By: Jacob Ciesla (Twitter: @FPhenoms)
Updated: 5/18/2017

Pre-Draft to Post-Draft Rankings: Landing Spot Matters

The NFL Draft has come and gone yet again and another much anticipated draft has left some of us happy with our NFL teams and landing spots of several rookies, while others have a neutral feeling or are just completely disgusted. Leading up to the draft, like most of you, I watched a ton of film on the incoming rookies as well as the combine and overall just paid attention to the whole pre-draft process.

During that process I developed my own rankings for every position just based on my talent evaluation. However, talent isn’t always everything in the NFL, especially in fantasy. The best fantasy football performers have two things, talent and opportunity. That being said, it is obvious that some rookies landed in better or worse spots than others. Landing spots matter and to show you that, I will give you my pre-draft rankings followed by my new post-draft rankings and some explanations on why certain players either rose or fell due to landing spot.

Pre-Draft Rankings

1. DeShaun Watson
2. Mitchell Trubisky
3. DeShone Kizer
4. Patrick Mahomes
5. Nathan Peterman

Honorable Mention
Joshua Dobbs, Brad Kaaya, Davis Webb

1. Dalvin Cook
2. Joe Mixon
3. Leonard Fournette
4. Christian McCaffrey
5. Kareem Hunt
6. Marlon Mack
7. James Connor
8. Jeremy McNichols
9. D’Onta Foreman
10. Alvin Kamara

Honorable Mention
Samaje Perine, Jamaal Williams, Joe Williams, Wayne Gallman, Matt Dayes

1. Corey Davis
2. Mike Williams
3. JuJu Smith-Schuster
4. John Ross
5. Zay Jones
6. Dede Westbrook
7. KD Cannon
8. Malachi Dupre
9. Chris Godwin
10. Curtis Samuel

Honorable Mention
Josh Reynolds, Noah Brown, Cooper Kupp, Chad Hansen, Carlos Henderson, Ishmael Zamora

1. David Njoku
2. Evan Engram
3. O.J. Howard
4. Bucky Hodges
5. Jake Butt

Honorable Mention
Adam Shaheen, Gerald Everett

So now that you’ve seen my pre-draft rankings, I want to show you my post-draft rankings and how certain landings spots either helped or hurt some of these rookies’ values.

Post-Draft Rankings

1. DeShaun Watson – Houston Texans
2. Patrick Mahomes – Kansas City Chiefs
3. DeShone Kizer – Cleveland Browns
4. Mitchell Trubisky – Chicago Bears
5. Nathan Peterman – Buffalo Bills

The only change in the post-draft rankings for QBs is Mahomes and Trubisky trading places. The reason for that is Mahomes has a better coach teaching him. Andy Reid is one of the best coaches in football when it comes to developing QBs. John Fox is the opposite and the Bears decision to trade up one spot to get Trubisky seems like an ownsership/upper management decision. If Fox doesn’t win now with Mike Glennon as his QB, you can expect a new coach to come in and that could either be good or bad for Trubisky.

As for the others, Watson lands with a playoff team which couldn’t be any better for a QB that knows how to win. Kizer paired up with coach Hue Jackson could be a great fit for Kizer in developing his maturity and decision making skills. Peterman lands in a spot where he could be asked to play at some point this season and could potentially be this year’s Dak Prescott.

Honorable Mention
Really only two QBs to talk about here and they are Josh Dobbs who was drafted by the Steelers and Davis Webb who was drafted by the Giants. Both QBs are developmental projects but are both in a position to sit for at least two maybe three years before they will get a chance to see the field in the NFL. Both have the size and the arm, it will just come down to them picking up on the speed of the game and making good decisions with the ball.

1. Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings
3. Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals
4. Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
5. Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs
6. Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts
7. Samaje Perine – Washington Redskins
8. Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints
9. D’Onta Foreman – Houston Texans
10. Joe Williams – San Francisco 49ers

Fournette being the first RB taken especially at fourth overall, you can expect to see a huge workload. The landing spot isn’t ideal but the Jaguars are going to make an effort to become a running team which only increases Fournette’s workload and value.

