2017 pre-draft top 100 rookie fantasy rankings
In advance of the 2017 NFL draft a week away, Jeff Ratcliffe ranks the top 100 rookies in this year's draft class for fantasy football leagues.
2017 pre-draft top 100 rookie fantasy rankings
Turn and face the strange. Changes are coming to the NFL in just over a week, with the 2017 draft set to kick off in Philadelphia. This event marks the culmination of a lengthy evaluation process and beginning of a number of professional careers.
Over the last several months, we’ve rolled up our sleeves and dove deep into this year’s class, not only from a traditional football angle, but also for fantasy football purposes. Our detailed fantasy scouting reports cover a combined 159 quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. It’s required reading before the draft, but now it’s time to put everything together in final set of rankings before the draft.
Below you’ll find the top 100 pre-draft fantasy football rankings for the 2017 NFL draft class. The list is broken up into five tiers with a brief explanation of each tier. For a more detailed look at each player, check out the fantasy scouting reports by position in the links above, and each player’s PFF scouting profile, where available, is linked to their name. Remember that this list is likely to completely change after the draft. However, it’s important to have a baseline to compare each player on an even playing field. This list is that baseline.
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Tier 1 – Elite long-term fantasy potential
|1||Corey Davis||WR||Western Michigan|
|3||Dalvin Cook||RB||Florida State|
Wide receivers have a longer shelf life than running backs in the NFL. So unless there’s a complete rock-star tailback like Ezekiel Elliott in the class, my rookie rankings tend to favor wideouts. That’s certainly the case this year with Davis and Williams topping the list. Neither player is a perfect prospect, but both offer prototype size and impressive ball skills.
The top four running backs are essentially jumbled together. There really isn’t a significant different between Cook at three and McCaffrey at six. All four have the potential to make an immediate impact on the fantasy landscape in the right landing spot. Each also offers something slightly different from a skill standpoint. Cook is an explosive playmaker with an all-around skillset. Fournette has a throwback game with his devastating size and speed combination. Mixon fits the mold of today’s runner with size but also the versatility to excel in the receiving game. McCaffrey is the best receiver of the bunch, and could end up as the best fantasy asset if he lands with a team that is willing to use him frequently between the tackles.
Rounding out this tier, we have Ross and the top two tight ends in a standout class at the position. Ross is more than just a water bug who can flat-out fly. He enters the league as a home-run hitter with more polish to his game than someone like Will Fuller. It’s splitting hairs between Njoku and Howard. Both are freak athletes with size you can’t teach. Njoku has arguably a slightly higher ceiling as a receiver, but it’s a razor thin margin. Both figure to be extremely strong fantasy assets for the long haul.
Tier 2 – Top 15 upside
|11||Evan Engram||TE||Ole Miss|
|12||Carlos Henderson||WR||Louisiana Tech|
|13||Zay Jones||WR||East Carolina|
|17||Taywan Taylor||WR||Western Kentucky|
|18||Chris Godwin||WR||Penn State|
While landing spot is the key across the board for fantasy value, the next group of players is more dependent on destination than the top tier. Some from this group could certainly shift up into the top 10 if they’re drafted into an ideal situation.
This is the year to load up on running backs in your rookie drafts. In addition to the four in the top tier, there are five more players who have top-15 upside in this year’s class. Kamara is a standout athlete who has a bit of Jamaal Charles to his game, but enters the league a bit unproven. Both Foreman and Perine have the size to hold up to an NFL workload. Hunt and Williams also have three-down chops.
The receiver class is a bit trickier to evaluate. In evaluating the group, Steve Palazzolo said there really isn’t anyone he sees fitting the five-to-10 range in rankings, but a dozen or so who fit the 11-to-15 range of rankings. In other words, the class falls off after the top group but then has a dramatic plateau. That isn’t the worst thing for fantasy purposes. Of that group, Henderson and Jones are perhaps the most intriguing. Henderson lacks polish, but his run-after-catch ability bodes well for fantasy success. Jones has the makings of a PPR asset following his 399-catch college career.
Engram is the third tight end in the top 12 this year. Crazy? Maybe a little bit, but the ranking speaks to the level of this year’s class. It’s also an indicator of the present state of the position in the NFL. Tight end is sparse, so this influx of talent is much needed. Engram is far from a traditional tight end, but his blazing speed and receiver skill set is ideal for fantasy purposes.
