Opportunity vs Ability: NFL Smarts in Rookie Drafts

We all know a kid sometime in our past who had all the talent in the world, but never made it. It could’ve been due to many different circumstances like money for college, more important responsibility at home, couldn’t stay out of trouble and so on. It still doesn’t change the fact that sometimes people just miss out.

In terms of the NFL, you have to add in the fact that every scouting department isn’t created equally and even if they were, they don’t make the choices. The ones choosing could be sold on someone who is just terrible compared to other guys, but there’s nothing we can do about it. The only things we can do is hedge those decisions for fantasy, which is what I’m here to help you do.

Opportunity’s Call

When dealing with fantasy football we like to have guys who have a huge opportunity share in the offense (or defense with IDP leagues). History shows we have to be the same with our rookie drafts.

Here’s why you should, for the most part, avoid guys (with your high picks) drafted in the 6-7 rounds and undrafted free agent pools:

In last 10 years, here are some of the hits for 6-7 rounders and UDFAs. From a recent conversation I had, I decided to change it from an all inclusive 100 PPR points or 6.25 ppg, to position specific. My baseline for success for each position was someone you’d be flexing or starting in most leagues.

Quarterbacks (3 year average of the QB24 = 184 points)

7 QBs have had success in rounds 6-7 with only 4 out of the 7 having done it more than once:

Tom Brady, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor and Matt Cassel

The UDFA to accomplish this feat:

Tony Romo, Case Keenum and Kurt Warner.

Wide Receivers (3 year average of the WR36 = 166 points)

6 receivers have done it with only 4 out of 6 having done it more than once:

Antonio Brown, Julian Edelman, Pierre Garcon & Steve Johnson.

20 UDFAs did it with just 9 of them doing it more than once. The most notable:

Wes Welker, Doug Baldwin, Victor Cruz, Adam Thielen, and Willie Snead

Michelle Magdziuk @BallBLastEm made a great observation that cannot be over looked:

Running Backs (3 year average of the RB36 = 134 points)

9 running backs were a RB36 or better and only 6 of them did it more than once:

Rashad Jennings, Alfred Morris, Latavius Murray, Theo Riddick, Andre Ellington, and Justin Forsett

The undrafted accomplished this 22 times with 12 having continued success:

Fred Jackson, Isaiah Crowell, Adrian Foster, Pierre Thomas, Danny Woodhead, C.J. Anderson, Joique Bell, LeGarette Blount, Chris Ivory, Ryan Grant, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Mike Tolbert

Tight Ends (3 year average of the TE24 = 93 points)

The TEs that have done it:

Charles Clay, Zach Miller, Brandon Myers, Mychal Rivera, and Ryan Griffin

The only undrafted free agents to do it:

Antonio Gates, Cameron Brate, Jack Doyle, Will Tye, Jake Ballard, Trey Burton, Larry Donnell, and Tim Wright

It’s simple, if the TEAM invests in them, WE have to invest accordingly. The caveat here is that you don’t forget about the late round/UDFA guys.

Allen Iverson’s Law: Talkin’ Bout Practice

One of the best practices is the utilization of your local taxi squad IF you have the room or regular roster if you have the spots. If through the draft process, you found a guy or guys whom you’ve just become enamored with, GO GET THEM. Don’t be dissuaded from getting your guys, just utilize your own draft capital for guys with true draft capital. This is because on average, for every position except quarterback, 1-2 guys per year emerge from that murky junkyard of 6-7 rounders and undrafted free agents to become PPR relevant at least once. Some of these guys end up with long term success, A LOT don’t.

A Rule of Thumb:

There is a much bigger area for “boom-bust” in 6-7/udfa areas than rounds 1-5.

Which is why I believe that these guys are sometimes better served for waivers later on. If they don’t end up free agents in your league, it’s ok. Let someone hold onto your asset for you until it’s time to obtain. Once that player starts tracking for success, you have to act before the price raises or otherwise you over pay in a trade vs making that asset a throw in for an otherwise “underwhelming” trade in the eyes of everyone but you. It’s all about timing. The trick is to not go in to negotiations showing your hand and you’ll be just fine.

