Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Doug Orth — April 28, 2013 @ 8:28 pm
6.03 – Lions: WR Corey Fuller
Nothing wrong with taking a flyer on this speedy, athletic receiver. Fuller is raw and won’t threaten Nate Burleson this season, but could be the deep threat the Lions wanted Titus Young to be. Fuller is worth a third-round rookie pick in dynasty leagues.
6.04 – Raiders: TE Nick Kasa
Not much should be expected from the converted DE early on, but given the lack of talent at TE in Oakland, Kasa will likely play early due to his run-blocking ability. He does a fine job of getting down the field, which could help him land on the dynasty radar at some point down the road.
6.09 – Bills: K Dustin Hopkins
With Rian Lindell turning 36, his time in the NFL is likely coming to an end. Hopkins was one of the country’s top kickers in high school and became the NCAA FBS all-time kick scorer with 459 points. Hopkins will almost certainly be the kicker Week 1, but Buffalo’s offense might hold him back a bit in 2013.
6.14 – Panthers: RB Kenjon Barner
I understand the need to stock up at RB, but Carolina seems to always have a RB surplus while being short at so many other positions. Either way, they get their young speed back to complement the long-term duo of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Barner makes for an interesting chess piece on an offense that has used as much zone-read as it has with Cam Newton. No redraft value here, but he could work himself into the dynasty conversation once Williams moves on.
6.19 Cardinals: RB Andre Ellington
New HC Bruce Arians obviously did not like what he saw at RB when he arrived. A late second-round RB pick puts Ryan Williams on notice and suggests the team will have no problem moving on from Rashard Mendenhall after this year if he doesn’t perform well on his one-year deal. I think Ellington is a bit more exciting for fantasy purposes than Taylor, but both backs are among the best blockers at the position. Like Taylor, Ellington has a decent shot at dynasty league value in 2014, but a committee (w/o Mendy) is possible.
6.22 – Bengals: RB Rex Burkhead
It’s hard not to love Burkhead, who reminds me a lot of Jacob Hester. Burkhead probably isn’t going to push BJGE out of a job in 2013, but he has enough red-zone chops to allow Cincinnati to move on from the Law Firm at the end of the 2014 season and work in tandem with Gio Bernard.
6.29 Bengals: WR Cobi Hamilton
On a field that featured future pros Jarius Wright and Greg Childs (pre-injury), Hamilton stood out the most to me in the games I watched of his in 2011. As I’ve said before with Arkansas, I’m willing to write off a good part of 2012 for all Razorbacks in what was just a chaotic situation. Hamilton struck me as a second- or third-round prospect before 2012, so he should stick with Cincy. He’ll compete with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu for outside duties. Unless injuries hit the WR corps like they did last season, Hamilton probably is off the redraft radar. However, I like his 2011 tape enough to believe he could be the WR2 in Cincy down the road.
7.24 Colts: RB Kerwynn Williams
Most people are going to write him off due to his size (5-8, 195), but Williams enters Indy as a very good bet to steal a few touches from Vick Ballard. Williams found his way into playing time in 2011 despite the fact that he was sharing time with Robert Turbin and Michael Smith (TB). Williams isn’t a threat to Ballard’s rushing workload in all likelihood, but he is a solid complement that has a great shot to be the third-down back for the next few years. I personally like him more than Donald Brown and wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being Ballard’s best handcuff.
7.30 Bears: WR Marquess Wilson
College fans with good memories might recall Wilson was the player unafraid to tell the world what he thought of coach Mike Leach. At 6-3 and 195 pounds, Wilson has more than enough length to play in the league, but he needs a bit more bulk. Wilson has drawn comparisons to Jonathan Baldwin, but ironically plays a bit like future teammate Alshon Jeffery in the sense that he uses his size (rather than speed) to beat defenses on jump balls. In reality, he shouldn’t push Jeffery anytime soon, but a WR3 in new HC Marc Trestman’s offense could easily have redraft fantasy value (and Wilson will have a shot to do that).
By: Doug Orth — @ 8:24 pm
4.01 – Eagles: QB Matt Barkley
Hard to argue the value of the pick, although Barkley seems an odd fit in Chip Kelly’s high-speed, read-option offense. With that said, Kelly doesn’t get enough credit for adapting to his talent. Barkley makes sense, however, as a quick decision-maker in an offense that requires it and is as pro-ready as any QB in this draft. Redraft value is minimal, but he needs to be on the radar of dynasty league owners as the likely backup for injury-prone Michael Vick.
4.04 – Jaguars: WR Ace Sanders
Jacksonville is truly doing everything it can to help its QBs. Sanders should have a long career in the slot, but make an instant impact in the return game. Sanders doesn’t have great speed upside, but he is dependable. He’ll go undrafted in redraft leagues and likely warrants only a third-round selection in dynasty rookie drafts.
