5 Bargains Ranked Outside the Top 150
Josh Shepardson highlights five bargains ranked outside the top 150 overall players.
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There are potential bargains to be had outside of the top 150 at a variety of positions, and below I’ve highlighted a pair of tight ends, a pair of running backs and a wide receiver who stand out as worthwhile gambles.
Vernon Davis (49ers)
Consensus Rank: Overall #154
If the price rises on Travis Kelce to the point I’m unwilling to draft him, I’ll be taking fliers on a couple of cheap, freakishly athletic tight ends. The first is Davis. He’s coming off of the worst statistical output in a single season in his career with just 26 receptions for 245 yards and two touchdown grabs. In 2013, he reeled in 52 passes for 850 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns. Plus, he has caught five touchdowns or more in five of the last six seasons. He’s also bested 700 yards receiving in four of the last six years. The team has added Torrey Smith in free agency, but saw Michael Crabtree sign elsewhere and Anquan Boldin will be turning 35 in October. The opening for more looks in the passing game should be there, and the volume of pass attempts could be on the rise for the 49ers. Their defense has suffered numerous blows losing key players to retirement and the recent cutting of Aldon Smith. It’s unlikely the 49ers will be able to simply lean on their defense and running game, and increased passing volume could prove very helpful to Davis’ value. If last year proves to be little more than a down year, Davis will be a steal at his current cost. As recently as 2013, Davis was a beast averaging 2.12 yards per route run (YPRR), per Pro Football Focus. That mark ranked fourth among tight ends who received 25% or more of their team’s targets, and only 14 receivers posted a higher mark using the same targets criteria.
Donte Moncrief (Colts)
Consensus Rank: Overall #175
Opportunity is the biggest concern for Moncrief with the Colts adding Andre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett and Duron Carter to the receiving corps, and adding Frank Gore to the backfield. T.Y. Hilton remains in place as the top pass catcher, too. Moncrief doesn’t need to leapfrog everyone in the pecking order to have value, though. The Colts ran the second most plays last year and paced the league in pass attempts with 661. Even with the expectation that the club could lean on the running game more, there is a lot of football to go around. There are also warts attached to all of the previously mentioned players, with Hilton really being the only “sure thing”, and in a collision sport, there is no such thing as a sure thing. As for Moncrief, he’s a player whose measurables are dreamy (6-foot-2 and 221 pounds with a 4.40 40-yard dash run at the NFL Draft Combine in 2014). He’s more than just a raw wideout, though, as he ranked 33 out of 90 wideouts in YPRR (1.74) as a rookie. In his rookie season, he eclipsed 100 yards receiving in two games and totaled 444 yards receiving and three touchdown grabs in rather limited duty. If not for the influx of toys for Andrew Luck to play with this year, Moncrief would be creating more buzz. Take advantage of his upside and suppressed cost and use one of your last roster spots on the Ole Miss product.
Ladarius Green (Chargers)
Consensus Rank: Overall #166
The other physical freak at tight end I’ll be targeting in drafts is Green. Last year, gamers (including me) prematurely threw dirt on Antonio Gates. Gates will serve a four-game suspension to open this year, however, creating an opportunity for Green to show off the athleticism that made him a trendy breakout candidate last year. The Chargers spent a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on Green, but he’s frequently been utilized as a blocker and seldom been needed in the passing game. In his career, he has 40 receptions for 658 yards receiving and three touchdown grabs, but he teased how impressive he could be in the passing game during the 2013 season totaling 376 yards receiving on just 17 grabs. He also made three of those grabs really count as they were touchdown receptions. Green was in route to 141 snaps that season and his 2.67 YPRR was just a wee bit below the 2.75 YPRR posted by Rob Gronkowski. He’s a matchup nightmare for defenses, and a fast start to the season could result in him taking the torch from Gates and emerging as an integral part of the passing game.
Denard Robinson (Jaguars)
Consensus Rank: Overall #183
The expectations are that T.J. Yeldon will serve as an every-down back for the Jaguars, but should he falter, Robinson flashed promise leading the Jaguars in rushing yards with 582 last season. The former college quarterback isn’t a big back, and he’s not going to generate many yards after contact, but he has wiggle and speed. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry and ranked tied for sixth in PFF’s breakaway percent among backs who handled 25% or more of their team’s carries. Robinson is likely to enter the season as a change-of-pace back, but should Yeldon stumble, Robinson is the obvious beneficiary. As the primary ball carrier down the stretch last year, Robinson eclipsed 100 yards rushing twice, and in a four-week stretch in late October and early November, he rushed for 389 yards and four touchdowns on 72 carries. To expect him to maintain that pace over the course of a full season is probably too ambitious, but he’s an underrated handcuff who proved himself capable of performing at a high level on a bad offense last season.
Chris Polk (Texans)
Consensus Rank: Overall #180
Polk’s stock could be on the rise with Arian Foster set to miss the beginning of the season due to injury. Initial reports indicated Foster would be placed on injured reserve with the designation to return. That would have guaranteed he’d miss the first eight games of the season, and the earliest he would have been available to play would have been week 10, after the Texans’ week nine bye. He’s yet to be placed on IR, and there is a possibility he’ll be ready to return sooner, though. The situation is murky, but given Foster’s injury history, it’s no guarantee that when he is healthy enough to play that he’ll remain healthy. In other words, if a back emerges from the committee tasked with picking up the slack in Foster’s absence, then they could have value for nearly the entire year. Alfred Blue was thoroughly underwhelming averaging only 3.1 yards per carry last year on 169 attempts. He’s a big back who lacks breakaway speed and that’s best reflected by him totaling only two carries for more than 20 yards. Polk joined the Texans as a free agent after being rarely used with the Eagles. He was a highly productive college runner at the University of Washington, but he went undrafted due to injury concerns. From 2009-2011, Polk totaled 4,016 yards rushing (going over 1,100 yards rushing each year) on 779 carries and flashed some pass catching skills in his final season grabbing 31 receptions for 332 yards and four touchdowns. He’s built to carry the load at 5-foot-11 and 222 pounds, and the Texans can be expected to run the ball a lot. Last year, they led the league in rush attempts with 551. Blue’s ECR is 142, but I’d much rather gamble on Polk at his cost. Furthermore, I think he’s a more talented back, and I’d take him over Blue at equal costs.