Fantasy Files: What Can Rookie Picks Do For You? Part Deux

Part 1 (sixth-rounders)

There’s always a sequel. I couldn’t stop with the sixth round of rookie drafts, when even IDP selections aren’t sure things for playing time. I’ll keep rewinding into the 5th round. Because it’s tough to gauge picks from year to year, especially with last year’s rookies still developing for the most part, I thought I’d cover another angle of these drafts, which is relative strength.

Not all rookie drafts are created equally. Just compare 2007 to 2011. In 2007, you got Adrian Peterson with the #1 pick. In 2011, you got Mark Ingram. If you’re going to have a terrible season, it’s a good idea to do it with a sure-fire top pick in your pocket.

If you look at the 2005 5th round, do you judge success by the guys who are still in the league, like Adam Jones (I’m as surprised as you), Mike Nugent, and Carlos Rogers? Before free agency, 480 players were kept and none of these were on a roster. Nugent’s a backup kicker. I’d say that pick 5.12, Lofa Tatupu, was the most successful of the bunch. He was LB12 as a rookie. That’s where you get in a bit of a quandary, those mid-round picks. You can take a top-level IDP guy, but offensive players are more scarce and more valuable so it feels like a 5% chance at a RB/WR is better than a 40% chance at a LB/DB/DE.

We’ll move on to the 2006 class. You may look at Jerome Harrison and scoff, but he had a playoff run for the ages in 2009. In those three weeks he had mind-boggling 106 carries for 561 yards and five touchdowns. We’re talking about the Drew Bennett of running backs. He had about 1/3 of his career rushing yards and almost half of his career rushing TDs in that stretch. It allowed his owner to trade him to a sap for a 2010 second-round rookie pick. That sap was me. Again you have guys who have survived in the league but have brought almost zero fantasy value like Tavaris Jackson, Jason Avant, and Leon Washington. It was a good year to take defensive guys with Tamba Hali going 5.08 and Elvis Dumervil going 5.11. The bust of the bunch was probably Charlie Whitehurst.

We fast-forward to 2007 and it’s a much less potent crop. Lamar Woodley was the second drafted LB by the Steelers, so he dropped to pick 5.06. The only RB/WR in the round was kick-return and fast dude extraordinare Yamon Figurs. Every year a really fast dude who can’t really play gets taken a round or two early. He’s another guy with negative career rushing yardage, a badge of courage if I’ve ever seen one.

Move forward to 2008, and I can’t wait to talk about the top rounds of that one. With some classes, you have to be patient. Harry Douglas had almost as many yards in 2013 as he had from 2008-2012. John Carlson’s now more of a punch line but he was a usable tight end back when 60/600-type years made people jump and shout. Even the defensive guys in this class weren’t much, with Glenn Dorsey being the “name” who hung around in the league but never had a fantasy impact.

There are times when your personal rooting interests and biases lead you to poor results. I took Missouri’s own Chase Coffman with pick 5.03 in the 2009 draft. I saw him actually make a catch for the Falcons in the 2012 playoffs. It is the 5th round, and there’s not much gold to mine, but Mike Wallace was available at pick 5.10. In another league, I got him as a rookie free agent. Aaron Maybin, pick 5.12 in this year, was another first-round NFL bust.

As we turn the page to 2010, there was a little more excitement. Brandon Spikes at 5.01 and Earl Thomas at 5.04 have been good picks, and we’ll see if Spikes can continue outside of New England. I had two picks that year, Tony Moeaki, injury plagued like the TE version of Jake Locker. Jacoby Ford had promised but is most likely out of the league this year and beyond fantasy redemption. What do you usually get from a 5th-round RB pick? Shawnbrey McNeal and Charles Scott.

From the 2011 draft, we have another late bloomer in Jordan Todman. He didn’t make it a year with the Vikings but was the Jags’ backup RB in 2013 and a DFS darling. Alex Henery is an interesting pick at 5.03 because I can see who went in that slot in 2012 (no spoilers). I had high hopes for Denarius Moore but he’s starting to fade. I was happy when I took Jaiquawn Jarrett, once I figured out how to spell his name. He was out of Philly in a year.

2012 might have been the best fifth round, at least for a couple of picks. You had your first-round NFL pick in Melvin Ingram, your late-round WR with upside in Juron Criner and Lavon Brazill. Then you have your contributors in Vick “Mackey” Ballard and Harrison Smith. Then at pick 5.03, there’s Russell Wilson. Our defending champ has a QB duo of Wilson and Nick Foles, and the acquisition price for both makes you want to cry. Foles was a rookie free agent.

2013 was the year of the safety, with Kenny Vaccaro, Matt Elam, Johnathan Cyprien and Eric Reed going. Jordan Reed may be the winner of the round at pick 5.08. Chris Harper and Kerwynn Williams, the latter my pick, had trouble sticking with a team.

You can see that this round is not going to get you consistent production from an offensive skill point of view. You might get lucky with a TE or a WR, and it only takes one Russell Wilson to make guys reach for players like Tyler Bray and Zac Dysert in future years. Getting IDPs seems like the “smart money” move, but where would the fun in life be without the occasional long shot paying off?

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