Fantasy Football: Zachariason's Post-Draft Rookie Rankings
Rookie drafts are about to get wild.
Entering the NFL Draft, there weren't obvious studs at running back and wide receiver. Maybe you really like N'Keal Harry, or maybe you're a big fan of Marquise Brown's game. That's cool. Thousands of people aren't.
This lack of certainty has created a fantasy football rookie draft pool that can be best described as messy. It's the Battle of Winterfell of rookie groups.
Now that we know landing spots, how would I rank these running backs, receivers, quarterbacks, and tight ends? Good question. After hours and hours of looking at data and thinking things over, I think I've got this year's rookie rankings settled.
1. N'Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots
Hate on New England's history of drafting wide receiver busts all you want. This is the first time since 1996 that the Patriots selected a first-round wide receiver, and it's the first time it's been done under Bill Belichick. Wide receiver is tough to evaluate, we've got a small sample size of pass-catchers that New England's taken, and none of them had the draft capital that Harry has. Let's push that narrative aside and look at Harry the player.
Analytically, no wide receiver in this draft had a more complete profile than N'Keal Harry. He posted a final-season reception share (percentage of team receptions) of 29.6% to go along with a 45.0% touchdown share, and those marks weren't far off from what he did during his second-to-last season, his Sophomore year. That gave him a top-notch breakout age, an indication that he's good at football.
Harry isn't necessarily a typical New England wide receiver. But the Patriots are lacking in wide receiver depth, they just lost their top red-zone weapon in Rob Gronkowski, and it's hard to imagine they have no plan for the guy given the draft capital spent to obtain him. They know he's a bigger-bodied receiver who profiles more as Dez Bryant than Julian Edelman. Because they haven't had success with this type of player historically shouldn't mean they won't in the future, especially given his profile.
2. Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders
The only running back selected in the first round was Alabama's Josh Jacobs, who went to Oakland. The Raiders had one of the worst running back depth charts entering the draft, making it a pretty advantageous landing spot. And Jacobs should have an opportunity to see a lot of work right away.
Jacobs wasn't someone who popped in my prospect model given his lack of production at Alabama. Yes, I understand he wasn't the only pro running back in his backfield. Even still, other players -- even first-rounders -- in similar situations have historically had better numbers in college. In fact, among the 30 first-round running backs drafted since 2006, Jacobs ranks dead last in final-season attempts per game, attempt share, rushing yards per game, and rushing yard share.
Draft capital is everything for Jacobs, though. Over the last 10 years, just 4 of the 15 running backs taken in the first round failed to give us a season with 1,300 scrimmage yards. Two of those players were rookies last year in Sony Michel and Rashaad Penny, so they have time to accomplish the feat. The other two were Jahvid Best and David Wilson, players who saw their careers end early due to injury. The outlook is favorable for Jacobs, and you can make a very easy argument to put him first on this year's rookie rankings list.
3. Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Since Doug Pederson has been Philadelphia's head coach, no Eagles' running back has seen a season-long rushing share north of 37%. That's not very good. Some of that has to do with what was being offered, though. During Pederson's time, the Eagles really haven't had a running back who's been a legitimate starter -- the only backs to play 16 games for the Eagles over the last three years while seeing some work have been LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood.
Miles Sanders is probably -- he at least has a good chance to be -- the best running back this regime has had. He played behind Saquon Barkley at Penn State, which led to poor production until his final season. But, last year, he produced. He finished with average rushing numbers compared to others in this 2019 draft class, but his 11.7% reception share ranked fifth-best among NFL Combine invites. He's a do-it-all back, and with a second-round price-tag, the Eagles surely see that as well.
Expect a running back-by-committee in Philadelphia in 2019 with Sanders leading the charge. There's plenty of room to grow, too.
4. Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Was I a Mecole Hardman fan heading into the draft? Negative. It's hard for me -- a numbers-driven analyst -- to fall in love with a player who never saw more than 15% of his team's receptions and 18% of his team's receiving yards in a single college season. Production matters, and Hardman didn't have that.
