Hello and welcome to the fourth installment of my annual Top 100 Rookies series! If you’re new to the series, every year I put together 100 rookies entering the NFL Draft and rank them based on the impact I believe they’ll have for fantasy football purposes (of course). So no, this is not just another “big board” or “where they’ll go in the real NFL Draft” conversation. This is specifically designed for you to use as a data point in building your own rookie rankings for upcoming dynasty league rookie drafts. And of course, it’s here to help you learn a few fun things to make you sound smart among your friends as the NFL Combine and Draft are approaching.
And yes, the NFL combine results will certainly change these rankings a bit. But the goal here is to establish a baseline understanding of where these players should rank given what we know now and how they can help themselves in the coming weeks and months to help their draft and fantasy football stock.
I used to keep things limited to offensive players, but for those of you who are super nerds like me having some individual defensive players (IDPs) included definitely helps for your upcoming drafts too.
Some things to note as you read:
- The position listed is where I believe they will play most frequently
- “EDGE” players are typically 3-4 outside linebackers or pass-rushing 4-3 defensive ends
- “DL” are typically DTs and DEs that will work exclusively between the 0 and 5 techniques on the defensive line
- “LB” are the playmaking off-the-ball linebackers
- Scoring format assumed is 1 QB, PPR and a balance between tackle heavy and big play (for the IDPs)
If you missed the first three installments:
- Rookies Ranked No. 1 to 20
- Rookies Ranked No. 41 to No. 60
- Rookies Ranked No. 61 to No. 80
- Rookies Ranked No. 81 to No. 100
If you have any questions or comments on these ranks find me on Twitter @FF_TravisM! But without further ado, here are the players currently ranked No. 21 to No. 40 in the 2020 Top 100 Rookies series!
40. Jordyn Brooks, LB Texas Tech
When I talked about Brooks last fall, he was already on pace for 20 tackles for loss on the season. Not only did he end up getting exactly that, he totaled 108 tackles for the Red Raiders on the year, a career high. Brooks has consistently been a national leader in tackles for loss per tackle made over the past two years and is just an impressive combine away from stardom. He was already running around a 4.6 in high school. If he runs in the 4.5 range now, Brooks could really make himself some money. He can definitely slot in as a Will linebacker for virtually any team, which should lead to tackles and chances to make plays all game long.
39. Antoine Winfield Jr., S Minnesota
Winfield is the Juan Thornhill of this year’s class. If you’re not sure what that means, it’s pretty simple. All he does is make plays. Winfield’s 83 tackles, three sacks, seven interceptions and another pass defended gave him perhaps the most impressive stat line in all of college football for defensive backs in 2019. This Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and first-team All American defensive back should be the third or fourth safety taken but may end up being the best of the bunch.
38. Javon Kinlaw, DL South Carolina
There may not be a bigger player at this year’s NFL combine than Javon Kinlaw. Listed at 6 feet 6 inches, 310 pounds, Kinlaw was a formidable force all along the defensive line for South Carolina. If you watch his tape, there’s seldom a snap where he isn’t double-teamed or worse. Yet somehow he was still able to produce decent numbers over his final two years at South Carolina. Generally, you want to see more than 30 tackles, but getting half a dozen sacks from his position this past year was impressive. If he can avoid further knee and hip issues like he’s had in college, this first-round talent could be the next Calais Campbell.
37. K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE LSU
It’s a shame that Chaisson won’t be participating in the NFL combine drills, but it makes sense given he’s a lock for first-round capital. Everyone already knows that he’s likely the most athletic edge rusher in the class not named Chase Young, and he isn’t even 21 years old yet. Fresh off a 60-tackle, 6.5-sack, National Championship season, Chaisson is going to coast to top capital and early snaps in the NFL. If he lands in any 4-3 or hybrid scheme that doesn’t get him stuck at 3-4 OLB exclusively he’ll be a fantasy contributor in year one.
36. Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE Penn State
Despite some bizarre hazing allegations that were eventually found baseless, Gross-Matos is still a top-three edge rusher in this draft class. After racking up 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2018 Gross-Matos decided to grab an extra sack for good measure in two fewer games last fall. He was already an explosive athlete in high school, running a 4.7 forty at 6 feet 5 inches and 240 pounds. If he tests as a 80-90th percentile athlete like I believe he can, he’ll be a lock for first-round capital. With his mix of strength, size, length, and production, Gross-Matos could end up being the most productive pass rusher in this class one day.
