2016 Rookie Analysis (in May)

smitty fantasy football advice

Let’s be honest, you can’t rank and rerank the fantasy football rookies enough in the months of January through July. ADP Data changes by the week, sometimes by the day, and our own personal evaluations change extremely fast just by watching tape and reading current news. So, with that said, it’s time to start from scratch and rank/analyze this 2016 Fantasy Football Rookie NFL Draft Class. Enjoy.

Elite Potential

1. Ezekiel Elliott (RB) DAL

He is the consensus 1.01 in any format. If you aren’t drafting him at the 1.01, let’s say due to team need, you’re making a HUGE mistake. He is the 1.01, conversation over. If you really feel you want to roll with a wide receiver, or another rusher, trade down and get a ton, because you will get a ton. Dallas is the perfect landing spot for Zeke, as he will now run behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and he has one of the best wide receivers on the outside (Dez Bryant) keeping defenses honest. Granted, a truly elite rookie season might require a relatively healthy Tony Romo, but even if injury strikes a touch at the QB position, even Dez Bryant owners now have a sense of production protection built into the situation, as Zeke will help that offense stay relatively balanced should it be without Romo for an extended period of time. All that said, Zeke owners need Romo in the lineup for truly elite numbers this upcoming season. If Romo stays relatively healthy all year, expect elite fantasy RB1-type numbers out of this on-the-rise rookie rusher.

2. Kenneth Dixon (RB) BAL

Here is the deal, folks. No player in this 2016 NFL Draft Class even sniffs Elliott’s talent level, except Kenneth Dixon. Who would I rather have on my team if I was a coach? Elliott, no question. That said, the only reason this draft class is completely flat after the 1.01 is because not one rusher, other than Elliott, was drafted as the uncontested starter for his team. If Dixon had landed in Dallas and Elliott still went somewhere solid, like Miami, you’d have two-man tier in Elliott and Dixon, and even though Zeke would still be the consensus 1.01 in all formats, Dixon would at least command some consideration. That’s how good he is. He is a beast and his talent jumps out on tape. I mean JUMPS out! Watch below and see for yourself. Now, he is in a decent scenario, with only Buck Allen and Justin Forsett ahead of him, so don’t sleep on him as the second-best player in this 2016 NFL Draft class. Should you take him at 1.02? No, not necessarily. Use current ADP data all the way up until your league’s rookie-only draft kicks off. Here is a fresh look at Rookie-only ADP Data, where he currently sits at 1.05-1.06. Not to confuse matters with what I just said about ADP Data, but I will say this… this class is so iffy from 1.02 on down, I wouldn’t blame anyone for drafting Dixon at 1.02 just to ensure that they got Dixon.. I’ve considered it and will continue to consider it heading into a draft where I hold the 1.02. Sometimes it’s worth getting your guy, especially when the risk is low, and given this class is kind of flat, the risk is low spending a 1.02 on anyone you feel has the tools to be not just great, but elite. If starting, Dixon could absolutely be elite.

Potential Fantasy WR1 Upside

3. Laquon Treadwell (WR) MIN

I’m changing my tune a bit on this kid. I have watched a lot of game footage this week and I am going to speculate that he puts my concerns to ease as he matures. My concern is lack of speed. That said, he is still young, and given his ability to go up and get a ball, and given the fight in many of his big plays after the catch, I think this kid will work hard and get quicker. Anquan Boldin, along with many other strong fantasy football wide receivers, have proven that speed isn’t a requirement for becoming elite. It’s definitely a red flag that needs to be considered at the rookie evaluation stage, sure, but the more film I watch on this receiver, the more I like him. I am not sure if he will ever be a top 5WR in fantasy, but he has enough talent in every non-speed category that he has a shot at eventually being a fantasy WR1.

4. Corey Coleman (WR) CLE

I like Corey Coleman a lot. One reason is because he is in a good situation to be his team’s No. 1 wide receiver right out of the gate. If he isn’t, well, that means that Josh Gordon is back and I will be plenty happy with that news. Even if that happens, though, Gordon’s long-term future with the Browns, and NFL, is cloudy at best, so honestly, Coleman could be the WR1 in Cleveland for a decade, and it might take him 1-2 years to get settled anyway. Could he fail in fantasy? Sure. Might he not get enough targets? Sure. That said, with RG3 potentially setup to rebound in 2016, and with Josh McCown capable if need be, I think Coleman has a really productive rookie season and a bright future. I had Coleman as my No. 1 wide receiver coming out of this draft class until recently, which I address above under Treadwell.

