We’re about halfway through the dynasty off-season and ADP of both startup and rookie drafts have begun to solidify. For this two part series, I will be focusing on my perceived market inefficiencies in rookie drafts. With 2015 being a deep overall rookie class, it was relatively easy to spot where the places to attack were.
To begin, here are a few players I believe you can make a major profit on.
Phillip Dorsett, WR Indianapolis Colts
(Rookie ADP: 12)
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Sometimes evaluating players in dynasty is tough, especially when you consider how many factors are baked into trade, market and personal value. Phillip Dorsett, however, is one of the easier late first round rookie picks I can remember. The hit rate of later first round picks(17-32) in the NFL draft is obviously lower than higher first round picks (1-16), but in general, it’s still a VERY good thing and something I value highly in my player evaluation. The simple fact that a team is willing to invest that much in a player promises me that they will be dedicated in finding him a role. And that’s just in general rule, the Colts are becoming known for giving opportunity to their investments even regardless of play on the field. While nothing in football is a ‘sure’ thing, Phillip Dorsett being a starter at some point in the first three years of his career is something I’d bet heavily on.
Something that hasn’t been mentioned yet as well – Andrew Luck. Potentially the most important factor is Dorsett will benefit from elite quarterback play for the entirety of his rookie contract (aka the first four or five years of his career). I will openly admit I wasn’t a huge fan of Dorsett before the draft. I didn’t like that he never had a 900 or more receiving yards in a college season and I also didn’t like that he stayed all four years. Based on my research, those are two negative predictors of future success. HOWEVER, something that I would never deny, is that he is a really good deep threat. Only nine players since 2000 have had a season with 800+ receiving yards and over 24 per reception, something Dorsett accomplished in 2014 . He then followed that up with the second fastest 40 time and the fourth fastest three cone drill at the combine, proving to me he can hold up athletically at the next level.
With all this considered, Dorsett has one of the higher floors of any 2015 rookie. Beyond a Trent Richardson-type meltdown, you’re safe to at least break even investing in him. Most years, you’d see a player like Dorsett go in the 1.07-1.10 range of a rookie draft, but because of the depth, I’m seeing him drop to the mid 2nd round range, that is a place I’d highly suggest pouncing if you can.
Devin Funchess, WR Carolina Panthers
(Rookie ADP: 13)
While they’re completely different players in completely different situations, I view Funchess as a very similar fantasy asset to Dorsett.
I look at Funchess’ final year production at Michigan much like Keenan Allen’s final season at California. Context is very important when evaluating college statistics and while 733 receiving yards and four touchdowns doesn’t look impressive, it’s not quite as bad as you’d think. Michigan threw for just 2,042 yards total last year – good for 114th best in the nation. Now knowing how small of a pie Funchess was taking from, you realize he accounted for over a third of the total receiving yards (35.8% to be exact).
Funchess also had another obstacle most other college receivers don’t have to deal with, which is transitioning from another position. Funchess played tight end his first two years at Michigan. He was probably more a wide receiver than tight end in his sophomore year anyway, but you can’t discount the learning curve of switching to a new place on the field. He also ran a 4.70 at the combine, not something relevant to his game, but certainly not what you’d like to see from a wide receiver.
With the perceived negatives understood, let’s transition. Unlike Allen, Funchess was still drafted relatively high. With all those factors against him, the idea that a team saw enough to spend an early second round pick on him gets me excited. The chance to have an opportunity cannot be understated, especially when that opportunity is a chance to build a rapport with a franchise quarterback who just signed a new contract.
Kelvin Benjamin could be considered a threat for targets, but I actually like those two together, and think both can be fantasy relevant in that offense. I see the Panthers using Funchess closer to the line of scrimmage, as opposed to Benjamin’s intermediate/deep ball role.
Once again, in a normal year we’d probably being seeing Funchess going in the middle to late first round of rookie drafts, but right now you can get him in the early second, which is a fantastic bargain. He does have risk, but at that price, that is completely negated.
Duke Johnson, RB Cleveland Browns
(Rookie ADP: 15)
If those two weren’t enough, we have a running back hovering around the same ADP with what I consider feature back ability. Before the draft, I had Duke Johnson as my third rated running back. While he didn’t blow anyone away with his 4.54 combine 40 time, I never saw long speed as a strength of his anyway. Johnson wins with quickness and his ability to break tackles for his size. He is a bit on the smaller side, but based on where the NFL is headed strategically and smaller backs finding success in recent years, I don’t necessarily look at that as a red flag. I love the fact Johnson was able to carry an offense. While normally 242 carries wouldn’t be enough to accomplish that, he ran for a robust 6.8 yards per carry. He added 38 catches for over 400 yards as well. Add everything up and Johnson was up over 2,000 total yards from scrimmage.
I can’t say I was happy to see he went to Cleveland. In fact, that was pretty disappointing. I ended up dropping Johnson behind three other backs (to my RB6) after the draft was over. Tevin Coleman, Ameer Abdullah and TJ Yeldon simply went to much greater situations, with better opportunity. That isn’t to say there isn’t opportunity, but Isaiah Crowell is a talented back and is much bigger future competition than any of those other backs have.
The trick of it all is I believe this is bordering on an all-time running back class. So, being the RB6 this year is not only not a bad thing, but a really good thing. Any other year I’d be irrationally high on Johnson and be willing to take him above his ADP to get him, luckily you don’t have to do that. I’ve been seeing him going in the late first/early second round of rookie drafts, just like the other two I mentioned above.
The best part about that group of players is they’re all good picks and just because you missed out the one you wanted, there’s still two great options behind that pick as a backup plan. I’ve tried to get a nice mix and diversify where I can in my drafts, but I wouldn’t be against going all in on any of these players if you’re bullish.
Matt Jones, RB Washington Redskins
(Rookie ADP: 26)
Unlike the other three, Jones isn’t a player I particularly liked at any point in the draft process. I didn’t really see much that stood out. The lack of offensive role was a tough to deal with for me, and the production on those limited touches were even harder to stomach. But, I’m willing to give some credence to draft position. I’m also fully aware the Florida offense was horrible when Jones was there, so me not seeing something could very easily be me being blinded by a horrific situation.
Early on, you’ll notice rookie draft position closely resembles where the players went in the NFL Draft. What you’ll find is as the draft gets deeper, people tend to gravitate towards ‘their’ guys and NFL draft position becomes more scattered. Matt Jones was nobody’s darling before the draft process, and in general, people were shocked when he went in the third. Don’t be too proud to adhere to draft position, especially in later rounds.
I have a ton of respect for Alfred Morris and what he’s been able to accomplish as an NFL player, but I’m willing to say that there’s touches to be had for Jones, even if they are as a backup. There’s also a large opening for a pass catching back, and if Jones can seize that role early on, he has a real chance to eventually become fantasy relevant, which is more than you can say about any of the players he’s currently getting drafted around.
I’m seeing Jones go in the middle of third round, when I believe he should be valued as a late second. Strangely enough, Jones is being drafted around the same range of another running back who I loved in the pre-draft process, Josh Robinson. I like Robinson more as a player, but considering he fell to the sixth round, I’ve definitely hedged my bets. Jones is the pick in the early to mid third if he’s there, even if you like other players over him. There’s nobody else with his opportunity upside at that point.