The 2016 Preseason RotoViz Rookie Rankings

Shortly after the NFL draft, we got together and ranked the 2016 rookies. Consider this an enhanced preseason update. These aren’t just rankings – they’re projections, based on all the offseason information we’ve absorbed, and generated by the Projection Machine.

Our writers have a proprietary version of the Projection Machine, which we use to build top-down team and player projections. I culled the database for players ranked by ten or more writers, then isolated the rookies. Here’s how we project their inaugural performance.

The Rankings

The first thing you’ll notice is that there are only 24 players. Our initial post-draft rankings had 60 players. We didn’t forget about the other 36. Plenty of those players might have long term dynasty value, but when doing our top-down team projections, they just didn’t register any sort of significant role for this year.

You’ll also notice that even those that did register in our projections don’t always have very useful fantasy profiles. Commentary below the table, which is sorted by projected PPR fantasy points.

Elliott, Ezekiel DAL RBDALRB7244.1
Goff, Jared RAM QBSTLQB30228.1
Coleman, Corey CLE WRCLEWR33198.4
Shepard, Sterling NYG WRNYGWR47162.9
Treadwell, Laquon MIN WRMINWR51149.1
Prosise, C.J. SEA RBSEARB36145.2
Boyd, Tyler CIN WRCINWR54136.7
Fuller, Will HOU WRHOUWR56135
Thomas, Michael NOS WRNOWR63121
Washington, DeAndre OAK RBOAKRB48110.8
Booker, Devontae DEN RBDENRB52100.2
Henry, Derrick TEN RBTENRB5398.2
Dixon, Kenneth BAL RBBALRB5498.1
Howard, Jordan CHI RBCHIRB5597.5
Carroo, Leonte MIA WRMIAWR7887.5
Ervin, Tyler HOU RBHOURB5987
Doctson, Josh WAS WRWASWR8180
Smallwood, Wendell PHI RBPHIRB6375.6
Higgins, Rashard CLE WRCLEWR8564.1
Drake, Kenyan MIA RBMIARB6862.6
Perkins, Paul NYG RBNYGRB7058
Cooper, Pharoh RAM WRSTLWR8954.1
Collins, Alex SEA RBSEARB8031.5
Williams, Jonathan BUF RBBUFRB8230.6
  • Ezekiel Elliott leads the way in both raw and positional terms.1 We’ve got him pegged for just under 60 percent of Dallas’ rushing attempts. That’s above average but not unseemly for an RB1. Our projected yards per carry (4.4), TD rate (3.1 percent), percentage of targets (9.9 percent), and yards per target (5.9) are all at or just above average for an RB1, so we didn’t do anything outlandish to get him to an RB7 projection.
  • Right now, we’re not projecting either Carson Wentz or Paxton Lynch to be starters, so Jared Goff is the only rookie QB that shows up. Outside of two-QB leagues though, there’s not much to like. Our projected stat line: a 58 percent completion percentage, 3184 yards, 19 TDs, 14 interceptions. That projection is a reflection on Goff, but also on Jeff Fisher’s offense and the rest of LA’s skill players. For a great discussion about this, check out this episode of RotoViz Radio.
  • Corey Coleman is the only rookie wide receiver that gets a straight up redraft-usable projection (WR33). Early training camp reports support that. Our line: 120 targets, 70 receptions, 956 yards, 6 TDs. I personally projected him a bit higher. Unlike Elliott, we’ve got lower-than-typical inputs for Coleman: just a 22 percent market share, 57 percent catch rate, a 4.6 percent TD rate, and 8 yards per target. All of those are at or below the median for WR1s.
  • Sterling Shepard should have game-level utility, but his seasonal projection is WR47. That reflects some disagreement among our projectors about whether or not Victor Cruz will be able to play effectively this year. But if Cruz is ineffective, Shepard could soak up a lot more work, so he probably has a good bit of usage upside above our projection. Our current line: 97 targets, 59 receptions, 765 yards, and 5 TDs.
  • Laquon Treadwell comes in about 40 points behind Coleman. That says something about how favorably we project Coleman, even in light of Josh Gordon’s return. But it also says something about Minnesota’s offense. We’ve pegged Treadwell for 18 percent of Minnesota’s targets (less than Stefon Diggs, whom we have as the WR1). But because of Minnesota’s tendencies, that works out to just 92 targets, 54 receptions, 705 yards, and 4 TDs.
  • CJ Prosise is our second-ranked RB, but like Treadwell trails the leader by quite a bit – Prosise comes in about 100 points behind Elliott. With news that Thomas Rawls is off the PUP list, we also probably need to dial back any expectation of Prosise taking over the top job. Still, we see him as an RB3, on a projected workload of 127 attempts and 36 receptions for a total of 860 yards and 4 TDs.
  • Tyler Boyd and Will Fuller come in neck and neck, though Boyd seems to have gotten more training camp buzz.
    Boyd, Tyler CIN WR 136.7 81.65 49.41 643.74 13.03 3.86
    Fuller, Will HOU WR 135 81.17 44.86 674.38 14.33 3.94

    With such similar projections, it makes sense to target the cheaper playerdownload (30)

  • Despite the training camp hype, we’ve got Michael Thomas down for just 72 targets. He might be very good, but Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, and Coby Fleener are no slouches either, and Thomas is the only one with a rookie learning curve to deal with. An injury or underperformance ahead of him could really open up his outlook though.
  • DeAndre Washington is in a similar position. We love him as a prospect, but it’s not like Latavius Murray is dead. He’s still there, and still expected to lead the way, at least to start the season. But if Murray stumbles, Washington could capitalize in a big way. For now though, we’ve got him pegged for 83 attempts and 33 receptions, 617 total yards and 3 TDs.
  • Without going into great detail on the rest, I’ll just say that Josh Doctson also has an uphill fight to relevancy in a crowded receiving corps, and his injury doesn’t help.
  • Most of the other rookie RBs can be described as having limited standalone value but good upside if there’s an injury ahead of them. One player that I personally like much better than his projection though is Jonathan Williams, who could find the field a fair bit during Karlos Williams’ suspension. He has to fend off Mike Gillislee and Reggie Bush, but that should be doable. If Williams plays well, he could have rest of season value. If not, he’s easily dropped.

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  1. The “FP Rank” column denotes the player’s current positional rank in our projections.  (back)
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