The time is upon us once again, where we dynasty fanatics begin the grind of preparing for our leagues rookie drafts just a few short months away. The early months of the year bring us the declarations of college players, the East vs. West Shrine game, the Reese’s Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine, and individual pro days, all of which provide us with valuable information to use during our dynasty rookie drafts. When combining these showcase events, Combine numbers, and college tape/production, we are able to create a solid foundation from which we can build a draft list based on the talent, we as dynasty owners, see. Under utilization of these evaluation tools is where many dynasty owners can come off the proverbial tracks. Falling into the trap of selecting a player based on their respective landing spot in the NFL Draft, rather than their talent/upside, has the potential to cause a significant setback to a dynasty squad. For the sake of this article, let us look at the 2013 rookie class and what we can learn from talent vs. situation analysis.
After the countless hours of watching college football on Saturdays, evaluating film on draftbreakdown.com, reading various reports from scouts and draftniks, and watching grown men run around in skin tight Under Armour, one should have a general idea of a players skill set and what they offer to your dynasty franchise. This is where I recommend creating your pre-draft list and not being afraid to stick to it throughout the draft. There are plenty of examples where owners in the dynasty community can set their rosters back by making decisions solely based on what they feel their franchise needs. Numerous rookie drafts during the 2013 season, which in the opinion of many was a weak class, saw very talented players drop in the draft and provide tremendous value to owners drafting in those later spots. Keenan Allen, Eddie Lacy, and Christine Michael are three players that come to mind immediately when discussing the talent portion of the 2013 rookie class.
Allen entered the NFL draft process coming off of a knee injury and being “red-flagged” for a drug test during the NFL Combine, both of which caused his NFL and dynasty stock to fall. Toss into the mix that Allen was playing at the University of California with a less than ideal quarterback situation; Allen was seen as a receiver that may or may not produce in the NFL (all this after being the presumptive 1.01 the previous year). While being selected in the 3rd round of the NFL draft, Allen was a regular in the late 1st/early 2nd round of dynasty rookie drafts. Allen has since found himself in Rookie of the Year discussions after posting 71 catches for 1,046 yards and 8 TD’s and established himself in the top 10-15 in dynasty WR rankings.
Eddie Lacy came into the NFL with plenty of criticism as well. Lacy’s weight, previous toe injury concerns, and potential timeshare in the backfield with Jonathan Franklin (who I still feel is a talented player) all caused some dynasty owners to slide Lacy down their boards. In most rookie drafts I have seen, Lacy was moving down to the mid-1st of rookie drafts. Now after a stellar rookie year of 1,178 yards on 284 carries (4.1 YPA) and 11 TD’s, Lacy has climbed into the top 3-5 of dynasty RB rankings and is looking like he will provide stability at the position for any dynasty owner who took the chance on him.
The final player from the 2013 rookie class that we will take a look at is Christine Michael, RB for the Seattle Seahawks. Michael’s college tape provided plenty of chances to obtain a strong idea of the talent he possesses, but being in and out of Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin’s dog house his senior season and sleeping through a couple interviews at the combine, all caused plenty of red flags to be raised and making many view Michael as a risk. These red flags along with Michael’s location on the Seattle depth chart behind Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin, caused Michael to slide to the mid to late 2nd round in many early rookie drafts. Dynasty owners who were willing to take the risk and select Michael now appear to own the future starter in Seattle by as soon as 2014 (pending Lynch’s DUI charges, or potential release).
While we have looked at a few players who’s talent has translated into increased dynasty value, let us examine a few players that were flying off the board fairly early in rookie drafts based solely on their NFL landing spot.
Tavon Austin was a player that many dynasty rookie drafts saw flying off the board early in the first round. Austin had a productive college career, his tape was seen as being more than solid, and he was being evaluated as a player that who could provide production in all facets of the game. After being selected 8th overall by the St. Louis Rams Austin’s rookie pick value did nothing but jump, as he was coveted as a PPR goldmine. However, looking deeper into Austin’s landing spot in St. Louis could provide one with plenty of reasons to avoid him as one of the top overall picks. A look at the St. Louis WR situation, a team that has not produced a 1,000 yard WR since Torrey Holt in 2007, showed no other trust worthy option for QB Sam Bradford. Players like Austin seem to require other viable threats to create space to allow them to work. Chris Givens, Austin Pettis, and Brian Quick have done nothing to prove that they are the weapons on the outside that will open up space for Austin. After a rookie season of 40 catches for 418 yards and six total TD’s (with three of those coming in one game), Austin has not lived up to the billing as a top pick from the 2013 rookie drafts.
Montee Ball is another player that rocketed up dynasty draft boards once he was selected in the 2nd round by a Denver. Denver was a team that had a cloudy RB situation with Knowshon Moreno, who was seen as a potential cut even after a strong second half of the 2012 season, and Ronnie Hillman, labeled “change of pace” back by John Elway. Ball, the all-time NCAA leader in touchdown’s, was seen as going into a perfect situation where he would get a majority of goal line carries for a loaded Denver squad expected to have ample situations in the redzone. While Ball managed 120 carries for 559 yards on the season (4.7 yard average), he only produced 4 TD’s. Ball will also go into the offseason with questions of whether or not Moreno, who had over 1,000 yards on the season, will return and uncertainty if Peyton Manning will be back to continue providing the Denver offense with abundant scoring opportunities on the offensive side of the ball. Factor in Ball’s fumbling issues in both the preseason and throughout the year and plenty of visual evidence of him not being able to break free in the red zone, and it is easy to look back at 2013 rookie drafts and be amazed that Lacy was taken after him in many drafts.
In closing, as you begin your rookie evaluations the biggest thing I can recommend is to trust what you see on film, examine the measurables that we are given throughout pre-draft process, listen and follow the numerous talent evaluators on Twitter, and most of all stick to your board. These steps will help you lay the groundwork for building a strong dynasty squad.