Hello again, dynasty peoples…
In this series, I’ve gone back through time and identified the major wins we drafted in round 3 or later, categorized them into identifiable types, and then developed some criteria we can use to target those players moving forward. Here’s the original research piece, give this a read to grab the concept and the methodology:
I dropped my late-round WRs this past week:
Now, onto running backs! Let’s win some drafts, friends. We’ll use those same categories and apply them again here. I’ll be linking mocks and player profiles wherever possible, so click through to learn more about these players and current ADP trends from our resident experts.
The “draft capital” category is supposed to pick up players that got day-2 capital in the NFL draft but that fell through to the 3rd round of rookie drafts. For our purposes, this typically only applies to wide receivers- there will be literally no day 2 back that’s not a top-15 rookie pick in SF.
I do still think it’s worth taking a look here at the backs projected to come off the board early on day 3, as that’s still decent DC for RBs, and that group isn’t currently mirroring ADP trends for dynasty, at least not as of March.
The RB4-RB7 according to EDP (expected draft position) on Grinding the Mocks are Zamir White, James Cook, Brian Robinson, Rachaad White, and Dameon Pierce. Of this crew, Brian Robinson (EDP 106.9) and Dameon Pierce (EDP 117.4) were both available in the 3rd round of the most recent Dynasty Nerds Rookie Mock (3.01 and 3.12 respectively).
These guys should be auto picks at 3.01 and 3.02 in rookie drafts. They’re not RB1 type players in the NFL but the payoff of selecting a competent backup running back in the 3rd round as opposed to a likely backup WR is significant. They’re both built to sustain a heavy workload and take goal-line carries; Pierce can catch, too, though he didn’t get a ton of passing game work at Florida.
I’m not saying that they’re necessarily better prospects than some of the other backs we’ll discuss here, but they are more likely to have a role out of the gate, and opportunity is king at RB.
If they’re there, take them. That applies to Cook, White, and White as well, though I don’t see them falling out of the 2nd round of rookie drafts at this point.
The athleticism category is supposed to scoop up highly athletic yet flawed profiles that weren’t desirable enough to be 2nd-round rookie picks but have upside. Again, this seems to gather up WRs more than RBs (past hits included Terry McLaurin, Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin).
Still, this category highlighted Elijah Mitchell last year as well as sleepers like Kene Nwangu that have shown promise on the field.
I have a bunch of nice targets for you here- this is a very athletic class. Also note that with this method when guys are popping up in multiple categories (say, “draft capital” and “athleticism”, or “athleticism” and “small school”) it’s a great sign.
I’m using WASS (weight-adjusted speed score) here as a shorthand for athleticism, but RAS would work as well, and Burst Score can be worth considering.
The first name here has to be Zamir White, though I think he won’t make it to pick 25. If he does, his 114.19 WASS and 120.95 Burst make him a snap-pick.
My next favorite guy for an athletic late-rounder is D’Vonte Price out of FIU. He may or may not be selected in the NFL Draft (I think he goes in the 6th or 7th) but his blazing 4.38 40 at 6’1″, 210lbs gives him a WASS of 114.1. Despite not having crazy counting stats, his College Dominator of 40.4% and a YPC of 6.8 give some signal that he may be able to play in the League, if he can stay healthy.
The other guys that jump off the page for athleticism are Pierre Strong and Isaiah Pacheco. Strong was already a deep sleeper with his 1686 yard, 18 TD season this past year at FBS South Dakota State, and his 123.2 WASS (95th%) and 123.2 Burst (75th%) have boosted him into relevance in fantasy circles, though he’s a late day 3 selection at best for the NFL.
Isaiah Pacheco has long been a name in Campus-to-Canton circles, having had a productive career at Rutgers, but his excellent combine (4.37 40, 118.5 WASS) has boosted him into dynasty consideration as well.
One more guy that I want to highlight here is South Carolina alum Kevin Harris, a physical runner with a proven record of success in the SEC We don’t have a WASS for him as he pulled a hammy running at his pro day, but his Burst Score of 128.5 is a 89th% mark, he went for 1k+ and 15 TDs as SO in the SEC, and he has several underlying metrics (an excellent 4.0 Yds/Carry/Team) that make him a nice sleeper. I took him 4.12 in the most recent mock.
We should probably touch on Ty Chandler here; he’s a bit smaller, but his 4.38 40 at 205 lbs gave him a WASS of 110.9, and he excelled this past season at North Carolina against high-level competition. We could stick Jerome Ford in here as well with a WASS of 106.1, but we’re about to talk more about him shortly. Another athletic guy worth mentioning is Tyler Badie, who was, like Chandler, too small to have a really crazy speed score (100.5) but still put up an 89th% 40 time at 4.45.
Small School Guys
This next category has collected guys like James Robinson, Elijah Mitchell, and Chase Edmonds in the recent past, and, looking further back, studs like Aaron Jones. We’re looking for guys with good profiles from small, non-P5 schools that are likely faded by the NFL due to a lower level of competition.
Certainly, Pierre Strong is a nice fit here, with his excellent athleticism and four 1k+ seasons. Another name for this category would be Tyler Allgeier; my model likes him quite a bit for his 2.21 AYPTP (adjusted yards per team play), 68 Broken Tackles, and 4.72 Y/CO/ATT (yards after contact per attempt).
The other no-brainer pick in this category is Jerome Ford. Currently a 3rd-round pick in rookie drafts, and with an NFL draft EDP of 167.2, Ford has been steadily gathering steam this offseason. The Alabama recruit transferred out to Cincinnati, where he put up a 1500+ yard, 21 TD senior season. He to his hype at the combine by running a 4.46 40 at 210 lbs, yielding an 83rd% speed score.
