Welcome back folks for part II of your rookie draft cheat sheet!
If you missed round one – un-miss it by clicking on this saucy link.
Following the formula from part I, I will walk you through the best values, fades, and strategy to optimize the value of your roster. For rounds three and four I will outline the best ways to maximize your upside and present the case for a few players who fit my process.
Some quick notes:
(i) This guide is for a super-flex rookie draft.
(iii) Statistics are sourced from PlayerProfiler.com unless otherwise specified.
Tier III: Flex Appeal
This tier was supposed to be larger, but the NFL had other ideas, spending round-two picks on wide receivers who were drinking legally before Kyle Pitts graduated high school (D’Wayne Eskridge), or who can’t ride space mountain (Tutu Atwell).
Thus, there are only five strong candidates remaining for flex-level production in 2021.
Best Value: Terrace Marshall – WR (CAR)
As anyone who follows me knows: I love Terrace Marshall:
However, I am far from alone. One of my favorite analysts – Drew Osinchuk – in conjunction with @Cooper_DFF – charted the difference in hit rate and ceiling between ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’ wide receivers – specifically those over 5’11, 195 pounds with a body-mass index (BMI) over 26.
The sample size was small and exclusive to wide receivers drafted in the first three rounds. But it was almost all alphas who provided a top-12 ceiling. Of wide receivers drafted in the top three rounds of your rookie draft only Ja’Marr Chase, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Marshall hit the threshold while posting at least a 30-percent dominator rating (market share of yards and touchdowns).
My theory of dynasty is ceiling matters far more than hit rate. The odds Rondale or Elijah Moore become a difference-making asset as an undersized slot receiver are lower than for Marshall, a 6-3, 209-pound wideout who can play all three receiver positions. Impressively, Marshall’s quarterbacks posted a perfect passer rating when targeting him outside. I’m targeting the newest Panther, paired with his college offensive coordinator, Joe Brady, and opposite star wide receiver D.J. Moore long-term.
You Should Fade: Michael Carter – RB (UNC)
This comes with a caveat. Carter is a fine choice at pick 18 of a rookie draft. However, ADP is highly fluid and I have anecdotally seen him go much higher due to running back scarcity. I would not consider Carter whatsoever over any of the other four players in this tier.
The senior from North Carolina is an undersized utility back with subpar burst and speed, but elite lateral agility and a strong receiving background.
In my database (extends to 2010 and includes any rusher drafted rounds one-three), only the Bengals Giovanni Bernard posted an RB1 season while similarly lacking size and athleticism. Carter was drafted in round four – another risk factor in his profile. The diminutive Jets rusher will vault up boards due to the wide-open depth chart in front of him and his receiving skill set, but I urge caution. If selected in around the round one-two turn, the opportunity cost of passing up receivers with strong production profiles, high-end athleticism, and greater draft capital is too high.
Even if you desperately need a running back – I would take Marshall or either Moore then trade a receiver currently on my roster with lower upside for a back with immediate value. There is the Bills Zack Moss, who has an all-purpose skillset and bell cow size in a top-five offense. For a one-and-done option, consider the Falcons Mike Davis. Or, if you’re shooting for upside, I recommend the Cowboys Tony Pollard or the Packers A.J. Dillon: over-qualified backups with the athletic profile of bell-cows if given an increased role.
Overall Strategy: Shoot For The Moon
In the second round of your rookie draft, you should not be relying on your choice to be a year one producer. Instead, the goal is to accrue value for your roster by hitting big long-term. Marshall is my top pick at ADP followed by R. Moore, though Trey Sermon is a calculated risk if you go running back. Sermon was an efficient rusher in college, but shared time at both Ohio State and Oklahoma. He was unable to separate from the likes of Rhamondre Stevenson, Kennedy Brooks, and Master Teague to dominate touches. He lacks elite long speed, but is otherwise extremely athletic per Math Bomb‘s Relative Athletic Score (RAS) and has prototypical size. I’m passing on Sermon at ADP, but if he separates from a crowded 49ers backfield Sermon will pay major dividends.
Tier IV: So You’re Saying There’s a Chance…
It is beginning to look bleak. I included nine players in this tier to take you through the two-three turn and include anyone you should realistically consider with a top two round selection.
