Freedman’s 2019 Fantasy Football Dynasty Rookie Rankings: Your Guide to the Top 50
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Kyler Murray, Josh Jacobs
- Matthew Freedman breaks down his post-draft fantasy football rookie dynasty rankings, featuring his top 50 players.
With the 2019 NFL Draft in the books, it’s time to update my rookie dynasty rankings.
I ranked my top 50 rookies based on draft capital, college production, biophysical profile, perceived opportunity and team fit. I also highlighted 10 undrafted free-agent signees and five late-round quarterbacks that are worth monitoring.
And if you missed them, here are my skill-position fantasy breakdowns from the draft:
Now let’s dig in.
Note: Tiers indicate where I see a notable drop-off in value. The full rankings can also be found in a table at the end of this piece. Rankings as of April 30.
2019 Dynasty Rookie Rankings
Pick No. 1: Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders
- Height: 5’10″| Weight: 220 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.60 seconds
- School: Alabama | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 21 | Draft position: 1.24 (No. 24)
What Kenyan Drake was to Alabama for 2012-15, Jacobs was for 2016-18: An explosive runner and competent receiver with game-breaking ability as a return man (30.6 yards per kick return, one return touchdown).
Jacobs has never been a collegiate lead back — last year he had just 887 scrimmage yards on 140 touches — but in a weak running back class, he emerged as the clear-cut No. 1 prospect at the position.
And I guess it’s not all that hard to see why: Of all the backs drafted, Jacobs was first last year with a 59.2% positive play rate and second with 38 broken tackles per 100 touches, 2.4 yards per route and 41.9 expected points added (per Sports Info Solutions). But he has below-average athleticism and not one 1,000-yard season to his name.
This is a poor class for running backs, and in a normal year, Jacobs probably would have been a Day 2 pick with upside.
But Jacobs has three — maybe four — significant factors in his favor.
The first is that, because he saw limited action at Alabama as a committee back, he should enter the NFL relatively fresh.
The second is he’s young. The backs who play as 21-year-old rookies have historically been significantly more impressive than backs who enter the league at an older age.
And, of course, there’s his draft position. As a first-rounder, he’s likely to see a significant workload because so much was invested into him: In a self-fulfilling mechanism, the Raiders will give him every opportunity to prove himself so that they might be proven correct in drafting him with a premium pick.
And finally, there’s his size. At 220 pounds, Jacobs is built like a lead back. He should be able to withstand the grind of getting 20 touches every week.
Over the past two decades, 11 guys have entered the league as big-bodied first-round 21-year-old backs:
- Saquon Barkley
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Todd Gurley
- Beanie Wells
- Jonathan Stewart
- Marshawn Lynch
- Laurence Maroney
- Steven Jackson
- T.J. Duckett
- Jamal Lewis
- Edgerrin James
Not all of them became stars, but literally every guy in this cohort has had multiple seasons of fantasy utility.
Given how important age, draft position and size are to the running back position, it’s not unreasonable for fantasy players to expect a lot out of Jacobs early on — he could be a top-10 fantasy producer in 2019.
Pick No. 2: N’Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots
- Height: 6’2″ | Weight: 228 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.53 seconds
- School: Arizona State | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 1.32 (No. 32)
In my way-too-early rookie rankings, Harry was the No. 1 player on my board. And even though he’s been supplanted by Jacobs, Harry is still my top receiver — and not just because he landed with Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Harry probably lacks the upside potential of some of the other high-profile rookie receivers like Marquise Brown and D.K. Metcalf, but his combination of college production, biophysical profile and draft position makes him highly unlikely to bust.
A five-star recruit, Harry led the Sun Devils as a true freshman with 58 receptions, and as a sophomore and junior he put up back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving campaigns. A versatile player, Harry lined up all across the formation, ran all varieties of routes and was athletic enough to contribute throughout his career as both a runner (144 yards, three touchdowns) and punt returner (11.8 yards per attempt, one touchdown).
With the Pats, Harry has a good chance to see significant snaps right away, and his ability to play out wide and in the slot should help him stay on the field in all formations. Julian Edelman is likely to lead the Patriots in targets in 2019, but Harry could finish second — especially if he captures a large share of the targets vacated by the now-retired Rob Gronkowski.
For 2019, it will be important to keep expectations in check. The Patriots have a complicated offensive system, and wide receivers generally need time to adjust to the NFL.
But I still like Harry a lot. He has excellent long-term potential.
Pick No. 3: Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
- Height: 5’11” | Weight: 211 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.49 seconds
- School: Penn State | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 2.21 (No. 53)
A five-star recruit entering college, Sanders signed in-state so he could realize his longtime dream of playing for the Nittany Lions — and then he sat on the bench for two years behind eventual No. 2 overall pick of the 2018 draft, Saquon Barkley.
Sometimes dreams turn into nightmares.
As a backup, Sanders was almost nonexistent. In his first two seasons, he totaled just 429 yards and four touchdowns on 56 carries and eight receptions. In fact, he wasn’t even the primary backup — he was just one guy in a committee of backups. Basically, he was a guy standing on the sideline.
But as a junior, Sanders finally got his long-awaited opportunity to start, and he capitalized, putting up 1,413 yards and nine touchdowns on 220 carries and 24 receptions in 13 games. And he likely would have had more touchdowns if quarterback Trace McSorley had not vultured 12 rushing scores in Penn State’s read-option scheme.
But Sanders isn’t a finished product. He tried to bounce too many runs outside last year, he had an elusive rating of just 75.5 and he averaged only 0.7 yards per route run. He’s an all-around good back with above-average athleticism, but he doesn’t excel in any one thing.
With the Eagles, though, his versatility will be what sets him apart.
Under head coach Doug Pederson, the Eagles have never had a lead back with a true three-down skill set. Instead, they’ve relied on committees of past-their-prime grinders, injury-impacted pass catchers and flash-in-the-pan undrafted free agents.
In Sanders, the Eagles have a lead back who can do it all.
As a rookie, he’s still likely to split snaps and touches with at least one other back, but he should be given every chance to lead the backfield. And in that offense, he could finish the season as a top-20 back.
In a class with little talent at the position, Sanders is one of the few rookie backs with true long-term potential.
Pick No. 4: Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
- Height: 5’10” | Weight: 207 pounds
- School: Oklahoma | Class: Redshirt Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 1.01 (No. 1)
If I’m too high on Murray, so be it.
From a betting perspective, I was aggressively bullish on Murray for months leading up to the draft: I bet on him at +500 to be the No. 1 pick and to land with the Cardinals. That paid off.
- Jan. 11: Murray to be a Round 1 pick, etc.
- Jan. 14: Murray to throw an NFL pass before recording an MLB hit
- Feb. 13: Murray to be No. 1 overall pick, etc.
- March 4: Murray to be a top-two pick
In dynasty, I’m going to be similarly aggressive in ranking and drafting him. I never — and I mean never — advocate taking a quarterback this high in rookie drafts, but this is a relatively weak class, and Murray has immense fantasy potential.
I’m not just optimistic about his future. I’m euphoric. Orgasmic. Well, maybe just euphoric.
Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury were seemingly made for each other: They’ve had a relationship since Murray was a sophomore in high school.
Entering the combine, there were doubts about Murray’s size, but he measured in with a Russell Wilson-esque physique and saw his draft stock soar. Although just last summer he was selected with a top-10 pick in the MLB draft and was expected to play baseball professionally after 2018, he is now easily the top fantasy quarterback in the class.
Last year, the Heisman Trophy winner led the nation with 13.0 adjusted yards per pass attempt, and he flashed elite athleticism in running for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns. With his Konami Code rushing upside, Murray could develop into a high-end fantasy starter sooner rather than later.
Basically, when I look at him, I see a Michael Vick who can actually throw.
Murray has the true potential to be a plug-and-play, dominate-your-league option for a decade.
Pick No. 5: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions
- Height: 6’5″ | Weight: 251 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.70 seconds
- School: Iowa | Class: Redshirt Sophomore
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 1.08 (No. 8)
Hockenson was almost in Tier 1 for me, because within three seasons, he could be the best tight end in the league. But tight ends often take a while to develop, and it’s hard to project how the position will be used within an offense.
But there is so much to like about Hock.
Winner of the 2018 Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end, Hockenson has top-end potential as a Gronk-esque mismatch weapon in the blocking and receiving game. Entering the NFL from the same institution that produced George Kittle, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Tony Moeaki, Scott Chandler and Dallas Clark, the young tight end should be a solid professional right away — even if it takes some time for him to start producing as a fantasy asset.
Last year, he was first on the Hawkeyes with 760 yards receiving and second with 49 receptions and six touchdowns through the air, and he led all tight ends drafted with 47.4 expected points added.
I expect Hockenson to start right away for the Lions, but that playing time might not translate into many targets in his first season. As a rookie, Hockenson will likely be a matchup-dependent producer.
If you draft him, it will be important to practice patience. He’s a long-term investment — even if he does little within his first couple of seasons. This bears repeating: It often takes tight ends a while to develop. (See: Eric Ebron.)
Even so, I want as much Hockenson as I can get. The fifth overall pick might be too high for him, especially since he plays a onesie position, but he’s one of the few difference-making talents in the class.
Pick No. 6: A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
- Height: 6’ | Weight: 226 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.49 seconds
- School: Mississippi | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 2.29 (No. 51)
In my way-too-early rookie rankings, Brown was the No. 2 player on my board. And after the draft I was hoping to squeeze him into my top four, because I like him a lot.
From a situation-agnostic perspective, Brown might be the best non-quarterback skill position player in this class. A case could at least be made for it.
Despite playing a chunk of his games with D.K. Metcalf, Brown dominated the SEC over his two final seasons, averaging 111.8 yards receiving per game over that span. With back-to-back campaigns of more than 1,250 yards, he has strong production and owns a high-end blend of size and speed. Although he often played in the slot, Brown also lined up out wide more than occasionally and displayed good route-running ability.
