't fully trusting in James Conner as a feature back and don't want to overload him. When Conner broke down with two injuries last season, they got limited early-down power and receiving results, respectively, from Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels. They want more ability to reel off long runs and a fast change of pace in relation to Conner. McFarland is limited as a receiver, but like Kerryth White, his speed is a real asset that can get him opportunities behind Conner ahead of Snell and Samuels, who faces the real possibility of being cut.

22. Chase Claypool, WR, Steelers

The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger coming back to throw often to JuJu Smith-Schuster, and it's clear second-year man Diontae Johnson will be their high-upside No. 2. But because Smith-Schuster is such a dominant force in the slot, the Steelers need to find the right option opposite Johnson in 11 personnel. With James Washington fading and having limitations as a big-play threat, starting camp on COVID-19, and not always having the biggest fan in Big Ben, don't be surprised if Claypool — with exceptional speed to go with great size (6-4, 238 pounds) — jumps him for that No. 3 deep-threat role.

23. James Robinson, RB, Jaguars

Robinson cracks the rankings after the team released Leonard Fournette. The undrafted player from Illinois State has been very impressive filling as the No. 2 back in camp when needed when Ryquell Armstead hasn't been available. He probably played a part in making Fournette expendable so close to the season. This might start as a full-blown committee with Armstead, Thompson and a little bit of Robinson, but don't sleep Robinson stepping into a bigger role.

24. Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Jaguars

The Jaguars have DJ Chark as the No. 1, but their No. 2 option, slot receiver Dede Westbrook, is coming off a dropoff season. Chris Conley had a decent first season In Jacksonville, and Keelan Cole is still around for now. Thompson and Tyler Eifert add two more new options in the mix for Garnder Minshew. If Shenault can shake off his injuries, he will get chances to be a big-play factor. The amount of those chances will depend on whether things break down ahead of him short of Chark, as Jacksonville doesn't have the most durable core of veterans.

25. Tee Higgins, WR, Bengals

Higgins is expected to play most in the Bengals' 11 personnel opposite A.J. Green along with slot ace Tyler Boyd, ahead of Auden Tate and John Ross. The Clemson product has a nice combination of big-play speed and size for the red zone. Higgins is set up to produce in flashes; the substance will come only with clarity in the pecking order, where he's currently behind Green, Boyd and the running backs.

26. Lamical Perine, RB, Jets 

Adam Gase did add old friend Frank Gore behind Le'Veon Bell, the back he's learned not to hate. But Gore is 37, coming off a season where he looked washed with the Bills, and Gase doesn't always have the warmest feelings toward Bell, who is unlikely to be in the team's plans in 2021. So, there's a chance this backfield could be handed off to Perine at some point in the second half of the season.

27. Denzel Mims, WR, Jets

Who's excited for the Jets' passing game with Sam Darnold? Jamison Crowder figures to remain the go-to guy in the slot while Breshad Perriman replaces Robby Anderson as a more well-rounded deep threat. Also, don't forget about tight end, where the Chris Herndon hype train is starting to gain steam again and Ryan Griffin still can be a factor. Bell also isn't going anywhere as a dump-off outlet. Mims needs a lot to break in his favor to be more than a production blip as a rookie.

28. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Dolphins

The Dolphins' QB competition is "open", but Tagovailoa is fully expected to sit behind Ryan Fitzpatrick for a while. Fitzpatrick can remain the ultimate bridge with his knowledge of Chan Gailey's offense with one year left on his contract to buy Tagovailoa time to bury his durability issues and develop as a pro passer. Watch for Tagovailoa getting a shot in the second half of the season at a time when Miami is out of playoff contention.

29. Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers

Herbert isn't really in a competition as Tyrod Taylor will be the Chargers' starter, given his experience with his teammates and offensive-minded coach Anthony Lynn. The Chargers are hopeful to get back into playoff contention, so if Taylor's healthy in the final year of his contract, there would much less of a chance for Herbert to see the field in 2020 vs. Tagovailoa.

