Fantasy Football: 2016 Draft Grades And Rookie Analysis
Welcome to the NFL’s lull period. To some, we call it “summer.” To others, we call it “desperately waiting for training camp to open in July.” A big trend of the post-NFL draft is to meticulously grade each teams’ selections from April, with no context of how the players will actually perform. But I come with solutions. While I believe draft grades for 2017 are a complete waste of time, I do think looking back at the 2016 draft is a great use of our time. There are actual results to go over, and less of Mel Kiper’s hair.
It’s a strange phenomenon to arbitrarily grade teams based on Mel Kiper’s (or similar) scale. These guys have genuinely no idea what teams have in store, and are at best, holdover entertainment until the real action comes in the late summer.
Even better, we can look specifically at each teams’ 2016 draft class and grade them based on their Fantasy performance, and take a short look at the future prospects of each player.
It’s an interesting exercise too. You’ll see teams that are trending downwards, like the Chicago Bears, actually having a good draft, in terms of your Fantasy needs. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers are a well established offenses that draft their needs very well, but both didn’t get a great grade by any means.
Do note, we are only looking at standard Fantasy positions. Offensive lines, punters, and individual defensive players need not apply. The usual A-F system will be used, and some teams will get an N/A because they didn’t draft anyone that plays in a Fantasy-relevant position.
2016 Draft Grades
- RD 3: TE Austin Hooper
- RD 7: WR Devin Fuller
The Falcons’ electric offense added Austin Hooper in the third round of the 2016 draft. From a Fantasy perspective, he didn’t light up the scoreboard, but he was a consistent threat for their offense. They tended to use a combination of Austin Hooper, Levine Toilolo, and Jacob Tamme, resulting in a somewhat lackluster Fantasy season for all three. Hooper led the trio with three touchdowns and 271 yards in 14 games. He also managed to pull in 19 receptions. I anticipate the Falcons will have bigger plans for Hooper in 2017 with Tamme’s departure.
Devin Fuller did not see the field during the 2016 season. With the current Falcons’ receiving threats, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
- RD 4: WR Chris Moore
- RD 4: RB Kenneth Dixon
- RD 6: RB Keenan Reynolds
I believe the Ravens have a future starter in Kenneth Dixon, hiding behind Terrance West and now Danny Woodhead. With a late season emergence, Dixon showed flexibility in a crowded backfield. Hauling in 30 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown, Dixon was probably Joe Flacco’s best receiving option coming out of the backfield last season. Danny Woodhead might just cut into those numbers, so watch out. Kenneth Dixon also added 382 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Wide receiver Chris Moore didn’t have as much luck. While he appeared in 15 games, he only managed seven receptions for 46 yards. Moore also ran the ball three times for 19 yards. Running back/wide receiver Keenan Reynolds had no impact.
- RD 4: QB Cardale Jones
- RD 5: RB Jonathan Williams
- RD 6: WR Kolby Listenbee
Hopefully, none of the Bills’ victims of the 2016 draft were rostered by your Fantasy teams. Williams only saw 27 attempts, 94 yards, and one lonely touchdown. Cardale Jones didn’t register much more than single a late game appearance. Listenbee was injured early in the season, but is very,very fast. He may make a mark for the team as they look for more offensive help for Lesean McCoy and Sammy Watkins.
- RD 7: TE Beau Sandland
Beau Sandland didn’t stay long with Carolina, and is now a Green Bay Packer.
- RD 5: RB Jordan Howard
- RD 7: WR Daniel Braverman
Jordan Howard is now the focal point of the Bears’ offense, and likely the team with the departure of several key offensive pieces. There cannot be enough good things to say about the fifth rounder out of Indiana. 252 rushing attempts, 1,313 yards, and six touchdowns. If you managed to scout him out and roster him in your Fantasy Football leagues, you struck gold. Howard was usually a fantastic value in DFS as well. While the rest of the Bears were and are in limbo, Howard is a bright spot.
Not much can be said about Braverman, He only appeared in three games, and didn’t have any receptions.
- RD 2: WR Tyler Boyd
- RD 6: WR Cody Core
Tyler Boyd had a successful rookie season, but likely wasn’t on your Fantasy team unless you are playing in very deep leagues, or playing in a Dynasty league. Registering 54 receptions and 603 yards, Boyd helped fill the massive void left by A.J. Green. In this dynamic offense featuring touchdown machines Green and Tyler Eifert, Boyd may have to fight for touches in future seasons. But Boyd had a respectable season, and deserves to at least be on your radar in case of more injuries to Green, Eifert, or Brandon LaFell.