4.05 – Patriots: WR Josh Boyce
After grabbing their big WR last night, the Pats hope Boyce is the burner they hope will give them the vertical threat they have lacked since Randy Moss‘ departure. Injuries and an unknown training camp status pushed his stock down a bit, but any receiver in the NE offense with Tom Brady under center is on the fantasy radar. He’ll likely go undrafted in redraft leagues, but Boyce has a shot at more dynasty value than we typically expect from a fourth-rounder.
4.09 – Dolphins: TE Dion Sims
Sims rivals Travis Kelce in terms of being the draft’s most complete TE, but lacks Kelce’s upside. Initially, he should be a solid complement to Dustin Keller. He’ll start out as a player who helps the running game more than the passing game, but he has soft-enough hands to be a reliable option in the passing game. Very little redraft appeal here. Keller is on a one-year deal, so there is some dynasty value here down the road.
4.15 – Raiders: QB Tyler Wilson
Entered 2013 as a potential top 10 pick, but the Bobby Petrino fiasco led to a big fallout, which included Wilson getting treated like a punching bag. No one will likely question his toughness anymore. Ideally, Wilson will have a year to lick his wounds while Oakland adds more talent before he takes the field as the starter in 2014. No redraft value here, but Wilson could end up being this draft’s best QB if he returns to the QB he was in 2011.
4.28 – Packers: RB Johnathan Franklin
Eddie Lacy’s stock just took a huge hit. Franklin is perhaps the best all-purpose RB in this draft and fits the Packers’ current offense better than Lacy. With Franklin now on board, the GB backfield likely goes right back to a committee attack. I like Franklin to emerge as the best PPR back from this offense while Lacy get the honors in standard leagues. I believe that will hold up in redraft as well as in dynasty. Both players are still first-round rookie picks in dynasty and probably high-end RB3s in redraft due to the likelihood they will have inconsistent workloads.
4.31 – 49ers:WR Quinton Patton
Patton was insanely productive in the Bulldogs’ uptempo spread attack, but he’s not simply a product of the system. He has a good shot at giving AJ Jenkins a run for his playing time in 2013 and could be the next in line when Anquan Boldin can no longer hold up.
4.34 – 49ers: RB Marcus Lattimore
Lattimore is a luxury pick in the same way “Tank” Carradine and Patton were. The difference here is that despite his devastating knee injuries, Lattimore was the No. 1 talent at his position before he got hurt. SF will likely (hopefully) give him a “redshirt” year and groom him as Frank Gore‘s successor in 2014. No redraft value here barring a miraculous recovery this summer, but his long-term dynasty stock is very high given his supporting cast and talent.
5.07 – Cardinals: RB Stepfan Taylor
New HC Bruce Arians likely had his hand in Indy selecting Vick Ballard last season and Taylor is the same kind of pick. Mendenhall will almost certainly get his 300 touches, but Taylor is a reliable sustainer who could become the RB2 in Arizona if Ryan Williams continues to struggle with injuries. The Cards don’t figure to be a huge source of fantasy points for RBs in 2013 and Taylor won’t likely see enough time to be relevant in redraft. However, Mendy’s one-year contract gives Taylor an opportunity for 2014 production, meaning he could warrant a late-first/early-second pick in dynasty rookie drafts.
5.11 – Saints: WR Kenny Stills
Stills has a bit of Lance Moore in him in the sense that he is a better receiver than what he initially appears. Fantasy receivers (beyond Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham) for the Saints can be a frustrating lot and don’t expect Stills to be any different. Stills will likely have a productive game or two in 2013 that will cause fantasy buzz – because of the offense he’ll be in – but his redraft and dynasty value figures to be a rollercoaster given the number of options in New Orleans.
5.18 – Cowboys: RB Joseph Randle
Randle is about everything you’d expect from a fifth-round RB. He’s a solid, steady producer who doesn’t have a second gear to consistently produce the big play. More importantly, however, is that Randle has shown something that Felix Jones (and DeMarco Murray) have yet to show – durability. There’s a good shot Randle comes across redraft value this year given Murray’s injury history, but he’s not a threat in any way to Murray. Good insurance for Murray in redraft and dynasty leagues, but he doesn’t figure to hold any sustained value.
5.27 – Rams: RB Zac Stacy
This isn’t a high-upside pick by any stretch of the imagination, but neither Daryl Richardson or Isaiah Pead have the kind of size teams like from their short-yardage backs nowadays. It would come as little surprise if Stacy finds himself scoring 4-5 short-yardage scores while Richardson/Pead do their work in between the 20s. Stacy has more value than you’d expect from a player drafted at this spot (No. 160 overall).
