NFL Draft Impact: Dynasty Downgrades
Less than 24 hours remain before the value of several NFL veterans will get tossed into a wood chipper. Precariously perched on those branches are a handful of fantasy turkeys who will get an 11th-hour pardon, as their fantasy owners sit praying beside them.
The twisting-in-the-wind status of these assets is no secret to most dynasty enthusiasts. Some will be worth holding onto, as it’s better to white-knuckle your way through the draft, than it is to settle for a meager trade return. Others are ships so sure to sink that stealing hand towels is the best you can hope for before bailing. Either way, time is running out and you will be entering trade talks from a position of weakness.
To get a rough sense of what these volatile dynasty stocks are worth, I consulted the latest mock draft results compiled by the fine folks at Dynasty League Football. By cross-checking the ADPs of incoming rookies from start-up mocks with those same players in rookie-only mocks, we can get a loose equivalent of what rookie draft picks equate to in a full-league draft.
For instance, Ameer Abdullah has an ADP of 86 in April start-up mock drafts, and he’s been going, on average, at the 1.11 pick in recent rookie mocks. A couple of (interesting) veterans that are going off the board near the 86th pick in those same start-up mocks are Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon. So, as a jumping-off point, we can equate their value to a late-1st or early-2nd round rookie pick.
This doesn’t give an airtight value equivalency since there are fewer options among rookies, versus a full player pool in start-up drafts. Also, at this stage of the offseason, rookie enthusiasm is building and picks are guarded like Ruston Webster’s Ouija board. But it at least gets us in the ballpark, and potential trade negotiations can be led off with ADP-backed valuations.
Matt Forte (Start-Up ADP: 43; Rookie Pick Equivalent: Early-1st Round)
Forte will be 30 years old in December and is in the last year of his contract. Chicago has multiple roster holes, and it’s doubtful that they add a high-octane rookie runner, but there are viable options in the late rounds. The inefficient Forte has been buoyed by a huge workload, especially in the passing game. In 2014, his rushing graded 21st by PFF (+1.9), and he ranked 39th in fantasy points per opportunity.
While John Fox has promised a run-heavy approach, Forte is a short-term asset uniquely suited to a contending dynasty team. However, if someone offers an early (or mid) first round pick, it would be foolish to pass. There are several plug-and-play rushing roles around the league that could match or exceed Chicago’s situation, never mind the injection of talented youth the pick would provide.
Lamar Miller (Start-Up ADP: 48; Rookie Pick Equivalent: Mid-1st Round)
There have been whispers for a while, but with Peter King projecting Todd Gurley to the Dolphins, alarm bells are officially ringing throughout Fantasyland. It may not be smart, but this is Miami after all. It’s very possible. Miller earned PFF’s fifth-best rushing grade (+11.0), was the ninth-best fantasy back, and did it behind PFF’s sixth-worst run-blocking unit. Still, Gurley would relegate him to handcuff status.
Miller is in the last year of his contract and turned 24 this week, so, depending on where he plays next season, the setback might be temporary. However, if you can wrangle a mid-first round pick, you should gladly take it. Anything less than that and you’re better off holding out hope that he finds greener pastures in 2016.
Arian Foster (Start-Up ADP: 61; Rookie Pick Equivalent: Mid-to-Late 1st Round)
Houston is another spot that Gurley is often mocked to, in addition to a couple of other high-upside running backs. The writing is on the wall for the soon-to-be 29-year-old with the tread-bare tires. Foster has averaged 10.5 games played over the last two seasons, and what seems like the same number of injuries each year. Bill O’Brien has already alluded to easing off his workload to keep him fresh.
Foster has another year on his deal, but that might only mean he’s trapped behind a younger back as the final fumes dissipate from his gas tank. An argument can be made for a dynasty contender to hold on and pray that he survives the draft as the lead backfield dog and avoids injury. He is still a beast when he’s right. But a late-first rounder is more than fair for this fading star—if you can get it.
Andre Ellington (Start-Up ADP: 73; Rookie Pick Equivalent: Late 1st Round)
Playing the “Who’s Younger than Andre Ellington” game is always good for a few laughs (he’s been 26 since the day after the Super Bowl), if for no other reason than people are still surprised. Even if he was not old (he is), and there were no questions about him holding up to a heavy workload (he cannot), the fact that Arizona will draft a power runner to match a morphing offensive philosophy is terrifying for his value.
It is doubtful that, short of excavating a league mate from under a rock and showing them tape from 2013, Ellington can bring back a late first rounder. Settling for a second round pick in a rookie draft that is chock-full of running backs is similarly advisable. At the very least you’ll get a significantly younger player.
