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Dynasty Rookie Draft Sleepers: Blake Watson, Isaiah Davis, Audric Estime (2024)

Dynasty Rookie Draft Sleepers: Blake Watson, Isaiah Davis, Audric Estime (2024)

Identifying fantasy football sleepers and under-the-radar players is one of the most fun parts of our fake game, but the process has changed over the last few years with so much information now at our disposal.

With a fresh new crop of rookies comes the opportunity to find draft-day bargains. When it comes to dynasty drafts and rookie sleepers for redraft/early best ball leagues, we have to dig pretty deep. That’s why I’ve embarked on a search for what I like to call “true sleepers” – small school and late third-round or Day 3 draft picks who could surprise early in the NFL.

2024 Dynasty Fantasy Football Guide

After researching and finalizing my 2024 rookie dynasty rankings, I’ve identified a handful of running backs who could be this year’s, Tyler Allgeier, Dameon Pierce or Jaleel McLaughlin.

2024 NFL Draft Prospects: Dynasty Rookie RB Sleepers

Finding the Next Sleeper

One of the biggest indicators that led me to feature guys like Elijah Mitchell, Rhamondre Stevenson, Tyler Allgeier, Tyjae Spears and Keaton Mitchell as draft-day sleepers in previous versions of this article was the prospect’s high average yards per snap or scrimmage play. Simply put, when the running back is on the field, he accumulates yards at a high rate.

Yards per play is a great indicator of future success with recent late-round standouts in that category over the past three years including Keaton Mitchell, Spears, Mitchell, Stevenson, Rachaad White, Zamir White, James Cook and Tyler Allgeier.

Mitchell and Stevenson headlined the 2021 NFL Draft class in that category. The majority of those featured all showed something as rookies to boost their value entering Year 2. Even late-round and undrafted running backs like Michael Carter, Kenneth Gainwell, Jaret Patterson and Chris Evans flashed moments in very limited roles as rookies.

This metric also confirmed the status of last year’s first-rounders Jahmyr Gibbs and Bijan Robinson, both of whom graded positively in that category.

2024 Rookie Running Backs College Average Yards Per Snap/Offensive Play

Name Team Age Class Career Dominator Rating Final Season Dominator Rating Yards Per Play
Isaiah Davis South Dakota State 22 Senior 22% 27% 3.33
Audric Estime Notre Dame 21 Junior 17% 28% 3.32
Jonathon Brooks Texas 21 Junior 9% 27% 3.3
Bucky Irving Oregon 22 Junior 17% 19% 3.11
Kendall Milton Georgia 22 Senior 9% 16% 3.1
Blake Corum Michigan 23 Senior 23% 33% 3.09
Braelon Allen Wisconsin 20 Junior 28% 28% 2.99
Trey Benson Florida State 22 Junior 20% 23% 2.92

Audric Estime (RB – Notre Dame)

Audric Estime sat on the bench as a freshman in 2021, backing up future fantasy football league winner Kyren Williams.

But he got his chance to be the Fighting Irish’s RB1 for the next two seasons, and he thrived — a 22% dominator rating as a sophomore and a 28% dominator rating this past season. He also scored 18 TDs (tied for second) and recorded over 1,300 rushing yards.

And he was beyond efficient with his 225+ touches — first in Pro Football Focus (PFF) grading (94.2), fifth in yards after contact per attempt (4.3) and third in rushes of 15+ yards. Per Sports Info Solutions, he also finished second in the class in both positive run percentage and boom percentage (which are both metrics that result in positive EPA and/or runs that generate an EPA of more than one).

He also flashed strong hands with a 100% catch rate (26 targets) through two seasons. His pass protection needs fine-tuning, however, based on the scouting notes presented by Matthew Jones.

Still, with confirmed size at 5-foot-11 and 221 pounds (slightly less than his college-listed weight at 227), Estime could easily be a future bell-cow back at the NFL level.

