Updated: Aug 7, 2020
Written by Kyle Pottorf (@kyle_pottorf)
If you're anything like me, you spend countless hours after the college football season studying every single one of the incoming rookies. You scour through all the game film, advanced metrics, combine numbers and anything else you can get your hands on to scout the players. Because every dynasty player knows that hitting on rookie picks is one of the most impactful things you can do for your team and can propel you into an extended period of sustained success.
Every year in dynasty rookie drafts there is at least one player (typically multiple) that falls into the second, third, and even fourth rounds that end up being incredible values and become integral parts of your dynasty team. In 2017, it was Cooper Kupp at the back of the second round, and both Kenny Golladay and Chris Godwin fell to the middle of the third round. (All ADP data is via the fantasy football calculator) In 2018, it was Michael Gallup in the second round and DJ Chark in the third round. And just last year it was Diontae Johnson and Terry McLaurin both falling into the third round. Every single one of the players named would be phenomenal picks in the first round and they were all getting drafted in the second round or later on average. Those are the types of picks that can make you dynasty team elite for 5+ years.
The 2020 draft class is one of the most loaded classes in recent history. These are five players that could be tremendous values in your rookie draft and set your team up to be successful for years to come. (All 2020 post-NFL draft rookie draft info is via rotoballer.com)
Laviska Shenault - Laviska Shenault is currently going in the middle of the second round in dynasty rookie drafts (pick 2.05). Shenault is an athletic monster on tape, an incredible RAC receiver, and has some of the best hands in the class. Shenault joins a Jaguars receiving core that is led by DJ Chark. The rest of the main WR core is filled by Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook as solid depth receivers for the team. The Jaguars were in a weird transition year last year with their offense after Nick Foles went down with a season-ending injury and Gardner Minshew (6th round rookie) was forced into the starting role. Minshew showed some flashes of solid QB play in his rookie year and relied very heavily on feeding the ball in the short passing game to Leonard Fournette (100 targets) and Dede Westbrook (101 targets). Both players struggled with efficiency in the receiving game in 2019, which led the Jaguars to draft Shenault in the early second round as the ninth WR drafted. Shenault thrived all over the field at Colorado but was most impactful in the short passing game (screens, slants, etc.) when he can show off his incredible RAC ability. Laviska has a phenomenal opportunity to establish himself as an integral part of the Jaguars short passing game and could see upwards of 80 targets due to Minshew's tendency to target shorter routes frequently. Not only is Shenault very impactful in the receiving game, but he is also a dynamic threat in the running game (6.7 ypc and 7 rushing TD's in his Colorado career). The Jaguars have shown their displeasure with Fournette's productivity on the field and attitude problems. These issues pushed Jacksonville to try and trade Fournette this past offseason. As a result of the team's frustration with Fournette, Shenault could get some additional involvement in the running game. Laviska Shenaults explosiveness, athleticism, and versatility should make him a great fantasy player and an enormous value in the second round of your dynasty rookie draft.
(picture is via latimes.com)
Denzel Mims - Denzel Mims is currently being drafted in the middle of the second round of dynasty rookie drafts (pick 2.06). Mims shot up draft boards after the NFL combine when he tested in the 80th percentile or higher in height, arm length, 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, and three-cone drill. Denzel Mims joins a very underwhelming WR core in New York that is currently led by a solid slot receiver in Jamison Crowder and recently signed Breshad Perriman. He fell into the second round, but Mims is still believed to be the most talented outside receiver that the Jets have on their roster and projects as a number one target for Sam Darnold. Mims was uber-productive at Baylor, totaling 182 receptions for 2,900 yards and 28 TDs in his three years of starting experience in college. The Jets have vacated 154 targets and 88 receptions from last year, which leaves plenty of opportunities for Mims to step into the number one outside receiver for the Jets. Denzel Mims projects as a prototypical X receiver in New York for a promising young QB in Sam Darnold. Drafting this talented of a receiver in the middle of the second round would be a tremendous value in your rookie drafts.