But ignoring what the Chiefs spent to get Hardman, what he offers, and what his situation looks like would be foolish. They traded up and spent a second-round pick on him, which associates him with solid draft capital. And, as we know, Kansas City has one of the best offensive minds in the game leading them (Andy Reid) with the league's best young quarterback (Patrick Mahomes).
And let's connect the dots. There are questions surrounding Tyreek Hill's future in the league, and what's Hill's greatest asset on a football field? It's his speed. Hardman, despite having such poor production at Georgia, tested as a great athlete. He ran a 4.33 40-yard dash and had above-average marks in every other measurables category.
The Kansas City wide receiver depth chart is currently Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, and a bunch of pass-catchers who haven't done anything significant at the NFL level. As a win-now team, do you think the Chiefs took Hardman to sit on the bench behind Sammie Coates? He's going to get run right away, and in an offense with Patrick Mahomes, I'll buy that all day long.
5. Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts
According to Pro Football Focus, Parris Campbell caught exactly two deep-ball (20-plus yards down the field) passes last season. Considering his 4.31 speed, that's...a little odd.
And that's what's worrisome about his potential in the NFL. It's not that he can't be a dynamic vertical threat. It's that we just don't know.
Fortunately, he landed in a spot with one of the best deep-ball receivers in the game. And now the Colts have three starting receivers for 2019 who bring a unique skillset to the table. Hilton will continue to see a large target share and stretch the field, newcomer Devin Funchess will be a bigger-bodied pass-catcher for quarterback Andrew Luck, and Campbell can play a similar role that he played at Ohio State where he made big plays after catching the ball closer to the line of scrimmage. And we know there'll be opportunity there -- the Colts were second in the NFL last season in neutral game script (when games were within a six-point margin) pass-to-rush attempt ratio.
6. Andy Isabella, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Of all the wideouts in this year's draft, UMass' Andy Isabella had the best college production. Last season alone, he accounted for almost 39% of his UMass' receptions, 48% of their receiving yards, and 49% of their receiving touchdowns. He's the only wide receiver to be drafted this year who hit the final-season market share averages that we've seen from top fantasy wide receivers over the last seven years.
The only real concern with Isabella is his size. He came in at 5'9'', 188 pounds at the combine, which may worry some fantasy managers. But his speed makes up for the lack of size -- he tied Parris Campbell for the fastest 40-yard dash at this year's combine, running it in 4.31 seconds.
In what should be a pass-heavy Kliff Kingsbury offense, Isabella has a good chance to continue his productive ways in the NFL.
7. David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
The Bears entered this year's draft with few holes on the roster, which allowed them to trade up and snag David Montgomery with a third-round pick. My prospect model loves Montgomery -- it views him as the best back in this class. The hesitation, in my eyes, is his pass-catching ceiling.
He's not exactly Jordan Howard, but Howard saw 5.3% of Chicago's pass attempts go his way last year, resulting in 27 targets. Montgomery's a better pass-catcher than Howard is, but there's only so many targets to go around in the Bears' offense. Tarik Cohen still exists, and he's a 23-year-old (read: young) back who ended up capturing over 17% of Chicago's targets last year.
That limits Montgomery's upside. The Bears, with a pretty complete team, had what they saw as a need and filled it. Montgomery should see a lot of early-down work, but his upside looks like it'll be more of an RB2 than a potential RB1 with Cohen in the backfield.
8. DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
To many, the Seahawks got a steal when DK Metcalf fell to them at Pick 64 in the draft. I wasn't even all that into Metcalf heading into the big event, and even I thought it was a good value.
The biggest issue for Metcalf is two-fold. First, his lack of agility may limit him as a pro. Will he be able to capture a large enough target share to be fantasy relevant? And, second, his short-term outlook won't be all that favorable because of Seattle's run-heavy approach. With Brian Schottenheimer coordinating the offense last year, the Seahawks finished last in the NFL in neutral script pass-to-rush attempt ratio. They ended up being just one of two teams with more rushes than passes last season.
