Evan Silva

Dynasty Rankings

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Silva: Dynasty Rookie Rankings

Friday, May 5, 2017


Not only is quarterback the most valuable position in pro sports, it is also the toughest to evaluate. Just 10-of-26 (38.5%) quarterbacks drafted in the first round between 2006 and 2015 could be characterized as successes, and that’s stretching to include Jay Cutler, Ryan Tannehill, and Sam Bradford. So we have a projection problem. We also have a quarterback worth problem in fantasy football, where the position is severely devalued in leagues that require you to start just one. It is fantasy’s most replaceable weekly position. Therefore, I’m mostly letting my competition draft rookie quarterbacks in Dynasty leagues. If I do draft one, it will be far later than his ADP and that rookie must offer a big weekly ceiling.

1. Texans QB Deshaun Watson (First Round, No. 12)

Watson is the best bet to provide year-one fantasy contributions in this quarterback class, and his plus mobility and quality supporting cast give Watson short- and long-range upside. An 81st-percentile athlete with 4.66 speed, Watson piled up 26 rushing TDs as a 35-game starter at Clemson. Physical route technician DeAndre Hopkins, 4.32 lid-lifter Will Fuller, and capable possession tight ends C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin form a talented pass-catcher corps yet to be fully unlocked.

2. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (First Round, No. 10)

While Watson provides a solid ceiling, it’s nowhere near as high as Mahomes’, whose sheer physical tools ranked among the league’s elite the moment the Chiefs turned in their draft card. We can’t anticipate Mahomes seeing the field before 2018, so he’ll likely waste a Dynasty roster spot the entirety of his first year. Alex Smith’s guaranteed money runs out after the season. The Chiefs’ in-place pass-catcher corps is average, but Andy Reid’s tutelage is a major plus as a proven quarterback maximizer. From Brett Favre to Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, and now Smith, Reid has shown a consistent willingness to adapt his offense to highlight strengths and minimize weaknesses. Mahomes also offers rushing upside after scoring 22 TDs on the ground as a 29-game starter.

3. Browns QB DeShone Kizer (Second Round, No. 52)

I think Rotoworld draft analyst Josh Norris put it well when he stated 2015 Kizer was the best quarterback prospect in the 2017 class. The bottom fell out on Kizer during a dumpster-fire 2016 Notre Dame season. Kizer’s college coach didn’t support him during the year or during the pre-draft process, and he wound up as the lowest-cost quarterback in terms of real-life draft capital among the top four. Kizer’s floor is almost nonexistent, but like Mahomes his ceiling is sky high in a Hue Jackson offense with Corey Coleman, David Njoku, Kenny Britt, and Duke Johnson in place as potential-ridden pass catchers behind a Browns offensive line that has a chance to be among the best in the league.

4. Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky (First Round, No. 2)

Again, upside is one of my primary criteria when evaluating quarterbacks as Dynasty prospects. Of the four QBs drafted in the first two rounds, Trubisky would appear to have the lowest ceiling based on skill set, supporting cast, coaching history, and team philosophy in Chicago. I see him as a Ryan Tannehill-level player at his peak. As a small-sample, 13-game college starter, Trubisky also has one of the lowest floors. I can’t imagine spending a pick on Trubisky in almost any Dynasty format, and I’m very willing to live with that even on the off chance he hits.

5. 49ers QB C.J. Beathard (Third Round, No. 104)

A career 58.1% passer who slumped to 56.5% as a senior at Iowa, Beathard does have a few things going for him. He has a rifle arm, tying Mahomes for the second best ball velocity at the Combine (55 MPH) behind Davis Webb (56). And according to Peter King’s MMQB article on the 49ers’ draft, Beathard was coveted by offense-savvy coach Kyle Shanahan. “He processes the game so well,” said Shanahan. “Tough as sh--. Got a chance. He reminds me a lot of Kirk Cousins.” King reported Beathard was “the only quarterback Shanahan wanted in this draft.”

