Note: Each player will have an excerpt from my Pre-draft Top 40 Rookies Breakdown followed by values/breakdowns.
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers
Winston is built for the NFL with ideal height, a thick frame and strong arm. Speaking of that arm, Winston does have a long delivery but offsets it with great velocity. Combining that velocity with quality touch on his passes allows Winston to squeeze the ball into small windows. Winston also handles pocket pressure well and is very accurate on run thanks to a great level of anticipation. Overall, Winston is a great prospect.
2015 NFL Draft Update: As expected Winston goes first to the Bucs. Speaking purely on talent, Winston is a special player who is NFL ready. He has NFL-level anticipation on his throws and going to team with Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferain-Jenkins (all 6’5″) helps him plenty. Winston will be at least a mid-level QB2 as a rookie.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans
There is no question that Mariota has terrific athleticism. The main question with Mariota is that he played in a shotgun spread formation, which allows for easier throws into bigger windows. Add to that, Mariota needs a ton of work with out-routes, and unlike Winston, he’ll bail out too often and not keep his eyes downfield. However, Mariota is very dangerous on the run.
2015 NFL Draft Update: He’s headed to Tennessee (for now?), and Mariota has as many questions as positives. He doesn’t make the best decisions, and his red zone completion percentage and accuracy is a main concern. The rushing ability will help him Fantasy wise, and if he starts all 16 games, he could have mid-low QB2 value just because of that, but the Titans (or someone else) might have him sit for a year.
Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders
Cooper has the size/speed combination teams want in a receiver, and he presents mismatch opportunities as a result. His hand-eye coordination is terrific, and if you want a comparison in that one area, think Odell Beckham.
2015 NFL Draft Update: This pick made too much sense, as the Raiders need a No. 1 receiver and Cooper is one of the highest-floor guys in the draft. Having Cooper will help Derek Carr take a step forward this year, but don’t overrate Cooper – or any of this year’s receivers – based on last year’s success. That’s not common. Nevertheless, Cooper has immediate WR3 ability with WR2 potential, as the top option in Oakland and being a highly-talented player.
Kevin White, WR, Bears
White has and is everything you want in a receiver. White has the rare combination of size, speed and quickness. White easily gets separation whether it’s using his quickness to beat press coverage or his speed to get over top downfield. White makes the contested catches, corners struggle to stay with him out of his breaks and safeties just can’t keep up. He’ll high point a ball, work back to the quarterback and finds open space.
2015 NFL Draft Update: As I said, White has everything you want. Jay Cutler has no qualms about slinging the ball, and White can immediately step in alongside Alshon Jeffery with Brandon Marshall gone. Jeffery keeps White from being the team’s No. 1 or a WR1, but he should be a WR2 in that offense and even a high-end one.
Todd Gurley, RB, Rams
Gurley is a rare prospect, and if not for the injury concern, he’d be heavily sought by all teams. Gurley has it all: size, speed, power, balance, vision. There is a reason Gurley has been compared to some of the all-time greats. Gurley will explode through the line, run through contact and break off the long run. He’s even a good pass catcher.
2015 NFL Draft Update: This is a surprise. The offensive line needs help, and there are still wide receiver questions… and then of course, we still have Tre Mason in town. That stings. Mason was a high-end RB2, and now he falls quite a bit. Why? Because if 100 percent, Gurley is a 20-plus touch beast. If healthy, Gurley can be a RB1 as a rookie, assuming they do treat him like the star he is, and Mason takes the back seat.
DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins
Parker is already polished as a receiver and stands 6’3″ with a 33 1/4″ reach, giving him a great catch radius. Parker is very quick, running in the 4.4 range, and is very smooth in his movements. Parker has great body control and run-after-the-catch ability. His best asset is knowing how to snap off routes for body position, and it’s a near-elite skill thanks to his use of various speed levels. At worse, Parker is an immediate red zone threat and could push for WR2 value.
