If you like NFL rookies and rankings lists then you’re in the right place. Travis May breaks down the top 100 incoming NFL rookies for fantasy football. And it’s not just offensive players! Individual defensive players (IDP) will be included in this list as well for all you hardcore fantasy footballers!
Now that the dust has settled from NFL Draft hype and the first round of organized team activities are wrapping up let’s take a look at the top 100 rookies for 2019! Everyone disagrees when it comes to ranking players. In fact, I guarantee that most will find something they believe to be “egregious” before rank 25. And that’s okay! There are plenty of lists out there to help you form your own opinion as you prepare for rookie drafts and the upcoming NFL season. But in this one I’ll just try and lay out a helpful case for as many of these players as possible. Feel free to comment or seek me out on Twitter @FF_TravisM to tell me just how wrong I truly am. Enjoy!
- N’Keal Harry, WR Patriots
- Miles Sanders, RB Eagles
- Josh Jacobs, RB Raiders
As the Rotoviz team has clearly laid out for the past few years, N’Keal Harry is special. He broke out as a true sophomore at Arizona State with over 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. Harry boasts an above average athletic profile. And as I outlined in the Rookie WR Tournament this year Harry looks like Marques Colston with draft capital. When you mix the first round draft capital, production profile, route running distribution, and pre-snap alignment versatility, Harry looks like a lock for Tier 1. Especially with comps like this:
|100||NKeal Harry||Arizona State||WR||2016||2018||32||0.31||0.39||0.38||0.75||4.53||228|
|98||Mike Evans||Texas A&M||WR||2012||2013||7||0.29||0.25||0.30||0.92||4.53||231|
|96||Alshon Jeffery||South Carolina||WR||2009||2011||45||0.38||0.40||0.32||0.62||4.48||216|
|94||Allen Robinson||Penn State||WR||2011||2013||61||0.36||0.38||0.46||0.50||4.6||220|
|92||Kenny Golladay||Northern Illinois||WR||2012||2016||96||0.39||0.39||0.43||0.67||4.5||218|
|90||Laquon Treadwell||Ole Miss||WR||2013||2015||23||0.23||0.27||0.26||0.85||4.52||221|
|82||Michael Thomas||Ohio State||WR||2012||2015||47||0.24||0.29||0.32||0.69||4.57||212|
|80||Chris Harper||Kansas State||WR||2010||2012||123||0.26||0.28||0.32||0.23||4.55||229|
Seeing Miles Sanders at second overall might seem a bit strange. That’s fair, considering that Josh Jacobs is certainly no slouch, but let’s just look at the facts. As I outlined in the Rookie RB tournament this year Sanders’ closest physical comps are Marshawn Lynch and Joseph Addai. His final season production was gave him a Prospect Lab Score just above prospect average, but second in this draft class (only to Ryquell Armstead). Sanders now lands in Philadephia where the Eagles haven’t had a running back to speak of since LeSean McCoy. Expect the pedigree and draft capital to earn him some opportunity early given an athletic profile like this:
Josh Jacobs wraps up Tier 1, but there’s an argument for him at Pick 1 as well. Running backs drafted at age 21 inside of Round 1 typically have a ridiculously high hit rate compared to all other prospects (draft age and capital matter). In fact, since 1989 running backs drafted inside Round 1 at age 21 average more than 6,200 career rushing yards. Round 2 prospects at the same age average just over 3,200 career rushing yards (the bracket in which Miles Sanders falls). Age 22 first-round running backs average just over 4,700 career rushing yards. Those aren’t necessarily numbers that would indicate positive causation, but historically Jacobs is among good company. When you add in his size, receiving skills, and pass blocking ability, there’s good reason to believe he should produce right away.
- David Montgomery, RB Bears
David Montgomery is actually inside Tier 1 for quite a few people this year, but I believe he’s just a notch down from the top three. It seems like his opportunity with the Bears should be good. He has great vision, yards after contact, and receiving ability. But as many have covered already his physical profile is a bit worrisome.
