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In the Zone

Christine_Michael3

Since the beginning of January, I’ve been hearing the 2013 rookie class lacks a truly elite player at virtually every skill position.  Now that the NFL Draft has come and gone and the rookie class finally has a home, its safe to say that feeling was spot on.  The more I think about this draft class, the more I realize I personally would not want to be faced with the decision on who to draft with a pick in the range of 1.01-1.03.  I feel like there isn’t a player who impresses me enough, or is talented enough to warrant such a high draft status.

So, I decided to adapt and create an entirely new draft strategy for myself this year.  After looking at multiple rankings, mock and actual rookie drafts, I’ve come up with specific targets I think can be drafted in the “sweet spots” of this year’s rookie drafts based on average draft position.  Let’s take a closer look at each zone and break it down by who I feel could be the best players available in each zone.

Zone One (1.04-1.05)

In most rookie drafts I’ve seen, a combination of Giovani Bernard, Tavon Austin, LeVeon Bell and Montee Ball are traditionally the top three picks.  To me, all four of these players are a reach in the top three.  If I’m sitting with a top three pick, it’s in my best interest to trade back into the 1.04-1.05 range because there is one player I’m targeting in every rookie draft I participate in.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR HOU

To me, Hopkins is absolutely the safest player in the draft because I feel like he has the highest floor.  Also, it’s a beautiful thing when a talent of Hopkins caliber lands into one of the best situations possible – consider it the perfect storm.  I think Hopkins will be a WR2-3 for a lot of dynasty teams within two years and has the ability to firmly establish himself as a WR1 going forward.

Nobody seems to value Hopkins in the top three from what I’ve seen lately, so taking him at say, pick 1.03, is a reach because essentially you’re leaving value on the table.  Trading back into the 1.04-1.05 range if you own a top three pick should net you something in the early second round and put you squarely into what I consider the next “sweet spot” of the draft.  If it’s me, I don’t chance letting Hopkins get past 1.04.  Reports out of Houston’s rookie mini camp already have stated that Hopkins is “special.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Zone Two (1.09-2.03)

This is a pretty wide range, but situation has driven up the price tags of less talented players like Aaron Dobson, Zac Stacy, Ball and Bell who were considered nothing more than mid-to-late second round rookie picks before the NFL Draft.  So, what that tells me is more talented players who may have less favorable situations (for the time being) are going to slip a little bit.  There are three players who I feel are some of the most talented players in this draft class who are consistently falling into this range.

Justin Hunter, WR TEN

All of a sudden, the situation at first glance seems like a crowded one in Tennessee.  However, Kenny Britt is in the last year of his rookie deal and will be a free agent after the 2013 season.  To me, it looks like the Titans just drafted Britt’s replacement a year in advance and he is in a great situation for the future.  It doesn’t hurt he is one of the most talented wide receivers in this draft class, either.  This receiver has 4.4 speed and can literally jump out of the gym.  If nothing else, Hunter should be a matchup nightmare in the red zone in 2013.  He is an absolute steal in this range.

Christine Michael, RB SEA

Considering Marshawn Lynch is 27 years old, is eligible to be released in 2014 for a $5 million dollar cap hit and could be facing suspension this season, I don’t see why a lot of dynasty owners consider Michael’s situation a bad one.  Based on the talent Seattle’s front office has brought in via the NFL Draft since Pete Carroll arrived in town, they’ve firmly established themselves as one of the more trustworthy NFL franchises in my mind.  So, if Michael was the most talented player on their board, he’s the most talented player on my board.  Of every player in this rookie class, I feel like Michael will be the most valuable player in dynasty formats within 2-3 years and is one of my “must have” players.  Getting a player of Michael’s talent level in this range is insane value.  I had him rated as my RB1 of this draft class and stand firmly behind that ranking.  Even if players like Eddie Lacy and Cordarrelle Patterson slid this far, Michael would still be my guy every time, regardless of team need.

Tyler Eifert, TE CIN

Let’s face it – Cincinnati does not have an established WR2.  Mohamed Sanu had injury concerns last season and Marvin Jones; well, he just didn’t look that good.  So the Bengals stayed true to their draft board and took the most talented tight end in this draft class.  A lot of people are turned off by Eifert’s landing spot and he could very well fall even further than the 1.09-2.03 range.  I see Eifert’s situation as a positive one considering Jermaine Gresham only has two years remaining on his rookie contract.  If Eifert progresses well in year one, Gresham could be handed his walking papers sooner than later.  Early reports from rookie camp have stated Eifert has been getting extensive work not only from his natural position, but also in the slot, which means he could see plenty of looks this season.  He should be a difference maker and a low end TE1 for your dynasty teams no later than the 2014 season.

