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Most rookie mock drafts you see like to focus on the strengths of each prospect selected – this isn’t one of those drafts.
At this point in the process, dynasty owners are used to hearing about the impressive arm strength of Jameis Winston, the exceptional burst and agility of Melvin Gordon and the incredible hands and route running of Amari Cooper. For good reason, we like to focus on the positives in each prospect’s game and inform our readers why a specific player will propel your fantasy team to glory. In this mock, however, we’ll try to throw up the red flag on some of the weaknesses our favorite rookies possess and explain which ones have the most potential to “bust.”
To be clear, we’re not necessarily proclaiming a player as a bust in this exercise. We just want to shine a light on some of the things that should concern dynasty owners going into their drafts.
There was only one rule for who was eligible for this three-round mock draft. To make sure all players taken were relevant dynasty picks – any player selected had to have been taken in the first three rounds of any DLF rookie mock draft during this off-season.
Let’s get started with round one.
1.01 – Ameer Abdullah, RB Nebraska
Ryan McDowell’s thoughts: I could forgive the fumbles and his size when he was a late second round rookie pick, but now that he’s being considered in the first round, Abdullah is my top candidate to disappoint dynasty owners.
My thoughts: I couldn’t agree more with Ryan. Had I held the first pick in this draft, I would have made the same selection for the same reasons. Investing a first round pick in a 5’9”, 205 pound tailback who fumbled 13 times while at Nebraska is a bit too risky for my liking. I’m concerned he’ll never be more than a part-time running back in the NFL and I wouldn’t be comfortable taking him any higher than the middle of the second round in rookie drafts.
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1.02 – Breshad Perriman. WR Central Florida
George Kritikos’ thoughts: Perriman has climbed from the third round pre-combine, to second round pre-pro day, to now being cemented in the first round in April rookie mock drafts, but a 40-yard dash in the 4.2s is more impressive on the track than the football field. He struggles with release and doesn’t have the physicality to win matchups. He could develop into a fantasy starter, but at a first round price, there is no risk built in for the likelihood he flops.
My thoughts: George is right. Perriman has skyrocketed up draft boards and was selected as highly as sixth overall in DLF’s early April mock drafts – that’s a high price to pay for an unpolished route runner with very questionable hands. He’s also slipped as far as 15th overall which is a much more realistic place to gamble on his upside – especially considering his blazing speed and lightning quickness at 6’2” tall.
1.03 – Sammie Coates, WR Auburn
Doug Green’s thoughts: Everybody is in love with the athletic talent of Coates, but I just can’t get past the drops.
My thoughts: Coates is a true boom or bust prospect. His drops at Auburn were maddening. Perhaps more infuriating however, he made countless mental mistakes. Constantly stopping on a route as the ball was being released and giving up on passes that look to be catchable, his numbers could have been far better in his last two years in college. For a receiver of his size (6’1”, 212 pounds), he’s not nearly as physical as you’d expect. While his size, speed and leaping ability make Coates a high ceiling player, his lack of focus and disinterested attitude at times drags down his floor. Considering him any higher than the mid to late second round of a rookie drafts is risky.
1.04 – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR Missouri
Brian Bulmer’s thoughts: His physical tools supersede any other player in this draft class. Green-Beckham may be considered as the top overall rookie selection if he didn’t have personal issues off the field. Many will consider him in the 1.04-1.08 range of drafts and feel he is worth the risk. Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon have given dynasty owners enough headaches to reconsider drafting him that highly however. With that said, Dez Bryant was also young and immature entering the NFL and dynasty owners know what they get from him each week. Green-Beckham has monster red zone potential, but is really raw in his route running. If he can grow as a person and professional he could be a value pick in the draft, but if he lands in a bad situation with a questionable locker room, he could be out of the NFL sooner rather than later.
My thoughts: To go along with the off the field problems, Green-Beckham also has some question marks on the field. A wide out that stands 6’5” tall and weighing 237 pounds should be physical, dominating smaller cornerbacks – that’s not the case with DGB. He’s rerouted easily and doesn’t use his large frame in traffic to “box out” defenders before going up for the catch. When added to his unpolished route running and the headaches he caused while at Missouri, it’s easy to see why Green-Beckham has the potential to bust despite his impressive speed, incredible catch radius and excellent hands.
1.05 – Devin Funchess, WR Michigan
My thoughts: Funchess is one of the most interesting prospects in this year’s draft. Half tight end and half wide receiver, he’s too big for most cornerbacks to cover and too athletic and fast for linebackers to stick with. Even as a matchup nightmare however, there are flaws to Funchess’ game.