To compare him to the No. 1 receiver on the board: Brown doesn’t have Harry’s all-around versatility. Brown didn’t produce as either a runner or return man. But he might be the better receiver. He creates more separation with his routes and has more after-the-catch capability.
But I really hate his landing spot, at least for 2019, and that’s why I’ve dropped him in my rankings.
The Titans use a run-heavy offense, and Brown will have to fight for targets with wide receiver Corey Davis, tight end Delanie Walker and maybe even running back Dion Lewis. And quarterback Marcus Mariota has failed to develop into a reliable starter. He might even be in his final season with the team.
But even with the Titans, Brown is intriguing.
He has undeniable talent — and he might have a new quarterback as soon as next year. It’s possible that some people might have him ranked lower than I do, but there’s no way I can move him outside of the top-half of Round 1: Big athletic productive SEC wide receivers don’t come along every year.
Pick No. 7: Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos
- Height: 6’4″ | Weight: 249 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.50 seconds
- School: Iowa | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 1.20 (No. 20)
Ever since Kirk Ferentz took over as head coach at Iowa in 1999, the school has transformed itself into Tight End U.
Fant has been groomed for professional success since his first day on campus. Despite sharing the field with Hockenson, the supremely athletic Fant led the Hawkeyes with 11 and seven touchdowns receiving over the past two seasons.
An NFL-ready receiving tight end, Fant doesn’t have Hockenson’s strength as a blocker, and he dropped 11-of-80 catchable passes in his two final seasons (per Pro Football Focus). But he has a real chance to be the more productive NFL player — especially early in his career, because unlike Hockenson, Fant will probably not be used heavily in the blocking game.
He’s a willing blocker when asked to pitch in, but he’ll almost certainly be used much more as a receiver, perhaps as a big slot man. And if he’s asked to focus on only one aspect of his game — the thing he already does well — he could be a serviceable player rather quickly.
It only helps that Fant was drafted by the Broncos, who don’t have an established wide receiver to hog targets: Emmanuel Sanders is recovering from a season-ending Achilles injury, and Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton are entering just their second seasons.
It’s very possible that even as a rookie, Fant could be one of the top receiving options for the Broncos.
It also doesn’t hurt that quarterback Joe Flacco will be the guy throwing to Fant. For all his faults, Flacco is one of the league’s most tight end-friendly passers: He’s regularly relied on the position throughout his career.
As a rookie, Fant will probably be volatile, which means he’ll be hard to trust as a weekly starter. But I still expect him to have some big performances.
He could be a high-end fantasy starter as early as 2020.
Pick No. 8: David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
- Height: 5’10” | Weight: 222 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.63 seconds
- School: Iowa State | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 3.09 (No. 73)
Montgomery entered the combine as the potential No. 1 back in the class. He left the combine as a human with verified substandard athleticism.
But athleticism is overrated at the running back position: I still like Montgomery a lot.
After playing as a backup as a freshman, he broke out as a sophomore in 2017, putting up 1,442 yards and 11 touchdowns from scrimmage on 258 carries and 36 receptions and becoming the first player in the PFF era (since 2014) with 100 forced miss tackles in a season.
In 2018, he proved that his sophomore campaign was no fluke. As a junior, Montgomery had 1,373 yards and 13 touchdowns from scrimmage in 12 games, once again exhibiting elite elusiveness as he forced a class-high 0.39 missed tackles per attempt.
With his junior rushing workload, Montgomery snagged a near-elite 88.8% Workhorse Score (adjusted rushing market share). He was the heart of the Iowa State offense and the soul of its running game.
Montgomery is not a flashy player, but last year he had no drops or blown blocks, and he routinely made the most of what his blockers give him. A workmanlike three-down player, Montgomery has a real chance of winning the starting job with the Bears and keeping it because he doesn’t make many mistakes.
I should mention that I’m probably lower on Montgomery than most in the industry. In theory, I like him — I see how he could become a lead back.
But no matter how much draft capital the Bears gave away in order to move up in the draft to take him, he’s still a third-round pick who plays a position that sees a lot of turnover.
As much as I like him, I can’t break my investing discipline: I can’t in good conscience take a running back who might be in a timeshare and was selected in Round 3 before a potentially all-time Konami Code quarterback in Murray, SEC pass-catching dominator in AJB and two high-upside tight ends in Hock and Fant, all of whom were selected in Rounds 1-2. That’s just how I roll.
Even if I’m wrong in this particular case, I think I’ll come out ahead in the long run with this type of exacting perspective.
Pick No. 9: Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts
- Height: 6′ | Weight: 205 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.31 seconds
- School: Ohio State | Class: Redshirt Senior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 2.27 (No. 59)
Campbell provides a lot of value at No. 8; I can’t bring myself to move him ahead of Hock, AJB or Fant, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he had the best NFL career of the four.
A top-25 recruit in 2014 with legitimate track speed, Campbell has top-12 potential at the position. He’s not big, but he’s also not small and his explosiveness is elite.
Next to some of the other non-Day 1 receivers in the class, Campbell compares well.
Unlike D.K. Metcalf, Campbell actually produced in college. In his final season, he had 90 receptions for 1,063 yards and 12 touchdowns. And unlike AJB, Campbell has elite speed: At the combine he blazed a position-best 40-yard dash.
Campbell is similar to Deebo Samuel in his versatility: Campbell had 23 rushes for 210 yards and two touchdowns in his time at Ohio State, and he averaged an impressive 30.4 yards per kick return. But unlike Samuel, Campbell didn’t deal with constant injury issues in college.
This isn’t to say that Campbell is without concerns. Of all the wide receivers Urban Meyer had at Florida and Ohio State, no one ever had more receiving yards or touchdowns in a season than Campbell had last year — but he was strictly a one-year producer.
He redshirted his first year on campus. The next year he saw no playing time. The following year, he had just 13 receptions and four carries. He didn’t actually do anything of substance till his junior year, when he had 716 yards and four touchdowns on 40 receptions and 10 carries.
And when he finally broke out as a senior, he did so in a very manufactured way. He didn’t line up all over the field and dominate defensive backs with his route-running prowess. Instead, he played 86.5% of his snaps in the slot and lived off of bubble screens and shallow crosses.
Campbell has a limited route tree, and his 2018 average depth of target of 4.5 yards is embarrassing. There are legitimate concerns about whether his playing style will translate to the NFL.
But last year he finished fourth with 8.7 yards after the catch per reception and fifth with 3.47 yards per route. His upside is real. And most importantly, he has Andrew Luck as his quarterback and Frank Reich has his coach.
As a rookie, Campbell is unlikely to be reliable for fantasy. It will take time for him to develop the route-running nuance that leads to weekly consistency. But with the Colts, Campbell could develop into a big-time playmaker as early as 2020.
Pick No. 10: Andy Isabella, WR, Arizona Cardinals
- Height: 5’9″ | Weight: 188 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.31 seconds
- School: Massachusetts | Class: Senior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 2.30 (No. 62)
Just a few short months ago, Isabella could be selected in Round 3 of early rookie drafts. It was a simpler time. Back then, Isabella was just an undersized small-school receiver with uncertain athleticism and a likely late-round draft grade.
Now he’s a Day 2 speedster slated to catch passes from Murray in Kingsbury’s offense.
Isabella is basically Major Tom: He’s stepping through the door, he’s peculiarly floating and his stars look different than they did yesterday.
It is entirely within the realm of possibility that Isabella could be Murray’s top receiver as early as this year. This is a great moment for Isabella truthers everywhere. And it’s also terrible that he’s no longer acquirable on the cheap.
We move on. We grind.
A converted high school running back, Isabella was a Biletnikoff finalist in 2018, finishing first in the nation with 1,698 yards receiving and 4.15 yards per route, second with 102 receptions and sixth with 13 touchdowns receiving. His use as a rusher (342 yards and two touchdowns in his career) speaks to his overall skill set.
Although Isabella at first glance looks like a slot-only receiver, he played regularly on the outside at UMass and consistently displayed the ability to create separation down the field. With his speed and route-running skills, Isabella should be able to get open in the NFL regardless of where he lines up.
And even if Isabella is nothing more than a slot receiver, he has the potential to be a superb middle-of-the-field pass catcher: In 2018, he accounted for a dominant 47.5% and 48.2% of the UMass yards and touchdowns through the air.
And with a coach as innovative as Kingsbury, Isabella could be a truly dynamic offensive weapon right away. He could take carries on end-arounds or out of the backfield. He could line up out wide or in the slot. He could operate in the middle of the field or stretch defenses deep.
He could be a league-winning fantasy receiver as a rookie.
Isabella isn’t the best player in the 2019 class, but he’s the one I want the most: Small, fast, versatile and productive, Isabella is the prototypical #FreedmanReceiver.
Pick No. 11: Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens
- Height: 5’9″ | Weight: 166 pounds
- School: Oklahoma | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 1.25 (No. 25)
Brown is this class’s ultimate draft capital vs. current context player.
As the No. 1 receiver drafted, Brown should arguably be one of the highest-rated rookies in dynasty. But I just can’t put him anywhere near the top-half of Round 1. I can’t even put him above Isabella, who has a verified top-end 40 time and was more productive than Brown over the past two years — and that’s to say nothing of their landing spots.
I’m not saying that Brown is bad. He could be great in the NFL. But he’s risky.
Brown was unable to work out for scouts in advance of the draft because of a Lisfranc injury he suffered in the Big 12 Championship Game, but he’s assumed to have elite speed — which he’ll need to have at his size.
As dynamic as Brown was last season, it’s dangerous to assume that a small receiver without a 40 time is actually fast enough to produce against NFL defenders. I still like Brown in a vacuum — but I’m being cautious.
“Hollywood” enters the NFL with three consecutive seasons of good production. As a true freshman, Brown dominated the community college ranks, leading College of the Canyons in receiving with 50 receptions, 754 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games and chipping in two return touchdowns.
As a four-star junior college recruit, Brown transferred to Oklahoma. And as a sophomore he served as quarterback Baker Mayfield’s top playmaker, leading the Sooners with 1,095 yards and finishing second with 57 receptions and seven touchdowns.
