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What Types of Late-Round Players Hit?

What types of late-round rookies should you be targeting? @ekballer is back with answers

Chase Claypool (DKPittsburghSports)

What’s up, Nerds!

All fantasy players, know that hitting on a few late-round sleepers can power your team to a title, redraft or dynasty. Sure, you need to hit on the all-important early picks, but scores of teams went to championships last year on the back of guys like James Robinson and Chase Claypool, cheaply acquired mega producers.

With the glut of information available, it may seem like it’s tough to get an edge over the competition in rookie drafts, and that may be true in the early rounds. But, after the media darling super-studs are gone, sometime in the second round, focusing on the right types of profiles can help you lock down some under-the-radar studs.

The Method

I pulled a publicly available ADP list (from FF Calc) and cross-referenced it with a database containing some important metrics, a count of “hit” seasons, and an average of PPR points scored in the first three NFL seasons. I used @pahowdy’s Market Share Database for this. He’s cool, it’s a great resource, check it out, toss him some loot.

I identified late-round (pick 25 or later) hit players (top 24 WR/RB) and searched for patterns.

It didn’t take much effort to see that, while overall hit rates are pretty rough in that range, most of the relevant players had similar elements in their profiles.

Let’s go through season by season and look at the results.

2020

Antonio Gibson (insidethestar.com)
RankPickNameNFL Draft PositionSpeed ScoreCollege YardsY/TCH or Y/RECTotal DOMNFL hits1-3 PPGCollege
243.03Antonio Gibson66120.9120315.6.19114.7Memphis
293.06Chase Claypool49133.1215914.4.33113.5Notre Dame
414.5James Robinsonudfa94.54462not found.48114.4Illinois State
2020 Late-Round Rookie Hits

You don’t need player profiles on these guys. You know who they are. So let’s just highlight the high-notes of their profiles (their superpowers!) and the red flags that made them drop.

  • Antonio Gibson
    • Superpowers: athleticism, efficiency, draft capital
    • Red flags: no college production

Many were out on Gibson as his lack of college production gave absolutely zero positive comps, but his freakish athleticism- as indicated by his speed score- was undeniable, and it’s foolish to ignore day two draft capital.

  • Chase Claypool
    • Superpowers: athleticism, draft capital, solid Dominator (DOM)
    • Red flags: low college production, some disliked his tape

The buzz leading into the draft was that Claypool should switch to tight end as he wasn’t good enough as a WR. But his market share profile wasn’t bad, and his measurables showed off a truly elite size/speed combination.

  • James Robinson
    • Superpowers: college production, DOM, opportunity
    • Red flags: no draft capital, subpar athleticism, small school

Smart players knew to target the JAX backfield as a potential source of value but Robinson shocked us all with his RB7 overall finish in 2020. Often, small school guys don’t get their due in the draft, and his average athleticism didn’t help, but Robinson showed there’s more to being a successful back than just speed.

2019

Washington Redskins wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) gives away the football after scoring a touchdown, during the first half at an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
RankPickNameNFL Draft PositionSpeed ScoreCollege YardsY/TCH or Y/RECDOMNFL Hits1-3 PPGCollege
262.11Diontae Johnson6678.7223516.6.40112.7Toledo
303.03Myles Gaskin23482.057695.7.39010.6Washington
323.04Terry McLaurin76114.4125116.7.18114.4Ohio State
453.09Hunter Renfrow14975.0213311.5.1809.3Clemson
2019 Late Round Hit and Near Hits

I threw a couple non-hits in here as they are still players that have helped your dynasty team. I could have listed Jakobi Meyers here as well; his profile isn’t too different from Renfrow’s.

  • Diontae Johnson
    • Superpowers: draft capital, DOM, opportunity
    • Red flags: athleticism, small school, production

Johnson snuck into the second round of rookie picks based on the NFL draft alone. His college tape was good but he was nearly unheard of until the Steelers took him. I have his DOM at 40%, and that’s more or less what we want for small school kids, to completely dominate their competition.

  • Terry McLaurin
    • Superpowers: Athleticism, efficiency, draft cap, opportunity
    • Red flags: weak college production, weak DOM

McLaurin put himself on the map with a strong combine and senior bowl, though his teammate Paris Campbell soundly outperformed him at Ohio State. WFT’s barren depth chart helped rocket him to immediate stardom.

  • Myles Gaskin
    • Superpowers: College production, DOM, efficiency, opportunity
    • Red flags: Subpar athleticism, poor draft cap, undersized

Gaskin found himself suddenly relevant this year when he beat out more-hyped team mates to win the starting job for MIA

  • Hunter Renfrow
    • Superpower: opportunity
    • Red flags: athleticism, draft capital, college production

Renfrow may not be winning you championships, but he’s nice to have to throw in that fourth flex spot in a pinch. Oh, and he beat out a first and third round pick this year for snaps.

