Dynasty Roundtable – 2014 Rookie Edition
Scott Spratt, Mike Clay, and Pat Thorman explain their divergent opinions on the fantasy value of the 2014 rookies and the veterans affected by them.
Dynasty Roundtable – 2014 Rookie Edition
If you head over to our dynasty rankings page, you’ll find that everyone’s rankings have been updated to account for the results of the NFL draft. In addition, we’ve added a tab of our rookie rankings for everyone preparing for their dynasty rookie drafts. It seemed like a perfect time for another Roundtable. For this edition, I’ve solicited answers from Mike Clay, Pat Thorman, and myself.
There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground for analysts on Giants’ first-round selection Odell Beckham. Either they think he is at or near the top of that next tier of rookies after Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans or they think he has should not be near the rookie top 10. Pat, since the rest of us fall closer to the first statement in our rankings, can you explain why you’re lower on Beckham?
Pat: It shows how deep this class is that I like 14 rookies and 10 receivers over a strong prospect like Beckham. In addition to liking the traits of the receivers ahead of him more, I’m not a fan of Beckham’s situation. Ben McAdoo can bring Green Bay’s offense to New York but not with Aaron Rodgers. Guys like Moncrief, Benjamin, Adams, and even Lee and Robinson have brighter five-year windows from a situation standpoint.
Taking the longer view at that position is the way to go, and that’s why 10 of the 14 rookies ahead of Beckham are receivers. But I’m not sure it’s a good thing to be competing for a declining Eli’s targets against relatively young receivers like Cruz and Randle over the next several seasons. Especially when Beckham doesn’t fit a physically dominating profile of a WR1 that raises a quarterback’s game.
Mike, it’s easy to rank receivers who end up in the elite passing offenses—New Orleans, New England, Denver, etc.—near the top of the board because of their situations. Davante Adams presumably follows suit in Green Bay, but you ranked him seven spots lower than the most pessimistic of the rest of us. What are your thoughts on him?
Mike: I don’t think that it’s a case of not liking Adams. It’s more about liking a few other guys more. Adams, Cody Latimer and Donte Moncrief are all fourth on their respective team’s depth charts, but the latter duo has an easier path to targets in my estimation. The players above them on the Broncos’ and Colts’ depth charts are either underwhelming, aging, or injury prone. Adams isn’t getting past Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb for a while, and I like Jarrett Boykin to act as the No. 3 in 2014. I like Adams a lot—he’s only 21 and is going to do a lot of damage with the ball in his hands—but wide receiver is very deep this year.
Kelvin Benjamin presents an interesting case of potential short-term production. Benjamin is very big and very fast and has the physical abilities to become one of the best receivers in the game. However, he is one of the least-developed rookie receivers that could go off the boards in the first two rounds of rookie drafts. Meanwhile, the Panthers lost most of the receivers who caught passes for them in 2013 to free agency. Here is how I sort it all out:
Scott: I think it’s a mistake to assume that just because Cam Newton has been a consistent top five quarterback that a wide receiver has to emerge in the Panthers’ offense. Last season, none of Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Tedd Ginn reached 750 receiving yards, six touchdowns, or 100 standard fantasy points. However, Benjamin almost has to lead Panthers receivers in targets as a rookie. Jericho Cotchery is probably the best of the new Panthers wideouts, and he is at his best as a run blocker. For me, that makes Benjamin’s ceiling too high when he could lead all rookie receivers in targets even if he doesn’t play particularly well in 2014. Plus, he has the tools to potentially become a great player down the line. That is why I have him sixth in my dynasty rookie rankings.
The 49ers seemed to already have a nice collection of backs including Frank Gore and Marcus Lattimore. Then, they used a second-round pick on Carlos Hyde, who many believe was the best back in the class. Pat, does this kill everyone’s potential value? How would you handicap their potential?
Pat: The lack of clarity probably enhances the chance to extract value, if you pick the right guy(s)—and it might be one that’s not a 49er for much longer. It’s impossible for us to say if Lattimore will bounce back all the way, especially before seeing him on the field and gathering more info. He might even have a longer road to fantasy usefulness than LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter, who both are talented enough to take advantage of an opportunity that hasn’t come along yet once they’re out of San Francisco before the 2015 season—if not sooner in James’ case.
Gore is a one-year value and will be useful for teams going for it this year, but he won’t get the volume he did in 2013. San Francisco is going to throw more now that they’ve got a full complement of pass catchers for Kaepernick. Their defense has more questions than it has in the last several years, and they’ll need to rely on their passing game more often. Add in a sprinkling of touches for Hyde, who is strictly a long-term investment at this point, some pass-catching work for Hunter, and we’ll see about Lattimore’s health…it’s not a situation that I want to invest too heavily in, despite their reputation as a ground-based team.
Mike, you seem to consistently rank rookies higher relative to veterans than the rest of our rankers. Can you touch on your philosophy there? How does potential trade value play a role?
Mike: Anyone with experience in advanced dynasty leagues will tell you how hard it is to trade a proven player in their 30s as opposed to how easy it is to generate interest in an unproven kid with upside. That’s one reason why I lean youth over veterans. A second—and more important reason—is the goal of finding players who will exceed replacement value by the largest margins. Rookies bust all the time, but you’re better off rostering risky players who have high ceilings over veterans who cap out as a WR3 or 4.
I have by far the worst ranking for Lions’ TE Eric Ebron. Here is my rationale:
Scott: I think that Ebron has the highest ceiling of any tight end in the class because of his combination of size and speed. However, he has terrible hands. Greg Peshek of Rotoworld notes that Ebron dropped 11.4 percent of his targets last season. That’s more than twice the drop rate of Austin Seferian-Jenkins. In addition, Ebron lands in a crowded offense. Brandon Pettigrew is not a long-term obstacle for him, but he will definitely hamper Ebron’s short-term potential. Add that to the collection of receiving options such as Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, and Reggie Bush, as well as a much bigger red zone threat at tight end in Joseph Fauria, and I wonder if Ebron will ever see the volume of passes to potentially join the elite at the position.
Scott Spratt was named Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He also writes for RotoGraphs and contributes to ESPN Insider as a research analyst for Baseball Info Solutions. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt
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