Prospect Preview: Jaylen Waddle

Position: WRWeight: 182
College: AlabamaAge: 22
Height: 5′ 10″247 Rating: 4 Stars (0.9791)

By Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

Coming into the 2020 college football season, Jaylen Waddle was a somewhat popular pick for the classes’ top receiver. In his first four games of the season, Waddle amassed 557 yards and 4 touchdowns with only 25 catches. At an incredible average of 21.1 yards per catch, it was an incredible start to the season and Waddle was the most exciting player in the country. In his 5th game of the season, he went down with a severe ankle injury early in the first quarter and exited the game, looking like his season had prematurely ended. He showed incredible progression in his training and was able to play in the National Championship game (although looking a little hobbled by his injury). An incredible feat just to get back onto the field, Waddle proved to a lot of teams that day that he was a true competitor, ready for the NFL stage.

College Production:

It’s often that we hear fast and explosive players likened to Tyreek Hill ($15,850,500), but it’s not often a player actually deserves that comparison. Waddle may need to add a couple more pounds of muscle to show the same strength that Hill has, but his speed and overall ability to take it to the house are reminiscent. His Junior season stats were impressive, but Waddle has made an impact since he was a true freshman. In 2018 Waddle compiled 45 receptions, 848 yards, and 7 touchdowns. This on the same team as older teammates, Jerry Jeudy ($3,452,949), Henry Ruggs ($3,789,006), and DeVonta Smith. His ability to step into the top program in the nation and immediately compete on the field is incredible and speaks to his work ethic and athletic talent.

Strengths:

  • Lightning Speed
    • There’s a video out on Twitter, from last year, showing Waddle essentially tying Henry Ruggs ($3,789,006) in a 50-yard dash. Ruggs showed up at the 2020 NFL Combine later that year and posted a 4.27 second performance. One of the fastest attempts ever recorded, Waddle is likely to bring that again this year. Unfortunately, with no NFL Combine we may never really know how he’d stack up against Ruggs, John Ross, and Chris Johnson.
  • Offensive Weapon
    • Waddle isn’t just capable of being a team’s top wideout, but he also has the ability to be a playmaker in the return game as well as on the ground (whether out of the backfield or on sweeps). He’s a dream come true for a creative offensive coordinator, but independently talented enough to fit in nearly any offensive scheme. Any team that drafts Waddle isn’t just getting a deep threat, they’re getting a weapon to score touchdowns.
  • Eating Up Green Grass
    • It’s been said many times already in this article that Waddle has the special edge to his game, the ability to score on any play, but as a wide receiver he excels in getting into space (with or without the ball). Without the ball he’s able to speed past cornerbacks, zoom through zone coverage, and make himself an open target for the quarterback. Once the ball is in his hands, he has great vision to find running lanes and can make the first defender miss on his way to pay dirt.

Weaknesses:

  • Not Prototypical “Alpha” Size
    • At 5’ 10” and 182 pounds, he about mirrors Tyreek Hill’s ($15,850,500) measurables. And the reason that’s who I compare him to is because that’s the same role he can play for a team. Hill might not be a “big” receiver, but he still is the WR1 for his team and one of the main offensive outlets. I predict Waddle can be used in a similar fashion and with a team willing to commit to him, I wouldn’t expect any regret for his lack of height.
  • NFL, but not Fantasy
    • There’s a chance that Waddle ends up becoming a much better wide receiver for his NFL team than for your fantasy team. His ability to stretch the field and be used as a decoy in motion could open up space and time for other players on the offense and may be much more valuable to a team than getting his stats some padding. I think most speedsters can have this issue, where they are on the field but don’t make a consistent impact due to the nature of their role in the offense. Waddle brings a lot more to a team than just speed, but this is always something to keep in mind.
  • Dak Prescott ($$$)
    • No, Waddle isn’t going to end up in Jerry World, but the ankle injury he suffered is quite similar to Prescott’s. Teams will be spending as much time as possible weighing the pros and cons of Waddle’s ankle injury and if there is anything more to it. A decision that could prove quite costly if things go south for Waddle, he might be pushed down some teams’ boards depending on what their doctors say.

Things to Watch:

With his continued rehab it will be really interesting to see how he feels at the Alabama Pro Day. With every millisecond counting on some the drills, Waddle will want to be at full health before he starts giving NFL teams a number to study. If Waddle is fully healthy, he’s going to blow up the underwear Olympic activities, but if he’s not 100% I wouldn’t expect him to participate in much. Waddle is constantly talked about as one of the top receivers, but not quite in the top 2 or 3 of the class, I think as the NFL Draft gets closer Waddle will become more and more popular as media outlets realize that NFL teams are interested early. We’ve seen enough teams “ooh” and “ahh” over many other speedsters in the draft.

Projected Round/Contract:  

Without the injury this season, Waddle would have been a lock for the middle of the first round. While the injury may scare a couple teams off, Waddle was able to get back on the field and show he’s made progress in recovery. If teams aren’t worried about the long-term repercussions of the ankle injury, then I’d expect Waddle to still find himself in the early/middle slots of the 1st round. In the scenario that Waddle falls into Day 2, one lucky team would be getting a steal. If drafted in the 1st I would expect Waddle contract to look similar to CeeDee Lamb’s ($3,184,094). Lamb signed a 4-year deal (with 5th year option) worth $14,010,012, counting for $2,547,275 in his rookie year.

Team Fits:  

Perhaps the most popular fit in mock drafts is currently the New York Giants, a team that has a lot of young offensive players but has been lacking high-quality receiver play. Sterling Shepherd ($9,000,000) is good but struggles to stay on the field, Darius Slayton ($908,497) had a sophomore slump, and Golden Tate ($10,852,942) has been in and out of the doghouse all season. The Giants, if willing to give Daniel Jones ($7,189,288) one more year to prove himself a franchise quarterback, could do worse than selecting Waddle to give the offense an extra spark.

A second team that could end up selecting Waddle is the Detroit Lions, the now Matthew Stafford ($20,000,000)-less Detroit Lions. With Jared Goff ($27,825,000) coming into Detroit, and Matthew Stafford ($20,000,000) leaving to LA, I don’t expect Kenny Golladay to re-sign with the Lions. That leaves a huge gap on the depth chart as Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola are both moving on as well. Insert Jaylen Waddle and let him take over that offense an either provide a outlet for Goff ($27,825,000) or a safety blanket for the next quarterback in Honolulu Blue.

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Prospect Preview: Najee Harris

Position: RBWeight: 230
College: AlabamaAge: 22
Height: 6′ 2″247 Rating: 5 Stars (0.9984)

By Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

Coming into the 2020 season, most draftniks were caught between Travis Etienne and Najee Harris for the best running back in the class. By the end of the 2020 season, Harris has distanced himself enough from Etienne to be the consensus top runner. Eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft, Harris decided to go back to Alabama for one more shot at a National Championship, and it worked out. Not only did he win the 2020 National Championship, but he was also able to boost his draft stock enough to now be considered a possible first rounder, rather than the likely third rounder he would have been last year.

College Production:

Harris finishes his Alabama career as the Crimson Tide’s all-time career touchdown leader, with 57 (46 rushing, 11 receiving), and his 3,843 career rushing yards place him at the top of the school’s history as well. His senior year production was quite impressive as he rushed for nearly 1,500 yards, at 5.8 yards per carry, while scoring 26 touchdowns on the ground. He showed off his ability to be more than just a runner though with 43 receptions for 425 yards and 4 touchdowns. With 30 total touchdowns in his final season, Harris cemented himself as a playmaker ready for the next level.

