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Campfire Chat: Finding a Future Dynasty Stud

Footballguys staff members discuss future dynasty gems

From a dynasty perspective, name a player who is unlikely to contribute this year but could be a monster later in his career. Why do you like him so much?

Daniel Simpkins: The first player that came to my mind was Rico Gathers. A raw talent with a basketball background, Gathers has been a standout in camp practices to this point. He also caught a touchdown in last night's preseason game, showing off his speed and size combination on the play.

Gathers will have to wait his turn behind Jason Witten, but the 35-year-old Witten is unlikely to stick around much longer. I'm stashing Gathers everywhere I can in dynasty and I'm feeling good about a 2018 arrival in terms of having a statistical impact.

Jeff Tefertiller: I like T.J. Logan and Josh Malone. Both rookies will struggle for playing time but are very athletic and will flash talent. If we are going deeper, I would recommend Demarcus Robinson, who could easily start opposite Chris Conley in KC. Robinson is in year 2 and could surprise many.

Jeff Haseley: I'm seeing future value in fellow Colts and Andrew Luck catch recipients - Chester Rogers and Erik Swoope. We saw Rogers have an impressive showing in preseason last year. Injuries and lack of reaching potential in the Colts receiving corps could give him the small window of opportunity he needs to get his foot in the door and keep it there - shades of Victor Cruz, almost to a tee. As for Swoope, he's Rico Gathers two years down the road and is still not owned as heavily. An injury to Jack Doyle or if his development continues to blossom and he's right in the mix - plus we know Luck and Colts love the tight end. Win, win.

Jason Wood: Jake Butt is coming off an ACL injury and we're still not clear on his availability this year. However, I think he'll be a multi-year impact starter at tight end in Denver. He reminds me a lot of the aforementioned Jason Witten. The kid is smart, tough and can play in all downs and distances because he's a willing blocker. He's a perfect fit for today's passing offenses. Since rookie tight ends rarely contribute to fantasy titles, I love the idea of stashing this kid while everyone else is overpaying for Njoku or Engram or Everett.

Chad Parsons: One of "my guys" this year has been Adam Shaheen. The small school special at tight end was off the radar (outside of a few media outlets) during the draft process. Dynasty owners are still largely ignoring Shaheen in rookie drafts despite being a top-50 pick and an open depth chart in Chicago. Rookie tight ends rarely do more than flash in a couple games, so Shaheen is more of a 2018 or 2019 full arrival date for production. Shaheen nearly broke my prospect metric projection model at tight end this year, ranking in the top-1% overall. The only other prospect with even a top-100 selection and in Shaheen's zone of metric strength is Rob Gronkowski. Shaheen is actually bigger than the immortal Gronk at 6'7", nearly 280 pounds, and quality movement for his size. Despite the NFL confirming his prowess with an early Day 2 pick, Shaheen is typically not drafted until the late second, or more commonly, to the third round of rookie drafts. Combining Shaheen's metrics and draft position, his ADT (Adjust Draft Tier) probability rivals any of the 'big 3' tight ends of Round 1 in 2017.

Adam Harstad: Is it cheating to say Mike Williams with the Chargers? Because it kind of feels like cheating, but sometimes the simplest answers are the best. He may or may not miss his rookie season, but I don't much care either way. It's not too common to have a chance to buy a receiver that was selected in the top 10 picks of the NFL draft at a nice discount, but injuries have a habit of doing that.

Daniel Simpkins: Couldn't agree more, Adam. The draft pedigree alone will mean he gets every chance to succeed. I think people think of Kevin White and panic. And strangely enough, even Kevin White is going to have a chance to turn his value around because he was a top ten pick!

Chad Parsons: More on Mike Williams...his profile of having prototypical traits and as the No.7 pick in the draft at receiver is more typical of the 1.01 or 1.02 rookie pick in a given year than the 1.05 (and later especially of late, even 1.07+ observed) Williams costs in 2017.

