The fantasy and dynasty landscapes are filled with disagreements and debates, some of which are more friendly than others. Draft season, in particular, seems to stoke the coals of the timeless battle between the “tape” and “numbers” guys and gals of fantasy and real football analysis alike. Whilst the ever-sought “correct” way to analyse rookie prospects most certainly lays in no-mans-land, such a compromise would be far too rational to garner any kind of Twitter following.
With that in mind, the #DFFArmy rounded up eight of our best and brightest from the “numbers” side of the ledger to share their post-draft thoughts on this year’s rookie crop in the form of a 12 team PPR mock. Whether you’re a like-minded data nut, or a film buff looking to get inside the head of your numbers-inclined league mates, you’ve come to the right place. You can find the first round results here.
2.01 – Jeremy – @DFF_Graphics
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Arizona Cardinals, Round 2 Pick 15
Averaging 78 receptions and 952 yards per year at TAMU, Kirk was a model of consistency, never deviating by more than seven receptions or 57 yards during his three seasons and catching at least two passes in every college game. While his speed doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of opponents (4.47 40 time, 96.6-speed score), he tied for the fourth highest number of bench press reps at the Combine (20) and has proven himself more than willing to be physical on the field.
Kirk can step right in as the second receiver for the Cardinals, but he will need to fight with Larry Fitzgerald for time in the slot. With free-agent signee Sam Bradford and first-round pick Josh Rosen (eventually) slinging the ball, Kirk should be able to carve out a respectable target share his rookie year.
KEY STAT: Breakout age of 18.8 years (93rd percentile), 7 KO/punt return touchdowns in college.
2.02 – Eric – @pprranks
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Cleveland Browns, Round 1 Pick 1
I’m shocked Baker is still available here at 2.02, having some of the best numbers coming out of college that we’ve ever seen. From Playerprofiler.com, he ranks in the 100th percentile in Breakout Age (how old a QB is when they first have a season with a 50 QBR or better), 99th percentile for College Yards Per Attempt, and 98th percentile College QBR. Baker was exceptional and has been from an early age. On top of that, he ranks in the 97th percentile in throw velocity (for all you “big arm” truthers). Additionally, Mayfield has the two best rated seasons ever for college QBs by PFF (they started grading in 2014). In 2017, he had a 143.8 passer rating when given a clean pocket – more than 20 points higher than any other QB in the class. When pressured in the pocket, his passer rating was still a 111.6, which was not only best in the draft class, but best among all college QBs. In fact, from 2015-2017, Mayfield had the best rating under pressure each season. He did it all, and an easy choice for me as the first QB off the board.
Similar to my Chubb selection in the first round, Mayfield has to contend with a historically poor landing spot – Cleveland. Typically, the rookie QB in Cleveland is thrust into a terrible offense and has to figure it out on the fly. Going into 2018, it seems as if the tables have turned. Not only is the offense loaded with talent, it looks like Mayfield may not even be thrust into the starting roles. Veteran Tyrod Taylor seems to be the Week 1 starter (if you believe Hue Jackson… note: I don’t), which could hinder Mayfield’s rookie year fantasy outlook. Whether he’s the Week 1 starter or not, I expect Mayfield to start at some point this season for the Browns – and when he does I expect him to thrive. With Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, Corey Coleman, Nick Chubb, Duke Johnson, Carlos Hyde, an excellent offensive line, and Todd Haley at OC, the Browns offense may be a force this season.
KEY STAT: 99th percentile Yards Per Attempt and the best college QB under pressure the past three seasons
2.03 – Mike – @MikeCOliva
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Baltimore Ravens, Round 1 Pick 32
While Lamar Jackson didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the combine or his pro day, no one needed him to. Widely regarded as the fastest quarterback since Michael Vick, he rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in his three years at Louisville including an incredible 1,601 yards and 18 touchdowns last year. For comparison, Saquan Barkley, who has been called the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, rushed for 1,271 yards and 18 touchdowns. There are questions about Jackson’s accuracy at the NFL level (he completed 59.1% of his passes last year), but Cam Newton’s accuracy in the NFL is 58.5%, and he has been a very good quarterback over his seven-year career at Carolina.
