2016 Post NFL Draft Rankings: Distinguished Fantasy Freshmen

By John Laub
John Laub


Draft experts, NFL scouts and couch-potato football fanatics have all expounded on the cavernous pool of players in the annual allocation of college talent. After analyzing the franchises that players landed with, fantasy football diehards are drooling at the neophytes, who will begin their pro career in the fall.


The following rankings reflect the potential for each player to impact fantasy rosters this season. In order to rate the freshman’s outlook and assess a grade, the skills of a player, the organization that drafted him and the likeliness of earning a varsity letter all factor into the rankings and projections.


Without question, Dallas playmaker Ezekiel Elliot stands atop rookie rankings across the industry. Kenneth Dixon, Paul Perkins and C.J. Prosise shadow the former Buckeye star in the rankings. At receiver, Laquon Treadwell, Sterling Shepard, Corey Coleman and Tyler Boyd all should start and contribute immediately for their new teams while Josh Doctson and Leonte Carroo begin the campaign as third options in the pecking order on their new clubs. Unfortunately, the quarterback and tight end prospects will not likely make immediate impacts on fantasy rosters.


Of course, depth charts during the upcoming months, news and reports throughout the summer and injuries to veterans—as well as the rookies—will determine a competitor’s ultimate value and jumble the rankings before kickoff in September. However, please wet your appetite by examining the tiers and projections incorporating the aforementioned standards below:


Summa Cum Laude

1. RB Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

In the 1990s, the Cowboys won three Super Bowls with Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith rambling and prancing behind the Great Wall of Dallas. It is obvious coach Jason Garrett hopes to replicate the formula with the fourth-overall selection in the Draft running in the wake of possibly the foremost front five in the NFL. For fantasy football diehards, Elliot stands far and above all the other rookies drafted this season.

Grade: A+

2016 Projections: 1,250 yards rushing, 45 receptions for 375 yards and 12 TDs


2. WR Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota Vikings

Sometimes compared to former Miami Hurricane Michael Irvin, the Mississippi star will be coached and utilized by offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who orchestrated the Hall of Famer’s career. Fantasy fanatics should not be concerned by Treadwell’s professional destination. He ascends to the top of the food chain in the Minnesota aerial attack, and is the key playmaker for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Grade: A-

2016 Projections: 74 receptions for 925 yards and 6 TDs  


3. RB Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens

While the Louisiana Tech luminary does not sit atop the depth chart yet, Dixon might be the best runner on the Ravens’ roster. Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman loves to employ his running backs in the passing attack, and Dixon has all the tools the coach covets. By the end of the campaign, the fourth-round selection should be the main ball carrier—and a weekly fantasy performer—in Baltimore.

Grade: A-

2016 Projections: 825 yards rushing, 60 receptions for 480 yards and 6 TDs


Magna Cum Laude

4. WR Sterling Shepard, New York Giants

The former quick-twitch Sooner landed in a golden location: Rueben Randle now resides in Philadelphia, and after suffering a major knee injury and enduring season-ending calf surgery, Victor Cruz has not suited up for Big Blue since October 2014. New York has a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback and an All-World wide receiver to abet Shepard’s growth as a professional. All signs elucidate an industrious rookie crusade.

Grade: B+

2016 Projections: 78 receptions for 910 yards and 6 TDs


5. WR Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns

One of the more difficult evaluations for fantasy managers this summer: A stupendous talent who is now employed by one of the forlorn franchises during the past decade. Fortunately, skill set and opportunity foreshadow production at the next level. In Cleveland, the Baylor home run hitter will be targeted often this season as the veteran receivers offer little competition.

Grade: B+

2016 Projections: 70 receptions for 925 yards and 6 TDs 


6. RB Paul Perkins, New York Giants

If new head coach Ben McAdoo wants to lead New York into the post-season, he must get some chunk plays from his backfield. The elusive back from UCLA provides the Giants with a dual-threat runner who makes defenders miss in one-on-one situations. Perkins may not open the season as the starter, but none of the old-timers present an unattainable hurdle for touches. The former Bruin will likely reap more playing time as the 2016 campaign evolves.

