Fantasy Football: Breaking Down the Top Dynasty Sleepers of 2014
The beginning of summer brings with it the beginning of fantasy draft season, and the first leagues who generally sit down to draft are ongoing dynasty formats.
In those leagues, of course, the draft-day pool of available talent is much shallower. Some leagues will allow teams to draft any player (rookie or veteran) who isn't on a roster, but in many dynasty leagues only that year's incoming rookies are eligible for the draft.
Given the limited number of players, the pickings get slim quickly, which only magnifies the impact a late-round rookie pick can have on a team's fortunes.
Ask the teams who drafted Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris late. Or maybe Zac Stacy of the St. Louis Rams. Or Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon.
OK, so don't ask about him. It, um, just don't ask.
With that in mind, here's a look at some players with an average draft position of 25 or later at My Fantasy League who could provide just that kind of late-round value to fantasy owners down the road.
Storm Johnson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Average Draft Position: 36
If early ADP information at My Fantasy League is any indication, then the strategy for contending teams in dynasty rookie drafts is clear.
If you don't have a lot of holes to fill, trade back and stockpile picks, because while the class of 2014 may not be especially top-heavy, it's Marianas Trench deep.
Take, for instance, the case of Central Florida running back Storm Johnson, who slid all the way to the seventh round of the NFL draft before being scooped up by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
For their part, the Jaguars think they got a steal with the 6'0", 215-pounder. At least that's what offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch told Vito Stellino of the Florida Times Union, calling Johnson a "a great value pick for us."
Now he can be a great value for fantasy owners.
Yes, Johnson needs to work on ball security and pass protection, making him the first running back in NFL history to require coaching up in that regard.
However, Johnson is also a powerful north-south runner who Bleacher Report's Ryan Riddle ranked as the top prospect at his position in this year's class.
Throw in the imposing (or not) trio of Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson and Jordan Todman ahead of him on the depth chart and not only is Johnson's dynasty future bright, but he's also the leading candidate to be this year's Zac Stacy, who was last year's Alfred Morris.
In other words, a late-round running back who makes a significant dent as a rookie.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, MInnesota Vikings
Average Draft Position: 48
OK, so that rookie impact we were talking about with Storm Johnson isn't going to happen with Jerick McKinnon.
Unless the sky falls in, that is.
The Georgia Southern star isn't going to see a ton of playing time as a rookie behind that Peterson dude with the Vikings, especially given that the 5'9", 209-pounder is making the switch from quarterback to running back in the NFL.
However, Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer told Ben Goessling of ESPN the Vikings are already thinking of ways of getting the ball to McKinnon in space.
"The change-of-pace backs like LT [LaDainian Tomlinson] and [Darren] Sproles? Similar, very similar," Zimmer said. "You'd have to ask Norv [Turner] this, but from our conversations, he's been thinking a lot about ways we can use him."
The Vikings didn't use a third-round pick on McKinnon because they thought it would be a cute experiment. They did it because they think McKinnon can play a big role as a running back in the NFL.
Adrian Peterson isn't getting any younger (or cheaper), and while it probably won't be in 2014, don't be surprised if we wind up talking a lot more about McKinnon at some point in the next couple years.
And if you own Peterson and aren't willing to burn a fourth-round rookie pick on McKinnon, then I don't know what to tell you.
Best of luck.
Cody Latimer, WR, Denver Broncos
Average Draft Position: 26
Let's see. How to put this...
If Cody Latimer is available in the third round of your rookie draft, then it's a gift from the fantasy gods. To refuse it would be rude, so smile politely and pull the trigger.
Mind you, as things stand right now, the second-rounder from Indiana is at best fourth on a stacked Denver depth chart at wide receiver. Latimer admitted as much to Marc Sessler of NFL.com:
I'm here to get on the field, but it's not much of a rush. I can learn from (the veterans) and don't have to get pushed into the system too early. I'll be on the field when I can, special teams, however I've got to play on the field. Like I said, it makes it easier for me having to catch on to the offense, not so much of a rush.
So now we can add a good attitude to the 6'3" size, and the 4.4 speed, and the leaping ability, and the soft hands, and the...
You get the point.
Latimer may be saying all the right things, but if his recovery from foot surgery continues to progress, he's going to press for snaps early. It wouldn't be at all surprising if he's starting by midseason, or if he leads all rookies in receiving yards in 2014.
You heard me right.
Cody Latimer is going to make Broncos fans forget all about Eric Decker.
For a third-round rookie pick?
Smile and pull.
Jared Abbrederis, WR, Green Bay Packers
Average Draft Position: 43
By the fourth round of rookie drafts (the final one in many leagues) the odds of finding players who are going to make a dent as rookies isn't good. It becomes more about the dynasty "projects," players in a favorable situation that sets up well for success down the road.
Players like Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, who stayed in-state after starring at the University of Wisconsin.
Granted, the 6'1", 195-pounder isn't likely to see a lot of reps behind Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boykin. But Packers wide receiver coach Edgar Bennett thinks Abbrederis' versatility at wide receiver and his ability to return punts could lead to some early playing time, according to Associated Press (via USA Today):
He's a savvy route runner, he understands coverage, he understands how to defend leverage of the defender. So those are some of the little things that kind of stood out as far as creating separation.
Abbrederis isn't the fastest wide receiver on the field, or the tallest, but they've been saying that about him his entire career and Abbrederis just keeps producing.
He could get the chance to do so in Green Bay as early as 2015, when both Cobb and Nelson are set to hit free agency.
Colt Lyerla, TE, Green Bay Packers
Average Draft Position: 44
On just about every level imaginable, tight end Colt Lyerla is a late-draft "lottery ticket" pick.
After all, not only was the 6'4", 242-pounder not drafted after his collegiate career at Oregon ended with Lyerla quitting the team and being arrested for cocaine possession, but there wasn't so much as a whiff of interest in Lyerla from an NFL team for days after the draft.
Finally, though, the Packers came calling, and from a fantasy standpoint the landing spot couldn't have been better.
The Pack lost James Jones in free agency. Jermichael Finley may never play again. Green Bay drafted Cal's Richard Rodgers in the third round, but it's not hard to imagine Lyerla (who did well in drills at the combine) beating Rodgers out.
Provided, that is, Lyerla keeps his head on straight.
Lyerla told Tom Silverstein of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel back in February he's realized his first chance in the NFL may well be his last. "I put myself in a position where my back's against the wall," Lyerla said, "to the point that if I don't do everything perfect and the right way, I won't be able to play football, let alone be successful in any shape or form."
If he's serious in that regard, Lyerla might well be the fantasy tight end from this year's class we'll be talking about three years from now.
And that lottery ticket will hit the jackpot.
Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.