Zone Three (2.08-3.02)

Again, a wide range depending on the size of your league, but there will be some gems available here for the taking.  If your rookie drafts are coming up within the next few weeks, these are some players I believe will actually shoot up draft boards, but represent a great value in the here and now.  This is the range where I’m targeting players that may sit idle on my bench for a couple of years, but if the proper amount of patience is displayed, could pay huge dividends in the not too distant future.

E.J. Manuel, QB BUF

If you draft with a best player available mentality as opposed to a team need philosophy, Manuel will arguably be the most talented player left on the board.  He is the NFL’s latest installment of a young mobile quarterback with a big arm.  He does have some footwork issues, but offers huge upside as most leagues offer big rewards for quarterbacks that can run the ball.  I believe he landed in a great situation, and Buffalo loaded up on offense by selecting Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin in the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft.  They also picked up the troubled Da’Rick Rogers as an undrafted free agent who could be a major contributor in 2013 if he keeps his head on straight.  Manuel has the arm to make every throw at the NFL level and enough mobility to be a top ten quarterback in 2-3 years.

Latavius Murray, RB OAK

It’s not a matter of “if” Darren McFadden is going to get hurt in the 2013 season, it’s a matter of “when.”  Enter Latavius Murray.  As little as a month ago, Murray was a relatively unknown prospect the Oakland Raiders selected in the sixth round from the University of Central Florida.  Today, I’m seeing him selected as early as the late second round and as late as the early fourth.  Considering he is immensely talented, a physical specimen, very athletic and is playing behind one of the most injury prone running backs in the league, that fourth round draft status is not going to last long.  The stars are definitely aligning for Murray who I’d expect to see somewhere in the range of 2-4 starts in 2013 because of the fact McFadden can’t stay on the field.  Simply put, he may run away with the job and never look back.  He has that kind of talent.

Charles Johnson, WR GB

If you are looking for a wide receiver who is big, fast, was ultra productive in college and has a giant chip on his shoulder, Johnson is your guy.  During the NFL Draft process, he was a combine snub and decided to start training at a D-1 Training Facility to further develop his craft.  While in training, Johnson was working on the finer things about his game like his first step and route running skills.  If you were to watch Johnson’s pro day film what you would see is a player who is unbelievably explosive, but the thing that impressed me the most was his ability to square off his routes while simultaneously working his way back to the ball.  It takes years for some wide receivers to develop that skill, which puts Johnson well ahead of the curve.  Running precise routes is going to be a key factor in how much Johnson sees the field in 2013 and going forward.  We all know that Aaron Rodgers is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL and if he trusts this guy, the sky could be the limit.  Another thing working in Johnson’s favor is that James Jones is a UFA in 2014.  He could be looking at a WR3 role in one the NFL’s most explosive offenses as soon as next season.

My thinking behind every one of these players mentioned is they are the most talented players who could (should) be available in each zone.  Drafting based on team need is futile in rookie drafts because do we really expect these guys to contribute in their rookie season?  If you like the idea of drafting for team need, then consider this – your team “needs” you to draft the most talented player at each draft position you own.  If anything, draft talent so you can trade for your needs later.

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42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. Coach

    May 25, 2013 at 6:48 am

    I know this is silly… but I can’t draft a guy named Christine. lol.

    • Doug Veatch

      May 25, 2013 at 7:11 am

      It’s actually pronounced Chris-Tin, maybe that will change your mind. Lol.

      • ChiefsHonk

        May 25, 2013 at 11:54 am

        My name is spelled J-o-h-n but it is actually pronounced Frank

        • mikey b

          May 25, 2013 at 2:13 pm

          that’s hysterical!!!

          • Robert

            May 30, 2013 at 8:18 pm

            lol

    • Sky The Tech Guy

      June 1, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      If you draft RB’s because of their “masculine” name (specifically the lack of in this case) my Dynasty League has an opening for you Coach!