The great news is that the Bears just finished giving Jordan Howards 778 carries over the past three seasons. If Montgomery can even come close to those touch numbers he’s a lock for early career production and value insulation.
- Parris Campbell, WR Colts
- Andy Isabella, WR Cardinals
- A.J. Brown, WR Titans
- D.K. Metcalf, WR Seahawks
- Marquise Brown, WR Ravens
- J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR Eagles
- T.J. Hockenson, TE Lions
- Noah Fant, TE Broncos
Tier 3 is where everything gets messy. No one seems to agree on this range of players, and it’s likely because all of the wide receiver profiles are so different.
Parris Campbell’s adjusted production numbers are around the 25th percentile for the typical NFL rookie wide receiver prospect. However, he boasts ridiculous 4.31-speed and joins Andrew Luck and the strong Colts offense. This is a situation where if works from the slot he could see over 60% of the team’s offensive snaps. The Colts also surprisingly lost about 100 receptions from last year. Campbell should be valued highly.
Andy Isabella, on the other hand, has one of the strongest production profiles in this class, plus the draft capital to go along with it. If people remember that he was selected two rounds ahead of Hakeem Butler and has a ridiculously pass-happy offense coming in this year Isabella will be valued correctly. So far, most rookie drafts have him going way, way too late. If he slides even into round two of standard rookie drafts Isabella is a crazy value.
People love to hate on the Titans offense, but there’s a chance it’s actually a lot of fun this year if Mariota is healthy. A.J. Brown’s peak collegiate production and draft capital combination put him well within feasible range to succeed in the pros. Some worry about him getting stuck in poor slot role with the Titans, but Brown was actually more efficient than his Ole Miss teammate D.K. Metcalf when he lined up outside in 2018. He saw over 18 yards per reception on outside wide receivers and demonstrated a wide variety of successful routes run. AJ Brown could work his way into a significant role early.
D.K. Metcalf is obviously still a huge human being that runs fast in a straight line. That hasn’t changed. The Seahawks clearly need to replace well over 100 targets from last year. Metcalf runs almost exclusively curl and go routes, so Wilson may be able to find him deep this year. This could lead to some sexy early career production for Metcalf. However, if he doesn’t learn more than one trick it will be interesting to see if he finds any success at all. Throughout an eight-game sample (every snap fully charted) in college Metcalf caught 100% of his receptions from left wide receiver and ran a go or curl 75% of the time. That repertoire needs expanding.
Marquise Brown is consistently dismissed due to his alleged size and foot injury that may hamper his potential to produce in year one. Those are legitimate concerns, historically speaking. But his unreal yards per team pass attempt numbers and overall adjusted production profile insert him into a pretty solid tier for expected career production. If you add in draft capital and projected target share within the Ravens offense the truth becomes abundantly clear. Brown is going to have every opportunity to succeed. The Ravens are looking to replace over 200 targets from 2018. If even half of those go to “Hollywood” Brown there will be plenty of disappointed dynasty owners wishing they would have drafted him.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside (or Arcegatron, as he’s being called in OTAs) may actually have the strongest overall profile in this draft class. He has the best Power Five production profile. JJAW’s pro day athletic numbers (even adjusted) give him a positive physical profile. He got the draft capital you want to see, going inside round two. The only thing some are concerned with is immediate opportunity, but DeSean Jackson is 32 years old and Alshon Jeffery is essentially a lock to miss some time. If you throw in his elite success in contested situations and dominance at the intermediate level (11-25 yards downfield, outlined in the Dynasty Command Center rookie guide) Arcegatron is a near lock for NFL success.