Bryan Edwards - Bryan Edwards had one of the most interesting pre-draft processes of any of the early round WR's. Prior to the NFL combine, Edwards broke his foot and as a result, was unable to participate. Due to the foot injury, Edwards fell into the third round of the NFL draft and into the mid/late second round in dynasty rookie drafts. Edwards is one of the best route runners in this draft class and profiles as a prototypical X receiver in the NFL. He enters a solid situation in Las Vegas, due to the lack of an already established number one receiver. The Raiders drafted Henry Ruggs (Ruggs projects as the Z receiver for Las Vegas) in the first round. Edwards has a very good chance to come in right away and be one of the top three most targeted players on the team. With his route running and catch radius, he should be able to fill up the stat sheet. The Raiders have made it quite known to the NFL that they were not pleased with who they had at receiver. You can look to the large amount of money they gave to Tyrell Williams, the trade for Zay Jones, and the heavy involvement of their 2019 fifth round rookie WR Hunter Renfrow, as evidence of the teams' desire to find better options in the receiving game. Williams signed with the Raiders as a free agent prior to the 2019 season and for the most part, was a disappointment as the Raiders number one wide receiver. Williams struggled to get open (only 64 targets) and failed to hit 50 receptions or 700 receiving yards. His struggles played a major part in the front office looking for better options in the draft to be the team's number one wide receiver. As for Zay Jones, he joined the team in early October and totaled 27 targets throughout the remainder of the season and is considered "not a lock" to make the team in 2020, which would provide more opportunity for Edwards to be involved early on. The moves made by the Raiders could finally be steps in the right direction to fixing their receiver problem and Bryan Edwards should have a major role in that.
Anthony McFarland - Anthony McFarland comes into an interesting situation with the Pittsburgh Steelers. McFarland has been falling to the late second/early third round in most rookie drafts. He is one of the rookie RB's outside of the top five guys that has a decent chance to get a solid workload in year one. McFarland enters a backfield in Pittsburgh that is quite crowded but one that is void of an elite three-down back. James Connor has been solid in the past but has struggled to stay healthy, and Benny Snell was less than stellar as a rookie and doesn't have great receiving ability. That is one area of McFarland's game that popped when watching Maryland game film. He totaled 17 receptions in 2019 on a Maryland team that was all over the place at quarterback and ranked 11th in the Big Ten in points scored and 12th in the Big Ten in passing yards per game. McFarland is an electric athlete with elite breakaway speed. His athleticism and speed pop off the screen when you watch his 2018 film against Indiana (29 carries for 210 yards) and the following week against Ohio State (21 carries for 298 yards and 2 TD's). McFarland broke off two 70+ yard runs against Ohio State to show off his speed against the speedy Ohio State secondary. To go with the fact that McFarland is immensely talented, the Steelers backfield should be less crowded going into 2021 with James Connor becoming a free agent. McFarland could be in line to be the next elite three down running back for the Steelers starting in 2021 and should have a significant impact on passing downs as a rookie in 2020.
Van Jefferson - Van Jefferson's current ADP is in the early third round of rookie drafts. Jefferson enters the NFL as one of the more "pro-ready" WR's in the 2020 draft due to his experience and prolific route running. Jefferson is the son of a former NFL wide receiver and current NFL wide receivers coach, Shawn Jefferson. That has certainly sped up his development as a player and set him up to be ready for the NFL as soon as he was drafted. Jefferson seemingly joins the Rams as the WR3 on the team, which on the surface does not seem very enticing. If you look deeper into the Rams situation, you will see that they have an extremely limited amount of cap space this year and going forward into 2021. They still have yet to sign Jalen Ramsey to his contract that will most likely reset the cornerback market. All this means is that the Rams will have even less money to re-sign Cooper Kupp when he becomes a free agent in 2021 or Robert Woods when he becomes a free agent in 2022. There is a definite chance that the Rams will only be able to afford one of those receivers moving forward and Jefferson will be pushed into an expanded role on the offense. While Van Jefferson may not be the most impactful wide receiver as a rookie, he has the potential to become a star in LA within the next three years due to the money problems that the team is having. This makes Van Jefferson a great stash for your dynasty team in the third round.