That can change. And for Metcalf optimists, you should hope that it changes. A pass-friendlier approach would allow Metcalf to score more fantasy points.
9. Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
In 2018, the 49ers ranked ninth in the NFL in yards after the catch with zero consistency from their quarterback position and not a lot going for them at pass-catcher. So what did they do in the draft? They selected a YAC monster in Deebo Samuel during the early parts of the second round.
Samuel's college production didn't make him stand out from a numbers standpoint (partially due to injury), but he tested as a really good athlete at the combine, running a 4.48 40. Wide receivers in Kyle Shanahan's offense will line up everywhere, but Samuel's great in the middle of the field and projects to be a slot receiver, which is a relatively open spot for San Francisco. Last year, the two receivers who played more than 40% of their snaps from the slot for the 49ers were Trent Taylor and Richie James, both later-round picks. Samuel can find the field right away, and in an offense that could easily rank in the top half of the league for the foreseeable future with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, fantasy points can be had.
10. Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Quarterbacks don't matter a whole lot in season-long fantasy football, and that extends to dynasty, as well, even when their careers are longer than most wide receivers and running backs. If your league is starting just one quarterback, you've got to devalue the position.
Maybe it's a little surprising for you to see a quarterback with a first-round rookie draft ranking on a list that was created by a dude who once wrote an e-book called The Late-Round Quarterback. Here's the reasoning: there's a lot of ambiguity in this year's rookie class, where we don't know how long some of the careers for these guys will be. If you're set at quarterback, you can pass on Murray. But the late first round feels right for a player with an intriguing head coach and offensive system to go along with quick legs that will surely generate fantasy points.
11. JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
In the short term, you're not likely to get a lot of production from Philly's new wideout, JJ Arcega-Whiteside. The Eagles have a handful of useful pass-catchers who are going to be involved this year, including Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, and Dallas Goedert. The depth chart is pretty crammed.
Things could change as soon as the 2020 season. Jeffery will be 30 years old then, DJax will be 33, and Agholor may not even be on the team. That could open things up for Arcega-Whiteside, who was a red-zone monster at Stanford -- no wide receiver in this class scored a higher percentage of his team's touchdowns than Arcega-Whiteside did in 2018. With a great size-speed combo, he's a really good prospect.
12. AJ Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
My least favorite landing spot for fantasy purposes in this year's draft may have been AJ Brown to the Titans. He was arguably the best all-around wide receiver in the pool, and he's going to a team that's ranked in the bottom-five in pass attempts in each of the last three seasons.
Now, that wouldn't necessarily be the biggest deal in the world, but when you look at the quarterback situation and Brown's team competition, it's a little anxiety-inducing. At least for those of us fantasy football degenerates who love AJ Brown.
The path to a great fantasy football career for Brown includes improvement from Mariota (or the quarterback position), a more pass-heavy scheme (which, in order to happen, would probably need quarterback improvement first), and the opportunity to see a large target share. All three of those things may take time to develop.
One thing to note with that final piece, or the opportunity to see a large target share: the Titans more than likely don't view Corey Davis as a top receiver. He did rank seventh in the NFL in wide receiver target share in 2018, but there were reports that Tennessee was trying to get Amari Cooper last year. And then, obviously, they spent a second-round pick on AJ Brown in this year's draft. These actions don't make it seem like they're confident in Davis.
Even still, Davis is a piece to this offense that will see a decent-sized share of looks in the foreseeable future. And then there's Adam Humphries, too, who'll be playing in the slot. It's just an ugly spot for Brown to be.
13. Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens
You rarely will find the first wide receiver selected in an NFL Draft so far down a rookie rankings list, but that's what happens when that wide receiver goes to what should be the most run-heavy team in football over the next couple of seasons.
Marquise Brown has an opportunity to make a DeSean Jackson-like impact on the field. That's how talented he is. His small frame is troubling to a degree, as he weighed in at 166 pounds at the combine. We haven't seen a sub-170 pound wide receiver hit 1,000 receiving yards in the NFL since 1990. But he was also injured, so the low weight could be the result of not working out.