Lastly, the two tight ends from Iowa absolutely deserve first round rookie draft consideration. Noah Fant is a 96th percentile athlete at the position. T.J. Hockenson actually outsnapped Fant at Iowa due to his elite blocking skills. They both saw first-round capital, which historically has shown to mean significant opportunity. In a class where the elite running back and wide receiver depth drops off quickly both tight ends are safe value picks in the back half of round one in rookie drafts.
- Kyler Murray, QB Cardinals
- Devin White, LB Buccaneers
- Devin Bush, LB Steelers
- Darrell Henderson, RB Rams
- Deebo Samuel, WR 49ers
- Nick Bosa, Edge 49ers
- Clelin Ferrell, Edge Raiders
- Quinnen Williams, DL Jets
- Ed Oliver, DL Bills
If someone still wants to knock Kyler Murray for his height, that’s fine. But I doubt those same people like to put Murray’s final season stats next to Baker Mayfield’s.
|Final Season Numbers||Kyler Murray||Baker Mayfield|
|Pass Comp %||69.0%||70.5%|
|Pass TD %||11.1%||10.6%|
Murray looks like the rare exception at quarterback worth taking a stab at early in rookie drafts this year.
Devin White and Devin Bush could actually be taken earlier than pick 14 in tackle-heavy IDP formats. White is the prototypical run-stopping middle linebacker, but he can also rush the passer. He racked up nearly 30 tackles for loss over the last two seasons at LSU. White will rack up a heavy snap count and tackle total right away replacing Kwon Alexander in Tampa (who struggled to stay healthy). Bush didn’t rack up the crazy stats that White did, but also has a prime opportunity with the Steelers. Most of the time 3-4 inside linebackers aren’t considered tackle monsters. However, given that the Steelers will likely keep him on the field in nickel, Bush brings instant starting IDP value with an implied high snap count as well.
Darrell Henderson has been getting plenty of buzz with the negative Todd Gurley news. As I outlined in the rookie RB tournament this spring, Henderson had an incredible production profile at Memphis. He lands as (at the very least) an instant handcuff for Gurley and maybe more. He could be ranked much higher, especially if he was assured starter snaps early. However, as much as anyone may want to project a significant role for Henderson, that is far from certain at this point.
Deebo Samuel is hard prospect to make a case for analytically. He’s incredibly average from a production standpoint according to dominator rating, yards per team pass attempt, and just about every other meaningful production metric. However, his draft capital could lead to early opportunity. And if he takes that opportunity and continues his history of creating yards after the catch, that could lead to a nice future.
The defensive line talent in this year’s draft is going to be a lot of fun to watch for a long time.
Nick Bosa is arguably in a tier by himself given his balanced skillset, but the 49ers recent snap count tendencies for their ends slots him in with the other top options this year.
Clelin Ferrell was “a reach” according to draft analysts, but there’s no arguing with his production (20 sacks in his last 29 games). Ferrell should be a target for any IDP owners in big play (sack heavy) leagues.
Quinnen Williams and Ed Oliver may be interior defensive lineman, but don’t let that fool you. Williams logged 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks in just his final season. Oliver recorded nearly 60 tackles for loss over his three years at Houston. Many IDP leagues employ some sort of DT premium. These guys would go even higher in those formats.
- Justice Hill, RB Ravens
- Hakeem Butler, WR Cardinals
- Diontae Johnson, WR Steelers
- Mecole Hardman, WR Chiefs
- Dwayne Haskins, QB Redskins
- Alexander Mattison, RB Vikings
- Devin Singletary, RB Bills
- Damien Harris, RB Patriots
- Jeffery Simmons, DL Titans
- Christian Wilkins, DL Dolphins
- Brian Burns, DL Panthers
- Irv Smith Jr., TE Vikings
- Jace Sternberger, TE Packers
- Miles Boykin, WR Ravens
- Terry McLaurin, WR Redskins
- Josh Allen, Edge Jaguars
- Montez Sweat, Edge Redskins
This is what I call the “my guy” tier. Several of these players will be taken much higher in some rookie drafts. Why? There will always be “that guy” who has to grab “his guy” early on these players.
