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Best and Worst Landing Spots for 2015’s Top Rookies

Based on the results of our pre-draft rookie mock, I thought it would be interesting to look at the 12 most coveted dynasty fantasy football assets (for now) and imagine how their stock might be impacted by where they get selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. For each player you’ll see an expected draft position, which is based on a five spot deviation from their current PlayTheDraft stock market value. From there, I looked at which teams draft in that range and detailed my best- and worst-case scenarios for each player.

1) Amari Cooper

Expected draft position: top 11 overall

Best Case: Atlanta Falcons, where Cooper teams up with Julio Jones to form a lethal one-two punch for the next five-plus years. Roddy White, who will be 34 this year, mentors Cooper as he is phased out. The team rises to the top of a turbulent NFC South and scores points in bunches in their nine guaranteed dome games each year.

Worst Case:  New York Jets, where the selection of Cooper means the team has to roll with Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick or a second-round rookie at quarterback. The Todd Bowles era gets off to a rough start and highly drafted Cooper becomes a scapegoat, who wilts under the pressure of the New York media.

2) Todd Gurley

Expected draft position: 13-23 overall

Best Case: Houston Texans, where Gurley becomes the heir apparent to Arian Foster, who has two years left on his contract and turns 29 this summer. Gurley’s 2015 is underwhelming as the Texans run Foster into the ground, but the slow arrival is good for his knee. Foster is gone in 2016 and Gurley explodes behind a quality, young offensive line.

Worst Case: San Diego Chargers, where Gurley becomes the focal point of the offense after a Philip Rivers trade. With an unproven QB under center and a below-average offensive line, the Chargers lean heavily on their young runner, who suffers another leg injury late in his rookie season. Gurley returns in 2016, but is never the same player.

3) Kevin White

Expected draft position: top 12 overall

Best Case: New York Giants, where White slides in as the starter opposite Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle. White gets the immediate playing time of a top pick with a fraction of the pressure to carry the passing game. Victor Cruz (sadly) is never the same after his patellar tendon injury. Eli Manning takes flight in year two (and beyond) of Ben McAdoo’s offense as the Giants remain among the ten most pass-heavy teams in the league. Randle leaves after 2015 and the White/Beckham attack becomes an annual 2,200 yard and 20 touchdown force.

Worst Case: Oakland Raiders, where White is immediately expected to shine in a receiving core of questionable veterans and ultimately become Derek Carr’s long-term number one. Carr struggles in 2015 to adjust to his fourth offense in five years and we realize he isn’t the guy for Oakland. Meanwhile, White is slow to adjust to the NFL and his early career is plagued by offense and QB issues.

4) Melvin Gordon

Expected draft position: 19-29 overall

Best Case: Dallas Cowboys, where Gordon assumes the lead-back role in place of the departed Demarco Murray. The Cowboys remain an elite run-blocking team and feed their new runner as they try to preserve Tony Romo’s health. Gordon approaches 1,500 yards as a rookie and maintains that pace for years to come.

Worst Case:1 Arizona Cardinals, where Gordon is immediately inserted as the starter. Carson Palmer suffers a setback and/or re-injures his ACL, forcing the Cards to roll with Drew Stanton or Logan Thomas. The offense stinks in 2015 and Gordon’s value comes crashing down to earth after he is exposed as yet another overblown Wisconsin running back.

5) Dorial Green-Beckham

Expected draft position: 28-38 overall

Best Case: New England Patriots, where Green-Beckham pairs with Rob Gronkowski to form the most feared touchdown-catching duo in the league. Green-Beckham’s off-field issues never resurface and Tom Brady plays into his 40s after being re-energized by his most imposing wide receiver threat since Randy Moss.

Worst Case: Tennessee Titans (33rd pick), where DGB is stuck in a run-heavy offense with Zach Mettenberger as his QB. The rookie season is a struggle after a year away from football and his relative proximity to his hometown makes it easy for bad influences to linger in his personal life.

6) Devante Parker

Expected draft position: 7-17 overall

Best Case: Miami Dolphins, where Parker instantly becomes the prototype number-one receiver to Jarvis Landry’s underneath game and Kenny Stills’ home-run threat. Ryan Tannehill emerges as a top-five passer and Parker becomes the main beneficiary, hauling in 25 touchdowns in his first three seasons.

Worst Case: Cleveland Browns, where Parker is hailed as Josh Gordon’s replacement and inserted as a starter from day one. The Josh McCown/Johnny Manziel situation blows up in Cleveland’s face in 2015 before the Browns make another stupid decision on a QB in the 2016 draft, dramatically limiting Parker’s early career upside.