Regardless, as I noted, Baltimore isn't exactly the place you want your fantasy wide receivers to be. With Lamar Jackson under center during the regular season last year, Ravens wide receivers averaged fewer than 17 PPR points per game. As a team. We saw 15 individual wideouts hit that mark last year. And across this time with Jackson, Baltimore's pass-to-rush attempt ratio in neutral game scripts was 0.63. To put that into perspective, the lowest mark that we've seen in that category over the last eight years came from the 2011 Broncos, where their ratio when games were close was 0.69 (nice). That, of course, was when Tim Tebow was starter.
That run-first mentality will limit Brown's target potential in the short term. Even if -- and when -- the Ravens become more pass-happy, it's hard to imagine they'll finish the 2019 (or even 2020) season with a pass attempt total outside the bottom five in the league.
14. Hakeem Butler, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Hakeem Butler was a top-three wide receiver in my pre-draft rankings, and he ended up being the 14th wideout selected in the actual draft, going to Arizona at the start of the fourth round. His drop was a pretty big surprise -- at the very least, you would've thought a team would jump at the opportunity to get a 6'5'', 227-pound receiver who ran a 4.48 40 earlier than they did.
Butler was a late bloomer in terms of production, with his Junior season in 2018 being his breakout campaign. That's a red flag. But he was the only Power Five player in this year's class to score at least 45% of his team's touchdowns while grabbing over 42% of his team's receiving yards. He destroyed last season.
And ending up in Arizona isn't so bad. Aside from Christian Kirk, the Cardinals had no longer-term options at wide receiver. They did spend more draft capital to get Isabella, which is a big reason I've got the smaller wideout ahead of Butler, but don't sleep on Arizona's new giant pass-catcher, either. It wouldn't be shocking at all if he still ended up being one of the better wideouts in this class.
15. TJ Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions
Last week, TJ Hockenson became just the fourth tight end to be drafted in the top-10 since the turn of the century. That type of draft capital alone makes him a really unique prospect. But so does his well above-average college dominator rating and top-notch athleticism. He's the entire package.
Tight end isn't as important to fantasy football as running back and wide receiver, so Hockenson naturally won't be -- or shouldn't be -- an early first-round pick. The Lions weren't necessarily the best place for him to fall to, either. They've got Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones as their top-two options in the short-term, and with Darrell Bevell coordinating the offense, we'll likely see a more run-heavy approach than we've seen in the past from a Matthew Stafford-led offenses. After all, during Bevell's seven seasons as Seattle's offensive coordinator, he ranked higher than 24th in neutral game script pass-to-rush attempt ratio just twice.
It wasn't an awful place for Hockenson to go -- it was just sort of meh. He's the best tight end in this class, though.
16. Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos
The second tight end picked in the draft was Noah Fant, who went to the Broncos. As most of you know, he was teammates with Hockenson at Iowa, but he played one extra season there. In 2018, it was Hockenson who outproduced Fant, which is part of the reason I feel better about the former being ahead of the latter on this list.
Don't mistake that with Fant being a bad player. He's good. He's really good. He's a more natural athlete than Hockenson is, though both are pretty similar in size. Fant has better yards after the catch ability, and could easily end up being the better fantasy producer given his athletic upside. And with a team in Denver that doesn't have a lot of pass-catching depth, he could be fantasy relevant as soon as Year 1. That's not what we usually see from a rookie tight end.
17. Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
To be completely transparent, Diontae Johnson isn't the type of receiver that will ever be high in my pre-draft rankings. Good college production? Eh, sort of. He actually had a better 2017 season than his 2018 campaign thanks to an injury to teammate Cody Thompson. Good measurables? Nope. Johnson's 83.3 height-adjusted Speed Score (height- and weight-adjusted 40 time) was one of the worst in the class. An early breakout age? Johnson doesn't have that, either.
On the production front, the positive for Johnson is that there were two NFL-level(ish) wideouts playing beside him. The aforementioned Thompson got a deal as an undrafted free agent with Kansas City, and Jon'Vea Johnson signed with Dallas. To be fair, neither of them were highly-touted prospects, which means he was losing market share to non-elite players. That's never a good sign.
