Ah, the NFL rookie hype train.
It is now making its annual journey, chugging through tweets, posts, and podcasts, drumming up discussion and prognostication of eventual superstars and super-flops. Each year before the draft we argue and fight for our guy. Our difference maker, our shining star to hang our wishes on. We shovel the coal into the mighty engines of the Little Hype Train That Could. “I think he can. I think he can”.
In truth, the NFL draft and scouting players in general is a difficult task. You do your best in scouting the talent of a player, and you hope that your research pays off. But recently a colleague of mine at DFF tweeted out something really interesting:
Now don’t get me wrong I think that talent will find a way to break through eventually. But there’s truth to what Mr. DiBari is telling you. Like it or not, it matters who selects these rookies, especially if you want them to produce sooner rather than later. You might be super excited about Rashaad Penny, but if he gets drafted by the Chiefs then what can you expect out of the guy right away?
So, I want to break down the ideal landing spot for these rookies. Only realistic scenarios will be considered – I won’t be sending Saquon Barkley to the Patriots here. This article will be a look at 15 rookies, in no particular order. Just 15 rookies who you might be watching, and where they would pay dividends.
Let’s dive right in with the conductor of the Hype Train; Saquon Barkley.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Ideal Landing Spot – New York Giants
If the Browns don’t draft Barkley first overall, or if the Giants trade up, (and if the Giants do decide that this is not the year they draft Eli Manning’s replacement), then they would be well-served to nab Barkley. While it is true that the Browns are making plenty of strides in free agency and would also offer a decent situation for Barkley, the idea of him joining a Giants team with a healthy OBJ and decent O-Line is the best realistic option, as it gives him the best chance to have instant success.
Josh Allen, QB, Ideal Landing Spot – Denver Broncos
Hey, it’s possible. If the Giants, Browns, and Colts all decide that they’d rather take Rosen, Chubb, Barkley or Darnold, and Josh Allen is still on the table when the Broncos pick in the fifth position then I think this could be a great match. It’s easy to say that any QB would be a good fit in Denver, but Allen’s arm strength and willingness to risk low-percentage throws might match up well with Denver’s capable receiving corps. He’d have an above-average O-Line to help keep him in the pocket, and a platform to succeed in play action.
Sam Darnold, QB, Ideal Landing Spot – Cleveland Browns
Of all the QBs that could get picked within the Top 5 by the Browns, I think Darnold is the best fit for them. He’s got a big arm, sure, but he’s got some intangibles that will help him succeed in Cleveland. For one, all reports are that he’s got the mental toughness of a veteran NFL QB, which he’ll need if he’s going to be the signal-caller in the Dawg Pound. Darnold managed a 71.1% completion when he has 2.5 seconds or less to throw. So he’s also well equipped to throw under pressure when the O-Line can’t provide him decent pass protection. Despite the apparent problem that the Browns trading for Tyrod Taylor presents to Darnold’s short-term success. He’s a fit for this team, and I think he’ll take over before too long.
Josh Rosen, QB, Ideal Landing Spot – Indianapolis Colts
Rosen should be the Colts pick, but it’s possible he won’t be. First off, Andrew Luck may come back healthy, in which case Rosen will have to start the season as the backup if he joins the Colts. He’s also received some bad press for his outspoken nature (entirely unwarranted in my opinion), and he’s consistently ranked behind Allen and Darnold. But, if the Colts do use the #2 overall pick on Rosen, I think it’s a move that could pay off. Rosen is potentially the most well-equipped to deal with the lack of pass protection he could get from the Colts’ O-Line. In 2017, Rosen completed 63% of his passes when he was blitzed in college, and his overall completion percentage was 62.6%, which means he was better when facing a blitz.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Ideal Landing Spot – Dallas Cowboys
Calvin Ridley’s less-than-stellar combine performance could be music to Cowboys fans’ ears. Regardless of the results of the combine, Calvin Ridley is a fantastic talent at WR, and Dallas would reap the benefits of his slide. It may take a trade to make this happen, as it’s unlikely that the Ravens will pass on Ridley. But maybe they, too, will have a change of heart. The Cowboys offer a path to instant success that almost no other team can. Dez Bryant is withering away into mediocrity, they have a Rookie of the Year QB and an elite Running Back, and there is a clear path for any rookie WR to be a difference-maker.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Ideal Landing Spot – Miami Dolphins
This is a destination that just makes sense. As a QB who worked in a Spread offense, Mayfield would fit right in with Adam Gase’s offensive scheme. He wouldn’t have a completely clear path to the starting job, but if Ryan Tannehill shows signs of sluggishness and ineffectiveness his return, Mayfield should be able to step right into the role. Considering Mayfield’s off-field issues, he’s also heading to the right place. Miami has never shied away from acquiring controversial players, as evidenced in their 2015 signing of Ndamukong Suh and their 2016 drafting of Laremy Tunsil, to name a couple.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Ideal Landing Spot – Buffalo Bills
Quite a few pundits have placed him as a potential candidate to end up with the Cardinals or Dolphins, but he’s a better fit for the Bills. It’s likely that Buffalo would need to trade up to select Jackson. But that’s okay since they have the 21st and 22nd pick in the draft. After moving on from Tyrod Taylor, they should be on the lookout for a QB like Lamar Jackson. Jackson’s mobility and clean arm will fit nicely with the Bills, whose O-Line should bounce back some. The Bills also have an elite running back in LeSean McCoy and an enticing receiver corps with plenty of potential to grow. Jackson isn’t the most accurate QB, but if given a chance I think he could be a fantastic piece for the Bills.