Another good practice is to grab these guys when an injury happens to guys ahead of them on the depth chart. This is generally a key time where they can begin to be able to garner more snap counts (time on the field) if they perform well enough.

Going Forward

My pinned thread from Twitter and this article are just a warm-up for a series of articles and rankings so, be on the lookout for those, which will come directly after this.

A small hint to my ranking content-they will be different than you’ve seen before! Hopefully this has helped you prepare for your rookie drafts, stay tuned!

Fantasy Football Big Board 3.0 (Hicks)

Welcome to my third fantasy football big board. I’ve already released positional rankings, based purely on tape, for each position group. You may want to check out those articles before reading this if you haven’t already. You also may want to check out my second big board article to see where I had some of these players pre-draft. Note below that “BB2” refers to where I ranked them in this article.

Now the NFL Draft is over and landing spots have flipped my big board on its head. In addition to landing spots, I’ve significantly increased my big board to include anyone with relevant draft capital or priority undrafted free agents (UDFA) I was high on pre-draft.

Here are my top 104 rookies following the 2019 NFL Draft, broken in 6 tiers.


First Time Players use Promo Code “Top2” for FREE Entry

Tier 1: Potential 1.01 Picks

RankBB2ChangePOSPlayerTeam
110WRN’Keal HarryNew England
2108RBJosh JacobsOakland
32-1WRDK MetcalfSeattle
462TENoah FantDenver
583RBMiles SandersPhiladelphia

It was tough for me to draw a clear line for my “tier 1” post NFL Draft-I chose to go with the players I think could go with the 1.01 pick in dynasty rookie drafts, depending on team need.

Personally N’Keal Harry is far and away my 1.01; he was my 1.01 pre-draft for his athleticism, YAC potential, quickness, and production at Arizona State. Now he is paired with perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady, and in an offense that has no significant threats to Harry’s target potential past Julian Edelman.

Josh Jacobs, though, is my biggest riser: I liked him tape but was not convinced he could be an immediate 3 down back in the NFL. It remains to be seen how quickly he will be thrown into that role, but Oakland made a bold statement about what they see in Jacobs when they selected him with the 24th overall pick. The explosive and strong running back out of Alabama now finds himself in a surprisingly balanced offense with Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, and Hunter Renfrow as passing game threats for Derek Carr.

DK Metcalf and Miles Sanders’ landing spots have been questioned by many, but not me. Metcalf finds himself competing only with Tyler Lockett (pending an official retirement announcement from Doug Baldwin) for targets from Russell Wilson-a top 5 quarterback in the NFL. Miles Sanders’ crowded running back depth chart doesn’t bother me-I don’t expect Jordan Howard to be in Philadelphia past the 2019 season, and I’ll be surprised if more than one of Clement, Sproles, Adams, and Smallwood make it onto the 53 man roster come September.

Tier 2: High Upside, but Not Without the Risk

RankBB2ChangePOSPlayerTeam
693TETJ HockensonDetroit
75-2WRAJ BrownTennessee
8135RBDavid MontgomeryChicago
9112WRParris CampbellIndianapolis
10122WRDeebo SamuelSan Francisco
112716WRJJ Arcega-WhitesidePhiladelphia
12153TEIrv Smith JrMinnesota
133118WRMarquise BrownBaltimore
14239WRJalen HurdSan Francisco
1514-1RBJustice HillBaltimore

Tier 2 is stacked with talent; the combined upside of this group makes me scoff at those who claim this is a weak rookie class. Still, there are flaws to be found alongside the homerun potential of many of these players.

AJ Brown remains high on my draft board, despite a questionable landing spot. Brown will likely have to play outside for the Titans, who inked Adam Humphries earlier this off season, and will be playing with the inconsistent Marcus Mariota. Brown, though, succeeded on the outside at Ole Miss-Vanderbilt was perhaps his best game tape and he played primarily outside. Mariota, is coming off a season where he didn’t have feeling in his hand or throwing shoulder for most of the season. Combine that with a new offensive coordinator and the potential of a balanced running game and the Titans offense is suddenly becoming one that could produce a lot of fantasy football points in 2019. Brown can be the forced volume safety net that Mariota needs to consistently attacked defenses; leading to high PPR upside for Brown.

