Go ahead and admit it, you’re looking for your fantasy football stars of the future already.
Isn’t that why we love the draft? With the best day of the year almost here, it’s about time to unveil my early fantasy rankings before any of these prospects are drafted.
I see this as the most unbiased look at these players and a great head-start on my all-rookie fantasy rankings.
This will be followed by a post-draft top-50 no later than the 1st of May.
1. CJ Spiller, RB Clemson - The guy can turn just about any play into a touchdown. There’s no question about his ability in the open field and he’s likely to produce right away, which gives him a slight edge over Best with his first round grade.
2. Jahvid Best, RB California - I’m sticking to what I said about him back in 2008. “If that kid is available in my fantasy drafts, I’m not thinking twice about taking him #1 overall.” If it weren’t for a nasty neck injury last season, he’d be a lock for the first round.
3. Ryan Mathews, RB Fresno State - I’m not this guy’s biggest fan but he continues to do everything right after a dynamic 2009 season in which he lead the nation in rushing.
4. Dez Bryant, WR Oklahoma State - I love Dez Bryant and if we’re talking PPR, he might be even higher up on this list. I think he’s far and away one of the best athletes as well as football players available this year.
5. Montario Hardesty, RB Tennessee - I love this kid and while some people see an injury prone jack of all trade but master of none, I see a player who will be a three down back. He’s a kid that possesses all the traits of a great back with his excellent foot work, stopping/starting ability, and his explosive power.
6. Jonathan Dwyer, RB Georgia Tech - This guy runs with a lot of power and looked great blowing up defenders at the collegiate level, but he can also run right by people with his deceptive speed. Could be a special back.
7. Ben Tate, RB Auburn - Tate is very explosive and he’s an all-around good athlete. He has the ability to be a good change of pace guy right away, but he’s got the upside to be much more than that. Great character guy.
8. Toby Gerhart, RB Stanford - Only Ryan Mathews could outproduce Gerhart in 2009. While Toby Gerhart won’t be dominating defenses like he did at the collegiate level, he will be a very effective two down back that can move the chains
9. Joe McKnight, RB Southern California - McKnight entered USC with a lot of expectations and left them largely unfulfilled. He is a Reggie Bush type but he doesn’t possess the same top gear or suddenness that Bush did coming out of the program. Still, McKnight has a nice skill set and could be effective in the right situation.
10. Dexter McCluster, RB Mississippi - I know that he has a chance to make an instant impact, but at 175 lbs I have my doubts about his long term durability. He does have excellent lateral ability to make defenders miss and should be bumped up the rankings if you’re in a re-draft PPR format.
11. Demaryius Thomas, WR Georgia Tech - This kid is a complete roll of the dice, but he’s chiseled from a slab of marble and he runs like greyhound. This pick is all up-side because right now Thomas is a project. Still, the potential is there to be an all-pro receiver that can create after the catch and win jump ball situations with ease.
12. LaGarrette Blount, RB Oregon - Everybody knows about the suspension and what Blount has gone through, but I see a kid that still has a lot of ability. He’s got great size and could be a potential red-zone threat if he finds the right team.
13. Arelious Benn, WR Illinois - This guy has a ton of potential but didn’t get to show any of it at Illinois, since Juice Williams is more suited for the custodial services as opposed to playing quarterback. Benn can win jump ball situations, create after the catch, and he has the ability to separate deep.
14. Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma - I know that this is WAY late to snag the top overall pick, but let’s be honest. . . it’s going to be a rough start for Bradford. I love his intangibles and accuracy but there’s a very strong possibility that he’ll take a while to be fantasy relevant, IF he ever gets there.
15. Anthony Dixon, RB Mississippi State - Dixon is a brick house that tacklers have been known to bounce off of. He’s got prototype size and strength but he doesn’t really have a top gear. He’s got decent vision to be a solid two down back at the next level.
16. Jermaine Greshem, TE Oklahoma - It might be way too early to select a tight end for some folks but this guy would have been a top-15 pick if he had entered last year’s draft. Instead, coming off of a knee injury, he’ll be a top-25 pick this season. He’s got great hands, deep speed, and tremendous jumping ability.
