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Post-Draft Rookie Tiers: Shakeup at RB, Collapse at WR

Last Thursday, I offered my Pre-Draft Rookie Tiers. After months of poring over the raw stats, advanced metrics, and scouting rankings for the 2018 class, you tend to think you have a fairly clear picture of how things will fall out, but you never do. And that’s what makes the draft so frustrating and ultimately exciting.

With draft slot and landing spot now available, it’s time for the post-draft tiers. I’ve labeled risers in green and fallers in red.1

The research from the RotoViz writing team was off the charts this spring. Cort Smith has provided a complete player-by-player breakdown for the advanced metrics at running back and wide receiver. During the draft, the team authored in-depth reactions to every fantasy-relevant selection. I’ve provided links below the tier. 

Tier 1

Saquon Barkley

Going to Cleveland wouldn’t have been ideal, but almost nothing could have bumped the uber-prospect from 1.01. His fit with the Giants positions him as a first-round pick in redraft as well.

Superman Lands in New York

Tier 2

Ronald JonesSony MichelRashaad PennyRoyce Freeman

The buzz for Michel and Penny built into draft day, but the trendy RBs were still mild surprises as first-round picks and the No. 2 and No. 3 backs off the board. Both go to teams with good offenses, although Michel faces a crowded depth chart in New England and Penny must deal with an awkward role as the early-down back for a poor run-blocking team.2

The new backs in Denver and Tampa Bay were often overshadowed by Derrius Guice and Nick Chubb leading up to the draft, but the Freeman and Jones land on the No. 1 and No. 4 depth charts for early opportunity.3


Freeman’s comps include David Johnson and Doug Martin, while Jones looks a lot like Jamaal Charles if his track times are a better indication of athleticism than his limited offseason workouts.4

The four players in the new Tier 2 leapfrog Guice and D.J. Moore.

Ronald Jones Sprints Up Draft Boards in Tampa Bay
Royce Freeman and the Denver Broncos – A Match Made in Fantasy Heaven
Dynasty Favorite Sony Michel Is Rising Fast in Redraft
Boom! Rashaad Penny Destroys Draft Process, Lands in Seattle

Tier 3

Derrius GuiceD.J. Moore

Guice and Moore slip, although Moore’s tumble could be an overreaction to Cam Newton’s struggles as a passer. The Panthers entered the draft with a poor WR opportunity score, and as Moore fans, the entire RotoViz community was dreaming about one of the plum locations.

Guice is still going at 1.02 in the overwhelming majority of mocks, but I go in-depth in Superflex Mock: Round 1 on why he’s a big draft faller even if you discount the character concerns.

Derrius Guice Falls and Falls – But Finds Quick Redemption?
D.J. Moore Joins the Cam Newton Toy Collection

Tier 4

Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, Calvin Ridley

There’s a very real scenario in which Chubb immediately displaces Carlos Hyde as the Browns offense undergoes a stunning metamorphosis with Baker Mayfield under center and the Josh Gordon/Jarvis Landry tandem leading a blitzkrieg attack. But everything the Browns have said suggests otherwise for 2018.

Johnson joined Barkley, Guice, and Penny among the potential stars according to the Prospect Lab. His draft position encourages the positive thesis, but a crowded depth chart with LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick limits his upside.

The No. 1 WR according to the scouting community, Ridley could underperform his draft status in Atlanta.

Nick Chubb Lands in Waking Nightmare
Lions Finally Find a Bell Cow in Kerryon Johnson
Calvin Ridley Solidifies High Floor/Low Ceiling Status Behind Julio

Tier 5

Courtland Sutton, Christian Kirk, Nyheim Hines, Anthony Miller, Michael Gallup

Sutton and Kirk were the two highest-ceiling WR prospects after Moore and came off the board between picks 40 and 47. Sutton could be the long term answer in Denver, while Kirk should make an immediate impact on an offense bereft of receiving weapons outside of Larry Fitzgerald. Kirk’s fit in Arizona is so good that Cort Smith picked it before the draft.

Miller and Gallup are lower-ceiling prospects5 who rise due to draft slot and opportunity. Miller was a monster the last two years for Memphis. He should quickly earn the No. 2 job in Chicago, an intriguing location in an offense that could range from very good to abysmal as Matt Nagy tries to do his Sean McVay impression with Mitchell Trubisky.

Gallup exits the draft as the potential No. 1 in Dallas by year’s end. After two explosive seasons at Colorado State, he’s one of the top outperformers in Anthony Amico’s post-draft projections.

Courtland Sutton Is the Heir Apparent in Denver
Christian Kirk Has More Upside Than Expected in Arizona
Nyheim Hines Joins Marlon Mack in Indy, and Yeah, That’s a Battle He Can Win
Michael Gallup Could Be an Instant Starter in Dallas

Tier 6

D.J. CharkDante Pettis, Mike GesickiDallas Goedert, James Washington, Tre’Quan Smith, Sam Darnold, Josh RosenBaker Mayfield

Tier 5 moves into the range where personal roster composition starts to play a role with overall value. You may start to prefer the top tight ends in TE premium or the shiny signal-callers in leagues where QB depth is more limited.

