With the NFL draft now in the rear view, 2017 dynasty leagues can begin their seasons in earnest. The RotoViz Dynasty League is a rollicking, freewheeling affair created by Matthew Freedman and commished by Charles Kleinheksel. It’s full IDP with 19 starters, 60 roster spots, and a 7-round rookie draft. Today, we look at Round 1.
1.01 Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans
Since Davis played with lower-level recruits at Western Michigan, it may be an apples-to-oranges comparison, but his college production dwarfed the rest of the class and most other prospects from recent memory.
His selection at No. 5 overall locks him into a group of otherworldly comps that includes A.J. Green, Calvin Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald as his three most similar players.
1.02 Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
McCaffrey was the highest-ceiling prospect in this draft, a smaller but more athletic version of Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson, a clone of Marshall Faulk with better inside running ability (a skill the Panthers craved in their all-purpose back). But he wasn’t without red flags. The RB Success Model already ranked him No. 6 in the class due to his underwhelming combination of size and straight-line speed.
Even top prospects have a much wider range of outcomes than we generally concede, but McCaffrey’s were exceptionally wide even before he landed in one of the worst spots for fantasy value … ever.1 This isn’t Todd Gurley in St. Louis/L.A. bad, although it’s worth noting that Gurley to the Rams was initially lauded in many quarters since his team wanted to run the ball. As was the case with the Fisher Rams, wanting to do something and being able to do something are two different things.2
1.03 Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
How good is Fournette? Well, his top comp is Trent Richardson, an amusing reminder about draft overconfidence, but the rest of his comps are littered with Pro Bowl players.
Fournette also looks like a star according to the RB Success Model and the RB Dominator Scores, a metric which helps provide a clearer picture of the way he carried LSU’s entire offense.
Unfortunately, the fit isn’t promising.
Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon both registered negative scores3 in RotoDoc’s study of RB efficiency adjusted for down, distance, and field position. An upgrade will help the offense, but Jacksonville is the polar opposite of last year’s situation with Dallas and Ezekiel Elliott. The Jaguars ranked No. 29 in percentage of drives that reached the red zone, a key to the TD-scoring prowess necessary for high-end RB1 stats. Although Jacksonville has scored a lot of garbage time points over the last two seasons, they ranked No. 31 in fourth quarter rushing attempts during that same period.
1.04 Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
The nightmare offseason continues for Cook. His perceived reality value cratered after a moribund combine, and his RB Prospect Lab score tumbled.
Landing in Minnesota didn’t solve those problems.
Minnesota’s offensive splits aren’t favorable for the run game, their offensive line is a work in progress, and Cook’s touches will be pressured by Latavius Murray on one side and Jerick McKinnon on the other. This was a selection I traded up to make, but the gap between him and the backs available in Round 2 has narrowed considerably.
1.05 Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Mixon’s lofty projection in the RB Success Model came in just below Fournette. As the more athletic back with superior receiving ability, he sports more upside. He also parlayed his off-field transgressions into a fantastic landing spot with the Jailhouse Bengals:
|Game Flow Situation||Positive||Neutral||Negative|
|Bengals 2014 - 2015||48.1%||21.9%||30.0%|
The Bengals offense was a mess last year, with partial seasons from Bernard, A.J. Green, and Tyler Eifert. It’s unsurprising they struggled to be efficient, finishing 13th in yards gained and tenth in plays run, but only 23rd in points scored.
Jeremy Hill finished with a top-15 rush TD rate of 4.1 percent but in the bottom 20 for rushing yards over expected. Hill scored nine or more TDs for the third consecutive year. If you buy the narrative of Hill as a plodding, replacement-level back, just imagine what an elite back could do in such an offense.
1.06 John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
With Ross and Mike Williams both going in the first 10 reality picks and Ross owning slightly better age-adjusted production, the Washington star now holds similar dynasty value. I’ll let Ben Gretch explain why Ross will be the next vertical star.
Of course, the competition here is brutal. If Ross gets by Brandon LaFell, he’ll have to battle A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert for targets. And that’s if Tyler Boyd and the intriguing Josh Malone have as little impact as now looks probable.
1.07 Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Among top-10 WR selections in the reality draft, Williams’ production numbers place him in the Kevin White/Michael Crabtree tier.4
Philip Rivers is hitting the rejuvenation machine this offseason but has led the NFL in interceptions in two of the last three seasons. While the Williams selection signals a strong intention to remedy that in 2017, the suddenly overcrowded receiving group is also a problem. The Chargers new star faces a career with uncertainty at QB but target competition from quality young players like Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, and Hunter Henry.