All four of the running backs in this tier have a shot at exceeding their draft investment given their situations. Justice Hill goes to one of the most run-heavy squads in the league with the Ravens. Yes, he likely is 1B to Mark Ingram, but this is a team that found a way to make Gus Edwards relevant there for a second. Alexander Mattison only has Dalvin Cook (who has missed half his career games due to injury) holding him back from every week flex starter status. Devin Singletary has a bevy of soon-to-be-retired backfield mates that could all give way to his talents. Damien Harris may be the cheapest of them all, but is also just one injury away from significant snaps rotation given the Patriots recent RB usage.
Hakeem Butler had the second highest Adjusted Production Index score in this class among Power Five receivers. He just barely missed the draft capital threshold we typically like to see (first pick in round four). Now he joins an offense that could potentially lead the league in pass atempts. This 6-foot-5-inch freak of an athlete will be dismissed for his poor breakout age, but that might be a mistake.
Diontae Johnson has as good a chance as any Steelers wide receiver to earn the WR2 role. He’s just a year removed from a 2000-all-purpose-yard season for Toledo. Johnson checks boxes in production score and capital, both of which have proven time and time again to matter in predicting future NFL production. Athleticism concerns are real, but that might be all to worry about.
Mecole Hardman being ranked 25th probably has a reader or two raging, but he likely has zero business being ranked even that high. Hardman caught a whopping 60 career receptions for Georgia in his three years there. He obviously never eclipsed any meaningful production thresholds. He possesses 4.33-speed in the forty yard dash, but he ran that at about the 8th percentile for weight among wide receivers in NFL Combine history. Even if we paint the most ideal picture of who he could become these are his best comps using our Box Score Scout app.
A couple of those players flashed at times or could still amount to something, but he isn’t anything close to Tyreek Hill. And given recent news surrounding Hill, it looks like Hardman might not even get the chance to try to become something like him. Hard pass anywhere inside the top-20 picks in IDP drafts.
Jeffery Simmons will likely miss most (if not all) of 2019, but would be right next to Ed Oliver and Quinnen Williams otherwise. Teammate Jurrell Casey has been a longtime difference maker and decent IDP play. Simmons should come along side him and eventually be his replacement in Tennessee.
Christian Wilkins and Brian Burns were possibly the two best defensive linemen in the ACC. However, thanks to the Dolphins changing defensive coordinators this year, Wilkins may be in a 3-4 defensive end role, which historically is not very productive for fantasy. Burns may be in for a multi-front defensive end or edge role with the Panthers this season as well. With both of their roles in question in terms of fantasy viability they drop to this range regardless of draft capital.
Irv Smith and Jace Sternberger are both missing size and elite athleticism, respectively. Plus they’re sitting behind an established starter, at least for now. They’re both good values that showed elite level college tight end production in spurts.
Josh Allen and Montez Sweat have shown to be elite level pass rushers, but not necessarily run stopping tackle hoarders. Their roles will likely limit their production, but the draft capital keeps them afloat inside this tier.
- Daniel Jones, QB Giants
- Juan Thornhill, S Chiefs
- Johnathan Abram, S Raiders
- Kelvin Harmon, WR Redskins
- Kahale Warring, TE Texans
- Josh Oliver, TE Jaguars
- Jerry Tillery, DL Chargers
- Dexter Lawrence, DL Giants
- Jalen Hurd, WR 49ers
- Rodney Anderson, RB Bengals
- Rashan Gary, DL Packers
- Bryce Love, RB Redskins
- Benny Snell, RB Steelers
- Chase Winovich, Edge Patriots
- Drew Lock, QB Broncos
- Will Grier, QB Panthers
So everyone likes to hate on Daniel Jones. Why? Well, it’s likely because he looks a lot like last year’s favorite to hate, Josh Allen. And just for kicks, lets look at how terribly they both profile compared to Murray and Mayfield:
|Finall Season Numbers||Daniel Jones||Josh Allen||Kyler Murray||Baker Mayfield|
|Pass Comp %||60.5%||56.3%||69.0%||70.5%|
|Pass TD %||5.6%||5.9%||11.1%||10.6%|
Jones is the ultimate “old NFL” quarterback pick that will almost assuredly be a let down. However, Jones will still be given every opportunity to succeed because the Giants have to make it look like they know what they’re doing. That should give him value for the next few years. Recent quarterback value insulation backs this up pretty easily.
