A few months ago, we looked at some early landing spots for incoming rookies according to early NFL mock drafts and how that might impact their fantasy football value. A lot has happened since that first look, including the NFL Combine, some free agent frenzy, and actual prospect declarations. So, with a little more than a month left before the real NFL Draft, it’s time to revisit this exercise with a more focused view of fantasy relevant players and their projected landing spot.
Now that we have even more data to look at and the pool of draft-eligible players is finalized, we can narrow down our scope of analysis to the top 25 fantasy relevant players in the upcoming Draft. Using the DTC consensus rookie rankings and a combination of five multi-round NFL mock draft websites, we can look at the best- and worst-case landing spots for the top incoming rookies. Part I of these top 25 rookies is below,
with Part II coming soon and Part II can be found here.
The sources used for the potential landing spots, and their reference abbreviations for the purpose of this article, are:
WF: Walter Football
(Note: DW offers only a two-round mock, but still contains half of the top 25 players)
DS: Draft Site
Potential Landing Spots: Cleveland Browns (WF, MM, DW), New York Giants (DT, DS)
Nothing new here. Saquon Barkley will be the 1.01 in 99.99% of dynasty rookie drafts regardless of landing spot at this point. Despite some rumors stating that he could fall out of the top five, no referenced mock draft has him falling past the Browns’ second pick at #4. Both of these teams have questions along the offensive line and long-term issues at quarterback but do have a talented offensive mind as either coach or coordinator. Neither destination will drastically change fantasy projections, but going to the Giants will give him a more accessible path to bellcow status.
Potential Landing Spots: Detroit Lions (DW, DS), New York Giants (MM), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (WF), Carolina Panthers (DT)
The shine on Derrius Guice has worn off ever so slightly as the draft process has moved along and his previous stranglehold at 1.02 has started to come into question. Most mocks still have him going in the first or second round, which is not far from where his value lied four months ago. Three of these four landing spots would provide Guice a favorable path to fantasy relevance, but again, the Giants are probably the best-case scenario when considering draft capital spent and situational landing spot. Alternatively, while going to a team like Carolina would be an intriguing real-world football move, splitting time in the backfield with 2017 1st-round running back Christian McCaffrey would ultimately limit his upside and open the consensus 1.02 discussion for debate.
Potential Landing Spots: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (DT, DS), Detroit Lions (WF), Indianapolis Colts (MM), Denver Broncos (DW)
If Guice begins to slide away from 1.02, one of the prime suspects to take control of that spot is one of the biggest risers from four months ago is Sony Michel. While he hasn’t quite crept into the first round of most of these mocks, the early- to mid-second round is still significant capital for a team to spend on a running back. These landing spots present a reasonably good shot at early playing time. Heading to Tampa Bay would give Michel a pretty clear path to bellcow status in an unsettled backfield, while also entering a promising offense that is (still) looking to take that leap to elite status.
Ronald Jones II
Potential Landing Spots: New York Giants (WF, DW), Oakland Raiders (MM), Buffalo Bills (DT), Cleveland Browns (DS)
Ronald Jones II is another running back who has lost some shine after the Combine, despite not participating in any of the drills due to a pulled hamstring during his first 40-yard dash attempt. His draft stock doesn’t seem to have changed much in these mocks, as he is consistently in the early- to mid-second round. Heading to a place like Oakland would be great for Jones, as he would be able to stay relatively fresh in an underrated backfield and run behind a good offensive line. On the other hand, heading to Buffalo would see Jones’ stock take a hit in both the short term (LeSean McCoy isn’t coming off the field) and long-term (the Bills offensive line and talent level on offense are subpar).
Potential Landing Spots: San Francisco 49ers (WF), Buffalo Bills (MM), Philadelphia Eagles (DW), Tennessee Titans (DT), Dallas Cowboys (DS)
Courtland Sutton is one of the few players who look capable of developing into a fantasy WR1, so his landing spot is particularly attractive when compared to some of his classmates. If a team with an actual need at WR1 pulls the trigger on Sutton, he’ll have the chance to fulfill expectations and put up big numbers in both the future and present. The 49ers are easily the team that fits that bill best out of these landing spots; teaming up with Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan would be a dream scenario for those looking for Sutton to emerge as the next young fantasy WR1. The Titans destination offers the least fantasy appeal with a crowded receiving corps which includes Corey Davis; a higher 2017 draft pick already in place as their primary wide receiver.
Potential Landing Spots: Baltimore Ravens (MM, DW, DT, DS), Jacksonville Jaguars (WF)
Lock it in? The connection to the wide receiver-needy, Bama-obsessed Baltimore Ravens for Calvin Ridley is obvious, and this is the closest to a consensus we’ve seen thus far across mock drafts. The Ravens don’t have a true primary wide receiver on their team, but after the Michael Crabtree signing, they at least have a slightly better supporting cast than before. Ridley should be able to step in and contribute immediately and heading to the Ravens would do nothing to hurt his rookie draft stock. Without question, it’s a better landing spot than Jacksonville, which offers a far more crowded receiving landscape, and a regime intent on hiding their quarterback as much as possible.