2015 NFL Draft Update: The Dolphins added Kenny Stills, have Jarvis Landry and added Greg Jennings late, but not one has the all-around upside of Parker. Ryan Tannehill struggles a bit with downfield throws still, but that doesn’t matter for Parker, as he can be a red zone force from Week 1 and will start outside immediately. Because of the depth and more balanced offense than pass-heavy teams, Parker is a WR3 as a rookie with some potential to be a WR2, but his long-term outlook is even better.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers
People want to throw out Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte as comparisons, but Gordon doesn’t match them in vision or instincts. That’s significant for NFL level success, and Gordon needs holes from his offensive line, as he isn’t great at creating them himself… or even not running into the backs of his linemen if they’re off their gaps. Gordon does have excellent vision, quickness and acceleration, is quite talented in his own right and is good in pass protection, but the few small problems listed keep him from being higher than five. This class is so deep that a few small issues knock you down a peg, where in most other years, Gordon would be the No. 1-2 RB prospect.
2015 NFL Draft Update: All that said, I also pointed out Gordon could see a big boost in value if behind a solid offensive line and as the clear No. 1 option. Well, few teams needed a workhorse running back more than the Chargers. Gordon will see plenty of work and opportunity, and even with his few flaws has plenty of talent to be a top-end RB2 as a rookie.
Nelson Algohor, WR, Eagles
I compared Agholor to Anquan Boldin in that I think he’ll be a great 1B receiver (or exceptional No. 2) but he’s not quite a 1A option. Agholor is quick, but lacks top-end speed and size. He makes up for that in his route running, which is NFL ready and very crisp. Agholor is also willing to work the middle and adjust to the quarterback – qualities needed to succeed in the NFL.
2015 NFL Draft Update: The Eagles, like Raiders, are another team with a clear need at receiver. He may not have the highest ceiling of receivers left (may have peaked already), but he has a better floor than many and could push to start across from Jordan Matthews. There is WR3 potential with Algohor, as even if he doesn’t “start,” he could line up at several spots and find value in that offense early.
Breshad Perriman, WR, Ravens
The good thing about Perriman is as with Parker, the “worst case” scenario still brings plenty of upside. Worst case, Perriman is a good downfield and red zone threat. Obviously, running in the 4.2s will make you a nice deep/9-route option. While the big play and touchdown upside is nice, Perriman is as inconsistent as they come. Dropped passes, poor routes, slow breaks, lacking “attack the ball mentality”… and oh, did I mention the route running issue?
2015 NFL Draft Update: Don’t overrate Perriman based on opportunity and hype. As mentioned, Perriman is very inconsistent and will be week to week. If anything, this is rather Torrey Smith-like in that you may get WR3 numbers at the end of the year (more likely WR4) but you’ll be frustrated on his consistency.
Phillip Dorsett, WR, Colts
Dorsett is another speed guy a 40 in the low 4.3 range, and will take the top off a defense. Like Smith, he tracks the ball well too, but needs more route work in comparison. Dorsett also body catches often, which leads to drops, but he’s not afraid of contact.
2015 NFL Draft Update: Another confusing pick, and arguably, the most confusing one so far. The Colts already have T.Y. Hilton, brought in Andre Johnson and Donte Moncrief showed flashes last year. Where does Dorsett fit? Andrew Luck does throw a ton, but this is puzzling. It’s hard to see Dorsett having anything more than bye-week value right now, unless they aren’t sold on Moncrief as their No. 3 receiver for some reason?
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jaguars
Yeldon is a smooth runner with good cutting ability, seen in his one-cut runs where he bursts up-field. There is deceptive speed with Yeldon, and he has good vision and patience. However, Yeldon runs a bit upright, which has led to his ball security issues, and he isn’t the best at getting to the edge.
2015 NFL Draft Update: The Toby Gerhart signing didn’t work out well, and Denard Robinson isn’t suited for a lead role. Yeldon gets the benefit of being the lead option from Week 1, and the Jaguars offense has enough weapons (and Blake Bortles) to keep defenses honest. Nevertheless, Yeldon was only my eight-rated running back pre-draft, and he’s a low-end RB2 at best and quite possibly just a high-end RB3.
