Mike Tagliere’s Top 50 Rookie Rankings (2020 Fantasy Football)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Doing rookie drafts prior to the NFL Draft is a bad exercise and one that leagues should do away with immediately. Sure, it helps to know the prospects and which ones are talented, but landing spots matter much more than most are willing to admit.
For instance, I would’ve benefited from doing mine prior to the NFL Draft because I would’ve landed Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the seventh pick (his ADP prior to the draft). Why? Because I had him ranked as my No. 1 running back in the draft. This can work both ways, but I’ll tell you that most don’t adjust their rankings enough after finding out landing spots.
When going into your rookie draft, there are a few things to take into consideration. Are you built to win now? You may want to lean running back. Are you still a year or two away from contending for a title? Maybe you lean wide receiver. Team need should be factored in, too. If torn between two players, you should lean towards the one who fills a need on your roster.
1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB – KC)
2. Jonathan Taylor (RB – IND)
3. Jerry Jeudy (WR – DEN)
4. CeeDee Lamb (WR – DAL)
5. D’Andre Swift (RB – DET)
6. Henry Ruggs (WR – LV)
7. Justin Jefferson (WR – MIN)
8. Jalen Reagor (WR – PHI)
9. J.K. Dobbins (RB – BAL)
10. Cam Akers (RB – LAR)
If you’ve landed a top-two pick in this rookie draft and need a running back, let me be the first to congratulate you. There are some who believe Damien Williams still has the starting job. Don’t be one of those people. Andy Reid has already stated that he believes Edwards-Helaire is better than Brian Westbrook on film. Taylor wound up playing behind the best offensive line in football, and though Nyheim Hines will steal some third-down work, Taylor should run for 1,200-plus yards in year one.
The landing spots for the receivers weren’t great this year, as Jeudy will compete with Courtland Sutton for the top spot in Denver, while Lamb has to fight with both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup for targets, and Jefferson plays in an offense that threw the ball just 465 times last year. Ruggs should be a valued player immediately, as the Raiders took him over the likes of Jeudy and Lamb. Still, he might have been the fourth-best receiver on Alabama’s roster. The upside pick of the first round is Reagor, though he’ll have to compete with Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson for a year.
Some will say I’m too low on Dobbins and Akers, but the same thing was said about Darrell Henderson and Damien Harris last year. While I do believe Dobbins will take over as the lead back in 2021 for the Ravens, we’re losing a valuable year for a running back if Mark Ingram remains healthy. The Rams have already said they’re moving away from a one-back approach, so we’re likely to see a three-headed monster between Akers/Henderson/Malcolm Brown. While Akers should get the majority of the workload, it’s far from a guarantee.
11. Michael Pittman (WR – IND)
12. Denzel Mims (WR – NYJ)
13. Ke’Shawn Vaughn (RB – TB)
14. Zack Moss (RB – BUF)
15. Joe Burrow (QB – CIN)
16. Brandon Aiyuk (WR – SF)
17. Anthony McFarland (RB – PIT)
18. Tua Tagovailoa (QB – MIA)
19. Tee Higgins (WR – CIN)
20. Laviska Shenault (WR – JAX)
If you went with a running back at the top of the draft, you still have some quality receivers on the board at the top of the second round, as both Pittman and Mims were drafted to be the long-term No. 1 receivers in their offenses. T.Y. Hilton is in the last year of his contract, while the Jets signed Breshad Perriman to just a one-year deal. I really don’t love Aiyuk’s landing spot, as Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball 20-plus yards in the air on just 6.5 percent of his attempts, by far the lowest in the NFL. Still, we must factor in that he was selected in the first round. Higgins is another receiver who’s projected to be the long-term No. 1 receiver, though he may not get on the field a whole lot in year one with A.J. Green still there in 2020.
I’ve contemplated moving Vaughn up the list, as he should be in close competition for the starting job immediately, but it’s noteworthy that third-round picks have averaged just 125.3 touches in their rookie season compared to 172.3 touches for second rounders and 280.7 touches for first rounders. Moss is going to walk into the Frank Gore role in the Bills offense, according to GM Brandon Beane, which offers flex-type value with upside should Devin Singletary miss time. McFarland is certainly an upside pick, as James Conner has struggled to stay healthy, and the Steelers offense should be much better in 2020.
This is the round where both quarterbacks selected in the top-five come off the board. Burrow should offer you a long-term solution at quarterback with little concern. He also has rushing upside that not many talk about. Tagovailoa has upside as a passer, but health is what drops him towards the middle/end of the second round.
