Now that the NFL Draft is over, we have official landing spots for every player. My general rule of thumb is that rankings shouldn’t change dramatically unless the landing spot is either really good or really bad. This class was a bit different however due to some players massive tumbles in the draft and others great landing spots. Lower-tier players are also subject to more volatility depending on the landing spot.
As far as valuing draft capital goes, I believe it’s important to an extent. A 1st round selection will have more time to develop and be given more opportunities to succeed than a fourth-round pick. In that sense draft capital matters but nitpicking between selection Nos. 110 and 114 is a waste of time. A lot of the content from the pre-draft player “Profile” remains the same as it’s mostly evergreen collegiate stats and metrics.
These rankings assume a ½ point per reception league with otherwise standard roster settings with one quarterback. Age of players is in parentheses next to their name and is current as of April 7th.
1, N'Keal Harry (Age 21) – Arizona State (WR 1) – New England Patriots (Pick No. 32)
Pre-Draft Rank: 1
Profile: Harry (6’0/228) is an all-around wideout with a knack for bringing in contested catches, recording the second-most among draft-eligible wideouts in 2018 (Pro Football Focus). He ended up third all-time in receptions (213) and receiving yards (2,889) in Arizona State’s record books by the time it was all said and done. Harry also broke out at the young age of 18.7, ranking in the 95th percentile (PlayerProfiler.com).
At the NFL Scouting Combine, he recorded a 4.53 40-yard dash, and a 38.5-inch vertical. On the surface, these numbers look average, but when adjusting for size this is a 90th percentile speed score and an 88th percentile SPARQ composite score.
When analyzing prospects, there are certain boxes and thresholds players should meet. Harry checks pretty much all of them. He’s athletic, had massive production starting at a young age, dominated his teams receiving work (88th percentile, PlayerProfiler), and flashed potential on tape.
Fantasy Outlook: Yahoo Sports’ Matt Harmon suggested a role similar to JuJu Smith-Schuster would be ideal for Harry and I tend to agree. Smith-Schuster lined up in the slot on 59 percent of his snaps (TheQuantEdge.com) last season and was able to rip opposing secondary's to shreds as he oftentimes matched up against a linebacker or weaker slot corner. It’s also a lot harder to play press coverage in the slot, something Harry wasn’t as good at separating against at Arizona State.
Harry was my 1.01 prior to the Draft and landing in New England only reassured my pre-draft ranking. It doesn’t get much better for Harry who will be utilized in both the slot and on the outside to maximize his capabilities. His YAC ability blends perfectly with Tom Brady’s quick-hitting style and on deeper throws, Harry has the ability to jump and make leaping grabs.
Harry has 1,000-yard, 6 touchdown upside as a rookie if New England decides to feature him on screens and get him involved in the red zone. He’s firmly my WR1 and 1.01 in dynasty rookie drafts.
2. Joshua Jacobs (Age 21) - Alabama – Oakland Raiders (Pick No. 24)
Pre-Draft Rank: No. 6
Profile: Josh Jacobs (5’10/220) is a tough player for me to crack. His film gives me Alvin Kamara vibes, but his measurables and production aren’t encouraging.
His athletic testing was well below average, producing a SPARQ score in the 18th percentile, and a 26th percentile speed score.
Looking at his production, he finished with only 1,491 rushing yards on 251 carries (5.9 yards per carry) TOTAL in three seasons at Alabama. The Crimson Tide had plenty of other running back talent, but for the caliber of player most make Jacobs out to be, he probably should have been used more. Which begs the question, can he even handle a bigger workload? If not, that means he needs to be more efficient with his touches in the NFL to score fantasy points.
Fantasy Outlook: Jacobs was the only running back selected in the first round but Oakland is a tough landing spot to fully comprehend his potential. Jacobs has relatively no competition for touches with just Chris Warren, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington on the roster bubble after Marshawn Lynch retired.
This is good for his touch-upside in the near future, but we have never seen Jacobs handle a big workload in his entire football career. Players who didn’t handle big workloads at the collegiate level sometimes struggle to remain as efficient with a bigger workload at the next level.