5.31 – Dolphins: RB Mike Gillislee
Time to watch some Gillislee game tape. While not a big back (5-11, 208), Gillislee lands in a favorable situation for his fantasy value. Daniel Thomas has failed to improve as a pro runner and Lamar Miller – while talented – is certainly far from proven. Gillislee has an outside shot at stealing about a third of the reps from Miller if comes along a bit more, but he’s more of a fantasy property to keep an eye on for 2014.
5.33 – Dolphins: K Caleb Sturgis
Kickers drafted in the fifth round or higher usually stick on the roster while their veteran counterparts typically do not. In Miami’s vastly improved offense, that will mean something. Sturgis stands a very good shot at being a top 12-15 kicker in redraft leagues this season, assuming he doesn’t fall on his face in training camp.
By: Doug Orth — April 27, 2013 @ 10:19 am
3.01 – Chiefs: TE Travis Kelce
Tony Moeaki is a very good talent, but his durability is almost always in question. Kelce is as good as all-around TE as there is in this draft. He is a nasty blocker, which ensures he will see the field right away. Off-field concerns dragged down his stock a bit, but Kelce is almost the Robert Woods of the TE position among the rookies in that he has a smooth path to playing time and should be consistently productive, even if he’s not an elite talent. There is low-end TE2 redraft upside here and second-round value in dynasty rookie drafts.
3.11 – Buccaneers: QB Mike Glennon
The Bucs do it right here by sending a message with a first-round arm talent with third-round consistency to “challenge” Josh Freeman. Glennon needs time to add muscle to even think about challenging Freeman, but is enough of an investment to make sure Freeman puts together a full season that is more like his first half of 2012 rather than his second half. Glennon has no redraft value, but any unexpected hiccup by Freeman means Glennon could have the keys to a pretty high-powered offense. In short, dynasty owners could do a lot worse than invest in Glennon for a year or two to see if Freeman fails or not.
3.12 – Cowboys: WR Terrance Williams
The Cowboys stay in-state and find another weapon on offense (while continuing to ignore the defense). Williams steps in to fill the void of the departed Kevin Ogletree and is a much more dangerous receiver that could potentially replace Miles Austin at some point down the line. His redraft fantasy value will likely be similar to that of Ogletree’s (an occasional big game followed by long bouts of 1-2 catch games), but his dynasty value is such that he could be worth a late second-rounder for an owner willing to wait for 2-3 years while Austin begins his decline.
3.14 – Chargers: WR Keenan Allen
Allen’s knee injury and subsequent slow 40-time did him no favors, but speed was never his game to begin with. The Cal product has been compared favorably to Anquan Boldin and rightfully so. Don’t expect Allen to catch passes at Boldin’s history-making pace, but he is a precise route runner and steady performer that can obviously create yards after the catch. He’ll start out behind three receivers on the depth chart (meaning his redraft stock is very low), but I’d be surprised if he isn’t starting and a fantasy WR4 at worst in 2014.
3.16 – Bills: WR Marquise Goodwin
Underutilized at Texas despite world-class speed, Goodwin immediately steps into the fray as a player who could be Buffalo’s WR3. This pick is likely an indictment of what the new staff thinks of TJ Graham, who was drafted by the previous regime as the speed WR. He’ll need some time to develop, but Graham is definitely on notice. Yet another player that will have minimal redraft value in 2013, but there is a potential for a poor man’s Mike Wallace here if he is able to pick up the system and his coaching quickly.
3.17 – Steelers: WR Markus Wheaton
The Steelers have hit on most of their recent WR picks and they do their best to replace Mike Wallace by grabbing a receiver that has a lot of the same qualities as Wallace and Antonio Brown. Wheaton was a big-time producer at Oregon State and certainly more developed than the player that went right before him (Marquise Goodwin). Given Emmanuel Sanders‘ durability issues and Jerricho Cotchery‘s age, Wheaton stands a great chance of being productive sooner than later. Sanders will likely be drafted higher in redrafts (and rightfully so), but Wheaton could bypass him by season’s end and should be a clear starter by 2014 if/when Sanders leaves as a free agent. He’s likely a WR5 in redraft, but worthy of a late first or early second round in dynasty rookie drafts.
3.23 – Redskins: TE Jordan Reed
For those fantasy owners that like to chances on rookie TEs, this is your draft. Reed profiles similarly to Dustin Keller (will get compared to Aaron Hernandez partly because they both came from Florida). Reed is likely to be used exclusively out of the slot as he is a liability as a blocker. HC Mike Shanahan has a long history of using his TEs, but will need to be used creatively because his snaps will be limited due to his poor blocking. His redraft value is minimal, but slightly higher in dynasty. Still, he’s got a chance at some dynasty value if Shanny is willing to think outside the box.
