Rookie Dynasty Draft: Early Over/Undervalued Rookies (Fantasy Football)

May 30, 2018

Saquon Barkley’s value is already at a fever pitch

Rookie drafts are currently underway in countless dynasty leagues. Not in a dynasty league? Check one out.

Football isn’t relegated to just the fall and winter anymore. Not to mention, it gives owners a chance to talk about the football on the field, not off the field. The great aspect of dynasty leagues is that as they become increasingly more popular, more content becomes available throughout the entire year.

As is the case every year, there are clear consensus “winners” and “losers” in the NFL Draft. We’ve all seen the draft grades and watched as the back-patting ensued. Saquon Barkley, was going to be the consensus number one overall pick in rookie drafts, regardless of the landing spot. Where the other rookie running backs ranked was heavily contingent on where they landed in the draft.

The same can be said for the other skill positions as well. There is no Julio Jones in this year’s draft class, which is ironic considering the Atlanta Falcons drafted Calvin Ridley, one of the top rookie receiving talents in the draft.

Dallas Goedert, a solid tight end prospect, went to the Philadelphia Eagles where he’ll attempt to siphon targets from Zach Ertz. As Ertz owners from yesteryear surely remember though, the early years for a tight end are frustrating.

With all the variables accounted for and draft data updating consistently, it becomes easy to identify the value and overpriced assets quickly. Using FantasyPros’ rookie rankings, these six rookies combine to represent both sides of the spectrum.

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Undervalued

Anthony Miller (WR – CHI)
The Chicago Bears selected Anthony Miller with the 51st pick in the NFL Draft. I hope the fantasy community takes him higher than he’s currently going. Ranked presently as the WR5 and number 13 overall, Miller has a clear path towards a boatload of targets his rookie season.

Former Bears slot receiver Kendall Wright was peppered with 38 targets over the final four games of last season. There was undoubtedly a justifiable reason for all those targets too. Wright made the most of them.

Of course, Trubisky peppered Ryan Switzer with targets at UNC as well in 2016. Having a quality slot receiver makes a lot of sense for Trubisky and the Bears. Enter the rookie, Miller.

He’s not only good, but he could also be the best receiver in this draft class. He’s also already making a case to be starting out of the gates. However, it’s not a surprise to those that watched his film at Memphis.

Tre’Quan Smith (WR – NO)
The New Orleans Saints have drafted a total of nine wide receivers since Sean Payton became the head coach. Only Robert Meachem, Brandin Cooks, and Michael Thomas (the good one) required more draft capital than rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith.

Suffice to say, it was surprising to see Smith check in at 26th overall, and the WR11, in the rookie rankings. Even more surprising was that Dante Pettis, D.J. Chark, and Antonio Callaway ranked higher.

Ted Ginn is only under contract through next season, but could be released with a minimal cap hit as a result. The Saints have 17.2% of last year’s targets available and 20.1% of their air yards unaccounted for. Oh, and both Drew Brees and Smith enjoy the deep ball.

Nyheim Hines (RB – IND)
The Indianapolis Colts running back corps is a quagmire. Is Marlon Mack the guy now that Frank Gore is in Miami? Will it be Hines or Jordan Wilkins that emerges as the best rookie in this backfield?

A timeshare could certainly come to fruition here, but I think the more likely situation is that Wilkins and Mack split early-down work and Hines serves as the change of pace back. For a Colts team that the third highest point differential in the NFL a season ago, that could be a recipe for fantasy gold in 2018.

Coach speak in May and June can get overblown. The recent hype that Hines has received on behalf of the Colts coaches has that possibility. Remember, the Colts hired former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich as head coach this offseason.

The Colts also hired Tom Rathman as their running backs coach. Thus far, Rathman appears to be wanting to showcase all his running backs. All these players are starting on a clean slate. Thus far, Hines is writing his name all over it.

The former receiver turned running back is 5’8″ and 198 pounds. For comparison, Darren Sproles is 5’6″ and 190 pounds and Corey Clement is 5’10” and 220 pounds. Can you meet me halfway?

The role that both Sproles and Clement played in the Eagles offense is similar to what Hines could be asked to do in Indianapolis. If so, and particularly if Andrew Luck ever throws a football in his direction, Hines could be a PPR dream at running back.

Overvalued

Royce Freeman (RB – DEN)
The fantasy football community’s infatuation with the Denver Broncos’ running backs year after year remains baffling. Enter Royce Freeman to make matters even worse. Freeman landed in one of the most desired landing spots for a rookie running back, notably after the Broncos parted ways with C.J. Anderson this offseason.

The Broncos have struggled to find consistency in the running game over the past seven seasons. They have had 13 different running backs with 100 or more carries in a season. Of those backs, only Willis McGahee (2012), Knowshon Moreno (2013) and Anderson (2017) topped 1,000 rushing yards. Since John Elway took over as the Broncos general manager., Anderson is the only player acquired on his watch that accomplished the feat, and he was undrafted in 2013.

Now we are led to believe that Freeman will come in and save the day. He is going to be trying to buck history, however. Reuben Droughns and Jonathan Stewart are the only two running backs from the University of Oregon to rush for more than 650 yards in the NFL. There’s also De’Angelo Henderson and Devontae Booker on the depth chart.

Courtland Sutton (WR – DEN)
The overvalued section isn’t solely dedicated to the Broncos, we promise. However, Sutton, much like Freeman, is getting an inexplicable heavy dose of landing spot bias. He lands as the WR3 at number seven overall.

Expecting anything in 2018 out of Sutton though seems certifiably insane. Both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are going to be starting for the Broncos in 2018.

While the Broncos ran 11 personnel on 77% of their passing plays, the targets were relatively non-existent for receivers not named Thomas or Sanders. Bennie Fowler topped the other receivers with 56 targets while Cody Latimer received 31 targets. There’s also going to be competition among the young receivers on the team.

DaeSean Hamilton is another rookie drafted by the Broncos this season. Additionally, last year’s rookie receiver Carlos Henderson will be fully healthy entering the new year. Prior to his season-ending injury, Henderson began making some noise in training camp a year ago.

With a full year of studying the playbook, Henderson does have an inherent leg up on the competition. As of right now too, head coach Vance Joseph is eyeing Henderson for the slot.

Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG)
Look…Barkley is hands down the best player available in this year’s rookie draft, regardless of format. Superflex? Barkley. Starting two quarterbacks? Barkley again.

He’s going to be a first rounder in re-draft leagues. His athletic abilities and potential are generational. So was Ezekiel Elliott’s and Todd Gurley’s. Neither was commanding the capital necessary to acquire Barkley however.

If you have the 1.01 in your rookie draft, you know that Barkley is the pick. So does everyone else. Sometimes, the allure of getting “your guy” raises the value of a pick. There are also times where a few different players are in play. That’s not the case this year.

Therein lies the overvalued aspect of Barkley. Everyone wants him, and they’re willing to pay whatever it takes. It’s a seller’s market.

The problem is the pick is becoming worth more than the player. Seven of the Giants’ games in 2018 come against defenses that ranked in the top 10 in rushing defense. There’s also Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram on the roster.

A lot has to go right for Saquon Barkley to increase his value in a dynasty league over the next 365 days. As great as he likely will be, maximizing his value is indeed a contrarian strategy at this point. Or is it?

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Matt Giraldi is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Matt, check out his archive or follow him @Mgiraldi.

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