Danny Tuccitto: My guy's Erik Swoope. I think this is his breakout year regardless of what happens or doesn't happen to Jack Doyle, but I'm on somewhat of an island in that regard. Taking the conventional view that he's more of a 2018-and-beyond dynasty asset, which is how this question is framed, here's the basis of my advocacy for him:

  • Solely based on efficiency thus far in his career, he already ranks among the Top 10 in three of my four "true" receiving stats: 3rd in True Yards per Route Run (YPRR), 4th in True Average Depth of Target (aDOT), and 10th in True Receptions per Route Run (RPRR).
  • To put his True YPRR in perspective (2.04), Rob Gronkowski (2.36), Jordan Reed (2.04), and Travis Kelce (2.00) are the only other tight ends that have a True YPRR of 2.00 or higher.
  • In my other "true" receiving stat, True Touchdowns per Route Run (TDPRR), he ranks 14th.
  • If I do a simple aggregation of rankings across these four "true" receiving stats, he ends up No. 2, behind only Gronkowski. In other words, no other tight end besides Gronkowski is as "truly" efficient at amassing receptions, yardage, and touchdowns when he runs a route.

Now, a whole host of things could go wrong with him and his situation in the future, and tight end isn't the position where you'll be rewarded maximally -- in dollars I mean -- for hitting on a guy out of thin air, but there's no other young player at any fantasy position that's as close to the top of the "true" stat rankings and also flying as far under the radar.

Dan Hindery: John Ross stands out as a player who may take some patience from dynasty owners, but who has the potential to develop into a fantasy star in his prime. Ross may be the fastest player in NFL history (he holds the combine record at 4.21 in the 40-yard dash) and is a potent deep threat. He also has elite quickness and stop-start ability that could allow him to thrive underneath. His skill set compares favorably to Desean Jackson and Brandin Cooks.

A.J. Green does limit the upside of Ross in the short-term. So too does the shoulder surgery that kept Ross sidelined during OTAs and limited during training camp. Best-case in the next few years is that Ross emerges as the #2. However, Green is already 29-years old. As with Julio Jones and Roddy White in Atlanta, we could see the torch passed from Green (who will turn 34 as Ross is about to hit free agency for the first time) to Ross as the top receiver in Cincinnati, with patient dynasty owners rewarded in a big way.

Andy Hicks: Lots of good names mentioned here. The tight end position is one where we could pretty much name any of the first 5 guys drafted in April (Adam Shaheen and Gerald Everett have already been mentioned, but O.J. Howard, David Njoku and Evan Engram all deserve a mention). None are likely to contribute much in their rookie season due to the challenges of the position, although one or two may be backup tight end worthy during the season. Their true upside will be revealed in years two to four.

We usually see what a running back has to offer in year 1, although I expect we'll only see snippets from Kareem Hunt this year. The similarity with other Andy Reid running backs of yesteryear in Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy is eerie.

Alvin Kamara is going to be stuck behind Mark Ingram AND Adrian Peterson this year and contribute mainly on special teams. Come 2018, one or both of the older backs is likely to be gone. Enter Kamara.

There will be several wide receivers that are likely to learn or face difficulties in year 1. Adam astutely brought up Mike Williams. Dan mentioned John Ross who has a lot to learn, but his speed is something that can't be taught. My favorite receiver from this class though is JuJu Smith-Schuster. He just needs opportunity. Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown are projected to start, but Bryant has several issues I've mentioned before and Smith-Schuster offers a different skill set. He will be a PPR star in future years, and I expect him to feature in 3-wide receiver sets this year.

Jason Wood: I've been ineffective generally at taking advantage of "1st-year bust" arbitrage even though I know it's a strong source of value creation. For example, players like Laquon Treadwell or Wendell Smallwood. Dynasty owners typically overvalue rookies and then get uber punitive when said rookies fail to live up to even modest expectations.

It's worthwhile to screen for age occasionally when you're trying to refresh the bottom of your roster in deeper dynasty leagues. Excluding rookies, the youngest skill players in the NFL include:

Chris Feery: I’m pumped about Trent Taylor’s long-term prospects. The 49ers snagged him in the fifth round of this year’s draft, and that may turn out to be a highway robbery situation. Taylor was a stud in college that turned heads at the combine, but it looks like his relatively diminutive size (5’8/178) scared off some folks. He’s got a great set of hands and an innate ability to separate from defenders after the catch, and he projects to be a solid slot receiver. Taylor’s in a perfect spot to develop on a team that not much is expected from. It’s not too hard to envision him having a big role in the Kyle Shanahan offense in the future.