      To me value is value and the more your drafting philosophy takes fire, the better for me! Hahaha great posting!

  2. BB

    May 25, 2013 at 7:05 am

    Nice article. I realized after reading this that my draft style really was based on BPA. Having no immediate need and looking down the road 2-3 years, I up Michael at the 2.14 position. As we only have a two round rookie draft, a couple of these guys are still available at the UFA stage and I have room for one more!

    • Derek Kirby

      May 25, 2013 at 8:00 am

      I am so torn with what to do in my 14tm league, I have the 1.01 pick and plan on taking Ball, but I absolutely love Michael and I truly believe he will be the best RB 2-3 years from now too. I guess I’m just hoping Michael could slide to 2.01 and all would be perfect. But since our league doesn’t draft til mid August, I’m afraid he’s value may become apparent to all by then. If so, I Will take him at 1.01, that’s how certain I am with him. I have Mathews, Mendenhall, L.Miller, D.Wilson, Ivory, Hunter already at RB, where we can start 4 (2rb-2flx) if possible, so I have the luxury to wait on Michael. But dang, I look love to get Ball and Michael! !!

      • Doug Veatch

        May 25, 2013 at 8:09 am

        What is the probability of trading out of 1.01 and acquiring some additional picks that are target specific, while also possibly loading up for 2014?

        • Derek Kirby

          May 25, 2013 at 11:53 am

          That’s a good idea, and I may lean that way. If I drafted and didn’t get Ball, I’d be disappointed but ok. If I drafted Ball, and missed out on Michael, I would be sick!! The greedy me wants both, half the league is numb nut kool aid drinkers, and will never know anything about Michael unless he goes off in pre season OR LYNCH gets suspended and Michael’s name starts being plastered in front of there face.

          • Krcil

            May 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm

            “OR LYNCH gets suspended…”

            This is very possible isn’t it since he got that DUI last year that he is just going to court for now?

  3. K_robichaud911

    May 25, 2013 at 7:40 am

    Great breakdown of vaulted rookies. Wish I had this before my draft. I took Patterson before Michael @1.08 but was lucky enough to snag Michael @ 2.08. A for Zach Stacey, I think he’s the 2nd best Rooke RB in camp, Benny Cunningham UDFA is a deep sleeper in my opinion. Explosive, fast, low pad level, and elusive.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Karl Safchick

    May 25, 2013 at 7:40 am

    Great article Doug. Couldn’t agree more with most of these players. Maybe its because I’ve already formed my opinion to your suggestions prior to this article!

    • Doug Veatch

      May 25, 2013 at 7:56 am

      If there is one player I focused on in this article that I know 100% you happen to not agree with me on, it’s Eifert. I know that you are a big Gresham guy, but I digress. We’ll save those rants for Twitter!

  5. Cowboys

    May 25, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Great article and great timing. My rookie draft just started and this really helps. Nice job.

  6. rmhtexas

    May 25, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Would you add any idp players in zone 2 or 3? I’ve been considering taking aurthur brown in the early mid second.

    • Doug Veatch

      May 25, 2013 at 9:40 am

      Although my IDP knowledge is limited, if I could get arguably the percevied LB1 in zone 2 or 3, absolutely. This would be a better question for Steve Wyremski. I’ve got a sneaking hunch he may agree with me though.

      • Steve Wyremski

        May 27, 2013 at 3:28 am

        I’d say it’s between zone 2 and 3. I wouldn’t take him in zone 2, but would before zone 3.

        • Cyrus

          May 28, 2013 at 9:41 am

          Brown went 1.12 in my IDP rookie draft, for the record.

          Rest of the LB’s were late 2nd round picks, four of them from 2.07 to 2.12.

    • JBlake

      May 25, 2013 at 9:58 am

      Unlike last year (Kuechly and BWagner), I don’t there are any no doubt studs in this year’s class. ABrown definitely has the best situation but he’s not necessarily the most talented (Steve W had him rated as 5th best pre-draft).

      Here’s an idea, if you have roster room to stash 2 LBs: Grab KGreene and Bostic late or on the waiver wire, and whichever one develops into the Urlacher replacement at MLB probably gives you just as much production as ABrown.

      • Steve Wyremski

        May 27, 2013 at 3:30 am

        I agree that last year’s class was definitely a more talented class. Still, as we know, talent isn’t the most important thing in IDP – situation is. That’s why Brown is far and above the best IDP option out there this year.