The reason Johnson is listed at 17 is because he's going to Pittsburgh, and the Steelers have had a lot of success finding receivers in the draft. They've taken 15 wideouts in the first four rounds since the year 2000 (not including Johnson), and we've seen decent NFL production from 9 of them. And we've seen serious production from JuJu Smith-Schuster, Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, and Emmanuel Sanders. They also took this guy named Antonio Brown in the sixth round in 2010.
Brown's no longer a Steeler, and that's opened things up behind Smith-Schuster. That opportunity combined with Pittsburgh's history in being pretty successful at the position makes Johnson an intriguing option in the early second round of rookie drafts.
18. Darrell Henderson, RB, Los Angeles Rams
To me, the biggest question mark for Darrell Henderson entering the league was whether or not he could handle a big workload. We know he's explosive and efficient -- he averaged almost nine yards per carry in each of his final two seasons at Memphis. He was also pretty average in attempts per game versus other backs in the class, and at 208 pounds, that's somewhat of a concern.
It's unlikely that he'll get workhorse touches in Los Angeles, his new home, with Todd Gurley ahead of him on the depth chart. It's very clear, though, that there's something going on with Gurley. He missed the end of last season with a knee issue, he shared a backfield in the playoffs with a free agent running back who was signed just weeks prior to the postseason, and the Rams traded up to get Henderson in last week's draft.
It's looking more and more likely that Todd Gurley will no longer see the touch count he's grabbed hold of the last two seasons. And considering Henderson worked incredibly well without having to be absolutely everything in the Memphis backfield, this could end up being a great fit. If something is really wrong with Gurley, Henderson then has the upside to be the best fantasy back in this class.
19. Justice Hill, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Each year, there are one or two players who I seem to get in almost every rookie draft I do. In 2019, one of those "I keep getting him" guys may be Justice Hill.
I've already talked about how run-heavy the Ravens are, and that naturally plays into Hill's fantasy upside. During the same "Lamar Jackson under center" split as above -- so from Week 11 through Week 17 -- the leading running backs in rush attempts across the league were Chris Carson, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, and... Baltimore's Gus Edwards. Only the Seahawks had more running back attempts than the Ravens had across this period.
Will Hill be the lead back from the get-go? No, we'll be watching Mark Ingram handle a lot of carries. But Hill and his 4.40 speed is a perfect change of pace for Baltimore's backfield, and he immediately becomes a threat to steal receiving work. Perhaps that can grow into a bigger role as early as his rookie campaign.
20. Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills have a pretty crowded backfield with LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon and now Devin Singletary. Someone's going to get cut before the season starts, and it likely won't be Singletary since the Bills spent a third-round pick on him just days ago.
It was a move that could come to fruition this season, but we probably won't see a lot of Singletary until next year. The future opportunity is the main reason he's pegged as a second rounder for me. Because, really, I'm not the biggest Devin Singletary fan in the world.
I mean, I'm sure he's a decent person, it's just that, as an analyst, I have a hard time selling out for an NFL running back who ran a 4.66 40 at 5'7'', 203 pounds. His college production was fine (especially what he was able to do in the touchdown column), but his production profile also isn't totally complete. He saw fewer receptions year over year in each of his three seasons at Florida Atlantic.
So call me a Devin Singletary skeptic. Volume does drive this game, though, which is why Singletary is still valued as a second-round selection.
21. Miles Boykin, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Pre-draft, Miles Boykin was pretty firmly in my top-10 wide receivers. Thanks to the Ravens snagging him in the third round, he's now my WR12.
Boykin didn't have the best production in college, and he broke out at nearly 22 years old. The combination of those two things doesn't bode well for his future in the league.
With that being said, he's an athlete. He's an incredible athlete. At the combine, Boykin weighed in at 220 pounds and measured 6'4'', and he went out and ran a 4.42 40. That gave him an elite height- and weight-adjusted 40 time. He crushed the agility drills, too.
