Dynasty Watch: Rising/Falling After the 2020 Draft

Dynasty Watch: Rising/Falling After the 2020 Draft

This article is part of our Dynasty Watch series.

It's time for a special, post-draft edition of Rising/Falling, focusing on some players that haven't exactly been at the center of the fantasy football community's attention. We should have a few useful tidbits for the redraft-only crowd, but mostly we're talking about the kind of guys that occupy the lower third of a dynasty roster.

If I'd written this same article at the same time last year, I might have discussed useless bums like DeVante Parker, Ryan Tannehill and John Brown as guys whose value had risen after the 2019 NFL Draft (but could still be acquired pretty easily in a trade). Of course, most of the players I would've mentioned wouldn't have ended up being particularly help for fantasy owners in 2019, because that's just the inevitable reality with this type of deep dive.

If you're interested in seeing how the draft affected some of the NFL's more prominent players, I recently wrote two articles — the first discussing the impact of Day 1 picks, and the second focusing on the impact of Day 2 picks. For the third and final day of the draft, I focused on the rookies that were selected rather than the new teammates they might impact, but hopefully we can touch on some of that below.

Rising

I was less than thrilled when the Jags spent both of their first-round picks on defensive players, but then they came back with WR Laviska Shenault in the second round, later adding OT Ben Bartch in the fourth and WR Collin Johnson in the fifth. Perhaps more important for Minshew's dynasty value, Jacksonville waited until Round 6 to selected a quarterback, settling for Oregon State's Jake Luton. That's not to say a Pac 10 quarterback selected in the sixth round can't develop into a starter, but I wouldn't bet on this form of lightning striking twice in the same place. A Cam Newton signing is the only remaining bullet Minshew needs to dodge.

Bridgewater's three-year, $61 million contract includes $10 million in guaranteed salary for 2021, so I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that the Panthers didn't draft a quarterback. Maybe the team eventually takes a look at 2019 third-round pick Will Grier or XFL star P.J. Walker, but Bridgewater won't face competition for the Week 1 job this upcoming season.

The Cardinals entered the draft with shaky backfield depth and came out of it with only seventh-round pick Eno Benjamin. The ASU product has some fans in the dynasty community, but I have a hard time supporting him when there's so much agreement on skepticism between the internet tape hounds, the analytics nerds and the old-school football guys. Those three groups don't usually like each other but do seem to agree on this one, while even the biggest Benjamin backer has to admit that his final season at ASU was a disappointment. With Benjamin, D.J. Foster and a couple undrafted rookies representing the competition, Edmonds is well positioned to lock down the No. 2 job behind Kenyan Drake.

Ryquell Armstead is getting plenty of attention in light of Leonard Fournette trade rumors, but Ozigbo has his own hive brewing —  The Ozigbros. I should probably confess that I count myself among this group, currently rostering the Nebraska product in a pair of dynasty leagues. He initially signed with the Saints as an undrafted rookie last year, later landing in Duval after the Saints went with special teams ace Dwayne Washington for their No. 3 backfield gig.

Ozigbo then spent his entire rookie season on the Jags' 53-man roster, logging 120 snaps on special teams and 29 on offense in 10 games. At 6-foot, 225 pounds, he actually looks a bit similar to Armstead, a 2019 fifth-round pick who averaged 3.1 yards on 35 carries and 6.0 yards on 24 targets last year. Both players should be in the mix for carries if a Fournette trade ever comes to fruition, potentially competing with undrafted rookie James Robinson

I can't say I knew much about the Illinois State alum before this week, but I do know that I need to pay attention after RotoWire colleague and draft expert Mario Puig deemed Robinson worthy of a final-round selection in our recent rookie mock draft. While his 40 time (4.64) at the combine was disappointing, Robinson performed admirably in the other drills — especially for a guy holding 219 pounds on a 5-9 frame — and he was ultra-productive in the FCS (1,917 rushing yards as a senior).

Much to the chagrin of Packers fans, GM Brian Gutekunst declined to draft even a single wide receiver, apparently content to let Lazard, Funchess, Jake Kumerow, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown compete for playing time. Lazard is the one guy in that group who actually did something last season, while Funchess at least earned a starting job with the Colts before a Week 1 broken collarbone erased his campaign.

