Re-Drafting the 2016 Rookies: Part 1

By Luke Grilli, DFW Senior Writer and Co-Owner @LGrilli88

With the 2016 fantasy season over, now is a better time than ever to stack up the rookies and see how they fared. In this two part series, I will be “Re-Drafting” who I feel are the top 25 Rookies from the 2016 season based on how their rookie season went and how I project them to play in 2017 and beyond.

1. Ezekiel Elliott – RB – Dallas Cowboys
Preseason Rookie ADP-1.01

Well, even though he was held to lofty expectations, he didn’t disappoint. Zeke led the league in rushing and rewarded those who had faith in drafting a rookie in the first round. Elliott is basically the next Adrian Peterson and will be drafted in the 1st round of any fantasy football draft for the next 8 years
Projected 2017 Fantasy Outlook- Top 3 pick in PPR leagues. Arguably #1 pick in standard leagues. Elite RB1

2. Michael Thomas – WR – New Orleans Saints
Preseason Rookie ADP- 1.08
Michael Thomas will be vaulting up draft boards come May. The former Ohio State Buckeye not only became a starter for the Saints quicker than expected,  but also led the team in receptions and touchdowns with 92 and 9 respectively. He ended up finishing just behind Brandin Cooks in receiving yards with 1137 to Cooks’s 1173. Thomas is firmly entrenched as a WR2 for the 2017 fantasy football season.
Projected 2017 Fantasy Outlook- WR2 numbers. Thomas will continue to produce as long as Drew Brees is under center

3. Jordan Howard – RB – Chicago Bears
Preseason Rookie ADP- 2.03
In an otherwise “blah” fantasy football season for yours truly, one call l got right was that Jeremy Langford would stink and that Jordan Howard would be the lead back by the end of the season. Did I think Howard would finish 2nd in the NFL in rushing? No, not even close, and I’m not shocked he is finishing the season as the 2nd highest ranked rookie running back. Chicago has a lot of issues heading into the off season, but running back is not one of them.

Projected 2017 Fantasy Outlook- Low End RB1

4. Corey Coleman – WR – Cleveland Browns
Preseason Rookie ADP- 1.02
This one might sound weird because there are other rookies (including fellow receivers) that outperformed Coleman, but I believe in the talent Coleman possesses. We were teased with a Week 2 performance that saw Coleman go off for 5/104/2, only to lose him for the next six weeks thanks to a broken hand. Even if fellow receiver Terrelle Pryor leaves Cleveland via free agency and/or Josh Gordon suits up as a Brown again, Coleman will play a huge part in Cleveland’s quest to emerge from the basement of the NFL

Projected 2017 Fantasy Outlook- PPR WR3. I like his 2018 Fantasy Outlook more than 2017

5. Dak Prescott – QB – Dallas Cowboys
Preseason Rookie ADP- 4.12
This seems pretty early for Dak, but I can’t justify taking any of the players behind him unless I have Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck under center for my dynasty squads. Playing behind the best offensive line in football, Dak showed great poise this year and should grow as a passer in the NFL. He may not be a surefire QB1 just yet, but I love his chances of being a Top 5 QB in the next 2-3 years. If you can wait that long, taking him at 5 isn’t a huge price to pay.

Projected 2017 Fantasy Outlook- Low End QB1

6. Derrick Henry – RB – Tennessee Titans
Preseason Rookie ADP- 1.05
Henry probably should have slipped further based on how good DeMarco Murray played this season, BUT Murray’s off season may include foot surgery. How much longer until Henry gets the keys to the kingdom? It may be sooner than expected. Once he is the featured back, you better believe we will see low end RB1 numbers.

Projected 2017 Fantasy Outlook- RB3 numbers if DeMarco is healthy. High end RB2 numbers if DeMarco misses time

7. Josh Doctson – WR – Washington Redskins
Preseason Rookie ADP- 1.04
Possibly the most controversial pick is Josh Doctson over the player I have ranked at 8, but I swear I have a legitimate argument for both positions. Let’s start with Doctson though. Yes, 2016 was essentially a lost season for the former TCU star as he tried to get over Achilles woes, but the Redskins may lose both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to free agency, opening an easy opportunity for Docston to see playing time immediately, if he is healthy of course. Because of this, I am willing to take a chance on the pedigree of Docston and hope that he can carve out a role as the Go-To guy in the Redskins offense.

