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2015 Fantasy Football Dynasty Rookie Rankings: 1-12


I love dynasty leagues. Getting to build and develop a team, make trades that have long-lasting impact and the complexity of decision making that goes into every move and waiver decision is so much more exciting to me than the redraft format. In my dynasties, I've had a golden rule when it comes to the rookie draft: draft on talent, not situation. I'd never pick a player who's in a great situation to produce (looking at you, Bishop Sankey) instead of high caliber talents who might be underrated because of the team that roster them (Isaiah Crowell and Jeremy Hill come to mind here). Situations change wildly over the course of two years and two years is also the amount of time it takes for a rookie to go from a young pup to a rising star.

With that said, the rankings here are built almost entirely without any consideration for a players situation. Three years ago some would have had to make the decision between two great athletes at the WR position, Stephen Hill and Alshon Jeffery - one of which had a clear path to opportunities while the other was stuck behind a proven WR1. Three seasons later, the talent overcame that situation real quick.

Editor’s Note: To read the full version of this NFL rookies column, covering the top 25, check out Ed's combined 2015 NFL Rookie Rankings piece for fantasy football. Also all of RotoBaller's detailed NFL rookies analysis can be found in one easy place.

Every player is ranked based off traits of their college tape and ceiling plays a big role but so does that players chance of just succeeding at any start-able level. Things like injuries and off-field concerns play no part in the rankings, since the fact of the matter is no one outside of the doctors, players and teams that own the rights to these players have the kind of information necessary to make informed decisions based off that. The order my board has is unlikely to match up to the automatically generated board that your drafting service comes up with, but that's a benefit to you - a chance for you to get greater value with your picks.

Dynasty tiered rankingsQuarterbacksRunning Backs (Tier 1)Running Backs (Tier 2), Running Backs (Tiers 3, 4)Running Backs (Tiers 5, 6), Wide Receivers (Tier 1)Wide Receivers (Tier 2)Wide Receivers (Tiers 3, 4)Wide Receivers (Tiers 5, 6)Wide Receivers (Tiers 7, 8)Tight Ends (Tiers 1, 2)Tight Ends (Tiers 3, 4)Top 200 (PPR)Top 200 (Standard)Rookie Rankings (13-18)

 

Rookie Rankings - Dynasty / Keeper Leagues

All ages are age at start of season. Gifs are indicative of what should be regularly expected out of these players.

 

1. STL RB Todd Gurley, 21

Combine (Injured)

Without an ACL tear in his final season at Georgia, Todd Gurley could have joined the prestigious group of RBs that were drafted amongst the top 5. Instead, he took a short fall down to #10 where the Jeff Fisher led Rams grabbed him. Even with the tear in his history, the skill-set Gurley provides has so much value to any team running gap or zone football, which means it won't take long until he's the undisputed 3-down back and should hold that job through any coaching changes. With potentially elite vision behind the line of scrimmage and the ability to set up defenders at the first, second and third levels while also having the ability to outrun, overpower and ruin the morale of every player he comes in contact with- Gurley is one of those special talents that's too good to fail. Too athletic to be dealt with through discipline and too skilled to be beaten by other frankensteins, he's the kind of back who could easily see his career last until his early 30's, and probably still have strong value in his 32nd/33rd year, similar to a player like Frank Gore. No player has the floor/ceiling combination of Gurley in this draft and barring any more injury setbacks- this is the undisputed 1.01 pick.

Gurley patiently slows down on an outside toss, bursts through two arm tackles, regains his balance and runs down the field with no one even threatening to catch up.

 

2. CHI WR Kevin White, 22

Combine

The rankings are only going to get funkier from here as Kevin White is going to be topping my WRs. White's a high caliber athlete (even if his 40 time doesn't show up on tape) with some of the most amazing contested ball skills in this draft. He's able to consistently find ways to make difficult, contested throws where a DB should be able to at least make it hard for him into wide open pitch and catch. White's game speed and quick adjustments in order to box out and remove corners from a play is far beyond what any other WR in this class can do. No one seems to be as comfortable with initiating contact as often as White, and no one is as good at it.

Unlike the next two players, White's likely to see a rookie wall because his release, change of direction and breaks aren't nearly as clean as they could be but the amount of potential he shows in his vertical, curls, hitch and post routes make projecting his NFL career easy. He separates from corners just because of his long stride and physicality at the line of scrimmage and his aggression in positioning himself when added to the timing of his leaps and hands (also known as high pointing) should give him a high concentration of deep balls and redzone targets. White's impossible to press because of his body type and his incredibly well coordinated hand-play at the line of scrimmage. White's going to demand double coverage immediately and he's also the kind of player who can consistently beat it.