I have to admit I'm a bit biased toward Lazard, one of my all-time-favorite UDFAs. Dude led Iowa State in receiving yards each year from 2015 to 2017, after he came 13 yards shy of doing it in 2014 as a true freshman. I know what you're thinking — he must have stunk it up at the 2018 combine to end up undrafted, given his early breakout, dominant market share and 3,360 yards in a P5 conference. But actually... no. Lazard ran 4.55 in the 40 — a solid number at 6-5, 227 — and also had a 38-inch vertical, 122-inch broad jump and 17 bench reps.

Anyway, Lazard got his much-deserved chance last year in Green Bay, averaging 43.4 yards and 9.2 YPT over the final 11 regular-season games. His 1.62 yards per route run (YPRR) placed second among seven Packers with 40-plus targets, and it was good for 43rd among 95 WRs league-wide, per PFF. The YPRR does drop to 1.47 if we exclude games where Davante Adams was inactive, but that still leaves Lazard comfortably ahead of his other teammates in those games — Jamaal Williams (1.18), MVS (1.11), Jimmy Graham (1.01), Aaron Jones (0.85), Geronimo Allison (0.57).

DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki and Preston Williams won't necessarily be the only ones to benefit from a draft that saw the Dolphins wait until No. 247 overall to select a wide receiver or tight end (and even then it was Navy option-QB Malcolm Perry). With Williams coming back from an ACL tear, it isn't difficult to envision one of Wilson, Hurns or Grant opening 2020 with a workload of 50-plus snaps and five or six targets per week. 

Wilson is the most interesting of that group from a pure football standpoint, but he'll presumably need to accept a pay cut on his $9.475 million salary if he wants to stay in Miami. Grant is the only one of the trio with contract guarantees for the upcoming season, and he's reportedly made a full recovery from the high-ankle sprain that ended his season in November. I think there's a 60-650-4 season to be had here; I'm just not sure which guy it will be.

N'Keal Harry is the real winner, but he doesn't really fit with the theme of the article, considering he was a first-round pick just a year ago. Meyers, on the other hand, earned a roster spot as an undrafted free agent, while Sanu may have been left for dead by dynasty owners after his poor performance post-trade last season. 

In his defense, Sanu went 10-81-1 against a dominant Baltimore secondary in his second game with the Patriots but then injured his ankle the next week. While he managed to play through the injury, he was ineffective for the rest of the year and ultimately decided on surgery this past winter. Meanwhile, Meyers faded from relevance after Sanu was acquired, but the rookie nonetheless finished with a 63.4 percent catch rate and 8.8 YPT (41 targets) in an offense that completed 61.0 percent of its passes for 6.9 YPA. His 1.32 YPRR (per PFF) was nothing special, but it also wasn't bad for a rookie, placing him second to only Julian Edelman (1.83) among Pats WRs (Sanu was at 1.05, Phillip Dorsett at 1.09, Harry down at 0.83).

Anyway, the Patriots could still end up releasing Sanu or even Meyers, but it's less likely after the team declined to select any wide receivers in the 2020 draft. We could see open competition for the spots behind Julian Edelman, though Harry will certainly be expected to seize one of the jobs. Other options include fun-sized Damiere Byrd and the artist formerly known as Marqise Lee.

Thomas is mainstream relative to most of the other guys on this list, but I figured I'd point him out as someone who I expected to get competition from the draft yet ultimately emerged unscathed. The depth chart behind him holds Seth DeValve, Chris Manhertz, Temarrick Hemingway and a couple UDFAs, giving Thomas a realistic shot to obtain an every-down role. Even if I'm not sold on the player himself, it's hard to catch fewer than 50 passes if you rarely come off the field.

