Every year, there are players who the dynasty community loved pre-draft who go undrafted in the NFL Draft. I believe dynasty managers improve every year with their rookie evaluations, but sometimes, the NFL simply doesn’t agree with us.
Let’s jump into four players who had hype throughout the off-season, but no NFL team bothered to select them in the NFL Draft.
Justyn Ross, WR KC
Ross represents the only true stunner in this UDFA class, as he was the only player with a top-40 rookie ADP who went undrafted.
Ross played college football at Clemson, where he had an intriguing career.
In 2018, he burst onto the scene alongside Trevor Lawrence, leading the team in receiving yards as a true freshman. He managed to put up those numbers despite sharing a receiver room with Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers, and Hunter Renfrow, who were all day two NFL picks and had more experience. Those three players all had more receptions than Ross, but none showed the same per-play explosiveness.
Unfortunately, Ross regressed in 2019. Oddly, he flipped roles with Higgins, as Ross led the team in receptions while Higgins had far more yards and yards/reception. Ross may have already started to feel the effects of his congenital fusion injury, which required surgery after the 2019 season. At the time, I remember the dynasty community and devy analysts speculating if Ross would ever play again.
Ross did return for the 2021 season, where he led Clemson in all receiving categories. However, the entire offense struggled under quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, so Ross failed to produce impressive raw numbers. Even though he could’ve returned to Clemson for 2022, he decided to declare for the NFL Draft.
Pre-Draft Rookie ADP
The dynasty community clearly expected Ross to be a day two pick, as he consistently fell in the late second round of rookie ADP. He was the 21st overall player in February’s DLF ADP data, then 18th in March, and 22nd in April. I didn’t even consider the possibility that Ross might go undrafted. He declared early for the NFL Draft, and he had so much hype throughout his college career. I believed that round four was his floor in the NFL Draft, so I had no issue with his rookie ADP.
The Chiefs eventually signed Ross as an undrafted free agent, although they didn’t sign him immediately after the NFL Draft. That delay generally implies that NFL teams were not overly interested in Ross, but it could also mean that he wanted to take a bit of time to consider his options. No matter what, it seems clear that the NFL either doesn’t believe in Ross’ talent or was terrified of his medicals.
He joins a depth chart headlined by free-agent signings Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster, alongside second-round pick Skyy Moore. Mecole Hardman is likely the Chiefs’ WR4, and he represents Ross’ competition for any meaningful snaps. Any wide receiver playing with Patrick Mahomes should probably find a dynasty roster spot, but Ross is purely a stash. He’s worth a late fourth-rounder in rookie drafts, at best.
Zonovan Knight, RB NYJ
There were no running backs who were the same level of undrafted surprise as Ross. The top 15 running backs in April’s rookie ADP all went off the board in the NFL Draft. While the order may have been a bit odd in some places, the players taken were not a surprise. However, there were two running backs I expected to see late day three capital who didn’t get picked, and they were the top two in ADP who went undrafted. Let’s start with Knight.
Knight played at North Carolina State, where he had a very consistent, if somewhat uninspiring, career.
Impressively, he took command of the backfield as an 18-year-old true freshman in 2019, taking 136 carries for 745 yards and five touchdowns. However, he failed to gain more rushing attempts in 2020 and 2021, and he didn’t improve his efficiency either. He improved as a receiver, though, moving up to 20 and 21 receptions in 2020 and 2021. But I would expect a future NFL starter to become a workhorse in college after such an impressive first year, not just remain at a similar workload.
Pre-Draft Rookie ADP
Knight was the RB16 and 43rd overall player in April’s rookie ADP, which seemed like a fair price for a projected late day-three selection. His college statistics didn’t stand out to me, but his age was intriguing, as he entered the NFL Draft at 21 years old. Even if he didn’t find a good spot right away, his youth allowed him more potential to gain dynasty value later in his career than an older prospect.
Unfortunately, Knight landed on a difficult depth chart to climb, as the Jets signed him as an undrafted free agent. The Jets selected Breece Hall in the second round of the NFL Draft, and 2021 fourth-rounder Michael Carter has an ironclad grip on the backup or timeshare spot behind him. They also re-signed Tevin Coleman and gave him $650,000 guaranteed of his one-year, $1.5 million deal. Therefore, it’s unlikely Knight will make the team, as I doubt the Jets will carry four running backs after selecting Hall.
Kennedy Brooks, RB PHI
Unlike Knight, Brooks is an older prospect who had a messy career at Oklahoma. However, he’s the only other undrafted running back who interests me. In this case, though, it’s mostly his landing spot on the Eagles that gives him any value.
Brooks spent five years at Oklahoma, where he had mixed results.
He redshirted in 2017 with a shoulder injury and missed the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. But he put up more than 1,000 rushing yards in the three seasons he did play, culminating in a 1,253-yard performance in 2021. Unfortunately, he topped out at ten receptions in any season, failing to show receiving upside. Additionally, he’s already 23 years old and turns 24 in October, reducing his dynasty value.
Pre-Draft Rookie ADP
Brooks was the RB19 and 47th player taken in April’s rookie ADP, placing him behind Knight. I did think he could be a late-round pick, primarily based on his rushing production in college. However, the NFL decided to pass on Brooks, perhaps due to some off-field issues at Oklahoma.
Luckily, Brooks landed on a great depth chart to make the team. Miles Sanders is the Eagles’ starter, but they received minimal contributions from depth running backs Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott in 2021. I don’t see Sanders, Gainwell, and Scott as a sufficient running back room for an NFL team, mainly since neither Gainwell nor Scott provides enough early-down value. Therefore, Brooks could easily find himself as the Eagles’ RB4. I also have zero faith in Gainwell or Scott to produce numbers, so if Brooks makes the team, he could challenge for some carries throughout the season. Even though I prefer Knight as a prospect, I’d rather draft Brooks in rookie drafts.
Jalen Wydermyer, TE BUF
I won’t bother giving Wydermyer a true breakdown like the other three players, but I wanted to toss him on the list as a note of caution. There’s often a tight end that carries decent value pre-draft that goes undrafted, often after a poor NFL Combine. Hunter Bryant in 2020 is the most notable example, but Kenny Yeboah and Thaddeus Moss are other players who suffered the same fate. Either way, I have zero interest in Wydermyer on the Bills, and I doubt he makes the final 53-man roster.
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