3.30 – Rams: WR Stedman Bailey
There’s going to be a day in the near future where fans will forget how bad the Rams’ WRs were two years ago. Bailey was more productive than his college (and now pro) teammate Tavon Austin and was Geno Smith’s preferred red-zone option. Bailey is a technically sound receiver that will stick in the league because he will be where he is supposed to be on every play and has reliable hands. He doesn’t have the upside of any Rams receiver that will be ahead of him on the depth chart (Austin, Chris Givens, Brian Quick), so his fantasy potential is negligible. He’ll go undrafted in redraft leagues and is probably a late-second/early-third dynasty rookie draft option at the moment.
3.34 – Chiefs: RB Knile Davis
Davis was actually one of my favorite backs in 2010 (although I saw only two games), but Davis has injuries and a coaching change conspired to make him a shell of himself in 2011 and 2012. Davis showed athleticism at the Combine to give his stock a boost, but he will likely be relegated to a 2012 Peyton Hillis-like role (at best) this season. He should go undrafted in redraft and it will take an owner willing to turn a blind eye on his long injury history and fumblitits to accept the risk he carries as a dynasty option. His talent warrants a selection in the third round of dynasty rookie drafts, but don’t expect any kind of durability.
By: Doug Orth — @ 9:47 am
2.02 – Titans: WR Justin Hunter
Goodbye Nate Washington…or Kenny Britt? Hunter was the most productive receiver for the Vols this past season and should further help the Titans get more “chunk” plays. It really could be either one or both, but it cements the Titans’ philosophy as a big-play, deep-ball offense now. The amount of receiver talent Tennessee has now is scary, but given the fact that Washington’s status with the team was already in question and Britt’s status is almost always in question, the roadblocks aren’t’ what they appear to be at first look. His redraft stock is low at the moment, but could skyrocket at a moment’s notice. His dynasty value is much higher.
2.03 – Eagles: TE Zach Ertz
It’s becoming clear that Chip Kelly is looking for size mismatches in the passing game with James Casey‘s signing and this pick. Kelly loved to use his TEs down the seam at Oregon and it is safe to say those seams will get a workout in Philly. Kelly’s offense may very well be a two-TE offense in theory, but I’d be shocked if Casey/Ertz aren’t working out of the slot 60% of the time. I’m not thrilled about his redraft value with so many TEs on the roster, but the team will likely move on from Brent Celek in the next year or two, making him a very solid dynasty league option in Kelly’s warp-speed offense
2.05 – Bengals: RB Giovani Bernard
The Bengals grab Law Firm’s complement, not his eventual successor. The Bengals land a prospect that has drawn comparisons to LeSean McCoy and rightfully so. While not at that level, the Bengals are definitely sending a message they want to give Andy Dalton every opportunity to be successful. Whichever RB landed in Cincinnati was going to be a good bet to be the best redraft rookie available and Bernard has that honor (along with Tavon Austin). Bernard has a legit shot at becoming 1A/1B with BJGE in short order, making him a solid dynasty option as well.
2.08 – Jets: QB Geno Smith
This is going to be fun. Goodbye Tebow tomorrow and Sanchez next year? Smith is a smart pick from the perspective that the Jets now have an OC that can develop a quarterback, but his “fit” is questionable in the new offense. The Jets’ situation is dire right now with such a poor supporting cast, but there’s no doubt anymore that Sanchez MUST produce this season. Smith will have time to transition from the spread to the West Coast offense, but how long will it take the Jets to surround him with enough talent to allow him to succeed? He’s going to be among the lowest-ranked redraft QBs (for good reason) and his dynasty upside is also somewhat limited.
2.10 – Bills: WR Robert Woods
Woods should slot in immediately as the Bills’ solid, steady option opposite Steve Johnson right away. Woods isn’t exactly flashy, but he is very much pro-ready and will help move the chains in Buffalo. He is more than willing to go over the middle and will be a solid producer for years to come. The Bills have talked about moving Johnson into the slot more often and Woods’ presence should help them do just that. The USC standout is very likely to be a late-round option at best in redraft leagues given the uncertainty at QB in 2013, but he has a great shot at holding WR4 value at some point this season and should be a reliable WR3 in dynasty leagues (perhaps as soon as 2014).
2.17 – Cowboys: TE Gavin Escobar
One year after letting Martellus Bennett go to New York, the Cowboys take another shot at Jason Witten‘s successor. Escobar is a soft-handed, athletic TE with great ball skills. In many ways, the Cowboys have drafted a younger version of an older Witten. Escobar is not the blocker that Bennett was before he departed, but is landing in a solid situation where he can learn from one of the best. His redraft value figures to be minimal, but he has second-round upside in dynasty league rookie drafts.
2.18 – Steelers: RB Le’Veon Bell
I want so much to like Bell, who drew some comparisons to Steven Jackson earlier this season. However, I was less than impressed by the consistent power displayed by this power-running RB. This is going to require more tape-watching on my end b/c Eddie Lacy was a superior RB (especially for the Steelers). Bell is a better option than Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, but I have a bad feeling about it. By virtue of his draft status and likely standing on the depth chart with little competition, Bell lands in a great spot for his redraft value. For the Steelers’ sake, I hope I just watched Bell in the wrong games, but any recommendation I give him now would be based more on the situation he finds himself in and less on his overall skill level.
