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Fri May 22nd 2020

Rookie Draft Analysis #3

Analyizing My "Keeper" Rookie Draft

My third rookie draft took place last week in my "Keeper" league. This draft is my first league to take over an orphan team. I joined the league five years ago and turned the team around pretty fast. I advanced to the Super Bowl two of the last three years, including last year, but lost both times. It's an enjoyable and active league during the season with plenty of trades, but the league goes pretty dormant during the offseason with no waiver wire after the NFL Super Bowl until our rookie draft. Thus, there are more than the average amount of veteran players added in this draft each year. I added two veterans in the draft.

This league is an old-school 10-team non-PPR league with 30-man rosters and 10-player line-ups, including kickers and defense. As I said, I lost in the Super Bowl last year, so I was picking from the 9th spot apart from picks acquired by trade. I knew I would not get one of the top five rookie running backs, but I knew a solid wide receiver would fall to me at 1.9. After that, I planned to pick the best player on my draft board regardless of position, though I was hoping to get a quarterback in the draft since Jameis Winston was my starter last year.

Owners in this league rarely follow the ADP that you'll see in most drafts. You'll notice that right away in the first round.

I like what I did in this draft. Only one player will likely become a starter for me this year, but I added depth to a team that is already among the best rosters in the league.

Round #1

1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire

2. CeeDee Lamb

3. Jerry Jeudy

4. Jonathan Taylor

5. D'Andre Swift

6. J.K. Dobbins

7. Justin Jefferson

8. Cam Akers

9. Jalen Reagor (my pick)

10. Henry Ruggs

  • Best Value: Cam Akers fell further than I have seen in any rookie draft this year. The Rams stated this week that they intend to have a running back committee, but I don't believe that they will by the end of the season. If they like Henderson, their third-round pick last year that couldn't beat our Malcolm Brown when Gurley was injured, they would not have taken Akers in the second round this year as their first pick, especially given their need for other positions. They made their intentions clear by drafting Akers as the 20th pick in the second round. He will become the lead back in LA by the middle of the year because he's a far better player. Unlike most analysts, Akers was my #4 ranked rookie, ahead of DeAndre Swift and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, so this is a definite best value pick in this round.
  • Biggest Reach: It's hard to call anyone a reach in this year's class, but Henry Ruggs was drafted the earliest I have ever seen in this draft. Ruggs was pick #14 and #20 in the last two drafts I wrote about in previous weeks. Though he went #10 in two other drafts that I have yet to write about, he's the most debated player in this year's rookie class. Some dynasty GMs, like the Raider's GMs, like him way more than I do. I'd be willing to take a risk on Ruggs in the second round but believe that Michael Pittman and Tee Higgins, who was drafted in the second round of this draft, have much safer floors. I prefer safer picks in the first and second round and high ceiling players in the rest of the draft.  
  • My Pick: I was pleased to have Jalen Reagor fall to me at 1.9, which is precisely where I have him ranked in my rookie rankings. Reagor was one of my favorite guys to watch on film this offseason. He's an explosive athlete with versatile skills. I believe the Eagles have a variety of ways to use him in their offense, especially given the one-skill receivers they have in Alshon Jeffrey and Desean Jackson. I am a little concerned that Philadelphia continued to draft wide receivers in the NFL draft, but I think they did so knowing that Jeffrey and Jackson will not be on the team beyond this year. I also have J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (who I'm still hopeful for) on my team in this league, which allows me to hedge my bets a bit since I can roster them both while I wait to see which becomes a future #1 wide receiver target for Carson Wince. Given his competition, I don't think he will become a star this year, but he will by year two or three.

