There’s an overused saying that goes: ‘History is doomed to repeat itself’. You’ve definitely heard this phrase at least once in your lifetime; it is a cliche that the media, World History teachers, and parents love to use conversationally. In the context of fantasy football, this phrase often rings true as well. There are patterns that players and teams tend to follow and stick to, often enough that they become cyclical in nature.
We know that the Patriots can’t draft a wide receiver to save their lives. We know that the Raiders, regardless of who is running the team, will often take the fastest guy on the board. We also know that, with the superstitious nature of the fantasy football fanatic, there is a certain association with the numbers on the board and what they represent. While not all players are created equal, there is a meaning to where they are drafted, which program they are drafted from, and where they are ranked on the draft board.
At a certain point, these things become very arbitrary. However, if we’re basing our insight on the historical data, they do paint some rather vivid pictures of just what we can come to expect out of our prized rookie draft picks. Thus, we here at 3CoSports are prepared to bring to you an all-encompassing analysis from the last decade of dynasty league data, combining qualitative and quantitative elements to provide accurate profiles of the projected top-12 dynasty league rookies based on recent historical trends.
Last week, we analyzed Michael Pittman Jr’s and Keshawn Vaughn’s history. Today, we take a look at the consensus picks 10-8. and see what history tells us about their futures.
#10: WR Henry Ruggs, Las Vegas Raiders
Coming in at the tenth spot we have one of the most polarizing players from this year’s rookie class, speedy former Alabama wideout Henry Ruggs. The Raiders had their pick of the crop in regards to the wide receiver position with the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft and elected to take the fastest player in the draft (typical Raiders) over more polished players like Ruggs’ college teammate Jerry Jeudy and former Oklahoma star CeeDee Lamb. The 1.10 spot has been rather kind to dynasty owners in recent years, with a 43% relevance yield. Moreover, this spot has produced numerous productive fantasy assets at the wide receiver position in recent years, with guys like Torrey Smith, Keenan Allen, Allen Robinson, Tyler Boyd, and Christian Kirk having been taken in this range this past decade. While last year’s average pick at this spot Hakeem Butler has yet to make any impact in the NFL, he still has a few more years to redeem himself.
As for the player himself, there is good reason to be optimistic about Ruggs upside as an NFL player. The three Alabama receivers to be taken in round one of the NFL Draft this decade have all been quite successful (Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, and Calvin Ridley), although the last time the Raiders took one of them (Cooper in 2015) the team found it difficult to use them effectively. However, the most appealing factor working in Ruggs’ favor is not his unparalleled athletic profile ( here have been numerous great athletes to grace the league with their presence before quickly flaming out) but rather his opportunity to immediately take the reins as the Raiders WR1 upon entering the league.
Last season, the then Oakland Raiders passing attack ran almost exclusively through converted receiver turned tight end Darren Waller, who led the team in target share (23.8%), receptions (90), and receiving yardage (1,145), the first Raiders pass-catcher to surpass the 1,000 yard threshold since Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree in 2016. The wide receiver spot was a barren wasteland for the 2019 iteration of the Raiders, with their two leading receivers being journeyman Tyrell Williams (42 catches for 651 yards and 6 touchdowns) and 2019 fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow (49 catches for 605 yards and 4 touchdowns), with neither of these options presenting the team with a realistic WR1. Ruggs should immediately slot in at the top of the depth chart for Las Vegas (still not used to that), while Renfrow and Williams will look to hold off newcomers Bryan Edwards and Nelson Agholor for their starting roles.
Despite the immediate opportunity to start and lock down a feature role in his new team’s passing game, there remain some very real concerns about Ruggs as a player. While his 4.27 forty yard dash was certainly an impressive display of pure speed, recent history suggests that Ruggs’ speed may betray him, as every wideout who ran a sub 4.3 forty this decade has been a bust at the pro level, with names like Dri Archer, John Ross, Marquise Goodwin, and J.J Nelson having had a very difficult time translating their speed to production. While Ruggs did display some terrific hands (a trait that many of these ‘speed guys’ lack) as a member of the Crimson Tide (72% career catch rate with only one drop in his final season with the program), his overall production in college did not scream future NFL superstar, with career-highs of 741 receiving yards, 46 receptions, and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore. This can be explained to a degree by the fact that Ruggs was simply one part of a powerful machine at Alabama, a machine that helped to churn out current and future NFL talents like Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith, Irv Smith Jr, Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris, and Damien Harris, all of whom took their pieces of the pie as featured weapons in the Crimson Tide’s offense from 2017-2019. This presents us with a bit of a Catch-22 in regards to Ruggs’ college production, as he definitely saw a handful of targets syphoned away from him by the team’s other playmakers, while also seeing much softer coverage than he may have on a less loaded team due to the attention that teams needed to pay to his teammates. It also helped that Ruggs was paired with two quarterbacks who would go on to be top two round selections in this year’s draft (Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts), who could both keep defenses honest with their arms as well as their legs.
