As the calendar inches closer to Memorial Day, the first drafts if the 2016 fantasy football campaign are getting underway — rookie drafts held every year in ongoing dynasty leagues.
There’s no doubt whatsoever who the first pick in those drafts will be, with Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott the unanimous choice as the top newcomer in fantasy football. There isn’t quite as much agreement on defense, but there’s still a short list of candidates to be the first IDP drafted — Darron Lee of the New York Jets, Myles Jack of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Reggie Ragland of the Buffalo Bills — or perhaps San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa if linebackers aren’t your thing.
However, what about at the back end of rookie drafts? Are there players who should be available in the third round or later of rookie drafts who are capable not only of giving dynasty squads a boost down the road but also of helping them in the here and now?
Well, it just so happens that there may be a few.
Adolphus Washington – DE, Buffalo Bills
The Bills made the 6’3″, 300-pound Washington the No. 80 pick in the 2016 draft, a move that met with the approval of the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock. “He has a sophisticated array of moves,” Mayock said. “From a quickness perspective, there are not a lot of guys who can block him.”
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports lauded Washington’s potential to be a disruptive force at the NFL level, although he thinks it may take Washington a while to reach that potential. “Washington has excellent movement skills for a man his size,” Brugler said, “with the well-rounded skill-set to fit several positions on the defensive line, but his football instincts and anticipation are still undeveloped. A naturally talented player who leaves you wanting more, he displays early-round traits, but needs a strong positional coach in the NFL to fully reach his potential.”
It appears that Washington is going to learn by doing and not by watching. As Dan Hanzus of NFL.com reports, Bills general manager Doug Whaley indicated recently Washington will start from Day 1. “Shaq Lawson is going to walk in off the bus starting,” Whaley said. “Reggie Ragland and then Adolphus Washington — all three of those guys will start right off the bus. And we’re excited for some guys from the fourth through sixth rounds that will contribute for us.”
Washington appears set for a base defense role at end and a subpackage assignment as an interior pass-rusher. That means snaps. Snaps mean opportunity. And opportunity plus talent equals production.
You can’t argue with math.
Scooby Wright – ILB, Cleveland Browns
At first glance, it might seem difficult to get overly excited about a seventh-round draft pick’s IDP prospects in 2016. Of course, most seventh-round draft picks didn’t spend the 2014 season collecting just about every piece of college football hardware worth having. Wright did, winning the Nagurski, Butkus and Bednarik Awards after a ridiculous 163 tackles and 14 sacks at Arizona two years ago.
Wright’s draft stock fell after an injury-plagued 2015. It then cratered after poor workouts led to his being assigned the dreaded “limited athleticism” tag. However, the 6’0″, 239-pound Wright told Tom Reed of Cleveland.com he’s eager to show just how wrong his critics are.
“I don’t think you have 31 tackles for a loss and 15 sacks for being slow on a football field even though it’s college,” Wright said. “I played football in the Pac-12, arguably the fastest football conference in all college football, and played against Oregon and Marcus Mariota. I just don’t know how people can make that correlation. Almost every single team in the Pac-12 runs a spread offense. I can play in space.”
The depth chart at inside linebacker in Cleveland consists of journeyman veteran Demario Davis and underwhelming youngsters like Christian Kirksey and Tank Carder. Poor workouts or not, Wright is a football player — period. I’m calling my shot right here, right now. He starts as a rookie. And if Wright can get on the field full-time…look out.
Sean Davis – DB, Pittsburgh Steelers
A quick caveat with this call. Unless you play in a deeper IDP league that calls for a significant number of defensive starters, there really isn’t a need to even consider defensive backs in your rookie draft. There will be plenty of options available on the waiver wire. The “elite” rookie options like Karl Joseph of the Oakland Raiders or Keanu Neal of the Atlanta Falcons might be worth a late look if you have a need at the position, but that’s about it.
However, if you are playing in one of those deeper formats and are looking for some bang for your buck with the dartboard picks on the back end, you might just hit the bulls-eye with Sean Davis of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
There are a couple reasons for this. The first is opportunity. Davis will have it in the Steel City and then some. Whether it’s at safety or at corner, the Steelers have more questions than answers in the secondary. It’s why the team spent their first two draft picks in 2016 on defensive backs.
As Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com wrote, Davis is capable of playing either position. “Davis played corner last season, but safety previously. Height, weight, speed,” Jeremiah said, “he checks all those boxes. He rose up late in the draft process. He’s very raw, but the upside is tremendous.”
Davis was also wildly productive at Maryland, averaging triple-digit tackles over his three seasons as a starter. If Davis can work his way onto the field in 2016, all the ingredients are there for the 6’1″, 200-pounder to be a surprise IDP star.