by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller
It’s been a unique off-season thanks to the pandemic. Usually in the off-season process we would have seen rookie camp and OTA’s by now as we head into training camp before the pre-season starts in August.
We haven’t had the full compliment of processes since the draft in April therefore we haven’t had all the hype and fluff pieces from beat writers and backroom staff telling us how ‘rookie-X’ is the best thing since sliced bread.
In turn, that’s affected rookie’s stock in the fantasy market and ADP is probably at an all time low for most fantasy relevant rookies.
It will likely stay low too, because without training camp and potentially no pre-season games, where are we going to be able to judge these players and see what they have to offer?
Also, unfortunately, this will ring true and affect the UDFA’s and probably the later round draft picks from this years’ NFL draft. Where will they be able to showcase their potential to break into 53-man rosters?
Fortunately for fantasy fans, the higher rated skill players taken in the early and mid rounds of the draft should all be making the 53-man rosters and will still have a low ADP for your fantasy drafts. Let’s take a look at the potential bargain wide receiver rookies that may well contribute to winning your leagues. Keep your eyes peeled for the running backs in part 2 later in the week.
Laviska Shenault – WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
NFL Draft: 42nd (2.10) H: 6’1 W: 227lbs ADP: Undrafted (Std, Half & PPR)
40-Yard Dash: 4.58s 3-Cone: N/A Vert: N/A Broad: N/A Bench: 17reps
The more I watch tape and the more I look at the Jags roster and how Doug Marrone wants to move the ball, the more I fall in love with ‘Viska’. For those that haven’t seen any highlights from his time in college with Colorado, Shenault has elite-level ball skills and outstanding physical traits.
One of the biggest draws to Shenault in fantasy terms is the fact he can be used as a dual threat with his rushing ability seconding his main receiving role. Over his last 2 seasons for the Buffaloes he recorded 40 rushes for 276 yards (6.9 yards per carry) and 7 TD’s, lining up in the backfield and as the wildcat.
With Leonard Fournette skating on thin ice with the current staff, newly acquired Chris Thompson constantly carrying a sick note and Ryquell Armstead coming off a measly 3.1 yard per carry last season – Shenault will more than likely get a few carries and an opportunity to notch fantasy points on the ground as well as through the air.
As a receiver, Viska wooed the Colorado fans with 1,775 receiving yards in his sophomore and junior years along with 10 scores. He possesses a natural catching ability with pro-ready hands which can rival the very best in the league – I’m talking Deandre Hopkins’ level of hands here by the way.
As a receiver, “Viska” wooed the Colorado fans with 1,775 receiving yards in his sophomore and junior years along with 10 scores. He possesses a natural catching ability with pro-ready hands which can rival the very best in the league – i’m talking Deandre Hopkins’ level of hands here by the way.
His route running ability is flexible having seen success with screen passes, slants and out-wide as an X receiver. He’s explosive, shifty and is able to bully coverage down field which makes him a great target anywhere down the field – something Gardner Minshew would likely use as his go-to target.
I particularly like the situation he is in within the roster. Dede Westbrook has been fine during his time in Jacksonville, but has never broke out to be an outstanding cast member. He’s never surpassed 720 yards despite having back to back 100 target seasons and averages just 3 touchdowns per season. Chris Conley had his best season since being drafted by Kansas City in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft, but still only managed 775 receiving yards and is replaceable considering he’s in his final year of the 2 year contract he signed last off-season.
D.J Chark is likely going to continue impressing as the WR1 in Jacksonville as he comes off a breakout 1,008 yard season in 2019, but there is definitely a productive WR2 role available for Viska to make his own.
A player as naturally gifted as Shenault offers the Jags a new dimension to their offense. Considering Jacksonville will likely be playing from behind a fair amount this season, Laviska could find himself highly productive for fantasy owners.
Stat Projection: WR34 (Standard), WR34 (Half PPR), WR35 (PPR)
Brandon Aiyuk – WR, San Francisco 49ers
NFL Draft:25th (1.25) H: 6’1 W: 195lbs ADP: U/D Std – 14.11 Half – 12.09 PPR
40-Yard Dash: 4.50s 3-Cone: N/A Vert: 40in Broad: 128in Bench: 11reps
I must admit to not being a massive Aiyuk fan before the draft. It wasn’t necessarily because I thought he was a bad player, because I don’t – it was more the fact I preferred others to him in his range such as Shenault, Jalen Reagor, Justin Jefferson and even Tee Higgins.