Given the history of uber-athletic wide receivers who have been overdrafted by teams obsessed with workout numbers, Ruggs would appear to be a prime bust candidate on paper. His case is not helped by the fact that the Raiders have a well established history of reaching on fast guys (Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009), Jacoby Ford (2010), among countless others) and being burned by them. Yet Ruggs is not the typical speed burner we have seen bust at the NFL level. Like Tyreek Hill, Ruggs can make tacklers miss in the open field with ease, while also possessing the strength and grit to bowl over them when he needs to. Ruggs’ game tape suggests that like Hill, he has the bounce and strength to overcome his size limitations on contested catches, a trait that will make him much more dangerous than the Philip Dorsett’s and John Ross’s of the world as a deep threat. Ruggs may be the most combustible draft pick we have ever seen, as he new era skill set could either lead to a Hall of Fame caliber career or one that leads to multiple firings in the Raiders organization. Ultimately, it will be up to the Raiders to develop him as a wideout, a prospect that does not bode well for the 2020 first-round pick….
Ceiling: Demaryius Thomas, N/A
WR1 upside with a QB who knows how to use him, a freakish athlete who wins with unparalleled speed and physicality. Plays the position like an NBA point guard trying to collect a triple-double (if you’re imagining Russell Westbrook you’ve won). A unicorn who will be among the most fun players to watch in the league.
Floor: Stephen Hill, N/A
An unbelievable athlete with little to no grasp on how to be an NFL receiver. Washes out after a few seasons due to an utter lack of experience playing the position and an inability to grasp the technical aspects necessary to stay on the field. Causes many front office members and coaches to lose their jobs, tarnishes the Gruden era Raiders indefinitely.
Median: Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs
Occasional WR1/2 performances sprinkled in, mostly disappointment as the pseudo WR1 for a middle of the road passing attack. Perpetual breakout candidate with just enough production to keep collecting paychecks and investment in dynasty leagues. For every triple-digit receiving yardage performance there are four single point games. A true boom or bust candidate who is seen as a disappointment by most.
#9: WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
An extremely productive 2019 campaign thanks to a revamped LSU offense led to Jefferson’s rise up the draft boards these past few months, as the shifty slot receiver displayed incredible technique and concentration in his final season with the Tigers. A known commodity even before the rise of Heisman Award winning passer Joe Burrow, Jefferson made the leap from toolsy former three-star recruit to College Football legend in this past calendar year, ultimately landing with the Minnesota Vikings with the 22nd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, as a direct replacement for the departed Stefon Diggs.
As the 1.09 on our board, history tells us that Jefferson has a 75% bust rate, with former 1.09 ADPs like Will Fuller, Stephen Hill (puked in my mouth a little writing that name), Justin Hunter (round two of baby barfing), Montario Hardesty, and (gulp) John Ross weighing down the total relevance yield. There have been a couple of gems taken in this range, although they both belong to the Green Bay Packers, with receivers Randall Cobb and Davante Adams having each registered four fantasy relevant campaigns in their careers. Based on college production, we believe that Jefferson is more in line to resemble the careers of the latter two players, especially seeing as how he will be walking into a starting role with his new team, one that we saw work wonders for the previous tenant (Stefon Diggs remember?). Jefferson’s 2019 campaign was a doozy indeed, with a statline of 111 receptions, 1,540 receiving yards, and 18 touchdowns. To put those numbers into context, Jefferson found himself on a rather exclusive list of players to haul in 110+ receptions and 17 or more touchdowns in a season, with names like Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, and Justin Blackmon (who could have been great without his off-field issues).