We've seen plenty of physical specimens come and go at wide receiver, but Boykin's third-round equity gives us some hope. He'd be higher in these rankings had he not been drafted by the Ravens, a team, as I've noted, that's going to be very run-heavy in the near future.
22. Irv Smith Jr., TE, Minnesota Vikings
All signs point to Kyle Rudolph not being a Minnesota Viking next season. He's on the last year of his contract, Minnesota evidently fielded calls to trade him, and the Vikings also drafted Irv Smith Jr. in the second round of the draft. I'd say Rudolph leaving Minnesota soon is a lock.
That means Smith will have a chance to start next season at the latest. He'll be competing for targets with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, but Rudolph has seen a 13.4% and 15.4% target share over the last two seasons, respectively. That's not awful for a tight end. If Smith proves to be a better pass-catcher, he could hit the 16% range consistently and be a low-end TE1 in the Vikings' offense as soon as 2020.
23. Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots
New England drafting Alabama running back Damien Harris in the third was sort of out of left field considering they took Sony Michel in the first last season, but getting the position through the draft could be considered the optimal way of handling it. Harris will be behind at least Michel on the depth chart, so he won't see a lot of early-down work right away. The pick could mean that Rex Burkhead won't be on the roster this season, which would give Harris some work in the offense. At the very least, Harris serves as a handcuff to Michel, who's in the running to lead the league in rushing touchdowns this year.
24. Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Redskins
There was more than one speedy Ohio State wide receiver in this year's class. Parris Campbell went in the second round, and his college teammate, Terry McLaurin, went to Washington in the middle of the third. At one point this offseason, ESPN's Mel Kiper mocked McLaurin to the Colts in the first round. That was certainly a high price tag, but it goes to show that there are a lot of analysts who like his talent.
I'm hesitant to deem him a must-have pass-catcher. He failed to hit a reception share higher than 10.1% in any college season, compiling 115 targets across his four years. Targets alone are an indicator of talent: if you're good, you'll get the ball. And all things considered, McLaurin didn't get the ball a ton at Ohio State.
There are some positives with McLaurin. Washington doesn't have a lot of competition at wide receiver, so he'll have an easier time climbing the depth chart. They also drafted his college quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, in the first round. McLaurin and Haskins already have some sort of rapport, even if the wide receiver had an underwhelming target share in college. And Washington spent, as I noted, a third-round pick on McLaurin. That's not bad draft capital.
All in all, he's not someone to be overly excited about, but there's enough about his situation and athletic profile to warrant a third-round rookie pick.
25. Jace Sternberger, TE, Green Bay Packers
The Packers didn't address the wide receiver position in the draft, but they did take Texas A&M's tight end Jace Sternberger in the third round. With Jimmy Graham becoming more and more of a dad runner, Sternberger has longer-term appeal as the potential primary pass-catching tight end in an Aaron Rodgers-led offense. We haven't really seen a tight end be super fantasy relevant in Green Bay for some time, but Graham himself did see nearly 18% of the Packers' targets last season. He had the fifth-highest target share in the league.
Considering the lack of solidified options in the offense and the draft capital spent to get Sternberger, there's potential for the tight end.
26. Jalen Hurd, WR, San Francisco 49ers
One of the strangest picks of the draft -- at least in my opinion -- was Jalen Hurd dropping off the board at the beginning of the third round. During the 49ers' previous selection, they took Deebo Samuel, also a wide receiver. The position was a need for the team, but going back to back was, as I said, a little strange.
Hurd's a really interesting prospect, though. He started his college career at Tennessee, where he played running back and eventually got more run than Alvin Kamara in the offense. Looking back, it's a pretty wild situation considering Kamara's now one of the best backs in the NFL, and Hurd is 6'4''. He doesn't have the typical running back size.
Hurd transferred to Baylor in 2017, and he played his only season there this past year in a hybrid role (mostly receiver), where he ran the ball 48 times while catching 69 (nice) passes.