2.25 – 49ers: TE Vance McDonald
Much like former Rice prospect James Casey, this Owl was used all over the formation in college. McDonald has little in-line experience as a blocker, which might suggest that SF will be another two-TE team in theory, but pull the Patriots’ TE trick of lining up Vernon Davis up in Rob Gronkowski‘s role while McDonald works out in space in the same fashion Aaron Hernandez does. There is considerable upside here in all fantasy formats. In redraft, he should be considered a low-end TE2 right now with his arrow pointing up. In dynasty, he is probably the most attractive TE in rookie drafts.
2.28 – Broncos: RB Montee Ball
This pick is likely to be seen as an indictment on Willis McGahee or Knowshon Moreno, both of which are likely correct. McGahee is probably only going to play one more year in Denver. Moreno – despite a strong finish in 2012 – has yet to capture the imagination of the Broncos’ brass. As long as Manning is around, every RB on his team has a great shot at value as soon as he learns to block and shows he can catch the ball. Ball has limited experience at both, but certainly has the capacity to do both. At this moment, Ball appears to have the best combination of skill and situation of any drafted RB in redraft leagues. I think he is a league-average talent, so I am less optimistic about his dynasty upside.
2.29 – Patriots: WR Aaron Dobson
Assuming he can build trust with Tom Brady (always an unknown), Dobson gives NE its first big receiver since Randy Moss. He’s not Moss in size, speed or skill, but he is an able and trustworthy pass catcher. Dobson probably will not start in front of Donald Jones in year 1, but he’s a better overall talent. There is minimal redraft value here, but he has second-round value in dynasty league rookie drafts.
2.31 – Packers: RB Eddie Lacy
It’s about time. Lacy slide due to medical concerns, but he finds the best fantasy situation of any RB drafted so far. The Packers have played around with undersized committee back lately, but Lacy could bring that to an end in short order. Lacy is a power back with nimble feet and helps make up for Green Bay opting not to trade for Marshawn Lynch a few years ago. Lacy has low-end fantasy RB2 upside in redraft leagues and should be the top pick in dynasty league rookie drafts.
2.32 – Seahawks: RB Christine Michael
Michael is easily a second-(if not a first) round talent, but character concerns and the fact he landed in coach Kevin Sumlin’s doghouse this past college season did him no favors during the draft process. In Seattle, he’ll have a difficult time seeing the field anytime soon due to the presence of Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin. Second-round picks shouldn’t be resigned to third-string status, but the Hawks were simply taking the best player available. Michael can be ignored in redraft, but his talent is such that he warrants a pick in dynasty league rookie drafts because he could overtake Turbin at some point. (With Lynch likely to wear down soon, that’s a potential fantasy goldmine.)
By: Doug Orth — April 26, 2013 @ 9:12 am
1.08 – St. Louis: WR Tavon Austin
Austin essentially fills the void left behind by Danny Amendola. It also suggests the team has plenty of confidence in Brian Quick. Austin’s incredible speed and sharp cuts should play incredibly well indoors in the Edward Jones Dome. I recognize he is of slight build and most of us that own him in fantasy at some point will cringe whenever he takes a hit. But the fact of the matter is that he rarely ever takes a big-enough hit to jar him. It was eye-opening to watch Austin and Patterson throughout this process; I have a hard time remembering the last time I saw two WRs in the same draft so elusive. Austin should contend for the team lead in receptions, receiving yards and TDs in his rookie season while also giving the Rams a big boost in the return game. Fantasy-wise, Austin’s floor should be a WR4 in all leagues, with definite WR3 upside (in 12-team leagues).
EJ Manuel: A raw talent, but could see action as a rookie.
1.16 – Buffalo: QB EJ Manuel
I’m very surprised the Bills ignored “conventional” wisdom, but I think they made the right QB choice in the end. Putting Spiller and Manuel in the same backfield gives Buffalo a shot to do some read-option and the Bills their first strong-armed QB in recent memory. Given his draft status, Manuel is almost certain to be starting no later than the bye week (Wk 12). The Bills were smart to give themselves a “buffer” in Kevin Kolb. I doubt Manuel has significant fantasy impact in 2013 with the Bills’ current WR corps, but his running ability will make him a passable QB2 option in 2013. I do like Manuel from a dynasty perspective so long as they surround him with more receiving talent than Steve Johnson.
