Cornerstone Report: Week Four

Frank Gruber

Welcome to the Cornerstone Report. This weekly in-season series focuses on the NFL rookie class and projected 2021 rookie class.

It uses tools including our Dynasty Trade Analyzer, the DLF Trade Finder, average draft position and DLF rankings to compare player values.

Last week’s column featuring Kyle Pitts, Joshua Moore and Justin Jefferson can be found here.


Trey Lance, QB North Dakota State

An FCS quarterback coming off a 15 of 30 for 149 passing performance is the talk of NFL draftniks this week. But it is more a confirmation of Lance’s talent than an indictment of week four in college football. NDSU structured a one-game season to showcase its potential first-round pick and enable NFL teams to see Lance perform in person, and scouts from 20 NFL teams took advantage of the opportunity.

His passing numbers were underwhelming but rust is to be expected in such unusual circumstances. Recall, too, that despite his physical tools Lance is an unpolished product, having attempted just 318 career passes.

word image 10

Statistics from

He gained popularity in devy and dynasty circles in 2019, when he threw for nearly 2,800 yards without an interception. Listed at 6’4” and 226 pounds, he is a dual-threat resembling Dak Prescott. He displayed versatility on Saturday by adding 143 yards and two rushing touchdowns while producing this highlight run.

In the NFL, Lance will eventually have to make a living as a passer. He appears to have the arm talent to succeed.

He is a raw prospect with elite physical tools, but with a short resume from a small school. His detractors will see enough negatives in Saturday’s performance to hold their ground, while his supporters will continue to like him. He may truly be a boom or bust prospect.

The DLF devy team ranks him as the 43rd overall prospect in college football. This puts him at 30th among 2021 prospects in the 1QB format, implying a mid-third round rookie pick value as QB3 behind Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. His devy ADP is similar: number 47 overall and QB3. Expect his value to rise throughout the NFL draft process. Do not be surprised when Lance is selected in the first round of the NFL draft as well as in superflex/2QB rookie drafts.

Travis Etienne, RB Clemson

Through four weeks, Etienne is the only player in college football with at least 240 yards rushing and 170 yards receiving. Though at arbitrary thresholds, the numbers speak to Etienne’s productivity and versatility. Early concerns about his receiving ability were dispelled last year when he caught 37 passes for 432 yards.

word image 11

Statistics from Sports Reference.

If pressed to nitpick, my one lingering concern relates to Etienne’s style. Is he just a straight-line speedster? But after 5,000 scrimmage yards, that concern is long gone. He routinely exhibits superior contact balance and strength as he makes people miss.

This week’s full-game highlights are a fun watch:

He is ranked third in the DLF Devy Rankings as the overall RB1, trailing only LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase and Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman. DLF Devy ADP also puts him at number three overall. The DLF Cornerstone Rankings combine first and second-year NFL players with 2021 rookies. They are a tool unique to DLF that compares the values of college prospects with young NFL players. Etienne ranks 17th here as the RB8, between Terry McLaurin and Marquise Brown.


Laviska Shenault, WR JAC

Through week four, Shenault leads all rookie wide receivers with 25 touches. His 16.0% touch rate (touches per snap) is seventh among all NFL receivers, implying strong usage and speaking to his versatility. He is the second-highest graded offensive rookie according to Pro Football Focus.

When he is on the field he gets the ball. He just needs to get on the field more. Teammates DJ Chark and Keelan Cole play on 82% and 71% of snaps, respectively, while Shenault is at 60%. Expect Shenault’s playing time to increase as the season progresses, and Cole is an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Injuries slowed Shenault in college more than opposing defenses, and he is continuing to produce in the NFL.

word image 12

Statistics from Sports Reference.

He is difficult to bring down and is a master creating yards after the catch. He displays strength appropriate for 227 pounds and retains exceptional agility for that size.

He is up to 65th in the DLF Dynasty Rankings, implying he now carries the value of a sixth-round startup pick. It is peculiar that his value is still below its May peak. Expect that to change.

word image 12


This puts him at WR38 in the DLF WR Rankings between Adam Thielen and Christian Kirk. From an ADP perspective, he is more of a value at WR45 and 90th overall between Michael Pittman and Darius Slayton. The DLF staff appears to be higher on him than the broader community. Superflex/2QB ADP drops him to the WR56 and 139th overall player between Golden Tate and Kerryon Johnson. In our Cornerstone Rankings, he appears more appropriately valued 27th overall between Henry Ruggs and Jaylen Waddle.

The DLF Trade Analyzer values players and rookie picks by combining rankings, ADP data and real-world MyFantasyLeague trades. In terms of picks, it values Shenault as a high-second round 2021 rookie pick. Players of similar value include Tee Higgins and Henry Ruggs.

Finally, the Dynasty Trade Finder pulls MFL trades per customized parameters. Recent trades involving Shenault include the following.

  • 10-6-20: Laviska Shenault and RB James Robinson, JAC for Year 2021 round one draft pick and Year 2022 round two draft pick
  • 10-5-20: Laviska Shenault for Year 2021 round one draft pick
  • 10-2-20: Laviska Shenault for TE Mike Gesicki, MIA and Year 2021 round three draft pick
  • 10-1-20: Laviska Shenault for RB David Montgomery, CHI

I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Cornerstone Report. Find me on twitter at @threedownhack as we uncover the next cornerstone players.

frank gruber
Latest posts by Frank Gruber (see all)