A major component of my dynasty process is to look back at the decisions I have made and what was involved in that decision. Looking back can be extremely helpful to uncover gaps in our thought process, what we focus on, and especially to adjust our range of outcomes.
One exercise I have done on my own is to re-rank the previous years’ rookies. I take a hard look at the pool of rookies and reassess my opinions on them now, and try to find nuggets on rookies that I may have dismissed as “coach speak” or “fluff pieces”. This year, I took it to whole new level and asked 11 other analysts to join me in a three round re-engineering of the 2016 rookie draft.
With 36 players to cover, I will split this into three articles, covering the third round first, subsequently publishing the second round, and finally the first round. Onto the picks!
3.01 – DeAndre Washington, RB OAK
Drafter – Rich Hribar (@LordReebs)
Oakland running back DeAndre Washington split backup duties with fellow running back Jalen Richard in their rookie campaigns. Washington finished 2016 with 20% of the rush attempts in the 12 games where he saw more than one rushing attempt. Washington has the edge in the rushing game, while Richard has the slight edge in the receiving game having 29 receptions to Washington’s 17.
While former teammate Latavius Murray has departed, Marshawn Lynch enters likely to replace the 48% of the running back duties that Murray is leaving behind. Washington’s path isn’t necessarily a clear one to see immediate growth; however Lynch is a 31-year-old running back coming back from taking a year off.
For 2017, I would see Washington as a future stash post-Lynch or a handcuff in Lynch struggles to produce. This situation makes Washington a good value in the early third round here, at #25 overall.
June DLF ADP Snapshot: Lynch @ 96 || Washington @ 184 || Richard @ 213
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3.02 – Wendell Smallwood, RB PHI
Drafter – Ryan McDowell (@RyanMc23)
Philadelphia Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood finished his rookie season third in rushing attempts on his team, behind Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. This off-season, the Eagles added free agent running back LeGarrette Blount who will likely compete with, if not replace, Mathews for the lead in rushing attempts. If Mathews remains on the roster for 2017, Smallwood’s rushing attempts will only diminish from his 77 attempts last season.
As of July, the Eagles are flushed with running backs and presumably would have released Mathews by now. My suspicion is that Mathews needs to pass a physical prior to being cut. Ideally, for Smallwood to even have committee value or any growth in opportunities, he will need to continue to impress in training camp and beat out not only Mathews, but incoming rookie Donnel Pumphrey and Bryon Marshall returning from last season.
I see this as a bit of a reach given Smallwood’s opportunity and relatively low draft capital from last year puts him as a very low percentage chance of contributing to your dynasty roster.
June DLF ADP Snapshot: Blount @ 132 || Smallwood @ 217 || Sproles @ 224 || Marshall @ undrafted
3.03 – Jalen Richard, RB OAK
Drafter – Mike Wright (@FFHitman)
Oakland running back Jalen Richard split backup duties with fellow running back DeAndre Washington. Richard had 19% of the rush attempts, in the 15 games where he saw more than one rush attempt. Richard finished fifth in rookie rushing yards, just one yard above Derrick Henry but in 27 fewer attempts. His 5.92 yards per attempt led all rookies with a minimum of 20 attempts.
Increasing his value to the Raiders was his special team’s contributions. Richard finished 2016 fourth in punt return yards, and third in attempts. In kick returns, Richard contributed, but was only top 20 in both kick returns and kick return yardage. In most fantasy leagues, these return contributions don’t help, but they do better Richard’s likelihood to be active on game days.
Longer term in dynasty, Richard is worth the flier and hope he carves out a role in the offense post-Marshawn Lynch.
June DLF ADP Snapshot: Lynch @ 96 || Washington @ 184 || Richard @ 213
3.04 – Robby Anderson, WR NYJ
Drafter – JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB)
Undrafted free agent wide receiver Robby Anderson earned a roster spot and finished 2016 third on the Jets among receivers with 78 targets hauling in 48 receptions and 587 yards. With Brandon Marshall departing and Eric Decker not returning, Anderson should be in line to get starter level snaps in 2017 and improve upon his rookie season opposite Quincy Enunwa.
Often we dismiss pre-season games as meaningless, but maybe not so much the case for Anderson as he led all receivers with 264 yards receiving during the pre-season of 2016. He was the second-most targeted WR in the pre-season games, and also tied for the most receiving touchdowns with three. While this has never been a good indicator for future production, it does show how Anderson was able to secure his roster spot after going undrafted.