1.21 – Cincinnati: TE Tyler Eifert
Mike Brown‘s fascination with big-school players continues. The Bengals drafted Jermaine Gresham a few years ago thinking he was a vertical threat, but he has since evolved into a short to intermediate threat. From that perspective, this pick makes sense as Cincinnati continues to try to emulate the Patriots’ dynamic TE duo. And the value is very good as well, but the Bengals are not one TE away from winning football games. This is also an indictment on Orson Charles, who is likely on the roster bubble (already) with Gresham, Eifert and Alex Smith in front of him. Fantasy-wise, this is a terrible landing spot initially as Gresham isn’t a free agent until 2015 and his arrival certainly doesn’t figure to help Mohamed Sanu or Marvin Jones become more fantasy relevant. Add in the fact that Cincinnati wants to remain a running team and I hope for Eifert’s sake he doesn’t remain in the Queen City.
1.27 – Houston: WR DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins doesn’t bring the “wow” factor of a Cordarrelle Patterson, but the risk-reward is much more manageable with Hopkins. The Clemson standout should step in as an instant starter in Houston and give the Texans 40-50 receptions in his rookie year, but should be much more productive than Kevin Walter. Hopkins’ feistiness (as a blocker and after the catch) should also endear him to the Texans. He fills the one gaping hole in Houston’s offense and should be considered a WR4 in redraft leagues. He has been compared to Roddy White and the comparison is appropriate, although he isn’t the burner White was coming out of UAB. Considering his solid long-term job security and talent, he should be the second rookie WR to come off the board in dynasty league rookie drafts.
1.29 – Minnesota: WR Cordarrelle Patterson
Whereas the Texans likely guaranteed themselves a steady, solid WR in Hopkins, the Vikings complete their first-round haul with arguably the best big-receiver playmaker to come out in recent drafts. At the very least, it’s a risk worth taking when the draft allows a team to pick up three first-rounders. Patterson’s upside – real and fantasy – will most likely hinge on the quality of coaching he receives from his position coach. He isn’t getting the greatest QB to work with, but Minnesota has quickly rounded out its receiving corps after dealing Harvin last month. Patterson isn’t likely to be the PPR goldmine Tavon Austin is, but he’ll deserve the same kind of WR4 respect in fantasy that Austin does.
By: Doug Orth — April 25, 2013 @ 7:49 am
A perfect blend of size and speed.
Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.42
Vertical Jump: 37”
Broad Jump: 10’ 8”
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A
Background (College Stats)
After a strong 2008 high school season put him on college teams’ radars, Patterson did not play the following season at North Carolina Tech. He moved to Kansas the next year, became a two-time NFCAA All-American at Hutchinson Community College and was considered the top ranked JUCO product in the nation. Patterson entered 2012 expecting to be Tennessee’s No. 3 receiver (behind fellow draft classmates Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers), but the latter was dismissed from the team. The South Carolina native seamlessly transitioned to the Division I level in his first game with the Volunteers, posting a 6-93-1 line against North Carolina State’s David Amerson, who led FBS with 13 interceptions the previous year. Patterson continued to make plays thereafter, becoming the first NCAA player in four years to score a touchdown four different ways. As the season progressed, Tennessee began to get him snaps at running back, where he tallied 208 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. But he did his most damage as a returner, setting a SEC single-season record with a combined kickoff and punt return average of 27.6 yards, and a school record of 1,858 all-purpose yards.
NFL Player Comp(s): Dez Bryant
Patterson arguably has the best size-speed-skill combination of any receiver in this draft and is something special in the open field; he may be the best bigger-bodied receiver in that regard to come out in recent drafts. As noted NFL Films guru Greg Cosell recently pointed out, he has “open field instincts and movement that you cannot teach”. Former Tennessee recruiting coordinator (and current Cincinnati Bearcats QB coach) Darin Hinshaw suggested Patterson “was the best I’ve ever seen with the ball in his hands”. To those points, Patterson repeatedly flashed exceptional stop-and-start ability as a ball-carrier. As cliché as it sounds, every play he has the ball in his hands is one that can actually be a big play. He also separates rather easily on vertical routes and could emerge as the player who “takes the top off” the defense early in his career. It comes as no surprise then that he was asked to – and excelled in – many different facets of the game, including receiver, runner and return specialist. As agile and nimble as he is in the open field, he is also not averse to getting a bit physical and will fight through weak tackles. For the lack of respect he gets for his “limited” mental acuity, Patterson does seem to comprehend hot routes and has a more expansive route tree than Bryant had in his first two seasons.