Then last year he put up even better receiving numbers with Kyler, finishing first on the team with 75 receptions and 1,318 yards and second with 10 touchdowns.
His NFL situation, though, is less than ideal: Quarterback Lamar Jackson struggled last year with his accuracy, and he showed no ability to connect with Hollywood-like wide receiver John Brown. On top of that, the Ravens employ a very run-heavy offense.
Even so, Brown is likely to be the No. 1 receiver in Baltimore right away, so his target volume should be respectable and he could have some week-winning performances as opposing defenses focus on the running game.
But he will be hard to trust on a weekly basis, and if Jackson fails to develop into even an average passer, Brown’s capacity to produce will be drastically diminished. And based on what we saw out of Jackson last season, his maturation as a passer is far from a certainty.
Given Brown’s situation, I just can’t get on board with the idea of making a premium long-term investment in a small receiver with an unverified 40 time.
Brown has DeSean Jackson-level potential, but I honestly hope he goes early in all of my rookie drafts. That way, players I like more might fall to me at the bottom of Round 1.
Pick No. 12: Irv Smith Jr., TE, Minnesota Vikings
- Height: 6’2″ | Weight: 242 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.63 seconds
- School: Alabama | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 21 | Draft position: 2.18 (No. 50)
In what looks like a strong class for the position, Smith is the No. 3 tight end. In an average year, he might be the top option.
Smith is more of a move tight end and big-bodied slot receiver than a traditional inline prospect, but he is still a strong run blocker, and he has the versatility to block or catch passes out wide, in the slot, in line and even out of the backfield.
The son of a former NFL tight end, Smith entered Alabama as a four-star recruit and one of the top tight ends in his class. He had literally zero receptions as a freshman reserve behind future first-rounder O.J. Howard, and as a sophomore Smith did little with just 128 yards and three touchdowns on 14 receptions.
As a junior, though, he flashed his high-end talent, setting the Alabama single-season touchdown record for the position with seven and leading all tight ends in the nation with 2.56 yards per route (per PFF).
Smith is one of the youngest prospects of the 2019 class, and the long-term success rate for pass-catching tight ends who play as 21-year-old rookies is inordinately high.
Here are the receiving tight ends over the past 25 years to enter the league as 21-year-old rookies drafted no later than the fourth round.
- David Njoku
- Maxx Williams
- Eric Ebron
- Rob Gronkowski
- Aaron Hernandez
- Martellus Bennett
- Jermichael Finley
- Kellen Winslow
- Jason Witten
- Todd Heap
- Tony Gonzalez
That’s an incredibly elite cohort, and it bodes well for Smith’s fantasy future. But as a rookie, Smith is likely to do little.
Rookie tight ends struggle even in the best of circumstances, and Smith is likely to play behind veteran and team captain Kyle Rudolph. At best, Smith will be fifth in line for targets, after wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, Rudolph and running back Dalvin Cook.
But Smith’s landing spot and immediate situation might create some value in rookie drafts. Rudolph is in the final year of his contract, and Smith should have the starting job all to himself as soon as 2020. If you’re willing to deal with the short-term dearth of production, you could be rewarded extended long-term value.
Smith is someone I am actively looking to draft in dynasty. And I imagine that I’m higher on him than most analysts are.
Pick No. 13: Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
- Height: 5’11″| Weight: 214 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.48 seconds
- School: South Carolina | Class: Redshirt Senior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 2.04 (No. 36)
People who like watching football and breaking down tape tend to like Samuel, and it makes sense: He was one of the most exciting players in college football over the past three years. He’s a fun guy to watch.
Of course, to be watched, he needs to be on the field. And that’s not one of his strengths. Not once in his five years at South Carolina did he play every game on the schedule. Throughout his career, he dealt with a never-ending series of leg injuries.
He comes with legitimate injury concerns. But when healthy, the dude can play.
Built like a running back, he exhibited good athleticism at the combine. And in college he contributed in a multitude of ways for the Gamecocks: For his career, he had 154 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on 25 carries, and on special teams he averaged 29.0 yards per kick return and scored another four touchdowns on kickoffs.
He’s a legitimate all-around weapon.
And as a receiver, Samuel has good route-running chops and after-the-catch tenacity, and he can play both out wide and in the slot. He’s not the type of receiver who takes over games and imposes his will on defensive backs, and he still needs to refine his technique, but as a contributor he can do pretty much anything asked of him.
His landing spot in San Francisco is intriguing. With his size and athleticism, Deebo is similar to former 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garcon, a longtime favorite of Kyle Shanahan, and it’s probable that Deebo will receive a significant portion of the targets vacated by Garcon, whom the team parted ways with this offseason.
But second-year second-rounder Dante Pettis will likely play ahead of Deebo, and speedster Marquise Goodwin is sure to get his targets, to say nothing of the dominant George Kittle at tight end. Deebo has potential with the 49ers, but I won’t be counting on him in 2019.
Although I have him ranked No. 12, Deebo just feels like a Round 2 guy to me.
Entering the draft, there was nothing exceptional about him as a prospect. Leaving the draft, there’s nothing special about his landing spot. That sounds like the type of guy into whom I don’t want to invest Round 1 draft capital in.
Pick No. 14: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
- Height: 6’2″ | Weight: 223 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.49 seconds
- School: Stanford | Class: Senior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 2.25 (No. 57)
Arcega-Whiteside isn’t as hyped as many of the other receivers in the class, but he was the No. 1 receiver on his team for each of the past three years, and at his pro day he exhibited great size-adjusted speed. He entered the draft as PFF’s No. 3 receiver with his 90.0 grade.
A reserve as a freshman, Jaws had a modest breakout as a sophomore, flashing in 10 games as the primary receiver in a run-heavy offense that funneled the ball to star running back Christian McCaffrey. Even though he missed three games, he still finished first with five touchdowns and second with 379 yards among all receivers.
In Arcega-White’s junior year, running back Bryce Love dominated the ball for Stanford, but Jaws was still able to improve upon his previous season, leading the team with 48 receptions, 781 yards receiving and nine touchdowns through the air. And then as a senior he fully broke out, putting up a 63-1,059-14 receiving campaign in 12 games as the offense shifted to a more aerial attack.
A contested-catch artist, Jaws led the draft class last year with 19 such receptions on just 32 opportunities, essentially turning 50/50 balls into 60/40 propositions. And he also exhibited some real field-stretching utility, running deep patterns on a class-high 62.6% of his routes.
With his ability to make tough catches and get downfield, it’s not a surprise that Jaws had an über-elite 56% market share of his team’s receiving touchdowns in 2018.
Even as a rookie, Arcega-Whiteside has some hidden anti-fragile potential: The wide receiver depth chart ahead of him seems stable, but it could crumble.
Alshon Jeffery has a broken body. DeSean Jackson will turn 33 this year. And Nelson Agholor is on the trade market and might not even be on the team when the season starts. It’s not inconceivable for Jaws to finish the season second in targets behind tight end Zach Ertz.
He offers good value and upside at the top of Round 2, and my gut prefers him to Samuel at No. 12 even though my projection systems favor Deebo. Jaws has a good coach in Doug Pederson and a good quarterback in Carson Wentz. He has the potential to be a WR2-caliber fantasy contributor for half a decade.
Pick No. 15: Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
- Height: 5’10” | Weight: 187 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.33 seconds
- School: Georgia | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 21 | Draft position: 2.24 (No. 56)
This is what a Tyreek Hill replacement looks like.
A high school quarterback and defensive back, Hardman entered Georgia as a five-star recruit and the No. 2 overall “athlete” prospect in his class. After playing as a defensive reserve as a freshman, he moved to wide receiver as a sophomore and flashed playmaking potential with 25-418-4 receiving and 8-61-2 rushing as a rotational player, scoring two touchdowns against Alabama in the national championship.
In 2018, Hardman improved in his second year as a receiver, ranking second on the team with 35 receptions, 543 yards receiving and seven touchdowns through the air. He also added 36 yards as a rusher, averaged 25.2 yards as a kick returner and took one punt return to the house for a touchdown.
Even though he never had a breakout season — and I typically don’t like guys who don’t produce in college — Hardman has a number of factors in his favor, and I must admit that he intrigues me.
He’s young. At 21 years old, he’s one of the youngest receivers in the class. Additionally, he’s still learning to play the position. For a guy who’s played wide receiver for only two years, he’s actually had respectable production.
He’s explosive. Only four players at the combine had faster 40-yard dashes. And he’s versatile. In two years of action as a receiver, he found the end zone as both a runner and returner. That versatility speaks to his overall skill set and ability as a player.
He was selected in Round 2. His team invested significant draft capital in him, which means that it will do what it can to ensure his success. He will get opportunities to produce — especially if Hill is no longer with the team.
And finally, he’s with the Chiefs. Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes together have the potential to make a star out of any wide receiver with talent.
Hardman will be difficult to rely on as a rookie, but even in his first season I expect him to have some big weeks, and he should have the opportunity to earn a starting job right away.
But now that I’ve highlighted all the reasons he could succeed, I should say I plan to approach him with at least a little skepticism. I imagine that Hardman will go off the board near the top of Round 2. I appreciate his potential, but that might be a little rich for me — even if the one coach I would trust to turn a project into a producer is Reid.
Pick No. 16: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
- Height: 6’3″ | Weight: 228 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.33 seconds
- School: Mississippi | Class: Redshirt Sophomore
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 2.32 (No. 64)
Widely expected to be the top wide receiver selected in the NFL draft — he even attended the draft in person — Metcalf slipped to the very bottom of Round 2.
On the one hand, it’s surprising that he fell so far. Metcalf has an über-elite combination of size and explosiveness, and his draft position prop had him slated as a potential top-20 pick.
But on the other hand, Metcalf was downright sloth-like in his combine agility drills.
And in college he struggled to stay healthy: In only one of his three years at Ole Miss did he play an entire season. Plus, he never had a true breakout campaign. His most productive season came in 2017, when he had just 39 receptions, 646 yards and seven touchdowns.