It probably boils down to the fact he only had a short college career at Arizona State where he only played for 2 years. In the first year he only had 33 receptions for 474 yards and 3 touchdowns so his draft value is only really judged on 1 year in college.
That year was very good however (65 receptions for 1192 yards and 8 TDs) which gave him the 1st round price that the 49ers were willing to pay in arguably their biggest area of need.
There is where his fantasy value becomes interesting to me. Jimmy Garoppolo was 22 yards short of throwing for 4,000 yards last year, which surprised me a little if i’m honest, but does show that the 49ers are a passing team despite having around 478 usable running backs on the roster it seems.
Obviously George Kittle demands around 1,000 of those yards across the middle, but other than that, the targets are largely up for grabs in that offense. Especially when Emmanuel Sanders, Marquise Goodwin and Matt Breida are now out of town leaving combined 96 targets and 808 yards up for grabs.
This ties in with the likely absence of Deebo Samuel who recently suffered a Jones fracture in his foot which could keep him out for up to half of the season too.
All of a sudden, the 49ers are well over 100 targets/70 receptions missing from last year with only Aiyuk and 7th round Jauan Jennings added in the skill positions over the off-season.
Aiyuk measures out in the 92nd percentile for burst score (a mix of broad jump and vertical jump results) and 82nd percentile in college dominator rating (a reflection on the players productivity at college) according to playerprofiler.com
All of this points to Brandon Aiyuk potentially becoming Jimmy G’s favourite go-to target for the 49ers in 2020 and could well translate to fantasy success in the process. Not bad for a 14th round dart throw in half PPR scoring leagues.
Stat Projection: WR38 (Standard), WR38 (Half PPR), WR39 (PPR)
Michael Pittman Jr. – WR, Indianapolis Colts
NFL Draft: 34th (2.02) H: 6’4 W: 225lbs ADP: 14.08 Std – 14.04 Half –12.01PPR
40-Yard Dash: 4.52s 3-Cone: 6.96s Vert: 36.5in Broad: 121in Bench: 13reps
As an Indy fan, I am absolutely buzzing to see the second coming of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Michael Pittman and Parris Campbell bring a bright looking future to Lucas Oil and it starts this year.
Before the draft I was looking forward to seeing where Pittman landed. He’d just come off two impressive years at USC where he finished his collegiate career with 171 receptions for 2,519 yards and 19 TDs. 1,275 of which came in his final season with the Trojans which was 9th best in all of college football in 2019.
You can only imagine my feelings after day 2 of the NFL draft after the Colts had managed to land not just my highest rated RB Jonathan Taylor, but Michael Pittman too.
I’d also like to take this moment to quash any “Pip Rivers has a noodle arm” truthers. That’s a weird thing to call a QB who has thrown under 4,000 yards just once in 12 seasons with both yards per attempt and yards per game above his career average over the last 3 years. All of this, of course, happened behind a sub-par Chargers offensive line which barely gave him any time in the pocket.
That’s all going to change for Rivers in 2020. He’s now behind an elite o-line that will be able to provide him ample time in the pocket to find targets down field.
Pip typically manages to produce multiple fantasy relevant receivers over the course of a season. Whether it be Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin like in 2017, or Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry in 2019.
My point being, Pittman is likely going to have fantasy relevance despite having to compete with the likes of T.Y Hilton, Parris Campbell and Jack Doyle this season.
Pittman carries an elite speed score (a relative score which takes a players height and weight into consideration) which comes in at 93rd percentile, and adds to his 112.1 Sparq score (5th highest among rookie wide receivers) and top-10 breakout rating according to the Breakout Finder app.
He’s the perfect candidate to be drafted late in drafts as a bench player with a ton of upside. Make sure you own Pittman, i’m confident the upside will shine through in 2020.
Stat Projection: WR32 (Standard), WR32 (Half PPR), WR30 (PPR)