Ranking the 2019 NFL Rookie Class - QBs & RBs
We’re not biggest fans of the this year’s rookie crop. Unless you are in a Deep Keeper / Dynasty league, we’d likely recommend avoiding most positions outside of the rookie running backs. For those in Keeper/Dynasty though, there are some gems to be found for long term investment.
It’s also very early in the year, and once preseason rolls around a lot can change. Most important regarding Injuries to rookies and veterans players, which will cause players to slide up and down the depth chart, and a clarity of position.
Dwayne Haskins, Washington Redskins
The most wide criticism of Haskins is for only being a 1-year college starter. The lack of high level experience at the position created uncertainty contributed to his fall below both Daniel Jones and Kyler Murray in the NFL draft. However, during his single starting season at Ohio State, he totally transformed the offense and broke school records for passing yards and touchdowns in a season, and helped leading his team to a 13-1 record.
Haskins has a huge arm with a quick release, and is a natural leader. He’s also in a position to win the job early in the season. It’s highly unlikely Alex Smith plays this season, and Case Keenum and Colt McCoy just aren’t a long term solution for the Redskins. We expect Haskins to be taking the helm by midseason (if not earlier).
Daniel Jones, New York Giants
Jones is the premier talent in the rookie QB group. However, his supporting cast leaves little to be desired. They have the 25th worst pass-blocking lines according to PFF. Also, with the loss of Beckham at receiver, his top receiving targets are going Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram. That’s just not superior receiving talent. The Giants are likely going to depend on a running the ball a lot, combined with a conservative passing game. In a Keeper/Dynasty format we like Jones as a long term investment. However, in a re-draft format, we’d be hesitant to even consider him at QB2.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Early NFL mock drafts were projecting Murray to actually be the 4th quarterback selected in the draft, however, Cardinal ownership was been rumored to like the idea of taking Murray as a way to excite the fanbase and sell tickets. These aren’t telling signs regarding their faith in his quarterbacking abilities, but a hopeful prayer of transforming a rather boring Cardinal team into something consumable. Murray is an athletic playmaker, and often draws comparisons to Russell Wilson (likely due to his short stature). However, unlike Wilson, his leadership abilities and work ethic have often been called into question.
Further adding to the list of uncertainties around Murray, the Cardinals brought in new coach Kliff Kingsbury, who was fired from Texas Tech after a 5-7 campaign in 2018. Kingsbury is supposedly developing a fast-paced offensive system that will work best around Murray’s skill sets. Trying to guess either coach or player’s collegiate abilities will translate to the NFL is a total crap shoot, but we’re playing the odds and not investing a lot of fantasy hope here.
The one positive of Murray, from a fantasy perspective, is that he is a lock to start from day 1. Where Haskins and Jones will have to actually win the job in the preseason or later, Murray will be thrown out to the dogs immediately.
Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
Early in the year Lock was originally projected to go mid-first round, but ended up slipping to the 2nd when the Broncos traded up to take him with the 42nd pick of the draft. It’s a good sign when a team trades up to take a player, because it shows their belief and desire to have them. With that said, they also weren’t ready to commit to betting the farm on him with a first rounder. It leads us to believe that, barring injury or total collapse, Joe Flacco will be entrenched as the starter and Lock will sitting on the bench for most of the season.
Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders
Jacobs is the consensus #1 rookie right now. Although, unlike last year’s #1 consensus Saquon Barkley, Jacobs isn’t a freakish talent and comes packed with a couple of question marks. His straight-line speed has been called into question, after performing had a rather slow 40-time during the combine (4.6). He also has a relatively short proven record, as he didn’t really come onto the scene until late in his Junior year.
With that said, he’s the best rookie running back in his class. He has incredible vision, and is a no-nonsense back that’s capable of pounding the ball into the end zone (he had 14 TDs in his Senior year at Alabama). The Raiders are also a perfect scenario for his strengths, and should be the featured back in a beneficial Jon Gruden offense. His current ADP is around the late-2nd/early-3rd round of fantasy drafts. That’s about as early as we would recommend taking him in a re-draft league as well.
David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
Montgomery is a back who excels at both running and a receiving. He amassed over 2,800 scrimmage yards and 24 touchdowns his last two years in at Iowa State. After traded up in the 3rd round to take him, Bear’s coach Matt Nagy stated, “He has the hands. He’s a three-down back. He’s everything we were looking for.” This sort of confidence bodes well for Montgomery.
While the Bears split a lot of carries between Howard and Cohen last year, a lot of that was due to their lack of faith in Howard — who they traded away in the offseason. Cohen is an amazing all-around talent, but and undersized back who will likely take a more change of pace role, leaving way for Montgomery to acquire the majority of volume. He’s also a real value right now, going around the mid-4th round of most fantasy drafts.
Darrell Henderson, L.A. Rams
At 5’8 and 208lbs, Henderson reminds us of Maurice Jones-Drew (who was listed as 5'8 205lbs when he was first came in the league). Also like MJD, Henderson is an explosive running back with big play ability. The biggest question marks for smaller stature backs like him are their abilities in pass protection and overall play balance. If he can’t pick up these things quickly, a trust issue could leave him with undesirable playing time. The answers to these questions become clearer when pre-season rolls around, but prior to having that insight adds more risk to taking him in your draft.
If Henderson gains the confidence of the Rams coaching staff early, he will be in a great position fantasy wise. Todd Gurley is having significant injury issues, and it’s near certain that his use will be limited. The Rams are a dynamic, high-scoring offense, that will lend great opportunity to Henderson’s fantasy potential.
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have a plethora of mediocre talent with Jordan Howard, Wendell Smallwood, and Corey Clement. The picture for most is that he will get lost in the pack, however, we firmly disagree with that notion. Clement could continue to hampered by injury through training camp. Howard, well…we have as much faith in Howard as the Bears did (very little). The Eagles could likely use Howard in a more utility/goal-line role similar to LeGarrette Blount circa 2017. While the Eagles haven’t had a featured running back since way back in their LeSean McCoy days, a lot of that is due to the lack of talent they’ve had at the position. The Eagles see Sanders as a versatile player with good ball skills and that can catch the ball out of the backfield. If he can get healthy from his OTA injuries, he has the talent and ability to establish a feature role.
Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills
An accomplished small school back, Singletary had a horrendous combine performance that contributed to his draft stock falling. With McCoy, Gore, and TJ Yeldon all crowding the Buffalo backfield this year, it’s going to take a lot of work and luck for Singletary to break free from the pack. He may be worthy of a lottery pick selection for Dynasty leagues, but wait until the last rounds to gamble on him in re-draft leagues.
Keep an eye on Damien Harris (New England Patriots). The Patriots already have a lot of talent at the running back position, but couldn’t pass up on investing a 3rd round pick in him. He was a consistently productive back at Alabama, a program repeatedly pumping out quality running backs into the NFL.
Mark Ingram is slated to be the starter in Baltimore, but they plan to again utilize a run-heavy offense, so expect Justice Hill to have plenty of opportunities to take the field. Ingram will be 30 year’s old come December, and so easing his workload with Hill as relief makes a lot of sense.
A touchdown machine at Kentucky (he scored 48 TDs in three seasons), Benny Snell Jr has good size and is a physical runner with solid athletic ability. The Steelers have an incredibly run friendly offense and o-line. It seems like they could plug-in any back and they’ll be amazing fantasy performers. For this reason alone, Benny Snell Jr. is worth gambling a late-round pick on.