Round #2

11. Ke'Shawn Vaughn

12. Michael Pittman

13. Denzel Mims

14. Joe Burrow

15. Brandon Aiyuk

16. Zack Moss

17. Tee Higgins

18. Laviska Shenault

19. Bryan Edwards (my pick)

20. A.J Dillon

  • Best Value: Tee Higgins fell to #17, while he is my #10 ranked rookie. I've seen Higgins fall in most of my drafts to far. I don't understand why. He was a 5-star recruit to Clemson (WR-U), and his play and stats improved every year. He's a proven red-zone target with his size and 26 touchdowns in this sophomore and junior year. His draft capital is ideal at pick 2.1. He's basically a first-round pick alongside Cincinnati's 1.1 pick, Joe Burrow. The future is bright for both of these rookies. I tried to trade up to get him in this draft but could not make it work.
  • Biggest Reach: I'm going to look really good or really bad based on my Denzel Mims ranking. I am lower on him than most any analyst, some of whom have him as their #1 ranked rookie wide receiver. I think his stellar Combine performance made his value rise too high. I moved him up my rankings a bit after the Combine, but what I saw on film is far more important to me. I also don't like his landing spot in New York. He is matched with a great young quarterback, but he's also paired with a coach, Adam Gase, who has been known to destroy the fantasy value of his players. Ask Devante Parker what it's like to be free from the coach that stifled the start of his career after Parker finally lived up to his potential last year under his new coach, Brian Flores. He's the top player in tier three for me, but here he is drafted as a tier two player at pick #13. I like the guy I drafted six picks later far more than Mims.
  • My Pick: I tried to trade up for Tee Higgins, but could not make it work. I would have preferred Laviska Shenault, who also fell way too far in this draft, but there was not much I was willing to offer this owner who drafted Shenault right in front of me. I received offers from one owner that wanted to trade up for Bryan Edwards but decided to decline it. Bryan Edwards, my 18th ranked rookie, is where there is a tier break in my rankings. I could have traded back just a few picks and added more 4th, and 5th round picks to trade with the team that wanted Edwards, but the tier break caused me to hold this pick. I like Edwards as a prospect, and thus far had been unable to draft him in any of my drafts. I wanted to finally get my 18th ranked tier-drop player at pick #19.

Round #3

21. Chase Claypool

22. Tua Tagovailoa (my pick)

23. Antonio Gibson

24. Devin Duvernay

25. Anthony McFarland

26. Darrynton Evans

27. Joshua Kelley

28. Adam Trautman

29. Van Jefferson

30. K.J. Hamler

  • Biggest Reach #1: I don't see particularly high value in this round, but I will point out two big reaches. Chase Claypool came out of nowhere after his athletic testing at the Combine. That vaulted him up the rookie rankings of many analysts, and when he landed with Pittsburg, whom most experts consider to be a wonder at drafting wide receivers, his value rose even further. I don't see it. He's my #36 ranked rookie, yet he was drafted here at #21. He's a glorified tight end to me. He looks spectacular catching jump balls and sideline catches, but he's nowhere near the talent of Juju Smith Schuster and the 2nd and 3rd-year guys, Diontae Johnson and James Washington, ahead of him in Pittsburg. He has a different size and skillset for sure, but it's far more limited. Like with Denzel Mims, I am going to look really good or really bad based on my ranking of Claypool. 
  • Biggest Reach #2: Van Jefferson seemed to be a reach by the Rams and the dynasty owner in this league. Jefferson is my #38th ranked rookie, so to see him go at pick #29 was a surprise. The Rams did draft him early, so he has draft capital in his favor, but the wide receiver corps in LA (Kupp, Woods, Reynolds) is too strong for Jefferson to breakthrough. Add to that the likelihood that the Rams will continue to run 12 personnel with Higbee and Everett more involved. I do not see the opportunity for early playing time for Jefferson. The Rams also drafted a talented tight end, Brycen Hopkins, in the 4th round, indicating that they plan to involve their tight ends more in the future.
  • My Pick: As I mentioned before, Jameis Winston was my clear starting quarterback last year. His offseason news could not have been worse for me, so I had hoped to get one of the top three quarterbacks in this draft. I was thrilled to have Tua fall to me at 3.2 (pick #22) since I had him as my #15 ranked rookie overall. I acquired this early third-round pick in a trade last year, and it paid off for sure. This offseason, I traded Jimmy Garoppolo and my 3.9 to acquire Daniel Jones. I have Jones and Tua as developmental quarterbacks (ranked 14th and 15th in my quarterback rankings) while I wait to see if Winston can become the future quarterback in New Orleans after Brees retires. I'll make another quarterback move later in the draft, as you will see.