As his background and one year in major-college football will attest, Patterson is raw. In his case, “raw” means he has a lot of work learning to use his hands to separate initially from coverage against the higher-quality cornerbacks he will face in the NFL. It also means he’ll be a work in progress becoming a better route runner to take more advantage of his natural physical gifts. Opponents will almost certainly use press coverage on him early on – assuming they have a cornerback capable of playing it well – until he stops trying to avoid the jam and learns to take it head on from time to time (something that he can be coached to do). As wonderful as he is with the ball in his hands, one of the bigger knocks on Patterson is that he doesn’t bring it on every play, as a receiver or blocker. Although his drop rate (4.2%) was lower than other high-profile receivers in this draft like Keenan Allen and Hunter, Patterson has a tendency to body catch, even when it isn’t necessary to do so. Patterson’s overall intelligence has also come into question, which may have something to do with the number of teams (reportedly) that he has not interviewed well throughout the draft process.
If football was played simply from the shoulders down, the evaluation would be simple and the Pro Bowls would likely be aplenty. Patterson is about as talented as they come, but needs a lot of polish. For those reasons, he is one of the most difficult players to project in this class. One of the factors he has going for him is that he is not a character red flag, so the questions he raises with his academic struggles and supposed inability to retain information will be less of a burden on a coaching staff. (Based on some of his play, I get the distinct feeling that he’s a bit more football-savvy than he is getting credit for during the draft process.) Former University of Tennessee coach Derek Dooley told NFL.com’s Gil Brandt that Patterson “can be a head coach’s delight” and it isn’t hard to see why when he can make the big play at receiver, returner and even running back. Patterson should (and probably needs to) be brought along slowly, with his new team focusing on his abilities as a returner and the routes he excelled at with the Volunteers as a receiver (crossing routes, hitches and go routes). Will he shore up the mental/psychological part of his game? That’s the (several) million-dollar question, because he oozes physical talent. Assuming Patterson lands with a team willing to build a package of plays around his strengths in his rookie season – much like San Francisco did with OLB Aldon Smith a couple of years ago – and finds a very good (and patient) position coach to work with him, he could very well be one of the most dynamic receivers in the league in 3-4 years.
By: Doug Orth — April 24, 2013 @ 9:36 am
Eifert is the consensus top tight end in the 2013 draft.
Hands: 9 1/8”
Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.68
Vertical Jump: 35 1/2”
Broad Jump: 9’ 11”
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.32
Background (College Stats)
The son of a former Purdue basketball player, Eifert began to emerge as a factor in Notre Dame’s offense in 2011 when he led all FBS tight ends with 63 receptions for 803 yards as a complement to first-round receiver Michael Floyd. Eifert was not highly recruited out of high school, but ended his amateur career as a two-time finalist for the John Mackey Award (college football’s best tight end) and won it this past season despite seeing his numbers slip to 50 catches for 685 yards. Despite leaving college a year early, Eifert leaves Notre Dame with just about every school receiving record for a tight end – including catches (140) and receiving yards (1,840).
NFL Player Comp(s): Ed McCaffrey
This requires a bit of an explanation since McCaffrey was a receiver for three teams from 1991-2003. The best current player comp is probably the Carolina Panthers’ Greg Olsen, but I was less than two minutes into studying Eifert recently before my mind flashed to “Easy Ed”. Despite being 35 pounds heavier, Eifert actually has a similar body type to McCaffrey. However, the comparison stems from the fact that both players use(d) their size, grit and fearlessness to do most of their damage as a receiver.
Eifert may have no peers in his class – at tight end or receiver – when it comes to focus and body control. There also may be no pass catcher in this draft that attacks the ball in the air better than he does or shows less regard for his own physical well-being when he leaves the ground. Despite somewhat less-than-ideal hand size, Eifert helps make up for it with superior hand strength. The 2012 Mackey Award winner has a lean, long frame with above-average arm length (33 1/8”), which he uses to “box out” defenders in zone coverage. Notre Dame used him all over the field, which speaks to his versatility and ability to understand the entire offense (and not just his role in it). Eifert is a feisty competitor, which was reflected in the desire he showed when trying to power through a tackle or when he made a block for a ball-carrier down the field to prolong a big play. Eifert was plenty productive at Notre Dame despite the lack of a consistently accurate quarterback, improved dramatically over his college career and has no red flags attached to him on or off the field.
Almost every college prospect can improve their route-running ability and Eifert is no different, with his biggest issue being that he telegraphed too many of his routes. When combined with his lack of initial burst, Eifert may struggle to consistently beat man coverage in the early part of his career. While he will create big plays with his ability to win jump balls, he isn’t likely to gain many yards after the catch. Like most young tight ends, Eifert’s effort as a blocker is ahead of his effectiveness, although that is a weakness many tight ends have been able to overcome in the NFL once they add “man-muscle”, learn the proper angles and make football their full-time job. It’s the same lack of overall strength that will probably limit his snap count in his first year or two in the NFL and prevent him from getting open against some of the league’s better cover linebackers early in his career.