Other Risers: RB Reggie Bonnafon, RB Ito Smith, RB Dwayne Washington, WR Russell Gage, WR Javon Wims, TE Logan Thomas, TE Maxx Williams

Falling

Maybe you're thinking that EZ Stick isn't even worthy of discussion, but I usually allow you to cling to your delusions unchallenged, so you should probably just let me cling to mine. Regardless, any thought of a fair chance to compete for the starting job evaporated with the selection of Justin Herbert, who presumably will get the backup gig if he can't beat out Tyrod Taylor for the top spot. I'm not sure if that leaves Stick on the 53-man roster or practice squad, but I do know it leaves him far away from playing time. Just to be clear, I'm not convinced Stick is any worse than Herbert or Taylor. (I'm just convinced that's what the Chargers believe.)

There's a crowded graveyard of Day 3 draft picks at RB who were the subject of steady dynasty hype but never actually did anything in the NFL. I'm not sure Hill will end up in his group, but it certainly wasn't a good sign when the Ravens used a second-round pick on J.K. Dobbins. It's probably relevant that Hill averaged 3.9 yards on 55 carries and 4.7 yards on 15 targets as a rookie, despite playing in a record-breaking rushing attack. 

I suppose you could argue that many of his carries occurred in non-competitive situations where the opponent essentially knew Baltimore would run the ball, but the other side of this observation is acknowledging that the Ravens didn't trust Hill in important spots. Mark Ingram handled most of the passing downs, while Ingram and Gus Edwards split early downs. Now it isn't even clear if Hill has a spot on the team, considering Baltimore carried only three RBs last season.

Draft weekend wasn't a happy time for this duo, as the Lions used a second-round pick on feature back D'Andre Swift and a fifth-rounder on scatback Jason Huntley. There's a good chance Johnson, Scarbrough and Wes Hills end up competing for one roster spot, with special teams potentially serving as the deciding factor (only Johnson got ST snaps last year). It's even possible the Lions stick with only Swift, Huntley and Kerryon Johnson on their 53-man roster.

Most discussion rightfully will focus on Damien Williams and Darwin Thompson losing value, but I suspect Washington and Darrel Williams also are lingering at the bottom of some dynasty rosters. Now that Clyde Edwards-Helaire is on the Chiefs, we could see Washington, Thompson and Darrel Williams competing for a single roster spot, or maybe for two jobs if they're lucky. 

With Jonathan Taylor coming in and Nyheim Hines still expected to handle passing downs, Wilkins owners are left hoping for a trade — one that either ships out Marlon Mack or Wilkins himself. The Taylor pick also was suboptimal for Hines, who should still dominate snaps on 3rd-and-longs and 3rd-and-mediums but could now see a bit less work mixing in on early downs. Long term, I even think Taylor has good enough hand-eye coordination to be an every-down guy in the mold of a Zeke or Saquon. The 21-year-old probably won't get there in 2020, but this isn't a Jordan Howard situation where the guy visibly lacks the physical traits to ever become an effective receiver.

I think we all took it for granted that the Eagles would draft a wide receiver in the first or second round. What we didn't know was that they'd also add three more on Day 3 of the draft, including veteran speedster Marquise Goodwin. Even if we assume an Alshon Jeffery trade — which could be difficult given his large contract and lengthy recovery from foot surgery — the Eagles suddenly have a ton of bodies competing for WR snaps. 

DeSean Jackson and Jalen Reagor are the best bets to see regular targets, potentially leaving a battle for scraps between five guys — Ward, JJAW, Goodwin, John Hightower and Quez Watkins. I guess you can make a JJAW argument on the basis of draft status or a Ward argument on the basis of slot specialization, but either one is a tough sell on a team where Dallas Goedert figures to play more snaps than the No. 3 wide receiver.

A recent second-round pick is still worth rostering (if you can't trade him) in deeper dynasty leagues, but it's hard to see where Pettis fits after the Niners drafted Brandon Aiyuk. Both Deebo Samuel and the incoming rookie specialize in doing damage after the catch, which also was Pettis' game as a rookie in 2018 (7.6 YAC average). Plus, the Niners have Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor as options for slot work, while Jalen Hurd and Travis Benjamin could be the big-play threats on limited snaps. A trade is the best outcome for Pettis and his dynasty owners.

