Dynasty Watch: Rookie Fade List

Dynasty Watch: Rookie Fade List

This article is part of our Dynasty Watch series.

For this article I'll post my fade list for the current rookie ADP in dynasty leagues. The list isn't necessarily meant to be critical of the players' talent – it's more a gripe over the current price of the player. For instance, I thought Van Jefferson was a bad pick by the Rams in the second round, but at No. 27 in the draft order I think he's actually a solid value for dynasty rookie drafts.

It's a very context-specific fade list, in other words, and I'm criticizing the order of player selection rather than the fact that a player is selected generally. Particularly through the fifth entry on this list, these are good prospects despite their inclusion in this article. I do include a somewhat harsh Pay No Mind subsection for the final three entries, though.

Listed in ascending MyFantasyLeague ADP...

 
9. Henry Ruggs, WR, LV (1st round, 12th overall)

Ruggs (5-11, 188) and his 4.27 speed should improve any offense, but an inescapable fact is that he can be a good real life asset without being a good fantasy one. Even with all the theoretical room to project scenarios where he's good in fantasy as well, and as much as we can't ignore those possibilities, for a player with his draft pedigree he also carries an uncommon amount of decoy utility. That's particularly true for as long as the Raiders quarterbacks are Derek Carr or/and Marcus Mariota – a downfield pass is generally more difficult to complete than a short one, and Ruggs is more likely to run downfield than any of Tyrell Williams, Darren Waller, and especially Hunter Renfrow.

Renfrow will likely be the easiest target to hit on any given play, and Carr has shown an almost dependency toward Renfrow in return, throwing 71 targets on 445 snaps. Renfrow will generally hover in the 30-40 range of snaps per game, which projects for about six targets per game. Waller drew a hyper-efficient 117 targets on 940 snaps, so he'd project to draw as much as 7.5 targets per game. That there is already 41 percent of the team's targets in an offense that threw 32.7 attempts per game as a 7-9 team – they'd throw less if they could, in other words. I think the Raiders will be bad enough that we can ignore that particular concern, but the rest of the details remain murky still.

Renfrow and Waller respectively registered ADOTs of 6.9 and 7.3, which is to say they specifically hog the targets in the part of the field where Carr throws most (6.6 ADOT). Unless the Raiders mean to give Ruggs a sub-10.0 ADOT with lots of underneath routes, inviting upwards of 80 percent of their pass attempts to occur before the first-down marker, then he's more likely to run with an ADOT like that of Williams, a depth at which he drew only 64 targets on 743 snaps. You'll notice that's one target every 11.6 snaps, which is considerably less frequent than one target every 6.3 snaps with Renfrow, or once every 8.0 snaps for Waller. This leaves Williams with a 16-game target cap of around 75 targets. His inclusion in the per-game target projection raises us to 18.2 targets – 55.7 percent of the Raiders' per-game target volume.

Raiders running backs drew 111 targets last year, 21.2 percent of the pass attempt volume. Let's say Ruggs siphons some of those, lowering it to 100 targets for the purposes of this projection. That's another 6.25 targets per game, raising us to 24.45, which gets us to 74.8 percent of the team's target volume.

It's with roughly 25 percent of remaining targets unclaimed that Ruggs arrives to the Raiders. Particularly given Carr's inability or unwillingness to throw downfield, what share of those targets is a fair expectation for Ruggs? Do we think he'll run shorter routes than Williams and his prescribed 75-target cap? If Ruggs does run shorter routes, opening enhanced eligibility for Carr's targets, do we expect him to successfully encroach on the functions of Renfrow and Waller, stealing some of their shares? 

I acknowledge that these outcomes are possible, I just think it entails stretches that I'd rather not invest in at the ninth overall spot among rookies. Tight ends Jason Witten and Foster Moreau project to play about 550 snaps on an unspecified split, and they too both project as underneath targets – Witten for obvious reasons and Moreau because it's already how he was used last year, when he drew an anemic 3.6-yard ADOT. The athletic Derek Carrier saw a 9.0-yard ADOT as the Raiders' TE3 last year, but Witten might not make it nine yards downfield on a play all year. Moreau and Witten should in any case combine for at least 40 and as many as 50 targets, soaking up around three more targets per game and leaving us with a meager 5.25 targets still up for grabs.

