Dynasty Value Picks
The desire to wheel and deal in dynasty drafts is real, especially when it isn’t a startup. Rookies look sexier than they are and a lot of people give up proven talent for the hopes and dreams associated with the incoming talent. There are a ton of external forces at play, motivating us to over-hype rookies. If we look back on last year, some of us probably traded up for Josh Doctson, Corey Coleman, and Laquon Treadwell. How do you feel about that decision today?
This year many will do the same to draft Fournette (ignoring the game script in Jacksonville), McCaffrey (forgetting Newton rarely checks down to running backs), and Williams (despite the return of Keenan Allen and an incredible rookie season from Tyrell Williams). If you practice the virtue of patience like me, here are five great dynasty value picks you can snag without trading up.
JuJu Smith-Schuster | Rookie ADP 2.02
Pittsburgh Steelers | Wide Receiver
JuJu Smith-Schuster was a consensus top-3 pick entering 2016, but an underwhelming season pushed him to the late-first, early second round of most rookie drafts. On the surface, he landed in a terrible situation. He’ll be competing for targets with Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Le’Veon Bell. He’ll also be battling for a starting spot with Eli Rogers, who emerged as a reliable slot option down the stretch of 2016. Throw in the fact Ben Roethlisberger seems more open to retirement at this stage in his career, and it’s tough to feel great about JuJu. But that’s going to deter me.
Plug JuJu’s physical frame, metrics, college production, early-age breakout and draft capital into an NFL database and his top player comparison is Deandre Hopkins. On film, he shows tremendous body control to create the separation his 4.54 speed doesn’t afford him. He’s also super strong at the catch point, showing an excellent ability to out-muscle defenders on 50/50 balls. In this regard, he draws comparisons to Anquan Boldin; only he’s more athletic. He’s also really quick for his size, with an 11.17 agility score (which weights the shuttle and 3-cone drill evenly); a better mark than teammate Antonio Brown.
Speaking of Brown, JuJu was gifted an incredible opportunity to learn from arguably the best route-runner in the game. With polish in that department, Smith-Schuster’s physical attributes should give him a chance to usurp Eli Rogers for the slot role in Pittsburgh’s prolific offense. Even if he takes a back seat to Rogers out of the gate, Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell are one mistake away from freeing up a ton of targets in that offense. Both Rogers and Bryant will be testing the waters of free agency next spring on top of that. If Big Ben sticks around, there is a ton of room for growth for an elite receiving prospect that can’t even legally drink in Week 1.
Marlon Mack | Rookie ADP: 2.08
Indianapolis Colts | Running Back
With all the talk about the four running backs being drafted in the top-5 of most rookies drafts (McCaffrey, Fournette, Mixon & Cook), one of my favorite running backs, Marlon Mack, is falling under the radar. Available in the late second round of most drafts, Mack is looking like a great value play for those choosing to wait on a running back. Frank Gore has outlasted Father Time to date, but at 34, we are entering the rarified territory. It’s only a matter of time. Gore has to digress at some point. When he does, Mack will be ready to assume the role.
At 5’11” 213-pounds, Mack is built to be the lead back in an NFL offense. He has excellent agility and burst to get to the second level and 4.50 speed to hit home runs on offense. In fact, six of his 15 TDs last season were 40 yards or more. Watching the film, LeSean McCoy comparisons immediately come to mind, with Mack’s jump cuts and even the way he carelessly holds the ball. I would argue his physicality likens him more to a cross between McCoy and Marshawn Lynch.
One of the biggest issues with Mack is ball security. That can be fixed. His receiving skills will give him the chance to see the field early in his career and should help him become a 3-down back when he takes the reigns from Gore. All in all, there’s a lot to love about Mack’s situation and his athletic profile. If the Colts would just show some interest in improving their offensive line, I’d be thrilled about Mack’s potential.
