Revisiting the 2020 Rookie Class Part II

In the second installment in this series, the 2020 Rookie Class Part II reviews the rookies selected in the second round a year ago. This time of the offseason the dynasty manager is focused on the incoming rookie class, and rightfully so. The NFL draft recently concluded, and most dynasty managers have started right into their 2021 rookie drafts. There are rookies we are collectively high on like Ja’Marr Chase, Najee Harris, and Kyle Pitts. There are also the lesser hyped rookies that managers will add in later rounds of their drafts like Tylan Wallace, Elijah Mitchell, and Hunter Long.  

Last year was a rookie class full of promise and upside, but where are they now and how should they be viewed entering their sophomore season? In this three part series, I review all skill positional players drafted within the top 100 picks in the 2020 NFL draft starting with the third round and concluding with round one.

Round Two

Revisiting the 2020 Rookie Class Part II
Revisiting the 2020 Rookie Class Part II

33. Tee Higgins WR Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals continued to increase their offensive talent by selecting Clemson WR Tee Higgins to kick off day two of the draft. Higgins completed the 2020 season as WR28 with 194.6 PPR points.

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Tee Higgins’ production with Joe Burrow and without Joe Burrow was what you would have expected it to be. Higgins was WR41 in the weeks without his rookie QB, and WR27 in the weeks with him. Entering 2021, Higgins is joined by 5th overall selection WR Ja’Marr Chase. Chase, who played with Burrow at LSU, in all likelihood will eat into the workload for Higgins and Tyler Boyd.

The result is potential regression for Higgins, as very few offenses in the league can support three fantasy viable receivers, and I am pretty sure the Bengals are not one of them. If I am the Tee Higgins manager, I prefer to hold and see how this plays out. If Chase is the success at the next level that he is expected to be, Higgins value may fall into the buying range.

2021 Status: Hold/Buy

34. Michael Pittman Jr. WR Indianapolis Colts

Michael Pittman struggled in his rookie season. After a slow start to the season, Pittman was placed on Injured Reserve in Week 4, and returned to the lineup to start Week 7. After the first seven weeks of the season, Pittman sat at WR121–not what his dynasty managers signed up for. From Weeks 8-17, Pittman was WR53; better, but still nowhere near expectations.

The Colts have transitioned to Carson Wentz at QB for 2021, and it is unclear at this point if that is an upgrade on Philip Rivers or not. Pittman is a WR that I liked coming out, and he is a WR that I still like. I would be looking to add him wherever possible, as I believe that his best is yet to come.

2021 Status: Buy

35. D’Andre Swift RB Detroit Lions

The 2020 draft class is highlighted by its running back class, and a major component of this impressive class is Detroit Lions RB D’Andre Swift. In his rookie season, Swift battled injuries in training camp that lead to a slow start, and a should injury that cost him three games in the middle of the season. Despite these injuries, Swift finished as RB18 with 189.8 PPR points in 13 games.

Swift split touches with veteran Adrian Peterson, and to a lesser extent, Kerryon Johnson a season ago. AP and Kerryon are gone, and former Green Bay Packers’ RB Jamaal Williams is in. More notable, however, for Swift and Lions fans is the new coaching staff, Offensive Coordinator Anthony Lynn, and RB coach Duce Staley.

The Lions appear to be moving in the right direction for the first time in a long time. Adding Penei Sewell with the 7th overall selection in the recent 2021 draft bolsters this line and the run game. Swift adds above average pass catching to his resume, as he was targeted 57 times, hauling in 46 of them for 357 yards and two touchdowns. Swift will be ranked near the top-12 in dynasty rankings and buying him will be expensive. If you can afford it, you should.

