With the NFL draft just a couple days away, and a number of skill position players rising up big boards across the league, we decided to do our first annual Fantasy Rookie Draft. The rules: Luke and Jordan each had to draft a team consisting of two quarterbacks, three running backs, three wide receivers and two flex spots. And, of course, every player selected had to be a prospect that will be chosen in the upcoming NFL Draft later this week.
Social media expert Paige Dimakos moderated and made sarcastic comments, Jordan stole most of the players Luke wanted, but Lapinski ultimately showed great perseverance to build a solid team anyway. Of course, many of these rookies will see their fantasy value change considerably once we know which NFL team they land on. But until then, here’s a preview of their initial worth based on raw talent alone…
QB- (3) Jameis Winston, FSU. Certainly has question marks off the field but, if you’re drafting for a one-year fantasy league, he’s the most likely QB to step in and make an impact right away. If you’re in a keeper league, then it’s basically personal preference between him and Mariota.
QB- (19) Brett Hundley, UCLA. After the top two QBs come off the board, it’s essentially a crapshoot. Hundley has respectable size (6-foot-3, 227-pounds) and shows maturity well beyond his age. Still has some work to do, but seems intent on consistently improving.
RB- (1) Todd Gurley, UGA. If you look past the ACL issue he had in November, Gurley is the top RB in terms of upside right now. There appears to be a better crop of talent at the position this year than in recent drafts, and the Georgia back is leading the way. Could be the first RB to get taken in Round 1 since, umm, Trent Richardson in 2012.
RB- (11) Duke Johnson, MIA. Compact runner who makes good cuts and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Finished among top ten in rushing yards (1,652) and receiving yards by a running back (421) last season.
RB- (13) Jay Ajayi, BSU. Upright runner with the ability to do some damage receiving as well. Rushed for 28 TDs in 2014, and has been climbing up a lot of draft boards lately.
WR- (5) Kevin White, WVU. Along with Amari Cooper, White leads a very gifted group of WRs at this year’s draft. He’s faster than Cooper, but not quite as polished yet.
WR- (7) DeVante Parker, LOU. Versatile and able to make things happen all over the field. What’s not to like about that?
WR- (9) Jaelen Strong, ASU. Maybe he’s not as explosive as some of the other WRs in this class, but he’s the sort of guy who hauls in anything you throw his way. Great weapon to have near the goal line because he goes up and wins most battles for the ball in the air.
FLEX- (15) Devin Funchess, TE/WR, MICH. Could be an absolute matchup nightmare, depending how his NFL team uses him. And if he puts up WR numbers while still retaining TE eligibility in your fantasy league, he could have a lot of value. Definitely somebody to monitor.
FLEX- (17) Buck Allen, RB, USC. Pretty sure this is the point in the draft where Byrd started selecting guys because he liked saying their name…
QB- (4) Marcus Mariota, ORE. Basically the exact opposite of Winston off the field. And he did just about everything that was asked of him on the field at the college level. Only question seems to be just how much the system at Oregon a) may have inflated his stats and b) prepared him for the jump to the pro game.
QB- (20) Garrett Grayson, CSU. If you end up taking Grayson in your actual fantasy draft this August, you better be in a 40-team league. It’s amazing how big the drop-off is at QB after the top two. And this pick is a reminder of that.
RB- (2) Melvin Gordon III, WISC. The other RB that could go in Round 1. Gurley may have more upside, but Gordon appears ready to step in and make an impact now. His 813 rushing yards and 7 TDs over a three-game stretch last season show just how explosive he is, and it’s entirely possible he lands on a good NFL team with a strong supporting cast between picks 20-32.
RB- (8) Tevin Coleman, IU. The nation’s No. 2 rusher (behind Gordon) who has the potential to be a workhorse back. And, in case you forgot, workhorse + back = valuable fantasy asset. Usually.
RB- (10) Ameer Abdullah, NEB. Undersized, but electrifying in the open field. Led all RBs at the combine in vertical and broad jump — usually two strong indicators of success for the position.
WR- (6) Amari Cooper, ALA. Might not be the fastest or biggest WR, but he’s strong in just about every area and ready to step in and contribute right away. Led the nation with 124 receptions in 2014, 16 of which went for TDs. The Raiders need a gifted receiver like this, so they’ll probably pass on him for some inexplicable reason.
WR- (14) Nelson Agholor, USC. Quick, agile WR who is capable of helping out on special teams as well. He was the catalyst for USC’s offense over the last two seasons — as his 2,231 yards and 18 TDs over that stretch will attest.
WR- (16) Breshad Perriman, UCF. Still fairly raw, but moving up big boards faster than most other WRs. Has the size (6-foot-2, 212-pounds) and strength to muscle receptions away from defenders, and possesses the speed to get behind opposing secondaries. Also has a tendency to drop some of the “easier” catches, which is kind of an issue for a WR.
FLEX- (12) T.J. Yeldon, RB, ALA. The overlooked RB of this draft. Yeldon has proven what he can do on the field against some of the best competition that college football has to offer, and he can pass protect better than most young backs. Yes, he ran a 4.52 40 at the combine. Le’Veon Bell once ran a 4.6. It’s not the only thing that matters.
FLEX- (18) Phillip Dorsett, WR, MIA. A versatile, natural pass-catcher with elite speed and impressive playmaking instincts. Unlike a lot of rookie receivers, Dorsett can burn the opposition deep downfield and make plays over the middle.