JJ Arcega-Whiteside (JJAW) is a big riser for me post-NFL Draft. I question JJAW’s long speed and ability to create separation, but Philadelphia saw him as a better fit in their offense than players like Hakeem Butler and DK Metcalf. The Eagles are rumored to be shopping Nelson Agholor and could cut Alshon Jeffery for major cap relief following the 2019 season. JJAW is a power forward who uses his large frame to box out defenders well-an intriguing skillset on a team that sees a lot of red zone opportunity when Carson Wentz is healthy.

Tier 3: Get Your Guy

RankBB2ChangePOSPlayerTeam
164-12WRHakeem ButlerArizona
173518WRAndy IsabellaArizona
183921RBAlexander MattisonMinnesota
19245TEJace SternbergerGreen Bay
20255WRTerry McLaurinWashington
2118-3WRMiles BoykinBaltimore
2216-6RBDamien HarrisNew England
233-20WRKelvin HarmonWashington
24262QBKyler MurrayArizona
25283RBDarrell HendersonLos Angeles Rams
267-19RBRodney AndersonCincinnatti
27N/AN/AWRMecole HardmanKansas City

Once dynasty rookie drafts start to move beyond the mid second round hit rates start to drop and draft strategy becomes critically important. For me, this is when things get fun and I start to go after my guys. All of these players could fit into that category; especially risers like Andy Isabella or fallers like Kelvin Harmon.

Alexander Mattison quietly finds himself in one of my favorite landing spots. Mattison is a well-rounded back with solid vision, good strength, and good agility for his size. He has the potential to catch balls out of the backfield or pound the ball in at the goal line. Dalvin Cook has always had a handcuff, and we should expect Mattision to get a Latavius Murray-esq workload even when Cook is fully healthy. Mattision, though, has more goal line potential, and that could lead to a lot of fantasy football value. I suggest latching onto this guy before others catch on.

I may just be the only person on #DraftTwitter who actually bumped Henderson up on their big board post draft. Henderson’s Memphis tape did not impress me: I saw him rely on large gaps, depend on his running back teammates to wear down poor competition, and a lack of vision. Now, though, Henderson gets paired with one of the best offensive lines in the country, on an offense where Todd Gurley can wear down opposing defenses, and on a team that consistently moves the ball down field. Henderson may not get the volume you’d want, but he will have every opportunity to make home run plays that give fantasy football players a great return on investment in the late second/early third round.

Tier 4: Late Round Dart Throws

RankBB2ChangePOSPlayerTeam
28291QBDrew LockDenver
29367RBDevin SingletaryBuffalo
30322QBDwayne HaskinsWashington
314312TEDawson KnoxBuffalo
32331WRRiley RidleyChicago
3322-11WRDillon MitchellMinnesota
34406RBBenny SnellPittsburgh
35372QBDaniel JonesNew York Giants
36N/AN/ATEKahale WarringHouston
375114RBBryce LoveWashington
3820-18WRStanley MorganCincinatti
3930-9RBJames WilliamsKansas City
4019-21RBTrayveon WilliamsCincinatti
4134-7RBDevine OzigboNew Orleans
42N/AN/ATEJosh OliverJacksonville
43452WRHunter RenfrowOakland
445511WRKeeSean JohnsonArizona
456318QBJarrett StidhamNew England
46N/AN/ATEAlize MackNew Orleans
47N/AN/AWRGary JenningsSeattle
48N/AN/ARBDexter WilliamsGreen Bay

Note: I’m switching to quick notes on players for the rest of this article, to provide you with as many content as possible.

Drew Lock is an investment pick-he likely will “redshirt” behind Flacco this year. He is worth the wait, though, his velocity and ability to work all 3 levels of the field made him my favorite quarterback on tape. With a year in Denver he can correct the mechanics issues that plummeted his draft capital.

Dawson Knox is a highly athletic TE who converted from quarterback to see little volume in a stacked Ole Miss offense. He will have the chance to win the starting role in a Buffalo offense desperate for playmakers.

James Williams may be a UDFA, but he is a a fantastic pass catching back with high PPR upside in a Kansas City offense that seems to be taking the “quantity over quality approach” to their backfield. Williams may end up being a RB2 in fantasy football in 2019, or he may not make the 53 man roster-he’s a major dart throw.

