2019 Rookie Drafts Round 2: A Trio of Star Receivers Slide

Credit: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire Pictured: Hakeem Butler

 

With the NFL draft in the books, rookie draft season is upon us. Shawn Siegele examines Round 2 from a couple of experts drafts. He breaks down all of the picks, providing advanced stats and player commentary, as well as helping you access our rookie rankings, prospect tools, and draft research.

Round 2

Evaluating the picks from two conferences in the same league is one way to know you’re getting contrasts in player evaluation as opposed to simply seeing differences in format. The Faked Goods rookie draft took place immediately after the real thing concluded, offering a window into the instant reactions from top players.

2.01 Noah Fant/Mecole Hardman

High stakes players appear to be higher on Hardman, as he hasn’t dropped below No. 9 overall in the first four FFPC drafts of the season. By contrast, he’s coming off the board at No. 13 in MFL formats. This discrepancy mirrors the results in our two conferences as he went No. 8 in Goods but falls to No. 13 in Faked.

Fant went three picks before T.J. Hockenson in rookie drafts that occurred before the real event, but he slipped below his college teammate over the last week.

Despite this flip, all six of our rankers still have Fant ahead of Hockenson. Tight end guru John Lapinski and I both like Fant well ahead of slot, and I would argue that my ranking of No. 7 overall might even be conservative. This is a weak draft at RB and WR, which makes a player with Fant’s star power even more enticing. He was one of 3 First-Round Picks the Box Score Scout Loved, and his comps paint the full, enticing picture.

2.02 Kyler Murray/Andy Isabella

Isabella went at 1.09 in Faked, which is about as early as he’s gone anywhere. In 40 MFL selections post-draft, he’s risen only to No. 17 overall, a six-spot jump from his pre-draft ADP. In the Round 1 Recap, I detailed one reason you want to be extremely skeptical of Isabella.

But that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Travis May’s Adjusted Production Index allows you evaluate a player’s performance through the combination of Dominator Rating and yards and TDs per team pass attempt.1 Isabella’s 1,698-yard season gave him a 95th percentile API,2 easily the best score in the class.

If you’re considering a QB in your rookie draft, make sure you read Tyler Buecher’s breakdown of the two QBs he’s targeting. It’s not a spoiler to note that Murray looks exceptional in his analysis, with BSS comps that will leave you salivating.

2.03 Darrell Henderson/Deebo Samuel

If I’m drafting an RB in the first 18 picks, Henderson is the easy selection. Our Zero RB target list provides fruitful players at discount prices every year because owners dramatically overemphasize expected Week 1 volume, and we can see this effect in dynasty as well. If you only knew reality draft position, early ADP would be surprising.

Jacobs makes sense as the only first-round pick, but Miles Sanders, David Montgomery, and Devin Singletary were clustered much closer to Henderson, with the latter three going within five picks of each other early in Round 3. Henderson went to the best offense, is the only player from the group with the speed profile that has historically translated to the NFL, catches passes, and is another after-contact monster. Unlike Montgomery, he puts the yards into yards-after-contact.

2.04 Deebo Samuel/Marquise Brown

Brown is a 77th percentile player in API who was drafted 25th overall, while Samuel is a 48th percentile API receiver who was drafted early in Round 2.

That would probably be enough to illustrate which conference had the better WR value remaining at this pick, but that’s not even the full story. Using our Rookie Age Database, you can see that Samuel is one of the oldest players in this class as a redshirt senior. This provides us with a bleak outlook according to a must-read edition of The Wrong Read.

While draft position provides a strong indication of future opportunity, it’s important to remember that the draft isn’t remotely efficient. The key to beating your rookie draft is to understand which players were over- and underdrafted.3

This doesn’t mean Samuel will be a bust or that you shouldn’t draft him. Your scouting evaluation may mesh the 49ers’ decision, and you might love his opportunity.4 And as the No. 6 WR in early drafts, Samuel is already discounted slightly to his reality rank within the position.

2.05  Diontae Johnson/Hakeem Butler

Diontae Johnson should be one of those fun sleepers headed into a perfect opportunity as the long term replacement for Antonio Brown. Ryan Bobbitt was on him really early, profiling him a year ago as part of his Returning Dominators series. Johnson posted a 40% Dominator Rating in 2017 for Toledo’s high-powered offense.

As a result of those gaudy numbers and an early Round 3 landing in a good passing offense, Matt Wispe had him as one of 3 Post-Draft WRs to Target. I want to join the chorus on Johnson, but the BSS comps raise some red flags.

Johnson’s production fell again in 2018 with the return of Toledo’s alpha receiver, Cody Thompson.5 With all the hype around the NFL draft and the excitement for Day 2 selections, it’s easy to forget that the expectation for the No. 66 pick in the draft isn’t particularly good. You want a pick in this range to possess some standout traits, and Johnson’s mediocre production numbers combine with an underwhelming size/speed profile to argue that he may have been overdrafted.

2.06 Hakeem Butler/Miles Boykin

This was the slot for our Freak Score stars. Butler (80) and Boykin (78) finished third and fourth overall in the TD-projecting athletic metric, and both outscored all members of the 2017 and 2018 classes.

A ridiculous size/speed specimen, Butler was also one of the most productive players in college football with over 1,300 receiving yards at better than 20 yards a clip. He was the engine of the Cyclones offense with a Dominator well north of 40%. Different research methods have suggested all of these are key stats to list on your resume. Players with elite yards per reception numbers and a final year yardage market share over 40% have especially strong success rates.