My deep sleeper here would be Ronnie Rivers. He’s unlikely to get drafted but will likely be signed as a priority UDFA. He’s tiny (5’7″) but stout (30 BMI) but racked up 4838 scrimmage yards at Fresno for an excellent 2.24 AYPTP. He ran slowly at the combine but had a 36.5″ vert and a 119″ broad jump, which may be more important for the way he plays the position.
Productive, Undersized Backs
This category grabs up past prospects like Elijah Mitchell, Chase Edmonds and Myles Gaskins. Michael Carter would have landed here if he was eligible for this article (ADP > 24). “Undersized” to me is 205lbs or less, the ideal size for an RB being 210+. For this profile, receiving work is key.
My first guy here is the single biggest faller of draft season, Notre Dame back Kyren Williams. Once touted as the RB4 or better by many analysts (myself included), Kyren’s poor weigh-in (194 lbs) and poorer weight-adjusted speed (4.65 40, WASS 83.0) has tumbled his rookie draft ADP to the late 2nd or lower. He went at 2.10 in our most recent mock but I’ve seen him fall to the 4th. He’s not in consideration at the 1/2 turn for me at this point as he was a few months ago but in the 3rd or 4th, smash. He’s 5 lbs lighter than Michael Carter and ran .05s slower in gym shorts but his tape is every bit as electric, full of broken ankles and break-away runs. He has better marks than Carter in DOM (30.6%) and Target Share (12.5%), both upper percentile figures, and he had a breakout 1400+ yard, 14 TD season at age 20.
My next name here is Missouri phenom Tyler Badie, who capped off his college career with a ridiculous 1934 scrimmage yard, 18 TD season, including 54 receptions. Though only 5’8″, 197 lbs, Badie was a true workhorse and dominated against tough SEC competition. His 43.4 % DOM (94th %), 6.0 YPC (72nd %) and 18.1 % college target share (97th %) are truly ridiculous numbers, and he put the cherry on top with a 4.45 40 yard dash at the combine. Give me all the Badie in the 3rd round of rookie drafts- or even higher, if he lands in a good position. He’s currently going in the 4th.
Tyler Goodson is another small but speedy (4.42) back with a workhorse role (30.3% DOM) and a great target share (12.0%). I don’t like him as much as Badie but he certainly has the skills to succeed as a change-of-pace / scatback plus. Jerrion Ealy is another name that will pop up in this conversation but I much prefer the guys I’ve listed already.
We could slot Ty Chandler in with this group as well, though he’s more slender than I’d prefer (28.4 BMI) is nearly 24, and didn’t catch enough passes to truly get me excited (6.4% target share.) Ronnie Rivers is actually a better fit for this profile with his 31.2% DOM and 14.0 % college target share.
James Cook would of course land in this bucket, but it seems like he’s not going to fall into the 3rd round, and is therefore outside of our scope here.
Efficient Backs with Missing Time / Flawed Profiles
I made this bucket to pick up James Conner, who was a highly-productive player at Pitt but slid in the NFL draft and in rookie drafts due to health concerns and a lack of athleticism (4.65 40).
Last year we scooped up Rhamondre Stevenson here; he had a flat-out-bad 40 time at 4.69 but his 5.86 Y/CO/ATT, ridiculous 7.3 YPC, and decent 4th round draft capital made him a desirable pick nonetheless.
I have two names for you in this category: CJ Verdell and Dameon Pierce.
The last time we saw Verdell on the field healthy, he was stacking over 102 scrimmage yards / game for a 1345 yard, 12 TD season and gathering hype as a top prospect for the 2020 draft. He has some other nice aspects to his profile including 4.07 YDS/CO/ATT and 22.85 AV/EPA. He’s not running with the big boys in this draft cycle, but it’s nearly free to find out if he can return to his sophomore-year form.
Pierce we talked about earlier. The knocks on him are his 4.59s 40 and weak counting stats (he never rushed for more than 574 yards). The thought is that his low production is more a function of the Florida offense and less of his skill; film-grinders love him, and PFF had him as their top-ranked back in CFB last year. The NFL is higher on Pierce than FF people are; by summer he may not be hanging around at pick 25 any longer.
One last name I’ll toss into the hat here is Keaontay Ingram. Similar to Pierce, Ingram is highly rated by PFF, has pedigree, and pops at times on film, though he’s never put together the counting numbers, elusiveness, or efficiency that makes a blip in analytical models.
It’s a bit too early to say anything about opportunity, but it’s more or less the trump card of sleeper scouting. Who will land in a barren depth chart and stumble into opportunity?
We’ll circle back to this one after the draft- keeo an eye out!
Most Likely to Hit?
I don’t have enough of a sample size on this study to really run regressions or otherwise get hard figures on hit rates for these profiles, but it seems like a lot of the best hits were guys that landed in two or more of my buckets, or guys that had really good profiles except one or two major dings that dropped them down boards. If Zamir White or James Cook are still on the board (or, by some miracle, Rachaad White) you should be taking them before this crew.
Following that, I’ll be targeting some combination of Brian Robinson, Dameon Pierce, Tyler Badie, Jerome Ford, and Kyren Williams, with Pierre Strong, Ty Chandler, D’Vonte Price, and the other guys I highlighted above following right after. I’m putting Kyren and Badie in the first group as I think they have a very good shot of grabbing a pass-catching role out of the gate, though guys like Price and Stong likely have more upside if they find their way into a workhorse role.
As a small strategy note, unless there’s a WR or a TE that I really love in the 3rd, I’m hammering RBs in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th round of rookie drafts. There’s not much of a track record of WRs falling that far and then being useful- and when they do pop later, they’ve usually long since hit waivers.
Watch for my TE sleepers coming down the pike and the “opportunity” article soon after the draft!
Let’s go win some leagues!