Who is the 1.01 in the 2017 Rookie Draft?
Every dynasty league owner knows that if they have the first pick in the rookie draft they have a big decision to make. Having the first overall rookie pick is bittersweet. Not only does it mean that you were unsuccessful in your league, but it also means that you are in line to grab a blue-chip player to help you get back on track for years to come. The hard part is deciding who to take at the 1.01.
How many times in the last couple months have you heard that the words “stockpile the 2017 rookie picks”? Most dynasty owners that have been doing this for awhile know that underclassmen declarations can change everything. With players like Nick Chubb and Royce Freeman returning back to school, the 2017 draft class isn’t as impressive as it once was. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t an abundance of talent coming out.
It is obvious that running backs are the filet mignon of this draft class. From Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette to Wayne Gallman, this draft class is loaded with running back talent. This running back class is no secret and has the potential to be a class that we talked about for years to come.
Just because running back is the talk of the town, doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of other skill position talent in this year’s rookie draft. Dynasty owners were devastated last year when Western Michigan WR Cory Davis decided to stay in school. Now, many draft analysts are having a hard time figuring out who is the best wide receiver coming out. With Davis declaring and Clemson WR Mike Williams destined for the NFL, both could be top rookie picks this year.
The hidden gem in the upcoming rookie draft is the tight end corp. Alabama tight end, OJ Howard is an athletic freak and will be a complete game changer for any NFL team. Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram has tight end size with a wide receiver skill set. His versatility to be used anywhere on the offense escalates his value.
Then there is Bucky Hodges, tight end out of Virginia Tech. He is a former quarterback, standing at 6’0″ and 245lbs that has outstanding pass catching ability and plays very aggressive at the position. Jake Butt, David Njoku, Jordan Leggett and Mark Andrews could all be worthy of first and second round picks in your rookie draft as well. Butt will most likely fall in the draft due to his ACL injury.
The black sheep of the group is the quarterback position. With so many quarterback-needy teams in the NFL, this crop of incoming QBs will not suffice. Clemson QB, DeShaun Watson, is the most intriguing prospect. He has a big arm, extends the play with his feet and has experience playing in two national championships.
Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer and newly declared UNC QB Mitch Trubisky, make the quarterback class intriguing, yet subpar to recent draft classes. Kizer has prototypical size and a strong arm. He can move in and out of the pocket well and shows very good poise. Trubisky has very good arm talent and above average accuracy. The biggest red flag on Trubisky is his one year of experience.
Of course, none of these quarterbacks are worthy of the 1.01 in a dynasty rookie draft. Even the tight end class, that is better than any in the last few years, doesn’t have the value to be taken at the 1.01. With all the skill positions reviewed, let’s break down the top five skill position players that are worthy to be taken with the first overall pick in the 2017 rookie draft.
WR Mike Williams, Clemson
A physical specimen at 6’3” and 225lbs, Williams has the size and speed to be a very effective wide receiver in the NFL. He does a great job working himself in the middle of the field and has no fear of catching the ball in traffic. He attacks the ball in the air and has an outstanding catch radius.
His rare size for the position allows him to use his frame well and box out receivers while high pointing the ball very well. Williams’s stats are as impressive as his gameplay as he had over 1,300 yards receiving with 11 touchdowns in 2016. Williams accounted for 27% of Clemson’s total receiving yards and 24% of receiving TDs in 2016. His college production, elite size, vertical and superior catch radius make him a plausible WR1 in the NFL.
The downfall to Williams’ gameplay is his route running and lack of a second gear. His lack of burst will hinder his ability and his route running. He lacks a second gear and can take a while to build up speed. There’s also the injury history concern from his neck injury in 2015. The good news is he has shown no ill effect from this injury.
WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan
When you think of a consistent and productive wide receiver, the first name that should come to mind is Cory Davis out of Western Michigan. Rated as a two-star recruit by rivals.com, Davis burst onto the scene his freshman year with 67 receptions for 941 yards and six touchdowns. The production never stopped after that, posting over 1,400 yards and no less than 12 touchdowns from 2014 to 2016. His senior year he posted 1,500 receptions and 19 touchdowns on 97 receptions.
Davis’ college production is not the only thing to drool over. He has very good size at 6’3”, 215 lbs. and is one of the better route runners in this draft class. He is extremely crisp in his breaks and shows very good short area burst. Davis also knows how to use his size to high point the ball very well. He has impressive body adjustment and catches the ball away from his body.
Davis’ footprint he leaves behind as he enters the next level is his route running. He is very sudden and has very good deception with his upper and lower body gestures. His release is solid and he has the ability to get vertical quickly. He can combine power and speed to get yards after the catch. The amount of focus and concentration he displays will get any NFL team excited.