Washington picked up Antonio Gibson in the third round and Antonio Gandy-Golden in the fourth rand, adding a pair of players that are more interesting than the draft capital suggests. The latter is a classic big-bodied outside receiver who had Day 1/2 draft hype earlier in his college career, while the former barely played until his senior season at Memphis but then exploded for a 38-735-8 receiving line and 33-369-4 rushing line in his final year.

Gibson seems to overlap with Sims, a 2019 UDFA who first made his mark with kick returns and a 65-yard touchdown on an end-around, before emerging as a slot regular in November and December. Meanwhile, Gandy-Golden could challenge Harmon for the non-McLaurin outside job — a role that yielded 5.0 targets and 41.4 yards per game over the final seven weeks of last season. I actually thought Washington would be in decent shape at WR with Harmon and Sims behind Terry McLaurin, but the team is probably right to bring in tough competition.

I technically still have Foster on a dynasty roster, but only because there's no strategic advantage to cutting him before the rookie auction in late May (maybe he'll get traded to Miami!). It's been a rough offseason for all of Buffalo's depth receivers, namely Foster, Williams and Isaiah McKenzie. The Stefon Diggs trade bumped everyone down a spot on the depth chart, and they're now looking at a fierce roster battle after the Bills used a fourth-round pick on Gabriel Davis and a sixth-rounder on Isaiah Hodgins

Barring any trades or IR/PUP-worthy injuries, the Bills will have Williams, Foster, McKenzie, Hodgins and Andre Roberts competing for one or two spots. I think it's safe to say that Foster's seven-game stretch with 25-511-3 as an undrafted rookie was little more than a freak occurrence.

It was reasonable to think that a team with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in the starting lineup wouldn't mind allowing guys like Wilson, Ventrell Bryant and Devin Smith to compete for the No. 3 receiver spot vacated by Randall Cobb. Maybe the Cowboys were fine with it, or maybe they weren't. Whatever the case, Dallas jumped at the opportunity when CeeDee Lamb was available 17th overall. Wilson, a 2018 sixth-round pick, will now be resigned to competing for a depth role.

I already discussed Dede Westbrook in the 'falling' section when I assessed the impact of Day 2 draft picks, and I have to say that things aren't looking much better for his wideout teammates in Jacksonville. As a Cole stan, I was hoping he'd have the chance to unseat Conley for a starting role, but it's now quite possible neither enters Week 1 with regular snaps, after the Jags added second-rounder Laviska Shenault and fifth-rounder Collin Johnson. We'll likely see four of five players competing for the two spots behind D.J. Chark, with the Jags perhaps considering a rotation early in the season.

Whatever deep-league appeal these guys once had can probably be wiped out after the Raiders drafted Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards and Lynn Bowden. The team lists Bowden as a running back on its online roster, but any snaps he ends up getting could just as easily come at the expense of the Las Vegas wide receivers. Agholor, Jones and Doss likely will end up competing with Marcell Ateman and Rico Gafford for one or two depth jobs.

Steady

There was little to no chance of the Chargers exiting the 2020 draft without selecting a single running back. Fourth-round pick Joshua Kelley isn't exactly soft competition, but he's far below the level of Day 2 prospects like J.K. Dobbins and Cam Akers. Jackson has a reasonably good shot to win the No. 2 job behind Austin Ekeler — a role that could entail 8-10 carries and 2-3 targets per game.

On the one hand, the Packers spent a third-round pick on tight end Josiah Deguara and continued to send signals about prioritizing their run game. On the other hand, the team could become more reliant on its starting tight end to absorb targets after a shaky WR position went unaddressed during the draft, plus the 6-foot-2 Deguara may end up operating as an H-back who poaches snaps from the No. 3 receiver or the fullback rather than the starting tight end. Long story short, Sternberger still has a shot to emerge as the second or third pass-game option in what should be an Aaron Rodgers offense for at least one more year.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Donabedian
Jerry was a 2018 finalist for the FSWA's Player Notes Writer of the Year and DFS Writer of the Year awards. A Baltimore native, Jerry roots for the Ravens and watches "The Wire" in his spare time.
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