Perhaps most importantly, Metcalf exhibited little nuance as a player: He lined up almost exclusively as the X receiver and ran a very limited route tree consisting almost entirely of flies, curls and fades. In the NFL, it’s unlikely that he will ever be an effective receiver out of the slot because he lacks the agility and route-running ability to operate in the middle of the field.
In other words, he’s basically a one-dimensional player.
But within the confines of that one dimension, Metcalf can be incredibly dominant. He has unbelievable playmaking potential as a downfield threat: His speed allows him to get past defenders, and his size gives him an edge on contested catches. And before a neck injury cut his season short, he was on pace for a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown performance in 2018.
A classic boom-or-bust player, Metcalf might have the widest range of professional outcomes of any receiver in this class.
It’s theoretically good for Metcalf that Russell Wilson is his quarterback. But the Seahawks are such a run-heavy team that Metcalf might see relatively few targets per game, especially since the other receivers in Seattle already have established connections with Wilson.
There are rumors that Doug Baldwin is contemplating retirement. If he leaves the Seahawks, then I will strongly consider moving Metcalf to the bottom of Round 1. But right now, of the four receivers in this tier, he has the least draft capital, the least impressive college production and probably the worst landing spot.
I just can’t bring myself to rank Metcalf ahead of Deebo, Jaws or Hardman. But if you’re the type of dynasty manager who wants to maximize your exposure to upside, feel free to draft Metcalf in Round 1. He’s the risk-seeking pick.
Pick No. 17: Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots
- Height: 5’10” | Weight: 216 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.57 seconds
- School: Alabama | Class: Senior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 3.23 (No. 87)
Throughout the draft process, Harris saw all the hype go to his backfield workmate in Jacobs. But in a head-to-head comparison, Harris more than holds his own.
He entered Alabama as a five-star recruit and the No. 1 running back in the nation, and he lived up to his promise in his four years with the Crimson Tide.
After backing up Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake as a freshman, Harris emerged as the lead committee back as a sophomore, and he held that role for the rest of his college career, leading all ‘Bama backs each year in touches and putting up three straight campaigns with 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
Harris isn’t an exceptional athlete, but he’s a natural runner, and he improved markedly as a receiver in his final season, ranking third among all drafted backs with his 2.0 yards per route (per SIS).
With the Patriots, Harris is likely to serve as a depth back behind starter Sony Michel, but it’s possible that he could work his way into the backfield committee. Harris is probably a better receiver than Michel and a better runner than James White. And if he ever somehow becomes the starter, Harris will be a locked-in fantasy option with top-10 potential despite his athletic mediocrity.
Pick No. 18: Darrell Henderson, RB, Los Angeles Rams
- Height: 5’8″ | Weight: 208 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.49 seconds
- School: Memphis | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 3.06 (No. 70)
Despite his size, Henderson has three-down NFL potential. He’s short but thick, and he impressed as much as any non-Power Five back could in the college ranks.
After putting up 2,099 scrimmage yards and 20 all-purpose touchdowns (including a return score) as a change-of-pace back in his first two seasons, Henderson exploded as the lead back in 2018, finishing second in the FBS with 2,204 scrimmage yards and 25 touchdowns.
And last year he wasn’t just a statistical accumulator: He was also incredibly efficient, ranking first with 8.9 yards per carry, 6.0 yards after contact per attempt, 2.8 yards per route and a 70.8% breakaway rate. And he finished the season first with 71.6 expected points added and second with a 158.6 elusive rating.
With the Rams, he’s unlikely to be little more than a change-of-pace back — at least at first — but they invested a third-round pick in him, and starter Todd Gurley is something of a question mark with his knee issues.
If he wins the No. 2 job behind Gurley, Henderson at minimum will be a coveted handcuff. And if the Rams give him touches as a rotational back, he could be a high-upside (albeit volatile) fantasy play.
Pick No. 19: Hakeem Butler, WR, Arizona Cardinals
- Height: 6’5″ | Weight: 227 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.48 seconds
- School: Iowa State | Class: Redshirt Junior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 4.01 (103)
Before the draft, Butler was widely expected to be a second-round pick. On his pre-draft conference call, Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network projected Butler to go off the board in the top 40.
That clearly didn’t happen.
Instead, Butler fell to Day 3, and the Cardinals gladly selected him with the first pick of Round 4. While it’s not great for him that he slipped, he couldn’t have landed in a more exciting place than Arizona.
At wide receiver, the Cardinals already have Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzgerald and 2018 second-rounder Christian Kirk as well as Isabella — but Fitz seems likely to retire after the season and Kirk and Isabella are both unproven and small.
At some point over the next couple of years, Butler will probably get a chance to play as the big-bodied guy in Kingsbury’s offense, and he might impress catching passes Kyler.
A man among boys, Butler has the most length of all the receivers in the 2019 class. He did little for the Cyclones early in his college career, but in 2018 — his first season as the team’s No. 1 receiver — he stood out with 101.4 yards receiving per game and captured an elite 45% of the team’s receiving touchdowns.
A downfield dominator with a 15.9-yard average depth of target, Butler led the nation last year with 19 receptions and 721 yards on targets of 20-plus yards. With his size and athleticism, Butler also displayed the ability to produce after the catch (413 yards).
I doubt he’ll do much in 2019, but in rookie drafts he still offers value in the second-half of Round 2: Despite his draft-day slide and “Bustler” moniker, there are still many sharp analysts who see him as a top-five receiver in this class.
Pick No. 20: Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Height: 5’10” | Weight: 183 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.53 seconds
- School: Toledo | Class: Redshirt Junior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 3.02 (No. 66)
Johnson lacks great-timed athleticism, and he’s coming off a down year in which he had just 49 receptions for 761 yards and eight touchdowns. But as a sophomore, he had an outstanding 74-1,278-13 campaign, and in each of his two final seasons he scored touchdowns as a kick returner and punt returner.
Even without top-end speed, he still plays fast on the field thanks to his spatial awareness.
I don’t want to get carried away, but the last time the Steelers drafted an undersized mid-major receiver with poor-timed speed but good all-around production and playmaking ability, that guy turned into Antonio Brown.
Johnson has real potential, and after JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh’s wide receiver depth chart is pretty open.
Pick No. 21: Justice Hill, RB, Baltimore Ravens
- Height: 5’10” | Weight: 198 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.40 seconds
- School: Oklahoma State | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 4.11 (No. 113)
There’s a lot to like about Hill. At the combine he exhibited great explosiveness with a position-best 40-yard dash.
And he was a three-year lead back in college. As a freshman, he stole the No. 1 job from future NFL starter Chris Carson, putting up 1,188 yards and six touchdowns from scrimmage, and then as a sophomore (with Carson in the NFL), Hill owned the Cowboys backfield as both a rusher (268-1,467-15) and receiver (31-190-1).
Hill was hampered for much of 2018 with a rib cage injury, so he had only 998 yards and nine touchdowns, but across his career he still averaged 106.8 scrimmage yards per game.
Because of his size, Hill is unlikely ever to be a lead back in the NFL, but he could still have a lot of upside as an oft-used change-of-pace option, especially since the Ravens rely on the running game more than almost any other team.
Dating back to his junior year at Alabama, veteran starter Mark Ingram has played in a backfield committee, and that’s likely to be the case once again in 2019.
Although Ingram should lead the Ravens in rushing and get the majority of the high-value goal-line opportunities, Hill could get a lot of run as the No. 2 back in Baltimore.
Pick No. 22: Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Redskins
- Height: 6’ | Weight: 208 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.35 seconds
- School: Ohio State | Class: Redshirt Senior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 4.12 (No. 76)
It’s not hard to figure out what to say about McLaurin: He’s very similar to Ohio State teammate Parris Campbell … except older, slower, less explosive, less agile, less productive and less versatile.
His team also invested less draft capital in him, and he’s with the Redskins instead of the Colts.
But on the plus side, at least he already has an established connection with rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
The Redskins are weak at wide receiver with only Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson and Trey Quinn ahead of McLaurin on the depth chart. He could play significant snaps right away and perhaps develop into a low-end fantasy starter in his second year.
Being the lesser Parris isn’t really all that bad.
Pick No. 23: Jalen Hurd, WR, San Francisco 49ers
- Height: 6’5″ | Weight: 228 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.66 seconds
- School: Baylor | Class: Redshirt Senior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 3.03 (No. 67)
A five-star running back recruit, Hurd had back-to-back seasons with more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage to open his college career at Tennessee. But after falling out with the coaching staff as a junior, he left the program, transferred to Baylor and switched to wide receiver.
After sitting out for a year per the NCAA transfer rules, he led all Baylor receivers in 2018 with 69 receptions and 946 yards receiving and finished second with four receiving touchdowns. On top of that, he pitched in as a rusher with 209 yards and three touchdowns.
A versatile contributor who can run and catch and line up out wide, in the slot and in the backfield, Hurd is a high-upside player. But he lacks a clear role with the 49ers and is still learning the subtleties of the receiver position.
Ultimately, he might settle in as a do-it-all H-back who splits time out wide, in the slot, at tight end, at full back and at half back. As useful as that could be to the 49ers, it would almost certainly be less useful to fantasy investors.
Hurd has long-term potential, but he seems unlikely to be a steady producer for at least his first couple of seasons.
Pick No. 24: Miles Boykin, WR, Baltimore Ravens
- Height: 6’4″ | Weight: 220 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.42 seconds
- School: Notre Dame | Class: Senior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 3.29 (No. 93)
Within the first 100 picks of the draft, the Ravens have replaced J-Bro and Michael Crabtree with Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin — basically younger, faster, better versions of their predecessors.
Given how physically impressive he is with his elite size/speed combination, Boykin especially is going to look good when he streaks down the field wide open and L-Jax misses him.
A one-year wonder, Boykin did little more than nothing for the first three years of his career before leading the Fighting Irish as a senior with 59 receptions, 872 yards and eight touchdowns. As far as breakout seasons go, it was rather mediocre.
Boykin has to be respected because of his draft capital and bonkers athleticism — he hits all seven of Adam Levitan’s physical thresholds for fantasy wide receivers — but with the Ravens he seems unlikely to do much, at least as a rookie.