Very slow in and out of his breaks, he doesn’t show the burst of a strong route runner. With the ball in the air, he seems to lack the killer instinct to go up and get it like many with his size possess. Instead, he consistently lets the ball get to his body rather than plucking it from the air with his hands, causing him to have far too many drops as a Wolverine.
Although Funchess hasn’t been picked higher than 12th in any recent rookie mock drafts, his pro day performance has his stock on the rise. While he has the upside to bust out due to his impressive size/speed combination, he also has the potential to just plain bust due to his questionable ball skills and unwillingness to use his size as an advantage. Dynasty owners should consider that before picking him in the first round of rookie drafts.
1.06 – Duke Johnson, RB Miami
Nathan Powell’s thoughts: Concussions, concussions, concussions with a side of fumbling. I like the talent, but it seemed like Johnson rarely got through a game healthy. Going in the late 1st/early 2nd range, there are safer options with similar upside.
My thoughts: Along with the concerns Nathan pointed out, Johnson was also a bit of a one trick pony while at Miami. Although he’s a very explosive perimeter runner, he struggled at times between the tackles. Often running into the backs of blockers while trying to create a hole rather than waiting for a running lane, he didn’t always display good patience and vision as an inside runner. Johnson’s running style also depends on being the right offense unlike some tailbacks. A true one-cut runner, he’s best fitted in a zone running scheme and could struggle in a power scheme.
1.07 – Jameis Winston, QB Florida State
Jacob Feldman’s thoughts: This is a tough pick to make because I think Winston is the clear top QB in this year’s draft. From a physical tools standpoint, he easily trumps any quarterback since Andrew Luck. The problems all center on his maturity and character or rather the lack of it. Will he keep his head on straight? Can he avoid any further off the field issues? Can he be the face of a franchise without making that team regret it? There are an awful lot of questions surrounding the young man. For me they are all off the field. He’s going to be a huge gamble for Tampa Bay over the next few years. If they can keep him on the right path, they could have a star. If not, it is going to set the franchise back another five years. For fantasy teams, you can probably get him in the late first or early second round, which is a fair compromise of risk and reward if you really need a quarterback.
My thoughts: To go along with the off the field concerns Jacob highlighted, there are also some things on the field that should give dynasty owners pause when considering Winston – most notably his insistence on making risky throws. While Winston has a rocket arm and sees the field very well, he throws off balance regularly which takes away from his arm strength and gives defenders opportunities to make plays on his passes. Winston also showed a lack of focus early in games while at Florida State. Although he consistently made big plays to get his team out of the hole that he helped dig, it’s far more difficult to do that on Sundays.
While I agree with Jacob that Winston is the top quarterback prospect in the draft, I feel like the red flags both on and off the field make him a risky first round rookie pick in 1QB leagues and I’d still prefer a safer choice like Melvin Gordon or Amari Cooper in superflex or 2QB leagues.
1.08 – Todd Gurley, RB Georgia
Aaron Swinderman’s thoughts: I’ll take a grenade here. Yes, he is Todd Gurley and is an incredible player. With that said, he’s coming off of an ACL tear. Sure, he didn’t completely blow out his knee, NFL teams all seem to believe he is ahead of schedule and we have seen some major successes with ACL surgery recently, but we also don’t know anything for sure at this point. He’s still my top running back, but every recovery is different and I am always wary of players who I haven’t seen since a major surgery.
My thoughts: Dynasty owners need to keep in mind the ACL injury Gurley suffered in 2014 wasn’t the first time he missed time for Georgia. As a sophomore in 2013, he missed three games with an ankle injury and while a short term injury two years ago shouldn’t keep anybody from drafting a player, it’s still noteworthy. When he’s been on the field, Gurley’s shown everything expected out of a top-three rookie pick. If there’s a flaw in his game other than the questions of if he’ll ever be the same explosive player after the injury, it’s his tendency to outrun his blocking at times instead of having patience and waiting for running lanes to open up. Because he was so good after contact while at Georgia, he was able to cover up his lack of patience – that may not be as easy against NFL defenders. All said, any on the field flaw about Gurley’s game is nitpicking. He’s incredibly talented and worthy of a top selection in any rookie draft as long as you’re comfortable with his injury history.
