Editor’s Note: Don’t see every rookie RB covered here? Make sure you check out the Rookie Landing Spots: RBs Part 2 by Travis Strickland
Leonard Fournette to Jacksonville Jaguars
Round 1, Pick 4 (4th Overall)
Tom Coughlin is the new executive vice president of football operations for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The draft pick of Leonard Fournette has Coughlin written all over it. With him in town, look for the Jaguars offense to shift to a more run-heavy unit this season (They even drafted a Fullback as well). After investing premium draft capital into Fournette, he should be the Jaguars’ workhorse back from day one just like Ezekiel Elliott was last year for the Dallas Cowboys. Deuces Yeldon and Ivory, it’s been real. Although Fournette’s situation isn’t nearly as ideal as Elliott’s was, you can still expect immediate returns.
Fournette is a monster at 240 pounds who showed the ability to run over defenders and consistently fall forward for an extra yard or two in college. He has scary burst in the open field for a man his size and even possesses some jump cut and spin move abilities. Fournette flashed his upside in 2015 as a sophomore before being limited last season due to injuries. Projected to be healthy moving forward until we see otherwise, Fournette projects as an early draft choice in all redraft and dynasty leagues. Don’t overlook the upgrades Jacksonville has made this offseason on the defensive side of the ball. That unit’s success should put Fournette in more favorable game scripts in 2017 than you realize.
Dalvin Cook to Minnesota Vikings
Round 2, Pick 9 (41st Overall)
This was not a very favorable landing spot, at least in the short term. Earlier this offseason, Minnesota signed Latavius Murray to a 3 year $15,000,000 contract. Thus, Dalvin Cook’s immediate outlook isn’t as clear as Fournette’s outlook is. Although I don’t think Murray is very good, it won’t matter if he continues to receive opportunities and take touches away from Cook. Plus, the Vikings’ offensive line was horrible last year and they didn’t do a ton to upgrade it this offseason.
Still, Cook’s college production in a Power 5 Conference cannot be overlooked. Cook has the ability to be a dual-threat in both the run and pass games and the premium draft capital invested in him should give him numerous opportunities to succeed. Cook projects as a top 6 selection in rookie dynasty drafts and should be an interesting mid-round selection in both redraft and dynasty leagues.
Joe Mixon to Cincinnati Bengals
Round 2, Pick 16 (48th Overall)
Joe Mixon was the most talented running back in this year’s draft. He plays with good vision, is elusive, and agile. He has the ability to make free defenders miss immediately after receiving a handoff, can make defenders miss while moving laterally, and has a jump cut and casual running style to his game reminiscent of Le’Veon Bell. Plus, his receiving abilities are on par with Christian McCaffrey’s, making him a valuable dual-threat.
Mixon’s major concern was his landing spot after a horrendous act put him in trouble with the law (If you don’t personally want to invest in Mixon, we totally understand that). However, Mixon’s civil lawsuit has since been settled out of court, he was drafted in the second round, and he went to a team that has proven they do not care about off the field issues. Thus, Mixon’s arrow is pointing way up after the draft. The draft capital Cincinnati invested in him suggests he will get to play immediately and his upside is very high as well. Mixon is currently my 1.04 in rookie dynasty drafts behind only Corey Davis, Christian McCaffrey, and Leonard Fournette. He’ll be a very intriguing high upside mid-round selection in both redraft and dynasty leagues.
Kareem Hunt to Kansas City Chiefs
Round 3, Pick 22 (86th Overall)
Get to know the name Kareem Hunt right now. This was one of the most intriguing and exciting “under the radar” fantasy football landing spots in the entire draft. Despite posting poor athletic measurables at the combine, Hunt’s tape and college production are some of the best in the class outside of the “top 4 prospects.” A natural pass catcher, Hunt has a chance to be a three-down back on a very good team with a head coach, Andy Reid, that has proven time and time again he can turn dual-threat backs into elite fantasy assets. Hunt plays with good vision, is elusive, shows good jump-cut ability, and plays with an attitude that helps him break tackles and fight for extra yards.
This landing spot locks Hunt into the back half of the first round in most dynasty rookie drafts as he is now an extremely interesting buy in dynasty leagues. For 2017, Spencer Ware projects to be the starter heading into the season and Charcandrick West should also continue to see the field at times. Thus, Hunt’s redraft value remains totally up in the air. Yet, this is a player you’ll want to be paying attention to throughout training camp and the preseason. For now, he’s a very interesting handcuff.
D’Onta Foreman to Houston Texans
Round 3, Pick 25 (89th Overall)
D’Onta Foreman ran for over 2,000 yards in his final season at Texas and then ran a 4.5 40 yard dash (94th percentile Speed Score according to Player Profiler) at 233 pounds during the draft process. However, he was a one year wonder in college, is an extremely limited pass catcher, and doesn’t possess any special running back traits. Just like in his final college season, Foreman has the ability to be a fantasy factor if he receives starting running back volume. However, barring injury, the odds of that happening in 2017 are low as Foreman projects to back up Lamar Miller. Still, Miller was disappointing last season as a workhorse and his workload is almost guaranteed to be reduced this season. Foreman projects as a second round rookie dynasty pick and is a redraft handcuff worth keeping an eye on in 2017.
James Conner to Pittsburgh Steelers
Round 3, Pick 41 (105th Overall)
Looking for a feel-good story to root for? James Conner has got you covered. Conner overcame both a cancer diagnosis and a season-ending knee injury in college and has now been drafted in the third round of the NFL Draft. Conner will have no fantasy value as long as Le’Veon Bell is in town and healthy. However, Bell is currently not under contract past 2017 and has suffered multiple serious knee injuries already in his short NFL career. Conner’s college production is extremely impressive, especially when all his hardships are factored in. Plus, the Steelers are one of the best situations for fantasy running backs in the league. They have one of the best offenses in football and historically have only ridden one running back under Mike Tomlin. Bell owners will want to find a way to roster Conner. All other fantasy owners will want to keep him on their radars.