Before Day 3 began, Curtis Patrick mentioned that Butler would still have decent comps if he went relatively early, and that’s exactly what happened. Plug his name into the BSS and you find misses like Cody Latimer, but more encouraging names like Kenny Golladay, Michael Thomas, and JuJu Smith-Schuster as well.

There’s a debate roaring over what to do with Butler after he plummeted to WR14 in the reality draft. Just how far should we demote him?

Rookie owners have reacted like this.

Butler’s ADP was 3.8 before the draft, and he’s fallen to WR8 and 14th overall. This is more or less the right answer, although you might quibble with some of the ordering. Based on the combination of draft position and experience-adjusted production, Butler should slide in as the No. 3 receiver in this group, but the two receivers below him should be drafted above him and vice versa.6

2.07 Devin Singletary/Kelvin Harmon

Singletary went only a single pick after David Montgomery, but, as we saw earlier in our discussion of Henderson, his rookie ADP is more than a round later. The good news for Singletary fans is that he goes into a situation with absolutely no one who should present any type of long term threat. There’s no Todd Gurley or Tarik Cohen. The Bills don’t even have a Jordan Howard cluttering the picture.

So why the gap?

The Bills do have a host of washed-up veterans in line for 2019 tank duty, and there’s nothing to stop Buffalo from adding their true back-of-the-future a year from now. They hope to find that in Singletary, but dynasty owners are obviously much more skeptical.

I love the hyper-productive underdogs, but Singletary’s athletic profile doesn’t translate well to the NFL. Perhaps most disappointing for the workhorse back, Singletary ranked only No. 25 in Blair Andrews’ Backfield Dominator Rating.7 That doesn’t mean Singletary’s 2017 campaign with 2,000-plus yards from scrimmage should be ignored, but it lends credence to the idea that some of the small school star’s numbers may be inflated.

2.08 Justice Hill/Damien Harris

I’ve been targeting small backs with elite athleticism for my Zero RB squads since 2008, and guys like Cohen, Matt Breida, and Austin Ekeler are just some of the most recent success stories. That success won’t eliminate this loophole. We find the only plus-athlete from this class going off the board late in the second round.

Hill ran a 4.4 forty and then confirmed that explosiveness with 95th percentile results in the leaping drills. In the near future, he’s probably only a change of pace for the Ravens, but Cohen and others have demonstrated just how valuable that role can be to fantasy owners.

2.09 Jace Sternberger/Alexander Mattison

T.J. Calkins points out the fantastic situation for Sternberger in his third-round opportunity report and ranks him No. 15 overall. Sternberger posted WR numbers for Texas A&M last year, and now gets to catch passes from Aaron Rodgers. Rich Hribar selected him ahead of the trendier Irv Smith Jr., and I agree with Rich and T.J. that he should go ahead of the Alabama star.

This is a minority opinion.

2.10 Irv Smith Jr./Justice Hill

I mentioned that John Lapinski was a TE guru, and his 3 TEs I’m Targeting After the Draft will convince you that Rich, T.J., and I are wrong in preferring Sternberger over Smith. Even better, John’s other two TE selections are deeper plays that represent even better values. Those last two guys are the ones I’m trying to grab everywhere.

2.11 Damien Harris/Diontae Johnson

Harris completed his tenure at Alabama with three consecutive seasons over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. He profiles as the prototypical Crimson Tide back who looks good behind their NFL line in college . . . and then looks like the kind of back you’d expect from his tested athleticism when he again runs behind an NFL line but this time against an NFL defense.

On the plus side, Harris was a more accomplished college player than the first back taken in this draft, and he’s going to an offense that has lent momentary relevance to guys like Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount.

2.12 Benny Snell/Irv Smith Jr.

It can be frustrating that most of the backs in the 2019 class are subpar athletes, and yet Snell often seems like the only one penalized for it.

Sure, he’s not very athletic but production matters, especially when that production comes in the form of early breakouts and first-year workhorse numbers. Snell is one of the youngest backs in this class, and he broke out right away with a 1,000-yard season, helping Kentucky post a winning record for the first time in seven years. Two years later he was finishing his third consecutive 1,000-yard campaign as the Wildcats marched to their best record in decades.

Even with his lack of athleticism, Snell generates some interesting comps. Check out the last name.

Snell was drafted to provide some insurance behind James Conner and Jaylen Samuels, but it’s not out of the question for him to eventually compete for the starting job. He’s the perfect Pittsburgh Steelers running back, and they’re the perfect fit for him.

We’ve now covered every player selected in the first two rounds except for Miles Boykin, Alexander Mattison, and Kelvin Harmon. Stay tuned to see where they went in Round 3 of the opposing conference.

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  1. He uses adjusted peak numbers for those metrics. Make sure to hop over there and check it out.  (back)
  2. From a group of 290 WR prospects, 2005 to the present.  (back)
  3. In my receiver model – a model that includes draft position – Samuel has the 10th best rookie projection despite being the third player off the board at the position.  (back)
  4. In this case, the opportunity in a receiving group that also includes Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin, and George Kittle, not to mention Jalen Hurd, appears muddy at best.  (back)
  5. Thompson landed with the Chiefs as an UDFA and is a fantastic deep sleeper if you don’t like Mecole Hardman or aren’t in position to draft him.  (back)
  6. Our rankers all have Isabella and Arcega-Whiteside much higher, while Campbell also slides in just ahead of Butler.  (back)
  7. Singletary’s backup, Kerrith Whyte, gained over 1,000 yards from scrimmage, destroyed his pro day, and was selected in the seventh round by Chicago.  (back)