2016 NFL Rookie Fantasy Football Review
While the 2016 NFL Draft wasn’t a particularly exciting one from a Fantasy Football perspective due to its defensive-heavy talent pool, several names were selected which will have an impact upon this upcoming season. Below are my personal rankings for offensive rookies, broken down by position. It is important to note that my thoughts below reflect a player’s upside for redraft formats rather than keeper/dynasty leagues. Project or developmental players which require a year or two of seasoning (or who could possibly be redshirted) will consequently be ranked lower.
When ranking the players, the following variables were considered:
1. Playing time – Will the player immediately step into a starting role? Or will they be buried in the depth chart, waiting for a break to come their way?
2. Surrounding talent – Especially in the case of quarterbacks, what sort of talent does the player have to work with. Will they benefit from a strong receiving core, or a potent offensive line in front of them for blocking? Or will they be under pressure and have a lack of targets?
3. The player’s innate talent – Some players are just inherently more athletically gifted than others.
4. Scheme -How well does the players strengths fit with the offensive scheme of the coordinator and head coach?
Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles) – Projecting Wentz’s value for this season hinges upon if the Eagles can make amends with lame-duck candidate Sam Bradford. If Bradford decides to stop being childish and report to mandatory offseason work, then Wentz will be relegated to a backup at best, barring an injury (which is always a possibility with Bradford). Considering the Eagles gave up an overwhelming amount of draft picks to acquire Wentz, you can be sure that the short-tempered Philadelphia fans will demand a short leash if Bradford struggles. From an athletic standpoint, Wentz closely resembles Ben Roethlisberger – a big-bodied, strong quarterback who has the ability to extend plays with his legs and patience. The talent surrounding Wentz in Philadelphia is impressive, from a strong offensive line and top-tier tight end in Zach Ertz, to up and coming receivers Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor. Wentz will still need to improve his pocket mechanics and adjust to the speed of the game at the NFL level. It goes without saying that the defensive players here are a tad quicker than at the Missouri Valley Conference.
Bottom Line: If given the chance to start due to a Bradford holdout/trade, Wentz easily is the quarterback to own from this rookie crop. Once he starts I’d initially consider him a bye-week replacement level quarterback, but with upside.
Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams) - First, let me get this off of my chest. I hate the fact that Jeff Fisher opted to waste seven minutes of my life as the draft started to select Goff, who everyone knew was their choice, despite the ridiculous “smokescreens” that the team attempted to put out. From a Fantasy perspective, Goff landed in a terrible spot for quarterback production in Los Angeles (it still feels odd typing that, by the way). The team’s offensive attack is centered around ball-control and handing it off to Todd Gurley 25 plus times a game. In terms of receiver support, Tavon Austin is considered the Ram’s primary option, but he has never eclipsed 475 receiving yards or five touchdowns. While I do expect an increased level of production from Goff at the helm instead of Nick Foles, projecting more than 18-20 passing touchdowns would be a stretch.
Bottom Line: The only format which I’d draft Goff in would be two quarterback leagues, and even then he would be a middling option at best. Hopefully the team can provide him with more weapons next season.
Paxton Lynch (Denver Broncos) – I wanted to include Lynch in the list, because I was sure to receive a fair number of questions on social media if he was left out. Lynch has several intangibles that Denver was looking for in their replacement for Brock Osweiler and Peyton Manning – a large, powerful quarterback with a Howitzer for an arm, capable of running bootlegs and working outside the pocket. With that said, Lynch is an extremely raw talent, and will need to work on a number of different things, such as the consistency of his throws and decision making on the fly. Expect Mark Sanchez to start for the team for at least the first half of the season prior to Lynch getting the keys to the Ferrari.
Bottom Line: Lynch won’t have any Fantasy value until midseason as he adjusts to the speed of the game and improves his mechanics. Once he takes over in Denver, owners can expect a similar level of production to what Brock Osweiler produced last season – high-end QB2 value with the occasional good game sprinkled in.
Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas Cowboys) - Elliott is the lone “marquis” offensive Fantasy player which was selected during the draft, and should be considered the no-brainer number one selection in rookie drafts. Elliott is as complete of a back as any team could hope for, and immediately slots into the RB1 discussion in redraft settings. He will run behind the most dominant offensive line in football, and has all of the tools to be a true three-down workhorse. An excellent pass blocker, he is also equipped with soft hands and has the ability to run both inside and outside of the tackles. Elliott has a strong chance of matching Todd Gurley’s numbers from last season (1,100 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns). Invest.
Bottom Line: Elliott can safely be drafted as an RB1 in redraft formats, and is the number one option in rookie drafts.
Jordan Howard (Chicago Bears) – Howard may not have the same physical talent as others on this list, but he does have a much clearer path to playing time. A fifth round selection, Howard has a similar skillset to Andre Williams of the Giants – a downhill, bruising running back who strictly runs between the tackles and won’t be used to catch passes. Jeremy Langford is currently considered the “bellcow” back in Chicago, but the team isn’t showing, much faith in him, after pursuing C.J. Anderson in the offseason and then drafting Howard. Langford is the favorite to open the season with the majority of carries, but don’t be surprised to see the splits favor Howard as the year concludes.
