5 undervalued rookie WR fantasy picks

Kevin Cole identifies five low-cost arbitrage plays for the top rookie wide receiver prospects.

| 6 months ago
(AP Photo/Al Goldis)

(AP Photo/Al Goldis)

5 undervalued rookie WR fantasy picks


Over the last two weeks, we put together numbers-based lists of comparable players for the second and top tiers of the 2016 wide receiver and running back prospects using a k-mean clustering algorithm. 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 the pairs in dynasty rookie mocks was substantial.

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 whose numbers are extraordinarily similar to the most highly coveted rookie wide receivers, but can be acquired for a fraction of the cost.

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

* MS = Market Share; FY = Final Year

Name School Dynasty Rank Scout Rank Draft Age Height Weight Forty Career Rec MS FY Rec MS FY TD/Gm FY Yds/Rec
Laquon Treadwell Ole Miss 1 1 21.0 74 221 4.65 0.23 0.26 0.85 14.1
De’Runnya Wilson Miss State 16 27 21.8 77 224 4.78 0.21 0.22 0.77 15.3

There is some concern about Laquon Treadwell’s draft stock sliding after posting a disappointing 4.65 second 40-yard dash at Ole Miss’ pro day, but most observers seem to think it shouldn’t hurt his draft stock. He’s still the consensus No. 1 wide receiver prospect in dynasty rookie mock drafts and according to NFL draft scouts.

Our Sam Monson is on record that Treadwell is, in fact, not a top wide receiver prospect, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that the numbers say he’s comparable as a prospect to De’Runnya Wilson, whose scout and dynasty rookie ranks aren’t in the top 15. Both receivers are fairly young, have prototype WR1 frames, and put up good but not elite production. Wilson is a bit slower (using pro-day times for comparison), but both receivers profile to win at the next level with physique, not speed.

Name School Dynasty Rank Scout Rank Draft Age Height Weight Forty Career Rec MS FY Rec MS FY TD/Gm FY Yds/Rec
Josh Doctson Texas Christian 2 4 23.6 74 202 4.50 0.28 0.38 1.40 17.0
Roger Lewis Bowling Green 21 18 22.6 72 201 4.57 0.30 0.30 1.14 18.2

In contrast to Treadwell, Josh Doctson’s workout performances have done nothing but boost his draft stock. Doctson is now the No. 2 wide receiver off the board in most dynasty rookie mocks, which tend to be more responsive to new information than scout rankings. Doctson is still seen as the fourth-best prospect according to scout rankings, behind Treadwell, Corey Coleman and Will Fuller.

Bowling Green’s Roger Lewis mirrors Doctson closely in terms of size, career production, touchdown scoring and field-stretching ability. Doctson proved to be slightly faster at the NFL Combine, but Lewis supposedly was suffering from a strained hamstring in Indianapolis, and he improved greatly on nearly every drill at Bowling Green’s pro day, including posting a sub-4.5 forty time.

Lewis brings pedigree beyond your typical small-school prospect: a former four-star high school recruit, losing his Ohio State offer due to off-the-field issues. Lewis has the traits of a potential NFL star, and was the No. 7 wide receiver in our prospect success scores, ahead of Treadwell and Doctson.

Name School Dynasty Rank Scout Rank Draft Age Height Weight Forty Career Rec MS FY Rec MS FY TD/Gm FY Yds/Rec
Michael Thomas Ohio State 5 6 23.3 75 212 4.57 0.20 0.32 0.69 13.9
Aaron Burbridge Michigan State 28 16 22.5 72 206 4.56 0.20 0.38 0.50 14.8

Despite his high dynasty and scout rankings, our numbers-based prospect success scores are highly skeptical of Michael Thomas. This comp pairing may be more of an indictment of Thomas than endorsement of Aaron Burbridge.

NFL scouts appear to be much higher on Burbridge than dynasty drafters, and Michigan State’s leading receiver could be an intriguing value pick if he goes earlier than expected in the NFL Draft.

Burbridge exploded in his senior year toward an elite market share of 40 percent, after never topping 400 receiving yards his first three seasons. Burbridge took advantage of the opportunity presented when Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery departed to the NFL. Neither Lippett nor Mumphrey were highly prized prospects in their own rights, putting a damper on the case that Burbridge’s low career market share was purely a result of competing with NFL-level talents.

Name School Dynasty Rank Scout Rank Draft Age Height Weight Forty Career Rec MS FY Rec MS FY TD/Gm FY Yds/Rec
Tyler Boyd Pittsburgh 7 5 21.7 74 197 4.58 0.43 0.40 0.50 10.2
Tajae Sharpe UMass 12 21 21.5 74 194 4.55 0.32 0.43 0.42 11.9
Hunter Sharp Utah State 33 46 22.2 72 198 4.58 0.37 0.38 0.82 11.8

Tyler Boyd is at the extreme end of collegiate market shares, topping 40 percent not only in his final year, but also for his entire three-year Pittsburgh career.

Tajae Sharpe and Hunter Sharp also have been the focal points of their respective offenses, and share concerns with Boyd about having the physical gifts to be successful at the next level.

Hunter Sharp’s dynasty and scout ranks place him firmly in the late-round dart-throw category, but Tajae Sharpe is much closer to Boyd in nearly every respect. Rather than spend an early dynasty rookie pick on Boyd, you could profit from waiting until the later rounds and drafting his virtual doppelganger, Tajae Sharpe.

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