Fantasy Rookie Landing Spots Primer: Round 3
(Running Backs and Wide Receivers; in order selected, not necessarily ranking – always refer to the official 3-Step Dynasty Rookie Cheat Sheet for Draft Decisions)
Alvin Kamara, RB NO – It was abundantly clear at the time of the NFL draft that the Saints and HC Sean Payton, who’ve now secured the services of two traditional early-down backs in Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson, had visions of Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles dancing through their heads when filling Kamara’s name in on the draft sheet. Kamara’s lack of heavy usage at the college level may be cause for concern, but couple his combine-best SPARQ-score athleticism with what should be an opportunity and role that has been more than fantasy relevant in the past (especially in PPR leagues), and you have a fantasy prospect in Kamara that probably shouldn’t be on the board past the late-first or early-second round of traditional dynasty rookie drafts.
On his film, we see traces of Joseph Addai and even a little Ryan Mathews, which is clearly promising. Kamara will likely factor in as a later-round prospect in redraft, but will certainly come into training camp with fantasy relevance across all formats. He’s a player you’ll want to continue monitoring for updates regarding usage and his acclimation to the NFL level of play.
Cooper Kupp, WR LAR – A truly special son of RosterWatch Nation and one of our favorite WR prospects in the 2017 NFL draft fell to what appears to be a miserable situation in Los Angeles. Our reasons for loving Kupp as a prospect don’t need re-hashing here, whether it was his incredible Senior Bowl, his outstanding analytic measurements from our Catapult GPS testing, his incredible on-field showing at the combine or his terrific personality and blue-collar, hard-worker attitude. This series is about landing spots, though.
Not only is the QB situation in flux while awaiting the “arrival” of Jared Goff as a good NFL QB, it’s a low-volume passing attack with too many mouths to feed. Robert Woods was a big free agent signing and the team also selected RW favorite Josh Reynolds during the 2017 draft. Rams GM Les Snead has said he’s hoping for nice steps in 2017 out of second-year wideouts Pharoh Brown and Mike Williams. Add in the fact that new HC Sean McVay is known for his utilization of the TE position which gives an up-arrow to the likes of second-year player Tyler Higbee and the fact that the Rams drafted an athletic stud TE in Gerald Everett during 2017, it’s hard to pencil Kupp in for much fantasy relevance as a rookie. He’s certainly an option for dynasty purposes if you’re willing to gamble on what could be a connection developed between Kupp and Goff moving forward into the future, but in this scenario, there still remains worry about Kupp’s age – he’ll be 24 this summer and older than most every other rookie in the class.
Taywan Taylor, WR TEN – A member of the 6th-Annual RW All-Senior Bowl Team, Taywan Taylor was a favorite of the RosterWatch staff through the testing process. He registered the highest max velocity of all wideouts at the Senior Bowl and was among the fastest players overall regardless of position, registering the second-highest speed of the week at one point (21.1 mph). Taylor represents nowhere near the fantasy option his new teammate Corey Davis does, however. While Davis steps into what should be and what is widely projected to be an immediate WR1 role, Taylor will have to get into training camp to see where he fits. When he does, we have little doubt that he will quickly overtake second-year slug Tajae Sharpe for primary slot duties.
Titans GM Jon Robinson said that Taylor is a player who can play “inside or outside,” and we think he said “inside” first for a reason. Taylor has the natural skill and talent to be a player who becomes a primary complement to Davis in the Tennessee passing game of the near-future which gives him clear dynasty value. For redraft, this will be another situation to monitor, but early indications would lead one to believe Taylor could represent a matchup-dependent flex play or bye-week-style fill-in for redraft leagues as early as the beginning of his rookie season.
ArDarius Stewart, WR NYJ – The Jets WR room isn’t necessarily full of talent, but it’s deep. Eric Decker, Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, Jalin Marshall, Charone Peake … even Devin Smith is still kicking around in there somewhere and the Jets also selected Cal WR Chad Hansen later on in the proceedings. There is little doubt that someone must step up in the newly-created absence of Brandon Marshall, but that’s unlikely to be the 5-11, 200-pound Stewart. He’ll be a player to monitor, like all others, through training camp, but we’re initially not too excited about his prospects outside of the fact that Jets GM Mike Maccagnan clearly thought he was the best player available at this point in the draft despite more glaring needs elsewhere and the fact that Stewart was rated as arguably the top high school player in the country as a prep.