When I turned on the tape, I was beyond impressed. He has shades of Nick Chubb in his game as a north and south runner who doesn’t waste his efforts. Another close comparable to Estime is Chris Carson.

And as a final note to sign off my love for Estime early in the draft process, the Notre Dame RB owns the second-highest yards per play (3.32) at RB in the 2024 NFL Draft class. He also owns the second-highest single-season mark from this past season in yards per play (3.82).

Unfortunately for Estime, he ran a sluggish 4.71 40-yard dash, similar to Kyren Williams’ 4.65 40-yard dash. However, his vertical was 38.00″ (87th percentile) and his broad jump was 125″ (89th percentile), showcasing his explosiveness.

The concern with Estime is that his poor 40-yard dash hurts his draft capital. But given everything else he has to offer as a player I can’t consciously downgrade him too substantially amid an already weak RB class. I’ll likely scoop up the dip on Estime with his average draft position (ADP) going down. No RB is guaranteed any strong capital this season.

Still, we need to be aware of the track record of RBs with sub-4.65 40s. It’s not kind. Considering Estime’s draft comp by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein is Jamaal Williams… we are entering close to Estime as true plodder status. Woof. But given he doesn’t look slow on tape, I hope the 40-time isn’t truly indicative of his ability. Because it appears it’s not stopping teams from meeting with him.

He’s garnered interest from many teams including the 49ers, Bills, Browns, Cowboys, Eagles, Packers, Rams and Ravens.

From 2018-2020, former Seattle OC and current Cowboys OC Brian Schottenheimer coached RBs Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson. As previously mentioned, one of Carson’s closest comps in this class is Estime.

Isaiah Davis (RB – South Dakota State)

The Dakotas continue to churn out NFL-caliber talent and that continues in 2024 with RB Isaiah Davis. The former Jackrabbit recorded an overall 22% dominator rating for his efforts at South Dakota State, with three seasons with a dominator rating at or above 25%. He hit the ground running as an 18-year-old freshman in 2020 — 819 rushing yards and 10 TDs. And that was while he was competing with future NFL fourth-round pick Pierre Strong Jr.

Davis took a slight step back in 2021 after dealing with injuries (shoulder) but came back with a vengeance over the last two years with the Jackrabbits.

Over 3,000 rushing yards and 30 TDs in his last two seasons at the college level. Impressive, especially at 6-foot-1 and 218 pounds. He also flashed as a receiver, averaging 22 catches over that same span.

Davis finished the 2023 season as PFF’s highest-graded RB between the FCS/FBS with 80 missed tackles forced and 25 rushes of 15+ yards. Had a 30% missed tackle rate over his four-year career at South Dakota State. Elusive and slippery in space.

The most notable statistic to list for Davis is his elite yards per play at 3.33, which is first in the 2024 RB draft class. The same as Rachaad White when he came out of Arizona State a few years back.

The obvious concern is the lack of competition he faced at the FCS level, similar to what happened with DeWayne McBride last season. However, Davis separates from McBride in many ways. He was able to test at the 2024 NFL Combine as a solid athlete. Nothing special, but no glaring red flags. He also flashed a receiving ceiling with his 97th percentile-sized hands McBride never showed at UAB.

During the pre-draft cycle, Davis has met with the Jets and Buccaneers. New York sent its RB coach to South Dakota State’s Pro Day. Green Bay and Philadelphia also sent large numbers to his Pro Day.

Honorable Mention

Blake Watson (RB – Memphis)
Blake Watson started at Old Dominion to begin his college career, where he was initially recruited as a WR. He switched to RB in 2019 before taking over as the RB1 in 2021. Over 1,100 rushing yards and eight TDs on the ground. In 2023, he transferred to Memphis where his receiving skyrocketed, catching 53 balls for 480 yards. He averaged over 37 receiving yards per game — a mark that ranked first among all RBs in the class. He will be 25 years old in October.

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