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Draft Strategy

Pre-Draft Dynasty Rookie Rankings

By Draft Sharks Staff 10:04am EDT 4/21/20

We’ve spent the last month breaking down the incoming rookie class with 39 detailed scouting reports and 3 podcasts.

Now it’s time to rank ‘em.

Smola, Schauf and English each submitted pre-draft rankings. Then we averaged them out for a composite list. We’ll get together post-draft to hash out a unified set of rankings for your dynasty rookie drafts.

Below you’ll find top 30 overall rankings, followed by some commentary on guys with the biggest discrepancies in our individual rankings. Finally, check out the positional rankings — the top 8 QBs, 16 RBs, 21 WRs and 10 TEs.

Top 30 Overall

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Smola (1st overall): To my eyes, Taylor is right up there with recent prospects like Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott in terms of rushing ability. He has the quickness and speed of a smaller back but the power of the 226-pounder that he is. And talent evaluators that I trust laud his vision. I also think he has more pass-catching upside than he’s generally given credit for. Taylor’s 2.13 yards per route run last season ranked 2nd among 22 RBs I studied — ahead of guys like Clyde Edwards-Helaire and D’Andre Swift. If any RB in this class is gonna become a perennial top-5 fantasy producer, I think it’s most likely to be Taylor.

English (4th): I think Taylor is better than D’Andre Swift as a pure runner. But Swift has the much better profile as a receiver, whether you’re looking at production, route running or hands. Swift beat him in career catches (73 vs. 42) and drop rate (3.3% vs. 12.3%). The Bulldog looks like one of the top receiving backs in this class, and that’s a huge differentiator. Taylor sits 2nd in my RB ranks, so I still have high hopes. His combination of production and athleticism is pretty much unmatched.

Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

English (6th): For me, Jefferson projects as a high-volume slot target. He rolled up 111 catches as a junior and enters the league at only 21. At 6’2, 202 pounds, he ran a 4.43-second 40 time with strong marks in the vertical jump (37.5 inches) and broad jump (126 inches). He’s fluid, reliable and excellent in contested-catch situations. A likely mid to late Round 1 pick, Jefferson will be a legit candidate to contribute right away.

Smola (11th): Jefferson is a great example of why looking at market shares, instead of raw production, is so important for WR prospects. His 111 catches, 1,540 yards and 18 TDs last year all ranked top 3 in the country. But he played in a historically strong LSU passing game. Jefferson didn’t even lead his own team in yards or TDs. And his market shares — 26.1% of the receptions, 25.6% of the receiving yards and 29.5% of the receiving TDs — rank 18th, 28th and 25th among 40 of this year’s top incoming WRs. I view Jefferson as a relatively high-floor prospect because of his ability vs. zone coverage and contested-catch skills. But I don’t see him as a guy who will elevate an NFL passing game or become a big-time difference-maker in fantasy lineups.

Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

Schauf (8th): What is there to really dislike about this guy? He had some drops here and there? So have a lot of quite successful WRs. And Mims showed on plenty of other plays that there’s no lack of hands. He didn’t run a full route tree at Baylor? Tough to blame the player for that. Mims brings good size, tremendous speed and good stats. The market shares were good last year -- 24.6% receptions, 30.5% yards, 54.5% TDs. The breakout age crowd would have liked him to be younger, but Mims’ huge breakout (61-1087-8) came in just his 2nd season (albeit at 20). And he crushed 1-on-1 drills at the Senior Bowl. All told, I don’t see a reason not to bet on the immense upside here.

Smola (12th): A bit surprised to be the low man on Mims. With his 6’3, 207-pound frame, 95th percentile athleticism and strong contested-catch ability, his ceiling is as high as any WR in this class. I think I’m just a little gun-shy on Baylow WRs after getting burned by Corey Coleman and Kendall Wright. Mims’ floor feels lower than other WRs in this tier, like Justin Jefferson and Tee Higgins.

Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama

English (8th): Ruggs pairs truly elite speed with sure hands. His career production is underwhelming, but part of that has do with Alabama’s stacked offense. There’s a reason he’s widely mocked as the 3rd WR off the board: his specific skill set just doesn’t come around very often. Landing inside the top-25 seems close to a lock, with Philadelphia providing a particularly interesting destination.

Smola (13th): It’s easy to fall in love with Ruggs’ speed. But his production at ‘Bama looks more like a bust-in-waiting than a future NFL stud. He didn’t top 46 catches or 746 receiving yards in any of his 3 seasons, despite catching passes from QB Tua Tagovailoa for much of that time. His 2019 market shares — 14.5% of the receptions, 18.0% of the receiving yards and 15.6% of the receiving TDs — rank 37th, 34th and 38th among 40 of this year’s top WR prospects. Yes, Ruggs was playing alongside multiple NFLers in Tuscaloosa. But he’ll be playing alongside multiple NFLers in the NFL. If he hits as a pro, he’ll be an outlier. I don’t like betting on outliers.

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Smola (8th): His testing numbers at Clemson’s Pro Day — including a 40 time in the mid 4.5s and a 31-inch vertical — were disappointing. And I couldn’t care less. We have numerous studies now that have found no correlation between athletic testing and NFL success for WRs. Higgins’ tape shows a fluid mover with 1 of the biggest catch radiuses in this year’s class. And he checks every analytical box. Higgins broke out as a true sophomore, accounted for 27% of Clemson’s receiving yards and 33% of the TDs last year and ranked 2nd in yards per route run among 30 of this year’s top WR prospects.

English (15th): Part of Higgins’ ranking is due to a loaded WR class. But there are also speed concerns here, which call into question his ability to separate in the pros. He doesn’t provide much after the catch, either (5.6-yard average).

Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado

Smola (9th): He’s my 2020 draft crush. Think a bigger, badder Deebo Samuel. Shenault checked into the Combine at 6’1 and 227 pounds — an inch taller and 1 pound lighter than RB Ezekiel Elliott. Shenault is a beast after the catch and also showed the ability to make plays downfield. He posted a 86-1,011-6 line with massive market shares as a sophomore before taking a step back amid injuries this past season. Shenault also totaled 280 rushing yards with 7 TDs over 3 college seasons. He’ll need a creative play-caller to maximize his unique skill set. But if he lands in the right spot, look out.

Schauf (17th): Shenault sits in what’s probably a 7-WR tier for me, from Tee Higgins at 6 down through Michael Pittman Jr. at 12. The risk on Shenault is the injury history. But more than pushing him down, I wanted to push Bryan Edwards and Tyler Johnson up my board. Johnson, in particular, strikes me as a player who could surprise quickly in his NFL career. He contributed immediately as a freshman, despite playing QB in high school. And then he dominated Minnesota market shares the rest of the way. I want him in my rookie draft. The rest of the guys in this range could shuffle significantly after the NFL Draft.

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

English (9th): After a quiet 2018 following a JUCO transfer, Aiyuk erupted for 65-1,192-8 last fall. With N’Keal Harry gone, Aiyuk showed that he can do damage both as a deep threat and a dangerous post-catch weapon. His athleticism shined at the Combine with a 40-inch vertical, a 128-inch broad jump and a 4.50-second 40 time. Stout and long-armed at 6’0, 205 pounds, the former Sun Devil has a style that fits well in today’s NFL. There’s a chance he sneaks into Round 1 on Thursday night.

Schauf (16th): If Aiyuk lands in Round 1, then I’ll give him a boost. Until then, though, I’m a bit more skeptical on him. Why did he take so long to emerge? Why weren’t more FBS schools interested in him as a WR after his 2 JUCO seasons?

Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

Schauf (14th): Burrow is easily the cleanest QB prospect in the class. Tua Tagovailoa without the injury history might rival that. But we can’t avoid the medical chart. Burrow delivered a historic 2019 and combines arm talent with enviable mobility. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes his rookie season among fantasy’s top 15 QBs.