While Jefferson certainly made strides as a player, he had some help that led to these eye-popping numbers. According to our friends over at Pro Football Focus, 69% (nice) of Jefferson’s targets were deemed ‘accurate’, a category where he held a commanding lead in relation to his fellow draft eligible receivers, with the next highest percentage being 62% (Laviska Shenault, believe it or not). 109 of Jefferson’s 111 receptions came from the slot in 2019, as he ran 575 of his 583 routes from this position. A true playmaker in this capacity, Jefferson forced 24 missed tackles as the team’s slot receiver, the second highest mark in the nation. Catching 111/134 targets (roughly 83% catch rate), Jefferson was one of the most efficient receivers in all of college football, although he was certainly aided by the fact that the Tigers offense featured the best quarterback in the nation (Burrow), a host of other dynamic pass-catchers (Ja’Marr Chase (who might actually be a better player than Jefferson), Terrace Marshall, and fellow 2020 first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire), and a brilliant play-caller who now finds himself in the NFL as an offensive coordinator (Joe Brady). It’s a bit concerning that the majority of Jefferson’s production came out of the slot, as he may not be used in the same role for a Vikings offense that deployed Adam Thielen in this role for most of his career. Whether Thielen moves outside will be a big factor in Jefferson’s learning curve as he looks to make an impact at the NFL level.
LSU has had a good history of developing talented and productive NFL wideouts, with far more success stories (Odell Beckham Jr., D.J Chark, Jarvis Landry) than outright busts (Rueben Randle). The Vikings on the other hand, have not been as successful drafting SEC receivers with first-round picks, having whiffed on both Laquon Treadwell (2016 selection out of Ole Miss) and Cordarrelle Patterson (2013 selection out of Tennessee) this decade. While the team has hit big on flyers like Diggs (2015 fifth-round pick) and Thielen (undrafted in 2013), the track record of first-round duds concerns us a bit. At 6’1, 200 lbs, Jefferson is nearly identical to Thielen size-wise while also playing very similar stylistically. It is quite possible that this duo could become quite redundant unless one of them can be deployed effectively in the Diggs role as a field stretcher. It will be very interesting to see how Minnesota’s passing game looks this season as they attempt to integrate Jefferson’s strengths into the WR2 role.
Ceiling: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
A fantasy football WR1 who gets by thanks to great hands and an unrivaled ability to get open on short and intermediate routes while also possessing enough size and speed to pick up yards after the catch. A PPR machine whose production may be buoyed by some cheap, short yardage passes. Points are points at the end of the day though.
Floor: Marquise Lee, New England Patriots
WR3 on his best days, a highly-touted college player whose success was a product of a stacked college offense. Average across the board, heavily dependent on chemistry with his QB and the game script for fantasy production. An average NFL player at the end of the day.
Median: Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals
A true WR2, essentially a glorified slot receiver who moves the chains effectively while consistently reeling in a high volume of passes each season. Not going to blow your mind, but a guy you’d be happy to have on your dynasty team for a decade. Don’t expect too many big plays, but appreciate the PPR boost.
#8: WR Jalen Reagor, Philadelphia Eagles
At our 1.08 spot we have 2020 Eagles first-round pick Jalen Reagor, a man who many believed to be the best athlete from this receiver group ahead of such names as Henry Ruggs and CeeDee Lamb. The 1.08 position in dynasty league drafts has been a true 50/50 success rate for fantasy owners this decade, with half of the players having yielded fantasy relevant seasons. There are some massive success stories, such as Golden Tate (8 fantasy relevant seasons and counting, a model of consistency), Alvin Kamara (three consecutive campaigns with relevant yields to begin his career, arguably the best pick of the 2017 NFL Draft), and D.J Moore (a strong start to his career with 2/2 fantasy relevant campaigns). There are also some truly abominable busts from this range, such as Montee Ball (once thought to be the ‘next big thing’ for the Broncos during the Peyton Manning era) and Kenneth Dixon (who infamously lost the competition for the Ravens starting running back spot to discarded former Browns draft pick Terrance West).
