With the off-season quickly coming to a close, I thought it would be a good time to look at some data collected by the DLF team over the past few weeks. I’m sure you’re aware that I collect monthly dynasty startup ADP, while Scott Fish mans the rookie ADP. As the final wave of dynasty drafts kick off, I polled the DLF team in an effort to bring you our collective thoughts on the best and worst picks you could potentially make in the early portion of your startup and rookie drafts.
This is the first in a 12-part series that will answer some simple questions, namely “who is the biggest risk?” and “who is the best value?” These are the types of questions dynasty owners ask themselves every time they are on the clock, so hopefully you’ll use this as a guide for the first three rounds of your upcoming drafts.
Let’s begin with the first round of dynasty startup drafts as we search for the biggest risk among the top 12 players. For reference, I’ll be using our latest August ADP data, which looks like this:
These are obviously some of the best players in the game and players that most dynasty owners would love the chance to draft or roster, but that doesn’t mean they are without risk, especially considering their relative cost compared to later draft picks.
I polled 27 DLF writers for this question and the responses were surprising and informative. Let’s begin with the players receiving no votes, meaning they are viewed as having very little risk.
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Odell Beckham, WR NYG
This should not be a surprise considering Beckham is the near consensus top pick in startup dynasty drafts. Beckham has been amazing through two season and there is little reason to expect that to slow down anytime soon.
Julio Jones, WR ATL
Holding down the fourth spot in our latest ADP, Jones put up near record-breaking numbers last season and should once again be the focal point of the Atlanta offense. Considering how the dynasty community values wide receivers once they hit 28 years old, as evidenced by the ADP drop for Demaryius Thomas this off-season, I’m surprised Jones is viewed as a bulletproof commodity.
AJ Green, WR CIN
Much of the same can be said for the Bengals Green, but him receiving no votes is even more of a surprise for a couple of reasons. First, he’s already hit that 28 year old mark. For reference, no 29-year-old player is in the top 30 of our current ADP, so Green could be in for a big fall this time next year. Also, as noted above, Green comes in as the ninth player off the board. Considering our mock drafters value him towards the back portion of the first round, I find it interesting our staffers view him as safe.
Rob Gronkowski, TE NE
Although our writers didn’t consider Gronkowski a major risk, I see some reasons to be concerned. First, he does have a lengthy injury history. While that may be considered a bit fluky by some, it still must be factored into his value. Next, how much longer can we expect Gronk’s quarterback, Tom Brady, to continue to play and play at a high level. Already 39 years old, Brady can’t have too much left and it is fair to question if Gronkowski can maintain his Hall of Fame level performance with another quarterback. Finally, like Green, Gronkowski was a late first round pick, which would presumably make his riskier than some earlier picks, but that’s not how our writers saw it.
Antonio Brown, WR PIT
The Steelers superstar receiver earned only one vote, which is not surprising considering he is our second overall pick. Writer Nathan Powell noted Brown’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his age as the primary reason to tab Brown as a risk early in the first round of your startup draft.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR HOU
Staff writer Trevor Bucher chose Hopkins as the riskiest player in the first round and he had some sound logic. Hopkins’ monster year last season came when the Texans had few, if any, other options on offense. With an injury to Arian Foster and no real WR2, Hopkins saw a heavy amount of targets and Trevor is concerned that may not continue with the addition or Lamar Miller, Will Fuller and others.
Allen Robinson, WR JAX
There have been a lot of reasoning this off-season for reasons to expect regression from Robinson, and it is correct that we shouldn’t expect another 1,400/14 season from the Jaguars top threat. Steve Wyremski notes that Jacksonville should be much improved this season and the team should increase their run volume. All of these factors could combine to force a decline in Robinson’s numbers.
Amari Cooper, WR OAK
Some of the same reasoning assigned to Robinson is also being said of Cooper, namely by Brian Malone and Alex Onushco. While Brian expects some regression from the Oakland passing offense, Alex simply thinks the former Alabama star hasn’t shown enough to be considered in the first round.
Mike Evans, WR TB
As the number of votes increase, the reasons for concern also grow. Eric Burtzlaff is worried about Evans hanging onto the ball while Eric Dickens doesn’t trust Evans floor, though he acknowledged the huge upside possessed by the Bucs top receiver. Finally, James Simpson simply views Evans as a tier behind some of the other top receivers in the first round.
Dez Bryant, WR DAL
Four writers pegged Bryant as a risky first round pick and they were all on the same page with very similar reasoning. Each of Mike Valverde, Jarrett Behar, Bruce Matson and George Kritikos considered Bryant’s age and injury history, along with the age of his quarterback, Tony Romo, as primary reasons to consider passing on Bryant in the first round.
Todd Gurley, RB LA
The second most popular, or maybe that should be least popular, choice is Rams second-year back Gurley. Again, the seven respondents opting for Gurley were nearly unanimous in their reasoning. Dan Meylor, Zach Bahner, Kevin OBrien, Dan Sainio, Austan Kas, Eric Olinger and Matt Price all chose the Rams back. Their issues were simply Gurley’s position and the popularity of building around wide receivers, meaning they would not strongly consider choosing any running back this early in a draft. Also, some mentioned Gurley’s lack of involvement in the pass game and therefore a limited PPR ceiling as well as the sorry state of the Rams offense, which could even limit Gurley’s carries if the team falls behind early in games.
Sammy Watkins, WR BUF
It was the Bills receiver Watkins, named by Carla Gruse, Jaron Foster, Jacob Feldman, Mike MacGregor, Mo Brewington, Adam Tzikas, Dwayne Brown and Andrew Lightener who has the DLF staff the most concerned. Before we get into their thoughts, the choice makes sense just looking at our ADP data. First of all, Watkins is currently slotted towards the bottom of the first round, and he’s also a player who has bounced between the first and second round of ADP all off-season.
Watkins takes a lot of heat for a first round startup player and when reading the responses of the group above, it makes sense. Among the worries surrounding Watkins are his own health, his quarterback and the overall quality of the Buffalo Bills offense.
I’ll add in my two cents and it probably won’t surprise you, but I’m tabbing Gurley as my player to avoid in the first round. The reasons are basically the same as the ones mentioned by my cohorts above. It is unlikely that I would select any running back as my first overall player, but due to some of the concerns about the Rams offense and Gurley’s lack of usage as a receiver out of the backfield, I’ve moved rookie Ezekiel Elliott up to my overall RB1 spot. If I do go with a running back, it would be him, not Gurley.
In the next installment of this new series, I’ll be back with some help from my friends to find the best value in the first round. If you thought it was difficult to identify a risky player among the top 12, just wait for this!