Matt Waldman: By far, the most talented Mr. Irrelevant ever selected in the NFL Draft: Chad Kelly. This is like a Football version of Top Gun (or most 1980s Tom Cruise scripts): Massively talented, but immature and arrogant hotshot flashes moments of greatness and enough intermittent bouts of bad behavior to put his future at risk while chasing the ghost of a relative who was a legend in the same profession. He lands one more shot to excel thanks to the tutelage of a master who was a contemporary of his legendary relative. Hell, Kelly even looks a little like Tom Cruise.

But seriously, Kelly is one of the best talents I've studied at the quarterback position during the past three years. There are three broad aspects to successful quarterback play:

  1. Athletic: Skill to create with his arm and/or legs. This basic requirement gets glamorized and over-emphasized in the media and sometimes among decision makers.
  2. Academic/Technical: Learning the X's/O's of routes, retaining plays and calls, understanding coverage, good footwork, release motion, play-action, drops, and all the technical parts of quarterbacking that require constant maintenance just like a musician practices his or her craft enough each week not to lose their facility (as well as build on it over time). This area is where the media and scouts often praise QB prospects the most. Because these skills can be developed with work and there's a replicable process, GMs/Scouts/Coaches/Media Analysts often lean really hard on this area because it's easy to make them all tangible evaluation points.
  3. Emotional IQ/Leadership: This is the least-discussed area because it's A) difficult to make them tangible evaluation points without some expertise in performance evaluation and process management B) written off as "intangible hooey" C) confused with the Academic Technical or, D) wrongly considered a byproduct of mastering the Academic/Technical. Emotional Intelligence with quarterbacking is not just learning the academic technical but the ability to process information and act on it confidently. Knowing how to tie the athletic, academic, technical, and emotional elements of football together and create winning moments is what quarterbacks with strong E.I. can do.

Alex Smith is a great example of a player with mastery of the first two elements but often missing a high degree of E.I. Smith knows "what to think" but he doesn't really know "how to think" on the football field (and the wrong kind of thinking is when broadcasters say "he was thinking too much"). Smith doesn't take enough "healthy risks" and when he does, he often hesitates a beat or two, too long and fails. That slight hesitation is the difference between Smith and Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Many fault Brett Favre for being a gunslinger, but his athletic and emotional skills were so high that it compensated for his early academic and technical deficiencies. The problem with current QB evaluation is that many teams go with the safe analysis of the first two areas and ignore (or have faulty evaluation measures) the third area. It's easier to teach No. 1 and No. 2, but far harder to teach No. 3. If you have No. 1 and No. 3, you can learn the all-important No. 2.

Chad Kelly is strong in all three areas of the game. Although his off-field emotional intelligence has flaws for sure, he hasn't been in real trouble for two years. He was Clemson's future starter (and would have been ahead of Deshaun Watson) as a freshman dual-threat option. I did an RSP Film Room where I introduced Kelly to Bloom this spring and showed Kelly literally outrunning good angles by Georgia defensive backs for a long touchdown. Kelly is physical, strong armed, intelligently aggressive as a downfield passer, processes the game fast, has a great feel for the pocket, and he's an intense worker. Despite his troubles (and a learning disability that Hue Freeze had to adjust to at Ole Miss, but called Kelly an absolute 'baller' at a national coaching clinic), Kelly has been regarded at every one of his three college stops as a great talent with an obsessive's work ethic.

The Broncos have had their eye on Kelly for a while. They see him as a player they hope to stash for a year, let him prove he's matured, and get his body healthy. None of the injuries are concerns if he gets a full year to heal his body. The Paxton Lynch-Trevor Siemian competition where neither one is running away with the job further underscores the Siemian lacks the athletic talent of a starter and Lynch lacks too much of the academic and emotional/leadership areas.

If Kelly proves what he needs to this year (behind the scenes) and stays healthy next summer, he will make these other two options expendable and have a strong surrounding base to become one of the three best quarterbacks from this underrated rookie class.

Dan Hindery: Everyone is sleeping on Mitch Trubisky's upside. He has consistently fallen to the late 3rd round of rookie drafts. It's understandable to some extent. Quarterback is very deep and Trubisky is a project after starting just 13 games at North Carolina.

However, he still went #2 overall in the draft and fits the physical profile of a top fantasy quarterback. Trubisky has great size, accuracy, and athletic ability. He has real fantasy upside due to his rushing ability. In terms of bang for your buck late in rookie drafts, he is a great option either as a long-term hold or as a player who you can flip for a profit after one year. Odds are he will get into a few games late this season, show flashes to get people excited and see his value shoot up in the offseason.