Although the Irish didn’t really have many other legitimate passing-game weapons to threaten Alabama’s defense in the BCS National Championship game, it was telling that Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban opted to use CB Dee Milliner against him in coverage and even more telling that Notre Dame QB Everett Golson seemingly forced the ball to him anyway. Like most of this year’s prospects, I don’t get the sense that Eifert will be that once-in-a-decade (or generation) talent that defines this draft class. However, I do think he will be a better all-around pro than last year’s top-drafted tight end, Coby Fleener. Assuming Eifert continues to show the same kind of work ethic and year-to-year improvement he displayed in college at the next level, none of his current shortcomings should be overly difficult to overcome. In a day and age where most tight ends are strictly “rocked-up receivers” or muscle-bound in-line blockers, Eifert is the exception and projects a player who should eventually excel at receiving and blocking. While it is important to note that the Golden Domer isn’t likely to become the next Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski or Tony Gonzalez, Eifert could easily evolve into a top 10 player at his position and make multiple Pro Bowls in the right system with a quarterback who learns to trust his ability to make the contested catch.
By: Doug Orth — April 23, 2013 @ 9:13 am
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The most powerful RB in the draft.
Hands: 9 1/2”
Important Pro Day Numbers (NFL Combine – DNP; hamstring)
40-Yard Dash: 4.64
Vertical Jump: 33 1/2”
Broad Jump: NA
20-Yard Shuttle: NA
Background (College Stats)
A four-star recruit despite playing only seven games in his final year of high-school football in Louisiana, Lacy is just the latest in what is becoming a long line of first-round quality NFL running backs from the University of Alabama. (Mark Ingram went in the first round in 2010, Trent Richardson went No. 3 overall in 2012 and freshman T.J. Yeldon projects as a high future first-rounder himself.) Lacy overcame a tough upbringing, including but not limited to being displaced by Hurricane Katrina as a teenager. Although he was never the featured back at Alabama, he accepted his role as a complementary back and played a critical role in two of the school’s three national championships over the past four seasons.
NFL Player Comp(s): Andre Brown
Lacy is without question the most powerful back in this draft, faster and more athletic than most would expect a back his size to be. Unlike many draft-eligible running backs, he is already where he needs to be in terms of his build, meaning his transition to the NFL will almost exclusively be above the shoulders. And unlike most runners his size, he is not strictly a straight-line runner. But perhaps the most surprising part of his game is his spin move – which he will utilize multiple times per game – underscoring the fact he is not just a big back, but one that is light on his feet with very good balance. The first-team All-SEC selection is also not one of those big backs seems to embrace contact and will fight for every yard. For a player who runs as violently as Lacy does, the fact that he wasn’t worn down (355 carries in three years at Alabama) in college makes him more attractive to talent evaluators. Vision and patience are underrated parts of Lacy’s game as he does a good job of pressing the hole and bursting through it when it develops. Those skills – along with his one-cut ability – make him a more than adequate fit as a back in the zone-blocking offense while his size and tendency to break through weak tackle attempts should allow him to hold up well in a power-based run-blocking scheme. Lacy is also a willing and improving pass blocker, meaning he isn’t likely to embarrass himself in those situations.
Foot injuries (ankle sprains, turf toe) were a slight concern in college, which made his durability a question mark before the draft process began. He then suffered a partial hamstring tear during pre-draft training, causing further anxiety. His willingness to accept contact also likely means he will struggle to remain healthy enough to stack consecutive 16-game seasons together. While it is always hard to knock a runner during an evaluation for playing with superior offensive line talent, Lacy rarely ever had to dodge a defensive tackle or linebacker penetrating the line of scrimmage because it rarely ever happened. (Consider this aspect of his game more of an unknown than a weakness at this point, but it needs to be pointed out that big backs are typically more dependent on their lines to hold the point because it takes them a split second more to build up their speed and get to the hole in order to create the momentum necessary to power through the linebacker or safety.) Lacy has adequate hands, but it is doubtful he’ll ever emerge as anything more than a dump-off or screen option simply because he isn’t sudden enough nor does he run the sharp routes necessary to free himself.
(To give readers some idea on how I would rank the recent Tide runners in terms of pro potential, I would go Richardson-Yeldon-Lacy-Ingram.) Critics of Lacy may point out that he was rarely the best back in his own backfield, but talent evaluators – or at least the good ones anyway – recognize that Alabama simply has enjoyed an embarrassment of riches at the position. While I must admit I was turned off by his answer to a question he received on his pro day (he suggested the reason he couldn’t make it through his workout was because he didn’t eat enough prior to the workout), it is hard to knock the way he closed out his college career. If he had only managed to perform at that level for his entire junior season, my final assessment of him might be different. Lacy projects as a player that should have an immediate impact as a red-zone/bruiser/end-of-game role, similar to the role the Detroit Lions had in mind for Mikel Leshoure before the start of the 2012 season. While Lacy is unlikely to be a bust simply because he has what a lot of teams want – power – I also don’t see anything about his game that screams “must-have” either.
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