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Mon May 10th 2021

Rookie Risers and Fallers

How Draft Capital Affected My Rookie Rankings

The NFL draft wrapped up last weekend, and now it's rookie draft season for dynasty managers - the best part of the year! I have one rookie draft underway and two more that start this week. My articles throughout May will report on these rookie drafts to give you a sense of ADP on players, and I will share why I picked the players I did in each rookie draft.

Before your rookie drafts get underway, I wanted to update significant changes in my dynasty rankings after we learned how NFL teams value this rookie class based on their draft capital. Draft capital and landing spot are the top two factors in my process of determining rookie rankings, and it's the last two pieces of the puzzle. My rookie rankings are complete and will change very little until preseason games, but most of your leagues will hold rookie drafts before then.

After the NFL draft, these are the ten players who saw the most drastic change in my rookie rankings, whether they're risers or fallers.

Rookies On The Rise

Trey Lance (from #21 to #12)

  • Trey Lance was my third-ranked quarterback before the draft behind Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, but after the 49ers drafted him with the third pick of the first round, I moved him ahead of Fields. The 49ers traded three first-round picks (including their first-round pick this year) to get in a position to draft Lance, which means he will get every last chance to succeed. Kyle Shanahan's offensive scheme had made back-up quarterbacks look good when Jimmy Garoppolo was injured over the previous two years and made Garoppolo a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl, even though he's average by NFL standards. Shanahan can make Lance productive in the NFL, if not make him a superstar. He will have plenty of versatile weapons with George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Deebo Samuel catching passes, and the 49ers added Trey Sermon to their rookie class to compete with Raheem Mostert and Jeffery Wilson. Lance is a perfect fit for this organization, and he's risen to a first-round pick in my eyes. 

Kadarius Toney (from #28 to #20)

  • If you've been following my rookie coverage, you know I am not a fan of Toney. However, the simple fact that he was drafted in the first round caused me to value him in the middle of the second round rather than the middle of the third round. As much as I wanted to hold him back in my rankings, his first-round draft capital and the many players I had ranked ahead of him (see below) that were not drafted until day three cause him to rise while they fell. Players falling behind Toney made him move up in my rankings. I am uncertain how the Giants plan to use Toney or if Jason Garrett has the creativity needed to maximize his skills, but I'd draft him to see in the middle of the second round to see. I know many other dynasty analysts feel the same way about Toney, so it will be fun to see which managers in each league are the first to take a chance on him, given that his draft capital demands it.

Dez Fitzpatrick (from #38 to #29)

  • Tennessee drafted Fitzpatrick, a team in deep need of a starting wide receiver, but they waited until the fourth round to draft one. After the top-tier wide receivers were drafted on day one and two, it seemed like teams just drafted the guy they thought best fit a specific role on their teams. The Titans selected an excellent possession receiver who was the most productive in the Senior Bowl, catching six passes for 90 yards. Fitzpatrick played all four years in college and averaged 632 yards receiving per season, including 833 in his senior season at Louisville. He's steady and reliable, and he'll have every chance to start in three wide receiver sets next season, making him a third-round value in rookie drafts. As an aside, the fact that Tennessee waited until the fourth round to draft a wide receiver shows that they believe Josh Reynolds, who they picked up in free agency, is ready to take the WR-2 role on the team vacated by Corey Davis, who left in free agency to the Jets.

D'Wayne Eskridge (from #37 to #29)

  • Eskridge was drafted in the second round by Seattle, higher than anyone believed he would be drafted, so I had to move him up in my rankings. However, his surprisingly high draft capital is quenched significantly by landing on a team with two solid wide receivers ahead of him under contract for several years, Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. Plus, he was drafted by a team that likes to run first instead of "letting Russ cook." Russell Wilson has never made a WR-3 on his team significant from a fantasy perspective. Eskridge may help the Seahawks as a team, but I am not sure he will become a player who will become a starter on dynasty rosters. That said, draft capital alone cause me to move him up from a fourth-round pick to a third-round pick.