Cody Core performed admirably, finding four starts as well. His season totals of 17 receptions and 200 yards are a night on the town for A.J. Green. Considering the expectations we have for sixth rounders, he did well enough.
- RD 1 WR Corey Coleman
- RD 3 QB Cody Kessler
- RD 4 WR Ricardo Louis
- RD 4 TE Seth Devalve
- RD 5 WR Jordan Payton
- RD 5 WR Rashard Higgins
Corey Coleman flashed game-breaking speed, but had an unfortunate hand injury that hampered him for most of the season. I expect bigger things to come from him in an offense that has an opening left by Terrelle Pryor.
The Cody Kessler experiment was hopefully no where near your Fantasy team. His completion percentage of 65 and a 3:1 TD to interception ratio is respectable, especially for a rookie thrusted into a starting role. His season totals are not numbers that are useful in Fantasy terms, unless you find yourself desperate in a 2-QB or SuperFlex league. Another season competing for the starting position might give him some improvement.
Ricardo Louis and Seth Devalve both contributed marginally to one of the worst offenses in football. Don’t look to either for major roles moving forward. Jordan Payton and Rashard Higgins didn’t register much in their limited appearances.
- RD 1: RB Ezekiel Elliott
- RD 4: QB Dak Prescott
- RD 6: RB Darius Jackson
- RD 6: TE Rico Gathers
We all know how well the Cowboys did in the 2016 draft. All Ezekiel Elliott did last year was lead the league in rushing and ram his way into 15 touchdowns. He was a first round talent for your Fantasy league, and still exceeded expectations. He ran behind one of the top offensive lines in football and barring injury, will be a top pick in all Fantasy formats for quite some time.
Not to be outdone, Dak Prescott snagged rookie of the year honors in place of longtime starter Tony Romo. Don’t be surprised if he continues to improve on his 3,667 yard, 23 touchdown campaign. He was a great ground threat as well, punching in six touchdowns. At worst, Prescott was a great fill in for bye weeks and injuries last year. You wouldn’t have confused him for prime Peyton Manning or Tom Brady in your Fantasy league, but he certainly deserved every bit of praise he received. Prescott should certainly be considered in all formats moving forward.
Jackson and Gathers were irrelevant.
- RD 1: QB Paxton Lynch
- RD 4: RB Devontae Booker
Devontae Booker contributed in the Broncos’ stable of running backs, contributing 612 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, and another 31 receptions, 265 yards, and another touchdown through the air. An okay matchup-dependent flex play, Booker stole some looks from the lackluster C.J. Anderson. Look for that rivalry to continue into 2017.
Paxton Lynch lost out in the competition with Trevor Siemian last year, and only started two games. Not a Fantasy relevant play at the moment, but keep an eye on his development, as he certainly has the talent to be a legitimate Fantasy starter. I wouldn’t draft him, but if he wins the job, he could put up some solid sleeper-level numbers in an offense that has some talented weapons.
- RD 6: QB Jake Rudock
- RD 7: RB Dwayne Washington
Dwayne Washington got a couple of looks in a stocked Detroit offense. Seventh rounders usually don’t contribute much, so expectations should be low. Still, 100 touches and 327 total yards shows promise. Keep an eye on Washington in case of injuries.
As expected, Jake Rudock didn’t see the field in 2016.
Green Bay Packers
- RD 5: WR Trevor Davis
- Undrafted: WR Geronimo Allison
Geronimo Allison found 22 receptions and 202 yards in an offense that featured Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jared Cook, Ty Montgomery, and Davante Adams. That in itself is an accomplishment for the undrafted rookie. I don’t see Allison being a main Fantasy contributor in the most competitive WR corps in football. Trevor Davis didn’t get many looks either.
- RD 1: WR Will Fuller
- RD 3: WR Braxton Miller
- RD 4: RB Tyler Ervin
In an offense plagued by mediocre quarterbacking, Will Fuller still found 47 receptions and 635 yards. Fuller struggled with the more physical corners in the NFL, getting pushed around and having a difficult time getting out of press coverage. With DeAndre Hopkins getting double and triple teamed, I see Fuller getting more looks moving forward, especially if Deshaun Watson can provide stability at the quarterback position.
Braxton Miller and Tyler Ervin both had very limited roles in the Houston offense.
- RD 6: QB Brandon Allen
Allen did not play for the terrible Jacksonville offense.
