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Mon Jan 11th 2021

Re-ranking the 2020 Rookie Class

Re-Ranking the Rookie Class

Something all dynasty managers should do every year is to look back at their off-season rookie rankings and re-rank the rookies at the end of the year. This process helps dynasty managers identify mistakes in their processes to assess better and rank the upcoming rookie class.

After doing this last week, I am pleased to say that my end-of-year rankings are not too far off from my off-season rankings, but I still learned a few things from the re-ranking process. This article will share what I learned in the re-ranking process and why I re-ranked players as I did.

1. Jonathan Taylor - from #1

  • Taylor was my #1 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #1 ranked rookie at the end of the season. It took him some time to get acclimated to the NFL, but by the end of the season, he was playing as I expected when I ranked him #1 in this class. His size, speed, and college production made him my top prospect, and he's lived up to the billing. The only knock on Taylor's future is the question marks around the quarterback position in Indianapolis, but even if they had to rely solely on Taylor, he could carry the team.

2. Justin Jefferson - from #7

  • Jefferson was my #7 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #2 ranked rookie at the end of the season. His record-setting rookie season made him the highest-scoring rookie wide receiver and moved him up to the top rookie wide receiver to end the season. I did not believe that Kirk Cousins could make one of his receivers a top ten scoring receiver, but he proved me wrong by making two receivers finish in the top eight in scoring. Thielen finished 8th with only 74 receptions, while Jefferson finished sixth with only 88 receptions. Minnesota may be a run-first team, but if Jefferson can compile 1400 receiving yards in his rookie season, he can do it for years to come.

3. CeeDee Lamb - from #3

  • Lamb was my #3 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #3 ranked rookie at the end of the season. Jefferson barely jumped Lamb in my end-of-season rankings, but I could see these two swamping places in my rankings throughout the next few years. Lamb did not get the privilege of playing with Dak Prescott for a full season. Otherwise, he could very well have played better than Jefferson. His future is bright when Dak returns and gets signed to a long-term contract.

4. J.K. Dobbins - from #2

  • Dobbins was my #2 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #4 ranked rookie at the end of the season. I still see Dobbins as the second-best running back in this class. It took him some time to become the lead back in Baltimore, but he was by the end of the season. I still fear that Baltimore will stay committed to splitting carries in their backfield, but Dobbins has what it takes to efficiently score fantasy points with 15 touches per game, and he is their best pass-catching running back on an offense that will score a lot of points with Lamar Jackson leading them.

5. James Robinson - from #65

  • Robinson was my #65 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #5 ranked rookie at the end of the season. At least I had Robinson in my top 72 rookie rankings. He was the biggest surprise breakout player in this class. Robinson was not drafted in my eight rookie drafts, so literally, everyone was blown away by Robinson's 7th place finish to end the season. His future looks even better now that Jacksonville will likely draft Trevor Lawrence and bring in a new coaching staff. There is the possibility that new staff will want to draft their own running back, but I don't believe they will do that after Robinson absolutely proved his worth this year.

6. Justin Herbert - from # 21

  • Herbert was my #21 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #6 ranked rookie at the end of the season. I definitely made a mistake by ranking Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa ahead of Hebert last off-season, but I still ranked him ahead of other analysts and dynasty managers because I drafted him in three out of eight leagues. Now I do believe he will have a better career than Burrow and Tua. Setting the rookie record for touchdown passes is just the beginning for Herbert. I think the Chargers will hire an offensive-minded head coach to make the most of Herbert's young career.

7. D'Andre Swift - from #6

  • Swift was my #6 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #7 ranked rookie at the end of the season. Like Jonathan Taylor and J.K. Dobbins, it took time for Swift to take over as the lead running back. Swift's injuries also prevented him from breaking out, but there was enough film in the games he did play to clarify that he's the Lions' lead back of the future. If Detroit blows up their team this off-season, I will have to move Swift further down in my rankings, but I don't believe they will do that. They have a great core of offensive weapons and a solid quarterback with Stafford, and quarterbacks with large contracts are not easy to trade in the NFL.

8. Tee Higgins - from #10

  • Higgins was my #10 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #8 ranked rookie at the end of the season. Higgins has not moved much, but I did move him ahead of Jerry Jeudy and Jalen Reagor, both of whom I ranked ahead of Higgins before rookie drafts. The off-season story about him and Joe Burrow training together must have been true because Higgins quickly became Burrow's top target ahead of Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green. It's a safe bet to say that Higgins and Burrow will be paired together for the next decade, making each other fantasy studs.

9. Joe Burrow - from #13

  • Burrow was my #13 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #9 ranked rookie at the end of the season. Burrow moved up in my rankings after playing tremendously well before ending his season early with an injury. If he recovers from his injury and Cincinnati invests more in their offensive line during the draft, he will have a great future with the team. He may not be healthy to start game one next season, but he's still a very valuable dynasty quarterback. 

10. Jerry Jeudy - from #5

  • Jeudy was my #5 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #10 ranked rookie at the end of the season. Jeudy had an up and down rookie season with key dropped passes in games and only two breakout games even while not competing for targets with Courtland Sutton injured. His two breakout games and his college tape prove that he is still a great prospect, so I could not drop him too far as a result, but I was very willing to move Justin Jefferson and Tee Higgins ahead of him by the end of the season, and I already had CeeDee Lamb ranked ahead of Jeudy the last off-season.