2021 Status: Buy

Revisiting the 2020 Rookie Class Part II
Revisiting the 2020 Rookie Class Part II

41. Jonathan Taylor RB Indianapolis Colts

From one impressive member of the 2020 running back class to another, Jonathan Taylor, widely expected to be the top back selected in the draft, fell to pick 41 and the third back chosen. Taylor found himself in a four-headed monster of a backfield to start the season. A Marlon Mack injury in Week one seemed to pave the way for Taylor to lead the Colts.

Instead, his workload was split between himself, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins. After Week 11, JT sat at RB16 and his managers were getting restless. Taylor spent Week 12 on the Covid-IR list and exploded upon his return in Week 13. In the final 5 games of the season, Taylor was the RB1 averaging 26.1 PPR points per game. His managers were no longer restless. Taylor completed his rookie season as the RB6, averaging 16.9 point per game on route to a season ending total of 252.8.

2021 Status: Hold

42. Laviska Shenault WR Jacksonville Jaguars

During Laviska Shenault’s rookie season, he was forced to endure some lackluster quarterback play. Despite the QB carousel of mediocrity, Shenault improved his route running throughout the season and finished the year strong. He totaled 58 receptions for 600 yards and five touchdowns on 79 targets. He also added 91 yards on 18 carries. He finished year one as WR46.

As a sophomore at Colorado, Shenault calculated 1,126 total yards from scrimmage and 11 scores. He then totaled 925 yards from scrimmage as a junior with six touchdowns. Talent was never a question with Shenault, as it was his inability to remain healthy and stay on the field that was his red flag. As a result, the first round talent slid to the second round.

With a new coaching staff and Trevor Lawrence under center for the Jags, they hype train for Laviska is moving full-steam ahead. Head Coach Urban Meyer’s offensive philosophy has mostly stayed the same throughout his career, and there is a link to the Percy Harvin, Curtis Samuel, Parris Campbell-type role in his offense through Shenault.

There are times when hype drives you to considering moving a player that you are high on. That is where I am at when it comes to Shenault. I believe that Shenault will have a fine season and career, but if I can sell him for a 2021 first round selection I am doing it with little hesitation.

2021 Status: Sell/Hold

43. Cole Kmet TE Chicago Bears

Cole Kmet finished his rookie season with 28 receptions for 243 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns in 16 games. Kmet was the TE41 in 2020.

Cole Kmet, the first of two second-round picks by the Bears in 2021, was brought along slowly, and eventually overcame Jimmy Graham to become the team’s TE1 by year’s end. All things considered, the arrow is pointing up for the Notre Dame product. The biggest lift for Kmet and the entire Bears organization is the fact they finally appear to have a viable quarterback. The arrival of Justin Fields gives Kmet sneaky top-12 TE upside. I am looking buy Cole Kmet everywhere.

2021 Status: Buy

46. K.J. Hamler WR Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos added two wide receivers with their first two picks in 2020: Jerry Jeudy in round one and K.J. Hamler in round two. I liked the upside of Hamler for Denver, as he was a pass catcher that made things happen with the ball in his hands at Penn State.

His 2020 body of work is tough to get a read off of. Hamler finished the season with 30 receptions for 381 yards and three scores in 13 games (4 starts). Hamler was limited by injury and poor quarterback play in his rookie season. He had a two week span where he was targeted 20 times, catching half of them for 125 yards. His six games following that pair he totaled 18 targets, catching 9 of them for 143 yards.

I believe there is a role for Hamler in this potentially high scoring Denver offense. That role, however, is likely as the teams 4th passing option. Hold Hamler on your bench and if need be use him as an “add on” in a deal to improve.

2021 Status: Hold/Sell

Revisiting the 2020 Rookie Class Part II
Revisiting the 2020 Rookie Class Part II

49. Chase Claypool WR Pittsburgh Steelers

I was fortunate to add Chase Claypool in a few leagues a year ago, often getting him in the early 3rd round. I liked the player and the offense, and the pick seemed like a wise one to make. Claypool finished his rookie season as the WR23 with 214.9 PPR points in 16 games (13.4 points a game). On the surface, Claypool appears to be the real deal. When we dig deeper, I am not so sure.