30. Van Jefferson, WR, Rams

The Rams traded Brandin Cooks and are back to elevating Josh Reynolds into the No. 3 wideout role behind Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. In reality, with tight end Tyler Higbee also being part of the passing game, Reynolds isn't lined up for high volume. Jefferson is technically sound with good enough hands and quickness to think at some point he'll get opportunities over Reynolds — they just may be very limited as a rookie unless injuries befall the other veterans.

Sours: https://www.sportingnews.com/us/fantasy/news/updated-fantasy-football-rookie-rankings-top-30-redraft-dynasty-keeper-leagues-2020/1var30i507lhl1hdslhvx7tv05
Fantasy Football Dynasty Rookie Draft 2021 (Couch Dynasty League)

Updated 2020 Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings: Post-NFL Draft

Welcome back RotoBallers! Below you will find our staff's updated 2020 fantasy football rookie rankings (top 130). These rankings are being released after the 2020 NFL Draft, but things will of course change as we get closer to the start of the NFL season. Adjustments to these rookie rankings will be made all offseason long up until Week 1, so be sure to check back regularly for updates. You can also see all of our team's other great articles and analysis of the 2020 NFL rookies, now that the NFL Draft has concluded, including more detailed breakdowns and analysis of the rookies by position:

Four of our lead fantasy football analysts - Pierre Camus, Brandon Murchison and Phil Clark - have analyzed last year's college football season, the NFL Combine, the NFL offseason moves and of course the results of the NFL Draft - they are ready to rock. Below you will find their consensus staff rookies ranks for 2020 fantasy football, which will be updated regularly up until the start of the 2020 season. Feel free to click those links and give these fine gentlemen a follow, or let them know how much you love or hate their rankings.

Be sure to also check out our 2020 fantasy football rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of other great rankings. In case you missed it, you can also see our PPR rankings, Half-PPR rankings, Standard rankings, Best Ball rankings and Dynasty League rankings. Bookmark that page, and prepare for all of your drafts.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 11 award nominations, tops in the industry, by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Football Writers of the Year, Baseball Writers of the Year, Best Ongoing Football Series and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller!Read More!

 

NFL Rookie Rankings for Fantasy Football (Post-Draft)

Rankings table below last updated on August 28th, 2020.



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Sours: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-fantasy-football-rookie-rankings-post-nfl-draft/734788

Rankings rookie 2020 dynasty

Fantasy football rankings: Top-70 rookies for dynasty leagues

Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Sep 6, 2020
  • Mike ClayESPN Writer

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    • Fantasy football, NFL analyst for ESPN.com
    • Member of Pro Football Writers of America
    • Founding director of Pro Football Focus Fantasy
    • 2013 FSTA award winner for most accurate preseason rankings

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Here's a look at the impact of incoming rookies in fantasy football. If you just want the list of the top 80 rookies, that is below. However, if you want a profile on the top players by position for the class of 2020, the links appear in the window below.