17. Jimmy Clausen, QB Notre Dame - There’s a lot of people that will tell me I’m crazy for ranking Clausen this low, but I’m not crazy about either 1st round QB from this class and I don’t see long term value here. He’s still going to be a starter at some point very soon, so he justifies top-20 value in any dynasty draft based on that opportunity.
18. Brandon LaFell, WR Louisiana State - LaFell has prototype size and leaping ability, but he lacks top-end speed. While he might struggle to separate deep, he’s got the musculature to be a quality possession receiver and he’s such a good blocker that he’ll be on the field early and often to help in the running game.
19. Golden Tate, WR Notre Dame - Tate has great athletic ability and was a former draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks out of high school. He’s good great speed and is a converted running back, which gives him great after the catch ability. Needs to refine his route running.
20. Aaron Hernandez, TE Florida - I love this guy. He’s a big, mean, tough SOB that can flat out fly when he gets a head of steam. He’s got great hands and he could be the best deep threat from the tight end position this year. Reminds scouts of Dallas Clark the way he beats coverage and catches with ease.
21. Marshawn Gilyard, WR Cincinnati - This guy lost his scholarship due to poor grades but worked two side jobs to pay out of state tuition and got his grades back up to return to the Bearcats and lead them in receiving the last two seasons. He is deceptively quick and can gain separation on most any corner he faces.
22. Jordan Shipley, WR Texas - He’s going to be a solid pro with his great work ethic, terrific route running ability, and his excellent hands. While Shipley doesn’t have great size or speed, he makes up for it with tenacity, determination, and grit. Should be a solid pro.
23. Rob Gronkowski, TE Arizona - Were it not for a neck injury that ended his 2009 season, Gronkowski might have been the first tight end drafted in this class. He has great size at 6′5″ and nice soft hands to haul in every pass that comes his way. Also has after the catch ability.
24. Damian Williams, WR Southern California - Williams is a crafty route runner that might be a nice fit as a slot early on that could develop into a great complimentary receiver. He knows how to make plays in the open field and he has reliable hands.
25. Andre Roberts, WR Citadel - Roberts is a great route runner and a very smart receiver. He doesn’t have ideal height, but he makes up for it with his speed and his moves in the open field. He can consistently create space between his defender to give his quarterback an opening.
26. Carlton Mitchell, WR South Florida - This guy is rising up draft boards and there’s no wonder as to why. He’s got great size, speed, and leaping ability. He will high point the ball and come down with the contested pass. Has a great chance at developing into a solid #1 receiver.
27. Dennis Pitta, TE BYU - He might have the best hands in the draft. He is a mature savvy hands catcher the is very reliable and knows how to find openings in coverage. Pitta will be an asset to whatever team that drafts him.
28. Jacoby Ford, WR Clemson - This guy is a flat out burner. He’s got a top gear that most people just don’t have but he knows how to set people up in open space, making Ford a deadly weapon after the catch. Should be a dynamite slot player that will create mismatches in the secondary.
29. Dezmon Briscoe, WR Kansas - He’s a big target with great hands but his deep speed is questionable. He’s got great career production and his film suggests that he’ll be a primary receiver at the next level. There’s a lot of upside for this kid, it depends on where he goes though.
30. Colt McCoy, QB Texas - I’m not as high on him but, once again, he’ll have a great opportunity to start with his marquee name. McCoy is a winner and he’s got an accurate throw, but some see him as a limited passer as far as improvisation. Still, he’s going to get a chance to start sooner rather than later.
31. Danario Alexander, WR Missouri - This kid is a tall drink of water but he is not a burner. His ability to leap over defenders and high point the ball will be highly coveted but it the health of his knee remains to be seen. Had a spectacular 2009 season.
32. Riley Cooper, WR Florida - I’m a big fan of Cooper because of his work ethic and athletic ability. His hands are solid but he’s also got great size and phenomenal concentration to make the most difficult catch look routine. Very good upside here.
33. Jimmy Graham, TE Miami - This guy played one year of football at Miami but was an instant hit with the coaching staff and his teammates. His size, leaping ability, and soft hands give him the upside to be a great pass-catching tight end at the next level. He has long arms and could be another power forward turned tight end.
