Top 50 fantasy prospects in this year's draft class
With the 2017 NFL scouting combine workouts set to kick off Friday, it’s a good time to assess the future rookie fantasy landscape. A lot is going to change between now and early May when the dust settles after the draft, but below you’ll find my top 50 pre-combine rookie rankings with insights and potential fantasy outlook for each player.
Some suggest that pre-draft rookie rankings are a waste of time, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Yes, landing spot is one of the biggest factors in fantasy outlook, but it’s important to have a full understanding of each player’s fantasy potential. At this point of the year, all of these players exist in a vacuum which gives us the ability to evaluate them on an even playing field. Here’s my take on the top 50:
1. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
An explosive playmaker, Cook topped 1,000 rushing yards in each of his three seasons at Florida State and scored 20 total touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. Extremely elusive, he led the nation with 90 forced missed tackles and averaged an impressive 4.2 yards after contact in 2016. Also an effective receiver, catching 33 balls for 488 yards last season. With legitimate three-down ability and explosive upside, Cook has the makings of a future fantasy standout.
2. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Arguably the nation’s best player in 2015, Fournette racked up 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns to go along with 19 catches for 253 yards and a score. He also forced a nation leading 83 missed tackles. Injuries hampered his 2016 campaign, as he suffered an ankle injury in the preseason that nagged him for much of the year and he only managed to play seven games. More of a throwback running back who may not contribute much as a receiver, but still has RB1 potential.
3. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
A physical specimen, Williams checks in at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. That size gives him the ability to have success both in the short game, but to also make contested catches downfield including some for the highlight reel. Suffered a near career-ending injury in 2015, fracturing his neck after hitting his head on the goalpost on a touchdown catch. He returned to post big numbers in 2016 with 84 catches for 1,171 yards and 10 scores. Strong after the catch, he posted 22 forced missed tackles last season. Has the makings of a future WR1.
4. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Polished receiver with good size (6-3, 213). Prolific at the collegiate level, Davis is the all-time leader in receiving yards (5,285). He also scored 52 touchdowns in his four years at Western Michigan. Strong after the catch, Davis averaged a YAC of 8. Davis has the potential to be a high-volume fantasy option with the potential for WR1 production in the long term.
5. Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
Comes with major off-field baggage, but has been impressive on the field. Skilled as a runner and receiver, Mixon graded out No. 4 overall and was the top-graded receiver among running backs in 2016. Managed 1,274 yards and 10 scores on the ground to go along with 37 catches for 538 yards and five scores in 2016. He also averaged an impressive 3.72 yards after contact. Has size (6-1, 226) you can’t teach, and has breakaway speed with 56.9 percent of his yards coming on runs of 15-plus yards (21 of them). Ranked second among running backs in yards per route run (2.85). Character concerns are very real, but so is his talent. If he keeps his nose clean, he could be a fantasy monster.
6. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Though he doesn’t have prototypical NFL size (6-0,197), McCaffrey is a versatile back who put up prolific numbers at the college level. In 2015, he topped 2,000 yards rushing and set an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards. For his efforts, he graded out as our No. 1 overall running back. He dealt with injuries in 2016, but still managed to grade out No. 5 in the nation with 1,639 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns. McCaffrey forced 21 missed tackles as a receiver, which was third in the FBS. His abilities as a receiver bode positively for fantasy success.
7. Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
Started his college career at Alabama, but left and played one year at the junior college level. Made his way back to the SEC in 2015. Didn’t rack up a ton of touches in 2016 and missed time with an LCL sprain in his left knee. Finished with 101 carries for 596 yards and nine scores along with 40 catches for 392 yards and four scores. Tied for the most forced missed tackles among running backs as a receiver with 23 and averaged and racked up an impressive 3.81 yards after contact per attempt. He also ranked fifth among running backs in yards per route run (2.40). Though he’s unproven as a workhorse – he never topped 20 carries in a game at Tennessee – Kamara has a very intriguing fantasy profile.
8. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
Has prototype No. 1 wide receiver size (6-2, 220), but isn’t expected to run the fastest 40 time. Posted 89 catches for 1,454 yards and 10 scores as a sophomore in 2015, finishing as our No. 30 overall receiver despite playing with a broken hand. Dealt with a back injury in 2016, but still managed 914 yards and 10 score son 70 catches. His aggressive play and ability to go up and make contested catches has drawn comparisons to Anquan Boldin. Lacks elite-level fantasy potential, but his physicality is a plus. He has long-term WR2 value in the right landing spot.
9. D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
A massive (6-1, 249) running back. Following a 2015 campaign where he posted 672 yards, Foreman exploded for 2,028 last season, which was second in the nation. He also scored 15 touchdowns. Doesn’t offer much as a receiver, with just seven catches last season. He showed good elusiveness, averaging 3.53 yards after contact per attempt and forced 64 missed tackles as a runner. Only five backs had more on the ground. Had seven fumbles (six lost) in 2016. Though he doesn’t have an extensive resume, Foreman’s size and agility will almost certainly place him on the fantasy radar in the near future.
10. Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech
Versatile receiver/returner who scored a combined 23 touchdowns in 2016 — 19 receiving, two rushing, and two return. Extremely productive last season with 1,535 yards on 82 catches. Saw 36 of his 137 targets at least 20 yards downfield. Tied for seventh in yards per route run (3.55). Dynamic and tough after the catch, he put up a massive 9.6 YAC and a nation leading 48 forced missed tackles. Has the versatility and tools to be a long-term fantasy asset.
11. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
Stout (5-10, 235) running back who topped 1,000 yards in all three years at Oklahoma. Split time with Joe Mixon in 2016, but still managed 1,060 yards and 12 touchdowns. Finished his college career with 49 rushing scores and an average of 6.0 yards per carry. Not the most elusive back with just 37 forced missed tackles on 206 touches last season. More of the “thunder” type in a committee backfield, but he’s also the type of player who could end up seeing a big workload. In the right opportunity, Perine could have immediate fantasy value.
12. Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
Our top-graded running back in 2016, Hunt is extremely elusive with 98 forced missed tackles – one fewer than Dalvin Cook. Capable receiver out of the backfield, he had 41 catches last season. Was suspended for the first two games in 2015 and batted ankle and hamstring injuries. Put on a show at the GoDaddy.com Bowl in 2016 with 271 yards and five touchdowns. Has prototype size (5-10, 208), but isn’t the most explosive back. Only 29.3 percent of his yards came on runs of 15-plus yards. That being said, he has the potential to be quite productive at the pro level.
13. David Njoku, TE, Miami
A strong receiver, Njoku is yet another in a long line of Miami tight ends. Off-the-charts athletic, he was the national high-jump champion in high school. Only played two seasons with Miami and was only a starter for one. Did have drops issue in 2016 with five on 69 targets. His elite athleticism and strong receiving ability will make Njoku a mismatch at the pro level. He’s a future TE1.
14. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Athletic tight end with prototypical size (6-5, 249) for the position. Strong receiver, who dropped just six out of 106 targets over the last three years. Even better blocker. Finished 2016 as our top-graded run-blocker. Didn’t put up massive numbers – 38 receptions for 602 yards in 2015 and 595 yards on 45 catches last year – but came up huge in the 2015 national championship game (208 yards and two scores). Has the skillset to be a long-term TE1 with a potential elite fantasy ceiling.
15. Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU
Workhorse who is coming off a strong 2016 campaign where he put up 1,375 yards and 12 scores despite missing three games with an ankle injury. Played four years at BYU, but did leave school in 2015 and missed the whole season. Also was suspended in 2014 for violating team rules including an underage drinking charge. Has ideal size (6-0, 211). Not the most dynamic runner, but did post 55 forced missed tackles on 235 carries and averaged 3.3 yards after contact. Won’t be a home-run hitter, but his physicality is an asset that should ultimately land him on the fantasy radar.
16. Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise State
A solid all-around player who took over as the starter after Jay Ajayi left. Carried the ball 240 times in 2015 and 314 times last season. He caught an additional 88 balls over that span. Has a nose for the end zone with 53 combined scores as a starter. He also racked up 2,183 scrimmage yards in 2016. Was also able to force 66 missed tackles and average 3.55 yards after contact per attempt. Not the biggest back (5-9, 212), but he’s one who should be able to surface as a fantasy option.
17. Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
Hyper-productive small-schooler who racked up 428 catches for 6,464 yards and 73 scores. Not huge, but decent size (6-2, 198). Had 100-plus catches in each of the last three years. Caught 14 deep-ball passes for 530 yards and eight scores last year. Was extremely efficient on a per-route basis, ranking eighth in the nation with 3.32 yards per route run. Ran 85 percent of his routes out of the slot with 99 of his 119 catches coming on these routes last year. Skilled receiver who has the makings of a PPR asset.
18. John Ross, WR, Washington
Big-play dynamo who caught 13-of-27 deep-ball targets for 535 yards and seven scores in 2016. Finished the year with 81 catches for 1,150 yards and 17 scores while also chipping in eight carries for 102 yards and a score. Not the biggest receiver (5-11, 190) but can flat-out fly. Missed all of 2015 with a torn left ACL. Ross doesn’t have WR1 potential, but he could certainly be the Will Fuller of this draft class. His home run hitting ability will make him a better asset in standard formats.
19. Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming
Hyper-productive back who averaged 5.5 yards per carry over three years at Wyoming. In 2016, he racked up 1,860 yards (third in the FBS) and 22 scores (fourth in the FBS) on 349 carries. Has thick build (5-11, 219) which bodes well for early-down work. Did very little as a receiver at Wyoming with just eight catches in 2016. Also managed an unimpressive 2.9 yards after contact. Despite his lack of receiving ability, Hill has the size/speed profile to be a productive back at the pro level. He’s going to be a fantasy option.
20. Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky
Wildly productive receiver who caught 86 balls for 1,467 yards and 17 scores in 2015 and followed that up with 98 catches for 1.730 yards and 17 scores last year. Caught 20 deep balls for 948 yards and 11 scores, averaged 7.7 YAC, and forced 17 missed tackles last season. He also ranked second in yards per route run at 3.92. Numbers were in part the byproduct of Western Kentucky’s scheme, but he’s still talented enough to be a productive fantasy receiver.
21. Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
A mismatch at 6-3, 235, Hodges led all tight ends in yards (926) and finished second in catches (65) last year. Has the ability to get deep, with seven catches on 13 deep ball targets for 262 yards and three scores in 2016. Has a similar fantasy profile to Jordan Reed if he reaches his ceiling. A move tight end who will be a fantasy factor, and could surface as an elite option down the road.
22. Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson
A physical “banger” of a runner who checks in at 6-0, 210, Gallman topped 1,000 yards in each of the last two years, racking up 31 total touchdowns over that span. His yards per carry dipped from 5.4 in 2015 to 4.9 in 2016. Also wasn’t the most effective at creating yards after contact with 2.98, which ranked 43 among qualifying running backs. He wasn’t asked to do a lot as a receiver, with just 42 catches over the last two years. Gallman’s tough style and size/speed profile bode well for future fantasy relevance.
23. Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina
Grinder type with impressive size (6-0, 220), but isn’t expected to run one of the faster 40-yard dash times. Put up 1,463 yards and 17 scores on 219 carries in 2015. Numbers dipped in 2016 because he split time with T.J. Logan, but still managed 3.8 yards after contact and 47 forced missed tackles on 147 attempts. Prolific at the high school level with two 3,000-yard seasons. Doesn’t quite fit the mold of today’s running back, but could have fantasy success in the right system.