6. Steelers QB Josh Dobbs (Fourth Round, No. 135)

A heady prospect with a degree in aerospace engineering, Dobbs set Tennessee all-time records for rushing yards (2,160) and rushing touchdowns (32) by a quarterback, averaging a crisp 4.93 yards per career carry. While Dobbs is a major work in progress as a passer, he offers more long-term appeal than current Steelers backup Landry Jones behind 35-year-old starter Ben Roethlisberger, who claims to have considered retirement this offseason. The Steelers, of course, are loaded with talent at the skill positions and on the offensive line. Dobbs drew some pre-draft comparisons to Dak Prescott.

7. Giants QB Davis Webb (Third Round, No. 87)

Compared to Nick Foles by Rookie Scouting Portfolio’s Matt Waldman, Webb offers plus size (6’5/229) and a strong arm but wasn’t an efficient passer or rushing threat at the college level. Webb is appealing only on the basis of draft capital and 36-year-old Eli Manning’s steep downward trajectory.

8. Bills QB Nathan Peterman (Fifth Round, No. 171)

Smart, coachable, and fundamentally sound, Peterman has drawn comparisons to Kirk Cousins and Andy Dalton. Tyrod Taylor’s “two-year, $30.5 million” deal contains just $1 million guaranteed beyond 2017.

9. Broncos QB Chad Kelly (Seventh Round, No. 253)

Truly one of the most intriguing Mr. Irrelevant picks of all time, Kelly showed an early-round skill set in two years at Ole Miss, but nearly fell out of the draft altogether due to injury and off-field concerns. As neither Trevor Siemian nor Paxton Lynch is remotely a surefire franchise quarterback, there is a non-zero chance Kelly could emerge as the Broncos’ best signal-caller option by 2018.

10. Lions QB Brad Kaaya (Sixth Round, No. 215)

Not particularly strong armed, accurate, or athletic, Kaaya was drafted because of his smarts (34 Wonderlic score) and pro-style-offense experience at Miami. He strictly profiles as an NFL backup.

Running Backs

Running backs are colossal injury risks and increasingly viewed as replaceable by NFL teams, who have no qualms moving on from them if they make on- or off-field mistakes or show the slightest hint of decline. Due to running backs' short shelf lives, I factor early expected impact into these rankings just as much – if not more – than long-term bankable talent. Regardless of scoring format, I want running backs who already excel at catching passes or have shown potential to become assets in the passing game.

1. Bengals RB Joe Mixon (Second Round, No. 48)

Draft capital was the lone missing piece for Mixon’s post-draft projection, and the Bengals’ willingness to select him in round two addressed it. Mixon has drawn Le’Veon Bell comparisons as a runner and is a skilled enough pass catcher I believe he could start at wide receiver in the NFL. On size and athletic measurables alone, Mixon compares favorably to Ezekiel Elliott. Giovani Bernard is coming off a torn ACL, while Jeremy Hill’s effectiveness has dipped each year he’s been in the league. I’m not sure Hill will be a part of the Bengals’ 2017 roster. In an explosive offense where his receiving ability is sure to be highlighted, Mixon is a safe bet for short-term impact with the highest long-term ceiling in this running back class.

2. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (First Round, No. 8)

Mixon, McCaffrey, and Leonard Fournette were all in near-even contention for my No. 1 post-draft Dynasty rookie back, with Dalvin Cook a very close fourth. I wouldn’t have any problem with someone taking McCaffrey over Mixon, and when on the clock I might even do so myself. Initially in Carolina, McCaffrey will have to compete with Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton for goal-line carries, while Newton’s averseness to targeting running backs in the passing game is a short- and long-term concern. A landing spot like Indianapolis, Philadelphia, or New Orleans would have been better for McCaffrey’s outlook. There’s a chance he turns out to be a better real-life than fantasy back in Carolina.

3. Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette (First Round, No. 4)

All four of my Dynasty leagues use PPR scoring. If I were in a non-PPR Dynasty league, I would rank Fournette ahead of McCaffrey and quite possibly Mixon. Fournette is a passing-game question mark with shaky pass-blocking tape who dropped 8-of-48 catchable targets (credit: PFF) in his college career. Still, Fournette possesses the top Speed Score in this year’s running back class with 4.51 jets at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, and the Jaguars’ No. 4 overall selection of him suggests they will treat Fournette as a true offensive centerpiece. In terms of sheer carries, Fournette offers the best upside among the top-four backs. He will have to overcome sub-par quarterback and offensive line play to realize his potential.

4. Vikings RB Dalvin Cook (Second Round, No. 41)

Cook’s off-field and medical questions are less concerning now that he’s in the NFL as an early second-round pick for whom the Vikings traded up. Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon pose minor potential obstacles -- Murray for early-down/goal-line work and McKinnon for targets – but Cook’s all-around game should be viewed in the same tier as Mixon, McCaffrey, and Fournette’s, and like them Cook was drafted specifically to be his team’s new lead back. For me, Cook brings up the rear of the big four due to the Vikings’ low-scoring offense and sub-par line play. Fournette faces similar issues, but his draft capital was much stronger than Cook’s, and Fournette will therefore have greater margin for error.

5. Saints RB Alvin Kamara (Second Round, No. 67)

One of fantasy’s biggest post-draft risers, Kamara landed in an ideal PPR spot with the Saints, who perennially lead the NFL in running back targets. Sean Payton clearly coveted Kamara, trading a 2018 second-round pick to draft him in the third. “There are a handful of players you just have a clear vision for and he was one of those guys,” said Payton. Stretched as a featured runner but perfectly suited for a receiving-back role, Kamara never reached 20 carries in a college game but averaged more receptions per game (3.64) than McCaffrey (3.36), Mixon (3.08), Cook (2.54), and Fournette (2.14) last year and posted the highest SPARQ rating among all running backs at the Combine. Kamara should fill the “Sproles Role” early with a chance for more down the line. Mark Ingram has shuttled in and out of Payton’s doghouse, while 32-year-old Adrian Peterson’s roster spot is year to year.

6. Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt (Third Round, No. 86)

Albeit a poor man’s version, Hunt shares some similarities with Cook as an all-purpose back who didn’t test well in Indy but has excellent tape and was active in the passing game throughout his college career. Spencer Ware underwhelmed as the Chiefs’ 2016 lead back, wearing down as the season progressed and never earning a consistent receiving role. Charcandrick West has established himself as just a guy. A prime candidate to be this year's Jordan Howard, Hunt has a chance to lead Kansas City’s 2017 backfield in touches.

7. Redskins RB Samaje Perine (Fourth Round, No. 114)

Oklahoma’s all-time leading rusher despite sharing time with Joe Mixon for the past two years, Perine entered a great-looking situation in Washington with only second-year UDFA Rob Kelley to beat out for early-down carries. While more-versatile Mixon’s presence in the Sooners’ backfield made it so Perine wasn’t featured in the passing game, he did catch 40 balls in three years and is a better receiving back than Kelley, who managed six receptions in his final college season and dropped 4-of-18 targets for the Skins last year. A tackle-breaking power runner, Perine is worth a late first-round Dynasty rookie pick.

8. 49ers RB Joe Williams (Fourth Round, No. 121)

Williams carries off-field concerns after getting kicked off the team at UConn for credit card theft and briefly retiring at Utah, but he posted the second-highest Speed Score among running backs at the Combine and was so coveted by run-game guru Kyle Shanahan that the 49ers traded up to draft Williams, even after GM John Lynch initially left Williams off his board. “I’m telling you right now: If we don’t get him, I’ll be sick,” said Shanahan, according to Peter King’s MMQB piece on the 49ers’ draft. “I will be contemplating Joe Williams all night.” Before the draft, Lynch openly questioned contract-year starter Carlos Hyde’s fit in Shanahan’s scheme, and Tony Pauline reported the Niners were “ready to give up” on Hyde. Williams runs 4.41 at 5’11/210 and averaged an absurd 190.3 rushing yards over his final seven college games. One PPR concern is Williams’ spotty track record in the passing game. He managed 20 receptions across 19 college games and dropped 5-of-27 catchable targets (PFF).

