In every direction you look, people are providing their hot takes about this year’s rookie class. Takes from who’s going to be the next Odell Beckam, Jr., to who’s going to be the next Justin Blackmon. Whether you have 1.01 or a late first round pick, there’s still a lack of consensus around tiers, good or bad landing spots, and overall sustainable talent with this class. So let’s go easy before bringing out the pitchforks when reading your fellow owner’s big boards this year.
This year’s draft class perception of being a “deep class” has left us scratching our heads when putting together our big boards. We saw the likes of Kelvin Harmon, who most people thought would be a consensus top 10 rookie pick pre-draft, fall into the laps of the Redskins in the sixth round.
Given all we know right now, these three players scream “RUN!”
Mecole Hardman, Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
Hardman will be the easiest of all rookies for me to pass on this year. Having only six career collegiate starts under his belt at wide receiver, Hardman relies on his off-the-line burst, and pull-away speed to support his one-dimensional playmaking abilities. While Hardman played quarterback in high school, he was recruited to play cornerback for Georgia before converting to wide receiver.
While he has shown himself to be a quick learner, he’s still learning his craft.
From his tape, we can see that he relied too much on short routes against off coverage. He has also struggled to get off the press, and the only deep shots you see him run away with are vs. weaker opponents and not the best of the best in the SEC.
As a matter of fact, just two of his seven receiving touchdowns came against SEC competition. At Georgia, he made a name for himself contributing to special teams, not as a wide receiver. He averaged 15.2 yards per return in college, with 39 career punt returns for 592 yards and one touchdown at Georgia.
Now to address the situation everyone has been speculating about. The Tyreek Hill saga. It’s downright lazy to jump to the conclusion that Hardman is a plug and play replacement for Hill. It’s hard to ignore the glaring differences in their play. While their dimensions on paper might be the same, their athletic measurables are not.
Tyreek is simply on another planet and worked hard to become the WR we loved. Think back to all the incredible plays you’ve seen Tyreek make during his time in KC. Most of them are contested deep balls in which he’s going up versus two defenders at the point of contact. Mecole thrives off easy catches but struggles with contested balls.
Finally, we have to discuss his situation. Hardman really wasn’t on anyone’s top 50 radar until he heard his name called in the 2nd round of the NFL draft. Being paired with the most exciting young quarterbacks in the NFL will make anyone want to put Mecole high on their draft boards, but that can’t be the only factor you consider.
We’re starting to see Hardman control a startup ADP of 47 overall, which translates to a mid- to late-fourth round pick. That’s a hefty price tag to carry for a kid who will need a lot of time to learn the nuances of the position and greatly expand his route tree. While I trust Andy Reid as the QB whisperer and that offense to keep the pace from last year, I don’t trust Mecole to become an instant impact player or long term threat, especially if people are trying to fit him into the Tyreek Hill mold.
If Mecole is still around at 2.05 or later in your draft, take him. But don’t reach for Mecole if you own a top-eight pick. Don’t take the bait.
Andy Isabella, Wide Reciever, Arizona Cardinals
Small school fans rejoice! Andy Isabella has arrived with second-round draft capital to a team with high expectations.
Isabella had a sub-20 breakout age and an absolutely elite (97th percentile) dominator rating in college. He runs a 4.31 40 and is linked to the #1 overall pick and an offensive-minded head coach. His only competition is an ancient Larry Fitzgerald, a relatively uninspiring Christian Kirk, and potentially one of the most overrated pre-draft WR prospect of all time (Hakeem Butler) So what’s not to like?
His search for targets early on may be limited. We know the Cardinals will spread the ball around and will probably utilize David Johnson more than they did last year (if they’re smart). However, you’re still taking a risk with a first-year coach and rookie QB. Christian Kirk broke out when he was younger than Isabella and had higher draft capital. Even though Hakeem Butler was overrated, he still is an athletic freak was the first pick in the fourth round. Still decent daft capital there. What that means is at best he’s the 4th option on the Cardinals after Fitz, Kirk, and DJ.
His size and strength are causes for concern as well. Not only can he be pushed off easy route paths by solid contact, but leaves much to be desired as a run blocker. Isabella will need to get stronger and learn how to use his power for the running game to be successful outside the hash marks.
Finally, let’s talk about Isabella’s hands. With hand measurements coming in at 8” ½ at the combine, Isabella traps nearly every ball to his chest plate and allows the ball to slip through when he tries to extend for the ball away from his mid-frame. For a receiver that relies on speed, sloppy hands will not win Isabella early playing time.
If you go back and review his Senior Bowl practice and game tape, you’ll notice that he was pretty much a non-factor versus top-level competition. You can’t fix a small catch radius, especially if you’re a chronic body catcher like Isabella.
Devin Singletary, Running Back, Buffalo Bills
Another small school product, Devin Singletary is the undersized back we all want to love and believe in. Standing at 5’7” and 203 pounds, you’d expect Devin “Motor” Singletary to at least check the box for speed, but unfortunately he left us wanting more after his combine performance. He ran a 4.66 40 time, complimented by below average shuttle runs and 3-cone drill. Most early NFL comparisons have him linked to Jaguar fan favorite Maurice Jones-Drew, but MJD ran a 4.39 at 210 pounds.
I see him more as a Justin Forsett. Forsett is the most successful RB with similar numbers (5’8″, 194 lbs, 4.62 40), who was a 7th round pick back in 2009 out of California. In nine years in the NFL, Forsett averaged 430 yards and two TDs per season with a career-best 1,266 yards and eight TDs in 2014 with Baltimore. Nothing to write home about. The writing is on the wall that Devin’s frame has history working against him.
His height should concern you regardless of his solid college production. Since 2000, the only running backs to stand 5’8″ or shorter at sub 210 pounds to get 500+ rushing yards in a season are Devonta Freeman, Justin Forsett, Maurice Jones-Drew, Dion Lewis, Kevin Faulk, Brandon Oliver, Leon Washington, Jacquizz Rodgers and, Philip Lindsey. Not bad, but historically not great company to be in.
After being selected in the third round at pick 74 to the Buffalo Bills, most see Devin as the eventual replacement for aging backfield Frank Gore and Shady McCoy. He’ll have competition for touches with recently signed free agent T.J. Yeldon as well. The potential for him to get involved in an ugly four headed RBBC in his first season worries me, but the depth chart could open up after Gore and Shady retire. With a strong 2020 RB class on the horizon, Devin could be old news in 12 months for dynasty owners.
One of the most glaring concerns about Devin is how many miles he’s already logged in his career. At FAU, he totaled 700+ carries in his three years, 600 of which were contact-filled (rushing attempts). That’s a lot of carries and tread on his tires for a running back who has a change-of-pace RB frame but has relied on volume for his production. His lack of involvement, for being a three-down back at FAU, should also worry you. Only 7% of FAU’s passing targets were for Singletary.
I don’t believe you should count on Singletary being an eventual three-down back. His frame sets him up to be a complementary runner at the next level. Currently sitting at a mid- second round pick in most rookie drafts, I’d much rather reach for a high-upside player like Irv Smith Jr., joining the high powered Vikings offense or Justice Hill who could split time with Mark Ingram at the midway point of the season.
If Devin is still around at 2.12 or later in your draft, take him. But don’t reach for Singletary in any part of the early- and mid-second round. If you can nab him in the third, you can’t complain.
Thanks for reading! You can follow more dynasty and player discussions by following me on Twitter @dynastyhottakes.
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