And he honestly feels like the kind of player I’ll never have on any fantasy team: If he’s an exceptional athlete, but he doesn’t produce in college, then why should I expect his athleticism all of a sudden to translate into production in the NFL?
Pick No. 25: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Washington Redskins
- Height: 6’3″ | Weight: 231 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 5.04 seconds
- School: Ohio State | Class: Redshirt Sophomore
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 1.15 (No. 15)
Haskins isn’t Kyler, but he’s also not Daniel Jones: Haskins actually looks like a guy who deserved to be picked in the first round of the NFL draft.
In his one season as a starter, Haskins passed for an elite 4,831 yards and led the nation with 50 touchdowns. Scouts note that he’s not the most fundamentally sound of passers, but rarely did he make poor decisions with the ball.
Still, Haskins is not without his flaws.
Almost no quarterbacks with just one collegiate starting season have had NFL success. In three years at Ohio State, he started only 14 games, which gives him an unfortunate Mark Sanchez-Mitchell Trubisky type of vibe. Given his inexperience, the Redskins might open the season with Haskins on the bench behind Case Keenum — although I would expect Haskins to get eventual 2019 starts.
Additionally, Haskins offers very little in the running game. It’s not necessary for NFL quarterbacks to run to have success, but without any rushing ability to fall back on, Haskins could struggle early in his career.
It’s easier for a young quarterback to be a viable fantasy starter if he can score points with both his arm and legs and not just his arm — especially because it often takes quarterbacks a couple of years to catch up to the speed of the league.
Finally, it’s not great for Haskins’ projection that he rarely challenged defenses deep with his arm. As a point of comparison: Murray for his career had an average depth of target (aDOT) of 10.5 per attempt. Drew Lock’s aDOT was 10.4. Will Grier’s was 10.6. They were never shy about throwing the ball downfield.
Haskins, though, has a career aDOT of just 7.8 yards.
I’m not saying that he can’t throw the ball deep or attack opposing defenses with difficult passes. But at Ohio State he relied heavily on screens and other short throws. He might struggle with his transition to the NFL.
If he plays as a rookie, Haskins will likely be viable only in positive matchups, but in dynasty I would start to consider him at the beginning of Round 3.
Fixing Haskins within the rankings is a little bit of a balancing act. Rarely do I suggest drafting a rookie quarterback before Round 3, but this is a weak class overall, so he might deserve to be ranked in Round 2. For instance, I think his odds of having NFL success are better than the odds for the three wide receivers ranked ahead of him: McLaurin, Hurd and Boykin.
But there’s less demand in the market for quarterbacks than wide receivers, and even if Haskins is likelier to have success, McLaurin, Hurd and Boykin might have more upside. And I care about upside when drafting, especially after Round 1.
So I have Haskins slotted in as the first pick in Round 3: I acknowledge that relative to some of the players ranked around him, he’s likelier to be a fantasy contributor. But I don’t think that really matters, and I’m more interested in potential fantasy stars at this point in the draft.
Pick No. 26: Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings
- Height: 5’11” | Weight: 221 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.67 seconds
- School: Boise State | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 21 | Draft position: 3.38 (No. 102)
It’s nothing new for the NFL to welcome into its ranks a big-bodied productive back from Boise State. And that’s what Mattison is, with the 1,588 yards and 17 touchdowns he accumulated last year and the 1,370 yards and 13 touchdowns he totaled the year before that.
But unlike Doug Martin, Jay Ajayi and Jeremy McNichols, the guy whose name makes him sound like an old Virginian from the 1700s has something that his predecessors didn’t have: An ideal combination of youth, size and draft position.
Young producers with size and a decent amount of draft capital tend not to fail in the NFL.
Mattison isn’t in the best of positions — he’s clearly not slated to see lots of volume with running back Dalvin Cook locked into the starting role — but Mattison might steal some touches as a change-of-pace back, and he has value as a handcuff: Cook hasn’t enjoyed a clean bill of health for much of the past two years.
In Round 3 of rookie drafts, I won’t mind adding Mattison as an unassuming flier.
Pick No. 27: Benny Snell Jr., RB, Pittsburgh
- Height: 5’10” | Weight: 224 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.66 seconds
- School: Kentucky | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 21 | Draft position: 4.20 (No. 122)
In my way-too-early rookie rankings, I had Snell at No. 11 overall. Sometimes my naïveté is almost charming. But I still think he has potential.
As an athlete, Snell is admittedly unimpressive. He has little agility and less explosiveness. But he’s comparable physically and productively to big-bodied grinders like Jeremy Hill and Carlos Hyde. While neither of them excites, both have had multiple 1,000-yard, eight-touchdown seasons.
For that matter, Snell is also comparable to Steelers starting running back James Conner on the basis of size, athleticism, college production and draft capital. The Steelers seem to have a type. And as Conner’s 2018 season suggests, it’s very possible for a player like Snell — even with his shortcomings — to have fantasy success.
A big-bodied bruiser with NFL bloodlines, Snell was his team’s lead back for each of his three college seasons, and all he did was produce.
- 2016 (freshman): 186-1,091-13 rushing, 2-39-0 receiving in 13 games
- 2017 (sophomore): 262-1,333-19 rushing, 10-72-0 receiving in 13 games
- 2018 (junior): 289-1,449-16 rushing, 17-105-0 receiving in 13 games
Snell is a straight-up nada as a receiver, but it’s hard to cast too much shade on a guy who averaged 104.8 scrimmage yards per game across his career, especially in the SEC.
I don’t want to be too reverential to that paragon of football conferences, but big-bodied SEC backs with more than 1,500 scrimmage yards in their final college seasons tend to have at least a little NFL success. That Snell consistently produced in the toughest conference in college football is meaningful.
Most importantly, he has a real chance to unseat Jaylen Samuels as the No. 2 back in Pittsburgh. Samuels did well in his three starts last year as an injury fill-in, but because he played tight end and H-back in college, he’s much more of a receiving back than a runner.
As easy as it is to like Samuels because of all he can do on the field, ask yourself this: If the Steelers were satisfied with him as the primary backup, why did they use a fourth-round pick to draft a guy who is built like a lead back and highly comparable to the starter?
If Snell does win the No. 2 job, he’ll see an instant surge in market value and will be a must-own handcuff with the potential to start in two years when Conner’s contract is up.
Pick No. 28: Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills
- Height: 5’7″ | Weight: 203 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.66 seconds
- School: Florida Atlantic | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 3.10 (No. 74)
Here’s the thing: You might be interested in reading a blurb about a small-and-slow mid-major back with three straight seasons of outstanding college production.
But I don’t really feel like writing that blurb.
On the plus side, Singletary had 4,684 yards and 67 touchdowns from scrimmage in his three-year career, and last year he led the nation with 41 broken tackles forced per 100 touches (per SIS). He actually might have some wiggle.
But he got his production against weak competition, and he offers little as a receiver and pass protector.
What’s more, he’s behind LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon on the depth chart. McCoy and Gore are old, and it seems likely that one of them will be cut before the season starts, but Yeldon is a competent all-around back just signed this offseason. He’s especially adept as a receiver: Last year he had 55 receptions for 487 yards and four touchdowns. I doubt Singletary will be able to overtake him in 2019.
But Singletary should get a shot at some point: He was productive in college, and the Bills invested a decent amount of draft capital into him. But I’ll probably avoid him altogether in rookie drafts. I’m yet to go broke betting against small-and-slow mid-major backs, no matter how productive they were in college.
Pick No. 29: Bryce Love, RB, Washington Redskins
- Height: 5’9″ | Weight: 200 pounds
- School: Stanford | Class: Senior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 4.10 (No. 112)
Love is a
walking limping cautionary tale.
A four-star recruit with track-star speed, he backed up 2017 No. 8 overall pick Christian McCaffrey for his first two years on campus before breaking out as a junior with a dominant 2,151-yard, 19-touchdown campaign, winning the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back.
If he had declared for the 2018 draft, he might have been selected in Round 1. Absolutely no later than Day 2.
But he decided to return to school for his senior season, which quickly went sideways. He missed two games in 2018 with an ankle injury. He was notably hampered in the 10 games he did play. And on his final college carry, he tore his ACL.
And now the Redskins have selected him in Round 4.
Love is unlikely to play as a rookie, and he has reportedly experienced stiffness in his knee as he recovers, so his short-term outlook is nonexistent and his long-term prognosis is questionable.
But if Love is able to return to his pre-injury form, he has massive potential, and he could find a spot in the Redskins backfield rotation.
Hall-of-Famer Adrian Peterson is 34 years old, and the team can easily part ways with him next year if it wants. Scatback Chris Thompson is in the final year of his contract. And 2018 second-rounder Derrius Guice is returning from an ACL tear of his own: He might never become the player the Redskins want him to be.
If circumstances break his way, Love could conceivably win the lead-back job next season, especially since he improved as a receiver in his final season, registering two receptions per game. He’s a palatable mid-Round 3 flier, especially for teams that need backfield help.
Pick No. 30: Jace Sternberger, TE, Green Bay Packers
- Height: 6’4″ | Weight: 251 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.75 seconds
- School: Texas A&M | Class: Redshirt Junior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 3.11 (No. 75)
Getting Sternberger in Round 3 of the NFL draft was a sharp move by the Packers: They needed to find a young guy to help Jimmy Graham finish digging his grave before pushing him in it and shoveling the dirt on top of him.
Like all great assassins — Arya Stark comes to mind — Sternberger has had a winding road. He did next to nothing for two seasons as a Kansas Jayhawk, so he transferred to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, where he led the team with six touchdowns, then he transferred again, this time to Texas A&M for the 2018 season.
Out of nowhere, he led the Aggies with 48 receptions, 832 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns. It’s incredibly rare for a tight end to dominate his team’s receiving production in such a thorough fashion — that he did it in his first year with the team and in the SEC is even more impressive.
