Fantastic Freshmen: 2019 Post-Draft Rankings
2019 Post-Draft Rankings
After 38 years watching football, the NFL Draft still easily produces the best reality television every spring. For the past eight months, I studied the college prospects and analyzed their athletic skills. Finally, all of the players have landed, and it is time to assess their alternative-reality value.
In order to rank the freshman’s potential and assess a grade, the skills of a player, organizational aptitude and offensive scheme all must be factored into the analysis. For the first time, I decided to rate the players in tiers: Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, Cum Laude and Honors. In fantasy football, there are so many different scoring rules and lineup requirements that it is more appropriate to provide diehards with various options depending on the owner’s roster needs.
Please whet your appetite by examining the tiers and projections incorporating the aforementioned standards below:
Summa Cum Laude
RB David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
Coach Matt Nagy undoubtedly desires a full-time back to orchestrate his offensive scheme. In 2017 as offensive coordinator in Kansas City, Nagy relied on rookie Kareem Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing and caught 53 passes. Last year, the first-year coach did not have the luxury of a three-down back with Jordan Howard, who hauled the pigskin 250 times but grabbed only 20 passes. Tarik Cohen, the pass-catching back, totaled 71 receptions. After drafting David Montgomery, the Bears' coach now has a full-time playmaker in the backfield. At 5-foot-11 and 216 pounds, the third-round pick is a shifty and agile runner with quick feet and astonishing contact balance. More importantly, he is a versatile playmaker: the rookie can remain in the huddle on passing downs (71 career receptions in college) as a catcher and blocker. Without reservation, Montgomery will impact fantasy rosters as a freshman.
2019 Projections: 950 rushing yards, 42 receptions for 300 yards and 8 touchdowns
RB Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders desperately needed to upgrade their rushing attack and selected the former Alabama bruiser with the 24th pick in the Draft. The Oakland backfield—Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington and Doug Martin—is not the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame. Jacobs easily tramples the competition and earns the majority of snaps and carries for Coach John Gruden. At 5-foot-10 and 216 pounds, Jacobs is a playmaker who competes with passion and power. He has a sturdy frame, runs with exceptional balance and is a very good pass catcher. In 12 seasons as a head coach, Gruden’s lead runner only finished among the Top 12 ppr-scoring backs once (Charlie Garner in 2001) and five times outside of the Top 24. There is risk in drafting Gruden’s prime ball carrier that is being overlook by many fantasy owners. The Raiders’ faithful hope that Jacobs lives up to the lofty praise while fantasy footballers are captivated by the newest member of the Silver and Black.
2019 Projections: 875 rushing yards, 45 receptions for 400 yards and 9 touchdowns
WR N’Keal Harry, New England Patriots
During the pre-Draft process, my model identified N’Keal Harry as the most complete wide receiver prospect. He checked every box and stood atop my rankings. At 6-foot-4 and 216 pounds, Harry is a long strider with daunting size and strong frame. Quick off the line of scrimmage, he is a physical playmaker who uses his body to get open and brute strength to box out defenders. He also maximizes space with leverage, timing and subtle push offs. Last year, the Patriots surprised many football experts by selecting RB Sony Michel in the first round of the Draft. In 2018, Rob Gronkowski, Josh Gordon and Chris Hogan were targeted 195 times and combined for 122 catches for 1,934 yards and nine touchdowns. All of those opportunities are now up for grabs on the New England depth chart. In order to address the vacancy, New England plucked an offensive playmaker again with their first selection at No. 32 overall in the Draft. The former Sun Devil steps into a near ideal situation to succeed: He corrals passes from the greatest quarterback in history and lands in a system coordinated by Josh McDaniels, who will surely maximize the rookie’s skills.
2019 Projections: 58 receptions for 812 yards and six touchdowns
QB Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
In 2-QB and Super Flex leagues, there is a rock-solid argument to select the Heisman winner first overall. A freakish athlete, Murray produced one of the greatest seasons in the history of college football. In the Draft, Arizona acquired Murray with the first-pick overall and traded last year’s starting quarterback Josh Rosen. Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offensive scheme employs four and five receivers regularly and attacks all levels of the defense. The Cardinals drafted three receivers (Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson) in order to implement the first-year coach’s Air Raid scheme. Over the past two seasons under Kingsbury, the Red Raiders scored 37.3 and 34.3 points per game and finished seventh and third in pass attempts. The offense passed on over 54% of plays for 8,569 yards and 63 touchdowns. The former Oklahoma stud owns the skill set to master the Air Raid attack. He has a lethal arm and ankle-breaking speed. He owns a rapid release with good touch and ball placement; he finds throwing lanes and changes arm angles to complete the pass. Murray also pushes the pigskin down the field. In Kingsbury’s scheme, the rookie surely produces prodigious statistics and plenty of fantasy points.
2019 Projections: 3,750 passing yards, 550 rushing yards and 32 total touchdowns
RB Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
I love the talent and ceiling as a player, but worry about the system in Philadelphia. Over the past two campaigns, coach Doug Pederson has divided the touches among his runners. In 2017, LaGarrette Blount led the team with 173 carries (43%), and last year, Josh Adams paced the club with 120 attempts (34%). The Eagles acquired veteran Jordan Howard during the offseason, and Josh Adams and Corey Clement remain on the roster. When training camp opens, it is a crowded backfield in Philly. Miles Sanders is the most athletic runner on the roster and will push for plenty of snaps and touches in the City of Brotherly Love. At 5-foot-10 and 211 pounds, the former Nittany Lion is a determined ball carrier who evades initial tacklers and fights off defenders. A north-south runner, he plants foot and accelerates up the field with very good vision. Sanders also explodes through seams, bouncing off tacklers and spinning free. In the long run, the freshman will ascent to the top of the pecking order in Philadelphia; however, will Pederson give any runner over 50% of the carries? Only time will tell but the past does not foreshadow a colossal workload.
2019 Projections: 725 rushing yards, 25 receptions for 200 yards and six touchdowns
WR Parris Campbell, Indianapolis Colts
Any receiver attached to the arm of Andrew Luck must be ranked among the elite prospects in the Class of 2019. Coach Frank Reich orchestrates one of the best offenses, and with TY Hilton, Devin Funchess and Eric Ebron, Luck has many options to choose from in the passing game. In addition, the Colts employ one of the best offensive lines in the league and a ground game to keep defensive backs honest. At 6-foot-0 and 205 pounds, Campbell is a blazer with long arms, strong hands and nice catch radius. A fluid and explosive athlete, he is an excellent runner after the catch and difficult to bring down in the open field. He effortlessly separates off the line of scrimmage and uses quick ankle-breaking cuts and loose hips to break tackles. The former Buckeye will not be asked to ignite the aerial assault alone and will slide into a complimentary role at first. He will be deadly in one-on-one matchups on quick screens, crossing patterns and underneath routes. In the long run, Campbell’s ceiling foretells a 1,000-yard receiver with nearly 10 touchdowns a season in Indianapolis.
2019 Projections: 52 receptions for 575 yards and five touchdowns