Kansas City Chiefs
- RD 4: WR Demarcus Robinson
- RD 5: QB Kevin Hogan
- RD 5: WR/KR Tyreek Hill
Tyreek Hill was a jack-of-all-trades for Kansas City, putting up nine offensive touchdowns, and 860 yards on the ground and through the air. For Fantasy purposes, he was a must-own. If your leagues gave points for return yards and touchdowns, he was a great option. The KC D/ST was consistently one of the best Fantasy plays due to Hill’s electric returning abilities.
Hogan played relief duties for Alex Smith on occasion, but didn’t produce much. Demarcus Robinson has a very similar skillset compared to Hill and Jeremy Maclin, and got lost in the shuffle.
Los Angeles Chargers
- RD 2: TE Hunter Henry
Hiding in the shadow of the everlasting Antonio Gates lies Hunter Henry. He still managed 36 receptions and almost 500 yards. Eight touchdowns boosted his value as well. Henry will be a threat for the Chargers for years to come, and is the heir apparent to the future Hall of Famer. The Chargers have a lot of weapons for Philip Rivers to throw to in 2017, and Henry will certainly get some decent looks.
Las Angeles Rams
- RD 1: QB Jared Goff
- RD 4: TE Tyler Higbee
- RD 4: WR Pharoh Cooper
- RD 6: TE Temarrick Hemingway
- RD 6: WR Mike Thomas
In his seven starts, Jared Goff did little to justify his first overall selection. He needs more time in the oven. I hope you didn’t roster him in redraft leagues unless you literally couldn’t find anyone else. Dynasty leagues shouldn’t get rid of him quite yet, but be on the lookout for better options.
Tyler Higbee played a very minor role in the offense, snagging only 11 passes all season. Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas both struggled as well. Termarrick Hemmingway was non-existent from a Fantasy Standpoint.
- RD 3: RB Kenyan Drake
- RD 3: WR Leonte Carroo
- RD 6: WR Jakeem Grant
- RD 7: QB Brandon Doughty
- RD 7: TE Thomas Duarte
Kenyan Drake was the Fantasy highlight of the Dolphins’ 2016 draft. Not that that’s saying much. Drake only managed 33 rushing attempts and nine receptions. With 225 total yards and two touchdowns, he didn’t do much that would register any hype for Fantasy purposes. He’s currently third on their depth chart behind Jay Ajayi and Damien Williams.
Leonte Caroo had a 33% touchdown rate. Too bad he only caught three passes. Jakeem Grant got a single yard on one rushing attempt. Duarte only appeared in one game, and Brandon Doughty was non-existent.
- RD 1: WR Laquon Treadwell
- RD 6: WR Moritz Boehringer
- RD 6: TE David Morgan
When the Vikings drafted Treadwell with the 23rd overall selection in the 2016 draft, they were in need of a big bodied receiver that could go up and get the ball alongside Stefon Diggs. Treadwell did not provide any threat, to put it kindly. Instead, Minnesota native Adam Thielen had a breakout season. Treadwell found himself lost in the depth chart, and will have to have a major resurgence in his 2017 season to avoid the early “bust” label.
Boehringer made the practice squad, which is exactly where he needed to be. German professional football isn’t competitive to NCAA standards, and he needed a lot of work. Good story, but he isn’t helping anyone’s Fantasy teams anytime soon.
David Morgan is trapped behind Kyle Rudolph until further notice.
New England Patriots
- RD 3: QB Jacoby Brissett
- RD 4: WR Malcolm Mitchell
- RD 7: WR Devin Lucien
While playing spot duty for Jimmy Garoppolo (who was playing spot duty for Tom Brady), Brissett performed well. Of course, coach Bill Belichick could make anyone look serviceable. Brisset averaged 200 yards per game, and wasn’t a complete dumpster fire. He isn’t replacing Brady anytime soon.
Malcolm Mitchell came on strong towards the end of 2016, notching just over 300 yards and four touchdowns in the last six games. I like him in the Patriots’ offense moving forward, and see some decent potential. He’s currently an okay flex play, but he certainly has upside.
Devin Lucien was a non-factor.
New Orleans Saints
- RD 2: WR Michael Thomas
- RD 7: RB Daniel Lasco
The next Brees-fueled wide receiver is going to be Michael Thomas. Sean Payton and Brees make everyone look good, but Thomas has some skills to boot. Thomas was a bonafide starter for much of the season, tearing up defenses and having some huge games. Look for that to continue in 2017.
Daniel Lasco contributed a resounding 43 total yards.
