January 16th was the final day for NCAA underclassmen to declare as early enrollees for the 2017 NFL Draft. Per usual, there were the obvious names who everyone knew would declare and there were a couple of surprises. Let’s take a look at who will be next year’s Ezekiel Elliott and Mike Thomas for the 2017 fantasy football season. Be sure to check back throughout the off-season for consistent NFL Draft coverage.
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU — I actually like Dalvin Cook more as a future every-down NFL running back, but Fournette will be a day-one starter on a team who needs a running back within the first 10 picks. His pass-catching upside is limited, but his touchdown upside is huge, especially if he falls to the Panthers.
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson — The world was introduced to Mike Williams during the National Championship, but has been the most NFL-ready receiver in this draft and has Mike Evans-esque touchdown potential as a rookie.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State — Cook is my RB1 and the more complete back than Fournette, but will probably fall to a team where he will initially be in a committee, before eventually taking over the lead role. The former Seminole will flourish in PPR leagues.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford — Everyone and their mother has the shifty white running back/ future slot WR mocked to the Patriots, meaning they won’t draft him. Either way, McCaffrey should find himself with a pass-happy team and be used in a Danny Woodhead-like (shocking comparison) role.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson — Sorry, but this quarterback class sucks. Watson proved on the big stage (twice) against Alabama that he can play great against the most elite competition, but he should not make a year one fantasy impact in the NFL. If he makes a Dak Prescott-like impact as a rookie, I’ll be shocked.
John Ross, WR, Washington — The Washington wideout reminds me of Sterling Sheppard and has the ability to be a day-one NFL starter in the slot. He’ll be one of the few rookie receivers selected in your fantasy draft.
D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas — Foreman is a big guy, standing at 6-foot-1, 249 lbs and will be paired with a pass catching back in the NFL to create a pretty good one-two punch. Foreman will be a beast on the goal line and has the quickness to be an early-down back in the NFL.
Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma — This fuckin’ guy. He’s the typical first round talent with the two cent head. We’ve all seen the video of him smashing a helpless girl in the face, which led to a season long suspension at Oklahoma. Some think he will go undrafted, but like Tyreek Hill, talent sadly outweighs off-field issues. I suspect he’ll be taken in the 4th or 5th round and he’ll do very well on the field wherever he goes. He has the talent to be a three-down back in the NFL and he will be one of those waiver wire guys who could win you a fantasy title in 2017. Just like some NFL team, it would be smart to take a late-round flier on Mixon.
Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee — Kamara has been one of the biggest risers of the early enrollee group. He put up arguably the best single game performance of the college football season, when he racked up over 300 total yards and 3 touchdowns against Texas A&M. Teams will love his quickness and pass-catching ability, where he can lineup in the slot and create mismatches. Expect a late season PPR fantasy impact, ala Kenneth Dixon or CJ Prosise.
David Njoku, TE, Miami — Behind OJ Howard of Alabama, Njoku is the most talented tight end in this class. He had a gigantic 2016 (7 TD, 17.2 yards per reception), where he showed off his supreme athleticism and soft hands.
Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech — Hodges is probably the best route runner in this tight end class. He’s a Hunter Henry type, who will succeed in the slot and use his size against safeties and speed against linebackers. He won’t be a consistent fantasy player, but he should heat up if he’s in the correct system.
Curtis Samuel, WR/RB, Ohio State — Samuel put up better numbers in his final year at Ohio State than Percy Harvin did under Urban Meyer — plus, he’s more durable. Samuel will most likely be used in the slot in the NFL, where he showed his big-play ability for the Buckeyes. Like most slot guys, he will flourish if he’s drafted into the correct system.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC — Smith-Schuster is a bigger bodied, possession receiver (6-foot-2, 215 lbs) who is dangerous after the catch. His problem though, is that his speed is limited and he sometimes has trouble getting open on intermediate to deep routes. He has red zone and a PPR upside in fantasy leagues.
Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech — The former Hokie wideout is a burner. He’ll most likely draw comparisons to Will Fuller because of his speed and inconsistent hands, and he’ll get over drafted if he runs a silly 40 at the combine. Just like Fuller, there’s touchdown and yardage potential here.
Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC / DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame — As noted earlier, this quarterback class sucks. Both of these guys could go in the first round to a pathetic team, but neither should be fantasy-relevant in 2017.
Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson — I’m higher on Gallman than most people, as he has pretty good quickness and elusiveness to go along with some power. He’s taller (6-foot-1) than most backs and runs with a high pad level, but he can definitely make plays in the NFL.
Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech — Henderson is a sleeper in the slot position, who had a very productive career (82 rec, 1,535 yds, 19 TD in ’16) in a pass-happy offense. If he lands in the correct system with a legit quarterback, he has the potential to breakout. He might get Tajae Sharpe-esque hype in the preseason.