Every offseason the fantasy football community over values a few NFL Draft players and this year was no different. Analysts from metric Twitter and film Twitter shouted for their can’t miss players, their sleepers, and their breakout stars. Some of these players didn’t make it through the first round of cuts. Some landed on the IR like Joe Williams and Carlos Henderson. Others were cut outright, Jeremy McNichols. Others like Samaje Perine made it to the active roster but underperformed in the preseason. So how do those of us in fantasy land deal with all of the hype and the TBD performance?
Jeremy McNichols RB San Francisco 49ers
Raise your hand if you were a big fan of Jeremy McNichols during the draft process and the NFL offseason. Just me?… Jeremy “McWeapon” McNichols came out of the hyper efficient Boise State offense where he was a big-time producer. McNichols was a focal point of the Broncos offense where he posted a 41.4-percent College Dominator (89th-percentile at the position) score. College Dominator is metric from PlayerProfiler.com that tracks a percentage of a running back’s total team yards and touchdowns in college. He also posted a massive 10.9-percent College Target Share that shows he was not simply just a two down specialist but capable in both the run and passing game. He posted solid combine numbers with a 4.49 40-Yard Dash (78th-percentile at the position) as well as good agility metrics.
Things went south quickly for McNichols after getting drafted in the fifth round with the eighteenth pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was recovering from a shoulder injury and missed OTA’s. If you watched any of the HBO special Hard Knocks, you saw coaches frustrated that McNichols was missing assignments and had issues with the play book. In four preseason games, he posted 24 carries for 79 rushing yards with a long run of 11 yards and didn’t contribute in the passing game. McNichols signed with the 49ers, so don’t give up on him just yet.
Joe Williams RB San Francisco 49ers
Coach Shanahan pounded the table for him before the San Francisco 49ers drafted him in the fourth round! Williams had a few issues early in his college career. He was arrested for credit card theft then kicked out of Connecticut before he went to New York, and eventually ended up at a junior college in Utah. He went to JUCO ASA College in New York where he posted 1,093 rushing yards and 7 rushing touchdowns in 7 games. Recruited to Utah, Williams spent his sophomore season behind Devontae Booker getting limited work. In his junior year, he suddenly retired from college football but then came back. He was a big-time producer at Utah with a 34.3-percent (73rd-percentile) College Dominator. He was mainly used in the rushing game and only had a 4.5-percent (17th-percentile) College Target Share.
He tore it up at the combine, blazing a 4.41 40-Yard Dash (96th-percentile) but dropped in the agility scores. At mockdraftable, we can see that Williams trotted out a 7.19-second (22nd-percentile) 3-Cone Drill and a 4.19-second 20 Yard Shuttle (64th-percentile). Williams showed fast straight-line speed, but his agility scores are very poor.
Coming out of Utah, Williams had a knock on him for his fumbles after he had six over 289 carries at Utah. He doesn’t have the agility needed unless he has a clean lane at the line of scrimmage. Williams posted better preseason stats than McNichols with 25 carries for 130 rushing yards and added 3 receptions for 13 receiving yards, but he still didn’t manage to punch the ball into the end zone. Coach Shanahan called Williams out for his fumbling issues, and then he appeared to have fallen behind undrafted rookie Matt Breida.
Williams came out of the 49ers 4th preseason game with an ankle injury after losing yet another fumble. Before cut down day Williams was shut down and placed on the IR. Williams at this point is no more than an IR spot stash if you can manage. Hopefully, for the 49ers fans, he can address his fumbling issues before the 2018 season.
RB Washington Redskins
The dude is rocked up, and Rob Kelley isn’t that good! I mean what else about Samaje’s Perine’s physical profile impresses the metric community? His inflated 127.5 (88th-percentile) SPARQ-x score is buoyed by his bench press numbers. Perine profiles as a between the tackles thumper. At 5-11 and 233-pounds he ran a 4.65 40-Yard Dash (28th-percentile) with agility numbers that profile as a straight-line grinder with a 7.26 3-Cone Drill (13th-percentile) and a 11.71 60 Yard Shuttle (38th-percentile).
Perine posted big numbers at Oklahoma until Joe Mixon came into the mix last season. In college, he posted a 27.8-percent (54th-percentile) College Dominator but was not a focal point of the passing offense with only a 4.1-percent (14th-percentile) College Target Share. The Washington Redskins took Perine with the seventh pick in the fourth round, and many quickly projected Perine to take the lead back role from Kelley.
Perine posted brutally bad preseason stats with 24 carries for 68 rushing yards. Remove his 2nd preseason game where he had 8 carries for 45 rushing yards and the stats look even worse. 16 carries for 23 rushing yards in the other 3 games looks atrocious. All offseason it was reported that Perine was behind Rob Kelley on the depth chart and that remains the case as the season kicks off next weekend. Redskins coaches have repeatedly mentioned that Perine needs to improve his pass protection and focus on running over players not around them. Unlike the other two players on this list, Perine is still on an active roster and isn’t on the IR. However, his lack of production and fumbling in the preseason gives room for concern about what the season has in store for Perine.
Carlos Henderson WR Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos selected Carlos Henderson with the eighteenth pick in the third round, and many in fantasy Twitter believed the Broncos had fixed their third wide receiver issue. At 5-11 and 199-pounds Henderson and his 4.46 40-Yard Dash (76th-percentile) would open the passing game for Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Henderson projects as a Yards After Catch phenom and looks much thicker than his physical stats project. Matt Waldman did a great breakdown of Henderson with Josh Norris in Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio work.
Sadly for fantasy football fans, Henderson suffered a torn thumb ligament during a preseason game after a very quiet camp (seriously look at Henderson’s Rotoworld player page for little to no info), and had to have season ending surgery. He has been placed on the Injured Reserve and shut down till 2018.
2017 and beyond outlook
All of these players flashed solid potential at the collegiate level, but none of them were having stellar pre seasons or had glowing reports coming out of camp. If you held an early rookie draft or already completed your draft it is highly likely that these players were drafted in your league, as they should have been. As fantasy players, we don’t get access to everything going on within an organization that leads to decisions like cutting a McNichols.
No metric or amount of film is going to tell us which players will dedicate themselves to their craft at the NFL level. Every player at the NFL level is very good. What separates the best from the average player is their dedication to watching film, learning the playbook and honing their craft.
Perine still has a chance for your fantasy roster this roster season and Henderson is worth a stash on the IR if your league has it. The Broncos QB issue might be much improved in 2018 when Henderson next takes the field. Otherwise, it looks like a lost season for these players and for fantasy owners who drafted them.
Thanks for reading and if you want to talk FF I’m @_PeteLaw in the Twitter box.