Best Value: Nico Collins – WR (HOU)
I want to give a quick shoutout to one of my favorite and most-rostered players in the draft: The Washington Football Team’s Dyami Brown. But for this one, I can’t pass up talking about Houston’s Nico Collins at pick 27.
I talked above about alpha wide receivers and you won’t find anyone more alpha than Collins.
The largest marks against the Michigan product were his lack of production, and senior declare status. However, he did break out early, prior to a senior opt-out. In a low-volume Michigan offense, Collins was only a handful of catches away from hitting the necessary thresholds after his junior season. He now walks into a wide-open Houston depth chart, on a team forced to pass with a league-bottom defense.
While your league-mates write off the Texans, use this opportunity to stash Collins! He is set up for immediate production in 2021 and his two most likely 2022 quarterbacks are Deshaun Watson or the 2022 first overall pick. This sets Collins up for year one flex value and long term upside.
Overall Strategy: Think Multiple Trades Ahead
I’m foregoing a specific fade to avoid repetition in reasoning. Instead, I want to offer a framework to consider the way to utilize your later picks. In my ‘12 steps to turn a rebuilder into a contender‘ series, I discussed in step five the goal of exponential asset accumulation. While the hit rate on this range is low, most are far too defeatist about the impact of their late-round picks.
You cannot view your rookie picks in isolation. In my first article applying economic principles to dynasty, I instructed to sort your team into two types of assets: stud players, and assets deployable in order to add studs. Even if the player you select is not a stud – you can profit from a strong pick and acquire superior assets to use later.
You have to consider the path each asset can take to convey a difference-making player, and you ought to opt for those which posses the most direct and/or probable path. As discussed in the aforementioned articles, major considerations for this are athleticism and positional demand.
Top of the class is Minnesota quarterback Kellen Mond.
A mobile quarterback is virtually guaranteed to provide fantasy value when starting. Expected to sit behind Kirk Cousins, Mond’s value is stable through the year. If Cousins fails to perform or gets injured, Mond could be flipped for profit before ever taking the field. If he ascends to the starting job after Cousins’ contract expires, it is easy to envision Mond fetching a first-round pick which you can use directly on a top asset. That is a far more direct path to major profit than you will find with a late-round handcuff running back or a depth wide receiver.
Tier V and Beyond: Dart Throws
For the remaining players within the top 48, I will present two top targets based on the principles discussed above, and their analytical profile.
Tutu Atwell: WR (LAR)
We get it: he’s a tiny dude. But look past his size and you are left with an extremely impressive production profile. Atwell is an early declare with a 75th percentile dominator in his sophomore year, drafted in round two.
Sir William of Ockham famously stated to always choose the hypothesis requiring the least assumptions when presented with competing alternatives. This maxim is commonly known as Ockham’s Razor.
The base assumption for prospects drafted in round three or later is they will bust. But why make a case for prospects with multiple glaring holes, late draft capital, or who land muddled depth charts? Atwell checks every box aside from one. Note the sample of players with Atwell’s stature is even smaller than he is. We cannot say with certainty his stature is prohibitive. If he is able to overcome the size barrier he checks every other box of a solid prospect.
Elijah Mitchell – RB (SF)
Mitchell is one of the most athletic players in the class and produced in a backfield with fellow NFL caliber back Trey Ragas. His best attribute is straight-line speed and explosion, making him a perfect fit for the 49ers outside zone running scheme if he is able to assert himself among the crowd. If Sermon vaults into the first round, Mitchell provides massive asymmetrical upside in round three. He is competing with the same uninspiring backs in San Francisco for touches in an elite rushing offense.
If you’re ‘shorting’ Sermon, Mitchell may be the ‘credit default swap’ to cash in on.
Have fun in your rookie drafts this year. I hope this two-part cheat sheet helps you maximize value both during and after your draft!
If you want more rookie draft content from Jakob, there is no better place than his Twitter page: @FF_RTDB. You can also find Jakob on the Full Tilt Dynasty Podcast every Friday, and on Tuesdays hosting Dynasty Intervention with @ShaneIsTheWorst and @FF_Intervention on the Join Our Circle Youtube and Twitter page – alongside the rest of our great content!