5. Josh Doctson (WR) WAS

I like his situation a ton in Washington, and that alone gives him an edge. Both Corey Coleman and Laquon Treadwell are in good situations in terms of being their team’s No. 1 wide receiver, but Doctson has the passer that has top 4-7 fantasy upside, which typically spells more targets. As weak as this rookie wide receiver class is, all three of Coleman, Treadwell and Doctson have the potential to be low-end fantasy WR1s. I don’t think all of them will be, much depends on how each matures. Good luck ranking these three receivers, it’s tough given all the variables.

Potential RB2 or WR2 Upside or low-end QB1s

6. Devontae Booker (RB) DEN

He enters as the team’s backup, so don’t go drafting him above the players you see ranked above. However, don’t be shy about making him your 1.07-1.09 rookie-only draft selection on draft day. Most will take Henry above him, and you might want to consider that as well if given the choice. But, I rank Booker here because I think he has more ceiling. More risk, but more ceiling potential. He has a big obstacle in his way, though, and his name is CJ Anderson.

7. Derrick Henry (RB) TEN

He landed in an awful situation. Awful. The Titans went after DeMarco Murray in the off-season, and they acquired him to be the workhorse. Will the team play smash mouth football using Henry 8-10 times up the middle? Absolutely, and he will be fun to watch in those situation. Like every rusher, Murray will need a break, and that’s all this is, unless Murray gets hurt. Then I think Henry plays very well, but for how long? A season? Murray, even if hurt badly, would return to start. And, if he didn’t, I honestly can’t see Henry holding up if being given a full-time workload for anything more than 1-2 seasons. Think Brandon Jacobs, but bigger. I have been wrong about players before, so trust your gut if he is your guy, but just curb expectations a bit, as he has a potential top 5-10 fantasy rusher ahead of him, and size that usually will not translate into an every-down rusher at that NFL level.

8. Paul Perkins (RB) NYG

Sleeper Alert, folks! The Giants don’t exactly have a future stud at the position, as Rashad Jennings is not the long-term answer, and either is the dynamic third-down runner in Shane Vereen. Perkins will eventually get his shot, and if he excels, this could be that late first-round grab that turns into an unexpected gem. Don’t overpay on draft day, know your ADP data! But, don’t be shy about getting your guy either… once you get near the 1.06, just grab the players you want, don’t let ADP influence you too much, but we’re talking after that 1.06 range.

9-11. Carson Wentz (QB), Jared Goff (QB), Paxton Lynch (QB)

All three have low-end fantasy QB1 appeal, but all have risk. For more on these passers, read here.

Deeper Sleepers

12. Keith Marshall (RB) WAS

I really like Keith Marshall as a boom or bust RB pick. If given a shot, he could thrive. I mean really thrive! Don’t overpay, as you don’t need to. His resume in college is super short, so the odds are kind of stacked against him, but clearly Washington sees something. I hope they let him loose at some point, he is dynamic and fast!!!

13-14. Cj Prosise (RB) SEA / Alex Collins (RB) SEA

Both backs won’t be given an easy path to the lineup, as Thomas Rawls will get his shot, and he looked impressive last year. He did get hurt, so he has to prove he can stay healthy in 2016. If he does, it’s his job to lose. UPDATE: With CJ Prosise taking wide receiver reps in practice as of 5/9/16, and with all the recent coach praise, he looks like the sleeper to own in this backfield.

15. Jordan Howard (RB) CHI

He has a big obstacle in front of him in Jeremy Langford, but Langford is no lock to excel. So, by default, Howard has very relevant fantasy sleeper appeal!

16. Michael Thomas (WR) NO

With Drew Brees tossing him the rock, what’s not to like from a sleeper perspective?

17. Pharoh Cooper (WR) LA

Someone has to emerge as the Rams’ top wide receiver of the future. I like this receiver as a late gem!

The Rest

Sterling Shepard (WR)
Tyler Boyd (WR)
Will Fuller (WR)
Leonte Carroo (WR)
Wendell Smallwood (RB)
Daniel Lasco (RB)
Jonathan Williams (RB)
Braxton Miller (WR)
Malcolm Mitchell (WR)
Kenyan Drake (RB)
Christian Hackenberg (QB)
Deandre Washington (RB)
Hunter Henry (TE)
Austin Hooper (TE)

More Rookie Rankings


  1. CoolHand on May 9, 2016 at 6:59 am

    I’m liking the Prosise news as I took him with my 1.10 pick. He could be a very productive weapon for the Seattle offense!

    • Smitty on May 16, 2016 at 5:30 am

      Yeah, he could be solid. I like Alex Collins a lot, too, but he could even get cut, who knows.

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