In all, Hurd's college career is really impressive. He showed off his athleticism, but also his ability to learn a new position and perform while playing it. My main issue with him from a fantasy angle is that he may play more of a gimmicky role for Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers rather than being an every-down player. I don't doubt Shanahan's ability to creatively get Hurd touches in the offense, but I do have my doubts about Hurd's potential fantasy ceiling in the league.
27. Gary Jennings Jr., WR, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks didn't only select DK Metcalf at wide receiver in the draft. They took Gary Jennings Jr., too.
Putting Jennings at 22 -- making him a second-round pick in 12-team leagues -- may seem a little bold. He's on a run-heavy team, and he may end up being the third-best option as a receiver on that team.
But Jennings brings a lot of versatility that the Seahawks could use. He's definitely fast -- he ran a 4.42 40 at the combine and, according to Pro Football Focus, he ranked 12th in the country in deep-ball receptions. His market share numbers weren't fantastic, but his 34.2% final-season touchdown share was a fringe top-10 number in this year's class.
The thing I'm most intrigued by with Jennings is that he played a bit in the slot at West Virginia. Per Pro Football Focus, Jennings ranked 18th in college football in slot receptions last season, and he was 7th in slot yards. With Doug Baldwin potentially retiring, that would free up a lot of work in the slot. I'd expect Tyler Lockett to get some looks there (he played over half of his snaps from the slot without Baldwin last year), but Jennings could have an opportunity as well. And, who knows, maybe DK Metcalf's frighteningly bad agility measurables translate poorly to the NFL, leaving Jennings as the number-two target in the Seahawks' offense beyond 2019. It's a dart worth throwing.
28. Darius Slayton, WR, New York Giants
The top of the Giants' depth chart at wide receiver shows two slot wideouts in Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate, so to help, they went out and drafted Darius Slayton in the fifth round. Slayton didn't have a ton of production at Auburn, catching just 15% of the team's passes in 2018. But he did have speed. Despite the low reception share, he accounted for over 23% of Auburn's receiving yards last season, and according to Pro Football Focus, he was well above average in deep ball passer rating. That's thanks to his 4.39 speed.
So, realistically, Slayton could play a role for the Giants right away. They don't really have anyone who with his type of speed to stretch the field. And without Odell Beckham, there's some volume up for grabs.
29. Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Alexander Mattison ran a 4.67 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, a pretty slow mark for a running back. He didn't hit the dreaded 4.70 line, but you can't sell Mattison as fast. Fortunately he's 221 pounds, so his weight-adjusted 40 was about average within this year's class. Speed isn't really his game.
The Vikings using a third-round selection on Mattison was a little unexpected, but he fills a void left by running back Latavius Murray, who signed with New Orleans over the offseason. Dalvin Cook's been banged up so far through his two-year NFL career, and that's allowed other backs in the offense to see work -- non-Cook running backs have accounted for about 61% of the team's total rushes over the last two seasons. So perhaps the hefty Mattison sees the field more than we think.
30. Ryquell Armstead, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
The starting running back for Jacksonville in the near future is previous fourth-overall selection Leonard Fournette. And while I, JJ, think he's an overrated asset, it's unlikely we see another running back taking his spot in the next year or two.
The Jags did lack running back depth going into the draft after losing T.J. Yeldon this offseason. Fournette's backup is Alfred Blue, who's the definition of "fine" at the running back position.
Enter Ryquell Armstead, Jacksonville's early fifth-round selection. Armstead had the best running back weight-adjusted 40 time at the combine this year, and according to a study done by numberFire's own Brandon Gdula, only David Montgomery outperformed his teammates by a larger margin in success rate last season than Armstead did versus his.
Don't sleep on Armstead, at least as a handcuff.
31. Kelvin Harmon, WR, Washington Redskins
There were plenty of analysts who were really high on NC State's Kelvin Harmon prior to the draft, so, to them, watching him fall to the sixth round was probably as frustrating as pouring your cereal into the bowl before realizing you don't have any milk in the fridge.