His outlook unfortunately now will be tied to his arrest in May after being charged with resisting arrest after an incident at a music festival. My expectations are that he might get hit with a short suspension, but will be safe for a roster spot in 2017. Overall Anderson showed in 2016 that he would have been worth a third round flier in hindsight.
June DLF ADP Snapshot: Enunwa @ 139 || Anderson @ 209
3.05 – Paxton Lynch, QB DEN
Drafter – Matt Williamson (@WilliamsonNFL)
Quarterback Paxton Lynch was drafted by the Broncos at pick 29 in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft. Many viewed Lynch as raw, however with John Elway at the helm of the team, Lynch could possibly be the future of the Broncos. However, last year reports began to surface that Lynch wasn’t taking his transition to the NFL very seriously and wasn’t hitting the playbook as hard as he should have been.
Ultimately, fellow teammate Trevor Siemian ended up beating out Lynch for the starting role. However, you would be hard pressed to argue that Siemian, after finishing in every major category outside the top 20, should remain as the starter for 2017. Lack of performance by Siemian leaves the door open for Lynch to catch up and win the starting job for 2017.
June DLF ADP Snapshot: Lynch @ 237 || Siemian @ undrafted
3.06 – Rob Kelley, RB WAS
Drafter – Karl Safchick (@KarlSafchick)
Rob Kelley finished with a strong 2016 performance with 168 attempts for 704 yards rushing. This was good for third among rookie running backs in 2016. Kelley didn’t have more than five rushing attempts until week eight against the Bengals, when he ran 21 times for 87 yards and a touchdown. From that point on, over nine games played, he finished as the RB15 overall and didn’t have less than nine attempts. His three-game stretch against the Bengals, Vikings, and Packers was impressive totaling 67 rushes for 321 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Everyone’s assumption has been that rookie Samaje Perine was drafted to usurp Kelley, but it is just as likely that Perine was drafted to replace Matt Jones who has fallen out of favor with the Redskins coaching staff. Kelley’s 2016 performance with his opportunity to potentially maintain as the lead rusher can provide excellent value in dynasty. Certainly, he was worth a mid-third round rookie pick in the 2016 rookie draft.
June DLF ADP Snapshot: Perine @ 68 || Kelley @ 167 || Jones @ undrafted
3.07 – Tajae Sharpe, WR TEN
Drafter – Kevin O’Brien (@the_FF_engineer)
The Titans wide receiver group is getting crowded and looks like Sharpe might be at the bottom. I really liked his game at UMASS and seemed to be the skilled precision route runner the Titans have been looking for after years of drafting the Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham type receivers.
With the addition of Eric Decker, incumbent Rishard Matthews, and incoming rookies Taywan Taylor and Corey Davis, there will be a tough uphill battle for Sharpe to command even the same amount of targets he had in 2016. I am betting a bit on my talent evaluation of Sharpe to rise above the likes of Taylor and Matthews eventually, but it might take a couple of years for this to sort out.
Here in the third round I like to bet on talent and let the situation play out for opportunity. Admittedly, it doesn’t look great for Sharpe.
June DLF ADP Snapshot: Davis @ 16 || Decker @ 118 || Matthews @ 129 || Taylor @ 156 || Sharpe @ 216
3.08 – Kenyan Drake, RB MIA
Drafter – Russell Clay (@RussellJClay)
The Dolphins drafted running back Kenyan Drake in the third round of the 2016 NFL draft; however he was not much of a contributor during the regular season. Despite being active for 16 games, Drake only saw 11.4% of snaps and didn’t attempt more than five rushing attempts, except for one game, where he ran nine times for 37 yards.
Coming out of college, the thinking was Drake would be a dynamic threat, with potential to show receiving skills. This was another disappointing part of Drake’s season, as he finished with only nine receptions for 46 receiving yards. By comparison, fellow Dolphins running back, Damien Williams out-touched Drake 58 to 42 and out-snapped him 18% to 11% in snap rate.
Drake would significantly need to improve his value to the team this off-season to warrant any increase in usage for 2017. Jay Ajayi will have the clear lead role in this backfield; however look for Drake to increase is touches in 2017.
