Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Hakeem Butler
- Matthew Freedman analyzes the fantasy football fits for the 10 most notable skill position players selected on Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft.
- Players highlighted include Cardinals WR Hakeem Butler, Redskins RB Bryce Love and Ravens RB Justice Hill.
The 2019 NFL draft is dead. Long live the 2019 NFL draft.
For Days 1-2, I analyzed the fantasy football outlooks for every skill position player drafted. Day 3, however, typically offers few fantasy-relevant options.
So in this piece I’ll highlight just the 10 skill position players I find most notable.
Pick No. 103: Hakeem Butler, WR, Arizona Cardinals
- Height: 6’5″ | Weight: 227 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.48 seconds
- School: Iowa State | Class: Redshirt Junior | 2019 age: 23
Before the draft, Butler was widely expected to be a Round 2 pick. On his pre-draft conference call, Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network projected Butler to go off the board in the top 40.
That clearly didn’t happen.
Instead, he fell to Day 3, and the Cardinals gladly selected him with the first pick of Round 4. While it’s not great for him that he slipped, he couldn’t have landed in a more exciting place than Arizona.
At wide receiver, the Cardinals already have Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzgerald and 2018 second-rounder Christian Kirk as well as dynamic 2019 second-rounder Andy Isabella — but Fitz seems likely to retire after the season and Kirk and Isabella are both unproven and small.
At some point over the next couple of years, Butler will probably get a chance to play as the big-bodied guy in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense, and he might impress catching passes from No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray.
A man among boys, Butler has the most length of all the receivers in the 2019 class. He did little for the Cyclones early in his college career, but in 2018 — his first season as the team’s No. 1 receiver — he stood out with 101.4 yards receiving per game and captured an elite 45% of the team’s receiving touchdowns.
A downfield dominator with a 15.9-yard average depth of target, Butler led the nation last year with 19 receptions and 721 yards on targets of 20-plus yards. With his size and athleticism, Butler also displayed the ability to produce after the catch (413 yards).
I doubt that he’ll do much in 2019, but in dynasty rookie drafts he should probably go off the board no later than Round 2, even with his diminished draft position.
Pick No. 112: Bryce Love, RB, Washington Redskins
- Height: 5’9″ | Weight: 200 pounds
- School: Stanford | Class: Senior | 2019 age: 22
Love is a
walking limping cautionary tale. A four-star recruit with track-star speed, he backed up future No. 8 overall pick Christian McCaffrey for his first two years on campus before breaking out as a junior with a dominant 2,151-yard, 19-touchdown campaign, winning the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back.
If he had declared for the 2018 draft, he might have been selected in Round 1. Absolutely no later than Day 2.
But he decided to return to school for his senior season, which quickly went sideways. He missed two games in 2018 with an ankle injury. He was notably hampered in the 10 games he did play. And on his final college carry, he tore his ACL.
And now the Redskins have selected him in Round 4.
Love is unlikely to play as a rookie, and he has reportedly experienced stiffness in his knee as he recovers, so Love’s short-term outlook is nonexistent and his long-term prognosis is questionable.
But if Love is able to return to his pre-injury form, he has massive potential, and he could find a spot in the Redskins backfield rotation.
Hall-of-Famer Adrian Peterson is 34 years old, and the team can easily part ways with him next year if it wants to. Scatback Chris Thompson is in the final year of his contract. And 2018 second-rounder Derrius Guice is returning from an ACL tear of his own: He might never become the player the Redskins want him to be.
If circumstances break his way, Love could conceivably win the lead-back job next season, especially since he improved as a receiver in his final season, registering two receptions per game.
Pick No. 113: Justice Hill, RB, Baltimore Ravens
- Height: 5’10” | Weight: 198 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.40 seconds
- School: Oklahoma State | Class: Junior | 2019 age: 22
There’s a lot to like about Hill. At the combine he exhibited great explosiveness, leading all backs with his 4.40-second 40-yard dash.
And he was a three-year starter in college. As a freshman, he stole the lead-back job from future NFL starter Chris Carson, putting up 1,188 yards and six touchdowns from scrimmage, and then as a sophomore (with Carson in the NFL), Hill owned the Cowboys backfield as both a rusher (268-1,467-15) and receiver (31-190-1).
Hill was hampered for much of 2018 with a rib cage injury, so he had only 998 yards and nine touchdowns, but across his career he still averaged 106.8 scrimmage yards per game.