The No. 60 and 61 overall picks, Chark and Washington are exciting vertical playmakers but find themselves on difficult depth charts. Chark and his elite Freak Score will battle Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook in Jacksonville. He should win eventually, but it’s not guaranteed, nor is the role necessarily that valuable with Blake Bortles at the helm. Washington has a better QB in Ben Roethlisberger but could be a long-term best ball play with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster ahead of him.

Smith and Pettis didn’t enter the draft with as much buzz but exit among the biggest risers. Smith may be the top true sleeper in the entire class with an excellent career market share, demonstrated vertical ability, and a solid size/athleticism profile. Even with competition from Ted Ginn and Cameron Meredith, the upside with Drew Brees is tantalizing. Pettis was one of the best punt returners of all time and should make an early impact in an emerging 49ers offense.

Gesicki and Goedert each offer star qualities — athleticism for Gesicki and production for Goedert — but patience will be required with Gesicki in a low-powered offense and Goedert behind Zach Ertz.

D.J. Chark Joins Jaguars, Can’t Escape Run-First Offenses
James Washington Is Perfect for the Steelers, But Are They Perfect for Him?
Athleticism Over Production: Mike Gesicki to Be the Dolphins Vernon Davis
Eagles Quickly Reload at TE with Dallas Goedert
NFL Quixotism 101: Baker Mayfield to Back Up Tyrod Taylor
Broadway Sam – The New Gunslinger Era Begins in New York
A Rare Draft Steal at QB – Cardinals Nab Josh Rosen

Tier 7

Keke Coutee, Antonio Callaway, J’Mon Moore, Mark Andrews, Mark Walton, Ito Smith, Lamar Jackson

This is the Hasan Rahim tier, and you can feel the enthusiasm when you read his Coutee and Moore reactions. Moore has some rookie competition in Green Bay but brings an intriguing size/athleticism profile and solid production marks over his last two years.

RotoViz was rooting for combine snub Ito Smith. Devin McIntyre’s draft reaction is a must read.

Ito Smith: Why The Invisible Man Could Be the Next Devonta Freeman
More Weapons In Houston – Keke Coutee Fills a Hole
After Landing In Green Bay The Buzz Finally Starts for J’Mon Moore
Mark Andrews and the All-TE Offense in Baltimore
Mark Walton: Handcuff, Pass-Catcher, Or Mixon Threat?
Lamar Jackson to Put Quick Pressure on Joe Flacco

Tier 8

Deon Cain, Equanimeous St. Brown, Cedrick Wilson, Kalen Ballage, John Kelly, Chase Edmonds, Justin Jackson, DaeSean Hamilton, Hayden Hurst, Jaleel Scott, Josh Allen

Few players fell further than Cain and St. Brown who were widely mocked into the first two rounds at this time a year ago. At each draft level, early declares fare much better than players who exhaust their eligibility, but as late-round picks, they would have been better off returning and trying to rehab value. If there’s a silver lining, they find themselves in explosive offenses with elite QBs, especially if Andrew Luck is able to return. Early opportunity is also available.6


Cedrick Wilson Is A Free Ticket to Cowboys WR Lottery
John Kelly Is the Perfect Handcuff to Todd Gurley
Chargers Get a Steal in Justin Jackson
Hayden Hurst Is a Baltimore Raven (And the Crowd Goes Wild)
DaeSean Hamilton: The Future Slot in Denver
Jaleel Scott Could Be the Big Receiver Baltimore Needs
Selecting Josh Allen Was Very Bills

Tier 9

Mason Rudolph, Daurice Fountain, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jordan Lasley, Justin Watson, Trenton Cannon, Bo Scarbrough, Jordan Wilkins, Allen Lazard, Auden Tate, Richie James, Jordan Akins, Ian Thomas, Boston Scott

Panthers Count on Ian Thomas’ Untapped Potential

Don’t miss Anthony Amico’s Post-Draft WR Model Update or the First Round of our Post-Draft Rookie Mock

  1. Occasionally a player will move down a tier without falling overall. This is the result of a shakeup in the way other players created natural gaps between groupings.  (back)
  2. It’s encouraging for Penny that the team sees him as a three-down stud, but his resume raises questions that he must answer in that regard.  (back)
  3. Arizona is technically No. 2, but David Johnson will return to account for those touches.  (back)
  4. Of course, these are the ceiling outcomes — the worst comps are much less encouraging — but understanding upside is valuable. RBs deal with sky-high injury rates and early-down backs historically disappoint as rookies. In such an environment, knowing the ceiling gives you an edge as you try to acquire marginal points.  (back)
  5. In each of the first three rounds, seniors tend to be outscored in their first two seasons by early-declares who are selected a round after them.  (back)
  6. If you have multiple later round rookie picks and plenty of roster spots, try to add at least two from the group of Moore, St. Brown, and Valdes-Scantling.  (back)
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