The 2017 NFL season is closing and there’s already an army of draftniks and fantasy football researchers looking into the new crop of rookies for 2018. There’s plenty of positioning and hype to come for all those new players and the NFL Combine runs February 27 until March 5. And this will be a QB-heavy draft with three likely going in the Top-10 and then Baker Mayfield showing up before the second round starts.
There are four fantasy-relevant quarterbacks that appear consistently on the draft boards out there. No doubt those are likely to see action this year but the top running backs and wide receivers are the ones that are more likely to make a fantasy difference.
Here are the best six soon-to-be rookies for now. These are the guys most likely to be everyone’s sleeper picks.
RB Saquon Barkley (Penn State, 5-11, 223)
A Junior entry that broke 1,000 rushing yards in all three seasons with the Nittany Lions. He has not officially declared for the NFL draft but is the consensus best back and a likely Top-10 pick. He not only has a career 5.7 average rush, he totaled 95 career receptions with 47 catches for 594 yards and three touchdowns last year. He is the Leonard Fournette in this draft.
Barkley plays in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday even though many have recommended that he sit it out and avoid any possible injury. He wants to play. Holding out of the bowl game did not hurt Fournette or Christian McCaffrey.
RB Bryce Love (Stanford, 5-10, 191)
Another Junior entry, Love wasn’t a full-time starter for Stanford until 2017 when he ran for 1,973 yards and 17 touchdowns on just 237 carries. He only totaled 29 receptions in college and just six last season. He won the Doak Walker Award as the best running back. He backed-up Christian McCaffrey until this year. He was a runner-up for the Heisman.
Love played in the Alamo Bowl yesterday. He never caught a pass but gained 145 yards and two scores on 26 carries against TCU.
WR Calvin Ridley (Alabama, 6-1, 190)
Another Junior entry. He was most productive as a freshman with a stat line of 89-1,045-7. He’s older than most at 23 years of age. He’s not as tall as many top wideouts but offers speed and leaping ability. He’s been compared to fellow Crimson Tide alum Amari Cooper. He’s expected to become the first or second wideout drafted in April.
Ridley plays in the Sugar Bowl on Monday.
WR Courtland Sutton (SMU, 6-0, 218)
Was a medical redshirt freshman in 2015 and started over in 2015. Turned in a stat line of 76-1,246-10 as a third-year sophomore and could have declared for the draft but returned to post 62-1,107-12 this season. He could have been a first-rounder in 2016 but is still expected to be a first-day pick. Like Ridley, he is not a towering wideout but offers speed and route-running to become an elite receiver in the NFL.
Sutton was held to six catches for 66 yards in the 51-10 loss to Louisiana Tech. His draft stock is unchanged.
RB Nick Chubb (Georgia, 5-11, 228)
The four-year Bulldog blew up for 1,547 rushing yards as a freshman and comes off a senior season with 1,175 yards and 13 touchdowns on 191 carries. Chubb averaged 6.2 yards per carry in college but only caught 30 passes. He played behind Todd Gurley in 2014 and took over once Gurley was suspended. He had 13 straight 100-yard games in 2015 but blew out his knee and missed most of 2015. He returned and ran for over 1,100 yards in each of the last two seasons. He’s a pure runner in the mold of Gurley.
Chubb plays in the Rose Bowl on Monday.
RB Derrius Guice (LSU, 5-11, 218)
Junior entry and a two-year starter at LSU. Peaked as a sophomore when he ran for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns. Still managed 1,153 yards and 11 scores this year and leaves college with at 6.6 yards per carry. Started out as the back-up to Leonard Fournette. He is the first player in the SEC to record three career games of at least 250 rushing yards. Marginal use as a receiver but a prototypical SEC running back.
Guise is dealing with an unspecified injury but is still expected to play in the Citrus Bowl on Monday.