by Matthew Hill
One doesn’t have to spend much time on fantasy Twitter to find numerous pre-draft rookie dynasty rankings. While speculating on the value of rookies months prior to the NFL draft makes for interesting debate, the reality is rookie values can be expected to change, oftendramatically, once they find their NFL home.
This is why most dynasty startups and rookie drafts take place after the NFL draft. There is just too much uncertainty prior to the NFL draft for most dynasty owners to schedule a rookie draft early or take part in a pre-draft startup.
Best ball is different. Best ball drafts have been filling with regularity since the 2017 season ended. Included in those drafts are rookies. What to do with these rookies prior to the NFL draft is one of the main question best ball drafters must ask themselves. When should they be targeted? How should they be valued?
Below are my top twenty rookies for best ball leagues. These are NOT dynasty rankings. I am not concerned with speculating about career values. I am only concerned with which players have the best chance of contributing right away.
You will notice that the list is very running back heavy. Running backs, especially those who can contribute on passing downs, are the most likely to see significant touches their first season. I only have three wide receivers and two tight ends in my top twenty. I have not identified a single quarterbackthat I feel comfortable drafting, not knowing the situation they will be drafted into.
My pre draft list is limited to twenty becauseat this point, there are only twenty rookies I would consider investing a pick in a draft-only, best ball league.
- Saquon Barkley—Certain of high volume, the draft’s unquestioned top back is worth a late first in draft only leagues.
- DerriusGuice—Guice is expected to be the second back off the board in the NFL draft, all but assuring him of a heavy workload in his first season.
- Sony Michel—His combination of size (5’11”, 214), big play ability, and excellence in the passing game, give him a very high floor.
- Nick Chubb—Wherever he lands, he should quickly take over early down work and has the ability to contribute as a receiver.
- Rashaad Penny—One of college football’s most productive backs, Penny showed off his impressive combination of size and speed at the combine (4.49 at 220 pounds). He’s a capable receiver as well.
- Royce Freeman—Similar to Penny, Freeman was a productive back with a strong size/speed profile (4.55 at 229 pounds). His overuse in college is somewhat worrisome for dynasty, but of little concern for redraft.
- John Kelly—One of the drafts top receiving backs, Kelley has a high floor with the size (216) and ability to contribute on early downs as well.
- Calvin Ridley—While Ridley is one of dynasty’s most polarizing players because of his age (24) and underwhelming athleticism, his polished route running and sure hands make him the “safest” wide receiver for redraft.
- Christian Kirk—Because of his ability to produce from the slot, Kirk is another “safe” bet to see targets his first season.
- J. Moore—My top dynasty receiver, Moore has the size, athleticism, and ability to vastly outperform Ridley and Kirk in his first season as well,if drafted into the right situation.
- Ronald Jones—The hype on Jones has slowed down since he pulled up lame on his first 40 yard attempt at the combine. I am not worried about his speed. He will test out well at his pro day. I’m more concerned with his combination of small size (205 pounds) and lack of college receiving production (32 receptions in 40 games at USC).
- Kerryon Johnson—Solid both as a runner and receiver, Johnson is a safe bet to earn playing time as a rookie.
- Kalen Ballage—Ballage has the size (6’1” 228), speed (4.49) and receiving ability to be a dominant running back in the NFL. A puzzling lack of college production raises legitimate concerns about him ever playing up to his potential. He should, however, carve out a receiving role early as one of the draft’s top receiving backs.
- Bo Scarbrough—A size/speed freak, it would not be surprising to see Scarbrough earn an early down/goal line role in 2018.
- Mark Walton—Walton’s tape is impressive. He runs hard and makes plays in the passing game. His size (5’10, 202) and speed scores (4.60) at the combine, however, are troublesome.
- Nyheim Hines—When you post the fastest time at the combine for running backs (4.38) and have experience as a slot receiver as well, you’re worth a late round flier for those who roster six running backs.
- Chase Edmunds—Excelling at each ofthe agility drills at the combine, the pass catching back out of Fordham is thought to be on the Patriots radar as a possible Dion Lewis replacement.
- Dallas Goedert—The 6’5, 255 pound tight end had 92 receptions for 1,293 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Tight ends are known for struggling early in their careers, but if I were to try and chase the next Evan Engram, I would choose the guy who caught 92 passes in one college season.
- Mike Gesicki—You know how dominant Saquan Barkley was at the combine? Gesicki was nearly as impressive. He has the athletic profile to be the next stud tight end.
- Phillip Lindsay—If you looking for a “what the heck” pick in the final round, Lindsay is worth a look. The high-energy, but undersized back out of Colorado responded to being snubbed by the combine with a dazzling pro day, including running 4.39 forty.