It’s such a sweet time for us dynasty degenerates.
For a lot of people who play fantasy football — you know, those who like drafting a whole new team each season — things don’t really pick up until late July. Outside of dabbling in MFL10s, those people are probably bored to death right now.
For us, though, there is no off-season (you may have come across that phrase on this esteemed site). For a lot of us, including myself, it’s rookie draft season, one of the best times of the year. Some of you may have already completed your rookie drafts, while others may not hold their rookie draft until later this summer.
But there’s really never a bad time to talk rookies, which is what we’re going to do in this piece. Earlier this off-season, we took a look at three rookies who are destined to be overdrafted. Now, let’s do the opposite and focus on three rookies who may be underdrafted.
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Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I’m not a tape-grinder or a scout, so take this with a grain of salt. But whenever I watched Godwin play at Penn State, I usually came away thinking “Dang, that dude is good.” It just seemed like Godwin made plays.
In the Rose Bowl, facing off with USC, Godwin made plenty of plays. He torched a fairly talented Trojans secondary for nine catches, 187 yards and two scores.
He ended his college career with two pretty solid seasons, although the numbers aren’t out of this world. As a sophomore in 2015, Godwin totaled 69 catches for 1,101 yards and five touchdowns before putting up a 59-982-11 line last season as a junior.
The Buccaneers took Godwin with the 20th pick of the third round (84th overall) as they spent some serious draft capital this spring — also taking tight end O.J. Howard in the first and running back Jeremy McNichols in the fifth — to get franchise passer Jameis Winston some new toys.
In the pre-draft process, Godwin was pegged as a hard-nosed wideout who attacks the ball well (according to future Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson) and has a chance to develop into a solid number two wideout. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, and some analysts had him pegged as a second-round talent.
At 6-foot-1, 209 pounds, it’ll be interesting to see how the Bucs choose to deploy him. Godwin played on the outside most of the time at Penn State, but with the off-season signing of Desean Jackson, Tampa Bay’s biggest immediate need is a slot upgrade over Adam Humphries. However, it sounds like Godwin has been working primarily as an outside receiver so far.
While we don’t want to focus on situation too much, I do think Godwin landed in a pretty nice spot, and the Bucs seem to be pretty excited about him. The arrival of Jackson may make it difficult for Godwin to make a big impact early on in his career, but Jackson — the type of speed-based player who traditionally doesn’t age super well — is entering his age-31 campaign this fall.
Also, Tampa Bay’s receiver depth chart is pretty top heavy. Humphries isn’t too big of an obstacle (although he’s a solid player), while Donteea Dye and Josh Huff are pretty weak competition for Godwin for the role of fourth wideout. The former Nittany Lion should see some snaps this year, and when Jackson is eventually out of town (granted he signed a three-year deal), Godwin could be the longterm Robin to Evans’ Batman on what should be a good offense.
Despite a solid college career at a big program and landing in a pretty nice spot, Godwin’s rookie draft stock has slipped a bit since the NFL Draft. In March, he was going 13th overall, knocking on the door of the first round, but his June average draft position (ADP) is the 16th overall player. Getting him in the early-to-middle part of the second round could wind up being a pretty nice deal.
Taywan Taylor, WR, Tennessee Titans
Taylor may be my favorite non-first-round player in this year’s class. Right now, his ADP falls at 22nd overall, which is up a few ticks from prior to the draft, when he was the 26th overall player. His landing spot is probably the sole reason for the boost as the Tennessee Titans seem like a great fit.
Despite his recent rise, I think he’s still a player who is undervalued in this draft class. Taylor is my kind of dude. I’m a sucker for big-time college production, which he has in spades (and we’ll get to in a second), and I drool over his pre-draft scouting reports.
First, the college numbers. We’ll get this out of the way early, Western Kentucky had a video-game offense, so Taylor’s numbers get a boost from his situation, but he scored 17 touchdowns in each of his last two seasons. He wrapped up his career with a 98-1,730-17 line in 2016 after he put up 86 catches for 1,467 yards and 17 scores as a junior.
Year Catches Yards Touchdowns Yards Per Reception
2013 24 270 0 11.3
2014 45 767 7 17.0
2015 86 1,467 17 17.1
2016 98 1,730 17 17.7
It’s hard to find many negatives there.
Taylor, by virtue of either his skillset or the Hilltoppers’ quick-strike passing game, did a lot of damage on throws near the line of scrimmage. Yet, despite that, he still averaged more than 17 yards per grab in each of the last two seasons, which shows you how explosive he is after the catch.
Sure, the level of competition wasn’t the SEC, but Taylor did rack up nine catches for 121 yards in a 2016 matchup with Alabama. The kid can play.
Taylor is a quick-twitch athlete who has good burst and change-of-direction ability. Those traits show up in his pre-draft testing as he rated in the 96th percentile in the broad jump and three-cone drill, per MockDraftable.com.
So far, everything I’ve told you has pointed to Taylor playing as a slot receiver, and that’s probably where he’ll end up due to his build (5-foot-11, 198 pounds). But it wouldn’t surprise me to see him play outside some. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah is on board with that idea, as well, comparing Taylor to Derrick Mason, a smallish wideout who was able to excel all over the field thanks to his athleticism and toughness. Emmanuel Sanders is another example of a slender receiver (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) who has made hay on the outside.
We’ll have to see if the Titans deploy him out wide at all, which would give his upside a boost, but he can be a productive player regardless. The fact he landed in an up-and-coming offense — one that’s not loaded with great wide receiver talent — with a good young quarterback only helps things, and it sounds like he’s making a good first impression.
Donnel Pumphrey, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, Pumphrey isn’t going to be a bell-cow back at the NFL level, even though his rushing numbers in college are through the roof (they installed a new roof, actually). What he can do, though, is be an excellent weapon in the passing game, which is a huge role in today’s NFL and makes him a worthwhile player to check out in points-per-reception (PPR) formats.
Pumphrey was taken in the fourth round (132nd overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s a pretty sweet destination for him in so many ways. Pumphrey is attached to a promising young passer (Carson Wentz) and an innovative offensive coach (Doug Pederson) who should be able to utilize his unique skills. Oh, and he can learn from Darren Sproles, a similar-type player who is one of the best pass-catching running backs in NFL history.
The dynasty community has loved the idea of Pumphrey on the Eagles. As of June, he’s the 46th overall player off the board, up quite a ways from his March ADP of 60th.
While he is an undersized back, it didn’t stop Pumphrey from putting together a historically great college career as he became the all-time FBS rushing leader. He carried the ball 1,059 times across four seasons at San Diego State, amassing 6,405 yards (6.0 yards per attempt) and 62 touchdowns. He finished 2015 with 309 carries, and then followed it up with 343 rushing attempts as a senior, playing all 14 games in each campaign. In addition to the ground game, he averaged 24.75 receptions per year in college, a pretty nice number for a college back.
Obviously, the production is mind-boggling, but so is the durability, which is even more impressive when you factor in his size. The workload could also be looked at as a negative since he has a lot more wear and tear on his body than most rookies.
The Eagles have LeGarrette Blount, Sproles, Ryan Mathews (for now) and Wendell Smallwood on the roster, so things are crowded in the backfield. Pumphrey has generated some off-season hype, though, getting a good amount of first-team work. Barring injury, he’s still unlikely to make much noise in 2017, but all we have to do is look at Sproles — who has finished no worse than RB28 in PPR formats in each of the past four seasons, after an RB12 finish in 2012 and an RB5 ranking in 2011 — to see what kind of fantasy producer a pass-game wizard can be.