Devin Smith, WR, Jets
The naysayers point to his per-game volume, but I’m looking at that offense and Smith’s per reception production – 32 receptions, 886 yards and 12 TDs. Woah. Smith has good size and outstanding speed, and will be an immediate deep threat. In fact, worst-case scenario is that Smith is only a deep threat, although he’s already a better tracker than several deep-threat guys in the NFL. In fact, Smith is the best downfield ball tracker in the class. Smith also has the quickness to be press coverage and great body control in hitting the brakes. Smith does need to improve his underneath route running and concentration, but Smith could be a steal for a NFL team and your Fantasy squad.
2015 NFL Draft Update: I gave you almost the entire pre-draft synopsis because I wanted to rave about Smith some more. As I said, he’s a steal and the Jets should be thrilled to get Smith here. Eric Decker quietly finished as WR28 on his own last year, and now the Jets have Brandon Marshall, Decker and Smith… oh, and Jace Amaro. Smith will be an immediate deep threat option, and Geno Smith has no more excuses. That said, Smith’s Fantasy upside is capped being No. 3 on the depth chart, so he’ll have some big weeks but be a high-reward DFS play and bye-week option as a rookie.
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Titans
There is a ton of upside with DGB, and he has the three S’s (size, speed, strength) you want in a receiver. DGB creates a lot of separation downfield thanks to hit quality route breaks. He’ll win a lot of 50-50 balls thanks to his leaping ability and knack for high-pointing the ball. Green-Beckham can break tackles or use his speed to pull away from defenders. While he needs some work on the receiver route tree, the bigger concern is obviously the off-field concerns.
2015 NFL Draft Update: Kendall Wright isn’t suited to be a team’s No. 1 receiver, and we (or the Titans) can’t keep waiting for Justin Hunter. Green-Beckham is the most dangerous receiver on the team now, but he’ll have to stay out of trouble and improve his route running. Even with the needed route tree work, he has the opportunity to be a WR4 this year, possibly more as he should start outside Week 1.
Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers
Funchess’ combine did nothing to squash the concerns that he won’t succeed as a receiver and would be better suited as a tight end. On the positive side, being 6’4″ with a 38.5″ vertical and 82 5/8″ gives Funchess a huge catch radius. Although, that just reinforces the concerns with his drops and losing more contested balls than you want from someone his size.
2015 NFL Draft Update: Sounds a bit like Kelvin Benjamin, huh? It’s nice to get needed weapons for Cam Newton, but I think there were better fits and/or talent options. Nevertheless, Funchess does have a great opportunity similar to Benjamin’s 2014 season. Funchess has a clear path to the No. 2 job in Carolina, and that’s more opportunity than most receivers will find. He’s a big boy and will be another good red zone threat for Newton, so he can have WR4, but he’s also one of the biggest potential busts.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions
Abdullah has a nice muscular and compact build, which helps him be surprisingly powerful, as most people just see his excellent quickness and balance. He gets to the hole quick, has great lateral quickness, gets to the edge with a good burst and then reads the field well but lacks elite long speed.
2015 NFL Draft Update: I see a good amount of Ahmad Bradshaw and/or Gio Bernard in Abdullah. The Lions are running the ball more and already improved their offensive line a good deal. Joique Bell is a solid pass catcher, but as we saw last year, they went with Reggie Bush and Theo Riddick much more in that regard. That’s where Abdullah could gain value, but he has to fix his fumbling issues. As it stands, this looks to be a return to the always-shared Lions backfield with Abdullah replacing Bush. That caps his upside as a RB3/4 – more of a high-end RB3 in PPR leagues.
Maxx Williams, TE, Ravens
Williams has all of the tools to become a TE1, eventually. He is a great athlete with good size (6’4″ 249 lbs) and is a natural receiver that attacks the ball with his hands. Williams does need some route work, but makes tough catches and has the speed to get open. There were some concerns after his combine performance though with a few whispers about his attitude/desire to push himself.
