Josh Padgett, Contributor (@jpadgett94)
This article breaks down first-round rookie draft selections, stay tuned for later-round analysis and updates throughout the offseason!
1.01 Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
If you don’t know Saquon Barkley, I don’t know how you found this article or why you are reading it. He will be the undisputed 1.01 in your fantasy draft and everybody else’s come draft time. He is as advertised, showing out this year, willing his program to powerhouse status from a position that isn’t quarterback. Unbelievable. Think Ezekiel Elliott, but better, not a hyperbole (for me anyways).
1.02 Derrius Guice, RB, Louisiana State
There was a time when Guice was in the conversation for 1.01. That time is no longer, but don’t let that deter you from grinning ear to ear here in the 2 spot. This kid is a football player. Even with Leonard Fournette still at school with him last year, he stole the show game after game. (Fournette was dealing with some foot issues, but Guice still showed everything you want to see.) He has over 1000 yards through ten games this season following up a truly special almost 1400 yard, 15 touchdown sophomore season.
1.03 Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Sutton is a true number 1 receiver in this league. He has all the physical tools to be a great player. He has a knack for high pointing the ball and is a monster in the red zone. For more on Sutton, check out Ryan Cearfoss’ article from a couple months ago here: https://www.dynastydorks.com/single-post/2017/08/14/Devy-Watch-Courtland-Sutton. Landing spot will play larger role in the ranking of the receivers in this class than the running backs, but Sutton is pretty clearly the number one and has very little shot at falling below the 5 spot in this year’s rookie draft.
1.04 Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Here is where things get interesting. Chubb is my favorite of this next tier, but after 4 there is going to be a lot of different opinions and a lot of shifting around before the NFL draft and then more before your fantasy drafts. For now though, Chubb is my 1.04. He could have declared last year but having lost most of his sophomore year to injury and not showing that he had fully returned in his junior year, he went back to Georgia for his senior season. This has turned out to be a good choice, even with Sony Michel breathing down his neck for playing time. He has already put up over 1000 yards and 12 TD’s through 11 games with only about a 60% work share (the remainder going to Michel). He has shown that he is back to his pre-injury self and shown a level of consistency that really projects well at the next level.
1.05 Ronald Jones, RB, USC
Jones is another lighter running back. He is a stud behind that USC offensive line though. Averaging over 20 touches a game and scoring 17 times this season. Jones is explosive and has shown good durability this year even with the high number of carries. I think he can be a workhorse type of back at the next level. He will need the opportunity and the offensive line to truly succeed, but I expect him to make some noise early on in his career regardless of landing spot.
1.06 Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Ridley’s stats are eerily similar to those of Julio Jones through both of their first 40 games at Alabama, 2600 yards and 15ish TD’s. I like Ridley a lot coming into the NFL. Big body receiver with the ability to create space. The poor guy is wasting away in a run-first Alabama offense. I can’t wait to watch him flourish in the NFL. He can be a true WR1 for an NFL team which is a great sign for any fantasy owner.
1.07 Auden Tate, WR, Florida State
Pending the combine, Tate could jump a few guys above him in this ranking. He is hard to miss on the football field at 6’-5”, 225 pounds. He has shown ability in the red zone and over 20% of his catches in college have been touchdowns. If he shows us top end speed and explosiveness at the combine, he will have teams salivating over the raw numbers. If he doesn’t show that, we can still expect the red zone efficiency and the winning at the top to translate.
1.08 James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
Washington is finishing up his senior year at Oklahoma State. He has shown improvement year after year since arriving to school. He is a speedster averaging 21.6 yards per catch this year. That is borderline unbelievable. He is Mason Rudolph’s favorite target and he could quickly become someone else’s favorite target in the NFL. His speed allows him to line up almost anywhere and do damage on the edge or across the middle. Situation will affect Washington’s value early in his career and he is a player you might have to be patient with if he is stuck behind a talented veteran or two, but he has the talent to be a first rounder in your fantasy draft.
1.09 Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
Love is the definition of explosive, averaging 8.8 yards per carry this year. Big plays are his bread and butter. He is on the light side for a true three down back at the next level, but if you liked McCaffrey at his size last year, then the size shouldn’t scare you. He hasn’t been asked to do much in the passing game, but I believe he will be a capable pass catcher. He has a nose for the endzone with 16 touchdowns in 10 contests this year. He has really come alive after McCaffrey left town and will be on the radar for those at the top of the first round.
1.10 Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State
Ballage is a highlight reel. If you want to watch someone make defenders look bad, look him up. At 6’-3”, 230 lbs, he still has all the speed, power, and elusiveness you look for. He is the definition of a Madden player. He is the level of athlete to make NFL players look like average Joe’s. His junior season made us all go crazy watching him catch almost 50 balls out of the backfield and score 15 times. He hasn’t been nearly as efficient this year averaging only 4.5 yards per touch, but for now I am going to blame that on the Arizona State offense and point to the big plays that he makes to show his talent.
1.11 Jaylen Smith, WR, Louisville
Smith has missed a couple games this year and hasn’t been the world beater we all wanted to see this year. He has shown ability as a deep threat and has the size you look for in a boundary receiver. Playing with Lamar Jackson will likely mean a transition period is in order after he is drafted. He will need to learn an NFL offense. However, with the number of designed QB runs and broken plays he has witnessed and been a part of, Smith should be able to get on the field and earn some playing time with blocking ability and knowledge of how to help his quarterback.
1.12 Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
Michel has shown consistency in his four years at Georgia. His ability to stay relevant with the talent surrounding him the Georgia RB room has been impressive. From taking over for Todd Gurley post injury as a freshman, to sharing a backfield with Nick Chubb his senior year, he has shown his ability to be a competitor with some of the biggest names in college football. This year, he is averaging 7.4 yards a carry and has scored 12 times on 114 touches. He is extremely efficient and has shown the ability to catch the ball averaging almost 3.5 catches a game during his sophomore and junior years. Look for Michel to make an impact immediately for a team whether or not they have an established running game.
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