June DLF ADP Snapshot: Ajayi @ 28 || Drake @ 235 || Williams @ undrafted
3.09 – Braxton Miller, WR HOU
Drafter – Mike Tagliere (@MikeTagliereNFL)
The Texans drafted Miller in the third round of the 2016 NFL draft, and he finished the season with just 15 receptions, 99 receiving yards, and one touchdown in ten games. Unfortunately he was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a shoulder injury in week 14.
Although Miller didn’t produce much in his rookie season, before getting injured in week 13, he averaged 88.3% of the snaps over weeks 10-12. This indicates at least he was started to grasp the offense and was being used in games more often.
Heading into 2017, I would expect Miller to get more playing time; however being the third wide receiver with either Tom Savage or rookie Deshaun Watson doesn’t exactly scream opportunity ahead. This is a similar situation as Sharpe – just buying on his talent emerging in a crowded offense. Returning wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller will have the lion’s share of the available targets, but with enough volume, Miller could carve out a role.
June DLF ADP Snapshot: Hopkins @ 11 || Fuller @ 108 || Miller @ 238
3.10 – Keyarris Garrett, WR CAR
Drafter – Frank (@DynastyFrank)
After going undrafted in the 2016 NFL draft, Keyarris Garrett signed with the Carolina Panthers, however he was part of the roster cut down in September of 2016. The Panthers signed the wide receiver to the practice squad where he spent all of 2016. In January of 2017, Garrett signed a future/reserve contract with the Panthers and will have a chance to compete for a roster spot in 2017.
This off-season, the team added Curtis Samuel in the draft along with two free agent wide receivers. Russell Shepard signed a three year, $10 million dollar contract, along with Charles Johnson who signed a two year, $8 million contract. Both are slated for roster spots along with the returning group of Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. It would be hard to envision a scenario that Garrett makes the 53-man roster.
June DLF ADP Snapshot: Benjamin @ 63 || Samuel @ 109 || Funchess @ 177 || Shepard @ undrafted || Garrett @ undrafted
3.11 – Demarcus Robinson, WR KC
Drafter – Evan Silva (@EvanSilva)
At the University of Florida, Demarcus Robinson was suspended multiple times and it really held back his production and development. Multiple scouts indicated that Robinson could have been a first round NFL talent. Unfortunately, we as fans have seen this all too often where talent is squandered by off the field issues.
In 2016, Robinson was active in all 16 games, however did not draw a single target. With the Chiefs cutting Jeremy Maclin, it leaves behind opportunity for someone to step up. Tyreek Hill becomes the lead wide receiver and likely will lead the Chief’s wide receivers in targets, however, I can see a path for Robinson to increase his snaps and be given every opportunity to produce.
I recommend adding Robinson in deeper leagues, with 30+ roster spots, but he’s best to leave in the free agent pool in leagues with 24 or less roster spots. In the 25 to 29 range he is a speculative add depending on the strength and depth of your team. He’s not yet a trade target for me, but I will keep an eye on his progress in training camp. Robinson will be competing with returning wide receivers Chris Conley and Albert Wilson.
June DLF ADP Snapshot: Hill @ 53 || Conley @ 146 || Wilson @ 256 || Robinson @ undrafted
3.12 – Rico Gathers, TE DAL
Drafter – Sigmund Bloom (@SigmundBloom)
The Dallas Cowboys tight end position has been locked down for the past 14 years. For the past 13 years, Jason Witten has seen 89 or more targets. This kind of established volume can be a gold mind if a backup can step in and replace those targets as Witten gets near retirement. Rico Gathers as the 36th overall rookie in hindsight provides a flier on low cost tight end production.
June DLF ADP Snapshot: Witten @ 210 || Gathers @ undrafted
This completes the third round of our analyst re-engineering mock of the 2016 rookie draft. Looking over the third round, it is interesting to see that compared to the 2016 June DLF ADP; a majority of these players weren’t even selected.
In general, I see third round rookie picks as low percentage hit rates that often don’t pan out or even stay on our rosters a year later. Going through this exercise helps me not overvalue my 2017 third round rookie picks. I will use them as trade assets where I can get a depth player in return, given I have a relatively balanced roster. If I do chose to use my pick, I will do it knowing that I shouldn’t expect much from the player I select. Here’s a look at the 2009-2015 third round selections. There were some nice hits, but overall a low percentage success rate.
In the next article of this series, I will review the second round the analysts selected. The number of new faces and turnover from just one year out will really stand out.
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