Grade: B+

2016 Projections: 700 yards rushing, 55 receptions for 425 yards and 5 TDs


7. WR Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals

After Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu jettisoned Cincinnati, the Bengals had a gaping hole at receiver. Enter Tyler Boyd, a second-round selection. The former Pittsburgh standout will surely be counted on to replace the targets and receptions—153 and 98 respectively—vacated during the offseason. A good route runner with great hands, Boyd should garner a high percentage of the aforementioned production. He will not be a red zone target with A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert on the roster; however, Boyd will be an underrated commodity in point-per-reception leagues.

Grade: B

2016 Projections: 70 receptions for 800 yards and 6 TDs


8. RB C.J. Prosise, Seattle Seahawks

Visions of Matt Forte danced in the heads of Fantasy footballers when Seattle grabbed the gifted athlete in the third round. A former wide receiver, Prosise rocketed to the top of the backfield last year at Notre Dame and performed splendidly. Most likely he begins the crusade as the third-down back in Seattle and is more valuable in points-per-reception leagues.

Grade: B

2016 Projections: 475 yards rushing, 45 receptions for 400 yards and 4 TDs


Cum Laude

9. WR Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints

The former Buckeye surfaces with an explosive offense in New Orleans led by coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees. The Saints employ a solid cadre of weapons in the aerial attack: Brandon Cooks, Willie Snead and Coby Fleener. The 47th selection in the draft ran a limited route tree at Ohio State and needs to improve the nuances of the position as a professional. While Brees annually tosses well over 600 passes, Thomas is not likely to be his prime target until he masters the complexity of the offense.

Grade: C

2016 Projections: 45 receptions for 650 yards and 5 TDs


10. WR Josh Doctson, Washington Redskins

A much better Dynasty prospect than redraft performer in 2016: With veterans DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, sophomore Jamison Crowder and All-Pro tight end Jordan Reed, the targets might not be bountiful for Doctson as a freshman. At 6’2” and 202 lbs., the former TCU star might become a red zone target as a rookie, but not likely to ascend to the forefront of QB Kirk Cousins’ options when the ball is in the air.

Grade: C+

2016 Projections: 45 receptions for 675 yards and 5 TDs


11. WR Will Fuller, Houston Texans

Coach Bill O’Brien desperately wanted to upgrade the team’s offensive speed: Fuller posted the fastest 40-yard dash at the Combine among wide receivers and averaged over 20 yards per catch last season. The speedster provides the Texans with a home run hitter who challenges defenses over the top and is the perfect complement to All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins.

Grade: C

2016 Projections: 38 receptions for 570 yards and 4 TDs


12. WR Mike Thomas, Los Angeles Rams

Decorating the top of the Rams’ wide receiver corps are veterans Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin and Brian Quick: Not exactly murderers row. Los Angeles drafted Pharoh Cooper and Tyler Higbee in the fourth round in an attempt to upgrade the passing game; nevertheless, the Southern Mississippi product holds the most upside of the draftees. Astute fantasy owners will take a late flier on the newest member of the Los Angeles franchise: It will surely be worth the investment.

Grade: C

2016 Projections: 50 receptions for 520 yards and 4 TDs


Honorable Mention

13. RB Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

14. RB Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears

15. QB Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos

16. WR Leonte Carroo, Miami Dolphins

17. WR Malcolm Mitchell, New England Patriots

18. RB Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins

19. RB DeAndre Washington, Oakland Raiders

20. RB Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos

21. QB Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

22. WR Keyarris Garrett, Carolina Panthers

23. RB Keith Marshall, Washington Redskins


Dynasty Prospects

24. WR Pharoh Cooper, Los Angeles Rams

25. WR Chris Moore, Baltimore Ravens

26. WR Rashard Higgins, Cleveland Browns

27. TE Hunter Henry, San Diego Chargers

28. RB Daniel Lesco, New Orleans Saints

29. RB Alex Collins, Seattle Seahawks

30. RB Tyler Ervin, Houston Texans

31. RB Wendell Smallwood, Philadelphia Eagles

32. TE Jerrell Adams, New York Giants

33. RB Josh Ferguson, Indianapolis Colts

34. D.J. Foster, New England Patriots

35. QB Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

36. QB Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

37. RB Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

38. K Roberto Aguayo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


With his Masters in history and professional experience as an educator, John Laub is uniquely qualified to research, analyze and discover new insights and trends in college and professional fantasy football. Laub has played fantasy football for a quarter century and provided FootballDiehards.com with weekly player rankings for nearly two decades. He won $10,000 in 1993, defeat