Hello and welcome to the first 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 raise 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’re curious where all the other prospects stack up check the other installments out here:
And without further ado, here are the players currently ranked No. 81 to No. 100 in the 2020 Top 100 Rookies series!
100. Jabari Zuniga, EDGE Florida
Just like Jabari Zuniga kicked off my Devy Weekly series last fall in his dominant performance against Miami, he kicks off the Top 100 Rookies series here. Zuniga grabbed a sack and a half, six tackles, three for a loss that Miami game. And he did it from several different positions along the line. Zuniga likely plays mostly on the edge in the pros, but his versatility should be utilized early on if he’s drafted early enough.
99. Kenny Willekes, EDGE Michigan State
As I mentioned in my Devy Weekly series last fall, Willekes can be the most dominant player on the field and take over games by himself. In one game alone he had seven tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, two fumble recoveries, and a touchdown. The former walk-on won’t test as an elite athlete at the combine, but he wins consistently off the edge.
98. Larrell Murchison, DL NC State
Murchison will be a fun pro to watch on Sundays. He can win in pass-rush situations from right over the center. He can burst into the backfield from any defensive line position. If he tests well at the combine, expect his name to be a riser for early Day 2 consideration.
97. Rashard Lawrence, DL LSU
To call Rashard Lawrence a monster of a man is probably an understatement. He’ll likely weigh in at over 300 pounds at the combine, and bench 30 reps or so at 225 pounds. If I thought he’d play a more tackle heavy role in the pros he would be much higher just based on strength and mobility for his size. His ceiling is likely a slightly bigger Jurrell Casey.
96. Quartney Davis, WR Texas A&M
Texas A&M has become one of the best programs in the nation at ruining college production profiles for receivers. Jhamon Ausbon, Cameron Buckley, and Kendrick Rogers all looked like they were ready for the next big leap at some point. Then the team just forgot to target them for half a season. But Quartney Davis’ story has been different. He never broke out, but he’s consistently produced as a second option for the Aggies. He snagged at least five catches in nine of his 11 games in 2019.
Davis ran around a 4.5 in high school, so he may post better athletic numbers than some expect. If he does, and he can see late day three capital, his production/capital comps become palatable (Randall Cobb and Donte Moncrief).
95. Jauan Jennings, WR Tennessee
It feels like Jennings has been in college for fifty years, but he’s finally entering the NFL Draft. When we look at his production profile, it’s hard to get too excited, but his final season did fix things a bit.
If he impresses with a decent forty and jumps, his best pro comp will likely be Marquez Valdes-Scantling though. Not the best upside you want to see, but he could certainly carve out a role given his physical playing style.
94. Quintez Cephus, WR Wisconsin
Everyone has their favorite “if he could have just stayed healthy” or “if he could only keep his head on straight” player. Heading into 2019 Cephus was both. Cephus dominated in small samples as a freshman and sophomore but missed a dozen games. Then he was suspended from the team in 2018 due to sexual assault allegations.
However, he ended up being found not guilty and was reinstated for one final effort in 2019. Cephus took full advantage of the opportunity, posting a 35% Dominator Rating and 60th percentile YPTA numbers. He’s a long shot now, but will likely show off some fun physical tools at the NFL combine.
93. Joshua Uche, EDGE Michigan
Uche is one of those single-season spectacular kind of pass-rushing linebackers that will see some solid draft capital. Yes, his junior year he was efficient in a small sample, but really we just have a 33-tackle, 7.5-sack final season to work with here. He isn’t as diverse as an Anfernee Jennings. And unless he proves otherwise at the NFL combine, his athleticism is definitely in question. If he misses early capital, he drops completely out of consideration.
92. Jeff Gladney, CB TCU
I normally don’t even rank cornerbacks, but Gladney is an exception to the rule. He tallied 26 passes defended, 3 picks, and 72 total tackles in his final two seasons for TCU. And even though he’s a little skinny, he plays much bigger than he is, dominating much larger receivers. He could be CB1 in must-start CB leagues among rookies. And yes, he still has value in leagues that don’t require starting corners.
91. J.J. Taylor, RB Arizona
If Taylor wasn’t so tiny, he would be a highly coveted running back talent this year. Taylor ran for over 1,400 yards as a junior, caught 32 passes in his final season, and is a stud in pass protection for his size. However, he’s just 5 feet 6 inches, which puts him in ultimate outlier territory if we’re expecting fantasy production. Unless he’s Darren Sproles, we’re looking at a career special team and backup player.
90. Darius Anderson, RB TCU
Anderson is going to have one of the most impressive NFL combine performances of all the running backs this year. He’s already run a sub-4.4 forty on multiple occasions. He can squat over triple his weight (700 pounds), so his jumps should be off the charts. If he scores even average in the agility drills, he likely profiles as an 85th percentile athlete at the position. However, the concern with Anderson is that he never produced at an elite level, and only showed receiving skills in his final season.
89. Joshua Kelley, RB UCLA
Several NFL players have fun stories of rising to greatness, but Kelley started from the absolute floor to get to where he is today. He was virtually unranked as a recruit (2-star rating at best) and only received one offer to play for UC Davis (an FCS school). But after two years showing success as a runner and kick returner he got his shot to play for UCLA.
Once there he took the lead job and never looked back, posting a 70% Backfield Dominator in both of his final seasons for the Bruins. He may not be drafted early given his age (23 by end of this year) and lack of elite athleticism. But if he even sees early Day 3 draft capital his comps are pretty fun:
88. Darrynton Evans, RB Appalachian State
As I mentioned last fall in my Devy Weekly series, Evans logged an 11-game streak with at least 120 all-purpose yards. He racked up 1,678 yards from scrimmage and 23 touchdowns in just his final (2019) season. And he finished out his collegiate career with six straight games of 110 or more yards from scrimmage. Evans is a do-it-all back that will stick somewhere on special teams alone. He’ll need to show some solid jumps and speed to project beyond a change-of-pace running back, but he’s got the skills.