        You also have to remember that I had Jarvis Jones and Dion Jordan higher on that list because I was hoping/wishing they’d both go to a 4-3 team and stick at LB in that scheme.

        • jbpar72

          July 23, 2013 at 8:15 am

          What do you think of Kiko Alonso? I like him to win the starting job and be one of the better LB’s of this class because of opportunity. I think 100 solo tackles are possible and he’s my guess for a surprise year as a rookie, this years Lavonte David.

  7. JBlake

    May 25, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Good summary, and eerily similar to some of the choices I faced, such as Hopkins with the 4th pick, Murray in the early 4th, and CJohnson in the early 5th. But I took JFranklin over CMichael with the 2.04, how about Franklin as another undervalued RB to target in that range?

    Having drafted Fleener (consensus most talented TE in his class) last year, I have shied away from Eifert, but did take a chance on Kelce in the late 2nd.

    • Doug Veatch

      May 25, 2013 at 10:01 am

      Based on the NFL draft alone and considering that 32 teams basically passed on Franklin four times, I think there was a reason for it. Not sure exactly what that reason was, but with the way my targets are going, if Franklin fell into Zone 3 and I had to choose between Franklin and Murray, I’d choose Murray. There is no doubt who the better player is in my mind. I know that is going to cause a bit of contraversy, but I don’t even think it’s guaranteed that Franklin is able to beat out DuJuan Harris for the backup job let alone earn the starting nod. Like I said in the article, McFadden “WILL” get hurt and Rashad Jennings proved last season that he can’t stay healthy and really isn’t that good when he’s playing. I’d be flabbergasted if Murray isn’t the RB2 in Oakland after training camp. From a Christine Michael standpoint, the only player I’d draft ahead of him period, is Hopkins, so I think you missed out on a tremendous amount of value by passing him up. However that’s just my opinion and while I may not always be right, I’m never in doubt.

  8. mcwills83

    May 25, 2013 at 10:05 am

    In a superflex league where QB are valued much higher than a normal league, at what point would you consider the Barkley/Wilson/Glennon tier? I pick 1.11 and assuming Geno and EJ are gone, I am not confident they will last to 2.11. Would 1.11 be reach?

    • Derek

      May 25, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      In our 10 team 2QB league, EJ went at pick 1.8, Geno at pick 2.1, Barkley was a mid 3rd rounder and Wilson was a 4th rounder…

  9. mikey b

    May 25, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Good work Dougie! I happen to be in this predicament with the 1.03 pick. I’m trying to trade down but not getting any bites? I absolutely love Hopkins, Michael and Eifert! Reason being; I own A. Johnson, Lynch and Turbin. I also have a major need at TE. Do you really think taking Hopkins at 1.03 would be a reach given I have Johnson? Then I hope Michael falls to 2.08 because of character issues alone! So that leaves possibly Kelce at 3.03 or maybe even Ertz. I would be ecstatic if this played out for my team, what do you think?

    • Doug Veatch

      May 25, 2013 at 6:05 pm

      I honestly wouldn’t even consider taking Ertz or Kelce over Murray at 3.03 because there is a good chance he’ll be there. I’m not a Kelce guy at all and I will tell you why. If Vernon Davis, who is 10 times the athlete Kelce is, can’t succeed with Alex Smith as his QB, what kind of production do you realistically expect from this guy? You can get a TE2 whenever you want for a late 2nd early 3rd who is going into his 2nd or 3rd year. I’m not willing to risk losing out on a potential WR2/RB3 for a TE2.

      • jbpar72

        July 23, 2013 at 8:11 am

        I like Kelce because he now has Andy Reid. If Reid can get guys like Brent Celek, LJ Smith and Chad Lewis to rack up 700 yards then I would bet he will get Kelce up there easy. Kelce is a far better receiver and overall athlete then those other guys. Reid also goes to the tight end in the red zone so I think 7-8 touchdowns isn’t out of reach either.

    • Cyrus

      May 28, 2013 at 9:42 am

      Michael went 1.11 in my league.

      I would try to trade down from 1.03 to 1.05-1.07 or so, but if not, take the guy you believe in. Hopkins is the guy, IMO, that you would take if you can’t trade down. I took him at 1.06 in my league.