Despite being between two DBs, White stops on a dime to re-adjust himself to the flight of the ball, get in front of both players and make a high-pointing catch.

 

3. TEN WR Dorial Green-Beckham, 22

Combine

Green-Beckham's on field athleticism may have not translated into his combine, but the man knows how to ball. If it weren't for his off the field decision making skills DGB would have easily seen a high first round pick, maybe even knocking Cooper off as the highest receiver drafted. With an ideal size, speed, strength and skill combination, he's an incredible WR prospect. It helps that he's capable of actually running routes well and has the burst and speed to separate from corners without issues. On top of that, his ability to win physical catches is amongst the best in the class. Unfortunately some of those poor off the field decisions leak into his on field decision making, which is why despite being a receiver who might have a higher floor and just as good of a ceiling as Kevin White, he's ranked below him.

DGB is a player, not a thinker. He doesn't make the quick decisions that White does that make contested catches easy (although he does make them look easy) and on some situations he's made some very poor decisions. Two back to back plays exemplify this where a 3rd and 6th play on a nearly game-ending drive saw Green-Beckham lose yardage trying to gain more instead of grabbing the first available to him, forcing a 4th and 1. Then, when running a slant on that 4th and 1 play, he didn't bend down his route when he should have in order to secure the catch and chose to run it just as drawn, resulting in the pass being incomplete and a turnover on downs. Still, his ability to secure jump balls and make amazing Dez Bryant-esque redzone plays easily makes him one of the top talents in this class.

Green-Beckham's burst and lean into the DB helps him get in front of the DB and make an easy touchdown catch over him.

A hard two step break and turn back to the QB sells the DB on the hitch, bringing him into a panic when Green-Beckham turns upfield and makes the catch over his head.

 

4. OAK WR Amari Cooper, 21

Combine

Last years receiver class was one of the most stacked classes of all time, and this year isn't all that different. Cooper may be ranked fourth in my list of rookies but that isn't indicative of how I think he will produce- in fact I think Cooper has the highest floor between himself and the two receivers ranked before him and could out-score them in some seasons. It's no surprise that he's already impressing at camp, Cooper has been playing way above his level since he was in high school. What Cooper has to offer is a huge, athletic body with elusiveness, power and an arsenal of open field moves with both his upper and lower body. His release off the line is violent and quick and his route running is at the top of the class and yet there's still room to get better as his footwork can improve on his breaks and he could still find a way to burst out of them more. Cooper should have no trouble developing into one of the leagues premier wide receivers but his long term production might be more linked to his offensive cast than the two players above him.

Cooper takes all the underneath space given to him, quickly separates from his man and uses his open field abilities to take what yards he can.

 

5. DET RB Ameer Abdullah, 22

Combine

Fumble issues plagued Abdullah in college, but fumbling isn't an issue that dooms a player career unless they're not willing to fix it. I know that before even getting into Abdullah, I'd have to convince you that his fumbling isn't nearly as bad as it seems. Adrian Peterson, Joique Bell, Justin Forsett and Tiki Barber all came into the league with fumbling issues, and all of them managed to learn the proper technique that stopped that. Players who are capable of having good technique in other facets of their game are usually the same ones who fix their issues. On the field his footwork, cutbacks, vision, pass blocking, hands, you name it- all show a well coached and smart player. His ability to take to coaching on his tape should also show in his ability to get over the fumbling.

Abdullah is a true 3-down back with the potential to outproduce every other back in this draft class and have multiple top scoring seasons, similar to the way players like Jamaal Charles and LaDainian Tomlinson would. Abdullah's burst is on a level only two other backs in this class can hope to match, but his combination of catching prowess, vision and open field moves are difficult to match. He's built and plays like a pinball, bouncing around and sidestepping- making people miss, while having the ability to burst out from behind the line for huge gains without any issue. A knock on Abdullah has been his top speed, but that's only going to affect him in that it'll turn a play that should have been a 60 yard touchdown into a 40 yard gain. It's the same issue Le'Veon Bell was pegged with and that turned out just fine. While I don't factor in situation into the rankings, Abdullah's situation is one to be very happy about- the Lions targeted RBs more than almost every other team in the league last year and with Calvin and Tate opening the field, Abdullah is unlikely to see stacked boxes until he's in his late 20's, giving him more than enough open space to use his shifty abilities.