34. Blair White, WR Michigan State - This guy is one of my favorites this off-season. He is a former walk-on that earned a scholarship and worked his way into the starting lineup as the Spartan’s number one wide-out. He’s got great size and very deceptive speed but his work ethic is tremendous. He should be a very good pro in a few years.
35. Eric Decker, WR Minnesota - If it weren’t for a horrendous foot injury last year, Decker would have been easily ranked in the top-10 of wide receivers in this class. He has prototype size and he has great hand-eye coordination. Decker has great run after the catch ability and he’s a smart player.
36. Dan LeFevour, QB Central Michigan - If I had my GM hat on for a real NFL team, this is the guy who I would be targeting in the mid-rounds. He is a fiery competitor and he displays nice zip on his passes. He has the intangibles to lead a team and the smarts to avoid mistakes. He’ll need to watch and learn for a year or two, but could be a very serviceable starter with some time.
37. Charles Scott, RB Louisiana State - This guy might be destined for fullback, but they don’t call him Chuck the truck for no reason. He’s a pile mover that has great size, runs low to the ground, and knows how to punish would be tacklers.
38. Mike Williams, WR Syracuse - There’s no denying the talent level because Williams can flat out play but scouts have taken completely off the board in some cases because of his question marks, motivation being the primary one. Williams is very creative after the catch and can make plays, but he’s an upside only pick.
39. Taylor Price, WR Ohio - This guy has been racing up draft boards league-wide and it’s for good reason. Price has elite speed and the upside to be a difference maker at the next level. His school may be small but his talent is not.
40. Ed Dickson, TE Oregon - This guy brings a lot of athletic ability to the table and can really turn the jets on for a big man. He remains a very raw player as far as route running and blocking are concerned but if he can improve those aspects of his game, he’ll be a starter for a long time.
41. Marcus Easley, WR Connecticut - This guy is a freak. He’s a former walk-on that impressed coached with his determination, size, and speed. At 6′2″ 215 lbs, he runs a 4.4 forty and he’s very explosive laterally. While he was only a one-year producer in college, he has the upside to be a tremendous pro.
42. Tony Moeaki, TE Iowa - This guy is a great pass catcher and a very good athlete. The only knock on him is a lack of durability, as he’s missed a lot of game action. When he’s healthy, he presents miss-matches all over the field. Definitely a great prospect to monitor.
43. Jeremy Williams, WR Tulane - Williams is probably one of the most underrated pass-catchers in this draft. His hands are excellent and he’s a crafty route runner. While Williams doesn’t have elite speed or size, he’s a smart player who knows how to get open. Simply put, he’s a football player.
44. Andre Dixon, RB Connecticut - He’s got some creative moves in space and has decent hands out of the backfield. Dixon has good vision but lacks a real top gear to run away from defenders. Has good feet and can make defenders miss.
45. Freddie Barnes, WR Bowling Green - Barnes may not be the fastest or the strongest player but the kid knows how to get open. While he doesn’t display the best hands out there, he’s a very determined player that shows up on game day. He’s a gamer.
46. Anthony McCoy, TE Southern California - McCoy has the prototype size, speed, and hands to be a quality pass catching tight end. He is a much better route runner than most scouts give him credit for but will need to improve his lack-luster blocking if he wants to get playing time.
47. John Skelton, QB Fordham - Skelton has prototype size and arm strength at 6′5″, he can flat out chuck it a country mile but there are question marks about his leadership abilities as well as his maturity. While he does lack mobility and played against suspect competition, Skelton’s upside is just as good as any in this terrible class.
48. Kyle Williams, WR Arizona State - Williams has a lot of upside with his deceptive speed and great concentration. He has return ability and he’s a very good playmaker after the catch. With his special teams ability and solid hands, Williams could be this year’s version of Johnnie Knox if given the chance.
49. Tony Pike, QB Cincinnati - Pike is looked at by some as a potential franchise QB but his lack of mobility is going to kill him at the next level. He does show good arm strength and a very nice over the shoulder delivery, but he’ll be a limited passer in the NFL.
50. David Gettis, WR Baylor - One of my favorite deep sleepers this season. With suspect QB help, Gettis didn’t get a chance to showcase all of his skills but he’s a player dripping with upside. He’s got prototype size, great speed, and excellent leaping ability. He is an explosive runner and could be a special player in a few years if given the time.