If we pretend that players like Bryan Edwards and Keelan Doss don't exist, projecting all of those remaining 5.25 targets per game to Ruggs, then I think we've identified our best-case scenario for Ruggs' rookie year: 80-to-85 targets. How many of those targets he'd catch and for how much yardage would be determined by the depth of target and the general health of the Raiders offense. Those points are negotiable, but they're both capable of going very wrong for Ruggs' investors. As Carr posted career highs in completion percentage (70.4) and YPA (7.9), Williams caught 65.6 percent of his targets at that 13.3-yard ADOT. If Ruggs catches 65 percent of those 80-to-85 targets he'd have 52-to-55 receptions. If we project Ruggs for Williams' 15.5 YPR average, it'd project for about 806-to-853 yards. But Williams is good at what he does, and Ruggs is far from a guarantee to average that much per catch, even if he does draw that target volume and catch that particular percentage of those targets. If we project Ruggs to produce per-catch numbers relative to the 2019 offense to the same degree he did in the Alabama one (17.5 YPR vs 15.2), then in a Raiders offense that averaged 11.2 yards per catch Ruggs would instead project for something more like 12.9 yards per catch.

That Edwards problem will only increase with time, by the way. He projects to be a very effective underneath and intermediate receiver in the NFL. I don't have the slightest clue how Lynn Bowden might complicate matters further, but he absolutely could. Unless there are drastic changes to the output and structure of the Raiders offense, I don't see the long-term opening for Ruggs to become more than a WR3 in fantasy.

Consider instead: No. 10 Jalen Reagor (WR, PHI), No. 12 Tee Higgins (WR, CIN), No. 17 Laviska Shenault (WR, JAX)

 
11. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB, TB (3rd round, 76th overall)

Vaughn is a clear upgrade over Peyton Barber and should meaningfully improve Tampa Bay's running back reps this year. That fact in itself does not come close to justifying his costs in dynasty or redraft leagues at the moment, however.

At No. 11 in rookie drafts and 66.33 in BestBall10s over the past week, I think it's objectively true to call Vaughn's price tag 'presumptuous.' You would be right to say the same thing about the sky-high price tags of fellow rookie runners Clyde Edwards-Helaire (No. 1 in rookie drafts, 21.51 BB10) and Jonathan Taylor (No. 2 in rookie drafts, 27.68 BB10), but the difference is they're the kind of prospects who warrant presumption. With Vaughn's developing price tag, investors are applying a similar degree of presumption to a prospect who simply isn't comparable to the first two. It must be mentioned that Ronald Jones, who totaled 1,033 yards and seven touchdowns from scrimmage on 422 snaps at 22 years old last year, is going 87.63 in BestBall10s in that same sample. It's one thing to think Vaughn is better than Jones, but a difference of 21 picks is pretty difficult to justify in my opinion.

The argument for Vaughn and against Jones is almost singular at this point: Vaughn is a better pass blocker. According to the argument, this one condition dictates that Vaughn takes a big enough share of the offense to secure an RB33 outcome or better. It's possible enough – the RB32 and 33 in PPR last year were Sony Michel and Devin Singletary – but keep in mind that injuries wrecked what should have been outscoring seasons for Damien Williams, James Conner, Jordan Howard, and Kerryon Johnson. Jones was the RB25, Barber the RB43, and Dare Ogunbowale the RB58, by the way.