2015 NFL Draft Update: As I said in a piece last year, you want no part of rookie tight ends. Just avoid them. The last one to hit TE1 status was Heath Miller, and he barely did so thanks to touchdowns. Maybe Williams grabs a decent amount in the Ravens offense, but rookie tight ends are always overrated, and he is just a mid – maybe high at some point – level TE2.
Clive Walford, TE, Raiders
Walford is a step behind Williams, but he’s likely the only other tight end you need to know. He shows soft hands catching the ball and will snatch it out of the air, but we’ve also seen concentration drops. Walford shows good acceleration but doesn’t have top-level speed and is almost fullback-like.
2015 NFL Draft Update: If Williams is going to struggle to have rookie value, forget about Walford. Remember his name in 2016, but for now, move along, there’s nothing to see here.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks
Lockett is another nice slot prospect, as his speed and breaks make him difficult to cover. He’s also good at varying his speed, especially with double moves and stopping/starting. Lockett has his fair share of highlight catches and can beat the defense deep at times, but he has small hands and will body-catch the ball.
2015 NFL Draft Update: Lockett needs improvement in his catching, but he may never be great thanks to his hand size. The Seahawks are far from pass heavy, but Lockett could find spaces as Russell Wilson extends plays. The Fantasy potential is capped thanks to the offense and receiving options already in Seattle. It will be tough for Lockett to have a significant Fantasy impact as a rookie.
Jaelen Strong, WR, Texans
I’m much lower on Strong than most, and while Strong is a big receiver with good physical skills and quickness, I don’t see much more than a potential red zone threat. Now, that did help Kelvin Benjamin produce WR2 value, but Strong would need to be a team’s No. 1 or primary red zone option to sniff Benjamin’s point production. Strong needs a lot of route running work, including better breaks out of his routes. He also doesn’t have great speed to create separation (on-field play, ignore the 4.4 40) and that’s an issue if you’re supposed to be a possession receiver.
2015 NFL Draft Update: Well, there you go. Strong will be a major red zone threat for the Texans with Andre Johnson gone. Cecil Shorts can play the slot and Strong outside with DeAndre Hopkins. The landing spots helps Strong’s outlook, and now he’s in the conversation for WR3 potential, but as you can tell, I won’t be surprised if he struggles quite a bit and frustrates those who drafted him.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons
Similar, and even worse than Gordon, Coleman isn’t patient for holes to develop or great at making his own. He’s great at slicing through them when there, but Coleman is a straight-line runner. Coleman will lower his head/pads and bowl forward and can get to his top speed quickly. However, Coleman doesn’t make tacklers miss enough and will often go down on first contact.
2015 NFL Draft Update: Another landing spot that helps boost the value of a player even though I had others rated high from a talent perspective. Devonta Freeman isn’t a lead running back, and it’s clear that the Falcons agree after not giving him much change to take the role last year. I still think we’ll see a mix in the backfield with Coleman leading the way – just Coleman not getting 20-plus touches every single week. That puts Coleman as a RB3, but he’ll have some higher-output games thanks to big play ability.
Chris Conley, WR, Chiefs
Conley bested all receivers in the 40 (4.35), bench (18), vertical (45″) and broad jump (139″). So why isn’t he a Top 10 receiver? Conley needs a ton of work. And that’s not an overstatement. He’s very raw and no more than in his route running (or lack thereof). Right now, Conley can get downfield/over top of a defense and could have some success with slants and outs, but he also needs to fight through contact and judge passes better. Conley has upside, but it’s down the road.
2015 NFL Draft Update: Yet another lower player (with high upside to be fair) who lands on a team with great opportunity. It’s Jeremy Maclin and then… uh… yea… good for Conley right? Oh wait. These are the Chiefs, and not only does Conley need a ton of work, he’ll be lucky to see much work after Maclin in this offense. Forget about him in redraft. He might flash a week or two, but don’t get sucked in to the hype.