Jacobs also excels in space and would have been significantly more effective on a good offense. I’m not confident in Oakland’s understanding to use him properly but the volume should negate any efficiency concerns from a fantasy standpoint. When evaluating prospects in Dynasty I believe it’s important to understand which way the team is trending especially if that player would be significantly better on an efficient offense. Right now I can’t vouch for many of the Raiders moves and am not sure that offense ever ascends inside the top-10. His short-term upside is high as he’s likely to receive a lot of touches, but as I outlined earlier I’m not sure those will be sustainable and I’m not confident in the offense. On win-now teams, Jacobs is my RB1, but if I’m re-building both David Montgomery and Miles Sanders are more appealing to me.
3. David Montgomery (Age 21) - Iowa State – Chicago Bears (Pick No. 73)
Pre-Draft Rank: No. 5
Profile: This ranking might come as a surprise to some people, but Montgomery was my top running back in this class prior to the draft. At 5-foot 10-inches and 222 pounds, Montgomery doesn’t have any flashy measurables. He also didn’t perform that well at the NFL Scouting Combine, turning in a 48th percentile speed score. So why do I like him? David Montgomery’s game can be encapsulated by this stat. He led the NCAA for two consecutive seasons in forced missed tackles (Pro Football Focus). He not only led the NCAA in both seasons, he had the best two seasons of missed tackles forced per touch of all running backs since 2014. His balance through contact is otherworldly. When watching him carry the ball you see a player who refuses to go down at first contact and knows that every inch he gains can make the difference for his team.
Montgomery isn’t just a tackle-breaking machine, he’s also a great pass-catcher with 71 career receptions at Iowa State. Being a strong pass-catcher is an important attribute for running backs especially from a fantasy point of view.
His poor yards per carry (4.7) is a misleading stat because Iowa State’s offensive line was among the worst in the country. Not to mention their quarterback play didn’t threaten defenses enough to create easy running lanes. He still was able to rack up 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns on the ground despite the poor surrounding talent (minus Hakeem Butler).
Fantasy Outlook: After handling nearly 700 touches at Iowa State, Montgomery can be a true bell cow running back for the Chicago Bears. It is one of the best landing spots in the draft after the Bears traded away Jordan Howard. They signed Mike Davis, but only gave him $3M guaranteed which will dry up after this season. He’s likely a one-and-done in Chicago as long as Montgomery shows any kind of promise in 2019.
The Bears liked Montgomery enough to give up two picks and a 2020 4th in order to move up just 14 spots. Nagy’s offense functions much better with a running back who’s versatile enough to be used in both the passing and running game. Nagy even embraced the on-field Kareem Hunt comparison many analysts have thrown around.
Montgomery should be thrust into most 1st and 2nd down duties and some passing game work mixed in. I’m also confident enough in Montgomery’s pass-catching ability that I believe Tarik Cohen’s role will be slightly reduced. Montgomery has low-end RB2 upside in 2019 and once Mike Davis is out of the picture in 2020, low-end RB1 numbers are certainly within range.
4. Miles Sanders (Age 21) – Penn State – Philadelphia Eagles (Pick No. 53)
Pre-Draft Rank: 9
Profile: Sanders (5’11/211) was one of the few running backs in this class who tested well athletically with a 73rd percentile SPARQ athletic composite score as well as a 75th percentile speed score.
Due to the presence of Saquon Barkley, Sanders played second fiddle for his freshman and sophomore seasons at Penn State. As a junior in 2018 he racked up 1,274 yards on 220 carries (5.8 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns. He wasn’t overly involved in the passing game but recorded 24 receptions for 139 yards as a junior through the air.
When watching the film, Sanders looked like a back who can be above replacement level in the NFL and handle a solid workload in both the running and passing game.
Fantasy Outlook: Sanders is tough for me because I admittedly wasn’t overly impressed with his tape, but he profiles well as a workhorse back in the NFL. The Eagles chose him in the second round and made him the second running back chosen in the draft.
It’s certainly a crowded backfield entering 2019 with Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, and Wendell Smallwood all lingering in Philadelphia. None of them possess the talent to hold off Sanders for long though.
A potential long-term concern for Sanders is Doug Pederson’s lack of willingness to make any back a bell-cow in his three seasons in Philly. No running back has even exceeded 200 touches in a single season during his tenure. It may not be entirely a strategical approach as the Eagles never really had a back that was good enough or capable to handle that type of workload. If you believe it’s a coaching trend, Sanders won’t return value. If you believe it was due to the lack of talent, Sanders could be a workhorse back on an efficient and upward-trending offense.