Don’t let the analysts fool you. The NFL Draft is completely unpredictable. In fact, the articles leading up to next week’s NFL draft should be renamed Prediction Teflon: Say whatever you want, say it definitively, and never get checked on your accuracy when it’s over.
Recently on RotoUnderworld Radio, Matt Kelley and Evan Silva discussed how the most accurate NFL draft predictions are only right 11 out of 32 times (34-percent). This means the “best experts” are wrong almost twice as much as they are right. Two outs for every one hit, plain and simple. The main reason for this percentage is most predictions are based on faulty information. NFL general managers will never leak their actual draft targets to the media. Never. Yet most draft analysts base their predictions off “sources.” In the spirit of that percentage, suppose all the predictions were wrong? Not just wrong, but very wrong. What would be the ideal rookie landing spots to cause maximum dynasty disruption? What would be the most head-scratching destinations for the top fantasy rookie prospects and what would be the fantasy implications?
If “Chaos Theory” creator Edward Lorenz played fantasy football, he certainly would have enjoyed viewing the NFL Draft through this contradictory lens.
Dalvin Cook, Running Back Florida State
Most Likely Destinations: Kansas City, Green Bay, San Francisco
Maximum Disruption Spot: Philadelphia Eagles (14th or 43rd pick)
Fantasy Effect: Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and Dalvin Cook? It makes more sense than one would think. None of Philadelphia’s running backs are proficient both between the tackles and in the passing game. Mathews lacks the durability, Sproles is primarily a satellite back, and Smallwood simply can’t catch.
Enter Dalvin Cook, who broke Warrick Dunn’s Florida State career rushing record in just three seasons. He possesses a 4.49 (77th percentile) 40 yard dash time and measured 22 reps at the NFL Scouting Combine bench press (67th percentile). Cook’s off the field issues aside, he is the most complete running back in the entire draft. Don’t forget that Mathews is also in the last year of his three year contract. Wendell Smallwood dynasty owners beware: fantasy chaos theory could bring Dalvin Cook to Philadelphia.
Jeremy McNichols, Running Back, Boise State
Most Likely Destinations: Indianapolis, Kansas City, New Orleans
Maximum Disruption Spot: Pittsburgh Steelers (62nd pick)
Fantasy Effect: This one actually seems very possible. The Steelers are at a critical juncture with Le’Veon Bell. He signed a one year $12.1 million dollar franchise tag deal this season, but his long term standing in the Pittsburgh community is tenuous at best. When Bell is on the field, he is the best all around running back in the league. However in his four year career he has played a full 16 games only once. The other three seasons he has missed a combined 17 games, due to not only injury but off the field issues as well.
Enter Jeremy McNichols, a 5-9 214-pounds who has necessary receiving skills out of the backfield to thrive in Pittsburgh’s offense. He would serve as a fantastic security blanket when/if Bell is hurt or suspended again, while provide the Steelers with insurance if they choose to let Bell walk after this season. Todd Haley has created a fantastic offense, but the current backup for Bell is just Knile Davis. If this dynasty disruption actually occurs, grab McNichols in all rookie drafts and watch the Le’Veon Bell owners panic.
Leonard Fournette, Running Back, LSU
Most Likely Destinations: Jacksonville, Carolina, Washington, Philadelphia
Maximum Disruption Spot: New Orleans (11th Pick)
Fantasy Effect: It is impossible to see Leonard Fournette falling outside the top twelve picks, especially after Ezekiel Elliott had such a huge impact at the fourth spot last year. But remember, no one had the Cowboys taking Elliott in any mock drafts. Dallas already had Darren McFadden coming off a 1,089 yard season while starting just ten games, and had signed Alfred Morris last March. If Jacksonville and Carolina both pass on Fournette, the Saints could cause a huge Bayou fantasy disruption. Mark Ingram’s career is mercurial at best, and he certainly turned heads with his sideline outburst last season. Ingram broke 1,000 rushing yards and played a full 16 games for just the first time in his career. While Ingram has scored 21 touchdowns in the last three seasons, he also started losing touches to Tim Hightower. The same Tim Hightower who wasn’t even in the NFL from 2011 to 2015. Pull the curtain back here: the Saints don’t believe in Ingram as a full-time workhorse back. With Hightower now in San Francisco, drafting the hometown Leonard Fournette would supercharge the Saints offense.
Ignore the narrative that Leonard Fournette is simply a power back. Some of his biggest runs came on inside cuts where his 116.0 Speed Score (96th percentile) created automatic first downs. Take one look at the New Orleans running back depth chart and this pick seems less and less chaotic. For Dynasty owners who have Ingram on the third year of a four year deal, hearing Fournette’s name called would be the textbook definition of “fantasy disruption.”
Joe Mixon, Running Back, Oklahoma
Most Likely Destinations: Oakland, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis
Maximum Disruption Spot: Miami Dolphins (22nd Pick)
Fantasy Effect: It’s amazing how a few 200 yard games changes things. Jay Ajayi was the main waiver wire pickup last year, and helped many teams to a fantasy championship. But Edmund Burke stated, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Miami repeatedly tried to give the lead running back job to anyone but Ajayi last season. The Dolphins gave that starting spot to 30-year old Arian Foster to start the season, causing Ajayi to get suspended one game for sulking. Upon his return, Miami gave carries to both Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams before succumbing to Ajayi’s violent running style. Most of his success was tethered to a fully healthy Dolphins offensive line. Ajayi just wasn’t as effective when the Dolphins offensive line wasn’t at full strength. is not an efficient receiver nor elusive in space. We’ve seen this kind of narrative before: huge production in a small sample size. Just like Thomas Rawls, C.J. Anderson, and Matt Jones, last year’s big performances could be outliers.
