Mining the 2013 NFL Draft for the Not So Obvious Contributors - Part 2
Part 2: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
In the second part of this article, I will take a look at the pass catchers from the 2013 draft who are not named Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson, both of whom figure to be drafted very highly based on their name and perceived roles/situations. These players that I will feature may not carry any of your teams this year, but they could be the perfect WR3 or flex that can score consistently all season or your matchups TE or even TE1.
DeAndre Hopkins, Texans
Like Bernard, whom I mentioned in last week’s edition of this piece, Hopkins is not a suggested last few rounds type of pick. While wide receiver is deep, and he won’t be a very early selection, by the time drafting season rolls around Hopkins may be second most coveted receiver after Tavon Austin. However, the hype will be justified and he will provide value wherever he is drafted. Currently being drafted in end of the ninth round (109 overall, source: Fantasy Football Calculator), I believe his value in PPR leagues will surpass that.
Hopkins was my favorite prospect in the entire wide receiver class to make an immediate impact and he couldn’t have been chosen into many better situations. Hopkins possesses a rare combination of body control in the air that we have all seen from the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Sidney Rice before the injuries, AJ Green, and many others. While I am not trying to compare him to them or say that he has all the other tools that make Green and Fitz elite, on jump balls he displays the technique and athleticism to make plays. The NFL is evolving, and the best QB’s make the right reads attacking one on one situation where the corner is left on an island.
The Texans have been missing a play-making second WR for a long time now and had in recent years resorted to the “well we don’t have anyone to make plays so lets just put out the best blocker as our WR2 and run a lot of two-receiver sets and run the ball”. For a while it worked. Then, in last year’s playoffs and towards the end of the regular season their offense was exposed. Teams began to load up the box and play coverage towards the middle of the field while using a safety over the top of Andre Johnson.
This is all great news for DeAndre Hopkins who is already running with the first-team offense in OTAs. So far nothing but glowing praise has been spoken for Hopkins who coach Gary Kubiak compared to Broncos legend Rod Smith whom he once coached. “Ball skills are extremely special. Very long; long arms. Big hands; you saw the catch he made out here today. He’s going to help us early, and we know that, and that’s why we brought him here,” said Kubiak. Matt Schaub had this to add when speaking about Hopkins after working with him for just a few days in OTAs, “He’s such a dynamic player, he’s just going to bring an added dimension to our offense.”
With rare ball skills and likely to see a ton of single coverage through the season because of the Texans strong run game and Andre Johnson lining up across him, Hopkins makes for a great value pick in Round 9. When AJ Green came out, he was being taken in a very similar ADP. While Hopkins does not possess Green’s talent, he has a better passer throwing him the ball. I would not hesitate to grab him a round earlier than whatever his ADP is when your draft rolls around.
For Hopkins’ youtube highlight reel, stats, and another opinion check out Nick Slegel’s piece from right he was drafted.
Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills
Woods is another receiver who could pay huge dividends for you if your league uses PPR in its scoring settings. The Bills have already penciled in Woods for their starting “Z” receiver position. For those who may not know, the Z position lines up on the QB’s strong side and is generally used more primarily for short and intermediate routes. This role suits Woods perfectly because at USC he was used at the same position and served as an underneath sure-handed receiver for Matt Barkley racking up tons of catches and yards.
Woods may not have sub-4.4 speed, jumping ability, quickness and mid-air adjustment of some of the best prospects to enter the NFL, but he has the smarts, hands, deceptive quickness that we often see in immediate contributors at the next level. He reminds me of Steve Smith when he was first drafted by the Giants before injuries derailed his career.
His best upside for 2013 may hinge on when/if EJ Manuel takes the starting QB job in Buffalo. Woods has already developed a nice rapport with Manuel in their limited time working together. Manuel and Woods connected on multiple passes in OTAs and had this to say about Woods, “[Woods] always seemed to be open and ran great routes,” Manuel said.
If Manuel can seize the job, Woods may be a sneaky PPR goldmine. The Bills are bounds to be behind in most games and will look to be throwing a lot of underneath patterns in “garbage time” and he can rack up garbage yards and receptions similar to what Dwayne Bowe did last year while Cassel was still QB. Before garbage time, new Head Coach Doug Marrone has already pledged to bring over his offensive system that he implanted at Syracuse. This should mean early-game shotgun and hurry-up offense. His goal is to get a lot of plays and possessions in. This just means more good things for Woods and his PPR potential.