Davis really doesn’t have many cons other than playing against lesser competition in the MAC conference. It will be interesting to see how Davis’ gameplay changes when going up against superior defensive backs than what he has faced in the MAC conference. The next couple of months will peel back the layers needed to get a glimpse of Davis under the microscope.
RB Dalvin Cook, FSU
It is not often you see a running back get a crowd roaring every time he has the ball. Dalvin Cook is the total package. He has outstanding balance and vision. He is an underrated pass catcher and his value increases tremendously in a PPR league.
Cook has incredible ability to dissect the line as he approaches it and uses elite burst and acceleration with no wasted movement to the hole. He is a home run threat every time the ball is in his hand. He uses an effective stiff arm when he gets to the second level and runs with a high level of tenacity.
The biggest issue when it comes to Cook is the off-field incidents. His sophomore year he was arrested for allegedly hitting a female. He was later found not guilty. There is also a fumbling concern with Cook, as he put the ball on the ground six times in 2016.
His pass protection leaves much to be desired. He is without a doubt a willing blocker and even put on weight to become a better blocker. Unfortunately, he loses leverage and resorts to cut blocks too often. This is something that will need to be coached up at the next level.
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
Deemed as the next coming of Adrian Peterson, the expectations for five-star recruit Leonard Fournette were through the roof coming into his freshman year. He has very good size at 6’1″ and 235 lbs. He uses his frame very well as he attacks the hole with extreme determination and tenacity. He is not scared to take a hit and deliver a hit.
While watching Fournette on film, his balance is near elite, as he can take a hit and maintain excellent contact balance. He’s also an elite finisher, as he maintains a low pad level and delivers a good blow to defenders. His initial acceleration and burst are impressive as he can see the line of scrimmage very well and diagnose a run lane quickly.
The concerns for Fournette first and foremost is his lateral quickness. He lacks the ankle flexion to be an elusive back. He has the ability to sink his hips but can’t shift laterally with ease very well. His pass protection is raw, but he showed enough to be a competent pass blocker when needed. His running style is concerning as he runs slightly upright and is already dealing with a chronic ankle injury. This could be concerning for his NFL future.
RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
I understand what most of you are thinking; really, Christian McCaffrey at 1.01? Well, there is a case to be made where McCaffrey becomes more valuable than the prior four prospects we have reviewed. Landing spot will be key to McCaffrey’s draft position in a rookie draft.
There’s no doubt that McCaffrey is a unique runner who can be an impact player at the next level. His skill set revolves around him being a very good runner, receiver, and returner. His patience and vision are outstanding and will do him well in a zone scheme in the NFL. He’s extremely elusive and is able to break tackles with a very good stiff arm. If he gets in space, he’s gone, as he shows excellent speed and acceleration in space.
He has very good route recognition and is a threat as a pass catcher. As a returner, he’s extremely patient and is decisive, using all the gears to gain speed and elude defenders. He can be moved around and be lined up anywhere on the offense. His versatility boosts his value tremendously.
One of the concerns for McCaffrey is his pass blocking. He’s a willing blocker but needs improvement in his technique. His top end speed is adequate enough to gain some separation from defenders. His upright running style doesn’t facilitate many broken tackles and doesn’t allow for much power.
So what is the case for McCaffrey with the first overall pick? Well, think about the scenario. He gets drafted by the New England Patriots and takes on the role of Deon Lewis or James White. Lewis cannot stay healthy and White is inconsistent. There is a very good possibility that McCaffrey takes over the past catching a role in an elite offense.
Even if it’s not the Patriots, it could be the Chiefs, Packers, Eagles, Redskins, or Colts and easily becomes a bell cow, PPR monster. Opportunity is key and that’s all McCaffrey will need. If the four other prospects go to questionable situations and McCaffrey lands on one of these teams, he easily becomes a viable RB1. I know this is a stretch but could become a possibility.
RB Dalvin Cook, FSU
Where these players land will ultimately deem what their true value will be. When breaking down each of these prospects, Dalvin Cook has an arsenal of tools that can make an immediate impact for any NFL team. Cook has elite speed and explosion to accelerate quickly to the second level.
He may not have the frame that Fournette has, but his lower body strength makes up for it. His ability to keep his legs moving through contact with his outstanding contact balance; allows for Cook to get himself out of trouble when defenses attempt to stop him.
Fournette is a close second but lacks the lateral agility to create his own space if put in a position to re-adjust his running lane. This was evident versus Alabama when he was held to 35 yards on 19 carries. There is also the ankle injury that could plague him for years to come. McCaffrey will need a goldmine landing spot and would need to be the bell cow to be considered with the first overall pick.
Where the receivers land will be very important, but none of them have the upside to be a true number one. Both Williams and Davis will be very good complimentary receivers, but will not produce enough in fantasy terms to be taken with the 1.01. For this reason, Cook is the safe bet to be taken with the first overall pick in the 2017 rookie draft.