In Part 3 of this series about creating a winning dynasty team, we start to go through the middle rounds and the fruits of our trade labor really become evident. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 to find out how we got here!
Pick 49 (5.01): Christian Kirk
Most in my league were shocked at this pick as I selected Kirk over two full rounds ahead of ADP, but I would argue he was still a value pick here. Heading into the NFL last year, Kirk was a great prospect who checked all the boxes for a wide receiver.
He was immediately thrust into a starting role and quietly became their most efficient receiver (sorry, Fitz). Despite being in one of the worst offenses in NFL history, Kirk was one of the most efficient and productive rookie receivers last year.
In spite of missing four games and in turn finishing outside of the top five in targets, Kirk finished top five among rookies in receptions, yards, and PPR points. On a per game basis, he even edged out my beloved DJ Moore in pretty much all categories including points per game.
If we search similar rookie seasons we find some intriguing names at the top including stud Stefon Diggs, who was the most comparable receiver to Kirk. The two had eerily similar rookie seasons:
Kirk also fits into the elite cohort of 21-year-old rookies with a great production profile and an efficient rookie season to boot. Now heading into his second season, all the arrows are pointing straight up for him.
The Cardinals hired an offensive guru in Kliff Kingsbury who helped the offense at Texas Tech finish top 16 in points per game in each of the six seasons he coached there. This offense is going to be high powered with a lot of pass attempts and plays, David Johnson explained, ”they are hoping to run 90 to 95 plays a game.”
While that’s likely unrealistic, it shows us that they are focusing on improving their awful 53 plays per game last season (which was good for 31st in the NFL). Add in a promising rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, who actually played with Kirk in college, and the two were and should continue to be wildly efficient together.
Christian Kirk is a premier breakout candidate:
– When healthy, Kirk had 19.3% MS but 32.1% of AZ rec YDs & 25% of rec TDs
– AZ avg’d a dreadful 5.1 yds per pass att, Kirk avg’d 8.7 Y/T. Was AZ's best WR as a rook
– Great prospect w/ stunning college production & breakout age pic.twitter.com/NcxQeyZgw7
— Mike Braude (@BraudeM) May 29, 2019
Kirk should not only be the WR1 in Arizona this year and beyond, but in a potentially lethal offense for years to come, he is a screaming buy this offseason.
Trade 5: Picks 55 (5.07) and 78 (7.07) for Picks 50 (5.02) and 88 (8.04)
|Pick 55||301.9||Pick 50||356.2|
|Pick 78||247.1||Pick 88||156.2|
I made the move up knowing I had two guys I still rated highly available and wanted to lock up my guys at all costs. This was a very cheap price to pay, as I only dropped back ten slots in the 7th round to secure my guy. There were times last year in startup drafts that I wasn’t aggressive enough in trading up to select players I liked and always regretted the moment they were picked.
This happened to me a couple of times when trying to draft JuJu Smith-Schuster last year in the 3rd round and I made a vow to myself I wouldn’t make the same mistake again. Looking back on this trade it’s very likely I didn’t have to move up for this player, but due to a small sample size in ADP data right after the rookie draft, it was hard to gauge the market on when these rookies would go.
Pick 50 (5.02): A.J. Brown
Brown was going as the 1.04 pre-draft and even then that was a value for him, but after landing in Tennessee, his value has depleted in the dynasty community. I firmly believe talent ALWAYS wins out versus opportunity in the long run. Good players are good, and opportunities tend to find them sooner or later.
Right now it may seem like Tennessee was a terrible landing spot, but I’d argue there is hope for the future. This is likely a make or break season for Marcus Mariota as either he plays well and Brown benefits (albeit likely not in his rookie season) or Mariota is bad and they are looking for their new quarterback in the upcoming drafts. With a QB-rich draft coming next year and the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes coming in 2021, the Titans are unlikely to operate in QB-purgatory for long.
As far as volume goes, I think being in a run-oriented offense in today’s NFL is non-optimal and if Tennessee fails to win games they could be looking at a new (and hopefully innovative) coach to help restart the team – or at least an exciting offensive mind. My belief is it ends up being a win-win for Brown as this current situation won’t stay forever, but drafting him is more of a patient play even though he has all the talent to produce as a rookie. I’m continuing to scoop up Brown everywhere I can as I’m a believer in him as a player.
I had Brown as my WR1 entering the draft just edging out N’Keal Harry as Brown is a versatile weapon who can thrive in each WR spot. He was the nearly unanimous top college wideout before the 2018 season.
He broke out as a sophomore and dominated despite being surrounded by 2nd round pick D.K. Metcalf, 3rd round pick Dawson Knox, and productive undrafted free agent DaMarkus Lodge. This core of receiving options was arguably the best in all of college football and in 2017, Brown essentially doubled the receiving production of everybody else in that room. It was more of the same in 2018 as he easily led the team across the board in receiving production. Brown’s comparables offer a glimpse at his range of outcomes and a few studs are found in the top 12:
It’s obviously concerning when the top four are WRs who never found success in the NFL, but it’s easy to write off Darboh and Harper considering they didn’t have the draft capital the Brown had. One thing that is hard to quantify when it comes to these WR prospects coming out is their work ethic and how they will transition to a professional environment, as sometimes this hinders their development and ultimately stops them from reaching their full potential.
This shouldn’t be an issue for Brown as evidenced by his love for football and his willingness to sacrifice his weekends in college to studying NFL wide receivers. Brown is clearly an impressive athlete – as he is one of two people to ever play in the High School All-American game in both football and baseball. Brown was drafted out of high school to the San Diego Padres but instead chose to keep pursuing football.
His impressive athleticism further illustrates that Brown is a great receiver prospect. He dominated in the SEC surrounded by NFL talent, and is now very likely a starting WR in the NFL from Day 1 and has the work ethic and mindset to thrive in this league for a long time.
Pick 53 (5.05): OJ Howard
Maybe I just have a thing for players with two letters in their first name, or maybe OJ Howard is next in line for a major tight end breakout. Howard was an efficiency machine last year and if we find comparable players for his first two seasons, he blows away the competition in the similarity search.
Just using efficiency metrics, he was by far the best in yards per target, top in yards per reception, and top in fantasy points over expectation (how many points he scored more than the average player would with that volume). Not too shabby when considering he beats out elite tight ends Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz (he was one spot lower on the list, but due to screen-size limitations I couldn’t fit him in), one of the best ever in Antonio Gates, and popular breakout candidate Hunter Henry in their first two seasons in the league.
Things get really interesting when we start to compare his efficiency to all tight end seasons since 2000. To give Howard his full due, I used these stats on a per game basis instead of full season due to Howard’s shortened season last year. Howard’s 2018 season and 2017 season finished 3rd and 4th respectively in yards per target behind only Rob Gronkowski (2016) and Antonio Gates (2010). His yards per reception rank both 5th and 6th amongst all TEs in this span. Howard’s 3.8 fantasy points over expectation in 2018 finished 9th among a ridiculously impressive group of names.
While some would argue that efficiency isn’t predictive year over year, the fact that Howard’s rookie and sophomore seasons look nearly identical on a per target basis shows that this isn’t a fluke. His efficiency marks will likely drop when his volume rises, but his career trajectory shows that he can be a truly elite TE.
Heading into this season we see Howard returning to an offense with 179 targets up for grabs due to the departure of DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries. This also ensures that Howard will be a top-three option in what should be one of the most pass-happy offenses in the NFL. Add in the fact that Howard is entering his age-25 season in which we see a massive amount of breakouts for tight ends and all the pieces are aligning for not only a monster season but a truly remarkable career.