Potential Landing Spots: Buffalo Bills (DW, DT), New York Giants (WF), Kansas City Chiefs (MM), Atlanta Falcons (DS)
James Washington may not possess elite WR1 traits, but he has the makeup of a solid contributor in both real and fantasy football. His landing spots all seem to promote this mindset since, at each destination, he is heading to a place where he can step in immediately as a complimentary player to an established primary threat. The Bills offer the most opportunity for Washington to grow in his early complimentary role and could potentially develop into the primary passing game target. Going to a place with a crowded receiving corps like the Chiefs would cause a significant drop in short- and long-term value for Washington, as he would most likely be pigeon-holed into a specific offensive role which could push him down to the bottom of the first round in rookie drafts.
Potential Landing Spots: Indianapolis Colts (WF), New York Jets (MM), Washington Redskins (DT), Baltimore Ravens (DS)
If Barkley weren’t around, we’d all be talking about how Nick Chubb destroyed the Combine this year, but it doesn’t seem like mock drafters are taking notice (or they’re still concerned about his injured knee) as his draft range is anywhere from Round 2 to Round 4. Though the Jets aren’t necessarily the best offense among these four teams, it’s probably the place that would allow Chubb to take over the backfield on all three downs sooner; Bilal Powell is 29 years old and on the last year of his contract. Chubb will probably compete for early playing time in any of these spots, but going to a place like Baltimore with an established early-down runner already in the fold could prove to hinder Chubb’s output at least in the early going. Chubb’s rookie draft stock is likely to remain relatively steady and is probably more dependent on how much draft capital a team is willing to commit to him (which would signal a confidence level in his knee) than other prospects in this range.
Potential Landing Spots: Indianapolis Colts (DW, DS), Philadelphia Eagles (WF), Cleveland Browns (MM), Arizona Cardinals (DT)
Speaking of blowing up the combine, that’s precisely what D.J. Moore did during his time in Indianapolis, and many fantasy analysts are excited about his potential at the next level. Going to a place like the Colts would be great for Moore’s value and could push him up the board in rookie drafts. With T.Y. Hilton taking the top off defenses, there would be plenty of space for Moore to work underneath and utilize his exceptional athletic ability. The Browns offer a much more crowded wide receiver depth chart and have players who can work each part of the field already, restricting Moore’s ability to contribute earlier.
Potential Landing Spots: Denver Broncos (WF, DS), Baltimore Ravens (MM), San Francisco 49ers (DT)
Rashaad Penny is a somewhat forgotten talent in this draft due to the strength of the top prospects, but he still possesses the ability to become a threat on all three downs at the next level. His draft stock is a bit unsettled yet at this point, which means he could turn into a value in rookie drafts if he winds up in a great spot for early production, like San Francisco or Denver. With the acquisition of Jerick McKinnon, heading to San Francisco would likely keep Penny on the bench for third downs, but allow each runner to be more efficient in their roles.
**This is where rookie drafts begin to be most unpredictable, with prospect value becoming more and more dependent on the landing spot.**
Potential Landing Spots: Seattle Seahawks (MM), Oakland Raiders (DT), UDFA (WF, DS)
The DTC team appears to be much higher on John Kelly than the NFL Draft mockers at this point. Going undrafted in the NFL Draft isn’t a death sentence for fantasy potential, but it would negate the prospect of Kelly being a 1st round rookie draft prospect. You couldn’t spend premium dynasty draft capital on a player with so little (or in this case, zero) NFL Draft capital invested in him. That said, of the alternative landing spots, Kelly heading to Oakland as a mid-round pick is probably the more appealing destination. Marshawn Lynch just had to restructure his contract while DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have their contracts running out soon and have not been consistently used. Kelly could find a nice role early on and show enough to be a future starter with a new coaching staff.
Potential Landing Spots: Carolina Panthers (WF), Seattle Seahawks (MM), Indianapolis Colts (DT), New England Patriots (DS)
After strolling through a 4.7+ 40-yard dash, Auden Tate’s stock seems to have taken a hit amongst the dynasty community, but it’s arguably unwarranted because speed was never a part of Tate’s game. Going to a team like Seattle, who just lost Paul Richardson at wide receiver and Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson at right end, seems like a near perfect fit for Tate to step in and help right away. No tight end was targeted in the red zone more than Graham in 2017, and that’s exactly where Tate can thrive. If his slow 40 time keeps his stock down in rookie drafts, Tate can prove to be a sneaky addition to this type of situation. Conversely, a destination like New England as a late-round pick with established red zone threats on the roster and an incredibly crowded receiving corps would surely tank Tate’s value outside the first round and into the bottom of the second or early third.