Strengths:

  • Great Runner
    • It’s hard to rack up 26 touchdowns on the ground without being a great pure runner. Harris has great vision and patience behind the line of scrimmage, and that combined with the Alabama offensive line, meant constant positive gains. While he’s not likely to have such a dominate OL in the pros, Harris’ ability to see gaps develop and dictate linebackers, gives him the edge to quickly transition to the next level.
  • Bulldozer
    • Harris has an impressive highlight reel, but not many of them are long runs with him leaving defenders in the dust. That’s not his game. Most of them are him stiff arming, hurdling, and trucking his way down the field in a methodical bulldozer kinda way. Nearly impossible to bring down at first contact, Harris is going to sit atop the list of Yards after Contact week-in and week-out.
  • NFL-Ready Size
    • There’s really no way to complain about 6’ 2” and 230 pounds. And while he’s not a burner out there, Harris shows off plenty of burst and athleticism to go along with his incredible size. Some players have to gain some more weight to their frame to prepare for the NFL grind, but Harris is going to be just fine and will likely make his opponents consider eating a couple extra cheeseburgers before their matchup.

Weaknesses:

  • Alabama Senior-itis
    • While I wouldn’t call Harris a “generational prospect” (that gets thrown around all to easily, he’s pretty darn close. There aren’t really too many weaknesses that he shows on tape, and receiving concerns have been settled in 2020 and he’s shown up on every stage. The biggest question mark surrounding Harris is what will he look like without Alabama’s talent? Recent Alabama running backs have been just fine, so I don’t think this will be too much of an issue.

Things to Watch:

In a slight surprise, Harris accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Without a formal NFL Combine though it makes sense. Harris wants to get in front of scouts as much as possible and show teams that he’s worth a 1st round selection this year. He will want to show off that he can still dominate outside of the Alabama offense. This year’s Senior Bowl should be one of the most exciting, and Harris will be in the spotlight.

Projected Round/Contract:  

When it comes to projecting NFL Draft capital, running backs are always hard to predict. Harris could go as early as the late-teens or fall as far as the second round, simply because running backs don’t get drafted as high as they used to. But to at least give you a sense of what Harris’ contract could look like we’ll use Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s ($2,705,393) contract. That contract was signed for $10,821,570 over 4 years, and of course as 1st round selection would add in the 5th year option for a team to use. But will he go in the first round? Let’s look at some teams that could really use him.

Team Fits:  

My preferred dream landing spot? The Pittsburgh Steelers at pick 24. Now coming from a Baltimore Ravens fan that hurts to say, but as far as a product on the field and in fantasy, you couldn’t ask for much better. James Conner is a free agent and the Steelers have made no attempt to re-sign him, and Benny Snell ($805,517) and Anthony McFarland ($1,004,357) have done nothing to prove that they could lead a playoff team on the ground. The Steelers offense became one-dimensional this season as they struggled to establish the run.

Yes, the offensive line was a factor in that, but also Conner has struggled to stay healthy and isn’t a difference maker when less than 100%. Harris fits this scheme so well, a bigger back who can be used as a power runner, but also hit outside zone and catch the ball out of the backfield. This match could give Big Ben Roethlisberger ($41,250,000) his championship window for another year or two.

Trying to find other landing spots pre-free agency can be difficult as running back is such an easy position to plug-and-play, but another spot for Najee Harris that I quite like is the Buffalo Bills. Yes I know they drafted Zack Moss ($1,048,255) last year, and Devin Singletary ($1,108,956) the year before that, but in the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs they were rolling out T.J. Yeldon (a free agent in 2021).

That is unacceptable for a team with Super Bowl hopes. The Bills have a pretty strong team all-around and grabbing the best running back in the class would help them go ahead and have the position set for the future. Harris can fit into just about any offense and make it better, and the Bills would be more than lucky to have him.

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Prospect Preview: DeVonta Smith

Position: WRWeight: 175
College: AlabamaAge: 22
Height: 6′ 1″247 Rating: 4 Stars (0.9717)

By Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

You most likely already know this name, after all he did become a college football star in 2020, but what does his transition into the NFL look like? Well, depends on who you ask. The film-grinders will tell you the Smith is one of the best receivers in the class and somebody who always impresses. Analytical minds might say that he had a late breakout age (he didn’t produce great numbers until his senior year) or maybe that he’s not worth a high pick because he’s two years older than Ja’Marr Chase. Everyone is right. So, this makes his prospect profile a hard one to comb through. Winning the Heisman did not make Smith a top wide receiver, but his all-around skillset combined with his high-level production are what puts him at the top.

College Production:

It started with a Jaylen Waddle injury and ended with a Heisman. Not to disrespect Smith, who was a top receiver coming into 2020, but Waddle was the receiver everybody wanted to see this year. Once Waddle suffered a (nearly) season-ending ankle injury, Smith stepped up into the WR1 role at Alabama and thrived. One his way to winning the National Championship Smith recorded, 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 25 total touchdowns. He set the SEC career receiving touchdown record (46), passing Amari Cooper (31) early in the season. Smith’s season (and career) will go down in college football history as one of the best.

Strengths:

  • Crisp Route Running
    • Considered one of the best route runners in the draft coming into the season, Smith improved upon an already incredible ability and spent the majority of the season wide open. His cuts are smooth and he doesn’t seem to lose any momentum out of his breaks. He understands the bigger picture and therefore has great pacing in his routes to setup defenders based on route combinations. They should start calling him Smoothie King because he’s constantly putting defenders in the blender (yeah, I know).
  • Instant Release
    • While Smith is used all over the field, and oftentimes in motion, his ability to line up outside against the other team’s top cornerback is perhaps one of his greatest traits. Within seconds he’s usually past his defender already stacking within 10 yards. When the ball is snapped the defender has to be ready for anything, and with Smith’s wide array of moves and routes he’s almost unstoppable. It doesn’t matter if it’s an outside or inside release, Smith usually wins.
  • Plenty of Athleticism
    • It’s hard to play at the level Smith has for so long without some great athletic ability. His ability to run past the defense and find open grass behind the safeties was nearly unmatched this season, and you can see on the screens and punt returns that he’s a burner and can make people miss. The stop/start ability is there, and defenders struggle to get their hands on and tackle the aptly-named “Slim Reaper”.

Weaknesses:

  • Frame
    • “The Slim Reaper”. It’s a good nickname, but it also points out one of Smith’s few “weaknesses”. His listed playing weight at Alabama is 175 pounds, that’s a bit concerning for the longevity of his pro career, as players at that size don’t have a great history or production or health. But there’s still time until official weigh-ins. While he’s not expected to come in at 200 pounds at any point, gaining a bit of weight would silence a lot of his critics (right or wrong).
  • Breakout Age
    • Breakout Age (BOA) is a great stat, basically measuring how early a player started showing off elite production at the college level. Naturally the earlier the better. And it checked out, players statistically have a better chance of being a top fantasy receiver the lower their BOA. Smith’s breakout age comes out to 20.8, which isn’t terrible, but at the 42nd percentile it surely isn’t lighting up the board. This doesn’t worry me too much considering the competition within the team for touches at Alabama over the past couple years.
  • Overhyped?
    • The first receiver to win the Heisman since 1991. It’s impressive, but that doesn’t really equate to NFL success. Smith is a great prospect and an even better college football player, but the Heisman technically shouldn’t affect his player profile, but he’s become an icon. We’ve seen plenty of players get overhyped in the media and setup to fail with lofty expectations. I’m hoping we don’t see this with Smith, I’m rooting for the kid, but it is certainly something to take into account when projecting his NFL career.

Things to Watch:

Everyone around the league will be keeping their eyes peeled on the scale when Smith finally weighs in. If he comes out at his college listed weight of 175, some teams may push him down the board, scared of the lack of thickness. But if Smith can weigh in around 185 pounds, may doubts will be alleviated, as this puts him in a whole new level of comparisons. Smith needs to be shooting for 185, that’s the number that Marvin Harrison played at and he worked out okay. Outside of this factor, Smith will likely test well and will go into the NFL draft as likely one the of first receivers to be drafted.