Duke Johnson, RB, Browns
Johnson has good vision and the instinct to succeed at the NFL level. Where you truly see Johnson excel is his ability to stop and start again. Basically, Johnson can slam on the brakes to make defenders miss and has the burst to get going again quickly. He also has a nasty stiff arm… we’re talking NFL Gameday level (those and the jukes were devastating). Johnson just needs to be more patient as he seemingly goes all out/100 percent from the second he touches the ball.
2015 NFL Draft Update: Isaiah Crowell shares… NOOO! Well, hold on. Honestly, I am a big fan of Johnson (my No. 2 RB), but he’s not guaranteed to be the lead back. It could still be Crowell with Duke being a change-of-pace as a rookie. Heck, Terrance West is still around and saw plenty of chances last year, but Johnson should pass him fairly easily. We’re going to have to see how this plays out, and it could easily frustrate Fantasy owners all year. If Johnson gets 15-plus touches a game, he’s a RB3, but he could only see 5-6. We just can’t say as of today.
David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
The complaint in that Johnson might need to be an H-back, but I think that passing game ability is what makes him so good. David Johnson is basically a receiver who’s also a running back, not a “pass-catching running back.” He’s a big boy at 6′-1″ 230 lbs but is still quick enough with a steady/smooth speed, which will let teams get creative. Johnson can line up in the backfield or out wide. He’s not just a great pass catcher, as Johnson is powerful and hard to bring down, and he brings a good burst to hit the hole.
2015 NFL Draft Update: I was expecting Andre Ellington to move into a Gio Bernard-like role for 2015. However, even if Ellington is still the lead come Week 1, as we saw with Tre Mason and Isaiah Crowell, Zac Stacy the year before, etc., all it will take is opportunity for Johnson. Ellington has health concerns and finished as RB16 in FPPG. That’s good, but if given the opportunity, Johnson can be great. However, it all depends on the Cardinals’ plans. If they view Johnson only as an H-back or multi-use weapon, his stock is hurt. If they think as I do, that Johnson can be an all-around threat, and Ellington gets hurt again or does turn into Gio, we have a RB2 on our hands.
Sammie Coates, WR, Steelers
The hands! Dear Lord, the hands. Coates has the three S’s – actually, a terrific size/speed/strength combo and can get going quickly, but his hands are wildly inconsistent.
Coates shows good IQ in adjusting to balls, but his route running – mainly his breaks – need work. Coates is good at using his size but would be better if he attacked with his hands instead of letting the ball come into his body.
2015 NFL Draft Update: Yes, I had to include that gif from the predraft piece because it’s too great. This looks to be a long-term pick, especially when you consider Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton are ahead of Coates. The good news is Coates has desirable talent and now the Steelers can work to develop him. Just don’t worry about Coates in redraft leagues for 2015.
Ty Montgomery, WR, Packers
It’s hard to make out how Montgomery will be used, but if a team is smart, they’ll find a way. He’s a multi-threat weapon that can lineup everywhere and has amazing acceleration. Montgomery is hard to tackle and will snatch the ball out of the air with those 10 1/8″ hands. While he has issues with drops, they’re a bit overstated. Montgomery would be a terrific return man, but only being used in that facet would severely dampen his Fantasy outlook.
2015 NFL Draft Update: Montgomery looks to be just that in Green Bay, a great return man for the Packers. He’s not going to crack the trio of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. Heck, Jeff Janis is still in the mix behind them. The Packers might get creative and use Montgomery in a Dexter McCluster fashion, but that doesn’t help you for Fantasy unless your league counts return yards.
Matt Jones, RB, Redskins
2015 NFL Draft Update: I didn’t have Jones in my Top 15 running backs, so no predraft write-up. The other 15 had a higher ceiling or less questions in my valuation, and the problem with Jones is that he is one-dimensional. Jones isn’t extremely fast or elusive and is mainly a straight-line/downhill runner. He is patient and could work in Washington, especially with their line improvement with Brandon Scherff, but this is more of a “he could replace Alfred Morris down the road, and if not, it’s not a huge loss” type of guy. No real value for 2015 unless Morris gets hurt.
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