1.09 – T.J. Yeldon, RB Alabama
Jeff Beran’s thoughts: I was a big fan of Yeldon after his sophomore year in 2013 when he put up over 1,400 total yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry. His junior year, however, resulted in him being overshadowed, literally and figuratively, by Derrick Henry who looked more like the future star NFL running back. Yeldon is currently considered amongst the second tier of this running back draft class but his below average 40 yard dash (4.61 seconds) matched the lack of explosiveness he displayed last year. He’s still a good NFL prospect, especially if he can slim down and regain some speed, but there’s no way I’m reaching for him in the first round of rookie drafts this year.
My thoughts: To go along with the limited foot speed that Jeff shined a light on, Yeldon also displayed a lack of power in his time at Alabama. Despite his size (6’1”, 226 lbs.) he failed to break tackles at times and struggled in short yardage. Yeldon is a determined runner with good burst and footwork, but doesn’t run behind his pads well. Instead, he runs upright and takes a lot of big hits. While I like his upside, I wonder if he’ll ever learn to play up to his size.
1.10 – Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin
Scott Peak’s thoughts: Gordon is expected to go as a top five rookie pick and I’m not convinced he will bring that value as an NFL player. His combine wasn’t stellar (RB10 Bench, RB13 40 yard dash, RB14 vertical, RB20 shuttle, RB8 3-cone), Wisconsin running backs have had a tough time transitioning to the NFL, he’s relatively unproven as a receiving running back (22 total receptions in three years at Wisconsin) and the Wisconsin offensive line opened up huge holes for him. Gordon picked up a lot of yards in big chunks which won’t happen in the NFL. I believe Gordon may not bring the production expected relative to his draft position in rookie drafts.
My thoughts: While I’m not a believer in the “Wisconsin running backs always bust in the NFL” mindset and think it’s silly to pigeonhole a player as a potential bust because of it, there are weaknesses to Gordon’s game worth noting. On top of the lack of opportunities as a pass catcher in college Scott pointed out, Gordon also struggled between the tackles at times – particularly on I-formation dive plays right up the middle. He also relied on his speed too much at times as a Badger, choosing to bounce runs to the perimeter rather than use cutback lanes. While that worked in the Big Ten, it may not work as well on Sundays. Much like with Gurley, finding flaws in Gordon’s game takes a high powered microscope, however. Because he’s fallen out of the top three in most rookie drafts, the reward far outweighs the risk associated with Gordon in my opinion.
1.11 – Maxx Williams, TE Minnesota
Jeff Miller’s thoughts: I don’t know about you, but I never trust a man with two x’s in his name – that fact alone is enough reason for me to steer clear. My other issues with Williams are plentiful – he is not a crisp route runner, is a bit stiff, doesn’t block well and isn’t particularly physical. My feeling is he is only being considered in the late first or early second round because he is the best TE in the class. If you pick the prettiest rock out of a bucket, you still just have a rock.
My thoughts: While I don’t share Jeff’s strange aversion to any prospect with two x’s in his name, I completely agree with everything he listed beyond that. Williams isn’t a physical player and is an average route runner at best. His athleticism masked most of his weaknesses in college, but NFL cover men will key on his rounded routes and take advantage of his inability to fend off defenders at the point of the catch. Williams has massive potential due to his speed, leaping ability and body control, but he also has the potential to bust if he doesn’t improve as a route runner and learn to use his large frame to dominate smaller defenders on a regular basis.
1.12 – Chris Conley, WR Georgia
Eric Hardter’s thoughts: I understand Conley was, at least somewhat, impeded by the Bulldogs’ run-first offense (hard to blame them there). With that said, he really didn’t improve between his junior and senior seasons, and he wasn’t on anyone’s radar prior to busting out at the Combine. Now, according to our own Scott Fish, he’s been drafted as high as pick 1.11 in the DLF rookie mock drafts. No thanks. Maybe his physical skills will translate, but his 1,938 career receiving yards barely top Amari Cooper’s 2014 season. Let someone else draft the potential here, there are too many other proven options on the table.
My thoughts: Much like with Perriman after his pro day, Conley sent me straight to my computer to see if he truly has the potential that his combine numbers suggest. While watching him, it was easy to see his explosiveness off the line of scrimmage and his separation skills down the field when defended in off coverage, but it was also very clear that he struggles to get into his route in press coverage. When re-routed by physical corners, he had a hard time regaining his momentum and creating his own space at the top of his routes despite being a relatively solid route runner. Considering his lack of production in college as well as the lack of quality game film, however, I’d have a difficult time investing a high pick in Conley.
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