Projected Round/Contract:  

Smith’s contract has a bit of range throughout the beginnings of the first round. While some have marked him as high as three overall (to the Miami Dolphins), he’s been seen as low as 18 overall (again to the Miami Dolphins). So it seems the consensus is that the Dolphins don’t pass on Smith twice. If we project him to be projected somewhere in the middle of that range, then his contract would likely mimic the deal that Henry Ruggs ($4,167,907) signed this past summer. That deal would give him 4-years at a total of around $16,671,626, though a bit higher of a draft position could see this number climb to around $20,000,000 total.

Team Fits:  

Well, I guess the obvious first fit is the Miami Dolphins. Pairing DeVonta Smith with his college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa ($7,568,860) just seems too exciting. We saw this last year with draftniks mocking CeeDee Lamb ($3,502,503) to the Arizona Cardinals to pair backup with Kyler Murray ($8,789,661).  The fit seems good, Smith would bring a different dynamic to the current offense which boasts two big receivers on the outside in Devante Parker ($7,625,000) and Preston Williams ($588,333). Smith has the ability to be used all over the field and would be a great (and familiar) weapon for whichever quarterback starts the 2021 season in Miami.

Another common landing spot for Smith is the Philadelphia Eagles. While they just spent a 1st round pick on receiver Jalen Reagor ($3,317,669) in the 2020 NFL Draft, the group of wideouts in Philly could still use help. At sixth pick it may be a luxury for a team that needs so much help along the offensive line, but whichever quarterback the Eagles decide to champion into the 2021 season, they need more weapons. Reagor ($3,317,669) and Smith would create a great 1-2 punch of young receivers to build around.

Lastly, I’ll have to mention a landing spot that I don’t think has been brought up a single time… the Arizona Cardinals. This team already has their WR1 in DeAndre Hopkins ($27,250,000) but there are some questions after that. Christian Kirk ($1,473,717) has failed to consistently impress and will be entering the last year of his rookie contract. There’s also Larry Fitzgerald ($11,500,000) who is likely mulling over retirement. With Kingsbury relying on a fast attack spread offense, Smith would be an incredible fit with all the motion and screens the Cardinals would be able to implement. The Cardinals don’t necessarily need a wideout in the first round, but if Smith is still around at pick 16, I would expect the front office to think long and hard about the future of their current receiver corp.

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Prospect Preview: Kyle Pitts

Position: TEWeight: 246
College: FloridaAge: 20
Height: 6′ 6″247 Rating: 4 Stars (0.9334)

By Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

There wasn’t much question who the 2020 John Mackey Award (awarded to the nation’s best tight end) would go to this year, Kyle Pitts ran away with the award. He now joins a pretty successful list of tight ends including, T.J. Hockenson ($4,955,306), Mark Andrews ($863,290), Hunter Henry ($10,607,000), and Tyler Eifert ($4,750,000). While the award does not guarantee success at the next level (ask Jake Butt ($675,235), Nick O’Leary ($1,047,500), and Austin Seferian-Jenkins) it adds to an already impressive resume that will assuredly make Pitts one of the top dynasty tight ends as soon as he finds a new home on April 29th.

College Production:

In 2019, with Kyle Trask the full starter for the first time, Pitts caught 54 balls for 649 yards and 5 touchdowns. These numbers, while not gaudy, put him near the top of the 2021 draft-eligible tight ends. Coming into 2020 it looked like a tight competition for TE1 in the draft class, but Pitts quickly made some headway to become the consensus leader of his position group. This past season Pitts caught less passes (43) but up his average to 17.9 yards per catch for a total of 770 receiving yards. This was to go with his 12 touchdown receptions, showing he was an all-around threat in the passing game, not just down the field but also in the red zone. After a successful college career Pitts is entering the NFL as an early declare and will only be 20 years old when the 2021 NFL season kicks off.

Strengths:

  • Seam-buster
    • Remember Vernon Davis and his 4.38 40-Yard Dash? Yeah, Kyle Pitts is fast but he ain’t that fast, and that’s okay. He’s still likely to be in the Top 5 at his position for most measurables and it shows on tape. Pitts is able to quickly move past linebackers and get into the middle of the field where he has space to catch the ball and run. A lot of times for tight ends to get open it doesn’t take much more than just running fast up the middle, Pitts offers that ability and more. A tight end with a strong arm should be able to take advantage of Pitts’ quick release and rack up 15-20 yard gains.
  • Soft Hands
    • The NFL has seen plenty of athletic tight ends come in and out of the league but Pitts has the hands of a big outside receiver to go along with his athleticism. His soft hands allow him to catch plenty of passes outside of his frame and bring them in while on the run. Trask may have been a Heisman finalist but he made Pitts work for a number of his catches.
  • Back Shoulders & Fades
    • At 6’ 6” and 243 pounds, Pitts has a great frame to be physical and consistently outplay defenders. This physicality, and a frame that isn’t all too different from Mike Evans ($16,500,000), allows him to be a weapon outside the numbers. Near the sideline matched up 1v1 against a cornerback, Pitts’ is able to dominate these smaller defenders with his size and speed combination, making him the perfect redzone threat. HIs ability to elevate and box out defenders let’s him move around and be used in many different ways to attack defenses. Some offensive coordinators out there is gonna be very happy to have Pitts in his repertoire.
Full video recap of article with Nate

Weaknesses:

  • Inconsistent Blocker
    • The will and determination is there, but the technique is a bit raw. Pitts is no slouch but he’s not going to be confused for Nick Boyle ($6,000,000) when it comes to blocking. He has a tendency to release his defender too early allowing opponents to get back into play. While he’s not likely to be asked to block very often, this is a small section of his game that could use some improvement to help him get on the field more.
  • Play Strength
    • While I wouldn’t consider this a “weakness” per-say, I’d say it’s just an area that he’s not prolific at and could build upon. Pitts doesn’t have much trouble when lined up against cornerbacks, but when facing a linebacker, he can get caught up off the line if the defender gets inside of him. Pitts will need to work on his initial punch at the line of scrimmage as well as working through contact in his routes. The middle of the field can be full of traffic, Pitts needs to make sure that the shoulder rubs don’t knock him off of his routes.
  • Lateral Ability in the Open Field
    • I’ve mentioned Pitts’ athleticism as a big plus for his prospect profile, but his lateral ability and agility in the open field isn’t going to create a ton of highlights. He’s more of a straight-line speedster than a shifty “make you miss” kind of guy. His burst is great and he’s strong enough to break multiple arm tackles, but in the open field he’s not going to break many tackles with his hips. Once again, it’s hard to find a true weakness in Pitts’ skillset.

Things to Watch:

Pitts is not a player I would say is landing spot dependent, I believe he can be a top weapon in just about any scheme and offense, but at the same time his Day 1 fantasy success will be quite landing spot dependent. As he gets into the draft process, I expect him to run and jump very well, but with a draft process that’s still very much up in the air I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pitts skip a lot of the testing. Pitts is the bonafide TE1 in this class and there’s not much he could do to look any better. There’s a sizable gap between him and the next tight end in this class so I expect Pitts to go about the offseason conservatively, prioritizing health and interviews over measurables.

Projected Round/Contract:  

Last year was the first year since 2016 that we didn’t see a tight end drafted in the first round. This year will assuredly feature at least one tight end on Day 1, Pitts. He’s been mocked as high as Top-5 and has only “dropped’ in early mocks into the late teens. NFL teams know that elite tight ends can be a game changer for an offense and a safety blanket for any young quarterbacks. Also, there is a lack of high quality tight end play around the league and outside of five or so tight ends, a lot of teams could use an upgrade.

With a projected draft slot around the start of the double digits, Pitts’ rookie contract will likely look similar to T.J. Hockenson’s ($4,955,306), who signed a 4-year deal worth $19,821,225 after being selected 8th overall by the Detroit Lions in 2019.