I didn't expect Harmon to go as late as he did, but I do think -- and I've got receipts -- he was being overrated by the fantasy community pre-draft. His production profile didn't show anything special, and at the combine, he tested poorly as an athlete. When a wideout has separation-related flaws as a prospect, and when that pass-catcher then hands in poor measurables, it's tough to back him as an early-round guy.
Harmon, at least, fell to a spot where, like I mentioned with Terry McLaurin, there's not a ton of competition. Maybe his game will translate better than I think, making him a potential steal in rookie drafts this year. I'm just not banking on it.
32. Darwin Thompson, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
When you get to the third round of rookie drafts, you're really starting to throw darts. You can find gems -- MyFantasyLeague.com's rookie average draft position data lists Cooper Kupp, James Conner, and Russell Wilson as third-round rookie picks, just to name a few -- but the hit rate is rough.
This is why situation will matter even more than in the earlier rounds. And with running back Darwin Thompson, that's sort of what you're investing in.
There are Thompson truthers out there, so it's not like he's a bad football player, but it's tough to ignore that he's a little undersized at 5'8'', 198 pounds with moderate production at Utah State. And let's not pretend a late sixth-rounder has a lot more value than someone who goes undrafted.
You're buying into the landing spot. Kansas City has a dynamic offense with an elite young quarterback, so the team's running backs are going to score fantasy points. That'll probably be Damien Williams this year, but the Chiefs don't have a locked-in stud at the position. Maybe Thompson carves out a role.
33. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Washington Redskins
There's rarely a reason to spend an early-round rookie pick on a quarterback. The only reason Kyle Murray is getting love within these rankings is because of his dual-threat ability and the lack of true studs in this class. With Dwayne Haskins, you're not getting the rushing production that would catapult him over the top and into QB1 territory immediately.
But when you combine draft capital and Haskins not being Daniel Jones, he's a solid bet to be the QB2 in this class. That's what the data says, too.
34. KeeSean Johnson, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Kliff Kingsbury's offense is going to see a lot of wide receivers on the field at the same time. With Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler getting selected ahead of KeeSean Johnson (and with them being objectively better prospects), they'll get the first crack at starting. But our evaluations are wrong all the time. What if Johnson is better?
I wouldn't call it a probable outcome, but it's certainly in his range of outcomes. He didn't test well athletically, running a subpar 4.60 40-yard dash to go along with poor agility drill scores. His final-season production marks weren't all that bad, though. He was top-10 in the class in both reception and receiving yard share, and he had a breakout age that ranked above average.
You'll want a piece of this Arizona offense, and Johnson's a very cheap and easy way to get that.
35. Riley Ridley, WR, Chicago Bears
You could say I'm not a big Riley Ridley person. It's hard for me to get behind a wideout who had an awful breakout age, never saw more than 18% of his team's receiving yards or receptions, and ran a 4.58 40. Everything analytically points to Riley Ridley being a mediocre player at the next level.
But there are lots and lots of smart people who love Ridley. That means something. The Bears didn't spend a super high pick to snag him, but fourth-round draft capital isn't something to ignore, either. And Chicago's passing attack is at least an average landing spot.
Come on, guys. It's the 35th pick. There's not going to be a lot to like with a player listed here.
36. Qadree Ollison, RB, Atlanta Falcons
One running back who's going to be overlooked in rookie drafts this year is Qadree Ollison. He's not the flashiest back in the world, and he posted below-average numbers in most market share categories while at Pitt. But, to be completely honest, none of that matters. The reason I wanted to give him a shout -- aside from the fact that he went to my alma mater -- was because Atlanta was a low-key great landing spot.
Without Tevin Coleman, the Falcons are going to roll out a two-headed backfield of Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith in 2019. As we know, Freeman's coming off of a season-ending injury, and he's now 27 years old. Next season is also the first time Atlanta can cut Freeman and save money given his contract.
So, what does that mean? Well, if they do indeed say goodbye to Freeman after this season, they'll more than likely draft a running back next year to replace him. But what if Qadree Ollison shows up? What if he's a better player than his fifth-round price tag indicated? It's not unfathomable to think, especially when both Freeman and Smith were selected just one round earlier in their respective drafts.