He will be joining a Baltimore team that has Joe Flacco as their starting quarterback which will provide Jackson with at least a year of learning and refining his game in the NFL before he is asked to be a starting QB. It is widely assumed that the Ravens will part with Flacco at the end of this year if Jackson progresses leading to him taking over the starting position in 2019. Jackson’s elite dual-threat ability will likely make him a top-10 fantasy quarterback the minute he steps on the field.
KEY STAT: Had 10 rushing touchdowns over 40 yards in his three-year career.
2.04 – Beans – @ChristipherBean
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Pittsburgh Steelers, Round 3 Pick 12
Most would think I’m taking Rudolph way too high here, but Pittsburgh continues to put forward a top-notch offensive line to play behind. The Steelers weapons are top notch. Big Ben has a year, maybe two left? And QB comps include Bradford, Stafford, and Winston.
KEY STAT: 10.7 Yards/Attempt at Oklahoma, 98th Percentile.
2.05 – Nathan – @JhawkChalk89
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Arizona Cardinals, Round 1 Pick 10
For me, it was an indistinguishable toss up between Rosen and Baker Mayfield as the QB1. The only knock I saw in the former UCLA Bruin is his injury history which includes concussions. Rosen is confident and intelligent which comes off to some as arrogant. In reality, the guy is driven by intellectual curiosity. The landing spot at least initially is not promising considering ⅘ projected offensive linemen have spent time on the IR in the past two years. The talent around Rosen outside of David Johnson(contract year) and Fitz(retiring)leaves something to be desired. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy might be cut from the same cloth as Rosen though, and the two eventually could form a dynamic coach/player duo similar to Sean McVay and Jared Goff.
KEY STAT: Throw Velocity-85th percentile, College QBR 67.1, Break Out Age-18.6
2.06 – Lukas – @DFF_Lukas
Tre’Quan Smith, WR, UCF
New Orleans Saints, Round 3 Pick 27
Probably should have gone with James Washington here but there is a lot to like about Tre’Quan Smith’s NFL future. Smith fits today’s NFL WR at 6’2” 210 running a 4.49 with a 104.8 Speed score and a 128.8 Burst score, 82nd percentile and 85th percentile respectively. Drew Brees spreads his targets out a lot so we might not see Smiths NFL break out in year one but as a prospect, he oozes upside. A productive college player with a breakout age of 19.2, I like Smiths chances to be a productive player if owners can exercise some patience.
33.0% (61st percentile) Dominator, 17.4 (83rd percentile) College YPR
2.07 – Addison – @amazehayes_
Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
Miami Dolphins, Round 2 Pick 10
2.08 – Mason – @DFF_Kiwi
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
Pittsburgh Steelers, Round 2 Pick 28
The Miller vs. JWash internal dialogue was a tough one for this pick. An exceptional true freshman breakout at the age of 18.4 (97th percentile per PlayerProfiler.com) combined with continued consistent production led me to have JWash as my WR1 pre-combine. Coupled with his historical 19.8 career Yds/Rec, it’s clear JWash is a unique if not unanimously loved prospect entering the pro-game.
The landing spot is what produced quite the quandary for me here. Miller has the immediate opportunity running alongside ARob in Chicago, but the rest of that team is still mired in question marks, run blocking notwithstanding. JWash appears buried on the Steelers depth chart with fantasy relevant usage likely two years away at a minimum, and that’s if you’re pessimistic about Brown’s shelf life. Washington has two upsides in Pittsburgh: he can slide into the deep/No.3 role immediately, and if either Juju or Brown miss time he has the skill set to produce anywhere, and once Big Ben retires he has his fellow Oklahoma State best bud Mason Rudolph as the next man up. It’s hard to quantify the second point, but chemistry does count for something. In saying all that, if you’re in high stakes or need immediate WR production, Miller is the pick here.
KEY STAT: Career 19.8 Yds/Rec on 226 receptions. Simply absurd efficiency.