We finally get to the best safeties in this class with Juan Thornhill and Johnathan Abram. Thornhill is a do it all ball hawk that racked up 10 interceptions and 19 passes defended in his final two seasons with Virginia. Oh, and he also just missed reaching 100 tackles last season as well. He isn’t an elite safety talent, but could be the best this season has to offer. Abram is a more of a close-to-the-line enforcing safety, but that’s great for fantasy purposes.
Kelvin Harmon could still hit, but he has just about every historical indicator against him. He dropped to Round 6 of the NFL Draft and showed to be a lackluster athlete this spring. His measured and proven success in the intermediate level of the field may give us some hope, but it’s very slight.
Jerry Tillery and Dexter Lawrence are likely ranked higher by many IDP owners. Neither have nearly the production profile that the other top defensive linemen in this class possess. Tillery and Lawrence should stick on their respective teams throughout their rookie contract given the team’s investment, but don’t expect either to start in fantasy leagues very early.
Kahale Warring and Josh Oliver were no-brainer sleeper tight ends coming into this draft season. Both Warring and Oliver were on run-first, average offenses, but essentially functioned as their team’s leading receiver. Oliver’s raw stats look nicer, but both tight ends finished with about a 20% final season dominator rating. They’re also in situations where they could see significant snap counts early.
The three running backs in this class all were hyped as potential round one rookie picks in dynasty leagues at one point. It’s sad to see where they are now.
Rodney Anderson’s career has been constantly derailed by injury, but he had one of the most impressive stretches of running back play in recent history in 2017. Anderson exploded for more than 1,300 yards from scrimmage over the final eight weeks of that season. Three of those eight games were against top-15 defenses in the nation.
Speaking of 2017, Bryce Love ran for over 2,100 yards in 2017, failing to reach 100 yards just once the entire year. Injuries have been his downfall as well. His lack of receiving production is quite alarming as well, but he’s an intriguing late-round dart throw.
Benny Snell was a three-year 1,000-yard rusher in the SEC, carrying a heavily gadget-based, strange Kentucky offense. His lack of athleticism and a clear path to snaps are the real concern though.
- Ryquell Armstead, RB Jaguars
- Dillon Mitchell, WR Vikings
- Darius Slayton, WR Giants
- Marquise Blair, S Seahawks
- Darnell Savage, S Packers
- Gary Jennings, WR Seahawks
- Trayveon Williams, RB Bengals
- Dexter Williams, RB Packers
- KeeSean Johnson, WR Cardinals
- Riley Ridley, WR Bears
- Bobby Okereke, LB Colts
- Jahlani Tavai, LB Lions
- Germaine Pratt, LB Bengals
- LJ Collier, Edge Seahawks
- Dawson Knox, TE Bills
- Caleb Wilson, TE Cardinals
Ryquell Armstead had a solid final season playing for Temple that gave him one of the strongest final season production profiles in the class. He also looks to be the direct backup for Leonard Fournette in Jacksonville.
Dillon Mitchell and Darius Slayton could both work their way into the WR3 on their respective teams. Mitchell posted a decent breakout age and production numbers with Oregon. Slayton offers the only deep receiving skillset on the Giants with his 4.31-second forty.
