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.

Follow us on Twitter: @Dynasty_Owner

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

Follow us on Twitter: @CKWolf21 and @Dynasty_Owner

Best Fit for Players in the 2020 Draft

Photo Credit: SKYSPORTS.COM

Author: Chris Wolf

If we can expect anything from this week’s draft, it is to expect the unexpected. This year’s rookie selection event projects to be the most watched draft in NFL history. This historic function is sure to be loaded with plenty of fireworks involving trades for both picks and current players.

We will witness real life NFL GM’s doing their best impression of drafting like us fantasy sports enthusiasts; at home, on a laptop. Our guess is as good as anyone’s as to who will go where. Without visits, medicals, and agents middling in the process…this draft can go in any direction.

Instead of providing you with yet another mock draft, let’s take a look at the best team fits for some skill position players that will be selected this weekend.

***Their projected team salary for 2020 in parenthesis***

Tua Tagovailoa QB – Los Angeles Chargers ($4,832,502)

This could be the best case scenario for Tua. A red-shirt year would be optimal for this high-profile QB for not only medical reasons, but also the lack of preparation due to the pandemic.

CeeDee Lamb WR – Las Vegas Raiders ($3,031,205)

An advanced prospect that is just 21 years old. Incredible hands and an absolute beast after the catch. Known for his competitive fire, he would be a great fit in Jon Gruden’s receiver friendly scheme.

Jerry Jeudy WR – San Francisco 49ers ($2,950,550)

This route technician would be an incredible addition to any team. His landing spot with the Super Bowl runners up would be much needed to line up across from budding star Deebo Samuel and overlooked Jalen Hurd. The Alabama product is also reportedly coveted by Philadelphia as well.

Justin Jefferson WR – Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($2,816,127- $2,480,064)

Jefferson’s selection would be best as a result of Tampa trading down after the top 4 tackles are taken. If there is one thing that Tom Brady always had it was a sure handed slot technician. Although All Pro Chris Godwin ran 518 routes in the slot last year, his 4.42 wheels could be utilized on the outside with the addition of Jefferson.

Jordan Love QB – Miami Dolphins ($2,816,127- $2,480,064)

Miami has acquired an NFL leading 14 picks for the 2020 draft and is primed to reload it’s roster. Jordan Love just may be the 3rd QB selected this weekend and it would be a great fit for the Fins. His ultra competitive attitude and play making ability could just be what Dolphins have needed for a long time.

Henry Ruggs WR – Denver Broncos ($2,762,356)

This just makes too much sense, but he might not last to Denver’s pick at 15. Any team could use the talents of this speed demon. Although he had limited career production as Jerry Jeudy’s running mate at Alabama, Ruggs is a complete receiver. He is a precise route runner with sure hands (only 1 drop in 2019).

Jalen Reagor WR – New Orleans Saints ($2,305,310)

With the door closing on the career of Drew Brees, Jalen Reagor would be a fantastic addition for what could be a playoff bound team. With the ability to play in the backfield and be used as a gadget-type player, Sean Payton could have fun with this one.

Tee Higgins WR – Green Bay Packers ($2,046,218)

The Packers have been searching the last few drafts for someone to occupy the field across from Davante Adams. Tee Higgins just may be their guy. Size, speed, contested-catch ability are the reasons Aaron Rodgers will love this weapon.

Brandon Aiyuk WR – Kansas City Chiefs ($1,967,559)

The world champs may be better suited adding a CB in round 1 but a WR makes sense as well. They are wearing championship rings because they continue to add speed to their WR corps.

Aiyuk is a big play threat with solid hands and excellent after the catch ability. Probably not happening but it’s a nice fit.

Denzel Mims WR – Washington Redskins ($1,565,972)

Mims is raw but is a physical freak. He demonstrates fantastic body control and produced an explosive body of work at Baylor. He would add to the young receiving group of Terry McLaurin, Kelvin Harmon, and Trey Quinn.

Jonathan Taylor RB – Detroit Lions ($1,552,530)

Size, speed, and toughness is what Taylor would bring to the underwhelming running back group led by Kerryon Johnson. Taylor would bring the much needed hammer to Detroit’s rushing attack.

D’Andre Swift RB – Miami Dolphins ($1,514,891)

Possibly the best RB prospect in this class. Explosive, with superb vision and solid receiving ability would make a lot of sense for the rebuilding Dolphins. He and Jordan Howard would make good complimentary pieces in the backfield.

J.K. Dobbins RB – Jacksonville Jaguars ($1,423, 482)

An elite runner with good size and great hands. He would be a perfect fit for Jacksonville after they move on from the limited Leonard Fournette.

Clyde Edwards – Helaire RB- Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($1,297,661)

CEH is an elusive runner with gifted catching ability. He is extremely elusive and could become Tom Brady’s prefered weapon out of the backfield.