35. Brycen Hopkins, TE Purdue
Hopkins has all the potential to be this year’s TE1. He’s expected to jump about 40 inches in the vert. There’s significant evidence to believe he’ll run a sub-4.7 forty. Plus, if the Grinding the Mocks tool is close at all with his implied draft capital, Hopkins has some fun pro comps.
Hopkins calls himself a “move” tight end, and he certainly has played that part for Purdue. If he can insert himself into a situation where he sees a high percentage of snaps from the slot early on Hopkins could prove productive immediately given his balls skills and top-notch athleticism.
34. Justin Herbert, QB Oregon
Herbert has had his truthers for quite some time, but when you look at his passing numbers, it’s easy to see why Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa are clearly a tier above him.
His adjusted yards per attempt, TD-to-INT ratio, and deep ball accuracy numbers just aren’t what we have seen top the NFL Draft boards in recent years. But he is certainly a step up from guys like Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason, and Jordan Love.
He struggled to stay healthy his first two seasons in college, but still showed us glimpses of first-round quarterback play. When he did stay healthy in his final two seasons, Herbert impressed enough that he’s a lock for top-10 NFL Draft capital. With that kind of capital comes early opportunity. And with early opportunity there comes a safe level of expected production. And that kind of value just can’t slip beyond round three of rookie drafts.
33. Eno Benjamin, RB Arizona State
When Eno Benjamin weighed in under 200 pounds at the Senior Bowl, that was a tough start to his draft season. And unless he proves everyone wrong, the NFL combine won’t be doing him any favors either. It looks like he’s added some weight for the combine. But Benjamin ran a 4.7 forty in high school, so he might do himself a favor sitting that one out.
What gives us hope for Benjamin was how dominant a producer he was in college. He totaled nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 2018 with a 92% Backfield Dominator. This past year wasn’t as impressive by the numbers, but he was running behind a bottom-five offensive line, so it was a miracle he eclipsed 1,000 yards. Let’s hope he chooses his NFL combine drills wisely and squeaks into the back end of day two when the draft comes.
32. Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR Liberty
It’s nice to finally see so many coming around on Gandy-Golden (or AGG). Not too many receivers can say that they put up three consecutive seasons with 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, but AGG can. Yes, it was against lower-level competition at times, but he dominated the best when he was asked to do so. Like I mentioned last fall in my Devy Weekly series, Gandy-Golden destroyed Division I defenses even when he was a sophomore. He tallied 13 receptions for 192 yards and two touchdowns against Baylor in the first game of his sophomore campaign. And this year he scorched the likes of Syracuse and BYU. If he ends up having good size-adjusted combine numbers, look out. He could end up being drafted earlier than we think.
31. Isaiah Hodgins, WR Oregon State
Speaking of productive wide receivers, Hodgins is certainly one of the more productive receivers in this class. And like I mentioned in January, he’s been a dominant producer even since his high school days. The issues with Hodgins will be athleticism and draft capital. The only reason he wasn’t a more highly touted recruit was his lack of athleticism. If he can answer those questions at the combine, he might see a boost in capital. However, unless he sees that boost, his comps aren’t the greatest.
If he makes it to Day 2, A.J. Green sneaks into his comps. If he misses he’s definitely looking more like Josh Reynolds or Hakeem Butler.
30. Michael Pittman Jr., WR USC
Pittman Jr. has been a devy fantasy football favorite for years now. He’s got the NFL pedigree thanks to his dad. He’s got the fun size, speed, body control combo that’s a blast to watch. And like I talked about last month, there’s certainly context that explains his late productive breakout. But Pittman will need to be drafted incredibly early (end of Round 2 at the latest) to avoid being comped to some pretty gross and unproductive NFL players. The good news is, Pittman likely tests as a 70th-80th percentile size-adjusted athlete. Look for a mid-4.5 forty with jumps out of the building from him.
29. Denzel Mims, WR Baylor
Speaking of impressive size-adjusted athletes, Mims should have that going for him. And on top of that he has the promising production profile we like to see to go with it. At 6 feet 3 inches and 207 pounds, with a 78.5-inch wingspan, Mims has the typical X-receiver frame. However, what’s interesting is that his production profile has him comped to smaller shiftier receivers.
These comps will change a bit once we get the full physical picture, but there’s a reason his comps on paper look so shifty and fast. That might be because Mims can play that way even though he’s huge. He’s got a 71st percentile Adjusted Production Index (solid for future prospects). He’s got the imposing physical frame. If he shows out as the 90th percentile athlete he likely can be day two seems like an easy lock for Mims. Don’t let him slide in your rookie drafts.