Round #4

31. Raymond Calais

32. Lynn Bowden

33. Lamical Perine

34. Quintez Cephus

35. Eno Benjamin

36. Antonio Gandy-Golden

37. DeeJay Dallas

38. Tyler Johnson

39. Teddy Bridgewater (my pick)

40. Justin Herbert

  • Best Value: Tyler Johnson might be stuck behind two studs in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but that could be just what he needs. If Johnson can become a starter in 3-WR sets, he could see his dynasty value increase significantly. It's going to hard for Tampa Bay to keep Evans and Godwin forever. One of them will get a blockbuster long-term contract, and the other will not. Johnson can grow with the team while attention is being focused on Evans and Godwin and step into one of their roles when one of them leaves. Granted, Tom Brady will likely not be the one throwing him passes at that time, but for the first time in a very long time, there are plenty of good quarterbacks available in free agency and the draft.
  • Biggest Stretch: Last week, I wrote about how Raymond Calais was a stretch at pick #39, but now he gets picked at pick #31.  I can't help but list him again here as the biggest reach.  He was not among my top 72 ranked rookies.
  • My Pick: I debated a long time between Teddy Bridgewater and Justin Herbert, who went one pick after I selected Bridgewater. On the one hand, it would have been nice to have two rookie quarterbacks in Tua and Herbert. Still, I had enough questions about Herbert to choose the somewhat proven Bridgewater who was picked up by a team with the former LSU offensive coordinator, Joe Brady. I am eager to see what this new coaching staff and scheme can do with Bridgewater and his ridiculous offensive weapons (Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Robby Anderson). I picked up Bridgewater in several leagues during the offseason after Carolina acquired him. He was on top of my veterans to pick in this draft, and it seemed about time to draft a veteran. After my pick, other veterans started to get drafted.

Round #5

41. Hayden Hurst

42. Joe Reed

43. Cole Kmet

44. Isaiah Coulter

45. Harrison Bryant

46. James Proche

47. Donovan Peoples-Jones

48. Gabriel Davis 

49. Isaiah Hodgins (my pick)

50. Dolphins

  • Best Value: Cole Kmet was finally drafted at a point where I see him as a value. He went at pick #26 and #30 in the other drafts I wrote about, which I thought was way too early. Getting picked here at pick #41 seems like a great deal, given that I have him ranked as my #34 rookie. Usually, tight ends take time to develop, but if I had a solid tight end and a roster spot to hold Kmet, this is right about where I would draft him. With rare exceptions, I don't believe in drafting tight end based on need. I would draft him here, though, based on value. He'll have every chance to become the starting tight end in Chicago. It likely won't lead to early fantasy productivity, but a starting role could lead to a fantasy future within a few years.
  • Biggest Stretch: It's hard to name any player a stretch in the 5th round, but I am certain Coulter could have been picked up as a UDFA after the draft. In fact, I've seen this owner pick up Coulter in other leagues after the rookie draft. We have six rounds in this league, so at the very least, he could have waited until the next round. There is room to make the team in Houston behind Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, and Kenny Stills, so I see the upside at this point in the draft but have rarely seen Coulter drafted at all.
  • My Picks: I've drafted Hodgins in all three of the drafts I have written about before. I've picked him as early as pick #41 and as late as pick #56. I drafted him here at #49. I like him more than Gabriel Davis, who Buffalo drafted two rounds earlier. Dynasty owners are wisely weighing draft capital and thus drafting Davis ahead of Hodgins. That's generally a smart move, but I have been fascinated with Hodgins's film and his ideal increased production each year at Oregon State, culminating in an 1171-yard, 13-touchdown final season. He'll have a lot to prove behind Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley and fellow rookie, Gabriel Davis, but he's the type of player I'd hold on to in case he does not make the Buffalo roster and is picked up by another team. That's how much I believe in his talent. 