Projected 2017 Fantasy Outlook- Early season, WR4/5 stash guy. By midseason, WR3 with some WR2 weeks

8. Tyreek Hill – WR – Kansas City Chiefs
Preseason Rookie ADP- 4.12
This season’s biggest surprise probably has to be Tyreek Hill becoming one of the most electric players in the NFL. After showing flashes early in his rookie season, Hill finally started scoring consistent fantasy points starting in Week 7. More often than not, Hill was scoring his fantasy points by finding the end zone and finished with 12 TDs on the season. He proved to be a Swiss Army Knife player, frequently scoring in the receiving, rushing and return games, so why isn’t he higher on this list? Call me crazy, but didn’t he seem a bit gimmicky at times? I may be on the outside looking in, but if I’m relying on Hill to be my WR2 next season (which I am predicting he will be drafted at), I don’t want to be relying on big plays to ensure I get my WR2 numbers. Working with Andy Reid definitely helps boost Hill’s fantasy value, but I am approaching him with caution in 2017.
Projected 2017 Fantasy Outlook- PPR WR3 more often than not, but a few games with borderline WR1 numbers

9. Sterling Shepard – WR – New York Giants
Preseason ADP- 1.06
Sterling Shepard’s production came in spurts this season, which isn’t shocking from a rookie receiver. In Weeks 1-3, Shepard either scored a TD or had over 100 yards receiving, which made fantasy owners who either used an early rookie or mid round re draft pick on him very happy. Unfortunately, those owners would have to wait until Week 9 for his next TD. So it goes as the WR2 in an Eli Manning led offense. Shephard should get more consistent as his career continues, but a rookie receiver stat line of 65/683/8 ain’t too shabby.

Projected 2017 Fantasy Outlook- Borderline WR3

10. Laquon Treadwell – WR – Minnesota Vikings
Preseason ADP- 1.03
Minnesota seemed like a solid landing spot for the highly touted rookie receiver. He seemed like he could be the perfect possession receiver for Teddy Bridgewater/Sam Bradford. Unfortunately for those who spent early draft capital on Treadwell, more often than not he was a healthy scratch and finished the season with one catch for 15 yards on three targets. I’m not ready to call him a bust yet, but it doesn’t feel good knowing that Cordarrelle Patterson was head over heels better than Treadwell.

Projected 2017 Fantasy Outlook- Your guess is as good as mine, but if he gets his head on straight, he can easily be a WR2 next season

11. Malcolm Mitchell – WR – New England Patriots
Preseason ADP- 2.12
I’ll be totally transparent here, this pick could be a homer pick and I’m super excited that a rookie receiver actually looks competent in a Patriots offense. It also could be because I picked up Mitchell mid season for Robert Woods in a league and he was my WR3 for a stretch. Either way, I have him at the tail end of the 1st round and I have a hard time putting anyone else left on this list above him. The combo of him being in Brady’s good graces and his 2nd read after Gronk went down makes him well worth a pick at the end of the 1st.

Projected 2017 Fantasy Outlook- Solid PPR WR3. As any Patriot, he will have a few stinker games, but always has a chance to score a TD.

12. Devontae Booker – RB – Denver Broncos
Preseason ADP- 1.11
Yes, Booker lost his job to the corpse Justin Forsett towards the end of the season, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel on the talented runner just yet. A lot will depend on the new Head Coach in Denver next season, but I fully expect Booker to be a large part of the Bronco running attack, even when CJ Anderson is back from his knee injury. Hate to see it for both players, but we will have a full blown RBBC in Denver. Even with this committee, Booker has upside since CJ Anderson hasn’t shown that he can stay healthy and/or be able to carry a full workload for a whole season.

Projected 2017 Fantasy Outlook- Low End RB3 with RB2 upside if given a 3 down role. Also, CJ Anderson handcuff

13. Carson Wentz – QB – Philadelphia Eagles
Preseason ADP- 2.10
If you asked the Dynasty world and national media after Week 3 where Went would land on this list, I’m sure they would put him at the 1.02 slot and say, “Next!”. Surprise, surprise, the rookie came back to Earth and reminded us he was only a rookie. While Wentz definitely has a ton of upside and looked great at times, he has an 18:17 TD to Turnover ratio. It’ll take some time, but Wentz isn’t destined for fantasy stardom anytime soon.

Projected 2017 Fantasy Outlook- Your prototypical QB2

Keep an eye out for part two of this series as I round out my Top 25 Rookies from the 2016 Fantasy Football season. Have any thoughts on where I ranked players? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below!