By: Gary VanDyke ll (Twitter: @HBogart27)
FFD260 IDPs: Rookies
That’s right, anyone that know my “takes” are about to see me go at the rookies. We will cover lower tiered rookies based off average draft position (ADP) at the time of the article. Players that with a little of a “reach” in a rookie only draft could pay off big time, or perhaps be traded for on the cheaper side. I’ll be using ADP information from MyFantasyLeague.com, where I enjoy participating in my main flagship league, as I like to call it.
While I’ll be moving forward with a few rookie articles I would like to take the time now and explain how I handle approaching the rookies in the off-season. It’ a method that has worked out well for me in recent years. It’s a few simple steps I apply in a way that I find helps me avoid the risk of investing time in potential letdowns. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my method. I also don’t expect it to be popular.
*Note: I personally never set myself up to depend on a rookie to fill a position of need. I always try to have my roster established to a point that a rookie is a luxury if he works out.
1. Pay attention, but ignore pre draft hype on players.
2. Never fall in “love” with any rookie based off just pre draft hype. (Zeke: (as a OSU Buckeye) was my only recent exception.)
3. Don’t watch the combine, avoiding commentary during events.
4. Wait a few weeks after the combine for reports to have developed on players based off where they landed.
5. Look at the drafting team’s situation just as well as the players they drafted.
6. Finish my approach by recapping the combine results and the grades on each player.
7. Then have to try to buy picks (because mine are used as trade bait) and then join in on the fun.
8. As mentioned above, I try to never fall in love with a rookie (again exceptions last year were Buckeyes Zeke & M.T. ; M.T. “after” he landed with Saints). All rookies become tradable as soon as they hit my roster. Of course, per hyped priced.
ADP’s change as rookies gain and lose momentum. MFL current ADP’s, sort as you like. I prefer to go on the largest scale of 16 teams or more and Rookie only.
So using this approach for this 2017 draft I believe I’ve located a few hidden gems based of ADP information. I’d now like to share these players and my research results.
“There is Safety in numbers!”, has always been a solid thought. When the NFL draft first concluded and I did a fast scan of the results I stated I believe there are more IDP rookies in this year’s class that will have an instant impact in year one than anything. And based off my follow up of the rookies I believe this should still be the case. The 2017 class of safeties was an outstanding class. With headliners including Malik Hooker, Jamal Adams and Jabrill Peppers leading the way. But the depth of the class was just as solid and a few landing spots have some of them in perfect situations to produce sooner rather than later at as high as level as the headliners could. But at a way more reasonable ADP. Here are my top two:
N.Y. Jets FS/SS Marcus Maye
H/W: 6’0” 210lbs
Drafted: Rd 2, pick 7
ADP: 123rd overall
16 team leagues: Rd 8, pick 11
NFL.com combine grade: 5.8
Grade rank: 5th (tied)
Researching Maye I found his current ADP borderline criminal at 123rd overall. While Jamal Adams is rightfully being toted as the Jets first round pick (ADP: 26th, pick 2.10), Maye appears completely overlooked on his potential. Setting up a perfect situation to reach a full round or two before Maye’s late 8th round ADP and benefiting just as well as if selecting Adams at his higher ADP. The New York Jets have cleaned house this off-season as we have all heard. One of the first moves started by releasing safety Marcus Gilchrist, and then trading Calvin Pryor to Cleveland.
Maye and Adams were both inserted into the starting lineup during OTAs and look to be the opening day starters. With current reports from OTAs and the players on the depth chart this is unlikely to change. Head Coach Todd Bowles clearly is a defensive minded coach and clearly wanted better play out of his safeties. Selecting Adams in round one and Maye’s in round two with so many needs for the Jets roster is a huge indication he has big plans for the two rookies.
Now let’s examine exactly why Mayes should be as productive as Adams, besides the fact that the Jets are in complete rebuild mode by stripping the roster down. Predictions for the team this coming year is not pretty. The Jets defense will be on the field a lot with Mayes thrown directly into the fire. One of the main reasons Coach Bowles indicated he cleaned house at the safety position was that he needs safeties that are interchangeable for his defensive scheme. He also depends on his safeties to be play makers. They need to change the momentum of a game when called on to do so. Neither Gilchrist nor Pryor were able to accomplish this at any decent level over the last two seasons.
Maye will be called on to use his skill set to do exactly that. He may be listed as the team’s starting free safety but we should see him up on the line just as well as he will be deep on the field. Bowles wants to call his defensive plays based off knowing that Mayes and Adams can switch roles in run stopping as well as coverage without changing the personal on the field. This idea should balance out the tackle opportunities to a degree that Mayes production could equal Adams, who is listed as the strong safety. And let’s face it at the current state of the Jets there will be many opportunities in 2017. And according to Pro Football Focus the Jets will depend on Maye for (and I quote):
Maye ranked second among 346 qualified FBS safeties by allowing just 31.6 percent of targets into his coverage to be caught.
He ranked second among SEC safeties this season with a 4.5 run-stop percentage.
Maye also ranked second among SEC safeties with a 7.0 run-stop percentage when he was lined up within eight yards of the line of scrimmage. Maye lined up within eight yards of the line of scrimmage on 57.7 percent of his run-defense snaps, he recorded nine stops and had no missed tackles.