There are a couple problems with this pass-blocking fixation. While it's true that Bruce Arians criticized Jones' pass blocking last year and handed reps to Barber in response, this amounted to Barber securing 347 snaps. Barber's snap count presumably stopped at that point because of his limitations from scrimmage. If from-scrimmage functions matter, then pass blocking alone cannot win Vaughn this backfield, especially by the distance his investors have in mind. Second, even the premise that Vaughn is a better pass blocker than Jones might be negotiable. Vaughn was evidently an effective pass blocker at Vanderbilt the last two years, but what do you think his PFF grade would have been if he was blocking in the NFL in each instance? Or put it another way, do you not think Jones' pass-blocking grade would have been better the last two years if he were playing in college instead of the NFC South? What we know is that Vaughn had better results as a blocker as a 22-year-old player at Vanderbilt than Jones had as a 22-year-old on the Buccaneers. That's all we truly know – the narrative that Vaughn is definitely a better pass blocker than Jones is itself a leap of faith. Not just that, but Jones reportedly bulked up to 220 pounds this offseason, so between a stronger frame and the benefits of two years of NFL experience, it wouldn't be surprising if Jones were a better pass blocker this year than he was in the previous two.

There is a real possibility that Vaughn breaks even with Jones as a blocker, leaving him otherwise as just an older, smaller, slower player. At the moment I'd say Vaughn reasonably compares to Sony Michel, a player who notably secures high pass-blocking grades from PFF. Vaughn ran a 4.51-second 40 at 5-foot-10, 214 pounds, and Michel ran a 4.54 at 5-foot-11, 214 pounds. Michel hasn't made an impact as a pass catcher, though, and I think Vaughn carries a similar risk there. Despite his struggles as a pass blocker, Jones was strong as a pass catcher last year, turning 40 targets into 31 receptions for 309 yards (75.6 percent catch rate, 7.7 YPT). It's not enough for Vaughn to be a better pass blocker than Jones – Vaughn's current investors need him to at least be a better pass blocker and pass catcher both, and in addition to that they probably need Vaughn to be better than Jones as a pure runner. I think it's asking too much.

Consider instead: No. 16 Zack Moss (RB, BUF), No. 17 A.J. Dillon (RB, GB), No. 18 Laviska Shenault (WR, JAX)

 
13. Denzel Mims, WR, NYJ (2nd round, 59th overall) and 14. Michael Pittman, WR, IND (2nd round, 34th overall)

Mims and Pittman are both promising prospects with substantial dynasty value, I just think they face enough obstacles to push them about five spots back in the rankings. While Pittman faces a quarterback question as well as T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell, and Zach Pascal on the depth cart, Mims also faces as many as three receivers ahead of him, but two of them (Jamison Crowder and Quincy Enunwa) are injury prone, and the third (Breshad Perriman) is on a one-year deal.

That's still more to deal with than what first-round wideout Brandon Aiyuk (No. 15) faces in San Francisco, or second-round pick Laviska Shenault (No. 17) does in Jacksonville. Aiyuk should be the second 49ers outside wideout after Deebo Samuel, with Trent Taylor and Kendrick Bourne mostly fighting over the slot. That could result in Aiyuk playing the Emmanuel Sanders role from last year, in what should be a more functional passing game than those of the Jets or Colts. DJ Chark and Chris Conley were both effective outside last year, whereas slot wideout Dede Westbrook was once again a drain on the offense. That works for Shenault's interests, because it would be easy to feature his YAC skill set from the lower-ADOT slot targets. Shenault can chase catch-and-run opportunities underneath while Chark and Conley pose downfield threats.

Consider instead: 15. Brandon Aiyuk (WR, SF), 17. Laviska Shenault (WR, JAX)

 
31. Devin Asiasi, TE, NE (3rd round, 91st overall)

Asiasi is a generally fine buy at 31, but I think No. 40 teammate and fellow tight end Dalton Keene is the preferable target for both dynasty and redraft purposes. Both rookie tight ends should displace Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo fairly early on, but Keene is the best athlete of the group and has considerable developmental upside. 

Asiasi (6-3, 256) possesses plus speed (4.73 40) at plus density, and he posted both considerable volume and efficiency as a receiver in 2019, catching 44 of 70 targets for 641 yards and four touchdowns. That's a 62.8 percent catch rate at 9.2 yards per target in an offense that completed 61.0 percent of its passes at 7.2 yards per attempt – production well above the baseline. The problem is that Asiasi was a 22-year-old fourth-year player, so he gets diminished returns for his otherwise strong 2019 production. He drew only two targets as a true freshman at Michigan, after which he transferred to UCLA. He suited back up as a third-year player in 2018, but he opened the season with a three-game suspension before drawing just eight targets in nine games. Asiasi was backup that year to Caleb Wilson, the Mr. Irrelevant of the 2019 draft.