28. Antonio Gibson, RB Memphis
Yes, I know he’s listed with the receivers at the NFL combine. And he’s probably going to compete with the receivers all week. But Antonio Gibson looks and runs like a feature back. He’s 6 feet tall and almost 230 pounds, but he’ll likely run around a 4.5 thanks to his track background. Yes, his production profile is extremely limited, but he was essentially the most efficient player in all of college football last year and no one seemed to notice. They will this week. He should be the biggest riser among all skill position players at the NFL combine.
27. Grant Delpit, S LSU
A couple seasons ago, Delpit was locked in as the top safety for the 2020 NFL Draft. He was coming off an impressively productive season with 9.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, five picks, and nine more passes defended. But now this spring there are a few doubters. Why is that?
The main point you’ll hear from detractors is that he’s a poor tackler. And that did show up in 2019, and in the games where he was fighting through injury in 2018. But really those worries seem overblown. Delpit is always around the ball. He won’t be participating in Combine drills, but we would test as an 80th-percentile athlete at the position or better. And his range (when he’s 100%) is only matched by perhaps Antoine Winfield Jr. in this class. Don’t overthink this one.
26. Derrick Brown, DL Auburn
Derrick Brown may be the only man bigger than Javon Kinlaw at this year’s NFL combine. Brown listed at 6 feet 5 inches and 318 pounds at Auburn. And boy, did he know how to throw his weight around. Brown averaged double-digit tackles for loss and snagged at least three sacks in each of the past three seasons. And even though he was doubled on most snaps, Brown still averaged more than 50 tackles per season. He’s simply an unstoppable force in the middle of the defense. There’s a reason he’s almost certainly going to be selected top five this year. Regardless of format, Brown should be a DL1 by Year 2 easily.
25. Xavier McKinney, S Alabama
The only safety nearly as productive as Antoine Winfield in college football last season was probably Xavier McKinney. This box safety with range totaled nearly 100 tackles, three sacks, and eight passes defended. And his projected role in the pros should allow for similar results. His high school athletic numbers would have already made him an 80th-percentile athlete among NFL safeties. If he can improve on that, McKinney might rise even further up rookie boards.
24. A.J. Epenesa, EDGE Iowa
Imagine Cameron Jordan for the New Orleans Saints, except two inches taller. That’s the potential that we’re looking at with Epenesa. He fights and wins with strength and finesse with his hand fighting. No pass rusher is perfect, but Epenesa is close. Plus he has production to match. His two straight double-digit sack seasons for Iowa give him one of the best production profiles among all edge rushers in the class. Again, don’t overthink this. Epenesa’s going to have a long NFL career.
23. Brandon Aiyuk, WR Arizona State
Former JUCO receivers are always hard to project. But Aiyuk should profile pretty well for success when it’s all said and done. Yes, he really only has peak numbers going for him in the production profile. His breakout age and early career adjusted numbers aren’t great. However, he’s already shown to have an ideal wingspan (around 80 inches) and BMI that we like to see. If he ends up with a nice size-adjusted speed score and draft capital, he’ll likely go earlier than pick 23 in IDP leagues just by default.
22. Tyler Johnson, WR Minnesota
No one has had quite the “head scratcher” of an NFL Draft season that Johnson has, and it isn’t even March yet. The Senior Bowl snubbed him. Then he chose to sit out of the Shrine Game. And now he’s sitting out of the forty-yard dash at the combine? That usually means you’re just slow.
And it’s frustrating because Tyler Johnson has a 99th-percentile Adjusted Production Index, an early breakout age, and decent route-running abilities. The issue seems to be that NFL scouts just don’t think he’s elite at any one thing. But if Johnson does somehow overcome his botched draft season, his comps are beautiful with even end-of-Round-3 capital:
Let’s hope some NFL team realizes the potential and takes a shot on him.
21. Bryan Edwards, WR South Carolina
And I always say this, but last and certainly not least, we have Bryan Edwards. Unfortunately, Edwards broke a bone in his foot and will miss all the combine on-field events. However, Edwards has a few good things going for him already. He fell just a few ticks short of a breakout season in his freshman year, capped his dominator rating over 40%, and is already a well-documented SPARQ freak athletically. Yes, his final season production was gross from a raw numbers standpoint, but that’s due to inept quarterback play. Don’t overthink things with Edwards. Even if his recent physical woes hurt his draft stock, Edwards looks like a “hit” kind of prospect that should probably be ranked even higher.
And that’s all for now! Again, if you missed prior articles in this series, check them out here:
And look for the final installment of the Top 100 Rookies Series here soon! Find me on Twitter @FF_TravisM if you have any questions. And keep living that Dynasty Life!