5 undervalued rookie RB fantasy picks

Kevin Cole identifies five lower-cost arbitrage plays for the top rookie running back prospects.

| 7 months ago
(AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)

(AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)

5 undervalued rookie RB fantasy picks

Over the last two weeks, we put together lists of comparable players for the second- and top-tiers of the 2016 wide receiver and running back prospects. As part of that analysis, I noticed that some of the 2016 prospects were coming up as comps for each other, and often the valuation differential between them in scout rankings and dynasty rookie mocks was substantial.

We took a deeper look into the comparable receivers within the 2016 class, finding five undervalued rookie picks. In this post, we’re turning to the 2016 running back class.

Turning around your dynasty team is largely dependent on hitting your early first round rookie pick, but making shrewd late-round picks is just as important for maintaining a dominant squad.

Here are five players who are extraordinarily similar to the most highly coveted rookie running back, but can be acquired for a fraction of the cost.

* Dynasty Ranks from Dynasty League Football; Scout Ranks from NFL Draft Scout

* Stats for final year only

Name School Scout Rank Dynasty Rank Weight Forty Rush Yds/Gm Rec Yds/Gm
Paul Perkins UCLA 9 8 208 4.54 103.3 18.6
DeAndre Washington Texas Tech 15 19 204 4.49 114.8 29.6

Paul Perkins is viewed as the top sub-201-pound back in the 2016 class, and he was fifth in the nation according to his overall PFF grade. His smaller frame projects for a change-of-pace role, however, some some smaller backs have seen workhorse-level carries in the NFL (see Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy).

DeAndre Washington is slightly smaller and faster than Perkins, and matches or bests him in rushing and receiving production. Our post-combine success model had Washington as having a better chance at NFL success than Perkins, yet he’s significantly lower on scout and dynasty rookie mock boards. While landing spot and draft position could favor Perkins, Washington looks like a classic arbitrage opportunity in rookie drafts, providing essentially the same player at a much lower cost.

Name School Scout Rank Dynasty Rank Weight Forty Rush Yds/Gm Rec Yds/Gm
Alex Collins Arkansas 5 9 217 4.59 121.3 7.3
Peyton Barber Auburn 26 16 228 4.64 78.2 8.6

Drafters in dynasty rookie mocks have been much quicker to penalize Alex Collins for his sluggish NFL combine performance, which included a relatively slow forty time, and poor vertical and broad jumps.

The numbers comp Collins to Peyton Barber, who also posted poor speed and burst at the combine, but had a good three cone time, which is important for running back prospects. Despite the fact that Barber’s production dipped significantly in the second half of last season, the redshirt sophomore still decided to declare for the draft, motivated partly by the tough living conditions of his family. Barber doesn’t profile as a great prospect, but he’s close enough to Collins to provide similar production at the next level if given the chance.

Name School Scout Rank Dynasty Rank Weight Forty Rush Yds/Gm Rec Yds/Gm
Kenneth Dixon Louisiana Tech 4 3 215 4.58 97.5 42.2
Daniel Lasco California 11 13 209 4.46 92.9 29.7

Our pre-combine success model loved Kenneth Dixon’s touchdown scoring and receiving chops, but he fell a bit in the post-combine rankings after putting up a somewhat disappointing forty time. Dixon does have a unique blend of talents that could translate into a true three-down workload in the NFL, but his ranking among scouts and dynasty mockers incorporates most of that upside.

Daniel Lasco suffered many injuries during his final college season, but if you use his 2014 numbers, he looks very similar to Dixon. Lasco has good rushing and receiving ability, plus he had one of the most impressive combine performances of the entire running back group. Lasco has been moving up boards in the pre-draft process, but is still severely discounted to Dixon. If you can’t land one of the clear top-two backs this year, you could pass on Dixon and instead scoop up Lasco two-to-three rounds later.

Name School Scout Rank Dynasty Rank Weight Forty Rush Yds/Gm Rec Yds/Gm
Devontae Booker Utah 3 5 219 4.56* 126.1 31.6
C.J. Prosise Notre Dame 10 4 220 4.48 102.9 30.8

* Estimated based on scout reports

Devontae Booker is another back with a disconnect between his rankings from dynasty mocks and scouts. He hasn’t performed the athletic drills while recovering from injury, but still maintains a top-five ranking from scouts. That might be optimistic as Booker comps with Jay Ajayi and Javorius Allen from the 2015 class, who were both later-round picks.

The post-combine success scores were a love letter to C.J. Prosise, putting him in the same tier as the top-two backs. In addition to Booker, Prosise also comps to historical producers, like Marshawn Lynch and Latavius Murray. It will be intriguing to see where Prosise goes in the reality draft, as a destination like Indianapolis would make him an easy top-tier dynasty selection.

Name School Scout Rank Dynasty Rank Weight Forty Rush Yds/Gm Rec Yds/Gm
Ezekiel Elliott Ohio State 1 1 225 4.47 140.1 15.8
Derrick Henry Alabama 2 2 247 4.54 147.9 6.1

This comp might seem a bit silly, as Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry are clearly the top-two backs in the eyes of dynasty drafters and NFL scouts. But, the difference in price between the two, at least in dynasty mock drafts, is substantial. Elliott is the clear No. 1 overall pick, whereas Henry is currently down at No. 6.

The post-combine success model liked Henry’s freakish size/speed combination and gave him the highest score, better than Elliott’s. If you have the No. 1 pick in your dynasty rookie draft, it might be a good idea to trade down slightly, grab the Elliott-equivalent talent in Henry, and profit to the tune of an extra pick or two as part of the deal.

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