The 2018 NFL draft is in the books. There were some surprises and some mixed landing spots for the pre-draft running back darlings. Here are my top 5 rookies following the completion of the draft.
1) Saquon Barkley
Does this need any explanation? As expected, Barkley was selected #2 overall by the Giants. Whilst I completely disagree with it from a football perspective, from a fantasy point of view it’s a great fit. Barkley will have a monopoly over the backfield, assured by his draft capital, and the Giants have also invested in their porous O-line. Turnstile LT Ereck Flowers has been replaced with big money signing Nate Solder – making him the highest paid lineman in the NFL.
The Giants then used their 2nd round pick (#34 overall) to select Will Hernandez, the highly rated guard out of UTEP. On top of a revamped line, the Giants boast one of the best pass-catching groups in the NFL led by OBJ and supported by Sterling Shepherd and Evan Engram which means opposing defenses will have to respect the passing game. Even one led by the fading Eli Manning. Barkley remains the clear number one rookie running back.
2) Rashaad Penny
This pick surprised a lot of people, myself included. But the Seahawks love him, with Pete Carroll already saying “He is also going to be a three-down back for us and he can do everything.” They weren’t the only team high on Penny as once the Seahawks had selected him, another team even tried to trade for him. Penny won’t see much in the way of competition either. I am not worried about Mike Davis, or the perpetually injured CJ Prosise. Chris Carson might steal some touches here and there if he is healthy, but this job is without doubt Penny’s, and when it comes to running backs, volume is king. It seems like Penny is going to get plenty of volume too. This tweet from Mike Clay signaling the Seahawks intention to get back to running the football.
Pete Carroll told @LRiddickESPN the Seahawks are going to "reset" and get back to rushing the ball. This aligns with their personnel moves: Graham/Richardson gone, hired run-heavy OC Brian Schottenheimer, drafted Rashaad Penny in Rd 1
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) April 28, 2018
I’m very excited for Penny in this offense – so much so I just traded Derrius Guice for him in one of my leagues.
3) Nick Chubb
Nick Chubb is just a remarkable story. He was on track to be the number 1 running back in his draft class before his brutal knee injury. After a down year in 2016, he returned for his senior year at Georgia and rebuilt his draft stock. His insane combine results tell us that he is close to being back to his best, clocking in as a 98th percentile SPARQ player, courtesy of Player Profiler.
Drafted by Cleveland with the 3rd pick in the 2nd round (35th overall) Chubb land into an offense that is loaded with talent and whose O-line (despite the loss of Joe Thomas) ranked 8th in the league in yards before first contact per PFF. @DFF_Shane pointed out in his 1 round rookie mock draft that either Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson (or both) could be on another team for the 2019 season. Expect Chubb to see a lot of work this season, and moving forward.
4) Derrius Guice
Draft day always throws us surprises. Some players get selected much sooner than predicted, whilst others slide. Unfortunately for Derrius Guice, he slid, and he slid hard, being selected 59th overall by Washington. It hasn’t become completely clear why teams kept passing on him however there are various theories including this by Benjamin Allbright:
From a league source on Guice: "He got into an altercation at a meeting with the Eagles. He had several meetings where he came across lazy only wants to play video games. We caught a direct dishonesty from him in our meeting."
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) April 28, 2018
Whatever the reason for his draft stock tumble, Guice has landed in a solid position where he will look to secure a two-down role with goal-line work in the Washington offense. He will likely struggle to prove his receiving ability with the presence of Chris Thompson. Thompson had 39 receptions for 510 yards and 4 touchdowns in just 10 games last season. The biggest concern with Guice coming out of college was the lack of receiving production in LSU’s offense (Leonard Fournette came out with the same question mark), so this landing spot is great for him. Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine have failed to impress, and Guice’s upside can be Jordan Howard-esque. The main concern for two-down backs, however, is that game script can take them out of the game if their team falls behind.
5) Sony Michel
As a Pats fan, I was surprised and puzzled by this pick. My instant reaction was that this is a better real football landing spot than fantasy, and the more time I have to think about it, the more I believe it. For now, Sony Michel stays in my top 5 just because of draft capital, but the landing spot, as well as concerns about his bone on bone knee condition, have him firmly at number 5 for me. Royce Freeman is knocking on the door.
Michel will have to compete with Burkhead and James White for pass-catching duties, and there’s a chance that one of Jeremy Hill or Mike Gillislee will win a roster spot as the 4th running back. Either of those guys could eat into any goal-line aspirations of Michel and with it his touchdown upside. However, given his draft spot, and the noise coming out of New England, there remains the chance that Michel becomes the feature back in one of the league best offenses. That’s why he is still in my top 5.
Let me know what you think of my ranks on Twitter at @FF_DownUnder.