Alize Mack doesn’t have the best tape out there, but he has sneaky upside on a high powered offense that couldn’t find a viable tight end in 2018.

Tier 5: Taxi Squad Heros

RankBB2ChangePOSPlayerTeam
49N/AN/ARBRyquell ArmsteadJacksonville
50522WRWill GrierCarolina
5146-5RBMyles GaskinMiami
5217-35WREmanuel HallChicago
5349-4WRLil Jordan
Humphrey
New Orleans
54540QBEaston StickLos Angeles Chargers
55N/AN/AWRTerry GodwinCarolina
56N/AN/ATECaleb WilsonArizona
57N/AN/ARBAnthony PollardDallas
58N/AN/AWRJakobi MeyersNew England
59N/AN/ATEDrew SampleCincinatti
6041-19TEDax RaymondChicago
61N/AN/ATEFoster MoreauOakland
62N/AN/AQBRyan FinleyCincinatti
6348-15RBMike WeberDallas
6453-11TEKaden SmithSan Francisco
6544-21RBElijah HolyfieldCarolina
6650-16WRGreg DortchNew York Jets
67N/AN/ATETrevon WescoNew York Jets
68N/AN/ARBQadree OllisonAtlanta
69N/AN/AWRDarius SlaytonNew York Giants
70N/AN/ARBDarwin ThompsonKansas City
71N/AN/ATETommy SweeneyBuffalo
72N/AN/ARBBruce AndersonTampa Bay
73N/AN/AWRPenny HartIndianapolis
74N/AN/AWRJazz FergusonSeattle
75N/AN/AWRAshton DulinIndianapolis

Emanuel Hall is a seriously flashy tape review-he burned NFL bound SEC defensive backs consistently at Missouri but struggled to stay healthy. He could end up being yet another dynamic piece in Matt Nagy’s offense.

Lil’ Jordan Humphrey’s draft stock plummeted with a horrendous combine. Still, he’s a PFF favorite for a reason and the over sized slot wideout may end up moving to tight end. Still, he signs as a UDFA with the Saints-giving him upside potential.

Foster Moreau is a raw but athletic tight end of of LSU; he likely will take some time to develop but faces a lack of competition for targets in Oakland’s depth chart.

Ashton Dulin is a Division 2 phenom out of Malone College, and a bit of a lore among those who covet dominator rating to measure the potential success of wide receivers. Dulin lands in a good offense in Indianapolis who doesn’t have much depth past Hilton, Funchess, and now Campbell.

Tier 6: Deep League Dives

RankBB2ChangePOSPlayerTeam
7660-16TEIsaac NautaDetroit
7762-15QBGardner MinshewJacksonville
78N/AN/AWRTravis FulghamDetroit
79N/AN/AQBClayton ThorsonPhiladelphia
80N/AN/ARBTravis HomerSeattle
8158-23RBKaran HigdonHouston
8221-61RBAlex BarnesTennessee
83N/AN/AQBTrace McSorleyBaltimore
84N/AN/ATEZach GentryPittsburgh
85N/AN/ARBTy JohnsonDetroit
8647-39QBTyree JacksonBuffalo
87N/AN/ARBJordan ScarlettCarolina
8857-31WRDavid SillsBuffalo
89N/AN/AWRJuwann WinfreeDenver
9061-29RBDamarea CrockettHouston
91N/AN/AWROlamide ZaccheausAtlanta
92N/AN/AWRPreston WilliamsMiami
93N/AN/AWRAnthony Ratliff-WilliamsTennessee
94N/AN/ATEDonald ParhamDetroit
95N/AN/AWRMarcus GreenAtlanta
96N/AN/ARBCullen GillaspiaHouston
97N/AN/ARBKerrith Whyte JrChicago
98N/AN/AWROlasibi JohnsonMinnesota
9942-57QBBrett RypienDenver
10056-44WRDeMarkus LodgeTampa Bay
101N/AN/AWRJohn UrsuaSeattle
102N/AN/AWRScott MillerTampa Bay
10338-65WRAnthony JohnsonFree Agent
10459-45QBJordan Ta’amuFree Agent

Isaac Nauta was once considered among the top tight ends in this draft class-poor combine testing, though, doomed the former two sport IMG Academy standout. He ends up being the 2nd tight end drafted by Detroit (TJ Hockenson 8th overall), and will likely be buried on that depth chart-but he’s worth a late stash if he develops into more than a blocking tight end.

