The NFL Draft is behind us, rookie drafts are taking place, and as dynasty owners, we are looking ahead to the upcoming season. In the Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Update series, we break down all the incoming fantasy-relevant rookies, looking at their profiles and where they fit.
Name: Tyquan Thornton
Position: Wide Receiver
Pro Team: New England Patriots
College Team: Baylor
Draft Status: Round two, 50th overall
You can find more videos right here on Thornton’s DLF player page.
- Good short-area foot speed considering his height
- Uses quickness and body control to create separation
- Skinny frame
- Struggled with drops at times
- Was schemed open often in college rather than being a nuanced route-runner
There are few wide receiver rooms in the NFL with a more obvious hole for a number one outside receiver than New England. Yes, the Patriots have a bunch of competent NFL WR2s and WR3s. They also acquired DeVante Parker, who profiles as a prototypical ‘X’ in this offense. However, none of that adds up to an elite number one receiver.
Thornton will complement Parker and the bunch of smaller slot types the Patriots have well. He has the elite speed and downfield ability to take the top off a defense and should immediately find playing time. If you’re looking through rose-tinted spectacles, you could see a world where Thornton profiles as the missing piece in this receiver room.
The Patriots’ offense has notoriously been tough to learn with the high volume of options routes and route adjustments based on coverage. It has not been a great hunting ground for rookie production from receivers. Whether this will now change with Josh McDaniels moving to Las Vegas and leaving an unknown situation around who is calling plays for New England this year. Time will tell whether the Patriots will be able to integrate a rookie wide receiver.
For reference, the last Patriots wide receiver to pass 1,000 receiving yards in their career (yes, career, not season!) was Brandon Tate! He was drafted in the third round, and even he did most of that on other teams. Since that 2009 draft, where they also drafted Julian Edelman in the seventh round, they have spent a first, two seconds, a third, two fourths, a sixth, and four seventh-rounders. That’s a lot of draft capital on players that haven’t achieved a modicum of success in the NFL.
The other significant threat is that the Patriots’ receiver room is full of good options despite not possessing an elite receiver. Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, and Nelson Agholor aren’t superstars but are good enough that they could stop Thornton from seeing the field immediately as a rookie.
Wearing my realistic spectacles, I don’t expect anything from Thornton in the short term. He may struggle to see the field, and even as a decoy deep threat, the Patriots are likely to utilize Nelson Agholor more often. Thornton may be stuck with special teams and backup roles for the entirety of the 2022 season. There is a wide range of outcomes. However, I think the most realistic is Thornton not producing anything relevant to fantasy.
While there may not be a direct path to relevancy for Thornton, I believe the thought process in drafting him was to replace Agholor in 2023. Agholor is a free agent after this season, and Thornton could easily step into his role as the speedy deep threat tasked with tilting safety coverage his way. I don’t expect Thornton ever to be a reliable fantasy option. However, he does have an intriguing profile and could flash that boom-bust big-play ability as he is given the opportunity to see the field.
I trawled through recent draft picks and struggled to find a suitable comparison. With Thornton expected to be a day three pick, there weren’t many good comparisons in the pre-draft process either. He can be compared to a couple of recent players who could perhaps show the fragility of Thornton’s fantasy value. The first is a taller version of John Ross. Ross never really got a full crack at the NFL. He couldn’t put it together primarily due to injuries, but he has a similar skillset to Thornton. The other comparison – perhaps hints at Thornton’s potential ceiling for fantasy – is a skinny version of DJ Chark.
Thornton is currently a late third-round pick in DLF’s May 2022 Superflex Rookie Dynasty ADP. He is the WR16 in current and the 33rd player off the board. In those ten mock drafts, his ceiling was 30th, and his floor was 41st.
Thornton is not a player people are clamoring to acquire in rookie drafts. I’ve seen the undrafted Justyn Ross go ahead of him in one league. However, you just need to buy into the value of an NFL second-round draft pick at a certain point.
Given his speed and potential big playability, I’m comfortable taking the risk on Thornton at the beginning of the third round in a rookie draft. The likelihood is that he will be the next on the conveyor belt of wasted Patriots wide receiver draft picks. However, even if it’s only a 10% chance he hits, at the value he is going, I think it’s well worthwhile the risk. Worst-case scenario, you’ve not exactly spent much to acquire him.
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