Rookie Rankings Review (Fantasy Football)
Saquon Barkley is in a Tier of His Own
Saquon Barkley was the second pick in the draft, has a three-down profile, and is a great athlete. Unsurprisingly, Barkley is the number one pick with an ADP of 1.0. Since 2008, only three players have had an ADP of 1.0: Trent Richardson, Darren McFadden, and Ezekiel Elliott.
All three were top four picks in the NFL Draft and all produced starter seasons. Richardson flamed out after one starter season, while McFadden and Elliott both produced two starter seasons. Elliott is still young, with a lot of opportunities to produce, but ADP of 1.0 is not invincible. Barkley is bulletproof metrically and is known as a high character player. If he is healthy, he should be a fantasy superstar for years to come.
What is the Next Tier?
Our rookie rankings are tightly packed, with no sharp tier breaks in the first round. Derrius Guice is the second player (2.9 overall rank), while Sony Michel (4.9), Rashaad Penny (5.0), and Nick Chubb (5.5) are tightly packed.
There was a narrative circulating that Guice was too low of a pick to warrant the second pick in rookie drafts. The narrative said that as the seventh back selected with the 59th pick, there were too many running backs chosen before Guice for him to warrant the number two pick.
This is a dicey historical argument. Since 2008, running backs selected with an ADP of three or lower were on average the 15.7th pick in the NFL Draft, while wide receivers were the 9.5th pick. This year only Saquon Barkley is a better than average rookie pick in terms of NFL Draft capital.
On the other hand, picks with ADPs between three and six were on average the 44th pick in the NFL Draft, while wide receivers were the 19.4th pick. This is where the strength of the class lies. Again, no wide receivers qualify, but five running backs outside of Barkley qualify. Rashaad Penny, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Ronald Jones, and Kerryon Johnson are all above the historical average of draft pedigree between picks four and six.
Guice’s fall was primarily attributable to off-field problems, and his draft pedigree is lower than his on-field talent would suggest. While it is fair to have a concern about his draft pedigree, the suggestions that other running backs drafted above him warrant that draft range is still a historically below average pick. If you are looking to maximize NFL Draft capital, look to trade down from picks two or three and acquire two mid to late first round picks.
Situational Receivers Are Rising
Michael Gallup (WR5 – 13th overall) and Anthony Miller (WR7 – 15th overall) are rising into the early second round of rookie drafts. Gallup landed in Dallas as a third-round pick with a wide-open opportunity for targets. Miller landed in Chicago as a second-round pick with an open opportunity to start opposite of Allen Robinson.
While the opportunities look ripe, rookie receiver caution is essential. 42 receivers have been selected in the second round of the NFL Draft since 2008. Only three have produced a top 24 season in year one. Of the 52 receivers selected in the third round since 2008, only one has produced a top 24 season as a rookie.
While the opportunity to get production early is enticing, history suggests Miller and especially Gallup are unlikely to produce a starter-caliber season as a rookie. Making picks based on rookie year production is a losing strategy, so caution is necessary with Miller and Gallup.
Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are the only recent example of a team selecting two premium tight ends in the same draft. Baltimore has a worse quarterback situation, and the depth chart looks like a quagmire. However, tight ends selected in the first round of the draft have a high hit rate, so a long-term investment in Hurst is attractive as the TE3 at the 26th overall ranking.
The tight end with the most immediate opportunity, but rawest talent, is Mike Gesicki (TE1- 18th overall). Gesicki is a great athlete but was not a great pass catcher in college. He enters Miami, who is without Jarvis Landry and his annual 100 receptions, so the opportunity exists. However, a pick at 18 overall offers little discount on his boom-bust profile. Waiting a full round and selecting the fourth tight end off the board is a better option in this draft class.
Quarterback is a Good Value in Round Three
Since 2008, this quarterback class has the highest amount of draft pedigree according to the Jimmy Johnson draft chart. In fact, this class has 47% above the average class. With five first-round quarterbacks all boasting reasonable opportunities to start the 2019 season, this class can reshape the dynasty quarterback landscape.
With aging veterans like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger nearing potential retirement, there are opportunities to address the quarterback position in this class. While Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, and Lamar Jackson are all closely bunched between 16th and 20th overall, one or more are likely to fall into the third or even fourth round of single-QB formats. While Josh Allen has more risk, he is an intriguing upside flier due to his fourth-round cost. Either way, targeting a quarterback in the third or fourth round to stash on a taxi squad is a robust long-term draft plan.
Jordan McNamara is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jordan, check out his archive and follow him @McNamaraDynasty.