Sternberger is only an average athlete, and I expect him to do little as a rookie as he acclimates to the league and plays behind Graham. But he has great long-term potential with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback and is the clear arbitrage option for dynasty investors who need a tight end but don’t want to pay up for one of the big three in Hockenson, Fant and Smith.
Pick No. 31: Gary Jennings, WR, Seattle Seahawks
- Height: 6’1″ | Weight: 214 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.42 seconds
- School: West Virginia | Class: Senior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 4.18 (No. 120)
While Jennings’ teammate and fellow wide receiver David Sills was the one who got all the national press and red-zone targets in college, it was Jennings who got drafted.
A reserve as a freshman and sophomore, Jennings broke out as a junior. And over his two final seasons he led the Mountaineers with 151 receptions and 2,013 yards receiving.
Most impressively, as a senior he had an absurdly high positive play rate against man (66.7%) and zone (70.0%). Some of his success was undoubtedly due to scheme, but he also deserves credit: Whenever a target came his way, he turned it into a positive outcome a supermajority of the time.
Jennings played 80.6% of his snaps in the slot last year, but he shouldn’t be thought of as a typical slot man. For one, he has good size and great explosiveness: He’s not just a middle-of-the-field receiver. Last year, 40.4% of his routes were deep.
But Jennings is far from a refined prospect. He’s not especially great at a lot of the things typical slot receivers do. He has below-average agility, and so his route-running technique is a little loose. He also needs to expand his route repertoire: For the most part, he runs lot of screens, curls and fades.
And he ideally would be more of an after-the-catch contributor. It’s not as if he’s a Griff Whalen-like catch-and-fall specialist. But his 4.9 yards after the catch per reception over the past two years isn’t what you’d expect from a guy with his athleticism. To compare: Last year, Parris Campbell — who has good athleticism and played 86.5% of his snaps in the slot — had a YAC mark of 9.0.
At first glance, Seattle doesn’t look like a great landing spot — the Seahawks are a run-heavy team, they already have Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and David Moore, and they drafted Metcalf in Round 2. But Baldwin is the team’s primary slot receiver, and Jennings could take over when he retires, which reportedly could happen soon.
With his athleticism and potential path to playing time, Jennings is worth a speculative roster spot.
Pick No. 32: Tony Pollard, RB/WR, Dallas Cowboys
- Height: 6′ | Weight: 210 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.52 seconds
- School: Memphis | Class: Redshirt Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 4.26 (No. 128)
I’m irrationally excited about Pollard. I know that fourth-rounders don’t often have NFL success, especially when they’re pseudo-positionless hybrid players. But Pollard could be a playmaker for the Cowboys.
In his three seasons, he never had even 100 carries in any campaign, and he’s not polished as a runner, so he probably will never be a lead back. But a switch to wide receiver doesn’t seem feasible: Although Pollard is a good pass-catching back (104-1,292-9 receiving for his career), he lacks route-running nuance.
Even so, last year he had 1,010 yards and nine touchdowns from scrimmage on just 117 touches, and for his career he averaged 30.1 yards per kick return and tied the FBS record with seven kick return touchdowns. He has game-changing talent as a return specialist.
And not that there was anything wrong with his performance in Indianapolis, but he’s probably even more dynamic than his combine numbers suggest.
The Cowboys are committed to getting running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Amari Cooper the ball as much as possible, and Pollard’s skill set drastically overlaps with that of Tavon Austin, so it’s doubtful that Pollard will ever get an opportunity to do significantly more than return kicks in Dallas.
But if he happens to get regular touches as a change-of-pace back and/or gadget-esque player, he could have some week-winning performances.
Pick No. 33: Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants
- Height: 6’5″ | Weight: 221 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.81 seconds
- School: Duke | Class: Redshirt Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 1.06 (No. 6)
When the Giants selected Jones No. 6 overall, the impossible became the inevitable.
Jones is the quintessence of the Round 1. For some reason unknown, the Giants have convinced themselves that Jones is a viable NFL starting quarterback.
He almost certainly is not.
Jones exhibited above-average athleticism and intelligence at the combine, and after that his stock steadily rose to the day of the draft. Former NFL executive and Hall-of-Famer Gil Brandt said that he saw Jones as a latter-day Peyton Manning.
Needless to say, I think that evaluation is off: Jones looks not at all like a first-rounder. He had just 6.9 adjusted yards per attempt in 2018 — and that was his best season.
Even though Jones is likely to be afforded the opportunity to sit on the bench as a rookie and learn behind starter Eli Manning, I very much doubt that Jones will be a long-term starting quarterback.
In fantasy, though, he actually might be a worthwhile low-equity investment, thanks primarily to his functionality as a runner.
While he’s not an elite rusher, Jones is good on scrambles and designed runs: In his three years as a starter, Jones rushed for 1,323 yards (including sacks) in 36 games. Still, it’s hard to be excited about a guy with a 59.9% career completion rate.
But I might be wrong about Jones: I’m known for my humility. An NFL team liked Jones enough to select him sixth overall. And even if he’s not that good, at least he has rushing upside, which as Josh Allen demonstrated last season, can go a long way in propping up a quarterback’s fantasy value.
You can do a lot worst near the bottom of Round 3 than drafting a first-round passer who can use his legs.
Pick No. 34: Drew Lock, QB, Denver Broncos
- Height: 6’4″ | Weight: 228 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.69 seconds
- School: Missouri | Class: Senior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 2.10 (No. 42)
Day 1 ended the way it started: With Lock sitting in the green room.
Despite being one of four quarterbacks invited to attend the draft, Lock was skipped over in Round 1 and forced to suffer the ultimate indignity: Watching an NFL team say to the world, “We think Daniel Jones is better than this other guy.”
In retrospect, it shouldn’t be a shock that the NFL didn’t like Lock as much as we thought it would.
As a junior, he was interested in declaring early, but the NFL Draft Advisory Board gave him a “return to school” grade. Then as a senior, he played worse than he did as a junior.
If the NFL told him it didn’t want him in Round 1 after his junior year, I don’t know why it would want him in Round 1 after his senior season.
Even just a couple of weeks ago, Lock was getting serious hype as a potential top-10 NFL pick, and I thought that was ridiculous. But as a guy drafted in Round 2, Lock is perfectly palatable.
A four-year starter, Lock never seemed to put it all together in college. As a junior, he had a respectable 10.2 adjusted yards per attempt, but he completed only 57.8% of his passes. As a senior, he completed more of his passes (62.9%), but he still wasn’t especially accurate, and he was far less efficient with just 8.5 adjusted yards per attempt.
Throughout his career, Lock was plagued by inconsistency, but as a high school recruit he was an Elite 11 participant, as a junior he led the nation with 44 touchdowns passing and at the combine he flashed a good arm and faster-than-expected speed. He’s clearly not without talent.
But Lock has two primary flaws.
Like Haskins, Lock isn’t much of a runner. When he actually does run, he’s effective, but he hardly ever leaves the pocket. In reality, it’s probably good for Lock to stay in the pocket and look to throw. For fantasy, though, it would be nice if he were more willing to produce with his legs.
Additionally, Lock notably lacks anticipation and struggles to move through his progressions. He completed just 56.9% of his passes for his career. While his completion rate would suggest that Lock struggles with accuracy — and that might be the case — it’s probably more precise to say that he doesn’t process the game as quickly as he needs to.
Mechanically, he can throw the ball wherever he wants to put it. But during games he just doesn’t process information as quickly as he needs to in order to know where to throw it. And I’m not sure his issues with anticipation and processing can be fixed.
But with the Broncos, Lock should be able to sit on the bench for a while behind starter Joe Flacco — maybe even a couple of seasons — and by the time he’s ready to start, they could have a developed collection of pass-catching options in wide receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, tight end Noah Fant and running back Phillip Lindsay.
But if Lock is forced into action as a rookie, he’s someone I will probably avoid, even in good matchups. If he doesn’t run and can’t complete passes, what use is he?
In rookie drafts, if I’m desperate for a young quarterback, I might think about drafting him near the bottom of Round 3. But even then, he’s someone I’ll probably avoid, knowing that it could be a year before he starts producing fantasy points.
Pick No. 35: Trayveon Williams, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
- Height: 5’8″ | Weight: 206 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.51 seconds
- School: Texas A&M | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 6.09 (No. 42)
The draft was not kind to Williams. I thought he might be selected on Day 2, but he slipped significantly, and then he landed on a Bengals team with an established starting running back and weak offensive line.
But Williams still has potential.
He doesn’t look like a three-down back because of his stature, but he’s sturdy and an accomplished SEC player who led his backfield each season of his career. A top-10 running back recruit, he won the starting job his first year on campus and became the first true freshman in A&M history to surpass 1,000 yards rushing.
After a forgettable sophomore season in which he failed to hit 1,000 scrimmage yards, Williams broke out nationally as a junior with 271-1,760-18 rushing and 27-278-1 receiving. Among all graded backs, he finished top-five with 6.5 yards per carry, 3.8 yards after contact per attempt and 33.2 expected points added (per SIS).
Joe Mixon is firmly entrenched as the lead back, but Giovani Bernard is in the final year of his contract, and with a good rookie campaign, Williams could position himself as the long-term No. 2 back in Cincinnati.
Pick No. 36: Rodney Anderson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
- Height: 6′ | Weight: 224 pounds
- School: Oklahoma | Class: Redshirt Junior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 6.38 (No. 211)
While Mixon dominated college defenses in 2015-16, Anderson stood on the sideline watching his teammate. It’s only natural for him to do the same as a professional.
But if the Bengals were ever to find themselves without Mixon’s services, Anderson might be able to replace him.
Anderson was a four-star recruit and one of the top running backs in the country entering college, but his career at Oklahoma was hardly a consummation devoutly to be wished.
If not for his medical history, Anderson might have been the No. 1 back in the draft. Instead, he was one of the last players drafted in Round 6.
Anderson played just two games as a true freshman in 2015 before breaking his leg, then he missed the entire 2016 campaign because of a fractured vertebra in his neck. In 2017, though, he impressed in the lead role, totaling 1,442 yards and 18 touchdowns on 188 carries and 17 receptions, looking every bit like a future NFL starter.
