The 2019 NFL Draft has come and gone. Now, we know the destinations of incoming rookies. The team for which a player plays is a key component for the evaluation of any fantasy football player. For instance, landing spot is paramount to determining rookie RB ranks. Elements such as offensive scheme, surrounding talent and coaching staff can have a major impact on an RBs fantasy production.
Just before the draft, I released my RB rankings. Now that landing spots have been determined, there have naturally been some changes. Here are my post-draft rookie RB ranks.
Josh Jacobs – Oakland Raiders
Pre-Draft Rank – 4
Jacobs has arguably the best chance to be a workhorse RB in this class. The Raiders obviously think so by making him the only 1st round pick at the position in the 2019 draft. The only true competition for Jacobs in the Oakland backfield (now that Isaiah Crowell has alegedly suffered an injury) is pass-catching specialist Jalen Richard. While that might to a lower target celiling for Jacobs, he could legitimatly see 300 touches in 2019. Take Jacobs’ potential workload, coupled with the 3rd best RB film grade from my evaluations, and you get a prospect worthy of being the 1.01.
David Montgomery– Chicago Bears
Pre-Draft Rank – 1
Personally, rankings RBs #1 and #2, was a difficult task. While Josh Jacobs carries the 1st round draft capital, he and David Montgomery have similar team fits. Both the Bears and the Raiders have capable pass catching RBs (Tarik Cohen and Jalen Richard respectively) that can limit both rookies’ passing game involvement. I would argue that Cohen is more talented than Richard, which caps Montgomery’s receiving upside more than Jacobs’. Both rookies are in situations where they should see goal-line work. However, the presence of Mike Davis does complicate that outlook. Even though Montgomery had the higher film grade, he falls behind Jacobs on my rankings.
Miles Sanders – Philadelphia Eagles
Pre-Draft Rank – 3
Sanders carries my 4th highest film grade in this class, so I have been high on him throughout this process. After an excellent combine, he was only one of two RBs taken in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. Sanders solidified his status as a 1st round fantasy pick by landing in a decent spot. The Eagles are more crowded than both the Bears and the Raiders, which is why Sanders remains at #3 in my ranks. While Montgomery and Jacobs will both probably end up as their respective team’s goal-line back, Jordan Howard‘s presence on the Eagles prevents that same fate for Sanders, at least in year 1. With Howard in the final season of his contract, Sanders may be the lead-dog/borderline workhorse by next season. For 2019, he should see enough passing-down volume to remain in this top tier.
Justice Hill – Baltimore Ravens
Pre-Draft Rank – 2
Hill was (probably surprisingly to most) my #2 RB before the draft. He had my 2nd highest film grade, and I loved his explosiveness. He drops a tier because his landing spot was not quite as good as the RBs in the top group. Already this offseason, the Ravens signed Mark Ingram, who appears to be the lead back. There are also other pieces in the back field, most notably Kenneth Dixon. Now, I did not expect Hill to get 200+ carries this season, so having Ingram on the team may be advantageous considering the rookie’s small frame. However, Dixon’s presence could limit Hill’s 2019 upside. Since Dixon is entering the final season of his rookie contract, Hill may see an expanded role in 2020.
Alexander Mattison – Minnesota Vikings
Pre-Draft Rank – 7
Even though Alexander Mattison had a less than ideal landing spot, none of the other RBs ranked around him enter the NFL with a great backfield situation. He is going to a team with an established lead back in Dalvin Cook. However, there is nobody else on the Vikings roster that Mattison can’t beat out. Considering Cook’s injury history, Mattison is in line to be a very valuable backup, and that’s the worst case scenario. Mattison could theoretically take touches away from Cook in order to best preserve the veteran for a long season. Think of Latavius Murray in 2018. it’s not difficult to imagine Mattison having a similar role and production. If there wasn’t such a disparity in film scores, Mattison may have jumped ahead of Hill.
Myles Gaskin – Miami Dolphins
Pre-Draft Rank – 5
Despite a 7th round selection, Gaskin still comes in #6 on this list. While, I am disappointed by the draft capital invested by the Dolphins, Gaskin did have my 5th highest film grade. Other than Alexander Mattison, none of the RBs who shared a tier with Gaskin found a better landing spot, so none of them surpassed him. Yes, Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage are still on the team, but with a new coaching staff, Gaskin may start on an even keel with his fellow RBs. The one edge that Gaskin does have over Drake and Ballage is that Gaskin saw heavy workloads in all 4 of his college seasons. He showcased durability and productivity.