Patrick Mahomes | Rookie ADP: 3.03
Kansas City Chiefs | Quarterback
Patrick Mahomes may not have been the first QB taken off the board at the NFL Draft, but I do believe he should be the first QB selected in rookie drafts. Like many of the incoming rookies, Mahomes is a work in progress. He has the tools to provide a huge return on your investment a few years down the road though.
I love his situation. Andy Reid’s success grooming quarterbacks is well-documented. More notably, he’s the QB coach that tamed the reckless gunslinger, Brett Favre. Mahomes is drawing comparisons to Favre thanks in part to his comparable arm talent and a reckless belief in his ability to make any and all throws (most of which he can). Favre was clocked by ESPN’s Sports Science with a throwing velocity of 63 MPH on average. Mahomes was clocked at 60 MPH at the Combine. The arm talent and swagger of Mahomes is unquestioned. What makes him even more of a desirable prospect is his accuracy and ability to make the tough throws in tight windows. His completion percentage improved every year at Texas Tech (rising to 65.7% as a junior) and his 5,052 passing yards with 41 TDs in only 12 games that year is a gaudy stat line.
Mahomes also possesses tremendous agility and speed for his size, allowing him to maneuver in and out of the pocket and pick up big gains with his legs. He’s a dual-threat with a super-high ceiling. If Andy Reid can polish him in the next few years, he’s a long-term dynasty play that could provide exponential returns.
Taywan Taylor | Rookie ADP: 3.05
Tennessee Titans | Wide Receiver
Fantasy Twitter was already abuzz about Taywan pre-draft, but his draft landing spot is causing him to slip to the third round of most rookie drafts. Don’t let the Tennessee ties deter you though. Taylor may not carry the hype Corey Davis has, but he does have the athletic profile to excel in a slot role for the Titans. With a ton of attention being placed on the two-headed beast in the backfield and weapons like Davis, Matthews, and Walker in the passing game, Taylor has the opportunity to feast in the slot. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him become a target hog for a quarterback that loves to throw in safe, open passing lanes.
Taywan doesn’t have elite speed for his size, but his agility and quickness is top of the line. This makes him an ideal fit for the combination of routes he’ll run out of the slot. Western Kentucky lined him up all over the field, something I suspect the Titans will do as well.
In total, Taylor caught 184 balls for 3,197 yards and 34 TDs in his final two seasons at WKU. The Titans felt comfortable grabbing him in the early third round, despite taking Davis with the fifth overall pick, showing they value Taylor and see him as an impact player on their offense. Suddenly the Titans can beat you in a ton of ways. This offense could be prolific in the next few years. Taylor should be a key contributor early and often as well.
Aaron Jones | Rookie ADP: 3.11
Green Bay Packers | Running BackGreen Bay used its fourth-round pick on Jamaal Williams out of BYU. Many people took notice, as some are still skeptical that converted wide receiver, Ty Montgomery, is the answer for the Packers at running back. I am more interested in their fifth round pick out of UTEP, Aaron Jones. Jones only stands 5’9″ tall, but he’s 208-pounds and still maintains elite agility. He was an absolute bell cow in the backfield for UTEP, amassing 1,773 yards rushing on 7.7 yards per carry, to go along with 17 TDs in his senior season. His yard-per-carry mark ranks him above the 95th-percentile historically for that metric. He also had a significant target share in the passing game, evidencing his versatility as a 3-down back.
I am still a believer in Ty Montgomery, but keeping Aaron Jones on your roster is a savvy move in my eyes. He’s more experienced at the position than Montgomery and could be a candidate to steal the job if given the opportunity. The production, athleticism, and versatility is all there.
Slow your roll on draft day. There is plenty of opportunities to capitalize on overzealous owners looking to throw away talent/picks for a perceived “better” rookie prospect. There is no shame in acquiring assets and later picks. Just because the consensus says player “X” should be drafted early, doesn’t mean there aren’t great options later on.
Bob, a Quinnipiac grad, is an avid sports fan and fantasy enthusiast. Currently resides in the professional sport-less state of Connecticut, but will never forget his roots in the great state of New Jersey.