Team Fits:  

As stated earlier, just about any team could use Pitts on their roster. There are a couple teams however that are more likely to prioritize the position and be willing to spend a first round pick on the Florida prospect. Many people have tried to push Pitts to the New England Patriots at 15 but I don’t believe that landing spot makes too much sense. Bill Belichick just spent two 3rd round picks on the tight end position in the 2020 NFL Draft and going forward has too many holes to fill to afford such a luxury pick. So let’s go ahead and fade the noise there.

One of my favorite landing spots for Kyle Pitts is with the Los Angeles Chargers at the 13th overall pick. Hunter Henry is a UFA this year and has already played a season on the franchise tag. With a young stud like Justin Herbert ($6,644,689) leading the offense it makes too much sense to pair him up with a weapon like Pitts and locking up a dangerous combo for at least the next four years. If Pitts’ lands with the Chargers he likely becomes a top-5 dynasty TE from the get go and a near lock for a top-12 finish his rookie year.

If the Carolina Panthers decide against selecting a quarterback at the 8th overall pick, then there’s a chance they might look Pitts’ way. Ian Thomas ($801,999) was invisible for the 2020 season, and whether that is due to a lack of talent or the offensive scheme, the position could certainly use an upgrade. Fans are already drooling at the idea of Pitts and Joe Brady teaming up in Carolina, and I don’t blame them. While I think this landing spot is a bit more far-fetched than the Chargers, Pitts’ could be an extraordinary weapon in a creative offense like Brady’s.

One last possible landing spot for Pitt’s would be a little “sneaky”, and a bit of a fall from his usual projection, the Tennessee Titans. Going into the 2020 offseason Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firsker, MyCole Pruitt, Geoff Swaim, and Kalif Raymond will all be free agents. This means that the Titans will be looking to retool their passing offense, and tight end will be a priority. Pitts’ would be a great replacement for Smith, and would continue the Titans’ current model of athletic pass catchers who can create big plays after the catch. Certainly one to keep in mind come draft day.

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Prospect Preview: Ja’Marr Chase

Position: WRWeight: 200
College: LSUAge: 20
Height: 6′ 1″247 Rating: 4 Stars (0.9589)

By Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

After a record season as Joe Burrow’s ($9,047,534) favorite target in 2019, Ja’Marr Chase decided to opt-out of the 2020 college football season to start his preparation for the NFL Draft. Some mysteries linger about his game after only a single breakout year, but the tape doesn’t lie, and Chase is arguably the best receiver in a talented and deep draft class.

College Production:

2019 was an incredible one year showing for Chase as a true sophomore. Next to future-first rounder Justin Jefferson ($$3,280,701) and another intriguing 2021 receiving prospect, Terrence Marshall Jr, Chase put up some absurd numbers. He caught 84 passes for 1780 yards, an impressive 21.2 yards per reception, and found the endzone 20 times! His statistics and impact for the LSU offense earned him the 2019 Fred Biletnikoff Award (awarded to the best receiver in the nation) as well as a consensus spot on the All-American team.

Strengths:

  • Strong Hands
    • When Chase gets his hands on the ball it is not often that it gets knocked out or dropped. A player who attacks the ball in the air, he’s constantly working back to the ball and not waiting for it to hit his chest before securing it. He’s adept at the back shoulder catch, reaching outside of his body, and bringing it in over his shoulder while running down the sideline. 
  • Consistently Wins 50/50 Balls
    • Perhaps the thing that sets Chase apart from most of the other receiver prospects in this class is his ability to consistently win down the field. When he gets moving down the field, he’s able to leverage his defender and get into position to have the first crack at the football. His vertical jump projects to measure at the top of the class and its obvious when you see him work above his defender and snatch the ball out of the air.
  • Physical at the Point of Attack
    • When facing press coverage Chase is not scared to attack the cornerback and push him back like a defensive lineman before disengaging and getting into his route. This makes him difficult to slow down and neutralize. Of course, NFL defenders are a bit stronger, but the SEC is full of NFL talent, and Chase showed us in 2019 that he was nearly unstoppable when full of confidence.

Weaknesses:

  • Not a Burner
    • Do not get me wrong, Chase can get down the field and make you pay, but he’s no Tyreek Hill ($18,000,000). His burst is solid coming out of the gate and his speed is enough to keep defenses honest, but in the NFL, he’s not going to be able to win consistently on Go routes on his own athleticism. To keep the defense guessing Chase will have to efficiently utilize more intermediate routes, such as Curls and Outs.
  • Inconsistent Route Running
    • The last point brings up the biggest question mark surrounding Chase, the consistency (and variety) of his route running. With the 2019 LSU team, Chase spent most of his time running down the field looking for the deep ball, but in the NFL, he will need to utilize the whole route tree to be a top wideout. I also noticed that sometimes you could tell when Chase was not one of the first reads on a play, he would come out of the gate without much determination, effectively taking himself out of the play.
  • One-Year of Production
    • As impressive as 2019 was for Chase it was still only one season. Many analysts would have liked to see him comeback and show another season of production and improvement, but the 2020 LSU team was a ghost of the 2019 champions and the choice to opt-out was likely the best decision for Chase, who has been a locked in first rounder for over a year now. As long as Chase has been working hard in training while missing the CFB season, there shouldn’t be too much worry about this issue though.

Things to Watch:

With Chase sitting out the entirety of the 2020 CFB season, it will be interesting to see how he starts marketing himself when draft season starts to kick into gear. In today’s age, a player’s media value can be a factor in their value to a franchise and Chase and his agent know that. The hype around Chase has certainly died down a bit since last year when he was an integral part of the National Champions, but with a couple workout videos and well-edited cuts to epic music, Chase can be back in the national spotlight.

The combine will be his big chance to show that he was making the most of his opt-out and he will be expected to come into the weekend at peak physical condition. On tape I see a 4.5 40-Yard Dash, so if he can get down into the 4.4’s that would be a sign of his hard work over the past year. His height will also be something to keep an eye on as he could measure anywhere from 5’ 11” to 6’ 1”, and he should weigh in somewhere between 200-210 pounds.

Projected Round/Contract:  

At this point we can project that Chase is nearly a lock to be a Top-20 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, pending an injury or a meltdown at the NFL Combine. Financially that means his rookie contract could look similar to Jerry Jeudy’s ($3,798,244). Jeudy signed a 4-year deal worth $15,192,974 after being selected 15th overall by the Denver Broncos. Also, as with all first-round picks, Chase’s contract will include a 5th-year club option for whatever team drafts him.

Team Fits:  

At the end of the day Chase is a player that could fit in any team’s offense and make an impact. At only six-foot he may seem a little small to be a prototypical X-receiver, but he plays bigger than his frame and can be a chain-mover for any team willing to throw the ball down the field. With his projected draft slot being early-mid 1st round, we can narrow down his landing spot to a couple different teams that will be looking for a new playmaker out wide.

One popular landing spot for Chase is the Miami Dolphins (who have two first rounders this year). Pairing Chase with Devante Parker ($7,625,000) and Preston Williams ($588,333) would give Tua Tagovailoa ($7,568,860) plenty of talent to help push the ball down the field.

Another popular team fit is the Detroit Lions who currently only have Quintez Cephus ($899,822) under contract for 2021. Kenny Golladay ($799,081) is set to become a free agent and with a new front office coming in, nobody knows what to expect. Chase could be given the chance to slot into a high-volume role if he finds himself in Detroit.

One more landing spot I’ll mention is the New England Patriots, a team that has a lot of questions moving forward. The quarterback situation is certainly a mystery, but if Bill Belichick looks to bring in a veteran such as Andy Dalton ($3,000,000) or even Sam Darnold ($7,561,929), grabbing a receiver with their first-round pick could be a great move to get them back in the playoff hunt. The Patriots offense has been hurting for a young weapon for a while and Chase would help any quarterback that ends up taking the snaps in Foxboro.

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Are Dynasty Owners’ Utilizing Handcuffs for Their Star Players?