7) Breshad Perriman

Expected draft position: 15-25 overall

Best Case: Philadelphia Eagles, where Perriman supplants Riley Cooper, who was graded as one of last season’s worst receivers by Pro Football Focus. Perriman seamlessly fits into the offense thanks to his run-after-catch ability and blocking prowess, while also providing the home-run threat that many feared would be missing after Jeremy Maclin’s departure.

Worst Case: Kansas City Chiefs, where Perriman’s opportunities are limited in the Chiefs’ grind-it-out offense. Albert Wilson and Travis Kelce, who both showed promise in 2014, emerge as complements to newly-acquired Jeremy Maclin and Perriman never becomes anything more than a respectable WR3 for fantasy purposes.

8) Jay Ajayi

Expected draft position: 47-57 overall

Best Case: Detroit Lions (54th pick), where Ajayi makes an instant impact after the departure of Reggie Bush, but also serves as a nice insurance policy for an aging Joique Bell. By 2016, it’s clear that Ajayi is the future and he becomes one of the top pass-catching backs in the league with the goal-line touchdown ability fantasy owners covet.

Worst Case: Arizona or San Diego, following similar scenarios to those listed for Gordon and Gurley.

9) Marcus Mariota

Expected draft position: top 9 overall

Best Case: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where Mariota sits for the first half of his rookie season behind Mike Glennon. Mariota makes his first start on November 8th at home against the Giants, shortly before squaring off against Chip Kelly’s Eagles later that month. By then, Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Vincent Jackson are firing on all cylinders and Mariota has a smooth transition into full time starter status, racking up 250 pass yards and 50 rush yards on a regular basis.

Worst Case: Tennessee Titans, where Mariota is expected to play right away. The Titans’ O-Line remains among the worst pass blocking units in the game and Mariota spends his rookie season running for his life instead of learning how to play the NFL game.2 After the 2016 season the Titans overhaul their staff again and Mariota must go through another transition, which stunts his development.3

10) Jaelen Strong

Expected draft position: 18-28 overall

Best Case: Baltimore Ravens, where Strong becomes a day one starter with room for upside. Under new OC Marc Trestman, Joe Flacco reaches new heights in his thirties and Strong is the main beneficiary, growing into the role Alshon Jeffery enjoyed in Chicago.

Worst Case: Carolina Panthers, where Strong is slow to adapt to the NFL game. The Panthers’ offensive line fails to show improvement and Cam Newton gets sacked into oblivion before leaving town for a mega-contract after 2015. The Panthers endure several years of QB turmoil thereafter, which limits his early career production.

11) Ameer Abdullah

Expected draft position: 59-69 overall

Best Case: Indianapolis Colts (61st pick), where Abdullah instantly contributes in the return game and as a substitute for Frank Gore. Thanks to playing nine games per year indoors, Abdullah’s exposure to inclement weather, and consequently his fumble issues, are minimized and the team works him into a Gio Bernard-type role for the stretch-run of 2015 and beyond.

Worst Case: Washington Redskins (69th pick), where Abdullah looks like the heir apparent to a contract-year Alfred Morris and an instant third down contributor. Instead, Abdullah yields that role to Silas Redd, who surprisingly wins over the soon-to-be-fired coaching staff. In 2016, under a new regime, the team drafts Ezekiel Elliott or James Conner to be the workhorse and dislikes Abdullah for some unforeseen reason.

12) Nelson Agholor

Expected draft position: 37-47 overall

Best Case: New Orleans Saints (44th pick), where more than 50 percent of the team’s targets from 2014 are up for grabs. Sean Payton and Drew Brees are still there, so the passing volume should still be ample, and Agholor’s ability to line up anywhere in a formation makes him a threat to amass 1,000 yards as a rookie and for the duration of the Brees era.

Worst Case: San Francisco 49ers (46th pick), where the Niners land a receiver after missing at the 15th pick. Agholor struggles to find a role in a limited passing offense with a number of niche-skilled players. Colin Kaepernick thinks he’s too cool for new coach Jim Tomsula and the team cuts him after 2015, leaving the franchise and passing game in flux.

Jon Moore is a contributor at RotoViz and a cohost of Rotoviz Radio – A Fantasy Football Podcast.  Continue this conversation with him on TwitterGoogle+ or Facebook.

  1. This was harder than I thought.  (back)
  2. Think: David Carr 2002.  (back)
  3. If the Titans’ 2017 coach is Gus Mahlzahn, all bets are off.  (back)

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