Nico Collins (from #45 to #32)

  • Collins was drafted by the Texans in the third round, far earlier than I expected he would get drafted based on his college production. However, some NFL teams fall in love with athleticism and traits, and Collins checks those boxes. Brandin Cooks is the clear WR-1 on the team, but the WR-2 position is really up for grabs. Collins could compete with Keke Coutee and Randall Cobb for that position. The question is, who will be the Texan's quarterback? If Deshaun Watson gets suspended or traded, Collins will catch passes from Tyrod Taylor or fellow rookie Davis Mills, who the Texans drafted just before Collins. If Taylor or Davis is the starting quarterback this year, Collin's rookie year could get off to a tough start. I still have two receivers that were drafted later than Collins ranked ahead of him because I like their talent more, but draft capital speaks for itself, so I had to move Collins up.

Rookies On The Fall

Rashod Bateman (from #4 to #10)

  • Bateman was my second-ranked rookie wide receiver before the NFL draft, but I moved him back to my 5th ranked wide receiver after being drafted by the Ravens. As the fourth wide receiver drafted in the first round, he has the draft capital but was drafted by a team whose scheme does not create top-tier fantasy wide receivers. Baltimore's run-based scheme and Lamar Jackson's strengths don't help wide receivers, even though it appears that Baltimore wants an alpha receiver based on the fact that they've drafted so many wide receivers in the last two drafts. I can say without a doubt that Bateman is better than any of the receivers they have drafted the last few years, including Marquise Brown, who stands to lose the most dynasty value after Baltimore selected Bateman. They'll have two first-round picks in Brown and Bateman to throw to next year. While I dinged Bateman in my rankings a bit, I am more hopeful than most analysts. I keep reminding myself of how disappointed I was when the run-heavy Titans drafted A.J. Brown. Brown's talent demanded the ball, and he did enough with his chances even though they were limited. Bateman could very well do the same. I just drafted him at the 2.1 (pick #13) in my first 2021 rookie draft.

Chuba Hubbard (from #16 to #26)

  • I was very hopeful that Hubbard would be a third-round draft pick on a team with some uncertainty at running back. Instead, he was drafted in the fourth round to back up Christian McCaffrey. I moved Hubbard back ten spots in my rankings because he has no chance to become a starter in Carolina, but I did not move him back extremely far because he could become one of the best handcuffs to roster. Mike Davis was a viable dynasty starter throughout the season, while McCaffrey was injured. Chuba could easily do the same. Matt Rhule drafts for speed, and he has an Olympic-level speedster on his team, and I believe he will get more touches than people expect, even in his rookie year. I am hopeful that he will fall to me in some rookie drafts because other managers had him drop even further than me in their rankings.

Tylan Wallace (from #9 to #24)

  • Wallace took one of the biggest tumbles in my rankings, much to my disgust. I was very hopeful that Wallace would get drafted by the Chargers in the third round, where they drafted Josh Palmer. The Chargers know more than I know, but I don't see how they like Palmer more than Wallace. Instead, Baltimore drafted Wallace in the fourth round to compete with the aforementioned Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman. If Bateman were not there, I would not have docked him as much as I did, but now there is just too much competition in Baltimore. I had to move down significantly since he's competing with two first-round draft picks on a run-first team. 

Tamorrion Terry (from #24 to #35)

  • I was shocked that Terry was not drafted. Character issues and inconsistent production at Florida State must have sealed his fate. Usually, I would drop an undrafted receiver entirely out of my rookie rankings, but Terry signed a UDFA contract with Seattle, a team known to take chances on players and a team with open spots on the roster. Terry is my second-ranked UDFA, ranked four spots behind Javian Hawkins, who signed with Atlanta. I'd still rather take a chance on Terry at the end of the third round than some of the wide receivers drafted in the sixth and seventh round of the NFL draft. Eskridge, Seattle's second-round pick, has a huge leg up on Terry because of the draft capital, but Seattle is one of the few teams that are happy to let the best man win. We need only look to Russell Wilson or Chris Carson to prove that point.

Jermar Jefferson (from #23 to #53)

  • Jefferson's value plummeted because of his sixth-round draft capital and landing spot. Detroit is pretty well set at running back with D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. Though the recent release of Kerryon Johnson, which took place after I ranked Jefferson #53, will cause me to move him up a bit. At the time, I thought he was buried behind three running backs drafted ahead of him, but now there are only two, but a solid two. Jefferson is not likely to see any playing time unless Swift or Williams gets injured. He's only worth drafting in the last round of rookie drafts, but even then will likely be one of the first players dropped at the cut date. He's definitely a player I will add to my scout team to keep an eye on throughout the season.

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