Whereas Asiasi turned 22 before he drew his 11th collegiate target, Keene only turned 21 on April 14. Keene accumulated 70 career targets before then, catching 59 for 748 yards and eight touchdowns. That's an 84.3 percent catch rate at 10.7 yards per target, and he otherwise demonstrated an Austin Hooper-like athletic profile at the combine with a 4.71-second 40, 34-inch vertical, 125-inch broad jump, and 11.26 agility score at 6-foot-4, 253 pounds.

Consider instead: 40. Dalton Keene (TE, NE)

 
32. Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, WAS (4th round, 142nd overall)

Gandy-Golden is an interesting prospect out of Liberty, one who produced at an uncommonly high level, and I expect him to be a useful player for Washington. There are two problems, however. The first is that we can't take much for granted with Washington's quarterback play – Dwayne Haskins may be good yet, but he also might be quite bad, and Kyle Allen is almost certainly quite bad. The second problem is that Gandy-Golden will likely open as the WR4 in Washington – the third outside receiver behind Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon while Steven Sims does most of the slot work. Gandy-Golden is likely a better athlete than Harmon, though, and could earn that second outside receiver role at some point. Even in that case, though, Gandy-Golden would likely be no better than the third-leading target on a team that could still be among the worst passing offenses.

Consider instead: 37. Quintez Cephus (WR, DET), 42. Gabriel Davis (WR, BUF)

 
36. DeeJay Dallas, RB, SEA (4th round, 144th overall)

I think Dallas projects as the RB4 in Seattle. If that's correct, then his fourth round pedigree would be a bit misleading, because he would likely be further away from the field than at least several other rookie runners who went later than or maybe even undrafted after Dallas. Dallas was an off-the-bench runner at Miami (FL), where he pertinently was backup to fellow Seahawk and 2019 sixth-round pick Travis Homer. Homer made the team last year and saw some playing time late in the year, yet he's only about a month older than Dallas, who still has his rookie learning curve ahead of him. Dallas' frame is good at 5-foot-10, 217 pounds, it's just that the athletic testing was only average otherwise (4.58 40, 33.5-inch vertical, 119-inch broad jump, and 11.5 agility score). Homer not only played ahead of and outproduced Dallas at Miami, but he presents much more explosiveness with a 4.48-second 40, 39.5-inch vertical, and 130-inch broad jump. While Homer (5-foot-10, 201 pounds) did that testing at 16 pounds lighter than Dallas, I don't think it closes the gap very much since Homer did his testing at nearly a year younger than when Dallas did his.

Dallas earned passing down praise from NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, and on tape he shows plenty of motor and anchor, so I think he'll stick to the Seattle roster with relative ease. He was largely a big-play runner in college, though, and it's unlikely he has the athleticism to run through open field as well as he did in college. I therefore doubt he'll outplay Homer for reps, and the chances of him stealing reps from Chris Carson or a healthy Rashaad Penny (knee) strike me as next to impossible. I would more likely revisit Dallas as a potential buy-low candidate when he nears the expiration of his rookie contract. His best chance of producing will likely be with his second NFL team.

Consider instead: 37. Quintez Cephus (WR, DET), 40. Dalton Keene (TE, NE), 42. Gabriel Davis (WR, BUF), 50. Jason Huntley (RB, DET)

 
 
PAY NO MIND

I really believe you can consider these players as near zeroes for dynasty capital at the moment. It might be difficult to roster them as anything more than taxi squad.

