Five Rookies I’m Afraid I’m Wrong About and Why

John DiBari

The 2019 NFL season has officially kicked off, and there is no time like the present to overreact to what we’ve seen on the field thus far. One of the best parts of playing in dynasty leagues is the yearly rookie draft. It’s especially rewarding if rookies you were targeting hit right away or if rookies you were fading are off to a slow start. While a player’s first game or two as a professional aren’t necessarily indicative of the remainder of their career, from what I’ve seen so far, I’m beginning to think I was wrong on a few players.

Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, WR, BAL

I’m typically not a fan of undersized receivers, and at 5’9″ and 170-pounds, Brown is definitely undersized. As concerning as his size was, I had more concerns about his injured foot coming into the league. Brown had suffered a Lisfranc injury in college which precluded him from participating in the NFL combine. The Lisfranc injury has a long history of hampering NFL players for some time and especially slows down players who rely on explosiveness. Combining the injury with his size, I didn’t think Brown had a chance to succeed in the NFL, especially as a rookie.

Whelp, Brown seems healthy and looked to retain all of his explosiveness. He caught four passes for 147 yards and two scores in week one while being on the field for 18% of the offensive snaps. When healthy, Brown only needs to get behind opposing defenses for a moment to open up for a big play. In weeks two and three, he saw his snap share increase to 65% and 75%, respectively. Through three weeks, he leads the Ravens in targets, yards, and touchdowns, his size and foot injury don’t seem to be a problem, oops.

John Ursua, WR, SEA

I have been taking the bold position that Ursua would lead all rookie wide receivers in PPR fantasy points in 2019. Seriously. I believed that he would seamlessly slide into the role vacated by Doug Baldwin‘s retirement. The Seahawks sang Ursua’s praises all off-season while comparing him to Baldwin. Then on opening day, the Seahawks rushed the ball 25 times, while only attempting 20 passes. Not a single one of those passes went in Ursua’s direction because he was a healthy inactive. Ursua was active in week two, but only saw a three-percent snap share, then found himself inactive again in week three.

It’s early, but it’s not looking like he’s going to get on the field barring injuries ahead of him. Even if he does crack the lineup at some point, Seattle seems to be going run-heavy again in 2019. The passing volume needed for fantasy success may not be there even if he gets on the field more often as the year progresses. This disappearing act has been quite a disappointment.

DK Metcalf, WR, SEA

I’ll keep things in the Emerald City- I was not a fan of Metcalf coming into the league. I recognize his athleticism and upside, but I thought his horrid 3-cone and short shuttle times and a limited route tree would cap his ceiling as a pro. His injury history scared me off quite a bit too. Metcalf injured his knee before the season began and I was feeling good about avoiding him.

Then, week one came and guess who led the Seattle wide receivers in targets? Metcalf had six of Russell Wilson‘s 20 targets, which he converted into four receptions for 89 yards. He has been on the field for at least 77% of the team’s offensive snaps in all three games this season and only trails Tyler Lockett in targets, receptions, and yards. He seems to be firmly entrenched as the Seahawks’ No. 2 wide receiver.

TJ Hockenson, TE, DET

I loved both Hockenson and his Iowa teammate Noah Fant as dynasty fantasy prospects. Of the two, I thought Fant was going to be the more prolific fantasy producer. However, I also thought Hockenson was the better all-around real-life NFL player. Either way, stop me if you’ve heard this before, but rookie tight ends don’t perform well in the NFL. It seems nobody gave the memo to Hockenson as he caught six of nine targets for 131 yards and a touchdown- good enough to be the TE1 for opening weekend.

I believed in the talent, but I certainly didn’t expect that kind of monster performance right out of the gate. Hockenson followed it up with a pair of one-reception games in weeks two and three, so the production may be slowing down a bit, although his usage is not. He has maintained a minimum snap share of 66% thus far, so he’ll be on the field and will likely produce in favorable matchups.

Darwin Thompson, RB, KC

This one makes me angry. I believe in Thompson’s talent, and I love the landing spot. I used to love the depth chart ahead of him too because I’m not a believer in Damien Williams. Then the Chiefs’ acquired LeSean McCoy, and that threw a wrench into everything. Thompson didn’t see a single carry in week one when his team won by two touchdowns, although he did secure his lone target for three yards. He finally saw a single carry in week two and followed that up with four carries in week three.

With McCoy and Both Damien and Darrel Williams ahead of him, expect to see Thompson’s snap share stay in the single digits. His snap share has increased each week, but with a prime opportunity for him to see some work in week three, Andy Reid and KC coaches kicked our fantasy dreams squarely in the peanuts. We’re going to need multiple injuries ahead of him to see any significant work.

Many people will tell you not to overreact to what happens early into the NFL season. I agree: you shouldn’t make hasty decisions based on a few early-season games. Nonetheless, one of the most fun parts of fantasy — dynasty in particular — is to watch people take victory laps on twitter early in the year. As a dynasty owner, you’ve always got to keep assessing and reassessing players and their roles and production so you can capitalize on buy-low and sell-high windows as they present themselves. It will be fun to reexamine this 13 weeks from now, but as of today, it looks like I may have been wrong about a few rookies, just like everyone else.

john dibari