Devin Singletary – Buffalo Bills
Pre-Draft Rank – 13
Every year, I am mindful not to overreact to the combine. I did not drop David Montgomery after his less than stellar showing. So then, why did I drop Singeltary to the 3rd tier of RBs in my pre-draft rankings? He had the 8th best film score from this class, but his athletic testing metrics were so far behind RBs with similar film scores that I decided to lower him in my rankings. Obviously, the poor combine did nothing to sway the Bills away from Singletary, who used a third-round selection on him. Because of that, I moved Singletary back to around his pre-combine rank. The landing spot may seem less than ideal. However, with two RBs in their 30s on the team, and with only T.J. Yeldon to stand in his way beyond 2019, Singletary may be a great long term investment to make in fantasy football.
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Darrell Henderson – Los Angeles Rams
Pre-Draft Rank – 8
With the Rams taking an RB in the 3rd round, I would not be surprised if they wanted to limit Todd Gurley‘s touches. Darrell Henderson does appear to have the tools to succeed in the Sean McVay system with his excellent vision and enough speed to take advantage of the space created by the Rams O-line. Henderson also had enough pass-catching production to speculate that he may get on the field for 3rd downs. Aside from Gurley’s workload, the biggest obstacle to Henderson’s opportunity is Malcolm Brown. The veteran is a capable receiving back in his own right, so 2019 might not be a productive season for Henderson. However, should Gurley suffer any setbacks this year, Henderson could snag a temporary (or even permanent) lead role.
Damien Harris – New England Patriots
Pre-Draft Rank – 9
Yet another 3rd round selection in the 2019 NFL draft. Apparently, that was the round to grab an RB, which the Patriots did, even without a glaring need at the position. Since New England took Sony Michel in the 1st round of 2018’s draft, they will probably give him every chance to succeed. James White has been such a reliable receiver, that it seems unlikely that rookie Damien Harris will significantly eat into his target share. That leaves Harris to compete with Rex Burkhead, for the versilite do-it-all RB that New England likes to trout out. Even if Harris does beat out Burkhead, the transforming nature of the Patriots backfield could leave Harris with an inconsistent workload from game to game.
Darwin Thompson– Kansas City Chiefs
Pre-Draft Rank – 16
Perhaps no player made a bigger jump than in post-draft rankings than Darwin Thompson. I considered the Chiefs to be one of the best landing spots for RBs. If someone from the top two tiers had ended up in Kansas City, then they would have solidified themselves as a 1st-round pick in fantasy rookie drafts. However, the Chiefs did not make an early draft investment in the position. Perhaps Thompson will never be anything more than a depth piece but perhaps he can be more. We did see Damien Williams produce spectacularly in Kansas City, and he is nothing special in terms of talent.
Rodney Anderson – Cincinnati Bengals
Pre-Draft Rank – 6
Anderson’s post-draft ranking was always going to be determined by the medical reports. A player with his talent should not have gone in the 6th round if he was in fact fully healthy. Because he fell so far, that tells me that teams are quite concerned with Anderson. Even the Bengals were hesitant to take him, and that’s scary. Cincinnati took a chance on Joe Mixon in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft, when most teams had him off of their board. Now that was conduct and not injury, but still, if the Bengals were true believers, they would not have taken another RB before him.
Trayveon Williams – Cincinnati Bengals
Pre-Draft Rank – 11
That other RB happens to be next on this list. Strickly speaking of film scores, Rodney Anderson had my 6th highest, while his new teammate, Trayveon Williams, was the 7th best. Being behind Mixon, I dropped both rookie Bengals to the bottom of this tier. Giovani Bernard is in te final year of his contract. If he walks as a free-agent, then Anderson or Williams could be tabbed to replaced Bernard as the Bengals 3rd-down back. Now, Mixon is a great pass-catcher but Cincinnati is unlikely to give him a 300+ touch workload. Maybe the best way to take advantage of this situation is to draft both Anderson and Williams, and wait to see who emerges.