Woods is currently being drafted 178th overall, and at the very end of round 13. The upside to Woods is a PPR start that can consistently get you somewhere between 10-15 points out of your flex spot in PPR leagues with an occasional touchdown as well. That kind of value is rare to find in round 13. Take a chance on Woods a round or two earlier than his ADP.
Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans
If you are in the last round of your deep 18- or 20-roster league, Justin Hunter, who is currently going undrafted can be your guy. First of all, the talent, while not always on display at Tennessee in the 2012 season is real and there is a lot of it. Some critics may downgrade Hunter and claim that he wasn’t always trying in 2012 for the Volunteers, but I find that very hard to believe based on an overall analysis of his on-field play. It came out in late April that Hunter was not physically back to full form from his surgically repaired knee until the end of last season. This is something that we see a lot in the NFL so there is no reason to dismiss it when it happens to Hunter. Even with the recovering knee, the 6’4 200 pound Hunter managed to post a 73/1,083/9 line with the Vols last season. He also possesses rare speed for his size as he ran a blazing official forty time of 4.44. Hunter may very well be the most physically talented WR in the entire draft.
NFL Films guru Greg Cosell had this to say about Hunter, “(Hunter) is, without question, the most explosive as a route runner with his long body, route fluidity, vertical speed and playmaking ability at the catch point.” Cosell also noticed that he had recaptured “legitimate acceleration and vertical explosion that clearly projects to the NFL” and “will impact games.” He went on to compare Hunter to a raw AJ Green.
Overall, most important for Hunter will be carving out a role. Right now he is practicing in the “Z” position which was occupied last season by Nate Washington who is likely to be cut due to salary concerns. Even without Locker staying healthy for the entire season, Washington posted a 46/746/4 line last season. With a healthy Locker and given how talented Hunter is, there is no reason to believe that he can’t best those numbers. Locker is a perfect final round or late round flier depending on how deep your league is.
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
Drawing back to a conclusion made in part 1 of this article, the Bengals need playmakers to add another dimension to their offense and Eifert is a piece they drafted with the clear intention of him helping them do that. In OTA’s already Eifert is lining up in multiple positions across different formations, including the slot. Eifert claims that the offense has come “naturally to him” and Head Coach Marvin Lewis can’t disagree referring to Eifert “as advertised.”
Eiert reminds me somewhat of Jimmy Graham. He is perfect at the back shoulder fade passes towards the sideline, he makes great mid-air adjustments, and he high points the football as well as any prospect in this draft. NFL Films guru Cosell had this to say about Eifert, “He’s my favorite tight end in this draft. I think his athleticism and movement is number-one in this draft. A very smooth athlete who shows the ability to run routes from split wide receiver positions against cornerbacks. He’s made back-shoulder catches in the seam against cornerbacks. In today’s NFL, he’s a first-round pick.”
The Bengals are in desperate need of some playmakers and a spark to their stagnant offense that was the primary reason for their downfall in last year’s playoffs. More importantly, Andy Dalton needs a number 2 target and Eifert has the potential to fit right into that role. If he can build a rapport with Dalton, Eifert can provide great value on his current ADP (166 overall, mid-13th round).
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have tried a few experiments at the TE position in recent years. First they tried to make Tony Moeaki their featured TE. One major knee injury later, he was fighting for a roster spot last offseason after an impressive start to his rookie campaign. He hasn’t regained form. They also tried signing one-time Super Bowl surprise Kevin Boss, formerly of the Giants and Raiders. More concussions kept him from producing. The one constant however was poor QB play from then starter Matt Cassel.
Cassel is gone now and a more competent Alex Smith is there to take his place. New Head Coach Andy Reid brought in Alex and his system. If you remember from his early days in Philadelphia before Vick, Reid loved to feature his TEs in the red zone. Without many other red zone threats, Travis Kelce can seize a nice opportunity to be that for the Chiefs in 2013.
Kelce was a great prospect and contributor before being suspended for a year at Cincinnati. With those troubles hopefully in the past, it could make sense to take Kelce in the very last round of a deep roster league. Look out for him to emerge as a strong NFL TE in the coming years as well.