Samaje Perine to Washington Redskins
Round 4, Pick 7 (114th Overall)
1) Rob Kelley
2) Chris Thompson
This is an extremely exciting landing spot for one of my favorite running backs in the draft. Samaje Perine has a chance to be the starting running back for Washington from day one. Undrafted free agent Rob Kelley is an average talent at best and really only started last season out of necessity once Washington realized Matt Jones was #NotGood. Not only is opportunity up for grabs, but Washington also possesses one of the best offenses for fantasy purposes as well.
Perine is built like a bowling ball, evident by his 92nd percentile Body Mass Index according to Player Profiler, and he plays like it. His compact body helps him play with good balance and allows for short choppy and efficient steps. He’s a physical back that runs with power and finishes runs seeking out contact. He’s a no nonsense runner that gets North and South very quickly. Plus, he has no issues blocking and is pretty good at it.
Just like with Kareem Hunt, this landing spot locks Perine into the back half of the first round in most dynasty rookie drafts. He may lack the same dual-threat upside as Hunt, but he has a better chance of immediately being a fantasy factor in year one. This is definitely a guy fantasy owners will want to keep an eye on throughout training camp and the preseason. Perine could help you win your league as early as year one.
Joe Williams to San Francisco 49ers
Round 4, Pick 15 (121st Overall)
Joe Williams has a bit of an interesting backstory. Last season, he left his team and quit the sport of football as he worked on his mental health while reportedly trying to come to terms with the death of his sister. Yet, he came back to the team a month later and not only finished out the 2016 season, but had very solid production as well. Unfortunately, Williams joins an extremely crowded backfield. Carlos Hyde is the returning starter, Tim Hightower and Kyle Juszczyk were brought in in free agency, and Kapri Bibbs was traded for during the draft. Joe Williams isn’t on the redraft radar and projects as a later round pick in rookie dynasty drafts.
Jamaal Williams to the Green Bay Packers
Round 4, Pick 28 (134th Overall)
1) Ty Montgomery
2) Aaron Jones
3) Devante Mays
While it’s not a great sign the Packers drafted three running backs to go along with Ty Montgomery , it is noteworthy Jamaal Williams was the first back they selected. Despite all the competition in Green Bay, Williams is a player to get to know immediately.
Head coach Mike McCarthy has a history of preferring a balanced offensive attack but was forced to abandon that style of play last season due to circumstances, not a whimsical change of philosophy. Williams provides McCarthy with a bruising early down back he’s been lacking ever since Eddie Lacy went down due to injury early in the 2016 season. Williams playing on the Packers with Aaron Rodgers is enough for me to be interested but Ty Montgomery’s numerous injuries last season and the fact he is more of a change of pace and pass catching back tell me both could be relevant this season (See Eddie Lacy and James Starks in 2015). A lot will have to shake out, especially with extra competition on the roster, but for now Williams is a late second to third round dynasty rookie pick and an interesting late round flyer in redraft and dynasty leagues.
Wayne Gallman to New York Giants
Round 4, Pick 34 (140th Overall)
Wayne Gallman falls into an interesting landing spot for two reasons: 1) The Giants are one of the more exciting fantasy football offenses and 2) Opportunity is up for grabs as Paul Perkins doesn’t project to have the starting job completely locked up. Despite Gallman being a 4th round pick, Perkins was actually drafted later, being a 5th round pick one year ago. Gallman is absolutely worth keeping an eye on moving forward.
Brian Hill to Atlanta Falcons
Round 5, Pick 12 (156th Overall)
Barring Injury, Brian Hill will have zero fantasy relevance this season. Still, his college production as a workhorse back is enough to have me intrigued. Remember the name just in case but for now, Hill is nothing more than a late-round flier in dynasty rookie drafts.
Jeremy McNichols to Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Round 5, Pick 18 (162nd Overall)
I’m surprised Jeremy McNichols lasted this long in the NFL Draft. He’s definitely a name you’ll want to get to know moving forward for fantasy purposes. McNichols was a workhorse back at Boise State despite being a former wide receiver. He’s a very good pass catcher and his receiving skills are very apparent on film. He was utilized all over the field in college as the coaching staff clearly was working hard to get McNichols the ball as much as possible. McNichols landed in a very good offense and possesses high fantasy upside if given the opportunities. He’s athletic and has a chance to be a dual-threat playmaker.
McNichols is more interesting in dynasty right now as he likely won’t be fantasy relevant in year one. He projects as a second to third-round pick in rookie dynasty drafts. Still, you never know. Doug Martin is suspended for the first three games of the season and his future with Tampa Bay isn’t guaranteed. Understand McNichols possesses a skill set that can be very relevant in fantasy, especially in PPR leagues, and keep him on you radar moving forward.
Devante Mays to Green Bay Packers
Round 7, Pick 20 (238th Overall)
Devante Mays dealt with injuries last season. Now healthy, per Rotoworld he ran 4.52 at Utah State’s Pro Day with an explosive 40.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-9 broad jump. Still, Ty Montgomery is returning and the Packers drafted two running backs ahead of Mays in this draft. He’s not on the redraft radar and likely won’t ever pay dividends in dynasty leagues either. There’s nothing to see here.
Don’t see every rookie RB covered here? Make sure you check out the Rookie Landing Spots: RBs Part 2 by Travis Strickland