Abdullah's quick thinking and ability to make players hesitate allows him to turn a potential no gain into twelve yards.

 

6. JAX RB T.J. Yeldon, 21

Combine

Amongst those players whose situation works against them is T.J. Yeldon, the next ball carrying product to come out of Alabama's RB factory. Yeldon lacks the upside that Abdullah and Gurley can provide, but his floor is significantly high because of his combination of speed, power and running talents. Yeldon's got the ability to make great cutbacks and reads behind the line of scrimmage, is shifty enough to bend and force bad tackles while still having the power to run through contact and carry defenders for extra yardage. Unfortunately, unlike the two players above him, Yeldon lacks the pass catching (and pass blocking) abilities at his current level to be immediately projected as a full time 3-down starter but has the ability to grow and become that kind of player with some time. Still, he's a very decisive and smart runner with the ability to create his own holes. Yeldon's not an every down threat to take it to the house but he's the type of player who should see a consistent 20+ carries throughout his career that result in over four yards per carry every season, who can still create big plays because of his immediate burst and power.

Pressing the outside run, as Yeldon reaches the TE he cuts back inside and bursts through the crease, uses his blocker at the second level and then beats his opponent to the corner.

 

7. SD RB Melvin Gordon, 22

Combine

A few spots lower on my list than where he's drafted, Gordon's still a very legitimate NFL talent at RB. Gordon's main issue from my perspective is his lacking ability to set up defenders and some of his poor decision making. Gordon's got expectations to become a 3-down back, but that's an unlikely case in his rookie year because at the very least as he needs to learn better pass blocking techniques. Regardless, Gordon's a huge physical talent with a great speed, size, agility and power combination but his tendency to bet on his athleticism instead of on decisive movements throws some of his NFL ceiling in the air, as more disciplined players who can match his athletic makeup should do better against him than many of the college players he faced. With more development in that area, Gordon could come out of this class as the best but projecting a change of thought processes is a lot harder than technique. However, his technique could improve too, as better lower body movements during fakes would open up a lot more space for him to run through.

Although Wisconsin RBs in the recent years have been criticized for playing behind a great O-line, none of what i personally saw gives any real creed to Gordon being a product of his blockers. Gordon definitely plays better when the decision making is made for him by a FB or pulling guard (which will make him more dependent on his supporting cast than the backs ranked above him) but his skills are still that of a consistent producer. His ceiling will be based off how well his offense can block in front of him though, because Gordon's not the type to create his own opportunities at the first level, but once he's past that- it's hard to get him down.

After hitting a wall at the line of scrimmage, Gordon bounces back, takes the outside and bursts away for a big gain.

 

8. PHI WR Nelson Agholor, 22

Combine

Agholor's situation is amongst the best of all players in this class for as long as Chip Kelly remains his head coach but his talent might is not as high as the players above him. Although pegged as a slot receiver by some, Agholor shows nothing on his tape to suggest that the outside isn't something he can play full time (and since most reports have said that nothing out of camp hints that Jordan Matthews will be moving to the outside, Kelly obviously must be expecting an outside receiver out of Agholor) and he even drew many comparisons before being drafted to former Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin.

Agholor has strong route running, adjusts on the fly to reads, finds open spaces in zone coverage, adjusts to inaccurate balls and can easily make athletic catches. Although he's missing some of the on-field burst that would really take him to the next level, he has a very fast transition from catch to run and he's very capable of making players miss on the regular with his shiftiness and quick-twitch movements, sometimes even showing some really strong balance to shake off or break tackles. Those open field movements do hurt him from time to time, as he's a player who is more than willing to risk losing yards to try and gain yards and the quick transition can sometimes result in concentration drops. That's something that some coaches might not like.

Agholor attacks the corner to the outside, and upon seeing him backing into a zone adjusts back inside to catch, break a tackle, and take some extra yards.

9. NYJ WR Devin Smith, 23

Combine

Another player on a poor team who's having his stock reduced despite his immense talent. One of the few players in this class who can go from full speed to a two step break, Devin Smith has the potential to become a dominant WR1 in fantasy. Of course, that requires projecting a lot of development onto him, since he was mostly used on deeper routes in college. Smith demonstrates a lot of great thinking, consistently finding open spaces in zone coverage and uses small fakes and change of direction in order to create separation. That ability to gain separation is going to give him a high ceiling in the NFL for yards after the catch, even if he isn't as shifty as some of the other players in this class. He's able to make catches all over the field of any difficulty: from over the shoulder catches, to back-shoulder fades, to jumping over the head of a DB to catch it on top of them. He shows no problem dealing with physicality and sometimes initiates contact to create space for himself. Without a doubt he's one of the best deep ball receivers in this class.