Claypool was targeted 100 times in 2020, hauling in 62 for 873 yards and he scored 9 touchdowns via the pass and two more on the ground. His 11 touchdowns were 31% of his total fantasy production. In addition, Claypool scored in 7 of his 16 games in 2020. In those seven contests, he averaged 21.43 PPR points and a WR16 finish. In the nine games he failed to score, he averaged 7.21 points and a WR65 finish. Claypool was an extremely TD dependent WR in 2020, and TD dependent WRs almost certainly regress.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is a shell of his former self, and Pittsburgh added Najee Harris and Pat Friermuth in the draft as added competition for targets. Diontae Johnson and Juju Smith-Schuster are also returning for Pittsburgh. Claypool is a WR that holds value that he is unlikely to measure up to. Chase Claypool is a sell high candidate that I will be looking to move prior to the start of the 2021 season.

2021 Status: Sell/Hold

52. Cam Akers RB Los Angles Rams

The pandemic impacted the majority of the 2020 rookie class, and Cam Akers was one of them. Akers not only missed out on a normal preseason and training camp, but he also dealt with some early-season injury issues that further slowed his progress. At the start of Week 11, Cam Akers had only appeared in 5 games and was averaging 9 touches and 21 rushing yards a game. Through the first ten weeks of the season, Akers was sitting at RB84 averaging 3.8 points a game (22.9 points).

Entering Weeks 11 and 12, Akers was mostly an after-thought and almost certainly on your bench. In Week 11, however, he started to deliver. In Week 11 he put up 8.9 points and followed it up with 14.4 more. Week 13 marked the arrival of Cam Akers. He rushed for 171 yards against the Patriots, delivering on what his fantasy managers were hoping for and validating why the Rams and Sean McVay were so high on him in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Akers finished out the season for the most part as the Rams primary back with the exception of Week 16 when he was inactive. Fantasy football, dynasty or otherwise, is a “what have you done for me lately” kind of game. Akers was hot the last time we saw him, and as a result, his value has skyrocketed. If I am a contending team with Cam Akers, I am riding him to a potential championship. In all other scenarios I am selling him at what I believe may be his peak. This is simply a situation of value, as I love the player, but I am guessing I may love the return even more.

2021 Status: Sell/Hold

53. Jalen Hurts QB Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Hurts’ stock went way up this off-season after the Eagles traded away Carson Wentz to the Colts. In addition, the Eagles, despite rumors, did not draft a QB and instead added DeVonta Smith, an additional weapon for Hurts. Hurts produced overall fantasy QB3 numbers in his three starts last season. His rushing upside alone will likely make him a QB1 heading into 2021 drafts. My concern with Hurts is how long will he keep the starting job in Philadelphia. I am looking to sell Hurts as I am in the camp that he very well may be one and done.

The Eagles have the draft capital to select a new QB next season as well as trade for one. In addition to their own first round pick, they added the Dolphins 2022 first and the Colts 2022 second in trades this offseason. The pick also could become a first-rounder if Wentz plays at least 70% of the snaps and the Colts reach the playoffs. On top of that, the worst the 2022 pick can be is a second-rounder. I am betting that the Eagles use some or all of those picks to find their next starting QB, so as a result I am looking to offload Jalen Hurts in 2021.

2021 Status: Sell/Hold

55. J.K. Dobbins RB Baltimore Ravens

I like J.K. Dobbins a lot as a fantasy asset. He performed well in the Ravens’ backfield when given the opportunity in the three-headed monster of a backfield last season. Dobbins touched the football 152 times in 2020 compared Gus Edwards’ 153 and Mark Ingram’s 78. In terms of fantasy points per touch, they finished as the following: Dobbins – 1.10, Edwards – .87, and Ingram – .68.