  10. Jordan Spires

    May 25, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    I got Christine Michael at 2.10 in a 5 round rookie draft in a 10 team PPR! I hope he turns out to be a stud like you are saying he will be!!!

  11. Derek

    May 25, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    Nice article Doug!

  12. Craig Gerein

    May 25, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    Color me confused on something. If all 4 of the most commonly drafted top 4 players are a reach in the top 3, who wouldn’t be a reach in the top 3? Trading down is all well and good, but if your league mates don’t see value, how are you supposed to trade down? Somebody still has to pick a player at 1.01, 1.02 and 1.03 and somebody has to be picked in those spots.

    It’s just a weak draft class. That doesn’t make Tavon or Bernard a reach at 1.01 if you have one of them rated as the best player in this draft.

    • meineymoe

      May 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      Well, if unable to trade down, then you take the player that you like – I have been a Monte Ball guy all along so don’t see a problem with him going in the top 3… but if you don’t trust the Tavon Austin or Gio Bernard are going to amount to anything, then go with your gut and take a guy you like, such as Hopkins, at 1.02 – I think he’s the best player there, so not a problem taking him there even though his ADP may be lower.
      -oo-

      • craig

        May 26, 2013 at 9:28 pm

        I actually have the 1.01 and I’m taking Tavon Austin, no questions asked. I think he’s a special talent.

    • Cyrus

      May 28, 2013 at 9:44 am

      I view it as– the top tier has 4 players of equal value. Therefore, picking #4 is ideal.

      I was bummed to see Ball and Bernard go before me, but I happily drafted Austin at 1.04. The only scenario I would have been upset would be if Bell fell to me.

  13. Sejjr

    May 26, 2013 at 1:07 am

    I respectfully disagree on Christine Michael. I keep reading that he has the most “natural talent” in this draft class, but I see a guy who underperformed to his 5-star ranking in college due to injuries and character issues. Buyer beware.

    Love Hopkins however.

    • Craig Gerein

      May 26, 2013 at 8:02 am

      I don’t think there’s any arguing Michael is a buyer beware pick. He’s a guy I’ll take though because I’d rather hit a homer or strike out with a rookie pick than hit a double. I’m not winning multiple championships with a group of RB2s or WR3s.

      It all depends on the current state of your roster, but if Michael is a guy you can afford to stash. He could be gold. I feel the same way about Patterson.

    • Payton34

      May 29, 2013 at 5:13 am

      Thank you!!! Someone is with me on this rediculous Christine Michael love… When he was playing a couple of years ago he didn’t seem to be able to get Cyrus Gray off the field… Who? Yes, the Cyrus Gray currently buried on the Chiefs depth chart…

      I don’t trust Michael, and for my part I don’t feel like waiting for that train that, IMO, likely won’t come. Rather spend the pick on a J Randle or L Murray who will likely see the field early and often based on situation…

      I think Seattle is going to run Lynch into the dirt these last two years before turning to the next guy. Can Michael keep his nose clean for that long? I don’t know.

  14. James S

    May 26, 2013 at 5:23 am

    Tenth season of our ppr dynasty league. Twenty six man roster with idp. Also an eight man developmental squad that doesn’t count against cap
    Rookie draft first as follows:
    Lacy
    Ball
    Austin
    Bernard
    Patterson me
    Hopkins
    Bell
    Franklin
    Eifert
    Stacy
    Lattimore
    Michael
    I drafted Dobson with the 2.01 and Hunter with the 2.05
    Even when you think you know what owners are going to do you Don’t. I believe my two seconds could have easily gone in the first
    Also, we can stash rookies on our dsq for up to two years.

  15. Joe Schmo

    May 27, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Y u no put Latavius Murray in rankings?!

  16. Anthony

    July 23, 2013 at 6:43 am

    Great article Doug. Unfortunately it doesn’t make my decision any easier! I have the 1.10 in my 12 team dynasty league, and I’m torn between Hunter and Michael. Neither position is a real need for me, although my RB depth is probably a little thinner than my WR depth. I’m a big Tennessee Vols fan, so I know what Hunter is capable of and it’s going to be awfully tough to pass on him. On the other hand, I think Michael could be an absolute stud in the 2-3 year window we give our draft picks. It’s been awhile since you posted this article…has anything changed your opinions? Do you still think Michael is the pick in this scenario?

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