With the 2019 NFL Draft in the books, it’s time to update my rookie dynasty rankings.
I ranked my top 50 rookies based on draft capital, college production, biophysical profile, perceived opportunity and team fit. I also highlighted 10 undrafted free-agent signees and five late-round quarterbacks that are worth monitoring.
And if you missed them, here are my skill-position fantasy breakdowns from the draft:
Now let’s dig in.
Note: Tiers indicate where I see a notable drop-off in value. The full rankings can also be found in a table at the end of this piece.
2019 Dynasty Rookie Rankings
Pick No. 1: Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders
- Height: 5’10″| Weight: 220 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.60 seconds
- School: Alabama | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 21 | Draft position: 1.24 (No. 24)
What Kenyan Drake was to Alabama for 2012-15, Jacobs was for 2016-18: An explosive runner and competent receiver with game-breaking ability as a return man (30.6 yards per kick return, one return touchdown).
Jacobs has never been a collegiate lead back — last year he had just 887 scrimmage yards on 140 touches — but in a weak running back class, he emerged as the clear-cut No. 1 prospect at the position.
And I guess it’s not all that hard to see why: Of all the backs drafted, Jacobs was first last year with a 59.2% positive play rate and second with 38 broken tackles per 100 touches, 2.4 yards per route and 41.9 expected points added (per Sports Info Solutions). But he has below-average athleticism and not one 1,000-yard season to his name.
This is a poor class for running backs, and in a normal year, Jacobs probably would have been a Day 2 pick with upside.
But Jacobs has three — maybe four — significant factors in his favor.
The first is that, because he saw limited action at Alabama as a committee back, he should enter the NFL relatively fresh.
The second is he’s young. The backs who play as 21-year-old rookies have historically been significantly more impressive than backs who enter the league at an older age.
And, of course, there’s his draft position. As a first-rounder, he’s likely to see a significant workload because so much was invested into him: In a self-fulfilling mechanism, the Raiders will give him every opportunity to prove himself so that they might be proven correct in drafting him with a premium pick.
And finally, there’s his size. At 220 pounds, Jacobs is built like a lead back. He should be able to withstand the grind of getting 20 touches every week.
Over the past two decades, 11 guys have entered the league as big-bodied first-round 21-year-old backs:
- Saquon Barkley
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Todd Gurley
- Beanie Wells
- Jonathan Stewart
- Marshawn Lynch
- Laurence Maroney
- Steven Jackson
- T.J. Duckett
- Jamal Lewis
- Edgerrin James
Not all of them became stars, but literally every guy in this cohort has had multiple seasons of fantasy utility.
Given how important age, draft position and size are to the running back position, it’s not unreasonable for fantasy players to expect a lot out of Jacobs early on — he could be a top-10 fantasy producer in 2019.
Pick No. 2: N’Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots
- Height: 6’2″ | Weight: 228 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.53 seconds
- School: Arizona State | Class: Junior
- 2019 age: 22 | Draft position: 1.32 (No. 32)
In my way-too-early rookie rankings, Harry was the No. 1 player on my board. And even though he’s been supplanted by Jacobs, Harry is still my top receiver — and not just because he landed with Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Harry probably lacks the upside potential of some of the other high-profile rookie receivers like Marquise Brown and D.K. Metcalf, but his combination of college production, biophysical profile and draft position makes him highly unlikely to bust.
A five-star recruit, Harry led the Sun Devils as a true freshman with 58 receptions, and as a sophomore and junior he put up back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving campaigns. A versatile player, Harry lined up all across the formation, ran all varieties of routes and was athletic enough to contribute throughout his career as both a runner (144 yards, three touchdowns) and punt returner (11.8 yards per attempt, one touchdown).
With the Pats, Harry has a good chance to see significant snaps right away, and his ability to play out wide and in the slot should help him stay on the field in all formations. Julian Edelman is likely to lead the Patriots in targets in 2019, but Harry could finish second — especially if he captures a large share of the targets vacated by the now-retired Rob Gronkowski.
For 2019, it will be important to keep expectations in check. The Patriots have a complicated offensive system, and wide receivers generally need time to adjust to the NFL.
But I still like Harry a lot. He has excellent long-term potential.
Read the rest of Matthew Freedman’s Top 50 Dynasty Rookie Rankings on The Action Network.