24. Chad Hansen, WR, Cal
Started at Idaho State and then transferred to Cal after one year. Only 19 catches for 249 and a score in 2015. Exploded for 1,249 yards and 11 scores on 92 catches last season. Has good size (6-2, 205). Only 4.8 yards after catch per reception with seven forced missed tackles in 2016. Had 16 deep ball receptions (tied for seventh in the nation) for 480 yards and six scores. Intriguing prospect with the size/speed to be an upside WR2 in the long term.
25. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Assumed starting duties as a redshirt freshman and threw for 2,884 yards and 21 scores in 11 starts. His numbers increased in 2016 to 2,934 yards and 26 scores (just nine picks), but his completion percentage regressed from 62.1 to 58.7 percent. Was actually benched at times for Malik Zaire. Notre Dame went just 4-8 last year. Completed 23-of-61 deep balls for 769 and nine scores (39.3 percent). Competed 44.8 percent of his passes under pressure, but was slow to throw at 2.83 seconds. Not a burner, but has dual-threat ability with 18 rushing scores over the last two years. Not a prototype fantasy quarterback, but his dual-threat ability gives him a high upside fantasy profile.
26. Tarik Cohen, RB, North Carolina A&T
Small-school back who checks in at just 5-6 and 175 pounds, but was extremely productive at the collegiate level. Finished his career with 5,619 rushing yards. Extremely elusive with highlight reel plays on the regular. Home-run-hitting ability with four scores of 80-plus in 2016. Capable receiver out of the backfield with 37 catches for 339 yards last year. His size is a concern, but Cohen has some of Darren Sproles’ electric ability. The question is whether he’ll also mirror Sproles’ fantasy value.
27. Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina
All-time FBS leader in receptions (399) and posted a massive 158 catches last season for 1,746 and eight scores. Not expected to blaze a fast 40-yard dash, but has good size (6-2, 202). Caught a lot of balls in the short areas of the field. Saw a massive 216 targets, but only 13.4 percent came on deep balls in 2016. Father played for the Cowboys and uncle is former quarterback, Jeff Blake. Has the pedigree and potential to be a productive fantasy option.
28. Marlon Mack, RB, USF
A productive back who topped 1,000 yards in all three years at USF while averaging an impressive 6.2 yards per carry. Elusive, Mack averaged 3.85 yards after contact per attempt and racked up 49 forced missed tackles on 202 touches. Capable receiver with 28 catches and zero drops in 2016. Doesn’t have an elite fantasy ceiling, but certainly could be a solid option in the right landing spot.
29. Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State
Didn’t put up massive numbers, but managed 59 catches for 982 yards and 11 scores last year. Wasn’t particularly effective after the catch with a YAC of 4.5 and nine forced missed tackles. Caught 14-of-32 deep ball targets for 504 yards and seven scores. In total, 34 percent of his targets came downfield. His big play upside gives him the profile to be a fantasy asset.
30. Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio State
Extremely versatile, he played H-back at Ohio State. In 2016, he rushed 97 times for 771 yards and eight scores and had 865 yards and seven scores on 74 catches. Not the biggest player (5-11, 197), but is expected to run a fast 40-yard dash time. Will likely contribute in the return game at the next level. Not quite a receiver, not quite a running back. Has long-term fantasy upside as a Percy Harvin type if he reaches his ceiling
31. Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Sat behind Marquise Williams for the first two years of his college career, but exploded as the starter in 2016. Completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,748 yards and 30 scores with just six interceptions. Had 68.2 percent of his yards come in the air. Capable deep-ball thrower. Attempted a deep ball on 17 percent of his throws, completing 28-of-76 for 1,026 yards and 12 scores. Effective under pressure, he completed 53.4 percent of his throws when pressured (ranked fourth in the nation). Dual-threat ability with 308 yards and five scores. He isn’t a perfect prospect, but he has the tools to be a future QB1.
32. Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama
Converted basketball player who played just one year of high school football and then played at Hutchinson Community College. Played one season for UAB before the program folded. Put up strong numbers over the last two years with 41 catches for 575 yards and eight scores in 2015 and 49 catches for 717 yards and four scores last year. Excelled after the catch, forcing a nation-high 24 missed tackles – nine more than David Njoku in second – and averaged 9.1 yards after the catch. Saw 14 deep ball targets which tied for third among tight ends. Not huge (6-3, 227) and still green, but he’s oozing with fantasy upside. Has a TE1 ceiling.
33. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
Was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma while rehabbing a torn MCL in 2015, but was able to return for the 2016 season and rush for 1,092 yards along with 16 touchdowns. He scored four more times as a receiver. Put up big numbers as a sophomore in 2014, scoring 26 times and racking up 1,765 rushing yards. Impressive size (6-2, 235) allows him to run with power, but isn’t expected to run a fast 40 time. Struggled in pass pro, allowing nine QB pressures in 80 pass-blocking snaps. A dark horse to surface as a fantasy option.
34. Elijah McGuire, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette
Productive back who posted 4,301 yards and 42 scores on the ground to go along with 130 catches for 1,394 yards and 10 scores in his four years in college. Very effective receiver who caught 108 balls over the last three years. Averaged 3.1 yards after contact and forced 38 missed tackles as a runner. Possesses intriguing upside, but he isn’t the best bet to be a fantasy factor in the short term.
35. DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Once viewed as the potential No. 1 overall pick, Watson’s stock slipped after an inconsistent 2016 campaign that culminated in a fourth quarterback comeback win in the national championship. Topped 4,000 yards in each of the last two seasons with 76 touchdowns over that span. Threw 17 picks in 2016 and 13 in 2015. Has the ability to avoid sacks, taking a sack on just 11 percent of his pressured dropbacks. Also a capable runner. Watson had 21 scores and 1,734 yards on 372 attempts in the last two seasons. Watson has the athleticism and upside to be a long-term fantasy asset, but he isn’t a lock to be a future QB1.
36. Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech
Topped 1,000 yards and 75 catches in each of the last two seasons. Did very little after the catch with just 4.1 YAC and 6 forced missed tackles on 79 receptions in 2016. Could be a deep-ball threat in the mold of Allen Hurns, but that means a boom-or-bust fantasy profile.
37. Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU
Posted lackluster numbers over the last two seasons (43-698, six TDs in 2015; 41-593, three TDs in 2016) but that was due more to the poor LSU pass game than to ability. Was the state champ in long, triple and high jump in high school. Has good size (6-4, 195), but isn’t expected to run a fast 40-yard dash. Did very little after the catch with a YAC of 4.0 and only three forced missed tackles. Has upside, but will enter the NFL close to his fantasy floor.
38. Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma
Very thin build (6-0, 176), but is coming off a big 2016 season with 1,524 yards and 17 scores on 80 catches. Also racked up 20 forced missed tackles and a massive 9.7 yards after catch per reception. Very productive last season, but his lack of size is a concern. Will likely surface at times on the fantasy radar, but doesn’t profile as a consistent option.
39. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
Productive receiver who topped 1,000 yards in two of three seasons at Baylor, including last year when he put up 1,215 and 13 scores on 87 receptions. Athletic, but on the smaller side (6-0, 180). He’s drawn comps to Paul Richardson. Has field-stretching ability, but profiles more as a boom/bust type for fantasy purposes.
40. Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech
Prolific spread offense quarterback who put up 11,252 passing yards and 93 scores with only two full seasons as a starter – though he did start the final four games of his freshman year. Topped 5,000 passing yards and tossed 41 scores with just 10 picks in 2016. Saw pressure on 36.3 percent of his dropbacks and completed 44 percent of his passes when under pressure. Capable runner with 131 carries in each of the last two years. Big numbers, but lack of experience in a pro system could mean a steep learning curve. Has a high fantasy ceiling, but enters the league with a potentially low floor.
41. Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
Massive (6-7, 245), but plays more like a receiver. Posted a productive 48 catches for 691 yards and seven scores last year. Saw 22 deep-ball targets, catching 12 for 342 yards and three scores. Did very little after the catch with a YAC of just 3.0 and only two forced missed tackles. Converted quarterback, he’s still very green at the position. Hodges should surface on the fantasy radar, but may not pay immediate dividends.
42. Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin
Had 1,375 yards and 15 scores on 314 carries last year, but graded out poorly as a runner. Averaged just 4.3 yards per carry with just 2.8 yards after contact. Doesn’t offer much as a receiver. Caught just 11 balls last season. Despite having ideal size, Clement is a two-down back who won’t make waves as a fantasy option.
43. Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
The all-time NCAA leader in rushing yards (6,405) led the nation in 2016 with 2,133 yards on the ground. Lacks prototype size (5-8, 169), but is extremely elusive. Forced 74 missed tackles as a runner, which ranked third among running backs, to go along with a solid 3.4 yards after contact per attempt. Wildly productive, but his lack of size makes him a longshot to be a meaningful offensive contributor at the pro level.
44. Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
Tall and lean (6-3, 187) receiver who has a track and field background, competing in the long jump and triple jump at the high school level. Caught 50-plus balls in all three seasons at A&M. Has 61 receptions for 1,039 yards and 12 scores last season. Deep threat ability. Had 11 deep-ball catches for 450 yards and 4 scores. Could surface on the fantasy radar as a big-play threat.
45. Jalen Robinette, WR, Air Force
Big plays galore, he averaged 27.4 yards per reception catching 35 balls for 959 yards and six scores in 2016. Saw 70 targets, and 31 came on deep balls. Caught 17 of those balls for 699 yards and five scores. Impressive size (6-3, 220), but wasn’t asked to do a lot in the Air Force offense. Has an intriguing long-term outlook.
46. I’Tavius Mathers, RB, Middle Tennessee State
Initially played at Ole Miss, but transferred after the 2014 season when his role decreased. Sat out 2015 and returned to post 1,561 yards and 17 scores on 232 carries to go along with 66 catches for 633 yards and three scores. Effective after contact, he averaged 3.9 yards and posted 62 forced missed tackles as a runner. He also racked up 23 forced missed tackles as a receiver, which tied for the most in the nation. On the smaller side (5-11, 190), which gives him more of a receiving back fantasy profile. He could be a productive option in that role and will likely be worth a deep dynasty roster spot.
47. Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP
A four-year back who ranked fourth in the FBS with 1,773 rushing yards in 2016. Posted an impressive 7.7 yards per carry and topped 4.0 yards after contact per attempt. Only 41 forced missed tackles, but had fewer carries than a lot of the nation’s top backs at just 228. Does have a DWI arrest in February of 2016. Missed most of 2015 with torn ligaments in his ankle. Very productive back who has some sneaky deep-dynasty appeal.
48. Matthew Dayes, RB, NC State
A workmanlike back who put 1,166 yards and 10 scores last year. His 2015 season was cut short due to turf toe, but he managed to find the end zone 12 times in eight games. Not particularly big (5-9, 207) and isn’t expected to post a fast 40-yard dash time at the combine. Averaged 4.7 yards per carry last year. Also really struggled to generate yards after contact with just 2.62 in 2016. Unlikely to be much of anything for fantasy purposes as a pro.
49. Travin Dural, WR, LSU
Only caught 100 balls for 1,716 yards and 13 scores in four years at LSU, but was hampered by injuries and a poor passing game. Has NFL size (6-1, 206). Dropped six balls on just 51 targets in 2016. Has upside, but his low floor makes him a potentially volatile fantasy prospect.
50. Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
In-line tight end who proved to be a capable receive at the college level. Caught 46 balls for 546 yards and four scores in 2016. Not a Gronk type, but is an all-around solid football player. Likely a catch-and-fall-down type, but one who could see a solid volume of targets at the pro level. He profiles as a high-floor, low-ceiling long-term fantasy option.