Cook and Mixon fell to the second round and both seem to be in crowded backfields but the talent of these two RBs is too great to just be part of a committee. Both of these teams drafted those guys to be their feature back and it will happen sooner than later.

McCaffrey stays at my number 4 RB due to the fact that I don’t fully believe he can be a 3 down back in the NFL. Yes he was drafted very highly and the Panthers intend on using him a ton but the same was said about Reggie Bush when he came into the NFL. Not comparing the two because I think McCaffrey is more talented but it is a concern for me. Another concern is the amount of passes thrown to Panthers’ RBs over the last few years, it is bottom of the league. I understand that McCaffrey will lineup at WR at times and will be used in a variety of ways but McCaffrey will completely change the identity and playing style of this offense and I just don’t know how well it will turn out.

Hunt and Mack stay put in my rankings because of the talent but most importantly, good landing spots. Hunt will compete with Spencer Ware in camp and could gradually start to see more touches as the season goes on but I expect Hunt to be the starter in 2018. And the same can be said for Mack, competing with Frank Gore. Mack could take over as the lead back in Indy by the end of the season or by the 2018 season.

Perine makes the biggest jump in my rankings and that is only because of his landing spot. I personally do not like Perine’s talent that much. He is a big power back that lacks speed and elusiveness but he will instantly compete in camp with Rob Kelley, an undrafted rookie from last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kelley holds onto that job longer than people think but again, opportunity plays a big part in fantasy football and Perine might be the starting RB when the season starts.

Alvin Kamara is another guy that I’m not a huge fan of but he will instantly be the pass catching back for the Saints and is only 20 years old so there is a lot of potential with this landing spot.

D’Onta Foreman and Joe Williams both land in pretty interesting spots with potential workhorse backs in front of them on the depth chart. Lamar Miller and Carlos Hyde are both very talented RBs that have top 10 upside but if both underperform, you can expect both Foreman and Williams to be the next RB in line for carries. Especially Williams with a new coaching staff that traded up to get him.

Honorable Mention

A few guys falling out of my top 10 include James Connor and Jeremy McNichols. I love both of their talents and skill sets, however, Connor landed behind Bell and unless there is an injury, Connor is nothing but a handcuff. As for McNichols, he has a chance to emerge from that backfield but it is crowded with Martin, Sims and Rodgers. Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones land with the Packers but you have to figure both will eat into each other’s workload and still have to beat out Montgomery for work. Last but not least is Wayne Gallman. Landing with the Giants isn’t a terrible spot but again, a lot of competition there with Perkins and Vereen.

1. Corey Davis – Tennessee Titans
2. John Ross – Cincinnati Bengals
3. Mike Williams – Los Angeles Chargers
4. JuJu Smith-Schuster – Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Zay Jones – Buffalo Bills
6. Dede Westbrook – Jacksonville Jaguars
7. Curtis Samuel – Carolina Panthers
8. Chris Godwin – Tampa Bay Bucs
9. Josh Reynolds – Los Angeles Rams
10. Noah Brown – Dallas Cowboys

Davis in my opinion was by far the most talented WR in this class and he lands with a young stud QB and will be his main target for years to come. Pretty clear why he stays as my number 1.

Ross moves ahead of Williams simply due to landing spot. Both have their pros and cons but Ross will be playing opposite of one of the most talented WRs in the NFL. It will take so much pressure off Ross and will allow him to make plays. As for Williams, it is still a good spot but I am concerned how many targets he will get early on with all the other talent there plus Rivers may only have a few years left and that makes me question the long term value of Williams.

JuJu and Jones were very close in my rankings but the difference is JuJu is only 20 years old right now and I think he has a more reliable QB situation as of right now. I love both of their skill sets and think both could be studs in the NFL but JuJu gets the edge for now.

Westbrook stays at number 6 for me because he has some of the best tape I watched. Despite his attitude, this kid can flat out play. Not as fast as Ross or Samuel but he is right behind them and is equally as good or better after the catch. The Jaguars need playmakers and I believe Dede is a guy that can do a lot of great things for that football team. Same can be said for Curtis Samuel, who moved up to 7th in my rankings, another dynamic play maker for a team that desperately needs them. I think Samuel will line up in the slot in most formations but with his speed and Newton’s willingness to throw the deep ball, Samuel could develop into a DeSean Jackson type player.