Round #6

51. Albert Okeuegbunam

52. James Robinson

53. Jordan Love

54. Salvon Ahmed

55. Mike Warren

56. Sewo Olonilua

57. Devin Asiasi

58. Collin Johnson

59. Blake Jarwin (my pick)

60. Jarrett Stidham

  • Best Value: I'll say Jarett Stidham here as Mr. Insignificant. It is a one-quarterback league, but at pick #60, it's worth waiting to see if he is named the starter and plays well enough to hold onto after the preseason.
  • Biggest Stretch: It's almost not fair to pick a stretch-pick here, but Sewo Olonilua is a UDFA picked up by Dallas to be a fullback, not a running back.  Dallas added a much more touted college player, Rico Dowdle, as a UDFA to try to make the team behind Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard.
  • My Picks: In the 6th round, I'd rather draft a player that I've seen than one I have not. I would have considered Salvon Ahmed, Michael Warren, Collin Johnson, or Devin Asiasi in this round, but they all were drafted right before me. Jarwin could make the cut on my final roster after we cut back down to 30 players. I'd like to see what he can do with Jason Witten finally out of the way.

I love my first three picks in this draft. I added to my wide receiver depth, which is aging and could become my team's weakness. I added depth at other positions, including two quarterbacks, which was needed since Jameis Winston was my weekly starter last year.

I believe I still have a top-4 roster in this league. If my QBs and WRs hit in this draft in the next year or two, I'll keep my championship window open. Here is how my roster looks after this rookie draft.

  • Quarterback: Tua Tagovailoa, Daniel Jones, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jameis Winston.
    • As mentioned, I was hurting at quarterback after this offseason with Jameis Winston.  I like what I did this year in the draft and offseason, acquiring Jones, Tua, and Bridgewater.  I am hoping that two of the three will pop this year so that I can trade one of them or just know that I could finally drop Jameis Winston, especially if he does not become the starter in New Orleans after Brees retires.
  • Running Back: Nick Chubb, Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Matt Breida, Kareem Hunt, Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Chase Edmonds, and Jamaal Williams.
    • Nick Chubb and Miles Sanders are my #6 and #7 ranked running backs.  I am thrilled to have these young running backs be the strength of my team.  I see Hunt as the best handcuff in the league, and Howard and Breida lock down the Miami backfield for me and will likely start in the flex position for me this year many times.  Mack, Hines, Edmonds, and Williams are solid handcuffs should their starters get injured.  I will hold all of them for sure, with perhaps the exception of Williams based on how A.J. Dillon plays during the offseason.
  • Wide Receiver: Keenan Allen, Robert Woods, Jarvis Landry, Brandin Cooks, Jalen Reagor, Bryan Edwards, Brandon Perriman, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Josh Reynolds, and Isaiah Hodgins.
    • While I don't have any top-15 ranked players in my wide receiver room, I do have four ranked between #15 and #30.  At least I have three top-targeted wide receivers in Allen, Woods, and Cooks (presumably) and Landry, who always finishes as a top-24 WR.  I am okay rolling with middle-tier wide receivers when my running backs and tight ends are strong.  That said, I need some of my first and second-year wide receivers to step up in the next year or two as my wide receiver corps is getting older. 
  • Tight End: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Jack Doyle, and Blake Jarwin.
    • I have Ertz ranked as my #5 tight end while his teammate Goedert is just behind him at #8.  I love having them both on my team, knowing they can both be top-12 tight ends like last year, and if one were to get injured or move teams, the other would become a top 4-5 tight end for sure.  Doyle was poised for a breakout year just before Indianapolis signed Eric Ebron two years ago.  Ebron is gone again, and Doyle is not too old to have a breakout year this year with Phillip Rivers, who loves to target his tight ends.  Jarwin could become a factor in Dallas though his target share will be limited.  He will compete with my back-end WRs and RBs to make my team when it comes time to cut players.
  • Kicker: Zane Gonzalez.
    • He has a high-scoring offense that struggled in the red-zone last year.  He also signed a long-term contract with Arizona this offseason.
  • DST: Bills and Saints.
    • Defenses count for a lot in this league.  The Bills and Saints are top-10 defenses in my rankings.  Their coaches and players lead me no reason to believe they will not be top-12 defenses next year.  I will play the match-ups and gladly start either of them.

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