New York Giants
- RD 2: WR Sterling Shepard
- RD 5: RB Paul Perkins
- RD 6: TE Jerell Adams
I had huge hopes for Sterling Shepard going into last season. He was an okay Fantasy option, and flashed game-breaking potential. 65 receptions and eight touchdowns is nothing to scoff at for a rookie. With Odell Beckham Jr. demanding respect from corners and kicking nets alike, look for Shepard to have a bigger role in a high-powered Giants Offense.
Giants running back Paul Perkins found a solid place in their stable of running backs, including Shane Vereen and Rashad Jennings. I see a bigger place in the offense for Perkins with Jennings’ departure. He should improve on his 618 total yards, but is still waiting for his first NFL touchdown.
Jerell Adams also contributed well for a sixth round TE, pulling in 16 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.
New York Jets
- RD 2: QB Christian Hackenberg
- RD 7: WR Charone Peake
Peake started one game, and found himself with 19 receptions for 186 yards in the terrible Jets offense. Not bad for a seventh rounder, but not good for Fantasy purposes. Christian Hackenberg didn’t play in the 2016 season, but it looks like the Jets are ready for him to helm the ship in 2017.
- RD 4: QB Connor Cook
- RD 5: RB DeAndre Washington
In playing relief for the injured Derek Carr, Connor Cook had a 75% completion percentage, and a TD. He won’t be a starter, but if Carr goes down, Cook could be useful in 2-QB or SuperFlex leagues.
DeAndre Washington pulled in 582 all-purpose yards and a pair of touchdowns. Decent enough numbers, but Marshawn Lynch is coming to town this season, so it might be a tall order to build on that success.
- RD 1: QB Carson Wentz
- RD 5: RB Wendell Smallwood
Wentz was a perfectly serviceable backup quarterback in most Fantasy formats, and certainly outperformed his contemporary Jared Goff. Hopefully he can add to his 16 touchdowns next year. He is a good Dynasty prospect, and should be drafted in most 2-QB leagues.
The Eagles didn’t utilize Wendell Smallwood too much last season, failing to register 400 total yards. He ran for one lonely touchdown.
- RD 7: WR Demarcus Ayers
Ayers ran for -12 yards, and pulled in six receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown in two games late last season. The Steelers have one of the best offenses in football, so I don’t see much space for Ayers in the future.
San Fransisco 49ers
- RD 6: QB Jeff Driskel
- RD 6: RB Kelvin Taylor
- RD 6: WR Aaron Burbridge
The 49ers had one of the worst offenses in football last season for Fantasy purposes. It was brutal to watch most weeks, and the only rookie to even register points was Burbridge. He only garnered seven receptions for 88 yards throughout the 16 games.
- RD 3: RB C.J. Prosise
- RD 3: TE Nick Vannett
- RD 5: RB Alex Collins
- RD 7: WR Kenny Lawler
- RD 7: RB Zac Brooks
Both Prosise and Collins were given about 40 touches all season. Prosise performed a little better, gaining 172 yards on the ground, and 208 through the air. Collins had 125 on the ground, with 84 through the air. Both now have Eddie Lacy to fend off.
Nick Vannett was not much of a contributor, and Kenny Lawler and Zac Brooks didn’t see the field.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- RD 2: K Roberto Aguayo
The lone kicker in the 2016 draft was drafted in the SECOND round. He went 22-for-31 on field goals and 32-for-34 on extra points. Hopefully he bounces back in year two.
- RD 2: RB Derrick Henry
- RD 5: WR Tajae Sharpe
If it weren’t for the pesky Demarco Murray, Derrick Henry would have likely seen more action. The big bruiser of a back is punishing and surprisingly quick. He made the most of what was given to him, pounding away 490 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and adding 137 through the air. Expect Henry to improve in his second year, and produce even more if Murray goes down.
Tajae Sharpe took advantage of an improving Titans offense, snagging 41 passes for 522 yards. He faded toward the end of the season, hitting the rookie wall. Keep an eye on him in dynasty leagues and DFS, his role may expand in the Titans offense.
- RD 1: WR Josh Doctson
- RD 6: QB Nate Sudfeld
- RD 7: RB Keith Marshall
Another massive disappointment came in the form of Josh Doctson last season. A big play threat for TCU, he struggled to see any action in his first season as Doctson was never really healthy for the entire season. Two receptions for 66 yards is brutal, and he’s certainly talented enough to make a difference in a wide-open offense led by Kirk Cousins. Nate Sudfeld and Keith Marshall didn’t do much better.
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