Godwin moves up one spot in my rankings and that is partly due to a favorable long term landing spot as well as some of the other WRs falling in my rankings. Godwin has a great QB in Winston to develop with and could be a long term steal for your dynasty team but he doesn’t offer much value on year 1, maybe even year 2 with DeSean Jackson being there, opposite of Mike Evans.

To round out my top 10 WRs, I have Josh Reynolds of the Rams and Noah Brown of the Cowboys. Both are big bodied WRs that fit the prototypical WR 1 mold. Reynolds from day 1 will have a great chance of being on the field with almost no competition to take snaps away from him. As for Brown, He will compete with Brice Butler and Terrance Williams to get snaps opposite of Dez, which won’t be very difficult considering how neither of those WRs have produced much in their careers.

Honorable Mention

Falling out of my top 10 and into the list of honorable mention are KD Cannon and Malachi Dupre. Some of the other guys are Cooper Kupp, Ishmael Zamora, Chad Hansen and Carlos Henderson. Cannon has the biggest drop in my rankings after going undrafted and then released by the 49ers who picked him up as an UDFA. Zamora, another Baylor WR and an UDFA, lands with the Raiders and if he develops, there could be some opportunity there. Dupre is one of my favorite prospects but after being drafted in the 7th round to the Packers, who have a ton of WRs, it will be hard for him to get on the field. Hansen, Kupp and Henderson all land in reasonable spots but I believe all three guys will be limited in fantasy production due to their roles and QB play.

1. O.J. Howard – Tampa Bay Bucs
2. David Njoku – Cleveland Browns
3. Evan Engram – New York Giants
4. Jake Butt – Denver Broncos
5. Adam Shaheen – Chicago Bears

I wasn’t a huge Howard fan through the pre-draft process but as I have said this entire article, landing spots matter. Among the big 3 tight ends in this class, no doubt about it that Howard landed in the best spot. With Evans and Jackson on the outside and Winston at QB, Howard will have the middle of the field to himself and will be a big redzone target for Winston.

Njoku and Engram fell due to landing spot. Njoku is potentially the number 2 receiving option for the Browns but the concern is who will be throwing him the ball. Not sure if it will be reliable in his rookie season. As for Engram it is the opposite. He has the reliable QB with Manning but he is the 4th option in the Giants’ offense behind Beckham, Marshall and Shepard.

Butt and Shaheen both moved up in my rankings due to favorable landing spots. Butt landing with the Broncos is a great spot that needs a tight end. The Broncos have an offense that has all the position players except a tight end and Butt could be a first year contributor depending on his knee. Shaheen on the other end lands in a development spot. He will start the year behind fellow tight end Zach Miller but it will only be a matter of time before Shaheen gets on the field and out performs Miller. Glennon will most likely use his tight ends quite a bit after watching Winston do that in Tampa the last two years and if the Bears’ first round pick, QB Mitchell Trubisky, develops with Shaheen, they could have a connection for years to come.

Honorable Mention

This is one of the deepest tight end classes we have ever seen so even guys like Bucky Hodges, Gerald Everett and Jonnu Smith should be considered in dynasty rookie drafts. I really like Hodges but he fell into the 6th round of the NFL draft to the Vikings which is an iffy landing spot. They still have Rudolph who was a top 5 fantasy TE last year and they have a couple of other young talented WRs. Everett who is compared to Jordan Reed, lands with the Rams which couldn’t be a better spot. New head coach McVay, who was the offensive coordinator last year with the Redskins, loved using Reed in multiple formations and he could have the same plan for Everett. Jonnu Smith was compared to Delanie Walker and now he gets to be Walker’s backup with the Titans. Smith will get to learn exactly what to be and could develop nicely with this young offense.

The moral of the story with everything I just talked about, landing spot matters. Again, good fantasy production comes from two things, talent and opportunity. Rookies that landed in good spots should get a boost in your rankings because the opportunity might make them fantasy relevant sooner than later in their careers. After reading this, I hope that all of you, if you haven’t already, make your own rankings because at the end of the day, your opinion is the only one that matters in your dynasty rookie drafts and how you build your dynasty team.