His production at Alabama was unimpressive numbers-wise on the whole, but Stewart has a LOT of dog to his game as an after-catch specialist and a beastlier presence at the catch-point than his stature may indicate. Like the rest of the Jets WR corps, we are taking a wait-and-see approach to how things may shake out through OTAs and camp before investing any significant draft capital (dynasty or redraft) in the WR position in New York. (Or at least if they wear green in New York).
Carlos Henderson, WR DEN – A favorite of RosterWatch through the draft process, Henderson actually reminded us a good bit of one of his new teammates in Denver, Emmanuel Sanders, based on his swiss-army-knife skillset and his clean, polished route-running. The 2016 CUSA offensive player of the year was a beast and a dynamo at Louisiana Tech where his college production was off-the-charts crazy. Henderson lands with a Denver team in flux at QB – much like the situation of Cooper Kupp discussed here – it could be one where we have to tap the brakes on a player we love as a prospect due to his surrounding cast and the nature of the offense he’ll play in to start his NFL career.
With Demaryius Thomas and Sanders still in town, a new defensive head coach who’ll surely want to control the clock and pound the football in the run game, and a platoon of inexperienced QBs battling it out to win a starting job, there are far too many unknowns to believe Henderson will be the same sure-thing commodity as a fantasy asset that he was as a prospect. Add in the fact that John Elway has hinted that Hendrson’s selection also had to do with his abilities as a gunner on special teams and it’s clear where this thing is likely to be headed in Year 1 barring unforeseen circumstances (which, of course, can and will happen at times). Henderson is a draft-and-hold candidate in the later rounds of early dynasty drafts to start, and will likely be nothing more than a late-round flier-type selection in deeper redraft leagues unless we hear/see evidence through camp that he’s making waves offensively.
Chris Godwin, WR TB – A late-riser on our board after terrific combine testing, Chris Godwin is a snaky and slithery route-runner who finds ways to get open and make plays in ways reminiscent of Nate Burleson or maybe even Jarvis Landry. The big surprise with Godwin was his 4.42 40-yard dash as he is never a player on film who seems to depend on this kind of speed. In a more wide-open WR depth chart, we’d consider Godwin a threat to bite into immediate starting duties with a solid summer and strong fall camp, but the presence of Mike Evans and now Desean Jackson in Tampa makes that seem unlikely to impossible. The realistic upside for Godwin could be as the No.3 in a Jameis Winston offense in the mold of a 2016 Adam Humphries, which, in PPR leagues, is probably a Top 50 player at the position. However, with the addition of rookie stud TE OJ Howard (who Bucs HC Dirk Koetter has already said he will be using more split-out wide as a rookie than as a blocker), that leaves more targets to be eaten up even out of the slot opposite any WR who could find himself as an inside-role complement to Evans and DJax.
Godwin is still a viable dynasty option based on his terrific tape, measurables and feel for the game of football. He’ll get his chance at some point, but predicting when at this time would be a fool’s errand. Godwin is unlikely to be relevant as a season-long hold-option outside of the deepest leagues in redraft barring unforeseen circumstances.
Kareem Hunt, RB KC – Another member of the 6th Annual All-Senior Bowl Roster, Kareem Hunt automatically enters the Kansas City backfield as its best talent at running back. Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, who both are technically signed through the 2018 season, but whose contracts allow easy outs for the team should they try and offload either after the 2017 campaign, have officially been put on notice. While Hunt is not likely to come into the league and be anointed an immediate starter, he’s the running back of the future in Kansas City and we wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the 1a in a committee with Ware by Week 8 which features West in only the smallest of situational doses.
Should injury strike Ware, Hunt becomes worth his weight in gold that very instant. Hunt is a must-own in dynasty, every bit worthy of a late-first round pick. He’ll be a stash-and-hold candidate in redraft leagues who’ll have even greater value in keeper formats as, if things go according to plan, he’ll likely be a Top 3-to-4-round value in 2018 redraft leagues assuming good health and barring unforeseen circumstances.