Enter a 6-1 228-pound Joe Mixon who is a fantastic pass catcher and you have a pure dynasty disruption. If their offensive line is not at full strength, the Dolphins would be much better suited with a three-down elusive back. Mixon won’t be drafted early in round one after being suspended at Oklahoma, but if the Dolphins are going to make Jarvis Landry’s prediction come true, they need a better all around running back than Jay Ajayi.
David Njoku, Tight End, Miami
Most Likely Destinations: Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Miami, New York Giants
Maximum Disruption Spot: Detroit Lions (21st pick)
Fantasy Effect: Let the Eric Ebron truthers unite! The 10th overall pick from the 2014 draft is entering the last year of his rookie contract. Formerly seen as a 6-4, 250-pound athletic specimen, Ebron has failed to impress in three seasons for Detroit. He finished second among all tight ends with six drops last season, and only caught two touchdowns in 13 games. Enter the new athletic freak, David Njoku, who is everything Ebron should have been and more. In a pass first offense with Matthew Stafford under center, the Lions could look to add a new target that could actually produce in the red zone.
The dynasty outlook would be bad for Eric Ebron yet improved for Stafford. Tight ends usually don’t contribute in year one, but David Njoku to the Lions would illustrate another perfect reason to always wait on drafting a tight end.
Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Clemson
Most Likely Destinations: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Tennessee
Maximum Disruption Spot: Denver Broncos (20th pick)
Fantasy Effect: All projections have Mike Williams going to a team that needs a wide receiver such as Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Tennessee. Suppose, however, he goes to a team that already has two established wideouts? The Broncos already have two star receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but both are right at 30 years old. The argument for this potential chaotic landing spot is simple. If a team has substandard quarterback play (raise your hand Denver), then the most efficient strategy is to surround him with a myriad of offensive weapons. Any NFL team could use a 6-4 target with a 33 3/8″ arm length measurement in the red zone. Thomas was second among all wide receivers in red zone catches (15) but also second in drops (10).
General manager John Elway has a reputation for making big draft day moves, and drafting Clemson’s Mike Williams would cause yet another fantasy football dynasty disruption.
John Ross, Wide Receiver, Washington
Most Likely Destinations: Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Dallas
Maximum Disruption Spot: Indianapolis Colts (46th pick)
Fantasy Effect: The Colts selected Phillip Dorsett in 2015 with the 29th pick of the first round. The thought process was simple: give Andrew Luck another speed weapon on the indoor turf of Indianapolis. The problem is Dorsett has never translated his collegiate success to the NFL. If at first you don’t succeed, draft John Ross.
John Ross needs a team that gives him targets, and that would occur in Indianapolis. While current WR2 Donte Moncrief has been productive when healthy, the fourth year receiver missed seven games last year due to a myriad of injuries. Ross could be used in a variety of ways by offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, and give their franchise quarterback the third speed wide receiver he has yet to have. Ross could be a fantasy WR3 next season in the Colts offense, and would almost certainly decrease production from Moncrief and incumbent top receiver T.Y. Hilton. For a spectacular fantasy dynasty disruption, let’s hope John Ross heads to Indianapolis on April 27th.
Corey Davis, Wide Receiver, Western Michigan
Most Likely Destinations: Cincinnati, Buffalo, Baltimore, Tennessee
Maximum Disruption Spot: Oakland Raiders (24th pick)
Fantasy Effect: Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are signed, but Seth Roberts is on the last year of a two year $1.1 million dollar contract. With the recent news that Marshawn Lynch is close to joining the Silver and Black, the Raiders have talent and depth at running back with Taiwan Jones, DeAndre Washington, and Jalen Richard. Owner Mark Davis is a devout vertical attack truther just like his father, so don’t overlook the Raiders adding a third dynamic receiver to their explosive offense.
Corey Davis has a 51.6-percent (96th percentile) College Dominator Rating, meaning he accounted for over 50 percent of the total receiving yards and touchdowns over his career at Western Michigan. He also has of 18.7 (95th percentile) Breakout Age proving he contributed immediately during his freshman season. Davis is a tremendous deep ball route runner, and would make Derek Carr fantasy owners foam at the mouth. Which incumbent receiver would be hurt by the Raiders drafting Davis? Could be either Cooper or Crabtree, which makes this the perfect dynasty disruption landing spot.
Curtis Samuel, Offensive Weapon, Ohio State
Most Likely Destinations: Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit
Maximum Disruption Spot: Dallas Cowboys (28th pick)
Fantasy Effect: Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) of Bleacher Report recently joined RotoUnderworld Radio and said the Dallas Cowboys are very comfortable having Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley as their complementary receivers to Dez Bryant. We aren’t buying it, and therein lies the maximum fantasy disruption for Curtis Samuel. Take a great offensive line, young star quarterback, last season’s NFL rushing leader, and add a superb college athlete like Curtis Samuel and you are guaranteed to have unpredictable fantasy output. Elliott had a fantastic rookie season, but there are always lingering whispers about a possible suspension.
The Cowboys would love to add a playmaker like Curtis Samuel to their third down packages, four wide receiver sets, and special teams. Although Dallas signed 35 year old Jason Witten to a four year deal, his receiving production has already declined. That leaves a huge short yardage and check down void that will need to be filled with someone other than Cole Beasley. Samuel has officially declared himself a wide receiver, and he has the talent to certainly surpass the perpetually underwhelming Terrance Williams on this explosive Dallas offense.