Devin's CB blitzes, putting him up against the safety. He does a quick double-move in order to force the safety to close the gap on him before taking off and making a catch over his head with perfect timing on his leap and hand extension.

 

10. ATL RB Tevin Coleman, 22

Combine (Injured)

Other than Gurley, Coleman is the scariest player to have to play against in this RB class. Coleman can turn any opening you give him into a touchdown run, as his combination of speed and second/third level vision is really, really special. He's been compared many times to Darren McFadden, who regardless of his career arc was a potentially dominant NFL talent. Unfortunately that comparison is in both strengths and weaknesses as like McFadden, Coleman has a very upright running style leading to some balance and power issues and doesn't have enough patience to thrive in a zone scheme as well as he would in a gap/power scheme. He's also had an issue with carrying the ball under the correct arm on runs, making the potential for getting it knocked out higher and removing his ability to use his free arm to initiate contact with defenders. Still, Coleman makes smart cutback decisions and when he does hit a player, he hits them with power. Coleman doesn't show much in the way of 3rd down value since he was minimally used in the passing game.

What's interesting about Coleman, and not at all factoring into his draft spot, is that the Falcons under OC Kyle Shanahan are likely to run a zone scheme, which is exactly what Coleman isn't built to do. That makes his immediate returns murky especially behind an offensive line as bad as the Falcons for a RB who lacks patience. Still, in upcoming years (or even by the end of the season) it shouldn't be surprising if the Falcons begin to mix more gap/power plays into their playbook to take advantage of Coleman's potentially dominant physicality, and on any play where the blocking lines up- Coleman will be going for huge touchdowns.

Coleman cuts behind the trap block from the TE and takes off. Look at the separation he gets from the moment he begins bursting.

 

11. MIA RB Jay Ajayi, 22

Combine

Ajayi's knee issues are going to be a huge factor in how his career plays out but as far as talent on the field goes, he's definitely got a lot of it. He's a very good pass catcher in the short area of the field, able to hold the ball through big hits and adjusts to throws easily. His low to the ground running style causes tacklers to just bounce off of him and his excellent balance helps him stay upright through some very hard hits. He shows great open field vision, making use of the entire lateral plane and his ability to weave through traffic without any problem helps make him a great fit for a zone running team. He's got an NFL caliber burst that is good enough to separate from first and second level defenders but in the third level he's all about using lower and upper body fakes to juke and win positioning battles. If his knee issues are resolved with, Ajayi could end up as a 3-down starter or, more likely, the lead back in a 70/30 rotation.

Ajayi makes two cuts behind the line, bursts through an arm tackle, and makes some moves in the open field to get more yardage.

 

12. TB QB Jameis Winston, 21

Combine

Winston rounds out the top 12 even though he's probably more likely to succeed than some of the other players above him. What makes him so low is just how easy it has been historically for QBs to fail, so in my rankings QBs always are way lower than others of equal value unless they're just incredible prospects. Even so, the value you get in a regular dynasty league on a rookie QB isn't worth the risk when you can trade that same pick for an established one.

That's all besides the point, Winston is by all means a very very good passer prospect and in a league where there's a premium on QBs, he'd likely be ranked 9th in this class. He's coming out of college with an incredibly high football IQ, a level of anticipation that can't be taught and one of the best combinations of on-field leadership and short term memory. Winston can put the ball wherever he wants to nearly every single time and very commonly places it away from defenders in spots where only his receivers can even try to make the catch. His movement in the pocket is smooth and he's generally a very decisive player when it comes to avoiding pressure but this is an area where he could and should improve. Even if his footwork has had troubles in college, those technical details have easily been fixed for many players who entered with similar issues- and his ability in college to still throw accurate, high velocity throws despite compromising mechanics speak louder than the issues themselves. Although he does sometimes stare and has had the habit of throwing some balls where he shouldn't, those are also issues that many other successful QBs have entered the NFL with. He's still able to utilize the entire field and every player on it. Winston's unlikely to have many rushing yards in his career as he's not a scrambler by design, only by necessity.

Winston possesses the upside to see an All-Pro nomination, maybe even several, and the floor to be a capable long-term NFL starter.

Despite a defender bearing down on him, Winston steps in and delivers a perfectly placed throw over a DB to hit his receiver.

Be sure to check out part two of my Fantasy Football Dynasty Rookie Rankings as well. Good luck with your drafts RotoBallers!

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