2.09 – Jeremy – @DFF_Graphics
D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
Jacksonville Jaguars, Round 2 Pick 29
Chark may be the best physical specimen in the draft not named Saquon Barkley. The man’s 6’4” and ran a 4.34 for crying out loud! Add to that a 115.3-speed score and a 132.5 burst score (96th and 93rd percentile, respectively), and it’s evident that Chark is an athletic freak. While he never dominated as a red zone threat the way his size suggests (just six total receiving touchdowns in college) and never broke 1000 receiving yards in a season, Chark has the potential to be a downright baller in the NFL.
The Jaguars just lost their top two receivers, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, in free agency, and only signed Indianapolis disappointment Donte Moncrief to replace them. Chark should easily beat out 2017 4th rounder Dede Westbrook and surprise contributor Keelan Cole for the #2 spot across from Marqise Lee, and may even assume the role of WR1 before the end of the season.
KEY STAT: 21.7 YPR in 2017. Also, 93rd percentile or higher in all measured workout metrics. He has a vertical of 40 inches. He’s big, fast, and can jump, a deadly combination.
2.10 – Eric – @pprranks
Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech
Houston Texans, Round 4 Pick 3
Coutee is a dynamic player both with and without the ball in his hands. He dominates out of the slot, finishing the 2017 season with the most receiving yards out of the slot (1,265). He also finished with the best PFF rating in the class out of the slot. With the ball in his hands, he’s elusive and finds a way to keep getting yards. He forced 39 missed tackles from 2016-2017. From PFF, he tallied 542 yards on only 18 targets of passes that were thrown 20 yards or more down the field – 30 yards per target! His combination of skills in both the short game and deep game make him a player I’ve taken in every rookie draft I’ve been in so far.
Coutee was drafted by the Houston Texans, which I think is an awesome spot for him. With Hopkins and Fuller working the outside, Coutee can thrive out of the slot in this Deshaun Watson led offense. Without a dominant receiving back or established slot option, Coutee could easily dominate the short passing game for this team. Lamar Miller is better in the passing game than he gets credit for, but not good enough to be a target hog. There’s also no established tight end that will demand targets. If the Texans also draw up some plays for Coutee down the field, he could have a breakout season.
KEY STAT: 158.3 passer rating when targeted on slant routes – per PFF
2.11 – Mike – @MikeCOliva
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
New York Jets, Round 1 Pick 3
A two-year starter at USC, his freshman year he took over a 1-2 squad and led them to a 9-1 record down the stretch throwing for 3,086 yards and 31 TDs. He struggled a bit last year working with young receivers behind a new offensive line. While he threw for 4,143 yards and 26 touchdowns, he had an incredible 22 total turnovers – a number higher than the total turnovers of 101 other FBS teams. Despite the turnovers, he was still considered the most complete quarterback in the draft. With ideal size (6’3” and 221 lbs) and arm strength to make all the throws in the NFL, he also displays excellent leadership and poise and doesn’t allow negative plays to impact him mentally. Although he only ran a 4.85 40-yard dash, he is plenty mobile in and out of the pocket as shown by rushing for 332 yards and seven touchdowns (remember that sacks count as negative rushing yards in college) in 27 games.
He steps into a crowded quarterback room with the Jets as they already have Josh McCown (coming off a solid year) and Teddy Bridgewater (another year removed from his catastrophic injury). However, the Jets didn’t trade up to the #3 spot to draft a backup. While he may spend some time on the bench learning the system, he is fully expected to take over as the starter sooner rather than later. Although he should see some game action this year, he will certainly be starting by Week 1 of 2019.
KEY STAT: Breakout Age of 19.3 (87th percentile) and College QBR of 80.4 (75th percentile.
2.12 – Beans – @ChristipherBean
Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA
Baltimore Ravens, Round 5 Pick 25
The Ravens clearly want to overhaul their entire Wide receiver corp, signing Michael Crabtree(31), John Brown(28), And Willie Snead(25). They also drafted Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley to go with their QB of the future in Super Stud Lamar Jackson. Lasley has a combination of enough size, incredible production, experience downfield, an excellent breakout age. Lasley isn’t a today pick, but the only thing Scott is good at is being tall, and it’s not hard to see a post-Crabtree future where we’re seeing Lamar Jackson throwing Touchdowns to his new “X” Jordan Lasley.
KEY STAT: 41.4% Dominator Rating at UCLA, 83rd Percentile.