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How the 2016 NFL Draft will impact fantasy football dynasty league rookie drafts

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Taking a minute to step away from the reality of new players joining their NFL teams, we take a look at projecting out the NFL Draft's impact on upcoming Dynasty League fantasy football drafts.

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It seems too early to talk fantasy football to many people, but a growing number of people are joining Dynasty Leagues.  The major draw is that players remain on your team into the following season, players have contracts, teams have salary caps, trades include players and draft picks.  Since players are either under contract or in free agency (some league even have restricted free agency) the drafts in these leagues are often shorter and only involve rookies.  Below are my rankings for rookies based on the draft and the likely roles that players will play on their new teams and within their systems.

1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas (OSU)

This is the clear top selection.  Elliott was likely the top choice regardless of where he ended up.  Strong and fast with huge college production, he has drawn perhaps the best draw in terms of landing spots.  The Cowboys had a rough year after the injuries to Dez Bryant and Tony Romo, but the loss of DeMarco Murray also damaged a potent offense.  This pick helps get them the guy they think can be "the man."  Cowboys added several running backs in the last year thinking that running backs might be interchangeable.  Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden will push Elliott, but I cannot think they are going to be serious contenders to start ahead of him.  The added value of adding a top tier running back to your team for a few years makes this a no-brainer for me.

2. Kenneth Dixon, RB, Baltimore (LA Tech)

Again, running backs are generally harder to find in fantasy.  There are few guys on teams that allow them to be a main carrier rather than part of a two or three man backfield.  Dixon got a great draw here.  Baltimore has stability in coaching and in the front office.  He is stepping into a system that has allowed players to carry larger loads.  He has the potential to be a Ray Rice type player.  He has nice speed, but he has great vision and is an excellent pass catcher.  Dixon will be facing more competition as Justin Forsett has not gone anywhere and the roster includes Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West and Trent Richardson.  Dixon will basically be battling Taliaferro for the future of the Ravens backfield but has some added value if you are in a PPR format.

3. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee (Alabama)

Running backs take my top three spots.  The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner now finds himself fighting the 2014 NFL rushing champ for snaps.  The Titans went out to get DeMarco Murray in hopes of re-energizing his statistical trends. and signed him to a four year deal, so Henry is definitely in for a time share this year.  Henry did not get a lot of film as a pass catcher and he might be in line for more goal line work than anything else.  He might vulture some touchdowns for you this year, but good luck guessing when those games will be.  He is a battering ram and could earn more playing time and with Murray entering his 6th season, it may just be a matter of time.  Having a running quarterback could also help his numbers - look at early Alfred Morris with a still speedy RGIII).

4. Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland (Baylor)

Cleveland has been able to get some nice WR1 numbers out of recent players.  Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin made a lot of people very happy (when on the field).  Both those players are gone and Coleman steps in as a clear starter and number 1 receiver.  Browns did a nice job of drafting this year, but count on them needing to throw while playing from behind this year.  Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are the only real options in the running game, so passing is going to be a priority.  Coleman will likely be the highest targeted rookie wide receiver in this year's class.

5. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota (Ole Miss)

Norv Turner typically wants to stretch the field.  He has Charles Johnson and Stefon Diggs to try and push the field.  Treadwell is going to be a safety blanket for Teddy Bridgewater.  Treadwell has great hands when he is concentrating.  He does not get wide open and does not run away from cornerbacks but makes his living by running good routes and knowing how to use his body to get to the ball.  He will have more value in a PPR league because he is not a burner and his yardage may not be as impressive against NFL corners.  Treadwell is going to be someone the Vikings will look to on third downs as well as targets in close to the end zone.

6. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans (OSU)

Meet the new Marques Colston.  The Saints have moved back to a more ground-focused offensive attack, but the arm of Drew Brees is still the greatest weapon on this roster.  Brandin Cooks is the 5'10" quick receiver and likely to be the biggest target monster on the team, but the 6'3" Michael Thomas looks to be a legitimate threat on the outside.  Expect to see him getting end zone targets and making plays down the field.  This was a great landing spot to allow Thomas to make an immediate fantasy impact.

7. Josh Doctson, WR, Washington (TCU)

This is more of a futures pick here.  Doctson is going to fall in line behind Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, but both those players will be hitting free agency next year.  This pick signaled Washington's intent to provide weapons to Kirk Cousins while not tying their futures to two wide receivers seeking their third NFL contracts.  Doctson will be a third option on this team.  Washington is clearly angling toward a more pass oriented attack, but the fantasy value in 2016 will not be great.  Look for Doctson to be a top target in 2017 and beyond.

8. Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants (Oklahoma)

We are getting past the players who will be immediate impact and into those you are hoping will give you steady production.  Shepard is a solid receiver, good hands, runs routes well, good speed.  As Victor Cruz has battled through injury after injury in recent years, look for Shepard to get his spots to shine.  His value is hurt by the high number of targets Odell Beckham Jr. will continue to draw, but a Ben McAdoo offense will look to get value out of receivers down to the third option.

9.  Will Fuller, WR, Houston (Notre Dame)

Being the fastest player in the draft is what gives Fuller big value.  He will have some big games where he breaks free a few times for 3 catches, 150 yards and 2 touchdowns.  It will be up and down though, as it is for all straight line targets.  DeAndre Hopkins will still get the most looks and Braxton Miller was added this year as well.  The additions of Lamar Miller and Brock Osweiler show Bill O'Brien's renewed push to emphasize offense.

10. Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles (Cal)

The Rams have a solid defense and a great running back.  With those things in place, the addition of a quarterback is perfect.  There are good wide receivers on this team.  Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt are now joined by Pharoh Cooper.  If Goff can be a stable player this year, he could have some immediate impact.  The warning is that rookie quarterbacks often take time to develop.  Still, he is without competition and will project to have better years ahead.  Here is where fantasy can get turned on its head sometimes.  The value of a possibly average quarterback is not significantly higher than an average running back due to the scarcity.  With the higher number of NFL quarterbacks who might be average in skills but great in the numbers, Goff does not have the same fantasy value as NFL value.

After this, it gets less impressive and you are more and more just making a guess at who might be useful in coming seasons.  Here are the players who round out my top 25.

Player

Pos.

Team

College

Leonte Carroo WR Miami Rutgers
C.J. Prosise RB Seattle Notre Dame
Carson Wentz QB Philadelphia NDSU
Paul Perkins RB Giants UCLA
Pharoh Cooper WR Los Angeles S. Carolina
Devontae Booker RB Denver Utah
Malcolm Mitchell WR New England Georgia
Braxton Miller WR Houston OSU
Kenyan Drake RB Miami Alabama
Jordan Howard RB Chicago Indiana
Hunter Henry TE San Diego Arkansas
Paxton Lynch QB Denver Memphis
Jonathan Williams RB Buffalo Arkansas
Rashard Higgins WR Cleveland Colorado St.
Keith Marshall RB Washington Georgia