Derrius Guice, RB, Ideal Landing Spot – Detroit Lions
After watching what Leonard Fournette was able to do last year for the Jaguars, all eyes will be on this year’s LSU RB prospect, Derrius Guice. Guice is a terrific looking power back, and he runs with aggression and strength that has shades of Marshawn Lynch. His injury-plagued 2017 season might be enough to scare some teams, but hopefully, the Lions take a shot on him. Detroit has been looking for a quality running back, and it seems more and more that Ameer Abdullah will not be that guy. Guice would have a pretty clear path to being the primary back for an offense that would greatly benefit from his run style.
Courtland Sutton, WR, Ideal Landing Spot: Atlanta Falcons
Sutton is a WR that is built like a TE/WR hybrid. His 6’3, 218 lb. frame (almost identical to Evan Engram ) gives him a size advantage on contested balls that you find in a TE, but he has the speed and agility to beat Defensive Backs. He is not the fastest receiver in the draft, far from it. But he has apparently shown next-level confidence and integrity. He’ll fit right in with an Atlanta team that could use a possession receiver like Sutton. If he can build rapport with Matt Ryan he could easily be the #1 receiver in Atlanta within a couple of years if Julio Jones (29) decides to retire or begins to regress.
Sony Michel, RB, Ideal Landing Spot: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have moved on from Frank Gore. They are not about to thrust Marlon Mack into a 3-down back role behind their shaky O-Line, so they should be in the market for an RB in the draft. If they are, then Sony Michel should be the pick. He’s a strong, explosive runner who is an excellent decision-maker at the line. He also showcased fantastic pass-blocking abilities when called upon which the Colts will gladly take. He’d be able to plug in as an immediate starter, and while he would split time with Marlon Mack, he has the talent and ability to be a 3-down back shortly.
Nick Chubb, RB, Ideal Landing Spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nick Chubb is a great all-around running back. He has the agility and speed to gain yards off tackle. He also has enough size and vision to run between the tackles. Some will argue that he could be a described as a “jack-of-all-trades but master-of-none,” but I think he brings the versatility that the Buccaneers could use. With Doug Martin gone Chubb will have to leapfrog Peyton Barber for reps. But considering Barbers mediocre 2017 totals the Bucs will give any RB they draft a shot as their starter.
Rashaad Penny, RB, Ideal Landing Spot: Washington Redskins
Samaje Perine is not a three-down back. Rob Kelley is not a three-down back. Chris Thompson is not a three-down back. But Rashaad Penny just might be. The Redskins need an upgrade at running back, that much is clear. In fact, the Redskins themselves have stated precisely that. Rashaad Penny has all the tools to take over as the starter, and at a draft price tag, the Redskins can afford.
James Washington, WR, Ideal Landing Spot: Green Bay Packers
The Packers seem to have found their next great WR in Davante Adams, but they could use some extra help. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson struggled in 2017, and the latter looks to be a season or two away from retirement. Not to mention the fact that Davante Adams struggled with concussions in 2017. The door is open for James Washington to produce with this offense. The chance for a significant role in the passing game helmed by Aaron Rodgers is enough to make Washington a juicy dynasty target should this scenario come to pass.
Christian Kirk, WR, Ideal Landing Spot: Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have several needs. But if they decide that their dud farm of receivers not named Larry Fitzgerald needs a new face, then Christian Kirk would step into a good situation. He could efficiently operate as a slot receiver, and he’ll benefit from play-action passes when the Cardinals fake handing it to a healthy David Johnson. He also has value in the kick and punt return department, something they could desperately use.
Dallas Goedert, TE, Ideal Landing Spot: Jacksonville Jaguars
Outside of Evan Engram and Rob Gronkowski, rookie tight ends are often a long-term investment for fantasy owners. Dallas Goedert could also buck that trend and instead find success quickly if he goes to the Jaguars. The Jags offense is on the rise, and they have discovered a high-level RB to open things up for their passing game. This could mean instant return for owners who draft the South Dakota State product. Goedert dominated his competition in college operating as a pass-catching Tight End, and he’ll try to make that translate to the NFL. If he can do that with the Jaguars, he could be an instant impact in fantasy.
So there you have it, folks. My very humble opinion on the best case scenario for each of these 15 rookies. Be sure to follow me on twitter at @DFF_MitchLawson for more in-depth analysis as the off-season goes on. Check out www.dynastyfootballfactory.com for all the best coverage from some of the industry’s best.