A year ago, Ben Gretch started one of my favorite leagues, a dynasty best ball format with 30 roster spots and an elite cast of owners that includes Brian Malone, Josh Hermsmeyer, Ryan McDowell, Evan Silva, Matt Harmon, Pat Thorman, Rich Hribar, J.J. Zachariason, Graham Barfield, and the two-headed FantasyLabs monster of Bales-Freeman.
Last week we completed our first rookie draft, and the results were a little different than you might find in other formats. I’ll give you all the twists and turns while referencing some of the most relevant advanced stats from our offseason research.
1.01 Saquon Barkley
An invincible star among stars, Barkley was selected only after the David Johnson owner swapped him for the No. 1 pick.
1.02 Ronald Jones
I traded Carson Wentz and a 2019 R1, R2, and R3 to Pat Thorman for Jimmy Garoppolo and this pick. After an hour of fruitless attempts to trade down, I selected Jones. The youngest back in the draft, Jones easily bested Derrius Guice in Backfield Dominator Rating. They both went to good situations, but Washington isn’t expecting Guice to do much in the receiving game with Chris Thompson in place as one of the league’s best receiving backs.
1.03 Derrius Guice
Guice is still being drafted based on the scouting consensus and not his draft position, but there’s plenty of risk here. Samaje Perine disappointed as a rookie but was one of the most productive college backs in recent memory. Both backs had plenty of competition on their own teams in college, but Perine outdistanced Guice despite sharing the field with Joe Mixon.((This doesn’t necessarily even mean that Perine is an impediment to Guice, but it is a reminder that rookie RBs can struggle.)
|Games||Rush Att||Ru YD||Rec||Rec YD||Total TD|
1.04 Rashaad Penny
Blocked for multiple years by a borderline NFL player, Penny still has the athleticism and final-year production to answer those questions. He exploded in 2018 for the most breakaway rushes in the class. The Seahawks like him more than I like Cherry Garcia. Will they block for him?
1.05 D.J. Moore
1.06 Nick Chubb
This is a discount compared to where Chubb often goes, but you have to believe he’s an instant top-10 NFL talent to buy him in a situation that includes Carlos Hyde and numerous underneath receiving targets. The Browns were third worst in available RB opportunity heading into the draft.
2018 RB Opportunity Scores – Pre-Draft
1.07 Royce Freeman
At the 2.09, I traded Kareem Hunt for Freeman, Jamaal Williams, Mike Williams, and the pick that became Tre’Quan Smith. Freeman almost certainly won’t be David Johnson, but check out his comps from The Draft’s Most Undervalued RBs.
I explain why you always want to reload on young players and rookies in 4 Blockbuster Trades from the Faked Goods Draft.
1.08 Sony Michel
Michel wasn’t as prioritized in this experts draft, even though the best-ball aspect makes it easier to navigate the vicissitudes of New England’s RB usage. It’s interesting to compare his best ball value to several of the runners selected ahead of him and the player who will come next. This is a sneak peek from our best ball app which will be ready soon.
1.09 Kerryon Johnson
Just another reminder that the Lions traded up to select Johnson before Guice. He also earned a nearly identical score in the RB Prospect Lab rankings.
1.10 Anthony Miller
J.J. Zachariason throws the first pure curveball, selecting Miller ahead of the receivers in the Kirk/Ridley/Sutton tier. Miller was fantastic over the last two seasons, going for almost 2,900 yards and catching 32 TDs with one of college football’s best Dominator Ratings. The Bears were also one of the 7 Best Landing Spots By Available Air Yards.
1.11 Christian Kirk
Kirk’s arrest puts the slightest damper on what’s a fantastic situation to grow with Josh Rosen. Kirk earned one of the earliest breakouts in the class and gained over 1,800 yards on returns, both indicators that he’s significantly undervalued.
1.12 Michael Gallup
Cedrick Wilson edged Gallup in Phenom Score and wasn’t selected at all in this draft. Dak Prescott will be throwing passes. As a senior who wasn’t drafted in the first two rounds, there’s a lot more risk here than with the next couple of receivers.
2.01 Mike Gesicki
2.02 Calvin Ridley
Ridley continues to fall in rookie drafts as his size/athleticism profile fits more as an NFL No. 2. That’s the position he’ll be asked to play in Atlanta, a low-volume offense that may not have a lot left after Julio Jones takes his share. Much like Michel, best ball ADP suggests Ridley was a good rookie value as well.
2.03 Courtland Sutton
Sutton is coming off of a disappointing final year and is blocked in an offense with a lot of question marks beyond 2018. Of course, these were the same concerns that torpedoed JuJu Smith-Schuster a year ago, now a top-36 value in dynasty.
