For many of us, the conclusion of the NFL draft means we will soon be on the clock in our fantasy lives. Dynasty league rookie drafts are happening soon — very soon. I'm days away from my first such draft of 2019, which means the new kids need to be ranked and sorted.
Today, you're getting a look at my initial attempt to value this year's rookie class for fantasy purposes. This is back-of-the-envelope stuff, just for the record. We're trying to evaluate a pile of traits here, including individual talent level, short-term opportunity, and longer-range developmental potential.
And of course, if you're a dynasty owner, your decisions are going to be influenced by your immediate fantasy needs.
So those are the caveats. These are the round-by-round ranks:
1. Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland
2. David Montgomery, RB, Chicago
3. Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia
4. Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona
5. N'Keal Harry, WR, New England
6. Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City
7. AJ Brown, WR, Tennessee
8. Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco
9. TJ Hockenson, TE, Detroit
10. Noah Fant, TE, Denver
11. Andy Isabella, WR, Arizona
12. DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle
Each of the three running backs at the top has a clear shot at substantial early-down (if not every-down) workloads. Jacobs is excellent, the only back selected in the draft's first round, and his competition for touches is nonexistent following the unfortunate Isaiah Crowell injury news. Jacobs produced on the biggest stages as a collegiate player, against exceptional defenses, and he's a capable receiving threat. There's little question he'll be the first rookie selected in redraft formats; likely a Round 3 pick.
Chicago traded significant draft assets in pursuit of Montgomery, a back who seemed to gain 2-3 more yards than he should have on every college carry. He has obvious 240-plus touch potential and pairs well with Tarik Cohen.
Sanders is stepping into a murkier backfield situation, but he's a do-everything prospect coming off a productive season and a stellar combine (6.89 three-cone). Philly's front office seems wildly enthusiastic about his arrival. Like Jacobs and Montgomery, he has a shot at 1000 scrimmage yards in a healthy season, despite the Eagles' crowded depth chart.
You probably don't need an expert to tell you that Murray is the clear No. 1 rookie dynasty pick in superflex and two-QB leagues. He shredded the trash-bag defenses of the Big 12 last season, for whatever that's worth; more impressively, he held his own in the comeback effort against Alabama in the Orange Bowl. Murray steps into what should be an exceedingly fantasy friendly offense, surrounded by new and interesting pieces. (Isabella is a burner, a former prep track standout who was enormously productive at UMass. He's gonna be good. If you can get him at the turn in a rookie draft, it's a gift. Don't blow it.)
Murray's rushing ability — and Kliff Kingsbury's eagerness to use it — give him an uncommonly high fantasy floor.
Harry has actually been the top rookie overall on many dynasty draft boards, based largely on his phenomenal setup in 2019. He delivered back-to-back 1000-yard seasons at ASU, winning with leverage and ball skills more than separation ability. His film is a fun watch. Plenty of targets are up for grabs in New England, no question. If I had total faith in Tom Brady to remain an elite passer at an age at which no NFL quarterback has ever been productive, then I'd be higher on Harry. (I realize that was a loaded sentence, but this is really not the time to have the full “Brady-at-42” discussion.)
Hardman sure looks like a direct replacement for Tyreek Hill in KC, and he was among the fastest players in the draft (4.33 speed). He's relatively new to the receiver position, so we need to think of him as a still-developing prospect who will nonetheless see plenty of playing time. Hardman is a dangerous kick returner, too. Again, pretty much every analyst prefers Harry's situation in the season ahead, but Hardman has the more appealing 3-5 year outlook, tied to Patrick Mahomes.
13. Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore
14. Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis
15. JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Philadelphia
16. Darrell Henderson, RB, LA Rams
17. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Washington
18. Hakeem Butler, WR, Arizona
19. Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo
20. Justice Hill, RB, Baltimore
21. Irv Smith, TE, Minnesota
22. Damien Harris, RB, New England
23. Jace Sternberger, TE, Green Bay
24. Benny Snell, RB, Pittsburgh
After the top three running backs in this rookie class, the position gets uninteresting in a hurry — everyone else is a situational player and/or handcuff. Henderson's numbers were absurd at Memphis (8.9 YPC), but he'll be caddying for Todd Gurley. Of course, CJ Anderson taught us that the understudy role behind Gurley and his questionable knees can have its benefits, so Henderson is clearly a player worth targeting.
Here's part of my conversation this week with new Ravens WR Marquise Brown. Why citing his combine weight is a little short-sighted and how he learned to alter his speed in routes: pic.twitter.com/CYVSZ4yVI8
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) April 27, 2019
Brown was productive with two different Heisman-winning QBs at Oklahoma, excelling in a defense-optional conference. He wins with blistering speed and suddenness. Unfortunately, he landed in a pass-averse offense. Lamar Jackson didn't attempt more than 25 throws in any regular season game last year, which is almost unthinkable in this era. Had Brown landed in a better spot — like Indy, KC, Pittsburgh or literally anywhere else — he could have easily ranked as my top rookie wideout.
Butler was a high-buzz receiving prospect ahead of the draft, but his long fall to the fourth round tells us the NFL did not share the enthusiasm of various draft analysts. Still, he's tied to a fun offensive experiment in Arizona, and he offers an appealing combination of size (6-foot-5, 227) and speed (4.48).
25. Trayveon Williams, RB, Cincinnati
26. Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington
27. Riley Ridley, WR, Chicago
28. Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh
29. Kelvin Harmon, WR, Washington
30. Jalen Hurd, WR, San Francisco
31. Drew Lock, QB, Denver
32. Daniel Jones, QB, NY Giants
33. Miles Boykin, WR, Baltimore
34. Bryce Love, RB, Washington
35. Darwin Thompson, RB, Kansas City
36. Josh Oliver, TE, Jacksonville
Yeah, this is kind of a dreadful round. Meh. Love is the biggest name among the RBs, but he's returning from injury (ACL) and buried on the depth chart. Williams has a shot at usurping Giovani Bernard's role, but let's keep in mind that he was a sixth-rounder.
McLaurin joins a roster that lacks high-end receiving talent, which helps his outlook. He also caught 10 of the 50 touchdown passes thrown by Haskins at Ohio State last season, so he has the benefit of familiarity with his quarterback, a rare situation for a rookie.
If you're a Giants fan looking for a Jones pep talk, um ... I'm definitely not your guy. But hey, sometimes an epic reach of a pick can still work out. I don't really feel any more bullish on Lock, but consider him more likely than Jones to see the field in 2019. At a stacked position, it's tough to imagine either player achieving serious fantasy relevance in the next two seasons.