Jalen Hurts QB – Atlanta Falcons ($856,257)

Atlanta had a front row seat to the Taysom Hill show. The Falcons also need to add to their dynamic playmakers. They could kill two birds with one stone by selecting the incredibly athletic Hurts in round 3. It would benefit the team to upgrade the backup QB position and benefit Hurts to learn from Matt Ryan.

Zack Moss RB – Pittsburgh Steelers ($850,989)

The Steelers will need to add a dynamic playmaker to this workmanlike backfield in this year’s draft. Pittsburgh’s running back room could have doubled as the trainer’s room in 2019 with all of the nagging injuries. Coincidently, Moss reminds many of Le’veon Bell with his elusiveness and glide ability.

Cole McDonald QB – Buffalo Bills ($784,843)

This one is just fun. McDonald is an absolute clone of Josh Allen. The backup QB position candidates aren’t exactly intimidating with the likes of Matt Barkley and Davis Webb. McDonald is a draftable prospect that should go somewhere in rounds 4-6.

This list does not necessarily encompass team needs or what they will do come draft weekend. It’s simply a compilation of players that would benefit from a team’s scheme. This draft has the sense of “anything can happen” and it will provide some much needed entertainment for all of us.

Late Round Dart Throws for the 2020 NFL Draft

Author: Chris Wolf

With draft season upon us there are more uncertainties than usual. Due to COVID-19, NFL teams are in uncharted territory when it comes to the rookie draft. The NFL mandates that team Owners, General Managers, Head Coaches, and Directors of Scouting must be separate during the draft and are allowed one IT person to be present during the draft. You can view an inside look as to the world we live in ​here​.

A big issue, according to several NFL executives, is the 2nd phase of the draft. The second phase begins when the draft is complete and non-drafted players are able to sign with NFL teams. These undrafted free agents are free to sign with the team of their choice when they come calling.

The problem that teams face is the unusual lack of information when it comes to draft eligible players. Normally, NFL teams are permitted to transport up to 30 draft prospects to their facility for medical exams, interviews, and additional testing during the pre-draft process. Many players and teams were shorted this experience in 2020. Instead, teams must rely on private pro-days without a team representative present. The workouts have been awash with sketchy editing, weird camera angles and it seems everyone runs the 40 in the 4.2’s during the pandemic.

Listed here are five future NFL players with an estimated 2020 cap value. So, let’s take a look at some players that may be late round draft picks or UDFA’s that you might want to keep your eye on during your fantasy draft or free agency period.

QB Jake Luton – Oregon State

Luton is considered to be one of the top 10 QB prospects in this year’s draft class. With three years starting experience at Oregon State, Luton has put together an impressive resume in his tenure with the Beavers. Luton improved every year in passer grading including going for 28 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions in his senior campaign. As a two star recruit coming out of Washington, Luton accepted an offer to play at Idaho. He redshirted there and then transferred to Ventura Community College. During his lone season at Ventura, he posted a 3,551 yd/40 TD line white adding 175 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground.

Sporting a 6’ 7” and 230lb frame, Luton offers above average pocket presence and escapability. He is absurdly accurate when given a clean pocket and is very proficient in the play action game, whether under center or in shotgun.

Playing in a limited offense for Jonathan Smith at Oregon State, we may not have seen what Luton was capable of. Luton should be a day 3 pick and does not project to be a year one starter but he offers potential in the right system and just might be a good stash on your practice squad.

Estimated 2020 Salary: $650,000-$800,000

WR John Hightower – Boise State

If it were any other year and the 2020 wide receiver class wasn’t so inslanely loaded, we would be talking about John Hightower being drafted in the 2nd round. A deep threat out of Boise State, by way of Hinds Community College in Mississippi, Hightower is a speed demon with above average ball-tracking ability.

His 2019 season saw him catching 51 balls for 943 yards and 8 scores. His impressive 18.5 yards per reception ranked him 5th in the nation (of those with more than 50 receptions) albeit playing against lesser competition in the Mountain West division. Hightower is not a tackle-breaker by any means. In fact, he is more of a catch and get tackled or catch and score type of player.

Evans is a vision runner that would excel with better blocking in a zone themed rushing attack. NFL teams will love the fact that he rarely fumbles and has some receiving chops. In 2019 he was able to carry the load for Appalachian St turning 256 attempts into 1484 yards and 18 touchdowns while adding 198 yds through the air.

What he lacks in elusiveness, he makes up for in vision and big play ability. Evans was able to bust out 28, 20+yd runs ranking him 3rd in the nation. At 5’10” and 203lbs soaking wet, Evans projects as a speed back in a complimentary role at the next level. Because the NFL is finally realizing that you can find quality running backs in the later rounds, expect Evans to go late in the draft or be signed quickly as an UDFA.

