With the NFL Draft in the books, it’s time to turn our attention to dynasty league rookie drafts. Some wide receivers landed in perfect situations while others fell further than expected. With receivers like Hakeem Butler and Kelvin Harmon slipping to Day 3, rookie draft position is in flux.
However, some names were called before they were expected and landed with teams that could provide immediate opportunity.
Using the Rotoviz Box Score Scout app, team situations, and pre-draft rookie ADP, I’m going to identify the three WRs who I’m targeting in rookie drafts.
Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens
NFL Draft Selection: 25
Pre-Draft DLF Rookie ADP: 16
At first glance, being selected by the Ravens would be a negative and it’s fairly obvious why. From Week 11 through Week 17,1 the Ravens average just 22.5 pass attempts and 156 passing yards per game. But this usage over a small sample in 2018 is one contributing factor keeping Brown’s ADP lower than the average WR1.
|94||Keke Coutee||Texas Tech||103|
|92||Will Fuller V||Notre Dame||21|
|86||Tavon Austin||West Virginia||8|
|84||Brandin Cooks||Oregon State||20|
It’s unfortunate Brown was unable to participate at the combine because his expected forty time would have given more evidence of his potential, but even without the testing numbers, comparisons to Paul Richardson, Will Fuller, and Brandin Cooks provide optimism about how he could translate to the NFL.
RotoViz rankers list Brown at 14th and eighth at WR. Whether that’s because of his injury, his size, or team, that ranking is too low, in my opinion. Brown’s 18.28 career yards per reception, 28% career market share of yards, and 17 career touchdowns provide an upside when paired with his draft capital. And while he’s going to a potentially low-volume passing offense, there’s still a good chance at targets with John Brown and Michael Crabtree leaving in free agency. Those two receivers accounted for over 36% of the team’s targets. Their exits should open up some volume for Brown.
Getting the WR1 in the NFL Draft outside of the top eight picks of rookie drafts seems like a steal. There’s risk in a receiver with his injury history and of his size, but that appears to be built into his price. The situation is likely to improve each year as Lamar Jackson increases his pass attempts. If Brown establishes himself as the top receiver, he can be a consistent contributor on a dynasty roster. His ADP will likely range in the back half of the first round. If he’s available at the 10th pick, Brown should be a player to target.
Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs
NFL Draft Selection: 56
Pre-Draft DLF Rookie ADP: 42
With the Tyreek Hill situation looking worse and worse as days pass, Kansas City leaves the draft with 137 targets potentially up for grabs. With one of their top playmakers likely on his way out of the league, the Chiefs surprised many by selecting Hardman in the middle of the second round.
Hardman was a big play waiting to happen at Georgia with eight career touchdowns over 30 yards. And some of the reasoning for that is shown in the combine explorer. Hardman brings elite speed.
Hardman’s 97th-percentile 40-yard dash helps demonstrate his game-changing abilities. Among his top 20 most comparable players in the combine explorer are proven field-stretchers like John Brown, Travis Benjamin, and Tyler Lockett.
|98||Curtis Samuel||Ohio State||40|
|94||Bruce Ellington||South Carolina||106|
|92||Keke Coutee||Texas Tech||103|
Adding to his profile as a field-stretching talent, Kenny Stills, Justin Hunter, and Marquise Goodwin are among the most similar prospects in the Box Score Scout.
The landing spot could not have been much better for Hardman. Born out of an unfortunate event, Kansas City’s void at WR created the perfect opportunity for a rookie and because of that, he gets to join the most high-powered offense in the NFL. And what makes Kansas City even more exciting is that there is room to grow. The Chiefs ranked 23rd in the NFL in total offensive plays and ninth in pass attempts. While some regression is to be expected with their efficiency, this should open up more attempts for the offense.
Hardman’s ADP appears to be volatile at the moment. While his opportunity is immense, his pre-NFL Draft ADP was so low that the initial boom hasn’t caught up. He’s ranked eighth in the RotoViz Rookie Rankings with three writers having him at No. 5. If he’s available anywhere in the back half of the first round, he’s a potentially premium target based on his expected role.
Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers
NFL Draft Selection: 66
Pre-Draft DLF Rookie ADP: Undrafted
The Steelers organization has found success drafting WRs after Day 1 of the NFL Draft. Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Martavis Bryant are all examples of receivers who found fantasy success despite being drafted outside of the first round. And Johnson’s draft profile makes him an intriguing prospect to become the next Steelers WR to outperform his draft position.
Johnson finished his career with a 23% market share of the team’s passing yards and was one of the dominator rating leaders in 2017. With the return of teammate Cody Thompson from injury, Johnson experienced some regression which kept him from being an analytics superstar. But his list of similar prospects provides some optimism.
|98||Keke Coutee||Texas Tech||103|
|96||Ryan Switzer||North Carolina||133|
|94||Josh Reynolds||Texas A&M||117|
|90||Bruce Ellington||South Carolina||106|
|86||Rashad Greene Sr.||Florida State||139|
|84||Markus Wheaton||Oregon State||79|
|82||Justin Hardy||East Carolina||107|
While there are a few busts like Justin Hardy and Justin Hunter, the list also includes Keke Coutee, Josh Reynolds, and Dante Pettis who made instant impacts in the NFL.
RotoViz rankers don’t include Johnson inside of their top 48 prospects and that’s likely an indication of his perception. With his lackluster final season, Johnson fell off the radar of dynasty players. However, his draft capital is an indication that the Steelers have expectations for Johnson. With Brown leaving during the off-season, each member of the passing game will have to step up in the depth chart and that could provide volume to lesser known options.
With expectations low entering the NFL Draft, Johnson’s name was a surprise on Day 2. But joining an offense that ranked fifth in total offensive plays should provide opportunities. And as a last round pick, Johnson is a flier that could make an impact.
- Lamar Jackson was named the starting QB in Week 11. (back)