As the college bowl season comes to a close, our honorary addition to the coverage of NFL prospects is Tajae Sharpe. UMass is not bowl eligible since they only have eight wins in the four years Sharpe played for them. Despite this, we’re going to act as if it’s the 1972 Boardwalk Bowl.
My early strategy for most rookie drafts in 2016 is to trade down and pick up extra second and third round picks. Tajae Sharpe is one of a number of productive players I am targeting in that area. Sharpe is the nineteenth receiver in the Rotoviz Scouting Index, and early estimates seem to put Sharpe somewhere between the third and fifth round of the NFL Draft. While Sharpe is by no means a perfect prospect, he offers much more than his current price would suggest.
Sharpe was Immediately Effective in College
If you’ve read Shawn Siegele’s excellent piece on breakout age, you know it is an important part of evaluating a receiver. Sharpe’s age-adjusted production is on par with the best from this draft class. In His true sophomore season, he had 36 percent of the Minutemen’s receiving yards and 44 percent of their receiving touchdowns. It’s also worth noting that Sharpe’s raw stats have improved through his career and he ended 2015 with 1319 yards (or 45 percent of the Minutemen’s receiving yards). His immediate production in college is a good sign for his ability to transition into the NFL.1
Sharpe looks to be a low cost option if you are unable to draft Tyler Boyd. Boyd, Rashard Higgins, and Sharpe are all players that are tall (with listings between 6 feet 2 inches and 6 feet 4 inches), but light (with listings between 185 and 200 pounds). All three additionally posted their most dominant seasons before 2015. When we get down to it, I see Rashard Higgins as Tyler Boyd arbitrage and Tajae Sharpe as Rashard Higgins arbitrage. This draft is unique in that, if you wanted, you could theoretically select similar players in three different rounds of this rookie draft.
Even though Sharpe has a strong production profile, a concern of mine is Sharpe’s efficiency metrics.
Higgins is easily the most efficient of the three, as Sharpe and Boyd are two of the least efficient receivers in this class. This lack of efficiency is concerning for Sharpe in particular, as I am doubtful that he will receive anything close to 176 targets in the NFL. While Boyd may have the benefit of a team investing an early round draft pick, Sharpe will have difficulty if he is not able to be efficient with limited opportunity as a potential third-day selection.
…Which are Mitigated by Lack of Risk
Sharpe is an excellent example of a player I wouldn’t target as heavily if he were a first round pick in the NFL draft. When I look at early-round talent, I focus on weaknesses or the risks that players carry. This is because safety is incredibly important when using valuable resources. This is true of redraft, a dynasty startup, or a rookie draft. For late-round picks, I am more likely to overlook player weaknesses and instead target players with unique strengths. Sharpe absolutely has strengths that are rare to find in the third round of rookie drafts. It isn’t often that you have the opportunity to obtain a receiver in the third round of rookie drafts that broke out while he was still eighteen years old, has posted a 0.4 Dominator Rating, and has a season with over 1300 yards receiving. Because of this, Tajae Sharpe is more than worth the minimal risk involved.
- DR stands for Dominator Rating, the average of market share of receiving yards and market share of receiving touchdowns. (back)