Estimated 2020 Salary: $630,000

RB/WR Antonio Gibson – Memphis

With fresh legs and insane explosiveness, Antonio Gibson is going to make some NFL team very happy. Gibson is undoubtedly the most talented yet anomalous selection on this list. His limited use at Memphis was a head scratcher with only 307 career offensive snaps.

He appears to be built in a lab with a solid base and supreme athleticism, his game oozes with quickness, bounce, and crazy tackle breaking ability. With an insanely limited 77 career touches; Gibson broke 16 tackles on 33 rushing attempts and 17 tackles on 38 receptions. That is enough to make any NFL GM drool over the possibilities. He is listed on several draft boards as either a WR or RB but should find work somewhere in between with his new employer.

He does not run the most polished routes and could do a better job of catching the ball away from his body, his incredible athleticism will translate well to catching balls coming out of the backfield or close to the line of scrimmage. The NFL seems to be finally coming around to the usage of athletes like Gibson (RIP Tavon Austin and Corradele Patterson fantasy owners). He should be a round 2-4 selection in the NFL draft and an early to mid round 3 pick in Dynasty Rookie drafts.

Estimated 2020 Salary: $860,000

TE Harrison Bryant – Florida Atlantic University

The list would not be complete without a tight end in what appears to be an underwhelming draft class for the position. Typically, tight ends outside the top three taken don’t get love in the fantasy community but Harrison Bryant is a name you may want to be familiar with. With a 6’5” 240lb frame, Bryant is a solid route runner that brings physicality to his game.

Bryant will not be confused as a good or even competent in-line blocker, his fantasy relevant abilities are why we’re here. In three seasons of work at FAU, he has compiled a resume consisting of 142 receptions on 197 targets for 2,076 yards while hauling in 18 TD’s. While he’s not a seperator like George Kittle or Noah Fant, he is a good seam stretcher that has a knack for finding openings in coverage. He reminds you more of a Cam Brate or Hunter Henry type player that bails out his QB with his smarts.

Smooth enough to create missed tackles and strong enough to gain some yards after the catch, he became a drop monster in 2019 totaling an alarming 8 drops. These drops appear to be fixable since they are mostly concentration drops and not ones that seem to be technique issues. That being said, his toughness with the ball in his hands and his contested catch prowess, he should be the 5th to 8th TE taken somewhere in rounds 5-7 at the end of April.

Although the players on this list may not and probably won’t be much more than year 1 bench stashes, they are still worthy of consideration for dynasty fantasy football purposes. These players are the ones you want to keep in mind if your rookie drafts get into the 3rd, 4th, or 5th rounds when the notable players are scooped up and you’re at a loss. With all of the uncertainty in this year’s pandemic influenced draft, you just might be able to find a gem in the late rounds.

Estimated 2020 Salary: $650,000

Follow us on Twitter: @DynastyOwner

Salary Cap Room for Draft Picks

Author: Steven Van Tassell

One great question that keeps coming up is – “How much salary cap room do I need to have for draft picks?”  The short answer is: “It depends”. That answer isn’t very helpful so it’s time to dive into some 2020 draft pick research, look back at last year’s draft, and give a (somewhat) better answer to that question for all of our Dynasty Owners.

Unless you traded away all three of your 2020 Dynasty Owner draft picks, you’ll need a minimum of three roster spots and $1.53 million in salary cap room. That will get your Dynasty Owner team three rookies on minimum salary contracts of $510,000 in 2020 to add to your team’s roster. Depending on your situation, your team could need more cap room and roster spots if you traded for a draft pick and less if you traded away a draft pick.

However, say you wanted the top three picks in the NFL draft and skill position players (QB, RB, WR, TE) were selected as the top three players, your Dynasty Owner team would need almost $26.4 million in salary cap room. The 2020 rookie salary for the top pick will be $9.154 million, it’s $8.735 million for the second pick and $8.469 million for the third pick. That’s a total of $26.36 million, or $24.83 million more than the minimum.

Let’s take a look at some realistic scenarios based on current mock draft projections. We’ll use NFL.com as our source for projections of when players will be drafted (http://www.nfl.com/draft/2020/mock-drafts). After that, we’ll check out some “real world” examples from 2019.

2020 NFL Mock Draft Projections

While it is possible for a Dynasty Owner to draft the top three skill position players in their Dynasty Owner rookie draft, based on current projections, you’d be adding three QBs to your roster. Joe Burrow is projected as the #1 pick and either Tau Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert are projected to go as the #5 and #6 picks – depending on which mock draft expert you believe. If you don’t need three QBs, then you’ll likely be spending less than the $26.36 million.