Given how barren the cupboard was for the Eagles at the end of 2019, the selection of a wide receiver was all but certain with the 21st pick in this past April’s draft. Many were surprised when the team elected to use their selection on Reagor, an unpolished Big 12 product whose stock was boosted by incredible workout numbers and game tape that showed him exposing soft coverage time and time again. PlayerProfiler graded Reagor’s ‘burst’ score (a measure of acceleration more than straight line speed) in the 99th percentile, a better mark than guys like Tyreek Hill (94th percentile) and Odell Beckham Jr. (78th percentile) registered. While his 4.47 forty yard dash at the NFL Combine was underwhelming, Reagor was able to redeem himself with an unofficial time in the 4.2 range at his virtual Pro Day. Judging from his game film, it’s very clear that the TCU product has speed that translates to the gridiron, so his workout numbers simply verified that aspect of his game.
There are some troubling elements of Reagor’s game that will certainly need to be ironed out if he hopes to become a successful NFL receiver. Reagor dropped 9 of his 92 targets in 2019 as he took a nose dive across the board, with his reception totals (down to 43 as a Junior from 72 as a Sophomore), yardage totals (down from 1061 to 611), and touchdown numbers (less concerning but still down from 9 to 5) being cut in half. There is an explanation for Reagor’s statistical crater, as TCU’s quarterback play was about as bad as it could be in 2019. According to PFF, only 30.7% of Reagor’s targets were considered ‘accurate’ which ,when compared to LSU’s Justin Jefferson (69% accurate target rate), shows just how tough it was to manufacture touches for Reagor. Despite subpar QB play across the board for his college career, Reagor managed to put up solid career numbers for the Horned Frogs, hauling in 148/284 targets for 2,274 yards, and 22 touchdowns in three seasons as a starter. This presents a bit of a quandary for us fantasy analysts as it’s unclear how Reagor will adjust to playing with actual NFL caliber signal-callers instead of inaccurate college QBs who forced the ball to him most of the time.
At 5’10, 205 lbs, Reagor resembles a young Tyreek Hill out on the field, as he plays with explosiveness and power that is quite rare for a player his size. While the Big 12 will never be confused for having the best defensive reputation, there were certainly moments where the young playmaker looked the part of an NFL receiver. Yet, like a younger version of Hill, Reagor is far from an NFL-ready wideout at this stage in his career. It will certainly take some time for the TCU product to learn the complex route-running necessary to dominate as a true receiver, although he should see touches early on as a gadget player with home run potential.
Unfortunately, history has not been too kind to these gadget players, with notable busts like Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson failing to develop into anything more than viable return specialists. While it’s clear that Reagor possesses much better body control and hand technique than these two players, his development is still behind many more polished products from his draft class. Reagor’s college pedigree does him no favors either, as TCU has produced only busts (Josh Doctson, Kolby Listenbee, Josh Boyce) at the receiver position this decade.
There is a bit of a prejudice against Big 12 receivers, as only Dez Bryant, Josh Gordon, and Tyler Lockett have panned out at the NFL level this decade, but Philadelphia ignored this when they took a chance on Reagor. But maybe taking a chance was exactly what the Eagles had to do. After drafting ‘safely’ for the last decade, Philly has had very little success when it comes to finding talented wideouts, having spent premium draft capital on ‘NFL-ready’ players like Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, and J.J Arcega-Whiteside only to come up empty-handed. By taking on a high-upside player like Reagor, the team broke their typical mold, so it remains to be seen whether going against the grain will benefit them in the long run or lead to a rebuild. Instead of settling for plug-and-play starters like Justin Jefferson and Michael Pittman Jr, the Eagles are betting their future on the playmaking abilities of Reagor, who will have an immediate opportunity to start for a team that may be without Alshon Jeffery (lisfranc injury) for most of the 2020 season. While some may see Reagor’s skill set as being redundant for a team that already features DeSean Jackson (the quintessential deep threat), the Birds may very well get the last laugh if their 2020 first-round pick can hone his skills.
Ceiling: D.J Moore, Carolina Panthers
A WR1 who picks up most of his points after the catch. A high-upside scorer who can be shutout in certain circumstances but will usually deliver at least one big play per game. A great asset for any dynasty league team.
Floor: Tavon Austin, N/A
A WR3 at best, nifty gadget player capable of scoring the occasional 60 yard touchdown but will mostly be relegated to special teams duty. Should see most of his success on Jet Sweeps, End Arounds, and Screen passes. A fun bust, but a bust nonetheless.
Median: Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals
A WR2/3 who can occasionally erupt for some monster performances. Production is at the mercy of his team’s QB and of course, the game script. A consistent contributor with nice upside week-in and week-out, makes for a nice flex starter. An excellent guy to have for league’s with big play bonuses.