I know, I know, it’s way too early for this. I’m fully aware that the Senior Bowl just ended and the combine is still more than three weeks away. I’m a huge proponent of landing spot over talent, and the draft won’t even be finished until late April, but you have to start somewhere, right? I’m far from an NFL scout, but I think I’m pretty good at targeting players for fantasy football based on their skill set and how they fit into their future team’s gameplans in the short term.
These are my initial rankings for the 2018 rookie class; this list is EXTREMELY fluid at this point. I’m not a huge devy guy, and I’m prone to recency bias. As a result, I probably have the seniors ranked a hair higher than I should, but that should balance out as the pre-draft process begins. There will most likely be huge shakeups after both the combine and the draft, but at this point, I felt comfortable making my initial rankings as a guideline for me to build off of and going forward I can adjust my players up or down relative to their draftmates as news comes in.
- Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: Every knock that people have against Mayfield is a positive in my eyes. I think his firey competitiveness will be appreciated in an NFL locker room. I can see him stepping onto the practice field, day one, on even the most established veteran NFL team and commanding respect from his peers.
- Josh Rosen, UCLA
- Lamar Jackson, Louisville
- Kyle Lauletta, Richmond: I was already very high on him as a sleeper-type heading into this draft, and his Senior Bowl MVP performance has probably put him on everyone else’s radar now too.
- Josh Allen, Wyoming: I find him very hard to rank. If it was upside only, he has the potential to be number 1 overall. On the other hand, you see something like this, and you have to wonder.
- Sam Darnold, USC
- Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State: I’d like to see how he can develop if given a little time as a backup under a strong QB coach and OC who aren’t in a rush to get him on the field.
- Mike White, Western Kentucky
- Luke Falk, Washington State
- Kurt Benkert, Virginia
- Saquon Barkley, Penn State
- Derrius Guice, LSU
- Nick Chubb, Georgia: I’ve had a man crush on him for two years. Hopefully, that knee injury is behind him, and he can fulfill his pre-injury potential at the next level, which is as high as Todd Gurley is in my opinion.
- Sony Michel, Georgia: If Chubb is Gurley-esque, then Michel is Alvin Kamara-esque. They’re 3a/3b to me this point with Michel a little higher in PPR, Chubb a little higher in standard leagues.
- Kalen Ballage, Arizona State: Outstanding week of practice in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. A size-speed freak with great hands, although his production last season left a little to be desired after a more productive 2016.
- Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
- Kerryon Johnson, Auburn
- Royce Freeman, Oregon
- Jaylen Samuels, North Carolina State: I’m higher than most on this year’s Swiss army knife, do-it-all, Mr. everything.
- Mark Walton, Miami
- Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
- Ronald Jones, USC: I’m probably lower on him than I should be. If he wows during the pre-draft process, I’ll be happy to move him up a few spots.
- Akrum Wadley, Iowa
- John Kelly, Tennessee: I was higher on him early in the process, but out of sight, out of mind, and he’s fallen from where I thought I would have him even a few weeks ago.
- Josh Adams, Notre Dame
- Ito Smith, Southern Miss
- Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
- Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
- Justin Jackson, Northwestern: The best running back in Northwestern history, he can see his rankings improve with a strong showing at the combine and/or his pro-day and a good landing spot on draft day.
- James Washington, Oklahoma State
- Courtland Sutton, SMU
- DJ Moore, Maryland: I’m sure I’ll be flip-flopping Washington and Sutton week-to-week, but when everything is all said and done, I wouldn’t be shocked if Moore ended up leapfrogging both of them at some point.
- Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame: Talent aside, there’s only one obvious thing to mention here…
- Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
- Auden Tate, Florida State
- DJ Chark, LSU: Much like Kyle Lauletta, Chark was a player I had stashed on my sleeper list, hoping he would stay under the radar. Then he had a massive showing in the Senior Bowl and now everybody knows who he is.
- Calvin Ridley, Alabama: I’m lower than most, and at the end of the day, the odds are against a 23-year old who will turn 24 in-season. He probably has a safe floor, but I do not see the upside that many others do.
- Michael Gallup, Colorado State
- Anthony Miller, Memphis: Based entirely on gut feeling, I like his upside and hope he lands in a great situation. One of my favorite receivers outside of the top 3.
- Dante Pettis, Washington
- Deon Cain, Clemson
- Richie James, Middle Tennessee: He’s undersized at 5’8” and only 175 pounds, but in the right system he might be able to thrive. Similar to Anthony Miller above, if he lands with the right team, he could be productive.
- Simmie Cobbs, Indiana
- Antonio Callaway, Florida
- Jaleel Scott, New Mexico State: At 6’6” and 215 pounds with a huge catch radius, I look for Scott to have a Kenny Golladay-esque hype train leave the station sometime around draft time.
- J’Mon Moore, Mizzou
- Darren Carrington, Utah
- Jake Wieneke, South Dakota State
- Allen Lazard, Iowa State
- Deontay Burnett, USC
- Tre’Quan Smith, Central Florida
- Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State: At 6’4” and 220+ pounds, he has the size to immediately be a red zone threat. His game needs some fine tuning, but you can’t teach size, and he already has that.
- Keke Coutee, Texas Tech
- Mike Gesicki, Penn State: He had a good week of practice in Mobile and looked good in the Senior Bowl while receiving rave reviews from his coaches.
- Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
- Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
- Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
- Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin: He probably ends up as a better real-life football player than fantasy football player, which is great for him, but bad for my purposes.
- Durham Smythe, Notre Dame
- Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan
- Ian Thomas, Indiana
- Marcus Baugh, Ohio State: In a fairly deep class, not much is separating this group. They might all end up being very landing spot dependent. Post-combine and post-draft, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see Baugh end up in the top 5.
- Adam Breneman, UMass
If you’re currently assembling your very own rookie rankings, I hope you find this helpful as a starting point. At the very least, hopefully, this helps you get familiar with the top names at the positions and gets the juices flowing for rookie fever and your upcoming rookie drafts in your dynasty leagues. I find one of the best ways to help hash out your rankings is to publicly put them out there and let people beat the hell out of them and attack you a bit. I’d love to get any feedback via twitter and will be happy to interact no matter how much vitriolic hate is fired my way.
It’s early in the process, and it’s good to start hashing out your thoughts on everyone in this draft class, just remember to be open to shaking your rankings up as news slowly leaks out heading up to the combine and before and after the NFL draft in April. Good luck in your rookie drafts!