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Tue Apr 26th 2022

Late-Round Rookies I'm Targeting

It's finally NFL Draft week! Next week, I'll have the final and most important data points for my rookie rankings - draft capital and landing spot. Next week, I'll post my final rookie rankings just before most dynasty rookie drafts in May.

Before I finalize my rankings, I wanted to post one last article about players I plan to target in the third, fourth, and fifth rounds of rookie drafts. Next week, my opinion may change depending on where these players are drafted and by which teams. These players are not likely to get drafted on day one or two of the NFL draft, so their dynasty value will not change too much by this time next week. So, for now, a week before the NFL draft, these are some of the players I'm hoping to draft in the later rounds of rookie drafts.

Third Round Targets

Alec Pierce

  • Pierce does not have the production profile for me to draft him in the second round of rookie drafts, but his athletic profile and his big-play ability make me want to draft him in the third round. In his best and final season at Cincinnati, he had just 52 catches for 884 yards, which is good but not great. That said, what he did well was make big plays and touchdowns. He scored eight times and averaged 17 yards per reception. His big-play ability and freakish athleticism will make him a player that NFL teams want to draft. In this class, Pierce had the highest vertical jump, sixth-best 3-cone drill, seventh-best broad jump, and ninth-best 40-yard dash. I usually like to bet on guys who have unique traits in the later rookie drafts. His size (6'3" and 211 lbs), speed, and jumping ability make me want to add him to my team early in the third round.

Pierre Strong

  • I was hopeful that Strong would go unnoticed by the dynasty community so that I could draft him in every one of my rookie drafts, but the hype on him has picked up the last few weeks, so I am not alone in thinking he's a great player to draft late in rookie drafts. Strong has one of the most productive careers of any running back in this class, running for more than 1000 yards in all but the COVID-shortened season. The only knock on him is that he compiled all his yards at South Dakota State. It's fair to point out that he played against inferior athletes, but his size (5'11" and 207 lbs) and durability (262 touches last season) make me believe he has one of the best chances of any of the running backs not named Breece Hall or Kenneth Walker to be an every-down back in the NFL. He'll get drafted to provide depth to a backfield, and his draft capital with not merit his touches, but I think he's the type of player that, given an opportunity after an injury to the lead running back, could become something great. At worst, he'll be a solid handcuff on dynasty rosters. At best, he could become an NFL starting running back that I can draft in the third round of rookie drafts.

Justyn Ross

  • Ross is a significant risk from a health standpoint, given his spinal injuries and surgeries. After what he did as a freshman at Clemson, he's also worth the risk. Ross was one of the top-ranked receivers in his recruiting class, and he burst onto the scene his first year and looked like the best player on the field in the Tiger's national championship win over Alabama that season. He's a player that could move way up my rankings if he's drafted on day two of the NFL draft, but I think NFL teams will likely draft him much later on day three when they, like dynasty managers, deem him worth the risk. He's definitely worth the risk for dynasty managers picking at the end of the third round, no matter his draft capital or landing spot.

Fourth Round Targets

Kevin Harris

  • Harris's film was one of my favorites to watch when I initially formed my rookie rankings in January. I looked compact and agile with excellent between-the-tackle skills. I was surprised when I compared what I saw on his highlight film to how his production dropped significantly between his impressive sophomore and below-average junior seasons. I called a friend who plays in many College To Canton leagues and watches way more college football than I do to ask what happened because I loved his sophomore film so much. He told me that coaching changes attributed to his lack of involvement and production the year after his fantastic season. Knowing this, I felt more comfortable trusting my eyes and kept Harris higher in my rankings than most analysts. Today, before the NFL draft, I have Harris ranked 16 spots higher than the pros at Dynasty League Football. Unlike Pierre Strong, Harris has not had much hype leading to rookie drafts, so I assume Harris will be one of my most rostered players this year.

Tyler Badie

  • Like Harris, Badie was one of my favorite players to watch on film. Unlike Harris, who is excellent between the tackles, Badie wins outside and in the passing game. His receiving chops will get him drafted to be an effective passing-down back, and a competent team will be glad to add him to their rosters, as will dynasty managers. Badie had 54 catches his senior season, giving him one standout year to end his career with 1604 yards rushing and 330 yards receiving for 18 touchdowns. That's more yards and touchdowns than he had in his first three years combined, so he is a late breakout, but he was such a versatile part of the offense that NFL teams and dynasty teams must take notice. At 5'8" and 197 lbs, he's smaller than Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris, but he will be asked to do something different than they are in an offense, and I am sure he can do it well.

Kevin Austin

  • One of the things I've learned from dynasty managers, particularly one guy in several of my leagues, is to draft athletic freaks late in rookie drafts. I missed out on players like Will Fuller and Chase Claypool in recent years because I value production far more than athleticism. At the end of the fourth round, I need to change my strategy and value athleticism over production. If I do, Kevin Austin and the next player I mention fit the bill. Austin played three years at Notre Dame and only had six receptions until last season, when he had 48 for 888 yards and seven touchdowns. He's a big-play guy, averaging more than 18 yards per catch at Notre Dame, and he'll get drafted by an NFL team late to provide that big-play ability. At the NFL Combine, Austin finished second in the 3-cone, tied for third in the vertical jump, fourth in the broad jump, and tied for eleventh in the 40-yard dash with a 4.43. At the back end of the fourth round of rookie drafts, he's a player I will take a chance on no matter his draft capital.

Fifth Round Targets

Jelani Woods

  • Speaking of athletic freaks, after dominating the NFL Combine, Woods went from a player likely to be an undrafted free agent to a player who will undoubtedly get drafted on day three. Woods measured in at 6''7" and 259 lbs. He finished first at the bench press with 24 reps and second at the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.61. His size and speed alone will get him drafted, especially at the tight end position, where more NFL teams draft players based solely on athleticism. Woods had a combined 31 catches and four touchdowns in his first three years at Oklahoma State before his final season at Virginia, when he had 44 catches and eight touchdowns. He has the size to be a red-zone monster in the NFL, making him a draftable player in the fifth round of rookie drafts. If he can improve in other areas and become an every-down starter, Woods could be a steal in the fifth round. I can't wait to see where and when he gets drafted next week.

Jerrion Ealy

  • Ealy was a five-start recruit before signing with Ole Miss, and he was instantly a part of the offense his freshman season, with 124 touches that season for 894 total yards. It was a great start to his college career, but he never improved upon it. He has 900 yards and 984 yards the following two years and never dominated the team in running back touches. During my rookie research process, I learned that he also played on the Ole Miss baseball team, so maybe his attention was divided. Whatever the reason, he did not live up to his five-star-recruit status, but he looked good on film when given touches, and he was very involved in the passing game with 67 catches in his career, including 32 in his final season. In the fifth round of a rookie draft, I'd be willing to draft a two-sport athlete with a five-star recruiting rating and hope that he gets a better chance in the NFL.

Keaontay Ingram

  • Similar to Ealy, Ingram was a top recruit in his class. He was only a four-star recruit, but he was the number one ranked running back in the state of Texas in 2018 when he signed with my Texas Longhorns. I watched him play in person here in Austin, and after his sophomore season thought he was poised to break out in his junior year, but injuries and even better recruits signing with Texas moved Ingram to the side. He transferred to USC and had a decent final season there with over a thousand total yards. He did not stand out in the NFL Combine, but I think an NFL with draft him based on his high school pedigree and ability to be involved in the passing game. He had 89 receptions in his four-year college career. Ingram and Ealy might go undrafted by NFL teams and dynasty managers, but I'd be happy to add them as the final player in my drafts just because they were such highly sought-after recruits.

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