Gardner Minshew is still fairly raw-with just one season as a starting quarterback at Washington State. Minshew is undersized but can work the first two levels of the field, stretch the pocket, and is coveted by his teammates for his leadership. He’s a deep stash, but with two years behind Foles to develop, there’s a chance he gets a shot at the starting job following the end of the Jaguar’s newest quarterback’s contract.

Alex Barnes is extremely talented, and I find it a bit ironic he lands with the Titans: he has elements of both Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis in his game. He likely won’t see the field early in his career, barring injury, but has great vision, is a very powerful runner, and hands soft hands that make him a threat anywhere on the field.

Trace McSorely add yet another element of quickness for Baltimore in a draft that seems to indicate the future of their offense around Lamar Jackson. Look for McSorely to take on a gadget-type role, similar to the one Taysom Hill adopted for the Saints in 2018, for Baltimore. It may not surmount to any significant fantasy football value, but if your rosters are deep enough he’s worth consideration.

Fantasy Football Impact of the Offensive Line: Arizona Cardinals

Image result for football offensive line image

The offensive line is often overlooked as a key to fantasy success. Those five gentleman (occasionally six when you count a blocking Tight End) provide holes for Running Backs to run through and protection for a Quarterback to find the best target and get off a clean throw.

A good offensive line provides fantasy success:

  • The Steelers O-Line makes James Conner, Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Ben Roethlisberger top 10 performers in their respective positions.
  • The Browns O-Line helps make Nick Chubb one of the best redraft waiver wire pick ups of 2018.
  • The Patriots O-Line protected Tom Brady all the way to the Super Bowl.

A bad offensive line is a direct path to the pits of misery:

  • The Cardinals O-Line makes David Johnson look mediocre and turns Josh Rosen into a rookie flop.
  • The Vikings O-Line took a fantasy winner in Kirk Cousins and turned him into a disappointment.
  • The Raiders O-Line makes their entire team almost worthless for fantasy.

The Arizona Cardinals have pieces that could be fantasy relevant in 2019. The concern is whether or not those fantasy pieces will have a chance to shine. What steps have they made to improve the chances of their highly paid offensive pieces? Will they have an opportunity to improve their O-Line ranking through the coming draft? April 25 is just a little over a month away!

Part 1 in the offensive line series will begin with the Arizona Cardinals.

Arizona Cardinals

Their Offensive Line was awful even when they were healthy. Throw in multiple injuries and you are left with the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Josh Rosen was sacked 45 times in 2018. For a point of reference, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger were sacked 45 times COMBINED. How can you expect to succeed when your Quarterback doesn’t have time to throw? The sad David Johnson drafters among us (my hand is also raised) do not need to be reminded about the 1.2 less yards per touch compared to his successful 2016 campaign.

2018 End-of-Season Starters and Their 2019 Status

Position 2018 Starter 2019 Starter Notes
Left Tackle DJ Humphries DJ Humphries Ended 2018 on the IR
Left Guard Mike Iupati JR Sweezy Iupati signed with the Seahawks. Sweezy signed as Free Agent after spending 2018 with the Seahawks.
Center Mason Cole Mason Cole Rookie in 2018 returns in 2019. Was healthiest member of the O-Line.
Right Guard Justin Pugh Justin Pugh Spent a large amount of 2018 on the IR. Position was filled with backups.
Right Tackle Andre Smith Marcus Gilbert Smith was released before the end of the 2018 season. Gilbert was a Free Agent signing.
Tight End Ricky Seals-Jones Ricky Seals-Jones Signed Charles Clay from Free Agency.