11. Chase Claypool - from #35

  • Claypool was my #35 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #11 ranked rookie at the end of the season. I was definitely wrong in my evaluation of Claypool. He looked to me more like a tight end at Notre Dame. He was strong at jump balls and had a great catch radius, but he did not seem to have the best route-running skills. Even his second-round draft capital was not enough to cause me to move him up my rankings. Pittsburg, however, drafted Claypool to do just what he's able. They made him a red-zone target and a deep-ball threat, and it worked. I still like Diontae Johnson quite a bit more than Claypool in Pittsburg since he's a more complete receiver, but I had to move Claypool way up in my end-of-season rookie rankings.

12. Brandon Aiyuk - from #16

  • Aiyuk was my #16 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #12 ranked rookie at the end of the season. I downgraded Aiyuk a bit in my rookie rankings after being drafted by the 49ers, who spread the ball around too much for my liking, making their offensive players inconsistent. Aiyuk was extremely reliable last season, but not until George Kittle and Deebo Samuel were out due to their injuries. I moved Aiyuk up in my rankings to end the season, but the concerns I have for 49er players do persist. 

13. Laviska Shenault - from #14

  • Shenault was my #14 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #13 ranked rookie at the end of the season. Shenault had a solid rookie campaign and was in the starting line-up from week one. He just scratched the surface, though, and will likely have Trevor Lawrence throwing the ball to him next year. I traded a 2021 first-round pick to acquire him in a recent dispersal draft where I needed to get younger at wide receiver and decided to trust what I have seen in the NFL rather than what I have not yet seen.

14. Clyde Edwards-Hellaire - from #8

  • Edward-Hellaire was my #8 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #14 ranked rookie at the end of the season. I took quite a stand by ranking seven players head of Edwards-Hellaire, who was drafted by managers with the first pick in many of my drafts, and I've moved him back a bit further now at the end of the season. I like Edwards-Hellaire, just not as much as most people do. Kansas City has so many weapons, and coach Reid does not feed his team's running backs to the degree that I like. I'd like to have him on one of my teams, but I don't rank him as high as I would need to have him on one of my rosters.

15. Antonio Gibson - from # 33

  • Gibson was my #33 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #15 ranked rookie at the end of the season. I was very wrong in my evaluation of Gibson. His college tape was fantastic, but his college production was not since he only had 77 touches in college. I docked him in my rookie rankings because of his lack of experience and dual roles as a running back and wide receiver. He completely outperformed my expectations and appears to be Washington's future leading running back. His injury at the end of the season makes me worried a bit about future injuries since he was never a lead running back in college.

16. Cam Akers - from #4

  • Akers was my #4 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #16 ranked rookie at the end of the season. Akers did not fully take over the leading running back position until the very end of the season and into the playoffs. I created these rankings before the playoffs started, but I may wish to change this ranking after watching Akers' playoff game. The three-headed backfield throughout the year and Darrell Henderson's few great games make me concerned that Akers and Henderson will share carries in the years to come.

16. Tua Tagovailoa - from #15

  • Tua was my #15 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #16 ranked rookie at the end of the season. Tua did not do enough positively or negatively to cause me to move him much in my rankings. He was named Miami's starter after their bye week but was replaced a few times by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Unlike Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow, Tua looked like a rookie. That's more the norm, so I don't think there is not much reason to be concerned. I also don't believe Miami will draft another quarterback with the first-round pick they acquired from the Texans. They know what they have in Tua, and they expected him to struggle in his rookie season.

17. Cole Kmet - from #34

  • Kmet was my #34 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #17 ranked rookie at the end of the season. By mid-season, Kmet was out-snapping Jimmy Graham, even though Graham was Chicago's favorite red-zone target. Kmet looks like the next T.J. Hockenson to me, so he projects to become an every-week starter next year for dynasty teams. I moved Kmet up 17 spots, and he will be one of my favorite trade targets during this off-season.

18. Darnell Mooney - from unranked

  • Mooney was an unranked ranked rookie last year (out of my top 72), and he is my #18 ranked rookie at the end of the season. I completely missed on ranking Mooney, who I have now moved up into what would have been the second-round pick. Before the season started, Anthony Miller was one of my predictions to breakout. He didn't, and Mooney passed right by him in Chicago's line-up. He's another off-season trade target of mine. I traded a late second-round rookie pick for him already and will try to do so again.

19. Jalen Reagor - from #9

  • Reagor was my #9 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #19 ranked rookie at the end of the season. Reagor is the player I am most disappointed in at the end of the season. He battled a few injuries but still had every opportunity to play as much any of the other rookie wide receivers on this list. He just didn't break out like I thought he could. I'm giving Philadelphia's entire offense a pass this year after their woeful quarterback play. Even so, I had to be honest with myself and move Reagor back quite a bit in my rankings.

20. A.J. Dillon - from #24

  • Dillon was my #24 ranked rookie last year, and he is my #20 ranked rookie at the end of the season. Dillon spent much of his rookie season on the COVID list but finally broke out in week sixteen. It was enough to help him hold his dynasty value during this off-season while Green Bay decides what to do with their two free-agent running backs, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. If he shows even a little more promise during the Packers' playoff run, they will surely let at least one of their free-agent running backs go, if not both of them.

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