Looking ahead to 2021 and beyond, Mark Ingram is off to Houston, and Gus Edwards remains a Raven after being tendered this offseason. I expect Dobbins to see the majority of the workload on the ground and almost all of it through the air. My concern is that the passing game work is likely to remain limited.

The Baltimore Ravens attempted the least amount of passes in 2020 and threw for the fewest amount of yards. They ran 993 plays a year ago and 59% were running plays–the highest in the league–then add to that QB Lamar Jackson does not target the RB often. Of his 376 attempts, only 50 (13.2%) went to his backs, and only 24 went to J.K. Dobbins. Dobbins’ diminished roll in the passing game compared to the game’s best fantasy backs is significant.

Dobbins, in my opinion, is being ranked among his peers in the 2020 class and I feel that he is currently overvalued. IF he caught the ball more I would feel differently. I am going to take advantage of his overvalue and sell now before its too late.

2021 Status: Sell/Hold

Revisiting the 2020 Rookie Class Part II
Revisiting the 2020 Rookie Class Part II

57. Van Jefferson WR Los Angeles Rams

I was somewhat surprised that the Rams drafted Van Jefferson last season in the second round, as I was certain that they would add offensive line help after selecting Cam Akers earlier in the draft. Jefferson was a spare part in the Rams attack in 2020. Jefferson finished the year with 31 targets and 19 receptions in 16 games. The Rams left Josh Reynolds walk in free agency which at the time appeared to be good for Jefferson’s role in 2021. They then added DeSean Jackson in free agency and Tutu Atwell in the draft.

By all accounts, Jefferson is looking at another season with little action. I wouldn’t drop Jefferson, but I would certainly look to move him for anything in and around the value of a 3rd round rookie pick.

2021 Status: Sell/Hold

59. Denzel Mims WR New York Jets

I was not very high on Denzel Mims coming out of Baylor last season. Adding to my disappointment with the prospect was his landing in New York in an Adam Gase-led offense. After a disappointing rookie season that was limited by injury, Mims is somewhat forgotten among the deep 2020 rookie receiver class. Things are looking up however, with a new coaching staff arriving in New York, and a new starting QB. Many feel that this receiver has a good opportunity to have a breakout year in 2021.

I remain skeptical. The additions of WRs Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, and Elijah Moore likely mean that Mims will continue to fight for targets in this offense. The offense is likely going to resemble the Kyle Shanahan offense with Mike LaFleur (former 49ers passing game coordinator) being added to Robert Saleh’s staff as the Offensive Coordinator. Expect a lot of running back involvement and passes around the line of scrimmage. They certainly will take shots downfield, leveraging Zach Wilson’s arm, and I just don’t expect that to be a focal part of this attack.

Folks remain high on Mims, and I am looking to deal him as a result. Don’t give him away, but look to grab an early-to-mid second round pick. If you can’t find that value then hold him on your bench.

2021 Status: Sell/Hold

62. A.J. Dillon RB Green Bay Packers

All signs were pointing to A.J. Dillon being the primary back in Green Bay in 2021, and then the Packers went and re-signed RB Aaron Jones. Dillon was a very rarely used asset in 2020, as the Packers leaned on Jones and Jamaal Williams. Dillion finished his rookie season as RB84 with 40.3 PPR points in 11 games played. Dillon failed to receive more than six touches in a game until he received the start in Week 16.

A.J. Dillon tuned 21 carries and 1 reception into 129 scrimmage yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 25.9 PPR points were 64% of his season long total. What we saw from Dillon when afforded the opportunity is why so many were high on A.J. this offseason.

Dillion is worth a hold. Jamaal Williams is off to Detroit and Aaron Jones is not a bell-cow back, nor do the Packers want him to be one. Jones has one season of 16 games on his resume and that season we saw his career high in touches (285). Dillon will be involved, and I am holding him as a result. If Aaron Rodgers does indeed leave Green Bay, I would expect them to run much more with Jordan Love potentially under center.

2021 Status: Hold

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