Current O-Line Ranking

Name Position NFL Ranking (in Position)
DJ Humphries Left Tackle 25
JR Sweezy Left Guard 28
Mason Cole Center 31
Justin Pugh Right Guard 30
Marcus Gilbert Right Tackle 17
Ricky Seals-Jones Tight End 17
Overall Team O-Line 31
*Rankings based on ProFootballFocus.com scoring

Free Agency: A Huge Step in the Right Direction

Justin Pugh is a former first round pick who was signed to a long term deal before the 2018 season. While adding strength at Right Guard, Pugh suffered a knee injury and was put on Injured Reserve in week 10. He returns at full strength for the 2019 season. I do not anticipate his NFL ranking at the Right Guard position to remain that low.

If a healthy Justin Pugh is a reason to feel positive, then the addition of Marcus Gilbert is reason to celebrate! Marcus Gilbert’s arrival is a bonus having spent time as the starter for the stellar Steelers O-Line. These are two impressive gains that show that the Cardinals noticed their shortcomings and are working to improve.

JR Sweezy is a statistical downgrade from Mike Iupati. However, Sweezy is a healthier player having spent much less time on the injury report. The downgrade in run and pass protection will be made up for with stability in the position as opposed to filling it with second and third string replacements.

The addition of Charles Clay is welcome for Josh Rosen. One of Ricky Seals-Jones shortcomings is pass blocking. Charles Clay is known for that skill. One note of caution: If the Cardinals don’t work on the below average skills of their Tight Ends, the player lining up could telegraph the play calling. Since Charles Clay is better at pass blocking, it would likely mean a passing play. Ricky Seals-Jones at the line would indicate a running play.

NFL Draft Thoughts

DJ Humphries is mediocre when healthy (25th ranked Left Tackle) and has been injury prone. It would be in the Cardinal’s best interest to find a replacement. Meanwhile, it is my opinion that all the “Kyler Murray at #1 overall” talk is a bunch of hype to get a buyer for that pick. Perhaps move down a small amount and grab Jonah Williams, Left Tackle from Alabama. He is considered by some to be the #1 offensive lineman on the board and is a natural fit to the position. Those who do not rank him (thedraftnetwork.com) as the #1 offensive lineman have him at #2, instead.

Even if the Kyler Murray rumors come true, the Arizona Cardinals have nine other picks in the 2019 draft as of 3-17-2019 and would certainly get an additional pick or more for Josh Rosen. Ten total picks is a lot of opportunity to improve their depth and find some potential improvements for their offensive line.

The bottom line is that Arizona needs to make a move to improve their offensive line early in the draft. They could trade down from the #1 overall and feel secure in their draft of Jonah Williams later in the first round. Or they could use the first pick in the second round to choose another other rookie that could make an immediate impact such as:

First Round

  • Jawaan Taylor (Florida) – Currently unlikely to fall to the second round
  • Dalton Risner (Kansas State) – Currently projected as a late first rounder, could fall

Second Round

  • Michael Deiter (Wisconsin)
  • Yodny Cajuste (West Virginia)

2019 Thoughts

A healthy 2019 for Justin Pugh and the addition of Marcus Gilbert are enough to make David Johnson a fantasy value at his current ADP (2.04, 10th RB off the board according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com). Will we see a return to his 2016 form? That is highly unlikely given the current overall offensive line ranking (31st in the NFL) and the forecast for wins and losses in Arizona; Vegas odds has them at 4-5 wins. They will be playing from behind quite often which will limit his upside. However, the improved Offensive Line will provide him some holes for some additional yards and more than the dismal 10 total touchdowns from 2018.

Those same O-line additions will keep Josh Rosen (or Kyler Murray) off of his back. Not only will it improve their Quarterback longevity, it will also increase their fantasy stats. Is Rosen worth using a fantasy draft pick? No, he will consistently be on waivers in the most common league formats. He will have some usable weeks against their weaker opponents.

Conclusion

Honestly, could it get any worse than it was in 2018? We know David Johnson’s capabilities. He didn’t have an underwhelming 2018 due to a lack of  talent. We know that Josh Rosen has a hall of fame wide receiver target in Larry Fitzgerald and a talented Christian Kirk in the slot. All they need are those O-Line pieces to help them succeed.

The Cardinals management has made strides in the right direction with some free agent signings. If they can stay healthy, there will be improvements. The outlook could be even brighter after the draft.