Charles Johnson (Start-Up ADP: 77; Rookie Pick Equivalent: Late 1st Round)
Receivers have longer shelf lives than running backs, and the most talented ones deserve more rope. However, for having only one season under his belt, the fact that Johnson is already 26 is notable. With just a pair of weeks in which he qualified as a fantasy WR2 and zero top-12 outputs, his frothy dynasty ADP also catches the eye—especially with Minnesota being a popular mock draft location for receivers.
Johnson is talented and on track to be Teddy Bridgewater’s starting X receiver. But Mike Wallace’s presence will reduce Johnson’s team-leading 15.5-yard aDOT, and 53.5 percent of his receiving production came on passes of 20 or more yards. Cordarrelle Patterson is a disaster but not entirely without hope. The team will also be run-heavier with Adrian Peterson back. Sell for a late-first, if possible.
Jonathan Stewart (Start-Up ADP: 91; Rookie Pick Equivalent: Late 1st-to-Early 2nd Round)
If someone offered you a late first rounder for Stewart at this time last year, you would have read the email three times to be sure you weren’t drunk. What a difference one good month makes. Carolina’s backfield seas finally parted, and we saw what we knew all along. Stewart looks excellent when he’s healthy, even if the Panthers offense ultimately does not lend itself to a lot of goal line production.
Unfortunately, Ron Rivera has not had a lobotomy and wants to continue splitting backfield touches, even if DeAngelo Williams is no longer tied around Stewart’s fragile ankle. There is not much competition for the 28-year-old at the moment, but the Panthers will draft some. He is not a must-sell, but a non-contending dynasty team should strongly consider cashing in now.
Joique Bell (Start-Up ADP: 93; Rookie Pick Equivalent: Late 1st-to-Early 2nd Round)
Bell will be 29 in August, had two offseason surgeries, and will compete with upgraded running back talent. He was less involved in the passing game than in 2013, and Theo Riddick is set to handle third down work if a rookie back doesn’t take over entirely. Bell ran poorly in 2014, averaging 3.8 yards per carry and earning PFF’s 34th “best” rushing grade (-1.2). You likely acquired him for peanuts, so the time is now to take your profits. Sell the touchdown-reliant Bell for an early second rounder.
Devonta Freeman (Start-Up ADP: 99; Rookie Pick Equivalent: Early 2nd Round)
It is hard to believe that Freeman will bring back a high second round pick, but it would be worth taking if it’s out there. Anything less than that, however, and the move is not worth making. Atlanta has enough roster holes that they may need to pass on a high-round running back, and there’s a non-zero chance that Freeman can take the reigns. He excels in the passing game, upon which the Falcons will need to rely heavily when losing—which will be often.
Marquess Wilson (Start-Up ADP: 112; Rookie Pick Equivalent: Mid-to-Late 2nd Round)
He won’t turn 23 until September and, despite muted production during his first two seasons, still has plenty of upside. Based on several mocks, concern exists that the Bears will use a high pick to find Brandon Marshall’s replacement, again relegating Wilson to third-fiddle. Jay Cutler’s schizophrenic performances, as well as a run-based scheme, are additional worries. However, he is only signed through next season and has plenty of career in front of him, in Chicago or elsewhere. Don’t jump ship just yet.
Brian Quick (Start-Up ADP: 119; Rookie Pick Equivalent: Mid-to-Late 2nd Round)
Quick investors have traveled an arduous road, but it appears like he will be healthy enough to take advantage of his new quarterback’s penchant for throwing the long ball (Nick Foles led football in deep ball percentage the last two years). If it doesn’t work out in St. Louis—and they are expected to upgrade the receiving corps—he will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Hold him just a little longer. You gave up on turning a Quick profit long ago anyway.
Josh Huff (Start-UP ADP: 141; Rookie Pick Equivalent: Early 3rd Round)
Much buzz surrounds Huff for someone who caught eight passes last year, and it’s based primarily on short-term depth chart weakness and an Oregon connection. He still has to pass a pair of low-ceiling veterans, and most likely, at least one more talented rookie. In a run-based offense that spreads targets around, Huff’s ceiling is lower than his perceived value. His profiles ideally as depth in a best-ball league. Cash him in.
Terrance Williams (Start-Up ADP: 142; Rookie Pick Equivalent: Early 3rd Round)
Another wideout who is most useful in a best-ball format, Williams will conceivably rank fifth on the Cowboys’ target totem pole. His eight touchdowns are unsustainable, even if he isn’t targeted less often than Cole Beasley—a regular occurrence down the stretch last season. Dallas has plenty of holes, but if they do spend a mid-round pick on a receiver, chances are he will be better than Williams. Jump ship.
Pat Thorman is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy and was named 2013 Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Thorman