Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Last weekend, we had the NFL draft, and it was glorious. I pre-partied at AT&T Stadium like it was 1999, which coincidentally was the last time before this year that five quarterbacks were selected in Round 1.
If you haven’t checked them out, here are my skill-position recaps.
This weekend many dynasty leagues across the
country world UNIVERSE will have their rookie drafts, most of which will consist of three rounds, 12 picks per round.
Here are my top 36 rookies, based on draft capital, college production, biophysical profile, perceived opportunity and team fit.
In order not to make this list too cumbersome to consume, I’ve decided to exclude long-form analysis. For more on each of these players, see the skill-position recaps as well as the individual pre-draft player profiles.
- 1.01: RB Saquon Barkley (New York Giants): Best running back prospect of the last decade.
- 1.02: RB Rashaad Penny (Seattle Seahawks): My No. 2 running back entering the draft, and now a first-rounder.
- 1.03: RB Derrius Guice (Washington Redskins): 20-year-old second-rounder with first-round talent.
- 1.04: RB Royce Freeman (Denver Broncos): Athletic big-bodied four-year starter with receiving skills and limited competition on the depth chart.
- 1.05: RB Nick Chubb (Cleveland Browns): One year away from being the unquestioned starter in an exciting offense.
- 1.06: WR D.J. Moore (Carolina Panthers): Percy Harvin-level athlete with Hakeem Nicks‘ body and college production.
- 1.07: RB Ronald Jones II (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Overhyped athlete slated for a lead-back role.
- 1.08: WR Courtland Sutton (Denver Broncos): Short-term No. 3 wide receiver with No. 1 upside.
- 1.09: RB Sony Michel (New England Patriots): Shane Vereen-plus talent ticketed for the Dion Lewis role.
- 1.10: WR Michael Gallup (Dallas Cowboys): Above-average receiver in size and athleticism with near-elite production on a team with a lot of available targets.
- 1.11: RB Kerryon Johnson (Detroit Lions): Productive 20-year-old Day 2 runner, but on a team with lots of backs.
- 1.12: WR Calvin Ridley (Atlanta Falcons): First-rounder with concerns about age, production, size, athleticism, and now NFL opportunity.
- 2.01: TE Mike Gesicki (Miami Dolphins): Uber-athletic productive second-rounder with limited competition for targets in the middle of the field.
- 2.02: WR James Washington (Pittsburgh Steelers): JuJu Smith-Schuster-esque type of prospect selected by a team that has consistently found receiver value outside of Round 1 over the last decade.
- 2.03: WR Christian Kirk (Arizona Cardinals): Athletic and versatile college slot receiver who will study the ways of the force under grand master Larry Fitzgerald.
- 2.04: WR Anthony Miller (Chicago Bears): Extremely agile and productive receiver with an up-and-coming quarterback, young and innovative head coach, and immediate opportunity for targets.
- 2.05: TE Hayden Hurst (Baltimore Ravens): Overdrafted and older than Jason Witten (probably), but selected in Round 1 by a Hall-of-Fame tight end with two Super Bowl wins as a general manager.
- 2.06: WR Dante Pettis (San Francisco 49ers): T.Y. Hilton to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s metaphorical Andrew Luck.
- 2.07: WR Tre’Quan Smith (New Orleans Saints): Athletic and productive receiver and, more importantly, a skill-position player selected with a top-100 pick, which has meant a lot in the Sean Payton era.
- 2.08: WR D.J. Chark (Jacksonville Jaguars): This year’s Chris Conley.
- 2.09: RB Nyheim Hines (Indianapolis Colts): Athletic pass-catching back with underappreciated rushing upside.
- 2.10: WR Antonio Callaway (Cleveland Browns): Less athletic and productive Tyreek Hill, selected by the GM who drafted Hill.
- 2.11: WR J’Mon Moore (Green Bay Packers): 1,000-10 SEC receiver with elite size-adjusted agility and the opportunity to get significant targets from Aaron Rodgers.
- 2.12: WR Keke Coutee (Houston Texans): Slot receiver-in-waiting for Deshaun Watson.
- 3.01: QB Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns): Sashi Brown’s top pick, ironically.
- 3.02: QB Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens): Different and rarer than all the other quarterbacks with near-limitless Konami Code rushing upside.
- 3.03: QB Sam Darnold (New York Jets): No. 1 passer off the board in most years and the youngest quarterback in NFL history.
- 3.04: QB Josh Rosen (Arizona Cardinals): Intelligent player with limited mobility and vague (perhaps non-existent) character issues.
- 3.05: TE Dallas Goedert (Philadelphia Eagles): Best all-around tight end in the draft, but stuck behind Zach Ertz to begin his career.
- 3.06: TE Mark Andrews (Baltimore Ravens): Big-bodied glorified slot receiver with good athleticism and near-elite college production.
- 3.07: WR Justin Watson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Small-school stratospheric producer somewhere on the spectrum between present-day Jeff Janis and peak Vincent Jackson.
- 3.08: WR Jordan Lasley (Baltimore Ravens): Big-time Pac-12 receiver with off-the-field issues.
- 3.09: RB Chase Edmonds (Arizona Cardinals): This year’s Tarik Cohen.
- 3.10: RB Ito Smith (Atlanta Falcons): Small-school big-time back with receiving skills on a depth chart likely to be without Tevin Coleman in a year.
- 3.11: RB Kalen Ballage (Miami Dolphins): Replacement version of Damien Williams.
- 3.12: FB Jaylen Samuels (Pittsburgh Steelers): Early-down H-back, receiving-down halfback, and goal-line grinder with a non-zero chance to replace Le’Veon Bell in a year.
12 HONORABLE MENTIONS
- QB Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills): Jake Locker with the arm of Kyle Boller and the uniform of J.P. Losman.
- QB Mason Rudolph (Pittsburgh Steelers): Potential heir to Ben Roethlisberger‘s throne of lies.
- RB Bo Scarbrough (Dallas Cowboys): Former five-star recruit with an Alabama pedigree and clear path to the No. 2 job behind Ezekiel Elliott.
- RB Justin Jackson (Los Angeles Chargers): Productive four-year Big Ten starter with significant receiving skills and a shot at the backup job behind Melvin Gordon III.
- RB John Kelly (Los Angeles Rams): One in a long line of productive Tennessee backs, and now the presumptive backup to Todd Gurley.
- WR Equanimeous St. Brown (Green Bay Packers): Intelligent and athletic receiver with inconsistency issues.
- WR DaeSean Hamilton (Denver Broncos): Hopeful long-term slot replacement to Emmanuel Sanders.
- WR Cedrick Wilson (Dallas Cowboys): Low-upside dollar-game lottery ticket with good size-adjusted agility and college production on a shifting depth chart.
- WR Richie James (San Francisco 49ers): Prolific small-school receiver with quick-twitch slot ability.
- WR Trey Quinn (Washington Redskins): Potential 2019 Jamison Crowder replacement with a nation-leading 114 receptions last year.
- TE Ian Thomas (Carolina Panthers): Upside stash with 2-3 years to develop behind Greg Olsen.
- TE Jordan Akins (Houston Texans): Potential rookie starter with four years of minor-league baseball to his name and limited college production.