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Late-Round Rookie Dynasty Draft Gems

We offer up some late-round targets for your rookie drafts.

Eno Benjamin

Late-round rookie picks should be viewed as low-probability dart throws, and for good reason. More often than not, the majority of players selected late in rookie drafts fizzle out or bust entirely. However, every year we see a player or two emerge from relative anonymity to provide fantasy and dynasty value.

I’ll highlight a few players below who I think are nice bargains and upside bets late in rookie drafts. For the intents of this article and exercise, I will define “late-round” as any player with a rookie ADP of 37 (the start of the fourth round in a 12-team league) or later, and the last few suggestions will cater to deeper leagues or longer rookie drafts.

Note: Players at each position are listed in the order I would target them in.

Running Back

Dynasty players have been lusting after this year’s crop of rookie runners for some time. I like Anthony McFarland (late second) and Joshua Kelley quite a bit in the third round, but they’re typically off the board by the fourth in rookie drafts. Same goes for DeeJay Dallas.

Eno Benjamin, RB ARI

Benjamin was a former devy darling who handled massive workloads at Arizona State. An accomplished pass catcher, Benjamin is a bit undersized but is a very capable running back with a similar skill set to Chase Edmonds. Last year, we saw tremendous production in the first season of Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme, and Kenyan Drake is playing under the transition tag this year, so it’s unclear whether he is in the long-term plan or not. Benjamin may not even make the roster, but I’m gambling on his upside and talent later on. Target: late third/early fourth round.

Lamical Perine, RB NYJ

Perine should immediately earn the backup role to Le’Veon Bell and could eat into some passing down work as well. Perine has very underrated hands – he caught 40 passes this year at Florida – and could walk into the lead back role should the Jets opt to move on from Bell after this year, as has been rumored. I’d be looking to sell at that point, but there is a path to him gaining some value. Target: late third/early fourth round.

Michael Warren, RB PHI

Miles Sanders is firmly entrenched atop this depth chart, and Boston Scott should reprise his change of pace role from the end of last season. But what if Doug Pederson does opt to utilize a running-back-by-committee approach as he has over the past few seasons? Enter Michael Warren, who profiles as the Jordan Howard-type player of this group. As always, though, I would caution towards spending much of anything on undrafted players. Target: fifth round/waivers.

James Robinson, RB JAX

Robinson was a favorite of mine throughout the process. I expected him to end up going undrafted, but I think he can play. Landing in Jacksonville intrigues me a lot. The Jaguars have been public about their feud with Fournette, so I don’t think he’s a realistic extension candidate. I don’t think Ryquell Armstead or Devine Ozigbo are necessarily bad players, but they’re certainly not reasons to keep a player from making a roster. Target: fifth round/waivers.

Watch List:

Salvon Ahmed, RB SF

JaMycal Hasty, RB SF

Both of these players offer nearly identical skill sets as speedy and shifty space backs. With Breida now in Miami, there could be room for one of these players to make the roster as an undrafted free agent, just like Breida did a few years ago. The problem is, I have no idea which one it might be, although I prefer Ahmed as a player. Keep them on your radar throughout the off-season.

Rodney Smith, RB CAR

Smith is intriguing; mainly because Carolina doesn’t have a backup to Christian McCaffrey entrenched on the roster. Reggie Bonnafon isn’t much of a threat, Jordan Scarlett was a near-zero in his rookie season, and Mike Davis is little more than a career journeyman. I wouldn’t rush to add Smith, but I’m keeping his name in mind.

Wide Receiver

The majority of my late-round selections in rookie drafts this year will be wide receivers, since that was the strength and depth of this class. There are so many players I’m interested in.

Isaiah Coulter, WR HOU

Coulter is strictly an upside projection. It’s rare that we see FCS receivers declare for the draft early, but Coulter did just that after three years at small-school Rhode Island. He is the biggest receiver on the Texans, and while he’s just an inch taller than Kenny Stills, the 6’2” Coulter actually plays big, flashing high-point ability and terrific run after catch skills. He’s the type of player more likely to fizzle out than hit, but if he hits big, his upside is nearly as high as any non-first round receiver in this deep class. Target: late third round.

Gabriel Davis, WR BUF

Davis has prototypical alpha receiver size at 6’2”, 216 pounds, which provides the Bills something no other proven receiver on their roster has. Buffalo appears to have their starting three-receiver sets in place with Stefon Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley, but Davis is a big-play threat with good hands and upside to develop into a starting X receiver. Target: late third round/early fourth round.