1.08 Zay Jones, WR, Buffalo Bills
No player saw his value jump more in the last week than Jones, and this was his second big jump after an impressive combine:
With 158 receptions at a paltry 11.1-yard clip, it was fair to assume Jones was merely a product of scheme and schedule strength, a small-school heat shimmer of forced volume. It’s now time to sip at the East Carolina oasis, the mirage popping into stark relief on the back of a 4.45 forty, 133-inch broad, and 6.72 three-cone. Jones should roar ahead of prospects like Cooper Kupp and Dede Westbrook.
Selected No. 37 overall, he further distanced himself from receivers like Kupp, Westbrook, Taywan Taylor, Carlos Henderson, and Chris Godwin. The Bills then opted not to pick up the fifth-year option for Sammy Watkins. It’s still possible Watkins remains on the team in 2018 and beyond, but Jones looks well-positioned to continue his high-volume ways.
1.09 O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For a 251-pound tight end with blazing 4.51 speed, Howard was surprisingly unproductive at Alabama, reaching the end zone only seven times in four seasons. To put that in context, athletic superfreak and sixth-round “project” Bucky Hodges scored 7, 6, and 7 during his three campaigns.
Howard’s top comp helps explain the general optimism.
Howard was an elite blocker at Alabama, but that may have worked against his receiving usage with the Crimson Tide. It may do so again in the NFL, especially considering the competition in Tampa that includes Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and now RotoViz favorite Chris Godwin.
1.10 JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Smith-Schuster was our No. 3 receiver pre-draft, and he doesn’t lose much by falling into a situation where he can run opposite Antonio Brown and catch passes from Ben Roethlisberger.
Of course, he will be competing with two of the NFL’s freakiest athletes in shooting star Martavis Bryant (Freak 72) and one-game-wonder Sammie Coates (97th percentile SPARQ). Smith-Schuster was a much better college player, but if Bryant can stay clean or Coates can regain the form from his 6-139-2 line against the Jets,5 then the battle for targets will be fierce.
1.11 Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants
Engram went at 1.07 in our RotoViz/DLF rookie mock to prospect guru Nick Whalen. His stock should rise even more after going No. 23 overall, although the initial competition for targets won’t make it easy to buck the rookie trend at the position. His early results could benefit from having fewer blocking responsibilities than Howard or David Njoku.
1.12 David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns
The Browns analytics staff appears to have come to the same conclusion as TE guru Phil Watkins.
Beyond what you can glean from the model, Njoku destroyed the combine in the jumping drills (37.5 vert, 133 broad) and the cone (6.97), while catching eight final season TDs.
The biggest concern comes at the QB position where Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer represent intrigue and uncertainty. Combined with low rookie expectations at the position, an unsettled QB situation hints at the potential for a buy-low window next summer.
- Corey Davis is now the clear No. 1 pick, although Christian McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette, and Joe Mixon6 could be in the mix in RB-heavy leagues or for owners desperate for help at the position. In those cases, look for them to try to trade down.
- The first six players formed a Tier One prior to the draft, but Ross has now joined the bottom of that tier.
- With trendy upside picks like D’Onta Foreman and Chris Godwin plummeting in the reality draft and the Big 3 at TE cementing their status, the TEs are going to be expensive. Selecting them may require patience, but the potential reward is large at a thin fantasy position.
Stay Tuned for Rounds 2 and 3.
- If you were told before the draft that McCaffrey was going to go to a team that doesn’t throw to the RB, uses its QB as the (elite) goal line back, and then found out the team planned to select the next most similar prospect with their subsequent selection … would you have said McCaffrey would still be the No. 2 rookie pick? (back)
- I traded Breshad Perriman to move up for this selection, which gives a sense of where I still stand on him despite my frustration with his landing spot and awareness of his other red flags. (back)
- Sum Z scores for YPCOE and RUTD efficiency (back)
- Of course, he’s not the same level athlete as White and profiles more as a poor man’s Laquon Treadwell from the age-adjusted production/athleticism perspective. (back)
- His final healthy game in 2016 before finger injuries derailed his season (back)
- who dropped here because he was not on the board for multiple owners selecting early (back)