Maye led all FBS safeties who played at least 300 defensive snaps in 2016 with a 49.0 tackle efficiency rating (the number of attempted tackles made per each missed tackle).
Maye is an NFL ready-made safety. Known for his instincts to make plays on the ball as well as a good tackler. Will at Florida he was known for giving up touchdowns but we shouldn’t look at this as a downfall for his pro career. He gave up those touchdowns while committing to being a difference maker and doing so at a high level. He is built like a true strong safety but has the diversity of a free safety with a reported 4.47 forty yard dash from his pro-day workout. While he did not participate at the combine do to a broken arm that cost him his last four games his final year of college. But yet, he still managed to be ranked and graded well by multiple sources. For fantasy owners to “reach” a round or two early on him with his current ADP should find themselves with a good IDP.
Some of what we can expect to see: Marcus Maye #20
My predicted production level for 2017: Highend DB2
N.O. Saints FS/SS Marcus Williams
H/W: 6’1” 202 lbs
Drafted: Rd 2, pick 10
16 team leagues: Rd 9, pick 7
NFL.com combine grade: 5.8
Grade rank: 5th (tied)
Williams is an interesting prospect in an interesting situation with the Saints. The Saints drafted free safety Von Bell last year in round two and he struggled in his rookie year in pass coverage, exactly what a free safety is depended on for. And they tote the teasing strong safety Kenny Vaccaro. I say the “teasing” because he has always been hyped at his draft position of a first rounder more than he has actually produced consistently. He is solid, but only in one year can we say he was outstanding for fantasy purposes (in 2015). And he ended up suspended the last four games of last season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Vaccaro had one of his better seasons going before being suspended according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Here is the year-end “take” by PFF:
*Note the 29th is the secondary units rank.
29. New Orleans Saints (24)
Top overall grade: S Kenny Vaccaro, 79.9 (No. 38)
Top coverage grade: S Kenny Vaccaro, 77.0 (No. 41)
Top run defense grade: S Vonn Bell, 87.0 (No. 10)
Most snaps: S Jairus Byrd, 900
“Delvin Breaux’ injury in Week 1 put the Saints in a bind at cornerback, and even when he returned, he wasn’t up to the same caliber we saw last season. Ken Crawley and B.W. Webb couldn’t sustain periods of good play, and both finished the season with passer ratings allowed of over 100.0. Safety play was a slight improvement from last year; Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro both cut down on their missed tackles, while earning better grades than in 2015. Rookie Vonn Bell was a force against the run, but was a liability in coverage at times, as he allowed five touchdowns on 30 receptions (120.8 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks).”
A “slight” improvement isn’t as glowing as one would like to hear. Hence, the 2nd round selection of Williams this year.
Why we should believe Williams could be productive this coming season can be stated in a couple different ways. But I’ll mention one main area he excels in, PASS COVERAGE! I’m now going to refer to NFL.com’s combine report on his strength:
“ Athletic and instinctive from high safety. Easy hips with smooth feet in his backpedal. Able to play from deep positioning and still make plays on the ball. Good recognition of quarterbacks intentions gives him a head-start on the throw. Has desired open-field speed to close from hash to sideline. Former basketball player and high-jumper with the leaping ability and timing to win the 50-50 throws. Posted 10 interceptions against 44 targets over last two seasons. Productive tackler and careful finisher. Steps downhill against the run. Leverages ball carriers to the sideline and rarely lets him cross back over into middle of the field. Gathers feet and widens out to unfurl a wider tackling net.”
I normally would give my own “take” on a player’s strengths, but this is so well stated I felt I needed to pass it on. I now also find myself needing to include a portion of PFF’s pre-draft “take”:
Williams led all FBS safeties with a run-stop percentage of 11.8 percent in 2016.
He missed just one tackle against the run in 2016, and none when lined up within eight yards of the line of scrimmage at the snap.
He allowed just 0.09 yards per coverage snap, the lowest among all safeties in FBS.
So, how is this rookie’s ADP so low? When we recap all I’ve mentioned about Williams, Bell and Vaccaro I’m a little lost for words. Vaccaro is in a contract year and as I stated was suspended for the last four games of last year, letting the team down. And Bell needs to improve greatly in his coverage skills at the pro level. But yet we have an NFL ready-made safety in Williams sitting on the roster. OTA reports has Williams already inserted with the first team defensive unit and running as a single high safety. And I quote, “ standing out” by many reports.
When you’re in a division with the Falcons, Buccaneers, and Panthers, a highly skilled free safety on the field is a must. The Saints have spent much of the off-season trying to improve their low ranked defense and Williams should have a large role in trying to fix it. At whose expense you ask, I’m not sure. But if Williams is half of what has been stated about him can they afford not to have him on the field? I am not one to suggest too many free safeties, but I will here at his current ADP. One or two rounds earlier could pay off.
Some of what we can expect to see: Marcus Williams #20
My predicted production level for 2017: DB2 with upside.
*And yes, I find it ironic that both above players are free safeties, named Marcus, and wore #20 in college.