Quintez Cephus, WR DET

At this point, you’ve probably seen or heard of the clip from the NFL Combine where number three overall pick Jeff Okudah named Cephus as the best wide receiver he faced in college. Cephus tanked his stock by running a 4.73-second 40-yard dash, but he can play. He’s a crafty and physical receiver who looks like he could seamlessly walk into Marvin Jones’ role after this season. Target: early fourth round.

Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR CLE

Peoples-Jones (DPJ) oozes upside, but he’s never been able to put it all together. A consensus five-star recruit out of high school, DPJ languished with horrendous quarterback play and solid competition in his position group. He’s an incredible athlete with pedigree, though, and lands among a congested group of starters but a wide-open group of bench players. He’s another high-upside, low-floor pick. Target: early fourth round.

Quez Watkins, WR PHI

John Hightower, WR PHI

Watkins was a pre-draft favorite of mine, but I like both these players. They are both speed merchants on a team that clearly made it a major priority to add explosiveness to an offense that completely lacked a vertical element last year. Watkins ran a 4.35 at the Combine and has a sneakily impressive production profile, profiling as a high-upside and low-floor option. Hightower was utilized more as a deep threat only. I prefer Watkins, but I think both are worth a shot. Target: mid/late fourth round for Watkins; early fifth round for Hightower.

Isaiah Hodgins, WR BUF

I actually like Hodgins as a player better than his new teammate Davis, but Davis was drafted multiple rounds earlier. That makes Hodgins little more than a player to monitor as a long shot late sixth-round pick, but he was a productive college receiver with requisite size and ball skills. Target: late fourth round.

Watch List:

Collin Johnson, WR JAX

I’m not a huge fan of Johnson as a player, but he has immense size (6’6”, 220) and doesn’t face intense competition on his own team. He’s a bit stiff as a mover but flashed underrated route-running ability at the Senior Bowl. He could carve out a role in the red zone if he makes the team.

Darnell Mooney, WR CHI

Think Taylor Gabriel here. With Gabriel off the roster, Mooney could play a similar role. Gabriel had some usable weeks in the past couple of years as a deep threat and role player. Mooney is a limited player and operates mostly out of the slot, but he has speed.

Joe Reed, WR LAC

Reed should get some work as a return man immediately. He’s a dynamic player who still needs a lot of development as a receiver. I like prospects who are quality returners, though, so I’m intrigued.

Jauan Jennings, WR SF

Jennings is really slow, but he’s the most physical college receiver I can remember watching. He’s a bully with and without the ball in his hands and does a nice job after the catch due to his physicality. Jennings fits the Shanahan YAC mold he’s clearly seeking to strengthen.

Quartney Davis, WR MIN

Davis is a long shot as an undrafted free agent, but he flashed talent as an outside receiver in college and lands on a team with two strong slot receivers (Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson) but no established threats at X or Z receiver.

Tight End

Devin Asiasi, TE NE

Asiasi might be my favorite tight end in the class. Hand-picked by Bill Belichick to be a key member of the offense a year after getting absolutely no production from the position, Asiasi combines solid blocking with underrated athleticism and pass-catching chops down the seam. Target: late third round/early fourth round.

Harrison Bryant, TE CLE

Bryant is an exciting receiving threat and an underrated blocker at the position, but he’s absolutely buried in the short term. He could see a path to playing time in Kevin Stefanski’s two-tight end offense if David Njoku gets moved. Target: fourth round.

Albert Okwuegbunam, TE DEN

Okwuegbunam was a devy favorite a couple of years ago, but his athleticism does not pop on tape. Many of his touchdowns came when he was schemed into open space, and now he’s buried behind Noah Fant and the trio of receivers Denver is surrounding Drew Lock with. Albert O did play his college ball with Lock, so there might be a familiarity factor there. Target: fourth round.

Colby Parkinson, TE SEA

Parkinson doesn’t have much opportunity in the short term, competing with Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, and Jacob Hollister for snaps. Parkinson is a good blocker and has upside as a receiver, so there’s a chance he could push Hollister off the roster. This is a very tight end-friendly offense. Target: late fourth round/early fifth round.

Brycen Hopkins, TE LAR

Hopkins was one of my favorite tight ends in this class, but like those above him, I’m not really sure how he will be used. He’s behind Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. Hopkins is one of the best athletes in this class at the position and posted massive production at Purdue, so this is a bet on the talent. Target: late fourth round/early fifth round.