44. K.J. Hill, WR, LAC (7th round, 220th overall)

Hill has some encouraging production details over his five years at Ohio State, but with the redshirt comes a higher standard of scrutiny, and Hill never developed into the dominant force a fifth-year starting Ohio State receiver should. That might have been due to his poor athleticism – at 6-foot, 196 pounds Hill's 4.6 40, 32.5-inch vertical, and 114-inch broad jump were dreadful. Hill's age-22 season saw him catch 75 percent of his targets at 8.4 yards per target with 10 touchdowns on just 56 catches – impressive numbers at a glance – but the Buckeyes passing game completed 66.7 percent of its passes at 9.1 yards per target. Generally speaking, I see it as a red flag when a fifth-year receiver fails to outproduce the team baseline, especially if their yardage share (17.3 percent) is unimpressive. Hill was less effective than true sophomore Chris Olave (64.5 percent catch rate, 11.2 YPT), and undrafted teammate Binjimen Victor only trailed Hill by only 91 yards.

Although he has some skills in the slot, Hill's profoundly poor athletic testing provides a viable explanation for why Hill never surged past the Ohio State baseline even with an age advantage over his peers. The long-term health of the Chargers passing game is not encouraging, moreover, and given his slot-dependent athletic limitations Hill would specifically need slot star Keenan Allen to leave the picture before he could project for any playing time, even in which case he'd project for below-average per-snap production.

Consider instead: No. 47 John Hightower (WR, PHI), No. 48 Darnell Mooney (WR, CHI), No. 51 Jason Huntley (RB, DET), No. 53 James Proche (WR, BAL), No. 54 Joe Reed (WR, LAC), No. 60 Jauan Jennings (WR, SF)

 
49. Josiah Deguara, TE, GB (3rd round, 94th overall)

Deguara's inclusion on the list is for a pretty simple reason: he's barely a tight end, and even his proponents acknowledge he's supposed to be a Kyle Juszczyk rather than whatever fantasy-viable tight end you might have in mind.

With that said, if he does get an audition at tight end I think he will fail there. Deguara (6-2, 242) was too light for his workout numbers to grade at a standout level, the 4.72 40, 35.5-inch vertical, 115-inch broad jump, and 11.5 agility score grading as below average when adjusting for size. As a fourth-year player in 2018 Deguara caught 57.6 percent of his targets at 7.1 yards per target in an offense that completed 60.7 percent of its passes at 7.6 yards per attempt. Even as a fifth-year player in 2019 Deguara barely produced at the baseline of the Cincinnati passing game – a 54.9 percent catch rate at 7.1 yards per target in an offense that completed 55.2 percent of its passes at 6.8 yards per attempt. Jace Sternberger might suck, but I don't think Deguara will rise to the occasion even in that case.


Consider instead: Anyone but Colby Parkinson

60. Colby Parkinson, TE, SEA (4th round, 133rd overall)

I wouldn't have spent a draft pick on Parkinson, let alone a fourth-round pick. He wasn't even a good college tight end, and his athletic tools don't imply developmental upside. In his last two collegiate seasons Parkinson caught 77 of 145 targets for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns (53.1 percent catch rate, 7.4 YPT) in an offense that completed 63.0 percent of its passes at 7.7 yards per attempt. That production is well below the team baseline, which is a major red flag. The Stanford connection might intrigue some but Parkinson probably isn't as good as Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, or Dalton Schultz. If you for some reason had dreams of Zach Ertz or Austin Hooper, let it go.

You find a viable explanation for Parkinson's poor production in his questionable athletic profile. He's billed as a novel big-play threat at 6-foot-7, 252 pounds, but there's no evidence that he has any unique functional football athleticism. According to Mockdraftable.com, Parkinson's 4.77-second 40 is just barely above average for tight ends – 51st percentile – but this is offset off the bat by his below average weight (44th percentile). Parkinson might in some sense be fast for someone as tall as he is, but he's not fast for his weight, and he just as importantly is thin for his height. His poor production gives the impression that he has no substantial skill set traits with which to offset the deficit posed by his athletic profile. The Seahawks selected a better tight end prospect in the seventh round with Stephen Sullivan out of LSU, and I probably have to think Parkinson spends time on the practice squad this year.

Consider instead: Anyone

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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