Tony Pollard – Dallas Cowboys
Pre-Draft Rank – Not ranked
Pollard was only one of two RBs who was drafted but was no profiled in my pre-draft rankings. I knew of Pollard and I saw some film, but I thought he was more of a receiver than running back. However, when the Cowboys selected him at the draft, they listed his position as RB. Therefore, I went back and did a full film analysis. Pollard only ranked 21st on the film score among RBs in this class. What intrigues me, however, is his pass catching ability. The fact that the Cowboys spend a 4th round pick on him, tells me that they have a plan for him. Perhaps Pollard will be placed as the preferred passing-down back, over Ezekiel Elliott.
Travis Homer – Seattle Seahawks
Pre-Draft Rank – 15
Homer heads to a run-heavy offense, which bodes well for his opportunities since he will be no higher than 3rd on the depth chart. He does show a similar trait to the presumed lead-back in the Seahawks rotation. Like Chris Carson, Homer has good contact balance, but not quite with the same power that Carson produces. Furthermore, Homer does not match Rashaad Penny‘s explosive ability in space. Homer is probably limited to a change-of-pace role for the time being. However, last season, there were times when all three of the Seattle RBs were producing. Maybe that happens again.
Ryquell Armstead – Jacksonville Jaguars
Pre-Draft Rank – 23
Armstead is another riser due to his landing spot. While Leonard Fournette will get the majority of touches when he is healthy, injuries are unfortunately common for him. The Jaguars do not have any other uber-talented RBs, therefore, Armstead could quickly move up on the depth chart throughout the offseason. In fact, I would not be surprised if he was the primary change-of-pace back for Jacksonville this season. While he didn’t catch an abundance of targets in college, Armstead demonstrated good hands and route running ability on film.
Mike Weber – Dallas Cowboys
Pre-Draft Rank – 12
Personally, I believe that Weber is a far better interior runner than fellow rookie (and Cowboy) Tony Pollard. However, Weber went three rounds later in the NFL draft. That tells me that Dallas has a reason for taking Pollard and they probably have a plan for him. Now, Weber is also a capable receiver, but no better than Zeke and certainly not Pollard. I expect that Weber will not have much of a pass-catching role. However, if Zeke is ever injured, I expect it will be Weber, and not Pollard, who will receive the majority of carries. With that in mind, Weber is ranked lower than Pollard because it will be difficult for the former to produce early in his career.
Bruce Anderson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pre-Draft Rank – 18
Bruce Anderson is likely to get an opportunity in 2019, even as an undrafted player. The Buccaneers were one of my favorite landing spots for RBs. That is because none of the veterans on the team are talented enough to keep the job outright without competition. I know some of you might say that Ronald Jones is in fact talented. While Jones does have some desirable athletic traits, he does not provide a proficient receiving profile. Now, Anderson did not catch a lot of passes in college, but on the tape that I saw, he ran good routes and made hands catches (as opposed to body catches). Pass catching is key to an RB in a Bruce Arians offense.
James Williams – Kansas City Chiefs
Pre-Draft Rank – 22
Speaking of great offenses, what’s better than an RB that can catch? An RB that can catch in an Andy Reid system. And we know Williams can catch passes since he did so over 200 times in college. That’s right, 202 receptions… by an RB. Williams’ running ability was also decent enough to have the Chiefs sign him as an RB as opposed to WR. He demonstrated good contact balance for someone who never got more than 122 carries in a season. Still, for 2019, I expect most of Williams’ production to come from the passing game.
In Tier 5, there are RBs who have good traits. However, they will be hard-pressed to produce this season, due to the established veterans ahead of them on depth charts.
Benny Snell – Pittsburgh Steelers
Pre-Draft Rank – 19
Alex Barnes – Tennessee Titans
Pre-Draft Rank – 10
Ty Johnson – Detroit Lions
Pre-Draft Rank – 20
Devine Ozigbo – New Orleans Saints
Pre-Draft Rank – 21
Elijah Holyfield – Carolina Panthers
Pre-Draft Rank – 14
Qadree Ollison – Atlanta Falcons
Pre-Draft Rank – 24
In this final tier, I group together players who will probably not contribute in 2019, and might not get many chances in 2020 and beyond. Some might not even get on the field at all this season.
Dexter Williams – Green Bay Packers
Pre-Draft Rank – 25
Bryce Love – Washington
Pre-Draft Rank – 29
Kerrith Whyte – Chicago Bears
Pre-Draft Rank – 26
Jordan Scarlett – Carolina Panthers
Pre-Draft Rank – Un-ranked
Jalin Moore – New York Jets
Pre-Draft Rank – 28
Karan Higdon – Houston Texans
Pre-Draft Rank – 31
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