Author: Steven Van Tassell

Surely everyone is aware of the terminology and know that a handcuff is a backup player who will likely take over for a team’s starter in the event of an injury. In addition to “regular” injuries that happen all of the time to NFL players, Dynasty Owners in 2020 also have to worry about players testing positive for COVID-19 and going on the new Reverse/COVID-19 list. This new list is defined as being for players who have tested positive, or players who are quarantining because they came into close contact with someone who tested positive.

One of my fellow Beta Users (Nick – Quaranteam) suggested that I look at whether Dynasty Owners were valuing handcuffs for their star players enough in 2020 due to COVID-19. The possibility is out there that some star players will contract the contagious disease and have to sit out games at some point this season. It’s not a minimum of three games as previously expected, but more flexible than that as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explains in the following article: https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2020/07/18/clarifying-the-2020-injured-reserve-covid-19-rules/.

Since 12-team leagues are new to Dynasty Owner for 2020, we don’t have historical data to see whether handcuffs are being utilized more or less this season than last year, but we can still look at what’s going on this year. This analysis of handcuffs is based on a review of 43 Dynasty Owner drafts for the 2020 season. All of the drafts were conducted between June 14th and July 26th. There were 5 drafts by Beta users, 15 For the Love of the Game drafts by players only paying the $29 entry fee, 11 drafts in the $600 prize pool leagues ($50 entry fee per team) and 12 drafts in the $1,200 prize pool leagues ($100 entry fee per team).

For the purposes of this analysis, I’m looking at situations where there is a clear starter (Lamar Jackson, Christian McCaffrey, etc.) and then a backup who will likely only play if their team is winning or losing by a lot or if the starter gets hurt or is placed on the COVID-19 list. I purposely left out players on teams and positions in which the starting position is up for grabs, which is more of a hedging your bet on a certain position. Examples of that include starting QB for the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers as it’s reasonable to think either Justin Herbert or Tyrod Taylor could be the starter in Week 1, the Ravens’ RB situation with Mark Ingram and rookie J.K. Dobbins or the Rams who have a quartet of RBs (Cam Akers, Darrel Henderson, Malcolm Brown and John Kelly) who coach Sean McVay has identified as “NFL-legitimate starting-caliber backs”. There are other examples but that should give everyone an idea of what qualified as a handcuff versus hedging your bets.

All stats are based on the Standard Dynasty Owner scoring system as outlined in the updated Dynasty Owner Constitution. Standard Dynasty Owner scoring gives you .1 points for every yard rushing or receiving, .1 point for every 2 yards passing, 1 point per reception, 6 points for a rushing, receiving or passing touchdown and 2 points for a successful 2-point conversion (rushing, receiving, or passing). Interceptions or fumbles lost cost you 3 points, while a fumble that is recovered by the player’s team is a loss of only 1 point. Bonus points are available for 100-199 yards rushing (2 points), 200 yards rushing or receiving (6 points), 300-399 yards passing (1 point) and 400 yards passing (4 points). There is also a 3 point bonus for clutch scoring, which is a score that results in a lead change in the final two minutes of the 4th quarter or overtime. Kickoff and punt return touchdowns are worth 6 points for the player and kickoff and punt returns are worth 1 point for every 40 yards.

Handcuffing by Position and League Type

Overall, there were 300 identified handcuff situations over the 43 leagues analyzed, or an average of 6.98 per league. Teams could draft more than one handcuff for their players, and we’ve identified several interesting ones later on in this article. Since we are all in 12-team leagues now, that means only about half of the teams in each league drafted a handcuff for one of their players. There are multiple situations in which a team drafted more than one handcuff, so the average number of teams drafting a handcuff is lower than the number of situations.

By league type, there were more handcuffs per league in the $100 entry fee leagues (8.00 per league) than any other type by a significant margin (6.64 for $50 entry fee leagues, 6.60 for the $29 Love of the Game leagues and a low of 6.40 for the five Beta user leagues). The more cash people have invested in their Dynasty Owner team, the more likely they are to handcuff – very interesting. For newer players, Beta users are free for life and don’t pay anything in return for spending last year and this off-season spotting bugs in mock drafts and on the website and app.

By position, it’s not surprising that more people are drafting a handcuff at the running back position than any other position (141 in total, or 47% of all handcuffs are RBs). There were 104 WR handcuffs, or about one-third (35%). There were 38 handcuff QBs, or 13% of the 300 handcuffs, while only 17 handcuffs (6%) were TEs.

In terms of players, 74 individual star players were handcuffed with a lesser player. Thirty-one WRs were handcuffed, or over two-fifths (42%) of players handcuffed were WRs, followed by 19 RBs (26%), 16 QBs (22%) and a mere 8 TEs (11%). Let’s find out more about who was handcuffed most frequently and wasn’t frequently enough.

Running While Handcuffed

The position in which most fantasy football players utilize handcuffs is usually running backs based on their higher rate of injury and the current preference of many NFL coaches for running back by committee (RBBC). Dynasty Owner is no different in this regard as nearly half of the handcuffs in the early drafts were RB handcuffs with 19 starting RBs being handcuffed by 37 backups. Remember that we are looking only at handcuffs and not situations like those identified earlier where the starting job is “up for grabs”.

So, which RB was handcuffed the most in Dynasty Owner drafts? Was it the RB with the highest salary in Dynasty Owner, Ezekiel Elliott at $15 million in salary cap room, or was it one of the top two RBs drafted in Christian McCaffrey (ADP 2.6) or Saquon Barkley (ADP 3.8)?

The answer is: None of those guys. There was a tie as the most handcuffed RBs were in fact Dalvin Cook of the Vikings and James Conner of the Steelers, both of whom were handcuffed in 15 Dynasty Owner drafts. While both were handcuffed the same number of times, the most common handcuff was picking Conner and his $790,381 one-year contract along with Jaylen Samuels and his equally affordable $679,517 salary for the next two years.

Dalvin Cook and his threatened training camp holdout was big news back in early June when he announced it (Spoiler alert: He didn’t hold out and reported to training camp on time) and likely caused many of his Dynasty Owners to handcuff him with either Alexander Mattison (8 times) or Mike Boone (6 times). There was at least one team (Wasabi) who handcuffed Cook with both of those guys.

There was also one team (The Team) who handcuffed Cook, who they drafted with the #12 overall pick, with fullback C.J. Ham and his 4-year, $12 million salary. Ham was drafted with the first pick in the 20th round by The Team in their For the Love of the Game league. This wasn’t a wise pick for The Team since Mike Boone was still available if they wanted a handcuff. Ham is so lightly regarded by other Dynasty Owners that no other team has Ham on their roster. Probably because he’s a blocking fullback and had just 37.1 Dynasty Owner fantasy points last year.

Two players on one-year contracts were also handcuffed nearly as often (14 times each). Kenyan Drake and his $8.483 million contract was handcuffed equally by Chase Edmonds and rookie Eno Benjamin. Joe Mixon was also handcuffed 14 times, but was handcuffed by four separate players (Giovani Bernard – 7 times; Trayveon Williams – 4 times; Rodney Anderson – 2 times; Jacques Patrick – 1 time). The four handcuff players were the most for any single starter. Congratulations!?!

Handcuffing the Top Picks at QB

In contrast, the most obvious handcuff at QB is drafting Robert Griffin III to pair with Lamar Jackson, who many Dynasty Owners have been taking with the #1 pick (ADP 1.3). Dynasty Owners who have chosen Lamar are handcuffing him with RGIII more than any other QB combo with 7 Dynasty Owners having done this. Interestingly, even though there were 15 For the Love of the Game drafts analyzed, none of the Lamar-RGIII handcuffs occurred in one of those leagues. For those Dynasty Owners who have Lamar and $2 million in salary cap room, RGIII is currently available in 50% of Dynasty Owner leagues.