D’Onta Foreman, RB HOU – An original and truly precious son of RosterWatch Nation, Foreman was not only the best player in the Big 12 for the 2016 season, he was our consensus No.2 running back in the draft class based on raw talent alone. Foreman has it all: terrific size with the ability to shed tackles through his hips; vision and patience to allow the play to set up in both the power-game with a lead blocker and in zone (Texas ran both in Foreman’s record-shattering 2016 campaign and he was just as effective in both); and of course, that game-breaking speed that is completely evident to anyone with two eyeballs who watched the games he took over as a college athlete en route to accepting the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best runner. The 4.45 40-yard dash at the pro day sealed it for us, along with the natural pass-catching skills he put on display in drills. For the same reasons people slept on Derrick Henry’s ability to be a factor in the receiving game (and for the same reason they are currently sleeping on Leonard Fournette’s), the fantasy industry is sleeping on Foreman’s ability to catch the football. That reason being, like the others, he simply wasn’t asked to do it much in the college offense he came from.
For fantasy purposes, Foreman’s Year 1 exploits don’t look overly promising for redraft as Lamar Miller is the lead-back in town and is on a huge contract with the terms still front-loaded. Miller is owed $6.5M of his 4-year $26M deal in 2017 and $8.5M of that money is DEAD. However, coming into the 2018 and 2019 seasons, where he brings his highest cap hits, the DEAD associated is $6.75M vs. $2M DEAD and $7.25M vs. $1M DEAD. It goes without saying that an elite talent such as Foreman could be a surefire fantasy asset heading into the 2018 season should anything happen with the Texans and Lamar Miller or should Lamar Miller not be able to stay healthy, which would be no surprise given that Miller has only played all 16 games in 3 of his 5 NFL seasons. Bill O’Brien said at the 2017 combine that the team would look to limit Lamar Miller’s volume in 2017 from the insane clip he started 2018 at, which likely means Foreman will start out in a role that combined the previous roles of Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes, making both players virtually expendable for both fantasy owners and the Houston Texans.
Chad Williams, WR ARI – Williams is a player who’ll grow on you more and more as you get the chance to evaluate him in a live setting. He plays with an intense fire that can sometimes even get him in trouble as we saw at the Senior Bowl when he’d come up swinging fists at DBs that tackled or covered him in ways he may not have liked. Also, Williams was not invited to the NFL combine due to off-field issues (arrest for marijuana and firearms). Cardinals GM Steve Keim has pulled a rabbit out of a hat previously with John Brown as a small-school WR selection and this pick feels an awful lot like that one. Eyebrow-raising and sneaky. The Arizona depth chart at the WR position really doesn’t feature a receiver with the attributes of Williams.
Larry Fitzgerald remains an aging pseudo-number-one with continued fantasy value, but Michael Floyd is gone, John Brown’s status due to sickle cell largely remains up in the air and J.J. Nelson has shown promise, but is a bit of a one-trick pony and maybe 170 pounds dripping wet. The depth chart otherwise is complete trash. Williams is a reasonable mid-to-late-round target in traditional dynasty rookie drafts as a flier with upside to provide early returns. In redraft, barring major news (positive or negative) out of training camp, he’ll be a player you could take in the final round of your draft and hope for the best from later on in the season. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility to envision Williams being fantasy relevant by mid-season should he consistently get the 50%-plus snap participation we’ve seen out of complementary receiving pieces in Arians’ Arizona offenses in recent years.
James Conner, RB PIT – The only game in town as far as the running back position in Pittsburgh is Le’Veon Bell, so this section will be short and sweet. De’Angelo Williams is out the door and Conner has replaced him as the primary handcuff to Bell. Conner will be immediately relevant in both dynasty and redraft for this purpose and this purpose alone: as an insurance policy. He has the natural talent to be a high-efficiency-yield handcuff in Pittsburgh’s prolific system.
Amara Darboh, WR SEA – A favorite of the Trashman, Darboh is a player who flashed at the Senior Bowl and who has great tape in college, at times even showing he can beat elite defenders such as Marshon Lattimore in space to create separation and make plays. The Seahawks fell in love with Darboh during the process so much that Pete Carroll told the press that the team was worried about tipping other teams off to their fondness for him by doing extra investigation and homework. On the flip side, Carroll seemed just as profuse about loving Darboh’s skills as a downfield blocker and as a special teams player as he did any mention of offensive play-making abilities relevant to us as fantasy owners.
Given the mouths to feed in Seattle (Doug Baldwin, a returning Tyler Lockett, a surging Paul Richardson and a seemingly rejuvenated Jimmy Graham) it’s hard to see Darboh in line to be fantasy relevant any time in the near-future. He’s a taxi-squad stash-and-hold option for dynasty and, barring unforeseen circumstances, nothing more than a waiver wire watch-list option for 2017 redraft purposes.