Cornerstone Report: Week Nine

Frank Gruber

Welcome to the Cornerstone Report. This weekly in-season series focuses on the current NFL rookie class and projected 2020 rookie class.

Each week examines one to two players from each group, discussing their current value and progress this season.

It uses tools including the DLF Trade Analyzer, Trade Finder, average draft position and mock draft data to compare the combined values of players in both classes.

Last week’s edition can be found here. Also check out the full in-season DLF publishing schedule here.


Joe Burrow, QB LSU

Burrow was the number eight dual-threat QB and a four star high school prospect in the 2015 class. He appeared in ten games over three years at Ohio State prior to transferring to LSU before the 2018 season.

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Statistics from

Burrow now projects as a top five pick in the NFL Draft.

He is producing at an elite level. I previously cited college adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) as a quick indicator of future fantasy production. Burrow’s career mark of 9.8 AY/A would put him seventh among the 24 QBs selected in the top half of the NFL Draft in the last ten years.

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Traits that pop when watching Burrow include accuracy, pocket awareness and mobility.

He offers additional rushing upside. Recall he was ranked as a dual threat QB out of high school rather than a pocket passer. He is listed at a solid 6’4” and 216 pounds and has rushed for nearly 500 yards and nine touchdowns in his first 20 games at LSU.

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Statistics from

Burrow is not yet included in the top 60 of DLF’s Cornerstone Rankings, which combine first and second year NFL players and 2020 prospects.

The DLF devy crew ranks Burrow as QB4 among all devy QBs and QB2 among 2020 QBs, behind only Tua Tagovailoa and ahead of Oregon’s Justin Herbert.

He is ranked 50th in our overall devy rankings, based on the 1QB format rather than Superflex.

These rankings suggest Joe Burrow will be selected in the top half of the first round of rookie superflex drafts and roughly in the early to mid-second round of 1QB drafts.


Ty Johnson, RB DET

The rookie running back from Maryland is week’s priority FAAB pick. Ty Johnson is expected to assume Kerryon Johnson’s RB1 role in Detroit, with J.D. McKissic retaining third down duties and perhaps getting more carries.

Ty Johnson was a three star high school prospect in the 2015 class who stayed in-state to play college ball at Maryland. As a Terrapin, he flashed speed and big play ability. His top production came as a sophomore while averaging fewer than ten carries per game and managing only 16 receptions for the year. He caught just 29 passes in four seasons.

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Statistics from

His college production and tape suggest a straight line, speed runner who produces the occasional splash play as part of a timeshare. In his best season, Johnson still only had 34% of carries among Maryland RBs.

With top quartile size-adjusted speed, middle of the road agility and bottom decile strength (13 bench reps at the NFL Combine), Johnson’s on-paper profile matches his tape.

Detroit drafted Johnson in the sixth round, and the team spoke highly of him throughout OTAs and the pre-season. He now has the inside track for Detroit’s RB1 duties until week 16.

But we need to pump the brakes. Despite the dynasty community’s excitement regarding Kerryon Johnson, he was only producing as a mid- to low-end RB2 through six weeks. He was RB21 on a per game basis and averaged 13.2 points in PPR.

This is a rough ceiling for Ty Johnson, and touch distribution with McKissic is still unknown. I endorse acquiring him (and stashed him in most of my leagues since the pre-season) but do not expect RB1 results. Contending dynasty teams should ride this newfound production. Rebuilding teams should flip him after a splash game or two. Johnson profiles as a timeshare runner with limited receiving production and sixth round draft capital. This is a stash and sell scenario.

Johnson’s overall ADP of 222 (RB74) does not yet reflect Kerryon Johnson’s injury.

The DLF Trade Finder pulls real world trades from MFL. His value has varied wildly this week.


1. Ty Johnson for Year 2021 round 2 draft pick


1. Ty Johnson for TE TJ Hockenson, DET

2. Ty Johnson for Year 2020 round 4 draft pick, Year 2020 round 5 draft pick

3. Ty Johnson for Year 2020 round 3 draft pick

The DLF team remains skeptical of Johnson’s long-term dynasty value as his ranking saw little, if any, bump this week. He is still RB70 among the rankers with updates since last Sunday. This reinforces the suggestion that contenders should ride his production and rebuilders should sell, rather than hold, after a flash game or two.

Hope you enjoyed this edition of the Cornerstone Report. What are some other rookie or class of 2020 performances worth noting? Find me on twitter at @threedownhack and let’s uncover the next cornerstone players.

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