That’s three more handcuffs than the trio of starting QBs who are next most likely to be handcuffs (Patrick Mahomes, Cam Newton and Carson Wentz). Mahomes is has the second best ADP (1.8) with 4 handcuffs (3 times by Chad Henne and 1 time by Jordan Ta’amu). All three of the potential Kansas City backup QBs are highly available for Mahomes’ owners who have salary cap room to protect their investment in the $450 million Super Bowl MVP.  Ta’amu is owned by the highest percentage (11%), followed by Henne at 7% and Matt Moore at only 2% ownership.

Despite not being signed by the Patriots until late June and only being selected at his new salary in the July drafts, Cam Newton was also handcuffed four times by backups in New England. Three Dynasty Owners chose Jarrett Stidham as Newton’s backup, while one chose Brian Hoyer. Even though Coach Bill Belichick has said that Newton won’t be handed the starting job, he’s the starter in New England barring an injury. For Newton’s Dynasty Owners who didn’t handcuff in the draft, but are thinking about it doing it now, sorry to inform you but Stidham and his $788,423 contract isn’t available in any Dynasty Owner leagues right now.

Finally, we have four Dynasty Owners who handcuffed Carson Wentz and his $32 million annual salary with rookie QB and 2nd round draft pick Jalen Hurts. Even though only a few Wentz owners chose Hurts as well, Hurts and his $1.5 million salary is 100% owned, compared to 78% ownership for Wentz. Wentz does have a better ADP (80.7) than Hurts (152.9). Nate Sudfeld, who might end up being the true backup in 2020 if media reports are true, is only owned in 2% of leagues. You’ll need $2 million in salary cap room to go get Sudfeld if you have Wentz but not Hurts, are concerned about Wentz’s injury history and want to ensure you have a stake in the Eagles’ offense this year.

The only other two first round QB draft picks – Kyler Murray (ADP 4.3) and Deshaun Watson (ADP 5.0) – were lightly handcuffed with only one Dynasty Owner handcuffing Murray with his likely backup in Brett Hundley and none of the Dynasty Owners who drafted through July 26th handcuffing Deshaun Watson. The owner who drafted Hundley (The Guns of Hochuli – great team name!) is the only one right now with Hundley on their roster.

Not a Lot of Handcuffing of Tight Ends

At the other end of the handcuff spectrum from RBs and QBs are TEs who are rarely being handcuffed in the early Dynasty Owner drafts. Only 8 starting TEs had their backup drafted by the same Dynasty Owner and it only occurred a total of 17 times, accounting for just 6% of all handcuffs drafted.

The consensus top three Dynasty Owner TEs (George Kittle, Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews) were rarely handcuffed by their Dynasty Owners even though they had clear backups at the time (Ross Dwelley for Kittle, Ricky Seals-Jones for Kelce and Nick Boyle for Andrews). Nobody handcuffed Mark Andrews and only one Dynasty Owner handcuffed Kelce or Kittle. Steveo FC was the only Dynasty Owner to draft both George Kittle and Ross Dwelley, in case Kittle can’t play, even though Dwelley performed pretty well in the two games (22.8 Dynasty Owner fantasy points) that Kittle missed in 2019. Dwelley only cost Steveo FC a last round draft pick (#291 overall) and $750,000 in salary cap room. In case Kittle owners are thinking that having Dwelley on the roster is a good idea (even with the recent signing of Jordan Reed by the 49ers), he’s currently available in 96% of Dynasty Owner leagues. Kelce was also only handcuffed in one league by Kilmer’s Coyotes with Ricky Seals-Jones. Seals-Jones doesn’t cost much ($925,000) and is only signed to a one-year deal so Kelce owners in the three-quarters (78%) of Dynasty Owner leagues in which Seals-Jones isn’t owned could go out and grab him if they have cap room.

The most handcuffed starting TE is the eighth TE being drafted, on average, in Dynasty Owner – Evan Engram of the Giants. His backup Kaden Smith is being drafted well over 100 spots later than Engram (ADP of 79 vs. 201.8 for Smith). His cost is minimal as he has 3 years left on his contract at just $680,002 per year and his production was high in place of Engram last year, when he averaged just under 11.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy point per game and had four double-digit point games in just seven contests after Engram got injured last year.

The Single Most Handcuffed WR Is Also the Highest Drafted One

Michael Thomas is being drafted a full round ahead of any other WR with an ADP of 7.6. The next highest drafted WR by ADP right now is Chris Godwin with a current ADP of 20.3. Thomas has the third highest salary of any WR at $19.25 million and some of his Dynasty Owners are backing up their investment in the Ferrari of WRs (373.6 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in 2019). The handcuff of choice for Thomas’ Dynasty Owners, like The Jerk, is Deonte Harris who only had 34.5 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in 2019 – with twice as many coming from returns (23.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points) than rushing and receiving combined (11.5). Six Dynasty Owners have both Michael Thomas and Deonte Harris on their roster, the most of any single WR starter and backup. Since Taysom Hill is listed as a QB, I didn’t consider him as a handcuff for Thomas even though he does play WR fairly frequently.

While the Thomas-Harris handcuff was the single, most frequently drafted one, Thomas was not the most frequently handcuffed WR in Dynasty Owner drafts. That honor goes to Eagles rookie WR Jalen Reagor who was handcuffed 9 times by three different players (Quez Watkins – 4 times; Greg Ward – 4 times; John Hightower – 1 time), followed closely by Stefon Diggs of the Buffalo Bills. Three backup WRs (Gabriel Davis – 4 times; Duke Williams – 3 times; Isaiah Hodgins – 1 times) were also selected by the Diggs’ Dynasty Owner a total of 8 times, just one fewer time than Reagor. However, if you add in Diggs’ fellow starting WRs in Buffalo (John Brown and Cole Beasley), there were a total of 11 backup WRs selected as handcuffs to starting Buffalo WRs.

Eleven handcuffs for Buffalo WRs was the highest for any team, but there were three WRs being handcuffed. There are a lot of top WR pairing out there for the handcuffing, such as Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in Tampa Bay or A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd in Cincinnati, among others. Interestingly, there was a wide divergence in handcuffing for those two pairs with Green and Boyd being handcuffed twice as frequently as Evans and Godwin (10 times versus 5 times). There was an even split by Dynasty Owners handcuffing Green (and his $17.97 million salary) and Tyler Boyd (who has a $10.75 million salary). The much more expensive WR in Tampa Bay, Mike Evans, was handcuffed four out of the five times that a Dynasty Owner handcuffed one. Just only Dynasty Owner (WKFLD Jags) handcuffed Chris Godwin with Tyler Johnson.

Interesting Handcuffs

After looking at over 500 Dynasty Owner rosters, you see some “interesting” handcuff situations. Here are a few that stood out to me as I was looking at all of those rosters:

