PFF Dynasty Rookie Draft: Round 2
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.
2.01 Jaelen Strong
The Good: Strong’s multi-year market share production resume is better than that of Kevin White or Devante Parker, and he’s younger than both players. He’s also a similarly sized and similarly explosive athlete with a 40-inch vertical. (Keep in mind that vertical is the most important testing drill as it relates to wide receiver production.) He steps into a favorable situation for opportunity opposite DeAndre Hopkins.
The Bad: It’s always a bad sign when a player many saw as a borderline first/second round pick falls into Round 3, although we’ve seen recent fallers like Keenan Allen and Martavis Bryant put up excellent rookie seasons. While Strong gets an open depth chart, the Texans could be run-heavy and QB-starved for many years to come.
2.02 Duke Johnson
The Good: Johnson averaged 3.43 yards after contact per carry against Power 5 competition, and he was explosive in the open field the last two seasons. His receiving ability gives him an immediate edge over Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West for the high value touches.
The Bad: Cleveland may have an elite offensive line, but their offense still projects to be one of the worst in the NFL. Decision-makers in Cleveland have referred to Johnson as a Gio Bernard-type back, a red flag when it comes to winning three-down duties over the underwhelming second year runners.
2.03 Devin Funchess
The Good: Funchess is a size/athleticism/age phenom who sports market share production far better than most realize. Rarely mentioned in the same breath as Dorial Green-Beckham, his well-rounded athletic profile gave him the far better SPARQ score. It’s not a stretch to think he could immediately pass Kelvin Benjamin as the Panthers No. 1.
The Bad: Although Michigan’s offense was beyond dreadful, Funchess owns a resume of raw production that gives pause to even his most ardent supporters. These concerns are amplified by scouting reservations about his hands and a perceived reluctance to use his size to full advantage. He dropped 6 of 68 catchable passes this season and was the intended target on four interceptions.
2.04 Jay Ajayi
The Good: Ajayi’s size/athleticism/production profile arguably makes him the No. 2 prospect at the position, ahead of Melvin Gordon and T.J. Yeldon and behind only Todd Gurley. Many who’ve evaluated the knee issue believe it has far less relevance than the draft plunge suggests. The Dolphins appear to be looking for any excuse not to re-sign Lamar Miller after next season.
The Bad: Bone-on-bone sounds awful, and it may be a huge problem. Moreover, if it’s not – and some of the most sophisticated organizations would probably know if it isn’t – then Ajayi also fell on actual talent concerns. Often compared to Marshawn Lynch, his after-contact results do not indicate anything of the sort. He’s also theoretically blocked by one of the NFL’s best young runners, assuming Miami actually figures that out.
2.05 Phillip Dorsett
The Good: Dorsett is really, really fast and gets to catch passes from Andrew Luck. Anecdotal evidence suggests small, fast receivers benefit the most from elite quarterback play.
The Bad: Dorsett is fast, but his production was underwhelming, at least compared to his draft slot. His college career wasn’t even in the same universe as T.Y. Hilton’s, for example. Davante Adams owners know firsthand how risky it can be to assume a crowded depth chart will clear.
2.06 Jameis Winston
The Good: Winston had one of the best freshman seasons ever and will get a long leash as the No. 1 overall pick. He also has a big arm and potentially elite weapons. Those in the know rave about his football IQ.
The Bad: In his 2014 defense of the Heisman Trophy and National Title, Winston was an unmitigated disaster. Only an ultra-elite roster and incredible late game luck managed to cover for his myriad early game transgressions. While work ethic and intelligence do not appear to be in question, all other character concerns are off the charts. Of the triple towers, Vincent Jackson was one of the worst receivers in the NFL last season and Austin Seferian-Jenkins did very little to confirm the immense upside many project. It’s possible this receiving corps is one of the NFL’s most overrated.
2.07 David Johnson
The Good: Among drafted runners, Johnson possesses the best combination of weight-adjusted speed and agility, and it’s not particularly close. He shows incredible burst and fluidity for a big back and might immediately be one of the five best receiving backs in the NFL. There is reason to believe he does everything better than incumbent Andre Ellington and will quickly become the Cardinals No. 1.
The Bad: Johnson will be an old rookie, which is a red flag that doesn’t mix particularly wll with “project” label. Facing a large jump in competition, many believe he already struggled to run inside effectively against FCS competition. He may eventually settle in as more of an H-back than fantasy force.
2.08 David Cobb
The Good: Not Bishop Sankey. In all seriousness, that seems to be about all Cobb has going for him. He did show plus leaping ability at the Combine and has been billed as Stevan Ridley with better receiving skills.
The Bad: Cobb was drafted after Tennessee selected a fullback, which should send a stronger signal about their intentions than many credit. The biggest problem with the Titans running game is the organization (team talent, scheme, and playcalling). Sankey may very well fail, but it’s hard to see how a limited, straight line runner would benefit.
2.09 Marcus Mariota
The Good: Mariota is basically Johnny Manziel with better size, speed, arm strength, work ethic, and general character. So really he’s nothing like Manziel. Mariota was quite a bit more accurate than Winston on deep passes last year (50 percent to 38 percent) and threw twice as many deep touchdowns. Enthusiasts believe his running ability gives him a floor around Winston’s ceiling.
The Bad: He plays for the Titans and Ken Whisenhunt. So when I say his floor, let’s say his 2016 floor after everyone in Tennessee is fired.
2.10 Stephone Anthony
The Good: Anthony is the perfect combination of incredible athleticism and immediate opportunity. First round linebackers with plus measurables are a priority in every LB-heavy IDP draft.
The Bad: Anthony didn’t land in the Top 10 of CFF’s run stop metric, which may signal a lower ceiling than league-winning IDPs like Lavonte David or Luke Kuechly.
2.11 Devin Smith
The Good: Smith was far more productive than Dorsett and offers elite explosiveness to the Jets offense. He finished just behind Tyler Lockett with 3.61 yards per route and led FBS with 754 yards on passes traveling 20 yards in the air.
The Bad: Although the draft slot sends a very positive signal, landing in New York was almost a worst case scenario for near term production. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are entrenched as the starters, while Jace Amaro looks primed to emerge at tight end. Throw in an unsettled quarterback situation, and the volume/efficiency combination for Smith looks fairly dire.
2.12 Tyler Lockett
The Good: The College Football Focus yards per route numbers confirm what market share enthusiasts have been saying for a while. Lockett, not Kevin White, was the best receiver in the Big 12 last season. The depth chart in Seattle is slightly more crowded than it looks on the surface – Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Chris Matthews, and Paul Richardson will all vie for targets – but Lockett should be the 1b to Jimmy Graham sooner rather than later.
The Bad: Lockett is a little guy. For all of the sound and fury about TeamBigReceiver versus TeamSmallReceiver, everyone understands the fundamental dynamic at play or the Kansas State superstar would have been an early first round rookie selection. There are also some mild concerns about pass volume in the Seattle offense.