English (22nd): Burrow is easily my QB1, so this is more of a philosophical difference. I’d simply rather take shots on some RBs/WRs that have the potential to return a greater reward — especially an immediate one. Burrow’s year 1 fantasy impact figures to be minimal given the disrupted offseason.

K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State

English (17th): Hamler probably needs to add weight to his 178-pound frame. And he definitely needs to reduce drops after tallying 12 in 2019. Still, the potential reward is enough to get him inside my top 12 WRs. While Hamler didn’t run the 40, his tape shows Henry Ruggs-like speed. He broke out at a young age and posted strong market shares across both seasons at Penn State. Hamler also won’t turn 21 until July.

Schauf (25th): Tiny and fast don’t generally combine to build a consistent fantasy WR. What’s the ultimate ceiling here? DeSean Jackson? That’s the go-to comp for every small speed receiver that hits the early rounds of the NFL Draft. The problem: Jackson is an outlier. Who else has hit the league in a similar size range and sustained production? (Check the examples at the end of Jared’s Hamler Scouting Report.) Heck, even Jackson has spent his career frustrating fantasy owners with week-to-week volatility. Hamler can certainly move up my ranks with a good landing spot, but he’ll never be the kind of guy I’m chasing. (And not just because I wouldn’t be able to catch him.)

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Smola (19th): Maybe I’m underrating Tua’s injury history, which is lengthy and concerning. But if he had a clean bill of health, I’d have him 4 or 5 spots higher in the overall rankings. He’s as good a pure passer as we’ve been come into the league in recent memory, with a sterling 70.0% completion rate, 11.2 yards per attempt and 76-to-9 TD:INT ratio over the past 2 seasons. If he can stay healthy, Tagovailoa looks like at least a perennial top-10 fantasy QB. I’ll take that over the guys I have ranked below him, who are likely to be WR3/RB3 types.

Schauf (28th): I said on our QB prospect podcast that I’m not worried about the injury history when it comes to drafting Tua in fantasy. But I’ve changed my mind. It’s not so much that I’m scared the hip will chop down his career. It’s more general concern for the durability of a 6’0, 217-pounder who has already required multiple lower-body surgeries. In addition, Tua’s not as much of a runner as the 2 QBs I pushed ahead of him since our podcast. Would I bet money on Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts being better NFL QBs than Tua? No. But I feel better about the fantasy outlook for each player.

Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State

Schauf (20th): Benjamin leads this RB class in career receptions, career receptions per game, and 2019 market share of receptions. He’s a bouncy, energetic runner who could immediately be some team’s Tarik Cohen. That’s the kind of RB to take a chance on in this meh class once you get past the top guys.

English (unranked): Benjamin lacks ideal size or speed for the position. Plus, according to Pro Football Focus, he’s average or below average when looking at Elusive Rating (69.9) and yards after contact per attempt (2.91).

A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College

Smola (27th): I wasn’t wowed by Dillon’s tape. And he projects as a near-zero in the passing game after totaling just 21 catches across 3 college seasons. But a 247-pounder with 4.5 wheels deserves our attention — especially in a relatively thin RB class. Dillon’s 117.3 Speed Score ranks 2nd in this year’s RB class and lands in the 97th percentile of all RBs since 1999. In the right spot, he could be a poor man’s Derrick Henry.

Schauf (unranked): If this were 1989, then I’d like Dillon just fine. Might even be excited about him. But it’s not. The Boston College workhorse heads into the NFL as a big guy who runs fast for his size but brings minimal agility and no receiving upside. He looks like fellow B.C. Eagle Andre Williams, who landed with the Giants in Round 4 in 2014 and quickly washed out of the league. Dillon’s ceiling looks like LeGarrette Blount to me, which will be OK if he can find his own 2016 Patriots.





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