PFF Dynasty Rookie Draft: Round 1
The PFF Fantasy crew virtually assembled for the 2015 rookie draft last week, our third such event as the league moves into its fourth season. Since all prospects have strengths and weaknesses, I’m going to look at the first round and provide quick analysis for each of the players.
Those who followed Jon Moore’s writing for ESPN/PFF this summer know that age and production tend to be underrated in the NFL Draft, and those qualities trickle down to provide excess fantasy value as well. In the first category, youth is valuable both in terms of draft age and age at the time of first breakout in college.
When it comes to production, raw numbers tend to be overvalued for receivers while scheme-adjusted numbers are undervalued. We often hear that heavy workloads have deleterious effects for running backs, but this isn’t the case when projecting runners from college to the NFL. Per carry averages tend to be overvalued, while total touches – and especially receiving touches – are undervalued.
Finally, measures of athleticism are often fully valued or occasionally overvalued during the draft process, but leaping and agility numbers can get short shrift when compared to 40 times. Just because athletic players are often overvalued, that doesn’t mean you should avoid those players when they inexplicably fall. This is especially the case for players with plus size. The NFL is a size/speed league, and you should build your roster more along the lines of the John Schneider Seahawks than the Bill Polian Colts.
1.01 Todd Gurley
The Good: Gurley blends elite athleticism with a well-rounded production profile that includes receiving ability. He’s not only one of the youngest players in the draft, he was also productive immediately in college. It’s not impossible that he becomes a version of Adrian Peterson who’s also a plus pass-catcher. Gurley crushed the field in yards after contact per carry against Power 5 opponents.
The Bad: Running back has a shorter dynasty shelf life, and Gurley enters the league with significant durability concerns. He also lands in St. Louis where the Rams are likely to hand him a huge number of low-leverage touches, exactly the sort of usage that increases the likelihood of injuries without a corresponding boost to your fantasy bank account.
1.02 Amari Cooper
The Good: Cooper’s age/production profile is almost unrivaled. Among receivers with at least 1000 receiving yards, the Crimson Tide star’s 3.97 yards per route easily led the pack. With elite speed and agility numbers, the Marvin Harrison comparisons are not completely ridiculous.
The Bad: Cooper’s 33-inch vertical is poor, leading some to conclude he’s more of a 1b than a potential star. He might struggle to be a supercharged Antonio Brown with the overrated Derek Carr throwing to him.
1.03 Kevin White
The Good: White is a freakish athlete who put up big raw numbers in 2014. Many believe he has the traits to join the top tier of fantasy receivers fairly quickly.
The Bad: When you adjust White’s production for age, experience, and market share, he fits the historical bust profile. A selection in the Top 10 mitigates those concerns, but it’s worth noting that the 2014 efficiency gap between White and Devante Parker was more than 1.5 yards per route.
1.04 Melvin Gordon
The Good: Gordon’s epic production and on-field explosiveness suggests superstardom. His Breakaway Percentage of 56.7 percent was bested only by Tevin Coleman. Since most fantasy running back value is based on usage, it gives you a weekly advantage to roster players with the ability to create a big play – and thus big points – on any given snap.
The Bad: The Wisconsin star showed mediocre tested athleticism at the Combine and lands on a team where his possible passing down weaknesses could be exaggerated. It will be difficult to put up clear RB1 numbers if Danny Woodhead steals all the receiving work.
1.05 Devante Parker
The Good: In his partial season, Parker lapped the field in yards per route against Power 5 opponents. His 4.21 yprr was 0.6 better than Cooper and Tyler Lockett. From an athleticism and build perspective, he looks like A.J. Green with better speed.
The Bad: Parker joins White as a player whose age- and experience-adjusted results throw up a big red flag. His yardage numbers from 2011 to 2013 while playing with Teddy Bridgewater were fairly depressing. The foot injury complicates matters further, as does a relatively crowded receiver depth chart. Parker certainly profiles as the future No. 1 in Miami, but will he ever command 27 percent of the targets with Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and Jordan Cameron in town?
1.06 Nelson Agholor
The Good: Agholor doesn’t jump out in any one area, but his speed, agility, and explosion profile places him in a group with Golden Tate, Jeremy Maclin, and Greg Jennings. He should benefit from the pace and target opportunity in Chip Kelly’s offense.
The Bad: Counted on to end the USC receiver curse, Agholor was not as productive in college as Robert Woods or Marqise Lee. He may present a WR2 ceiling unless Sam Bradford jumps a couple of tiers in the quarterback department.
1.07 TJ Yeldon
The Good: Yeldon was very productive as a college freshman and owns a size/receiving combination that reminds of Le’Veon Bell and Eddie Lacy. With no real depth chart competition and a strong commitment from Jaguars brass, he looks like an instant bell cow.
The Bad: The Crimson Tide star failed to impress as an athlete in the draft run-up, conjuring images of the plodding Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram. On the field, his 2.6 YCo/Att barely made the Top 10, and he fell outside that range in Breakaway Percentage. Durability was a concern in 2013 and 2014, and historically such backs are less likely to emerge as NFL workhorses.
1.08 Breshad Perriman
The Good: Perriman is a similar athlete to White and owns a better resume of age- and scheme-adjusted production. He lands with a Baltimore squad that conspicuously lacks a No. 1 receiver and in an offensive scheme that peppers its top target with opportunities.
The Bad: Questions about “play speed,” hands, and route refinement will dog Perriman until he conclusively disproves them. Joe Flacco’s accuracy and Baltimore’s team philosophy could conspire to limit Perriman’s ceiling.
1.09 Ameer Abdullah
The Good: Abdullah owns multiple seasons of elite and varied production. He also earned the top SPARQ score at the position after absolutely destroying the leaping and agility drills. Detroit’s depth chart offers plenty of opportunity, and he fits the Joe Lombardi passing down template.
The Bad: The Nebraska star lacks elite long speed, and he generated a limited number of breakaway runs a year ago. He could have a ceiling in Gio Bernard territory.
1.10 Dorial Green-Beckham
The Good: DGB offers ridiculous size and excellent weight-adjusted speed and agility. Landing with Marcus Mariota on a receiver-needy team could be a more favorable development than many realize.
The Bad: Green-Beckham’s vertical leap was poor, and research suggests that’s the athletic drill correlating most highly with WR success. Moreover, his yardage numbers in 2013 were pedestrian at best once you adjust for the volume of Missouri’s passing offense. He looks like a mix between Ray Rice and Josh Gordon in the character department.
1.11 Tevin Coleman
The Good: Coleman was the most explosive runner in college football last season and backed that up with fast times at his pro day. He’s often accused of padding his stats against weaker competition, but his utter demolition of Missouri and Ohio State points in the other direction. His Breakaway Percentage actually went up against Power 5 competition.
The Bad: Coleman’s style hints at the worst of Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden. Many question his rushing instincts and the fit in Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking system.
1.12 Maxx Williams
The Good: The raw numbers don’t jump out, but Williams was ridiculously productive as a receiver when you consider the extreme run-pass splits in Minnesota’s offense. He’s also very young, which helps to balance some of the athleticism concerns. Baltimore has an immediate need at the position.
The Bad: Although we saw Combine failure Jarvis Landry impress as a rookie, Williams is almost singularly unathletic for an early round tight end.
Stay tuned for a look at Round 2, a stanza littered with intriguing running back selections and the first IDP.