But then in Week 2 of the 2018 season, he suffered a season-ending knee injury, which prevented him from working out for scouts before the draft.
With Anderson, the situation seems pretty straightforward: If he’s able to stay healthy and find opportunity, he could be a top-10 NFL back for a half decade. He could also fade into the obscurity of memory after a string of injuries.
Either way, he’s worth taking near the bottom of Round 3 as a speculative high-upside option.
Pick No. 37: Josh Oliver, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Height: 6’5″ | Weight: 249 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.63 seconds
- School: San Jose State | Class: Senior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 3.05 (No. 69)
Oliver is an above-average athlete on a team with no established tight end.
He has long-term potential: As a junior, he was second on the Spartans with 35 receptions, and last year he easily led the team with 56 receptions ranked second with 709 yards and four touchdowns through the air. But rookie tight ends hardly ever produce, and he’s unlikely to see many targets on a Jags team built to run the ball.
If he’s still in the league in a season, I’ll think about adding him in dynasty leagues.
Pick No. 38: Ryquell Armstead, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Height: 5’11” | Weight: 220 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.45 seconds
- School: Temple | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 5.02 (No. 140)
It’s usually unwise to put much stock into a fifth-rounder, but Armstead is intriguing. He has excellent speed and sufficient agility for his size, and he was productive in college.
After playing as a backup in his first year, Armstead served as a committee back for the next two seasons before dominating his backfield as a senior, rushing for 1,098 yards and 13 touchdowns in just 10 games.
What’s perhaps most notable about Armstead is his landing spot. The Jags are a run-heavy team, but they lack good depth at the running back position. After starter Leonard Fournette, they have a lot of bodies — Alfred Blue, David Williams, Benny Cunningham, Thomas Rawls and Brandon Watson — but none of those guys was drafted by the Jags, and most of them will be cut before the season begins.
Blue is on a one-year deal. Williams is more of a tweener than a true running back. Cunningham is an aging pass-catching specialist. Rawls hasn’t touched a ball since the 2017 season. And I literally don’t even know who Brandon Watson is.
Armstead has a real chance to open the season as the No. 2 back.
And Fournette is not without his issues. In March, he was given the dreaded vote of “full confidence” by Executive VP Tom Coughlin, and in April he was arrested for speeding with a suspended license.
Fournette has injury issues that have gone back to college, he has been suspended by the team and the NFL for various issues over the past two years and when on the field he simply hasn’t been all that good. In his 21 games, he’s averaged just 3.7 yards per carry.
In his style of play, Armstead is very much like Fournette. He’s not the receiver Fournette is — in fact, Armstead offers almost nothing as a pass catcher or protector — but he’s a no-nonsense between-the-tackles grinder who plays as if punishment is a pleasure. He looks like the type of back the Jags would like.
I don’t want to oversell Armstead or his situation, but there’s a non-zero chance he makes multiple starts in 2019.
Pick No. 39: Qadree Ollison, RB, Atlanta Falcons
- Height: 6’1″ | Weight: 228 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.58 seconds
- School: Pittsburgh | Class: Redshirt Senior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 5.14 (No. 152)
Like Snell, Ollison is a big-bodied grinder with little wiggle, but he might have a shot to produce with the Falcons as a latter-day Jason Snelling, who had a marginally successful seven-year run (2007-13) in Atlanta as a hybrid fullback/halfback.
Although Snelling was never a regular contributor, seemingly every year he had a couple of games in which he’d explode as an injury fill-in or surprise producer — and then he’d go back to sitting on the bench.
That feels like it could be Ollison’s fate.
In college, Ollison as a redshirt freshman led Pitt in rushing by default after starter James Conner was lost for the season to a knee injury suffered in the first game. Coming out of nowhere, Ollison put up 1,198 yards and 12 touchdowns from scrimmage. For a first-year player, it was a fantastic season.
But when Conner returned the following season, Ollison went back to the bench and did almost nothing as a sophomore, totaling just 165 yards and two touchdowns on 35 touches.
After Conner entered the NFL, Ollison returned to the field and played as the No. 2 back in a committee with Darrin Hall, but he still had a disappointing campaign, managing just 592 yards and seven touchdown from scrimmage. But last year Ollison finally returned to form, relegating Hall to the No. 2 role and leading the backfield with a 194-1,213-11 rushing performance.
After Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith, the depth chart in Atlanta is wide open, and Freeman and Smith are both small backs. Ollison has a non-zero chance of locking up the team’s designated big-back role and maybe stealing for himself some occasional goal-line touches.
Pick No. 40: Kahale Warring, TE, Houston Texans
- Height: 6’5″ | Weight: 252 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.67 seconds
- School: San Diego State | Class: Redshirt Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 3.22 (No. 86)
I’m not excited about Warring, but he needs to be mentioned because he’s a third-round tight end with a strong passer and no imposing players ahead of him on the depth chart.
To Warring’s credit, he’s an above-average athlete, and he led the Aztecs last year with 31 receptions and finished second with 372 yards receiving despite missing a game. Plus, he has the surname of a Viking warlord (probably).
But the Texans just drafted two tight ends last year in Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas, and the vast majority of Deshaun Watson’s pass attempts are likely to be funneled to wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Keke Coutee for the foreseeable future.
If Warring is still in the league in two years, I’ll think to myself: “If Warring is still in the league in two years maybe I’ll add him from waivers.”
Pick No. 41: Marcus Green, WR/RB, Atlanta Falcons
- Height: 5’8″ | Weight: 191 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds
- School: Louisiana-Monroe | Class: Redshirt Senior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 6.30 (No. 203)
Green will probably do nothing in the NFL, but he intrigues me.
He sat his first year on campus, but he broke out as a redshirt freshman, leading the Warhawks with 62 receptions and finishing second with 687 yards receiving and six touchdowns through the air.
For each of the next two years he led the team in receptions, then as a senior he played as the team’s No. 1 all-around receiver, leading all pass catchers with 50 receptions, 855 yards and eight touchdowns.
On top of that, he added 193 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and he also chipped in with a punt return touchdown. In total, he had 1,048 scrimmage yards and 10 all-purpose touchdowns in a below-average offense. That’s pretty good.
Although Green played primarily in the slot in college, he’s a versatile contributor. For his career, he had a 51-492-1 rushing stat line, and as a junior he exploded with four kick return touchdowns.
And apparently, it’s his versatility that interests the Falcons.
Evidently, the team plans to move Green to running back.
Although he’s unlikely to see much (if any) playing time behind Freeman and Smith, Green might be worth a speculative roster spot in dynasty: The Falcons can get out of Freeman’s contract in 2020, and Green could ascend to the No. 2 role if that happens.
And even if all he ever does is see a few snaps each game as a change-of-pace back, Green might have 2014 Antone Smith potential.
Pick No. 42: Dillon Mitchell, WR, Minnesota Vikings
- Height: 6’1″ | Weight: 197 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.46 seconds
- School: Oregon | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 7.25 (No. 239)
Under general manager Rick Spielman, the Vikings have done a great job of finding undervalued rookie wide receivers in Adam Thielen (2013 undrafted free agent) and Stefon Diggs (2015 fifth-rounder). They might have found another one in Mitchell.
A two-sport high school athlete, Mitchell entered college as a four-star recruit, and he lived up to the hype. The coaching staff intended to sideline him for his first year on campus, but in the middle of the season he was needed as a reserve, so he used a year of eligibility on what was essentially a redshirt season: He had just two receptions as a freshman.
But as a sophomore, he broke out, serving as quarterback Justin Herbert’s No. 1 receiver with a team-high 42 receptions and 517 yards despite missing a game. And as a junior Mitchell progressed with a team-best 75-1,184-10 receiving line.
He doesn’t have elite speed or size, but Mitchell is very physically comparable to Diggs — 6-foot, 195 pounds and 4.46-second 40-yard dash — and he flashed in his two seasons of real action.
Mitchell has the talent to develop into an NFL contributor. He has experience out wide and in the slot, and he’s an above-average after-the-catch yardage producer.
As unbelievable as this sounds, Mitchell might be able to play in three-wide receiver sets as early as this season: Laquon Treadwell is the most unproductive No. 3 receiver in the league; he’s done nothing through three seasons, and the Vikings might be ready to give his snaps to another player.
Mitchell will be challenged to earn targets with Thielen and Diggs on the team, but he probably has the most upside of any player selected in Round 7, and he should be available late in rookie drafts or on waivers.
Pick No. 43: Hunter Renfrow, WR, Oakland Raiders
- Height: 5’10” | Weight: 184 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.59 seconds
- School: Clemson | Class: Redshirt Senior
- 2019 age: 24 | Draft position: 5.11 (No. 149)
Instead of writing a full blurb, can I just show you five tweets? Thanks.
Full disclosure: I’m not much of a Hunter fan, because I tend to avoid old, small, slow wide receivers who never dominated in college — but that’s just me.
Still, Renfrow could get opportunities sooner than later as the team’s primary slot receiver, and with opposing defenses focused on wide receivers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, Renfrow could capitalize against soft coverage.
Question: How convincing did I make that sound?
Pick No. 44. Kelvin Harmon, WR, Washington Redskins
- Height: 6’2″ | Weight: 221 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.60 seconds
- School: North Carolina State | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 6.33 (No. 206)
Entering the pre-draft process, Harmon had some Round 1 buzz in the draftnik community, but after his mediocre combine performance he slipped down boards, falling all the way to Round 6 of the draft.
Harmon isn’t a bad player. Last year, he led all graded receivers with 61.8 expected points added. In each of the past two years, he led the Wolfpack in receiving and had back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns. He has good size and sufficient speed.
But there’s nothing notable about his game. Although he’s considered a good route runner, he doesn’t create separation. Instead, he relies on his size and physicality to make catches, and that style of play might not translate.
The Redskins have a disappointing wide receiver unit, so Harmon will likely have the chance to compete for snaps at some point. But at best he’ll be a slot receiver or flanker who makes tough chain-moving catches and dominates defensive backs as a bullying run blocker. And while that might be useful for the Redskins, that won’t do much for fantasy investors.