Bottom Line: Howard will be eased into the running back rotation in Chicago and used to spell Jeremy Langford. While he has a limited skillset, he does excel at short yardage and could be used as the goal line back as the season progresses.
Devontae Booker (Denver Broncos) – Booker was my fourth ranked back entering the draft, and landed in a fantastic spot in the Broncos. Similar to Elliott, he can be viewed as an all-around “complete” back, capable of running inside the tackles, catching the ball (as evidenced by his 80 receptions in 23 games at Utah), and above-average pass protection. Booker fell in drafts since teams were concerned about his recovery from a torn meniscus that he suffered last season, but he has had enough time to make a full recovery. At Denver, Booker finds himself behind C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman from a workload standpoint, but neither has been confirmed as the lead back for the team entering 2016. As there was plenty of flip-flopping last season from a workload standpoint, don’t be surprised to see Booker making a strong push for playing time.
Bottom Line: Booker enters the season as a handcuff to Anderson, but has the inherent talent to be a high-end RB2 should he receive the majority of carries in Denver.
C.J. Prosise (Seattle Seahawks) – This was a rather interesting selecting by the Seahawks in the third round, as they already had Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael expected to inherit the majority of the carries. Prosise is a freakishly talented athlete who converted from the safety and wide receiver positions, and essentially learned running back on the fly. He is a large enough back to work inside the tackles at 6-0 and 228 pounds, and has 4.48 speed to boot. His initial role will be on third downs as a short yardage and receiving back, but his upside is very high. Rawls owners should strongly consider adding him as a handcuff.
Bottom Line: Prosise is a Hail Mary PPR Flex play to start, but an injury to Rawls would allow him to raise a few eyebrows.
Paul Perkins (New York Giants) – The Giants selected Perkins in the midst of a running back run in the fifth round, and came away with one of the biggest steals in the draft. Perkins has average size at best, at 6’0 and 208 lbs., but he is extremely versatile and deadly in space. In the open field he exhibits “jukes” akin to a young Shady McCoy, and also has plus hands and is an adept receiver. His size limits his pass protection options, so initially he won’t see the field outside of the occasional third down duty. He’s currently ahead of Andre Williams and Bobby Rainey on the depth chart, but still behind Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen. Expect the Giants to make some cuts with this group out of camp.
Bottom Line: Perkins is often compared to a young Tiki Barber – elusive and versatile. He doesn’t have the body size to handle a large workload in the NFL, but he should be used to spell Jennings on the occasional drive.
Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans) - This selection by the Titans was a headscratcher. Not for the fact that Henry isn’t worthy of a second round choice or isn’t talented, but the team just signed DeMarco Murray to a long-term contract in the offseason. Henry is the bruiser of the two, and is pegged for early down duties, while Murray soaks up the majority of receptions and third-down work. Henry will be considered a top-end handcuff initially, but if (and when) he outplays Murray, he will inherit the bulk of carries for the team. Initially I’d project him for seven to eight touchdowns, with the opportunity for more. His value is diminished in PPR formats.
Bottom Line: Barring an injury to Murray, this will be a major RBBC situation, which greatly caps Henry’s upside. As a flier in a FLEX spot he has limited appeal, but he is a high-end handcuff option.
Kenyan Drake (Miami Dolphins) - Jay Ajayi owners rejoice, his role is secure. Drake is another back out of Alabama who finds his upside capped by a committee situation, which is unfortunate considering his ceiling. Owners should expect Ajayi to command the lion’s share of initial carries, with Drake catching a reception occasionally or spelling Ajayi every few drives.
Bottom Line: Drake holds little value other than a Ajayi handcuff to start the season and can be safely ignored in the majority of formats.
Kenneth Dixon (Baltimore Ravens) – Dixon was my second ranked running back entering the draft, and unfortunately landed in a very difficult spot with the Ravens. While he has more inherent talent than Lorenzo Taliaferro and Buck Allen, he will have to play his way into a role to have any sort of Fantasy-relevant impact. The Ravens will remain a run-first team so there will be opportunities abound. If John Harbaugh has any sort of eye for talent, Dixon will quickly ascend the depth chart and have a major role in 2016.
Bottom Line: Dixon is currently buried in the Ravens depth chart, but will quickly rise as a PPR FLEX option as the weeks pass.
Tyler Ervin (Houston Texans) – Ervin is a player who greatly benefitted from a strong NFL Combine, running a 4.41 40-yard dash, while posting the second-best vertical and broad jumps among his position. The Texans overhauled the position in the offseason through the addition of Lamar Miller, and Ervin would mainly be considered his handcuff, in addition to being a passing-down specialist. The Texans also have the option to occasionally split him out wide as a receiver if need be.
Bottom Line: Outside of being a Miller handcuff, Ervin holds little value.