2018

DJ Chark (espn.com)
RankPickNameNFL Draft PositionSpeed ScoreCollege YardsY/TCH or Y/RECDOMNFL Hits1-3 PPGCollege
293.03D.J. Chark61116.6134020.3.2519.9Louisiana State
363.07Chase Edmonds13495.758626.25.3405.1Fordham
2018 Late Round Hit and Near Hits

There were a couple other guys worth mentioning from 2018, but they missed my ADP criteria from this source, though they qualified elsewhere. Namely, Dallas Goedert, Hayden Hurst, and Mark Andrews. Athletic TEs are good pick in the 3rd in any format.

  • D.J. Chark
    • Superpowers: Athleticism, efficiency, opportunity, draft capital
    • Red flags: subpar college production, DOM, raw tape

Many thought Chark a bust after his near-zero rookie season. In his second season he took off, showing off athleticism and ball skills, and found his way to the top of the JAX depth chart.

  • Chase Edmonds
    • Superpowers: college mega-producer, DOM, efficiency
    • Red Flags: average athleticism, small school, undersized

Edmonds hasn’t hit, but he’s certainly been useful for your dynasty teams. Again, a skilled but undersized small-school guy that got passed over in the draft.

2017

Kenny Golladay (detriotjockcity.com)
RankPickNameNFL Draft Positionspeed scoreCollege YardsY/TCH or Y/RECDOMNFL Hits1-3 PPGCollege
303.03Chris Godwin84107.8242115.7.32112.4Penn State
323.05Kenny Golladay96113.5228514.3.42212.7Northern Illinois
353.05James Conner10598.240355.85.32112.6Pittsburgh
433.08Tarik Cohen10993.856196.540.816.3North Carolina A&T

  • Chris Godwin
    • Superpowers: Athleticism, draft cap, efficiency
    • Red Flags: average raw production

It’s mind-boggling that Godwin was going in the third, but this was a superior class. He had a solid profile.

  • Kenny Golladay
    • Superpowers: Athleticism, efficiency, DOM, draft cap
    • Red Flags: small school, weaker raw production

In a different draft class Golladay wouldn’t have dropped so far.

  • James Conner
    • Superpowers: Production, DOM, efficiency, opportunity
    • Red flags: health issues, draft cap

Conner dropped in the draft mostly due to his off-field health issues in college; otherwise, he was a solid profile

  • Tarik Cohen
    • Superpowers: mega-producer, efficiency, DOM, pass-catching, opportunity
    • Red Flags: small school, undersized

Cohen had some nice moments in PPR leagues, though, it’s worth noting, there doesn’t seem to be much repeat success from guys this small

The Results

I’m sure you’ve gotten the gist of where I’m going with this if you made it this far. The patterns are pretty evident.

  1. Draft capital. Players with draft capital (and at least a few other decent elements to profile) should be auto-picks in the thirdrd. Players made this mistake last year as well, letting Brandon Aiyuk fall to the middle of the second.
  2. Athleticism. If you want a late-round guy with staying power, make it a highly athletic, raw type of player. Literally all the best hits we found matched this type of profile. Most of these players seemed to fall due to weak production profiles.
  3. Small school guys with nice profiles and production. Players like Golladay, Diontae, and James Robinson had decent enough production profiles but were off-the-radar predraft due to their small-school status. Look for gems with this profile
  4. Highly productive, undersized backs. The Myles Gaskins and Chase Edmonds of the world aren’t likely to be your weekly starter, but they offer useful production when they get an opportunity, perhaps more so than a bigger, jaggy back would. I didn’t include receiving profiles as part of this study, but common sense tells me this profile needs to be a pass-catcher to succeed.
  5. Running backs with solid profiles, but missing time/health concerns. James Conner doesn’t fit any of the other buckets here so he gets a bucket of his own. This may be relevant again this year though; backs like Trey Sermon and Jermar Jefferson have good profiles but may fall due to injury concerns / weaker raw production.
  6. Opportunity. I’m going to chase those first few profiles, but keeping an eye out for opportunity is a surefire way to profit in dynasty fantasy football. All my J-Rob and Gaskin shares were scooped on this premise, as were guys like Darius Slayton, Jakobi Meyers, or Hunter Renfrow. The truth is that mostly- with exceptions- the best move with these players is to let them accrue even a small amount of value and then flip them for profit, as they tend not to have staying power in the league.

Obviously, not all players with these profiles hit. I didn’t calculate the actual hit rate for each one of those archetypes, but I’m sure they’re no lock- for each hit I can think of several similar players that just rotted on your bench

On the other hand, if all the hits came from these types- and the vast majority of the repeat hits from an intersection of draft capital & athleticism- this makes it really simple to screen out the noise and focus on the prospects that have the best shots at panning out.

Ok folks, that’s it for this one. Tune in again soon; I’ll be dropping some late-round sleepers to target in your ’21 rookie drafts!

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