Pick No. 45. Riley Ridley, WR, Chicago Bears
- Height: 6’1″ | Weight: 199 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.58 seconds
- School: Georgia | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 4.24 (No. 126)
In case you don’t know, I tend not to like wide receivers who who have below-average size, speed, agility and college production. Man’s got to know his limitations: I don’t like guys who look like they’ll suck in the NFL. And I’m pretty bearish on Ridley.
The people who rely primarily on film analysis seem to like him: He was a four-star recruit entering college, and he’s regarded as a physical player with good hands and strong routes. And all of that might be true.
But his college production was underwhelming. As a freshman and sophomore, he had just 502 yards and four touchdowns on 26 receptions and four carries. As a junior, he finally had his breakout season, leading the Bulldogs with 43 receptions, 559 yards and nine touchdowns — but for a breakout, his 2018 campaign was pretty soft, and it came at the elevated age of 22.
And yet, I might be wrong about him.
The Bears are thin at wide receiver behind Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller. And if Ridley impresses in training camp, he could conceivably work his way into three-wide sets.
I was too low on Calvin Ridley last year. I might be too low on his brother this year.
But I’m probably not.
Pick No. 46: Darwin Thompson, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
- Height: 5’8″ | Weight: 198 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.47 seconds
- School: Utah State | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 6.41 (No. 214)
The Chiefs have a somewhat unsettled and/or unproven backfield. Damien Williams hasn’t been a full-time lead back since college. Carlos Hyde is on his fourth team in a little more than a year. Darrel Williams is a fullback/halfback tweener who saw limited playing time last year as a rookie.
Amazingly, Thompson has the potential to work his way into a contributing role this season. His isn’t big, but Reid has shown a willingness in the past to employ smaller backs in lead roles with Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles. Even if all he does is play as a change-of-pace option, that could be enough to give Thompson fantasy value.
He has never played against elite competition, but in his two seasons at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and single season at Utah State, Thompson averaged 116.7 scrimmage yards and 0.97 touchdowns across 35 games.
Willing to run between the tackles and capable of catching the ball out of the backfield (23-351-2 receiving with the Utes in 2018), Thompson could develop into a long-term committee back for the Chiefs.
Pick No. 47: Mike Weber, RB, Dallas Cowboys
- Height: 5’10” | Weight: 211 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.47 seconds
- School: Ohio State | Class: Redshirt Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 7.04 (No. 214)
A four-star recruit, Weber sat his first year at Ohio State then was the lead back the following year, putting up 1,187 yards and nine touchdowns from scrimmage on his way to winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
As a sophomore he struggled: He dealt with a nagging hamstring injury throughout the season. He missed two games and was limited in others. And he lost the No. 1 job to freshman D.K. Dobbins. In total, Weber had just 101 carries and 10 receptions on the season.
But as a junior, Weber enjoyed a healthy campaign and saw his production increase. He still played behind Dobbins, but as the No. 2 back in a timeshare, Weber gained 1,066 yards from scrimmage and scored six touchdowns.
With good athleticism, reasonable production and sufficient pass-catching skills (54 receptions in three seasons), Weber could be a serviceable (albeit barely used) No. 2 back in Dallas.
Pick No. 48: Kerrith Whyte, RB, Chicago Bears
- Height: 5’10” | Weight: 200 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.36 seconds
- School: Florida Atlantic | Class: Redshirt Junior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 7.08 (No. 222)
Almost everything that needs to be said about Whyte can be done in one tweet.
Playing behind Singletary, Whyte did little for his first few years in college, redshirting his first season then putting up just 559 yards from scrimmage and four all-purpose touchdowns the following two years as a backup.
As a junior, though, Whyte forced himself into much more of a timeshare with Singletary, and he proved himself to be a dynamic backfield complement as he put up 1,026 yards and 10 touchdowns on 134 carries and 10 receptions. He also scored a touchdown as a kick returner.
Although he’s not a strong receiver (just 22 career receptions), Whyte is similar to Tarik Cohen with his speed and special-team skills (26.1 yards per kick return, two return touchdowns). But unlike Cohen, he’s not a diminutive back.
With the offseason additions of the third-rounder Montgomery and veteran Mike Davis, it will be tough for Whyte to make the team as the No. 4 back. But if he can stick on a roster, Whyte has some long-term viability as a change-of-pace back and return man thanks to his elite size-adjusted explosiveness.
Pick No. 49: Will Grier, QB, Carolina Panthers
- Height: 6’2″ | Weight: 217 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.84 seconds
- School: West Virginia | Class: Redshirt Senior
- 2019 age: 24 | Draft position: 3.36 (No. 100)
Grier ain’t young, so it’s best not to think of him as a developmental prospect. But he’s unlikely to see much playing time for the next few years unless starter Cam Newton suffers a serious injury, which is always possible but not something to be planned on.
But Grier is probably worth rostering in deep leagues. Entering the draft, I had him as the No. 3 quarterback in the class in terms of talent, just behind Murray and Haskins. There was some bumpiness at the beginning of Grier’s college career, but after transferring to West Virginia from Florida he really came into his own.
Last year, he ranked third in the nation — just behind Kyler and Tua Tagovailoa — with 10.7 adjusted yards per attempt, and among all quarterbacks in this year’s draft class, Grier was second with 140.1 expected points added.
In Josh Hermsmeyer’s FiveThirtyEight quarterback model, Grier is the No. 2 quarterback in the class.
I doubt Grier will ever get a real shot to start, but at this point in the rankings, you’re pretty much investing in raw upside. And as a third-round quarterback with a good history of college production, Grier has the potential to be a viable NFL player if his circumstances change.
Pick No. 50: Caleb Wilson, TE, Arizona Cardinals
- Height: 6’4” | Weight: 240 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.56 seconds
- School: California-Los Angeles | Class: Redshirt Junior
- 2019 age: 23 | Draft position: 7.40 (No. 254)
Appropriately enough, Mr. Irrelevant is the last player in our rankings. And while I tend to ignore seventh-rounders and late-round tight ends as much as possible, Wilson very much has the chance to be not irrelevant in the NFL.
He’s not an inline tight end, but that might not matter in Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense: In his first year as the Texas Tech coach, Kingsbury’s system funneled a team-high 106 receptions and 1,352 receiving yards to tight end Jace Amaro. It might be just fine with Kingsbury if all Wilson ever does is catch passes.
And that’s what Wilson did in college. After redshirting at Southern California as a walk-on and playing as a reserve at UCLA the following year, Wilson broke out as a sophomore, when he averaged an absurd 98 yards on 7.6 receptions per game and served as one of the top options for quarterback Josh Rosen. Unfortunately, Wilson played in only five games due to a season-ending foot injury.
As a junior, though, he returned to form and led the team with his 60-965-4 receiving performance, capturing 33.8% of the team’s pass-catching yardage and 30.8% of its aerial touchdowns, both of which are near-elite marks, especially given that he saw just 24.9% of the team’s targets.
And he’s not just productive: He’s also athletic.
At the combine, the only tight end with a faster 40-yard dash was Fant — and he’s the guy Wilson pretty much is. With his size, speed and receiving skills, Wilson is the version of Fant with less agility and run-blocking ability but better hands and a significantly cheaper acquisition cost.
Ricky Seals-Jones and Charles Clay are currently ahead of Wilson on the depth chart, but RSJ has seemingly stagnated in his transition from wide receiver to tight end, and Clay feels like he’s knocking on heaven’s door.
10 Undrafted Free-Agent Signees to Monitor
Undrafted players are so unlikely to have fantasy success that I can’t bring myself to rank any of them in the top 50, but I’m a sucker for longshots.
Here are 10 undrafted guys with upside. Monitor them and consider adding them if significant positive changes occur in their circumstances. They’re listed in no particular order.
- Emanuel Hall, WR, Chicago Bears (Missouri): Track star with 103.5 yards receiving per game in 2018.
- Preston Williams, WR, Miami Dolphins (Colorado State): Five-star Tennessee transfer with off-field issues and one final season of massive production.
- Devine Ozigbo, RB, New Orleans Saints (Nebraska): Between-the-tackles plodder with decent agility and pass-catching skills
- James Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (Washington State): Best receiving back in college football over the past two years.
- Jazz Ferguson, WR, Seattle Seahawks (Northwestern State): Four-star LSU transfer with Metcalf-like athleticism and a 66-1,117-13 receiving line last year.
- David Sills, WR, Buffalo Bills (West Virginia): Seventh-grade quarterback recruit-turned-wide receiver with good size and an FBS-high 33 touchdowns receiving since 2017.
- Alex Barnes, RB, Tennessee Titans (Kansas State): Bill Snyder lead back with elite physical profile and a final-season 93.7% Workhorse Score.
- Darrin Hall, RB, Cleveland Browns (Pittsburgh): Productive committee back with good size and upper-echelon athleticism.
- Anthony Johnson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Buffalo): Mid-major late bloomer with elite production and wide receiver whisperer Bruce Arians as new coach.
- Ashton Dulin, WR, Indianapolis Colts (Malone): Versatile D-II dominator with Jeff Janis-esque explosiveness.
Five Late-Round Quarterbacks to Monitor
Quarterbacks drafted after Round 3 almost never pan out, but every once in a while a late-rounder will develop into Tom Brady.
Here are five late-round quarterbacks to monitor, listed by draft position.
- Ryan Finley, Cincinnati Bengals (North Carolina State, No. 104 overall): Three-year starter with game-manager aura.
- Jarrett Stidham, New England Patriots (Auburn, No. 133 overall): Five-star recruit with good foundational mobility and mechanics.
- Easton Stick, Los Angeles Chargers (North Dakota State, No. 166 overall): Carson Wentz successor with 49 #QBWinz, three FCS national championships and dual-threat productivity.
- Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars (Washington State, No. 178 overall): And un-athletic, stocky one-year wonder in Mike Leach’s system.
- Trace McSorley, Baltimore Ravens (Penn State, No. 197 overall): Undersized Lamar Jackson insurance policy, maybe.