Based on the Spotrac NFL draft tracker (https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/draft/round-1/), those three players will probably be paid the following amounts at the listed mock draft selection spot:

  • Joe Burrow (#1 pick) – $9.154 million
  • Tua Tagovailoa (#5 pick) – $7.631 million
  • Justin Herbert (#6 pick) – $6.68 million

In total, that’s $23.465 million if you grabbed the top three skill position players likely to be drafted in the 2020 NFL draft. However, since very few Dynasty Owner teams probably need (or want) three rookie QBs, it seems that $23.5 million in cap room is really the highest possible amount that Dynasty Owners need to have available to draft rookies. More likely, the best that a Dynasty Owner will do is be able to draft the top QB, RB and WR.

Based on the mock drafts, the following players are projected as the top position players taken in the 2020 draft:

  • Joe Burrow (#1 pick) – $9.154 million
  • Ceedee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy (#11 pick) – $4.586 million
  • D’Andre Swift (#26 pick) – $3.025 million

The top QB, RB and WR are likely to cost a Dynasty Owner around $6.7 million less than the three QBs as the total for Burrow, Lamb/Jeudy and Swift is projected at $16.766 million. In reality, that’s the upper range a Dynasty Owner should keep on hand after the amnesty period is over to give himself room to draft three top rookies. So, unless everyone in your Dynasty Owner league is close against the salary cap, someone is likely to have enough room to take one of those top guys, so most Dynasty Owners can get away with less than the nearly $17 million mentioned above.

Examples from 2019 to Emulate for Your 2020 Cap Floor

For Dynasty Owners who like their team, but still have three draft picks and don’t want to restrict themselves to all rookies on minimum contracts, what’s a reasonable floor of salary cap space that you should have on hand?  Since about 10 skill positions are projected (on average) to be drafted in the first round, you could in theory draft a first round NFL draft pick (think WR N’Keal Harry who was the 32nd pick in the 2019 NFL draft), a mid-second or third round pick (one of the several WRs taken in that range in 2019 include A.J. Brown, Mecole Hardman, Parris Campbell, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside or RB Miles Sanders) and a fifth, sixth or seventh round pick (such as Hunter Renfrow, Darius Slayton, Gardner Minshew or Darwin Thompson). The most expensive of these grouping would have cost you only about $4.65 million in 2019, so to be safe, you’d need $5 million of salary cap room in 2020 to get the following players (# draft pick):

  • N’Keal Harry (First Round – #32 pick) – $2.525 million
  • A.J. Brown (Second Round – #51 pick) – $1.413 million
  • Hunter Renfrow (Fifth Round – #149 pick) – $708,987

While that’s three WRs, it’s still not a bad draft haul for less than $5 million. If you took one guy from three different positions, say Minshew at QB (sixth round), Josh Jacobs at RB (first round) and D.K. Metcalf at WR (second round), you would have spent a little bit more ($4.81 million):

  • Josh Jacobs (First Round – #24 pick) – $2.983 million
  • D.K. Metcalf (Second Round – #64 pick) – $1.146 million
  • Gardner Minshew II (Sixth Round – #178 pick) – $677,721

Without running more scenarios, it appears that $5 million is a good amount to have on hand to get a nice haul of rookies. It can be done for less if you need to and are able to mine the draft for some quality late round picks. A good draft last year would have been possible for only $2.533 million and netted a Dynasty Owner the following players:

  • D.K. Metcalf (Second Round – #64 pick) – $1.146 million
  • Hunter Renfrow (Fifth Round – #149 pick) – $708,987
  • Gardner Minshew II (Sixth Round – #178 pick) – $677,721

The 2020 salaries will be slightly higher, and the picks won’t be the exact same selections, but based on these results, it looks possible to have a good 2020 Dynasty Owner draft for around $2.5 to $3 million.

Conclusions

It depends is actually the correct answer here as, everything depends on your roster and draft picks stash. If you need more good players and have cleared enough salary cap room and others in your league are cap strapped, then you could pick up three of the top skill position players taken in the 2020 NFL draft. You’ll possibly need as much as $26.4 million, but more realistically about $16.8 million.

It’s possible to have a great draft for less – just look at 2019 when a savvy Dynasty Owner could have picked three quality players up for as little as $2.533 to $4.81 million. That’s more like $3 million to $5 million in 2020 draft salaries, but it shows any amount can be the “right” amount of salary cap room. Don’t forget about all of the great Dynasty Owner specific podcasts you can listen to and watch. The YouTube Live podcast from last Thursday with special guest Christopher Harris and the one from the previous Friday were really great and highly recommended. We also have message board debates and Twitter posts that you can check out.  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!  After all, what else do you have to do now!

Steven Van Tassell is a freelance writer for Dynasty Owner.

Follow us on Twitter: @SteveVT33 and @Dynasty_Owner