21. Bryan Edwards (WR – LV)
22. Cole Kmet (TE – CHI)
23. KJ Hamler (WR – DEN)
24. Darrynton Evans (RB – TEN)
25. Van Jefferson (WR – LAR)
26. Joshua Kelley (RB – LAC)
27. Chase Claypool (WR – PIT)
28. Antonio Gandy-Golden (WR – WAS)
29. Devin Duvernay (WR – BAL)
30. Eno Benjamin (RB – ARI)
Once the Raiders paired Edwards with Henry Ruggs, it made a lot of sense. I like him as a player but am worried about too many mouths to feed in the offense. Hamler is clearly the No. 3 wide receiver on the Broncos, so he moved down quite a bit from my initial rookie rankings. Jefferson is expected to fill the Brandin Cooks role on the Rams, but the issue is that he’s not as good as Cooks. Claypool is someone I’m much lower than the consensus, as he seems like a fast tight end rather than a perimeter wide receiver, which is how the Steelers plan to use him. I’m not convinced he beats out James Washington as a starter in 3WR sets. It’ll be a similar battle for Gandy-Golden, who’ll attempt to beat out Kelvin Harmon for the No. 2 spot on the Redskins depth chart.
No matter what happens with the Bears front office/coaching staff, Kmet will be a tight end that every coach loves, and he fits in all offenses. Evans was one of my favorite running backs expected to go on Day 3 and the Titans depth chart behind Derrick Henry is non-existent, making him a high-end handcuff. Kelley should net 8-12 touches per game, provided he can beat out Justin Jackson for the No. 2 role, so he could have RB3/4 value in deep leagues. Benjamin is a bench stash in case Kenyan Drake moves on after the 2020 season.
31. Quintez Cephus (WR – DET)
32. DeeJay Dallas (RB – SEA)
33. Lynn Bowden Jr. (RB/WR – LV)
34. A.J. Dillon (RB – GB)
35. Tyler Johnson (WR – TB)
36. Lamical Perine (RB – NYJ)
37. Adam Trautman (TE – NO)
38. Devin Asiasi (TE – NE)
39. Antonio Gibson (WR/RB – WAS)
40. Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR – CLE)
It’s extremely rare to find a starter in this range, though it does happen. It’s always wise to snag a backup Seahawks running back, especially when they spent a fourth-round pick on him. Bowden is going to be a utility blade for the Raiders, and they announced him as a running back during the draft. Perine is the clear-cut backup to Le’Veon Bell in New York, and we know the Jets are looking to move on at some point. Gibson is similar to Bowden, though he may be the Redskins starting slot receiver.
Cephus is one of my favorites in this range. The Lions have Kenny Golladay as their No. 1, but after him, it’s wide open. Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola are on the final years of their contracts, while Geronimo Allison is the next man up. Peoples-Jones was one of the biggest steals in the draft, according to my board, though his value is low considering they used just a sixth-round pick to acquire him. Still, he can climb to the No. 3 receiver there relatively quick. Some will wonder about Johnson here, but there are too many mouths to feed in Tampa Bay right now, and he’s likely the backup to Chris Godwin as the slot receiver.
Trautman is likely the long-term tight end for the Saints, but he won’t be playing with Drew Brees, which is a problem. Asiasi went earlier than expected but that gives him opportunity on a rebuilding Patriots team.
41. Justin Herbert (QB – LAC)
42. Albert Okwuegbunam (TE – DEN)
43. Dalton Keene (TE – NE)
44. Jordan Love (QB – GB)
45. Gabriel Davis (WR – BUF)
46. Jalen Hurts (QB – PHI)
47. Collin Johnson (WR – JAX)
48. Jacob Eason (QB – IND)
49. Jake Fromm (QB – BUF)
50. K.J. Hill (WR – LAC)
Here’s the area to take a shot on a player who may get opportunity, even if you weren’t the biggest fan in the pre-draft process. Keene wasn’t expected to be fantasy relevant but going in the third round puts him on the radar, and Bill Belichick loves his versatility. Mooney and Hill are deep threats whose teams have an opening as the No. 3 receiver. Opportunity is everything. Herbert is likely going to be the starter in Los Angeles before long, but with no rushing upside, you shouldn’t spend much equity on him. Meanwhile, if you need a quarterback for your bench that you may be able to use down the road, both Love and Hurts make sense.