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Sat Apr 6th 2019

What I learned from the 2017 rookie draft

Re-ranking the 2017 rookie class

One of the best things we can do this time of year is look back at our previous rookie draft boards and rookie drafts. It's good to re-rank rookies to see how you'd compare your current evaluation to your evaluations before the rookie draft. It’s also good to look back at previous year’s rookie drafts in order to see where players were drafted compared to where you had them ranked before the draft and where you have them ranked today.

It's a great way to look back at where you went right vs. where you went wrong. I went back and looked at all of my 2017 rookie drafts to see where each of the top 20 rookies were drafted to get their average draft position (ADP) from last year. I do this exercise every year to learn where my process worked and where it didn’t.

I'll be honest about my own evaluations now. Here is a list of the top 20 players on my 2017 rookie draft board compared to how I would rank the top 20 rookies today. In between is the average draft position (ADP) of where the rookies went in all of my rookie drafts last year. Below I’ll share a few things I have learned from this exercise.

My 2017 Draft Board

2017 Rookie ADP

Re-ranking them today

  1. Corey Davis
  • Leonard Fournette (1st)
  1. Christian McCaffrey
  1. Leonard Fournette
  • Corey Davis (3rd)
  1. Alvin Kamara
  1. Joe Mixon
  • Christian McCaffrey (3rd)
  1. Juju Smith-Schuster
  1. Christian McCaffrey
  • Joe Mixon (5th)
  1. Patrick Mahomes
  1. Dalvin Cook
  • Mike Williams (5th)
  1. James Conner  
  1. Mike Williams
  • Dalvin Cook (5th)
  1. Deshaun Watson
  1. Kareem Hunt
  • OJ Howard (9th)
  1. Joe Mixon
  1. Samaje Perine
  • John Ross (9th)
  1. Leonard Fournette
  1. John Ross
  • Samaje Perine (9th)
  1. Dalvin Cook
  1.  OJ Howard
  • Kareem Hunt (9th)
  1.  Kareem Hunt
  1.  Evan Engram
  • Alvin Kamara (12th)
  1.  OJ Howard
  1.  David Njoku
  • Zay Jones (14th)
  1.   Evan Engram
  1.  Joe Williams
  • David Njoku (15th)
  1.  Cooper Kupp
  1.  Alvin Kamara
  • D’Onta Foreman (15th)
  1.  David Njoku
  1.  D’Onta Foreman
  • Marlon Mack (15th)
  1.  Marlon Mack
  1.  Juju Smith-Schuster
  • Juju Smith-Schuster (17th)
  1.  Tarik Cohen
  1.  Zay Jones
  • Evan Engram (18th)
  1.   Kenny Golladay
  1.  Jamaal Williams
  • Jamaal Williams (20th)
  1.  Corey Davis
  1.  Gerald Everett
  • Joe Williams (21st)
  1.  Chris Godwin
  1.  Marlon Mack
  • Gerald Everett (30th)
  1.   Mike Williams

Overall Thoughts on the 2017 Rookie Draft

  • Top Wide Receivers Busted: The top wide receivers in this class (Davis, Williams, and Ross) have been a bust so far.  They are coming into their third year, so they have time to improve, but overall they have been a disappointment for where they were drafted.  Many of the wide receivers ranked outside of my top 20 that year are now ranked ahead of Davis, Williams, and Ross.  Kenny Golladay, Cooper Kupp, and Chris Godwin are the better wide receivers in this class so far.  Juju, of course, is the only one who has become a true dynasty stud so far.  He is my #6 overall WR currently.
  • Top Running Backs All Hit: The running backs, on the other hand, all hit and have maintained their value with the exception of Samaje Perine.  Everyone who drafted a running back not named Perine in the first round is still happy with their pick today, and are ranked in the same general range as they were when they were drafted.  James Conner and Tarik Cohen are the outliers that came up from outside my top 20 rookie rankings.  When re-ranking this class, Conner is my #5 player while Cohen is my #16.
  • QBs Were The Steal Of The Draft: Watson’s ADP in my leagues was #14.  Mahomes was #32.  Obviously, these guys were the steal of the draft, especially Mahomes.  More on why I, like many others, missed on these guys below.

Where I Hit

  • Tight Ends, Especially Evan Engram: This was a really good tight end class.  I have Howard, Engram, and Njoku ranked 10,11, and 12 in my rookie rankings that year.  Howard’s ADP was 9, Njoku’s 15, and Engram’s 18.  I was particularly right on Engram.  I had him ranked 7 spots higher than his ADP that year.  I remember liking his athleticism and pass-catching skills.  He played more like a wide receiver than a tight end.  I knew he would not be a great blocking tight end, but I did not let that drop him in my rankings.  He was too good of a player downfield.  I knew the Giants would use him that way.  I still have them ranked in the same order today.  When I re-ranked this rookie class, I put Howard at 11, Engram at 12, and Njoku at 14.

Where I Missed

  • Alvin Kamara: I had Kamara ranked as my #14 rookie in 2017, but his ADP was 12.  Today I would have him ranked as the #2 player in this rookie class.  I remember not being high on him since he didn’t have the look or feel of an every-down back.  He never was in college.  I ranked him a little lower than most that year.  What I learned from this year is to value pass catching backs, especially when they go to teams with creative offensive coaches.  I also learned that I should start ranking players higher when their NFL team moves up in the draft to get such a player.  Last year I moved Kerryon Johnson up my ranks because of that.
  • Quarterbacks: I was not high at all on Watson or Mahomes in this rookie class.  I had them ranked as my #40 and #41 rookies in that class.  Today I would rank Mahomes #4 and Watson #6 in their rookie class.  What I learned from this year is that I need to have a more open mind to drafting quarterbacks that come from the air-raid type of college offenses.  For years I had considered that a knock on their rookie value.  Mayfield proved me wrong last year too.  I am willing to change my mind after two years of evidence.  I have moved Kyler Murray up to my #14 rookie in this year’s class.


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