Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a growth in the popularity of developmental dynasty leagues. These leagues add another element of strategy to traditional dynasty competition. In these leagues, you generally have two drafts. You have your traditional rookie draft and later (generally sometime in August), the league holds an additional draft to include a NCAA draft eligible player.
This player generally gets stashed on your taxi squad, thus not counting towards your regular roster limit. Obviously, the more you know about future NFL draft prospects, the better off you’ll be in these drafts.
I play in a few of these leagues and I have to say they are my favorite ones. I’m sure my passion for studying college prospects and the draft has something to do with it. That passion also gives me a built in advantage, because no matter where I’m slotted in the developmental draft order, I feel I am able to make an informed draft pick.
Playing in these leagues the last few years brought to light that there’s very little information out there for them. It’s too early for draft experts to come to any conclusions with another year of college tape yet to digest – that leaves owners to either draft based on their own knowledge of college football or go to an NFL draft site that has an evolving rankings list. This list will change drastically throughout the upcoming season, as it should. Even then, the information is real life football specific.
It’s not a problem for me since I do all of my own film study and prep anyway, but it presents a challenge for many owners.
This year I decided to do something about the information gap. I’m going to share my research with the DLF faithful!
I’ll study about 40-50 players and narrow it down to about 30 or so players that I’ll write about. The ultimate goal is to give you a very early top 12 list by mid-August. Understand this is a preliminary look, but at least you’ll be a little more prepared for the upcoming draft class. If you don’t play in a developmental league, this will give you a head start for next year’s rookie class as well. I do it so you don’t have to. With that said, let’s get started with volume one:
Marcus Lattimore, RB South Carolina
2012 Class: Junior
Height: 6′ 1″
Weight: 232 lbs.
Unofficial 40 Time: 4.58
Overview: Pre-ACL injury last year, Lattimore was the consensus number one running back of the 2013 draft class. The injury slowed down the buzz a bit, but it hasn’t changed the outcome, assuming he comes back fully healthy. Lattimore is a true workhorse. He’s a big back who possesses superior balance and vision. He diagnoses holes and running lanes quickly and rarely dances behind the line of scrimmage. He’s both physical and smooth, and runs with great determination. He’s quicker than he is fast and is very effective at sidestepping tacklers in traffic. He possesses elite change of direction ability with a superb strong pivot, which allows him to plant and change direction suddenly. I’d say other than his vision his best move is that sudden plant or pivot because it allows him to make tacklers miss and take bad angles. In all, not only does Lattimore possess superior size/balance combo, but he also possesses rare vision and feel for the running lanes. He may not be a homerun hitter, but his skill set translates very well to the NFL level.
Early conclusion: While Lattimore may not be as good as a running back prospect as Trent Richardson physically, he more than makes up for it with his balance and vision. I’ve always felt that Frank Gore possessed the best, or was at least among the best backs in the league when it came down to vision and feel for the running lane. I feel Lattimore is right there with him. That’s a required trait for being special at the NFL level and that’s why I project him as a future RB1 prospect for dynasty.
Keenan Allen, WR California
2012 Class: Junior
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 205 lbs.
Unofficial 40 Time: 4.53
Overview: Keenan Allen is the main reason why current Bengals rookie Marvin Jones went unnoticed last season. A big rangy receiver, Allen shows exceptional ball skills. He’s not overly explosive, but is very quick in and out of his breaks. With the ball in his hands, he’s a really good open field runner. He reads traffic well and weaves through tacklers, making him a very effective run after catch receiver. He also likes to hurdle low tacklers who aim for his legs. While his 40 yard dash is listed in the 4.5’s, he looks much faster on film. He’s an exceptional leaper and can dominate corners on jump ball. I expect his touchdown count to only go up this season as he’s now the clear cut number one receiver on the team. He does tend to struggle with drops going across the middle, as he anticipates getting hit from the safety thus takes his eyes off the ball. He’s more than capable of playing the outside receiver and the slot at the next level.
Early conclusion: Allen has the size/skill combo to develop into a top tier receiver at the NFL level. He can play in any offense and has a high enough ceiling to develop into a high WR2 for fantasy teams. He needs to become a bit more consistent going across the middle and become a more effective redzone producer in his junior season. If he does that, he’ll solidify himself as a first rounder in next year’s draft.
Matt Barkley, QB USC
2012 Class: Senior
Height: 6′ 2″
Weight: 220 lbs.
Unofficial 40 Time: 4.74
Overview: Matt Barkley goes into his senior year as the number one ranked quarterback according to most scouts. His numbers certainly back up that assessment. Looking at his film, what I saw was a solid pocket quarterback with good pocket awareness and footwork. He’s a quick decision maker with average to above average arm strength. He stays within his strengths and system and doesn’t force the ball into coverage for the most part. He throws with precision and has nice touch on the fade route and throws a pretty good deep ball as well. He’s mobile enough to move around and scramble when he has to, but is definitely more effective within the pocket or on designed rollouts. When rushed, he’s able to remain calm and make accurate throws off of his back foot when he has to. He has a very effective pump fake and knows when to use it. He’s most comfortable attacking a defense outside the hash marks. Overall, I see Barkley most effective in a West Coast Offense. While he doesn’t possess elite arm talent, he’s a savvy and accurate decision maker who can develop into a starting quarterback in a West Coast System.
Early conclusion: As long as Barkley gets drafted into a West Coast Offense, I am on board drafting him in your fantasy draft. Given the history of the league, it’s highly unlikely a non-West Coast team will select him, knowing his limitations in more vertical offenses. In a West Coast system, I project Barkley having borderline QB1 potential. He has everything you want in a quarterback in that offense.
Robert Woods, WR USC
2012 Class: Junior
Height: 6′ 1″
Weight: 180 lbs.
Unofficial 40 Time: 4.47
Overview: Going into his junior season, Robert Woods is sitting at number one or two on most preseason lists. Casually having watched a few of his games, I thought those rankings had merit. His stats also warrant the high level recognition as well. After studying his tape, I found that he’s pretty quick in and out of his break and wasn’t afraid to go across the middle. He has no reservations selling out his body to make a catch. He possesses good hands and is a dependable route runner. Right now, he’s more of a finesse receiver and needs to become more physical. Press coverage at the NFL level will give him real problems unless he bulks up a little more. Overall, he possesses some very nice traits you’d like to see in a receiver. More importantly, he has a lot of room for growth. The talent is there, but again, he needs to bulk up a bit and fight press coverage better.
Early conclusion: Woods is a good, solid, receiver who has the potential to be a WR2-3 fantasy receiver. He’s a bit on the small side to be a dominant receiver at the next level due to his lack of elite speed. His ceiling will be highest in a West Coast offense as well.
[Full disclosure, I struggled making a confident determination on how good of a receiver Woods is. I even re-watched all of his film twice because I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I’d be. What I saw was good receiver, but I didn’t see enough on tape to merit ranking him as the top receiver in the class, which where he’s currently ranked on most reputable draft sites. Right now I’m on the fence and need to see more.]
Paymon Shokoohi can be found @setmyroster on twitter and in the forums as dlf_paymons. Special thanks to @Jmpasq on Twitter for helping with the film study and video clips.