Corey Coleman (Cleveland Browns) – With Josh Gordon still suspended and Travis Benjamin off to greener pastures, Coleman becomes the No.1 receiver for the Browns by default. While he doesn’t have the upside of other prospects in his class, Coleman has the ability to perform all over the field, and will be the team’s primary read in passing situations, similar to what DeAndre Hopkins has been for the Texans the past several years. If nothing else based upon sheer volume alone, Coleman has to be considered amongst the top of his class. The Browns woeful defense will continue to give up points in droves, leading to plenty of garbage time production for this youngster out of Baylor.
Bottom Line: Coleman is the Browns best offensive weapon, and looks to immediately build a rapport with Robert Griffin III right out of the gate. He has plenty of speed and elusiveness to create modest separation, and will hold value in all formats as a WR3.
Sterling Shepard (New York Giants) – Shepard had all the qualities that the Giants were looking for in a receiver to provide a backup plan if Victor Cruz wasn’t 100 percent healthy – a polished route runner with a working knowledge of both the slot and outside roles, and is sure handed. His size (5’10, 195 lbs.) makes him an ideal fit in the slot, and the Giants tend to run the three receiver set a TON, so he will be on the field plenty. Many hailed this pick as one of the best in the draft, and Shepard will immediately see several targets a game, and even more if Cruz falls behind in his rehab. In PPR leagues, he is going to be a monster for the next decade opposite OBJ.
Bottom Line: Especially in PPR formats, Shepard can be considered a high-end WR3 option. Starting opposite Odell Beckham Jr. will allow him to draw consistent single-coverage, and he will exploit the opportunity. He has fantastic upside.
Laquon Treadwell (Minnesota Vikings) – Widely assumed to be the best receiver of the draft, Treadwell was actually selected FOURTH in his class behind Corey Coleman, Will Fuller and Josh Doctson. The reason for his drop was largely in part due to his slow 40-yard dash time at his pro day, but all the better for the Vikings. Treadwell provides a strong outside presence opposite Stefon Diggs in this offense, and is a large body for Teddy Bridgewater to target all over the field. Bridgewater isn’t the most accurate passer in the league, so Treadwell’s huge catch radius is a perfect compliment. This is still a run-first offense, but Treadwell should crack the 55 reception mark for over 750 yards and several touchdowns.
Bottom Line: Treadwell enters the league as a WR3 candidate with marginal upside, limited by the offensive system the Vikings run.
Josh Doctson (Washington Redskins) – When asked for an NFL comparison of Doctson, Redskins coach Jay Gruden offered high praise, comparing him to a young A.J. Green. Doctson is a nice compliment to the slight builds of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, as he is 6’2 and 202 lbs. His upside is initially limited by volume alone, as he will have to compete with Jackson, Garcon, Jamison Crowder, Matt Jones and Jordan Reed for targets. That being said, it is likely that Garcon will be released to free up room in this logjam, allowing Doctson to receive every down snaps. This is a team that likes to look downfield and stretch plays, so it wouldn’t be a major surprise if Doctson led all rookie receivers in Fantasy points during 2016.
Bottom Line: Assuming that the Redskins cut Pierre Garcon and Doctson inherits the WR2 role on the team, he is a viable WR3 option in PPR formats, and a high-end target in keeper leagues.
Tyler Boyd (Cincinnati Bengals) – I viewed this pick as a giant blunder by the Bengals, who needed to replace the productivity that both Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu left behind. Rather than use their first round pick to acquire Sterling Shepard or Michael Thomas (who I had ranked higher in my pre-Draft rankings), they opted for Boyd. Simply put, Boyd is an average talent in many facets – decent size, mediocre speed, okay vertical jump, but nothing truly stands out. He should win the WR2 role for the team almost by default given where they drafted him, but owners should temper their expectations on his upside, especially since this is a run-first team.
Bottom Line: Boyd should see a fair number of targets in this offense, but is in the second tier of receivers for his draft class. Others are higher on Boyd that I, so I’m doing by best not to discredit his talents too much, but I don’t feel that he will be anything more than a FLEX play on a bye week.
Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints) – The Saints drafted Thomas in the hope that he would provide them with a big body at the receiver position – something that they were sorely lacking last season (Brandon Coleman was a giant disappointment in the eyes of many). Thomas will consistently win one on one matchups due to his physicality, and he is excellent at securing the catch (sounds a little bit like his uncle, Keyshawn Johnson). Thomas’ downside is that he isn’t particularly fast or elusive, so owners should view him mainly as a possession receiver capable of moving the chains when Coby Fleener is being covered.
Bottom Line: Some will still consider the Saints a pass-heavy team, but since Mark Ingram took over as the feature back, they have been surprisingly consistent in sticking to the run. Thomas will need to compete with Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Coby Fleener, Mark Ingram and Brandon Coleman for targets. His high selection confirms the team has confidence in his upside, but he will need to climb the depth chart in order to make a Fantasy impact.