1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, KC -- RB1 (Age: 21-4)
2. Jonathan Taylor, IND -- RB2 (Age: 21-7)
3. CeeDee Lamb, DAL -- WR1 (Age: 21-5)
4. Jerry Jeudy, DEN -- WR2 (Age: 21-4)
5. J.K. Dobbins, BAL -- RB3 (Age: 21-8)
6. D'Andre Swift, DET -- RB4 (Age: 21-7)
7. Cam Akers, LAR -- RB5 (Age: 21-2)
8. Henry Ruggs III, LV -- WR3 (Age: 21-7)
9. Tee Higgins, CIN -- WR4 (Age: 21-7)
10. Justin Jefferson, MIN -- WR5 (Age: 21-2)
11. Brandon Aiyuk, SF -- WR6 (Age: 22-5)
12. Jalen Reagor, PHI -- WR7 (Age: 21-8)
13. Zack Moss, BUF -- RB6 (Age: 22-8)
14. Antonio Gibson, WAS -- RB7 (Age: 22-2)
15. Michael Pittman Jr., IND -- WR8 (Age: 22-11)
16. Laviska Shenault Jr., JAC -- WR9 (Age: 21-11)
17. AJ Dillon, GB -- RB8 (Age: 22-4)
18. Denzel Mims, NYJ -- WR10 (Age: 22-11)
19. KJ Hamler, DEN -- WR11 (Age: 21-2)
20. Chase Claypool, PIT -- WR12 (Age: 22-2)
21. Van Jefferson, LAR -- WR13 (Age: 24-1)
22. Bryan Edwards, LV -- WR14 (Age: 21-9)
23. Joe Burrow, CIN -- QB1 (Age: 23-9)
24. Tua Tagovailoa, MIA -- QB2 (Age: 22-6)
25. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, TB -- RB9 (Age: 23-4)
26. Darrynton Evans, TEN -- RB10 (Age: 22-2)
27. Devin Duvernay, BAL -- WR15 (Age: 22-11)
28. DeeJay Dallas, SEA -- RB11 (Age: 21-11)
29. La'Mical Perine, NYJ -- RB12 (Age: 22-7)
30. Joshua Kelley, LAC -- RB13 (Age: 22-9)
31. Anthony McFarland Jr., PIT -- RB14 (Age: 22-6)
32. Lynn Bowden Jr., MIA -- RB15 (Age: 22-10)
33. Tyler Johnson, TB -- WR16 (Age: 22-0)
34. Antonio Gandy-Golden, WAS -- WR17 (Age: 22-4)
35. Justin Herbert, LAC -- QB3 (Age: 22-6)
36. Jordan Love, GB -- QB4 (Age: 21-10)
37. Adam Trautman, NO -- TE1 (Age: 23-7)
38. Cole Kmet, CHI -- TE2 (Age: 21-6)
39. Devin Asiasi, NE -- TE3 (Age: 23-0)
40. Harrison Bryant, CLE -- TE4 (Age: 22-4)
41. Gabriel Davis, BUF -- WR18 (Age: 21-5)
42. Jalen Hurts, PHI -- QB5 (Age: 22-1)
43. Quintez Cephus, DET -- WR19 (Age: 22-5)
44. Josiah Deguara, GB -- TE5 (Age: 23-6)
45. Collin Johnson, JAC -- WR20 (Age: 22-11)
46. Dalton Keene, NE -- TE6 (Age: 21-4)
47. Brycen Hopkins, LAR -- TE7 (Age: 23-5)
48. Albert Okwuegbunam, DEN -- TE8 (Age: 22-4)
49. Eno Benjamin, ARI -- RB16 (Age: 20-8)
50. Jacob Eason, IND -- QB6 (Age: 22-9)
51. Colby Parkinson, SEA -- TE9 (Age: 21-8)
52. John Hightower, PHI -- WR21 (Age: 24-3)
53. Isaiah Hodgins, BUF -- WR22 (Age: 21-10)
54. James Proche, BAL -- WR23 (Age: 23-11)
55. Isaiah Coulter, HOU -- WR24 (Age: 21-11)
56. Joe Reed, LAC -- WR25 (Age: 22-8)
57. Darnell Mooney, CHI -- WR26 (Age: 22-10)
58. K.J. Osborn, MIN -- WR27 (Age: 23-3)
59. Malcolm Perry, MIA -- RB17 (Age: 23-4)
60. James Robinson, JAC -- RB18 (Age: 22-1)
61. K.J. Hill, LAC -- WR28 (Age: 22-11)
62. Donovan Peoples-Jones, CLE -- WR29 (Age: 21-6)
63. Quez Watkins, PHI -- WR30 (Age: 22-3)
64. Tyrie Cleveland, DEN -- WR31 (Age: 22-11)
65. Freddie Swain, SEA -- WR32 (Age: 22-1)
66. Jake Fromm, BUF -- QB7 (Age: 22-1)
67. James Morgan, NYJ -- QB8 (Age: 23-6)
68. Rico Dowdle, DAL -- RB19 (Age: 22-2)
69. Xavier Jones, LAR -- RB20 (Age: 23-0)
70. Jason Huntley, PHI -- RB21 (Age: 22-4)

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Sours: https://www.espn.com/fantasy/football/story/_/id/28828241/2020-fantasy-football-rankings-top-70-rookies-dynasty-leagues
Dynasty Rookie Rankings Fantasy Football 2021

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