Cornerstone Report: Week Eight

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 Justin Fields, Dyami Brown and James Robinson can be found here.


Mac Jones, QB Alabama

Nick Saban uncharacteristically dipped into the three-star talent pool in 2017 to sign Jones. He played at the well-known Jacksonville (FL) Bolles School but did not receive scholarship offers from the “Big Three” Florida programs. He then waited behind Tua Tagovailoa for two seasons before starting 2020 with a bang.

Through six games, he is producing at a historic rate. His career 12.7 adjusted yards per attempt is equal to that of Tagovailoa and would be the best such mark among all quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL draft in the last decade.

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Statistics from Sports Reference.

However, as previously noted in this column, quarterbacks need rushing production to be elite these days. In 2019, the top ten fantasy quarterbacks averaged a rushing line of 77-408-3.8. Jones has run for only 19 yards and two touchdowns on 37 career attempts. Sack yardage is subtracted from rushing totals in college, but he is not a quarterback who adds fantasy points with his legs.

Despite the hot start, he is not among the top 70 prospects in the DLF Devy Rankings. Nor does he appear in our 1QB Devy ADP, which goes 75 deep and includes just four quarterbacks (Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Sam Howell). He does appear in the DLF Superflex ADP data as QB15 and 69th player overall, suggesting it would currently take a late-round rookie pick to acquire him in superflex. Notably, he is 39 spots behind teammate Bryce Young, a five-star dual-threat true freshman who has cleaned up for Jones in three games so far this season.

Najee Harris, RB Alabama

While Jones was a three-star member of the 2017 recruiting class, Harris was its second overall prospect across all positions. Even as a prep he looked the part of an Alabama running back at 6’2” and 226 pounds. For two seasons he split time with Joshua Jacobs, Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough before leading Alabama’s backfield in 2019. He surprisingly chose to return to school for his senior season.

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Statistics from Sports Reference.

Going back to his time as a prep, I was always most impressed by his fluid movement and receiving skills.

He is a PPR asset. Through six games in 2020, he has caught 20 passes for 183 yards.

However, at what point must we question his ability to create the big play? Through 568 career touches, his longest reception is just 42 yards and longest carry is 39 yards. He has produced 10.0 yards per carry or greater in only four games, and in those games, he totaled just 29 carries.

His choice to return for another year of school has not harmed his dynasty value. He projects as a top-six rookie pick in 2021 in both the DLF Devy Rankings and Devy ADP. In the DLF Cornerstone Rankings combining first and second-year NFL players with 2021 prospects, he ranks 19th between Terry McLaurin and Tee Higgins, and fifth among 2021 rookies.


JK Dobbins, RB BAL

Through week seven, Dobbins was third among Baltimore running backs in touches per game (6.0) and touches per snap (26.5%) despite leading the group in PPR points per touch (1.27 versus Mark Ingram’s 0.75 and Gus Edwards’ 0.58). But with Ingram (ankle) out in week eight, Dobbins and Edwards split the load with 16 touches each, and Dobbins produced the first 100-yard game of his career.

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Statistics from Sports Reference.

The devy buy-low window on Dobbins lasted far too long. Resulting from a “down” sophomore season of 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns, it is now hard to believe that he had a second-round rookie ADP well into last season. I was highlighting this value as late as week ten of last year’s column:

“Do not expect to be able to draft Dobbins that late. These rankings will catch up to Dobbins’ performance and eventually place him in the middle of round one, with additional upside depending on landing spot… I rank him 1.06 (RB5) among 2020 prospects. This is where I expect him to go in real-world rookie drafts.”

Indeed, that was the low point of Dobbins’ value. He became the 1.04 rookie (RB4) in May Rookie ADP.

The DLF ADP Over Time App visualizes his rise from the start of the off-season to today.

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Dobbins is up to 14th overall (RB11) in Startup ADP between Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. The DLF Dynasty Rankings put him at 29th between Amari Cooper and Stefon Diggs. In the DLF Cornerstone Rankings he ranks sixth, between Miles Sanders and CeeDee Lamb.

The Dynasty Trade Analyzer is one of our most popular apps for a reason. It combines ADP, rankings and real-world MyFantasyLeague trade data to value players and rookie picks. Its algorithm values Dobbins roughly in line with an early 2021 rookie pick, or as a mid-first plus a late first. Players with similar values include Nick Chubb, CeeDee Lamb and AJ Brown.

Finally, the DLF Dynasty Trade Finder pulls actual trades from MFL according to custom parameters. Recent deals involving Dobbins include the following:

  • 10-28-20: JK Dobbins for WR DK Metcalf, SEA and Year 2021 round one draft pick
  • 10-27-20: JK Dobbins for RB Leonard Fournette, TBB
  • 10-27-20: JK Dobbins and Year 2021 round three draft pick for RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL
  • 10-24-20: JK Dobbins for WR CeeDee Lamb, DAL
  • 10-23-20: JK Dobbins and TE Harrison Bryant, CLE for WR Amari Cooper, DAL

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

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