Trayveon Williams finished his college career stronger than possibly anyone in college football history with a ridiculous final five games:
|Opponent||Rush Att||Rush Yards||YPC||Rush TDs|
Giovani Bernard is an easy out (contractually) for the Bengals if Trayveon impresses. Williams could stick on the Bengals.
The linebackers in this tier all have potential for some kind of rotational role (at least) early in their career, but have gaping holes in their production or athletic profiles. Bobby Okereke could work into the second linebacker on the field in nickel packages with Darius Leonard in Indianapolis. Jahlani Tavai was taken in round two of the draft and produced insane tackle numbers in 2016 and 2017. However, due to an injury he didn’t participate in any athletic testing. That likely helped his stock anyway. Germaine Pratt is likely going to have to unseat Jordan Evans at WLB if he wants to earn any fantasy viable role early on.
Dawson Knox could be higher given the Bills lack of tight end options, but he never scored a collegiate touchdown and played more of an H-back role than a standard tight end position.
Tier 8 (Best of the Rest)
- Emanuel Hall, WR Bears
- Preston Williams, WR Dolphins
- Tony Pollard, RB Cowboys
- Qadree Ollison, RB Falcons
- Myles Gaskin, RB Dolphins
- Nasir Adderley, S Chargers
- Zach Allen, DL Cardinals
- Jachai Polite, Edge Jets
- Blake Cashman, LB Jets
- Jarrett Stidham, QB Patriots
- Ryan Finley, QB Bengals
- Darwin Thompson, RB Chiefs
- James Williams, RB Chiefs
- Drew Sample, TE Bengals
- Taylor Rapp, S Rams
- Dre’Mont Jones, DL Broncos
- Charles Omenihu, DL Texans
- Mack Wilson, LB Browns
- Mike Weber, RB Cowboys
- Hunter Renfrow, WR Raiders
- John Ursua, WR Seahawks
- Alize Mack, TE Saints
- Ben Burr-Kirven, LB Seahawks
- Drue Tranquill, LB Chargers
- Khalen Saunders, DL Chiefs
- Easton Stick, QB Chargers
- Gardner Minshew, QB Jaguars
- Anthony Nelson, DE Buccaneers
- Amani Hooker, S Titans
- Deionte Thompson, S Cardinals
This final tier is filled with players that should not be drafted early in any rookie drafts. However, it still presents some fun stash players that by many accounts “should” have been drafted earlier than they were.
Emanuel Hall averaged over 20 yards per reception at Missouri and ran a 4.39 forty-yard dash at 6 feet 2 inches and 201 pounds. Then on top of that he tested at the 99th and 100th percentiles in the vertical and broad jumps. Somehow he went completely undrafted and the Bears got a steal.
Preston Williams was supposed to be one of the best receivers in the nation when he entered college. When he was finally given an opportunity after his transfer to Colorado State he posted a 45% dominator rating in 2018. Williams also posted the highest success rate among all wide receivers in my comprehensive charting project that I do every year on in-cutting routes. Keep an eye on him in camp.
Darwin Thompson and James Williams will be competing for the change-of-pace role in Kansas City this year. Most seem to have their bets placed on Thompson even though Williams caught over 200 receptions for Washington State. Either could surprise and steal receptions from Damien Williams.
Ben Burr-Kirven led all of college football with 176 tackles in 2018. If he can beat out some lackluster competition for the third linebacker spot in Seattle he’ll see a major value spike.
And lastly, Amani Hooker could become the swiss army knife position for the Titans that many defenses are beginning to employ. Hooker can be a safety, outside corner, or slot corner. He gives the Titans fantastic flexibility in sub packages. If he earns a significant role Hooker’s snap count and tackle totals might surprise.
And that’s all folks! I hope this helps you gauge value for all the incoming rookies this year. Feel free to reach me on Twitter @FF_TravisM if you’d like to discuss rookies or all things fantasy football!
Image Credit: David Dennis/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Josh Jacobs.
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