87. Julian Okwara, EDGE Notre Dame
Okwara is another one of those players that “looks the part” and will likely go early round two in the NFL Draft. The Grinding the Mocks draft projection tool has him going around pick 45 right now. Thing is, we’re really only going off of one good season with Okwara. He had a pretty efficient 2019, tallying five sacks in just nine games, but he just simply isn’t the high volume tackler that you want for fantasy purposes. Yes, he does play solid gap discipline and sets the edge well on defense, but he projects to be more of a containment defensive end than a consistent tackling and sacking threat.
86. Anfernee Jennings, EDGE Alabama
It’s easy for high-caliber talent to get lost on the Alabama defense. And when players have to force their way through a depth chart full of four- and five-star recruits, many times their final production numbers seem lacking. Often it leaves defensive players’ profiles looking exactly like Jennings’:
|Year||Solo Tackles||Assists||Total Tackles||TFL||Sacks||Pass Deflections||Forced Fumbles||Fumble Recoveries|
The slow start is common form any Alabama defenders, but Jennings finished incredibly strong. Fifty tackles, 5.5 sacks and 11 pass deflections in 2018. Eighty-three tackles, eight sacks, and five pass deflections in his final season. Virtually no other pass-rushing outside linebacker had as many tackles last year. He actually posted better numbers than his higher-rated teammate Terrell Lewis this past season. Plus, he can play off the ball pretty well too. Jennings could be a fun chess piece that produces early.
85. Kalija Lipscomb, WR Vanderbilt
It’s been a while since a good NFL receiver came out of Vanderbilt, but Kalija Lipscomb might be the exception. Although he had to put up with six different quarterbacks and played for the worst offense in the SEC, Lipscomb still found ways to produce against the nation’s top competition. He was the Pro Football Focus top-rated receiver in the SEC on third and fourth downs as a junior. And his 33% Dominator Rating and decent breakout age meet minimum thresholds that we like to see here at RotoViz. Lipscomb would benefit greatly if he posted a nice size-adjusted speed score at the NFL Combine since he won’t be elite by just about any metric.
84. Chase Claypool, WR Notre Dame
Chase Claypool has had his fans for a while now, but there simply aren’t very many good comps for Claypool even with overly optimistic draft capital (pick 90):
Listed at just over 6 feet 4 inches and 229 pounds, Claypool is an interesting prospect. It took him a full four years to break out. And he was never even his own team’s lead receiver until his final year. However, his final and peak season was definitely noteworthy. Claypool’s peak numbers actually sneak him just into the 60th percentile of my Adjusted Production Index, which is typically the threshold you want to see in tandem with draft capital. But again, he’s a little strange, because if you look at the list of comps, not one of those players fits Claypool via body type or play style. Unless Claypool wows everyone at the combine, he’ll be a late-round selection and a long shot to hit.
However, the one route to NFL success that may be most likely is for Claypool to switch to tight end eventually like Darren Waller (who was only listed three pounds heavier in college). This may sound like a negative, but it’s not. He’s already near the necessary size, has the blocking ability, and would match up way better against linebackers than forcing himself open outside against faster corners. And just like Waller, neither were ever the dominant lead guy on their college team, but boasted physical gifts worthy of an NFL roster spot. Let’s hope he lands somewhere creative enough to utilize him.
83. Adam Trautman, TE Dayton
Trautman has recently emerged as a draft darling for many after his stellar performance in Senior Bowl practices last month. He may have been playing against FCS competition for most of his career, but his 2019 was incredible. Trautman posted a 38% dominator rating, 2.98 yards per team pass attempt (YPTA), and 0.045 touchdowns per team pass attempt (TDPTA). Those numbers would give him a 90th percentile production score if he were a wide receiver! If he profiles well at the combine and sees some draft capital, Trautman will skyrocket up rankings.
82. Salvon Ahmed, RB Washington
As I mentioned last fall in my Devy Weekly series, Ahmed ran a verified 4.32 in the forty-yard dash in high school. He then ran that same time and posted a 37-inch vertical (80th% for RBs) at the Husky combine in college. Thus, he’s definitely a player that could help himself in a huge way at the NFL combine. His weight may be a critical factor in assessing just how impressive those numbers are. But if he can post those numbers at 200 pounds or more, then look out. Ahmed’s real NFL Draft stock might go crazy.
81. Lamical Perine, RB Florida
And last, but certainly not least, we have Lamical Perine. Back in 2016, Perine was a top-400 college football recruit. And he almost chose to go to Alabama to compete directly with Josh Jacobs for snaps. Instead, he chose the Florida Gators. Perine worked his way into a significant role early on posting a 33% Backfield Dominator as a true freshman. And for those of you who play in Devy fantasy leagues (where you can roster college players), you already know Perine became a name to know right away. However, the reason he doesn’t rank higher on this top 100 list is that he didn’t ever make a significant leap in the years that followed.
However, it’s relevant to note that Florida did have a coaching change and a fair share of quarterback struggles amid Perine’s career. That certainly didn’t help. But as it stands, it looks like Perine is going to miss the critical Day 2 draft capital threshold. In fact, using the Grinding the Mocks tool to project expected draft position, Perine will maybe go around pick 120 (early fourth round) at the earliest. These are his comps if we assume that to be true:
These definitely could be worse. Some of the RBs listed have made splashes in the pros. If Perine proves himself at the combine, his profile could look even better with some improved capital. If he does get capital the Doug Martin comp could be his absolute ceiling.
And that’s all for now! Look for the next 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!