Dalton Keene, TE NE

Keene is still raw, but he flashes the ability to be one of the most complete tight ends in this class. The Patriots doubled down on tight ends in the third round, and Keene was surprisingly selected before Adam Trautman. Nobody truly knows what Bill Belichick has planned for this offense in the first season without Tom Brady on the roster in 20 years, but Keene could develop into a weapon in a few years. He is not a short-term play. Target: fifth round.

Hunter Bryant, TE DET

Bryant is probably the best pure receiver at tight end in this year’s class. The problem here is that his medicals have to be the reason he went completely undrafted, so I’m not sure how long he’d be able to stick around the league at a position where it takes a long time to acclimate. Target: fifth round.

Thaddeus Moss, TE WAS

Moss is a better blocker than given credit for, but he’s not particularly inspiring in any other area. He has good hands and flashes at times, but the hype with him surpasses any value he should be carrying. Washington doesn’t really have any other tight ends of value, though, so he might gain some worth in the short term. Target: fifth round.

Josiah Deguara, TE GB

I’m not very interested in Deguara from a fantasy perspective, but the Packers selected him in the third round ahead of wide receivers they desperately needed. He could play and be used more than I’m giving him credit for. Target: mid/late fifth round.

Quarterback

I like to take shots on upside at the other skill positions late in rookie drafts, but when there are quarterbacks drafted in the first round who are still on the board at this point, I usually pounce.

Jalen Hurts, QB PHI

Hurts is stuck behind Carson Wentz for the foreseeable future, but Wentz has been oft-injured and there has been some buzz around using Hurts in some unique packages to get him on the field. He is a powerful, exciting rusher, which provides some hidden potential in a player with no path to immediate playing time. Target: late fourth round.

Jordan Love, QB GB

I don’t know what Green Bay’s draft was all about, but it’s clear they have Aaron Rodgers’ successor now in place. He won’t be starting before 2022, and he’s probably a reach at his ADP of 42, but I guess his upside is high. Target: late fourth round.

Jacob Eason, QB IND

In theory, Eason was a terrific pick in the fourth round for the Colts as a similar style quarterback to Philip Rivers. Rivers is in the first and final year of his deal, so it’s possible that Eason could enter 2020 with a tenuous hold on the starter job. Eason has a cannon arm but isn’t mobile, so he offers no rushing upside. He is paired with some nice weapons and an elite offensive line. I just don’t think he’s very good. Target: fifth round/waivers.

Superflex Watch List:

Cole McDonald, QB TEN

The Titans just handed Ryan Tannehill a massive contract extension, but they don’t have a real backup on the roster after letting Marcus Mariota walk. Enter McDonald. He is a wildly entertaining watch in the Jameis Winston mold, where every play is a roller coaster and every result is within the range of outcomes. McDonald is a terrific athlete and could theoretically offer the Titans a similar style of player to Tannehill, should he get hurt.

Jake Luton, QB JAC

Luton reminds me of a poor man’s Jared Goff, which usually isn’t something to aspire to, but he is a low-upside passer who can execute what he is asked for within the confines of the scheme. He’s not much of a fantasy asset, but superflexers should keep him in mind, especially since Gardner Minshew is still unproven. Beware Andy Dalton landing in Jacksonville before investing here.

Late-Round Rookie Dynasty Draft Gems
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2 years ago

James Proche is one of my favorite late targets.

Slick M.
2 years ago

love Proche as well.

Thanks for highlighting/ranking the late round gems. I prefer RBs down here but its good to see some WRs like Coulter. Not interested in QB or TE in this class. I double down on players with talent and opportunity. Of the list:

RB- Eno and James Robinson (especially now that they didn’t pick up Fournette’s option)

WR (it’s all about the QB! – Coulter(Deshaun), Cephus (Stafford), and Watkins/Hightower (Wentz)

good work!

Raymond Phillips
2 years ago

Great write up! Please tell me you’ll also have one for IDP

Raymond Phillips
Reply to  Joseph Nammour
2 years ago

That’d be great! thanks!

Fgriffin
Reply to  Joseph Nammour
2 years ago

What you thought on Xavier Jones?

AJ Dundass
2 years ago

This is fantastic content. Deep dives are always great value.

Michael Lewis
2 years ago

Have 2 picks late in 5th, just taking DPJ & Cephus

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