  • The Cincinnati Sizzlers drafted five Green Bay WRs, pretty much every WR on the Packers roster, except Davante Adams. That’s right they have Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Reggie Begelton and Jake Kumerow (in draft order). That’s the most players from any one team at a single position. Fortunately for them, they didn’t draft Devin Funchess even though they could have since they drafted in June before he opted out for the 2020 season.
  • Stacking three Bengals on one team was not an isolated phenomenon. Two teams in $100 entry fee leagues (Flex and SBB) drafted the same three Bengals RBs (Joe Mixon, Trayveon Williams and Giovani Bernard). They both even got Williams and Bernard with the same picks (#249 and #273 respectively). Another two teams (Toronto Squad and Young & Dumb) had three Bengals WRs. Toronto Squad drafted A.J. Green, Tee Higgins and Auden Tate, while Young & Dumb went with Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and John Ross. Young & Dumb loves Bengals since they have those three WRs, two RBs (Mixon and Bernard) and rookie QB Joe Burrow.
  • TFFO figured that he wanted a piece of the New England running game, so they went out and drafted Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris and J.J. Taylor. Rex Burkhead went undrafted in that league and at the end of the draft, TFFO had a little over $7 million in cap room. To avoid Rex having hurt feelings about this situation, TFFO should spend part on their leftover cap room if they still have it. Might as well go get Lamar Miller while you’re at it.
  • Not to be outdone, Boomer2377 drafted four Eagles WRs. They avoided both DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey for good reason and went with Jalen Reagor, Hightower, Ward and Watkins in that order. I’m guessing Boomer2377 is an Eagles fan because they also have both Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts on their team as well.
  • Only four TEs had their backup drafted by the same team in more than one Dynasty Owner league. In addition to Engram, they were Darren Waller (handcuffed by Foster Moreau), Tyler Higbee (handcuffed by rookie Brycen Hopkins) and Austin Hooper (handcuffed by David Njoku). All these handcuffs were drafted twice.
  • The Clown Punchers took my recommendation of drafting three QBs (https://dynastyowner.com/2020/05/draft-tips-2020/), but possibly didn’t read the part about having them on different teams since they decided to draft three Kansas City QBs (Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne and Jordan Ta’amu). Hopefully, Mahomes stays healthy and Matt Moore isn’t the backup, or The Clown Punchers will be in trouble.
  • Many Dynasty Owners like a good handcuff, but Pohlcat, a $100 entry fee league Dynasty Owner, really, really likes to handcuff backfield players. Pohlcat drafted Lamar Jackson and RGIII, Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley, Todd Gurley and Ito Smith, plus two potential Giants backups to Saquon Barkley in Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman. No word on why Pohlcat didn’t handcuff any WRs or TEs.
  • Does it count as a handcuff if you draft the backup before the starter?  Asking for Ball Busters who drafted Quintez Cephus of the Lions with the #153 pick then took the starter in Detroit, Marvin Jones, over 100 picks later on with the #256 pick.
  • Finally, the Midwest Tradesman spent only $34 shy of $33 million, or 30% of their salary cap, on Bengals WRs when they drafted Tyler Boyd ($10.75 million), A.J. Green ($17.971 million) and John Ross ($4,278,966).

Conclusions

There are a lot of ways to handcuff your starters in Dynasty Owner, but really no consensus on which one is best or which starters are most worth a handcuff. It’s your Dynasty, handcuff your guys if you want to and with who you want. This analysis covered 43 Dynasty Owner leagues with over 500 teams that had 300 identified handcuffs of 74 different players. That’s a lot of variety, but also indicates that there are a lot of Dynasty Owners who, even in this era of COVID-19, aren’t handcuffing.

In terms of position, running back was the most handcuffed position and by league, Dynasty Owners in $100 leagues were most likely to utilize handcuffs. We had a surprise RB (James Conner) be the most handcuffed player overall, even though he has an ADP of 49.8 and is the 26th RB off the draft board on average. The top QB (Lamar Jackson) and WR (Michael Thomas) were more heavily handcuffed than other players at their position, but in line with other high draft picks like RBs Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley. And if you handcuffed a TE, you are a rare breed indeed as I only identified 17 TE handcuffs in total, or half of leagues has a team with a handcuffed TE.

We are less than a month out from the 2020 NFL season and three are more articles coming from myself and Chris Wolf (@ckwolf21 on Twitter). The podcast series with myself and Dynasty Owner CEO Tim Peffer will continue to be posted on the Dynasty Owner channel on YouTube and other places (iTunes, Spotify, Spreaker) as well. Subscribe to the YouTube channel and make sure to “Like” all of the videos to help promote them. We have over 400 subscribers on YouTube now and thank you all for watching and listening. All of this great content is available to help you win your Dynasty Owner league and maybe become the winner of the 2020 Chase for the Ring!

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2020 Wide Receivers Draft Class – Day Two Picks

Author: Milos Ljubic

As mentioned in the title, this will be an article about wide receivers selected on day two of this year’s draft.

The very first WR selected on day two was Tee Higgins by the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals were the worst team last season by the record. They were a little better by statistics, but that is minor. In this season they will enter with new QB Joe Burrow. RBs, WRs, and TEs will be the same as the previous year. The biggest difference is A.J. Green, who is franchise tagged, and everyone in the organization expects he will remain healthy throughout the season. He missed a season and a half due to injury. Green and Tyler Boyd will be starting duo of WR’s for the Bengals. The last season Boyd had over 1,000 yards caught. Higgins is expected to be 3rd WR on the Bengals depth chart, but he will have strong competitors. Auden Tate, Alex Erickson, and John Ross, all of them having over 500 caught yards last season, and they will try to repeat that success. That won’t be an easy job for a rookie probably. His salary for the next four years will be $2,171,696 per year.

Michael Pittman Jr. was the second player selected on day two of the draft. He was picked up by the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts were an average team last season with a great offensive line. They selected an RB in the second round, so they further improve their RBs’ depth. The worst part of the team was attacking through the air. The Colts signed Philip Rivers to be QB for the next year. The Colts will have over 20 interceptions next year, probably, but they will also have near 4,000 passing yards. How will those yards be distributed? The undrafted Zach Pascal was the most productive Colts’ WR last season. T.Y. Hilton will be WR no.1. There are some concerns about Hilton however. He has eight seasons behind him, and he was having problems with injuries this past season. Parris Campbell, second-rounder from the previous draft, was having problems with injuries almost the whole season. He played less than 20% of the Colts snaps. If everything goes regularly, Pittman is expected to be WR no.2 and to catch over 600 yards. His annual salary will be $2,153,212.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were the third team that selected WR on day two of the draft. From the 42nd position, the Jaguars selected Laviska Shenault. By all projections, Jacksonville will be the worst team in NFL this season. The Jaguars weren’t bad last year. In fact, they were average on offense and below average on defense, but now they are in rebuilding mode. They will have a similar attack, but their defense will be worse than last year, sure. What we can expect from Shenault? The Jaguars traded Nick Foles to the Bears, but there are a lot of doubts in Gardner Minshew as a capable QB who will run one team. The four best WRs will be back, and as I already said, they are solid. Laviska Shenault will be 3rd WR probably, in a team that was projected for tanking. His annual salary will be $1,924,017 for the next four years.

K.J. Hamler was selected from the 46th position by the Denver Broncos. I wrote in a previous article about the Broncos. Hamler will be the third WR in a run-first team, and unlike Shenault, he can’t move nither up nither down on a depth chart. His salary will be $1,784,282 per year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers from the 49th position selected Chase Claypool. The Steelers were one of the best defenses last year, but post-Le’Veon Bell-Antonio Brown Steelers aren’t even close to what they should be on offense. In fact, they were awful last year. The only good part of the offense was O-line. We don’t know what to expect from Big Ben as he missed almost the whole season last year. Their receiving corps isn’t so bad, but it isn’t great either. They have three solid young WRs on the depth chart and all of them are still on rookie deals. That is the main reason why receiving corps were 31st last season and is projected to have two WRs among first 16, and third as a 38th WR on fantasy draft. What can we expect from Chase Claypool? With his big body, he brings strength to the Steelers. Three mentioned WRs are all below 220 pounds. And only JuJu is barely over 6 feet high. If we compare Claypool with the 2014 draft class, we can say that he is very similar to Kelvin Benjamin. He is projected to be the 4th WR on the depth chart, but in these circumstances, he can easily be the best Steelers’ WR next season. His annual salary will be $1,654,156.

Los Angeles Rams selected Van Jefferson from the 57th position. What can we expect from the Rams this season? They had been built in the win-now mode in the previous two seasons. They lost in the Super Bowl a year ago, and they missed playoffs last season, as the 7th team in the conference. Their division is getting stronger now. We can say that they are in some light variant of a rebuild. In this team, Jefferson is projected to be 4th WR on the depth chart, and no-one expects from him, to make big numbers in a season in front of us. His annual salary will be $1,402,784.