9. Texans RB D’Onta Foreman (Third Round, No. 89)

Finesse runners in power back bodies with minimal pass-catching experience aren’t my personal cup of tea, but there are positives for Foreman. He stands 6-foot, 233 and ran 4.45 at the Longhorns’ Pro Day after winning the 2016 Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back. There is reason to believe Foreman could push Lamar Miller for first- and second-down carries in Houston, vulture goal-line touchdowns, and perhaps eventually threaten Miller’s starting job. At Foreman’s aggressive Dynasty ADP, however, he’s more likely to be someone I’ll let one of my competitors draft.

10. Colts RB Marlon Mack (Fourth Round, No. 143)

Mack is a big-play specialist with plus versatility who found a plum spot. Frank Gore turns 34 soon and journeyman Robert Turbin is a replacement-level No. 2 back. I never envisioned Mack as a future lead runner in the league, but landing with the Colts puts him on the second-round radar in rookie drafts.

11. Buccaneers RB Jeremy McNichols (Fifth Round, No. 162)

McNichols’ ground game is a major work in progress, but he is one of the top receiving and blocking backs in this class. The depth chart is murky in Tampa with the Bucs seemingly recommitted to Doug Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers returning, and passing-game specialist Charles Sims also back. McNichols’ range of outcomes is wide. I think he could hit big or go the Bishop Sankey route if his inside running doesn’t improve.

12. Steelers RB James Conner (Third Round, No. 105)

Similar to Perine, Conner is a between-the-tackles grinder with just enough receiving ability to be functional on all three downs. Le’Veon Bell is currently on a one-year deal in Pittsburgh. Conner would become a potential league winner if Bell got injured or suspended again, or left after this season.

13. Packers RB Aaron Jones (Fifth Round, No. 182)

One of my favorite sleeper running backs in this class before the draft and after, Jones is a better prospect than Packers fourth-round pick Jamaal Williams. Ty Montgomery is their main competition for touches. I love Montgomery’s upside in both re-draft and Dynasty leagues, but he is a converted wideout and special teamer who got benched repeatedly for pass-protection slipups last season.

14. Giants RB Wayne Gallman (Fourth Round, No. 140)

Gallman is a stiff, upright runner with barely-baseline NFL athleticism, and he was one of the worst pass-blocking backs I watched on film. While I am not a big fan of his game, Gallman’s situation keeps him intriguing with 2016 fifth-rounder Paul Perkins sitting atop the depth chart after a ho-hum rookie year.

15. Packers RB Jamaal Williams (Fourth Round, No. 134)

Williams caught only 15 passes over his final two college seasons, missing time due to injuries and suspensions. Still, he was drafted into one of the best offenses in the league and has some potential to force an immediate committee with Ty Montgomery. I still prefer Packers fifth-round pick Jones.

16. Falcons RB Brian Hill (Fifth Round, No. 156)

Favorite to open season No. 3 behind Devonta Freeman (contract year) and Tevin Coleman.

17. Jets RB Elijah McGuire (Sixth Round, No. 188)

Favorite to open season No. 3 behind aging Matt Forte and Bilal Powell.

18. Broncos RB De’Angelo Henderson (Sixth Round, No. 203)

Coastal Carolina’s all-time leading rusher runs 4.48 at 5-foot-8, 208.

19. Eagles RB Donnel Pumphrey (Fourth Round, No. 132)

Scatback build at 5-foot-8, 176, but was a workhorse at San Diego State.

20. Bears RB Tarik Cohen (Fourth Round, No. 119)

Another scatback (5’7/179) with less immediate opportunity than Pumphrey.

Other Rookie Running Backs: Cardinals RB T.J. Logan (Fifth Round), Bengals RB Brandon Wilson (Sixth Round), Raiders RB Elijah Hood (Seventh Round), Titans RB Khalfani Muhammad (Seventh Round), Packers RB Devante Mays (Seventh Round), Browns RB Matt Dayes (Seventh Round), Seahawks RB Chris Carson (Seventh Round), Free agent RB Joseph Yearby (Undrafted)

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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