Tier 3 – Future fantasy starters
|21||Gerald Everett||TE||South Alabama|
|22||Jeremy McNichols||RB||Boise State|
|24||Cooper Kupp||WR||Eastern Washington|
|26||Josh Reynolds||WR||Texas A&M|
|27||Curtis Samuel||WR||Ohio State|
|28||DeShone Kizer||QB||Notre Dame|
|29||Mitchell Trubisky||QB||North Carolina|
|32||Patrick Mahomes II||QB||Texas Tech|
|33||Bucky Hodges||TE||Virginia Tech|
|36||Isaiah Ford||WR||Virginia Tech|
|40||Elijah Hood||RB||North Carolina|
|43||Donnel Pumphrey||RB||San Diego State|
This is a big tier of players that will certainly get sliced and diced following the draft with some players moving up and others moving down. But for now, this is a group of players who figure to surface on the fantasy radar at some point in their respective careers.
You’ll notice that quarterbacks finally surface in the rankings here, and they’re all bunched up in what would essentially be the middle of the third round of a rookie draft. This year’s crop is far from special, but that doesn’t mean there’s no fantasy value to be had. That said, there isn’t a sure thing in the bunch. Each player has his question marks. Kizer and Mahomes have a lot of the traits of an NFL signal-caller, but both lack polish. Trubisky showed some of that polish, but only started one year at North Carolina. Watson is extremely accomplished, but his questionable decision making resulted in 30 interceptions over the last two years.
Four more tight ends also make the list. Everett and Shaheen come from basketball backgrounds. We’ve seen how well this skill set translates to fantasy success in players like Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham. Hodges is essentially a giant wide receiver. Of the group, Butt is the only one who really fits the mold of a traditional tight end. He’s coming off a torn ACL, but has the profile of an every-down starter in the NFL.
Tier 4 – Deep dynasty upside
|44||Jalen Robinette||WR||Air Force|
|48||Robert Davis||WR||Georgia St.|
|53||Tarik Cohen||RB||North Carolina A&T|
|59||Mack Hollins||WR||North Carolina|
|61||T.J. Logan||RB||North Carolina|
|62||Chris Carson||RB||Oklahoma State|
|63||Kenny Golladay||WR||Northern Illinois|
|64||Shelton Gibson||WR||West Virginia|
|65||Speedy Noil||WR||Texas A&M|
|67||Noah Brown||WR||Ohio State|
|75||Ryan Switzer||WR||North Carolina|
In dynasty rookie drafts, you’re typically looking at five or six rounds of picks. In a 12-team league, that’s anywhere from 60 to 72 players. The first three rounds are relatively chalky, but things can be unpredictable in the second half of the draft. It’s here where you want to try to scoop as much value as you can with upside players. The players in this tier are a likely list of candidates to consider.
There are a few players who could certainly move up following the draft. Some of the tight ends, including Roberts, Smith, Kittle, and Sprinkle are skilled enough to be future fantasy starters. Likewise, running backs like Conner and Williams have some sneaky appeal in the right landing spot.
This is also a good spot to shoot for upside at wide receiver and quarterback. Robinette, Dural, Davis, Gibson, Noil, and Brown are all high-ceiling players who offer a lot of bang for your buck in the later rounds. Later-round quarterbacks are typically longshots to ever emerge as NFL starters, but it’s worth taking a stab at Kaaya, Dobbs, and Kelly. All three have a skill set that translates well to fantasy output.
Tier 5 – Deep dynasty bench and taxi-squad backfill
|82||Jerod Evans||QB||Virginia Tech|
|85||Matthew Dayes||RB||NC State|
|87||Trent Taylor||WR||Louisiana Tech|
|89||De’Angelo Henderson||RB||Coastal Carolina|
|90||Robert Tonyan||TE||Indiana St.|
|91||Rodney Adams||WR||South Florida|
|93||Cooper Rush||QB||Central Michigan|
|96||Gabe Marks||WR||Washington St.|
|97||Nick Mullens||QB||Southern Miss|
|98||Zach Terrell||QB||Western Michigan|
|99||I’Tavius Mathers||RB||Middle Tennessee St.|
|100||Jonathan Dorsey||TE||Alabama A&M|
Rounding out the top 100 are good candidates to backfill your roster in deep dynasty leagues or to monitor going forward. There’s a good chance nothing comes of most of these players, but every year we see diamonds in the rough.
This past season, Robby Anderson was someone very few people were talking about follow the draft. He was a UDFA who barely cracked my top 100 at this time last year. While he didn’t set the world on fire, Anderson did go on to be a viable fantasy option down the stretch with 14 catches for 240 yards and two scores from Weeks 13 to 15, which are critical weeks in the fantasy calendar. Knowing his name early would have given you the jump on your league. In a game of information, that’s the sort of edge it takes to win fantasy championships.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.