2.04 Lamar Jackson
NFL GMs saw his talent as a worrying mix between Johnny Manziel and Robert Griffin III. Fantasy owners see him as a Walter White/Al Swearengen chimera. Fantasy owners have an excellent track record when voting this heavily against the “football people.”
2.05 James Washington
Washington battled to the finals of our WR tournament, but lost the scouts this spring and is losing fantasy owners this summer.
2.06 Dante Pettis
The record-setting returner offers every other red flag you can imagine as an unimpressive producer who played four years without truly emerging. But Kyle Shanahan has plans for him. And when the boy genius has plans …
2.07 Nyheim Hines
Hines really isn’t just a satellite back, but would be a good value here on that premise alone. The Colts new hybrid toy always showed as wildly undervalued in Anthony Amico’s model due to the second-most adjusted all-purpose yards (2017) in the class.
2.08 Baker Mayfield
In this format, owners place a slightly greater emphasis on accumulating three solid QB options. Rookie QBs are undervalued in dynasty and make for relatively safe ways to use those late-second/early-third-round picks, and the advanced metrics suggest Mayfield really was the best QB.
2.09 Tre’Quan Smith
Although not a big name, Smith is arguably the cleanest WR in the draft after D.J. Moore. He impressed immediately as a redshirt freshman, posted three strong market share seasons, demonstrated a solid size/athleticism combo at the combine, and then went in the first three rounds where he’ll get to work with one of the NFL’s best QBs.
2.10 Jordan Wilkins
Fantasy owners are concerned that Hines and Marlon Mack are too similar and lack the interior rushing ability to emerge as true three-down backs.
2.11 Dallas Goedert
A prolific producer at South Dakota State, Goedert will be able to learn behind Zach Ertz before eventually being thrust into the limelight.
2.12 J’Mon Moore
Hasan Rahim wants you to buy J’Mon Moore.
3.01 Sam Darnold
With the 2016 and 2017 Heisman winners hogging the limelight, Darnold continues to be the sneakiest value late in rookie drafts. Combining prodigious talent with a considerable draft investment, he’ll be given every opportunity to succeed and could quickly rise above players like Jameis Winston.
3.02 John Kelly
Although he slid in the NFL draft, John Lapinski likes him as the perfect handcuff to Todd Gurley.
3.03 Kalen Ballage
Even if you failed as a college back, plus athleticism will provide plenty of NFL opportunity, and fantasy owners will give you chances as well on a depth chart with the unproven (Kenyan Drake) and the aged (Frank Gore).
3.04 Antonio Callaway
There’s a Dorial Green-Beckamish quality to Callaway’s “best WR in the draft” narrative, right down to the paltry stats they accumulated when character issues weren’t keeping them off the field. But at least you don’t have to pay DGB prices to own the lottery ticket.
3.05 Josh Rosen
Rosen could end up being the best value in the reality and the fantasy drafts this year.
3.06 Keke Coutee
Most depth charts that feature Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller wouldn’t leave much for the No. 3, not even for a versatile slot weapon in Coutee, but the rookie benefits from minimal competition at the peripheral receiving positions (TE, RB).
3.07 Equanimeous St. Brown
After a beyond-worst-case 2017, St. Brown benefits from the Aaron Rodgers Effect on a depth chart where his toughest competition is Geronimo Allison, J’Mon Moore, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Packers receivers had the best pre-draft opportunity scores based on QB ADP.
3.08 DaeSean Hamilton
The future slot receiver in Denver, Hamilton probably needs Emmanuel Sanders to depart and Carlos Henderson to bust before he makes much noise in fantasy. A pick outside the top-100 leaves him at No. 21 in our post-draft rookie WR projections, behind several WRs who went later.
3.09 D.J. Chark
A possible first-round rookie pick if he’d swapped places with Miller or Gallup, Chark falls off the radar in Jacksonville where he must overcome Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole just to become a different type of barely relevant. With the No. 2 Freak Score and impressive numbers in yards per snap, he’s still undervalued here.
3.10 Bo Scarbrough
The discount Derrick Henry doesn’t have a path to a starting job, but he could quickly emerge as a valuable handcuff.
3.11 Hayden Hurst
3.12 Mark Andrews
If the Ravens rookies aren’t your TE cup of tea, Lapinski’s research finds a great sleeper on a barren depth chart, and not surprisingly, he’s basically free.
Let me know where you’d select these guys in your drafts. Who are the biggest sleepers, the best values, the impending busts? If you want to see how my board is shaping up, take a look at my post-draft rookie tiers.
Worried that you’re becoming too rookie friendly? Don’t be. Blair Andrews explores the explosive value of NFL rookies.