Denzel Mims was the last WR selected in the second round of the draft. The New York Jets picked up Mims from the 59th position. The Jets had above-average defense last season, but their offense was in dead-last. From last season’s WR corps, they only kept Jamison Crowder and he is expected to be their best WR. Crowder will take the most number of snaps, from the slot. The outside WRs will be Mims and newcomer Breshad Perriman. Perriman is a former first-rounder, who is on his way to avoid the bust tag. What we can expect from the Jets and Mims? The good thing is that the AFC East will be soft, but the Jets are projected to be the worst team in the division, again. Those facts are actually not so bad for one rookie WR. The Jets invested the first-round pick in a left tackle, and Sam Darnold is probably the best passing QB in the division, as weird as it may sound. They also expect Le’Veon Bell to play a much better this season than last season. They don’t have some reliable TEs on the roster, and that means more targets for Mims. He will play the next four seasons for $1,358,425 per year.

Two wide receivers were selected in the third round of the draft. Bryan Edwards was picked up from the 81st position. We already discussed the situation in the Raiders. Expectations are low for Edwards to be a big impact in his rookie season. His salary will be $1,065,358 per year.

The last WR selected on day three of the draft was Devin Duvernay. The Baltimore Ravens picked up him from the 92nd position. The Ravens are run-first team, with great defense, and they further improved in both of those segments. Besides that, they have a very good TEs group. Duvernay is projected to be the 4th WR on the depth chart with an annual salary will be $1,064,084.

Milos Ljubic is a freelance writer for Dynasty Owner

Follow us on Twitter: @LjubicMilos and @Dynasty_Owner

Rookie Roulette – Gambling on the Rookies That Can Make an Immediate Impact

Author: Chris Wolf

Rookies are fun to debate for several reasons. There is the unknown, the uncertainty and the hope that it all works out for those that took a chance. More now than ever, we just don’t know what we’ll get with the incoming NFL rookie class. We can look back to the 2011 lockout for the last major abnormality in the NFL operations schedule.

That year’s rookie class recounts the confusing times where a player could not sign with his team after the draft, there were no UDFA’s, and a player was not allowed to be contacted by their team due to the union’s dispute.

Von Miller, 2011’s no.2 overall pick had this to say following the lockout ”Today feels like a holiday to me! Thank God for football.”

Thank God for football is right. We have been starving for anything football related during these tough times. We watched the 2020 “virtual draft” become the highest rated draft ever. We saw 6.8 million viewers tune in for two football legends playing the gentleman’s game in the rain, while cracking jokes and splitting pants. But the anticipation of this year’s season will be something special.

The stakes of this year’s off-season medical lockout are much higher than any contractual dispute, but the results may prove similar to 2011. There was an abnormal amount of early season injuries and just ugly, ugly play in the first few weeks. With the absence of rookie mini camps, no direct contact with their teams and self-supervised conditioning programs; the 2020 rookie class is facing an incredible uphill battle. Some players are able to provide early return on fantasy value while others don’t have such a direct path. Below are some players to take a gamble on as well as some to pass on.

Chalk:

These players are early picks that should produce in the beginning of season

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB-KC)

An absolute perfect fit for one of the most desirable landing spots in all of fantasy football. He has all of the tools needed for his role in Andy Reid’s offense and has drawn comparisons to fantasy stud Brian Westbrook. Damien Williams will be “the starter” but CEH will mix in early and often contributing to both the ground and air game.

Jerry Jeudy (WR-DEN)

Jeudy is a purist of a route runner. He brings a dimension to Denver that Drew Lock was obviously missing last year. Jeudy will make Drew Lock a better fantasy asset in year two and could push for the team lead in targets based on his NFL ready skill set. Denver’s passing attack under Lock accounted for just 61.1% of their plays but there is room to grow with the addition of Jeudy and KJ Hamler.

Jonathan Taylor (RB-IND)

While CEH may be the best all-around at the running back position, Taylor is the best pure runner in this year’s draft. He is a bruiser that seeks out contact and has the privilege to play behind one of the best run blocking offensive lines in the game. There’s competition for backfield touches with Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines but, there is plenty to go around for the Colt’s running backs. Taylor could realistically push for 250+ touches and should be taken in the top 20 RB picks and top 2 in rookie drafts.

The Colt’s Jonathan Taylor is poised to lead the Indianapolis stable of running backs in 2020.

Gamble:

These players may produce early but will probably take a little time to get going in year one

Cam Akers (RB-LAR)

As I previously wrote about here, Akers is a really good running back that has had the misfortune of running behind bad offensive lines. The Florida State offensive line had gotten absolutely bullied the last two years while the Los Angeles Rams offensive line did not fare much better. Akers was the No.52 selection in 2020 and will be splitting snaps with long time backup Malcom Brown and 2019 third rounder Darrel Henderson. Those two players have their respective strengths, but Akers can absolutely do it all. It would not be a surprise for him to obtain 60% of the backfield touches by mid-season.

Joe Burrow (QB-CIN)

Joe Burrow was an NCAA star. Joe Burrow will be an NFL star. Since making a deal with the devil in his senior season, Burrow lit up college football by completing the best statistical season ever. He has loads of talent surrounding him and an offensive staff that will utilize his field vision and quick release. He does not have a strong arm but his placement and timing more than makes up for it. As with any rookie QB, he will need time to acclimate to NFL life. Expectations should be tempered in the early going but Burrow has the tools to push into the top 12 QB conversation exceedingly early in his career.

Justin Jefferson (WR-MIN)

The No.22 overall pick filled a huge need for the Vikings. He projects to step in as a year one starter opposite Adam Thielen and could immediately garner 100-115 targets. He is a polished route runner with fantastic straight-line speed, but he may need a little time to get going. Like Burrow, Jefferson enjoyed late collegiate career success and will probably parlay that into a strong NFL career. But like most rookies, he will need time to gel with his team, coaches and new surroundings. He is in position to have one of the better seasons of this year’s rookie WR’s; it just might take some time to get going.

Bad Beat:

These are fantastic players in not-so fantastic positions for 2020

D’Andre Swift (RB-DET)

Swift was one of my favorite running backs in this year’s draft. It just breaks my heart to see him land with a team that has had such bad luck with recent running backs. Rushing for over 1,000 yards in his final two seasons after playing behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel at Georgia, Swift is a very capable runner and a fantastic receiver. I hope he shines in Detroit, but you really can’t love the situation for 2020.

Jalen Reagor (WR-PHI)

The Eagles ranked 29th in WR catches last year. Desean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery have missed a total of 26 games in the last two seasons. It appears that Reagor landed in a fantastic opportunity but probably not for this year. Philly was at the top of the league in lining up in 12 personnel while also possessing a strong group of pass catching backs. Since injuries are assumptive and not predictive, you really cannot see a clear path to touches in this offense. If they do not get everyone healthy (or trade/cut someone) and open up their downfield offense, then maybe the No.21 overall pick can produce this year. He is a much better overall receiver than people give him credit for but maybe we will not see it just yet.

Brandon Aiyuk (WR-SF)

The Super Bowl silver medalists wanted to come away with a solid overall receiver in the draft. They succeeded by drafting the Arizona State product. Aiyuk had very respectable 2019 numbers in his final collegiate season posting a 65/1,192/8 line with a 18.3 ypr. Pairing any wide receiver to a Kyle Shanahan offense is normally smart money. This year may be tough though for Aiyuk to see ample targets. With the emergence of Deebo Samuel, the presence of coaching staff favorite Kendrick Bourne and the return of Jalen Hurd it may be a tough 2020 for Aiyuk. Oh yeah, there’s also all world tight end George Kittle and the league’s No.2 rushing attack to compete with as well. Aiyuk could very well push for the No.3 job this year but his production is sure to be limited early.

There’s roughly 70 days until the first preseason game. The much needed start to watching live football will be here before we know it. That goes for the 2020 rookies as well. With facilities beginning to open up and the players finally going to meet their coaches and teammates, the first year players will finally get a chance to experience what they’ve been waiting for their whole lives….to be on your fantasy football team.

Chris Wolf is a freelance writer for Dynasty Owner

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