Because of his size, Hill is unlikely ever to be a lead back in the NFL, but he could still have a lot of upside as an oft-used change-of-pace option, especially since the Ravens rely on the running game more than almost any other team.
Dating back to his junior year at Alabama, veteran starter Mark Ingram has played in a backfield committee, and that’s likely to be the case once again in 2019.
Although Ingram should lead the team in rushing and get the majority of the high-value goal-line opportunities, Hill could get a lot of run as the No. 2 back in Baltimore.
Pick No. 128: Tony Pollard, RB/WR, Dallas Cowboys
- Height: 6’0″ | Weight: 210 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.52 seconds
- School: Memphis | Class: Redshirt Junior | 2019 age: 22
I’m irrationally excited about Pollard. I know that fourth-rounders don’t often have NFL success, especially when they’re pseudo-positionless hybrid players, but Pollard could be a playmaker for the Cowboys.
In his three seasons, he never had even 100 carries in any campaign, and he’s not polished as a runner, so he probably will never be a lead back. But a switch to wide receiver doesn’t seem feasible: Even though Pollard is a good pass-catching back (104-1,292-9 receiving for his career), he lacks route-running nuance.
Even so, last year he had 1,010 yards and nine touchdowns from scrimmage on just 117 touches, and for his career he averaged 30.1 yards per kick return and tied the FBS record with seven kick return touchdowns. He has game-changing talent as a return specialist.
And not that there was anything wrong with his combine performance, but he’s probably even more dynamic than his combine numbers suggest.
The Cowboys are committed to getting running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Amari Cooper the ball as much as possible, and Pollard’s skill set drastically overlaps with that of Tavon Austin, so it’s doubtful that Pollard will ever get an opportunity to do significantly more than return kicks in Dallas.
But if he happens to get regular touches as a change-of-pace back and/or gadget-esque player, he could be a volatile, high-risk fantasy play with week-winning upside.
Pick No. 149: Hunter Renfrow, WR, Oakland Raiders
- Height: 5’10” | Weight: 184 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.59 seconds
- School: Clemson | Class: Redshirt Senior | 2019 age: 24
Instead of writing a blurb, can I just show you five tweets? Thanks.
Full disclosure: I’m not all that excited about Hunter, because I tend to avoid old, small, slow wide receivers who never dominated in college — but that’s just me.
Still, Renfrow could get opportunities sooner rather than later as the team’s primary slot receiver, and with opposing defenses focused on wide receivers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, Renfrow could capitalize against soft coverage.
Question: How convincing did I make that sound?
Pick No. 182: Trayveon Williams, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
- Height: 5’8″ | Weight: 206 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.51 seconds
- School: Texas A&M | Class: Junior | 2019 age: 22
The draft was not kind to Williams. I thought he might be selected on Day 2, but he slipped significantly, and then he landed on a Bengals team with an established starting running back and weak offensive line.
But Williams still has potential.
He doesn’t look like a three-down back because of his stature, but he’s sturdy and an accomplished player who led his backfield each year of his career. A top-10 running back recruit, he won the starting job his first year on campus and became the first true freshman in A&M history to surpass 1,000 yards rushing.
After a forgettable sophomore season in which he failed to hit 1,000 scrimmage yards, Williams broke out nationally as a junior with 271-1,760-18 rushing and 27-278-1 receiving. Among all graded backs, he finished top-five with 6.5 yards per carry, 3.8 yards after contact per attempt and 33.2 expected points added (per Sports Info Solutions).
Joe Mixon is firmly entrenched as the lead back, but Giovani Bernard is in the final year of his contract, and with a good rookie campaign, Williams could position himself as the long-term No. 2 back in the Bengals offense.
Pick No. 203: Marcus Green, WR/RB, Atlanta Falcons
- Height: 5’8″ | Weight: 191 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds
- School: Louisiana-Monroe | Class: Redshirt Senior | 2019 age: 23
Green will probably do nothing in the NFL, but he intrigues me.
He sat his first year on campus, but he broke out as a redshirt freshman, leading the Warhawks with 62 receptions and finishing second with 687 yards receiving and six touchdowns through the air.
For each of the next two years he led the team in receptions, and then as a senior he played as the team’s No. 1 all-around receiver, leading all pass catchers with 50 receptions, 855 yards and eight touchdowns.
On top of that, he added 193 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and he also chipped in with a punt return touchdown. In total, he had 1,048 scrimmage yards and 10 all-purpose touchdowns in a below-average offense. That’s pretty good.
Although Green played primarily in the slot in college, he’s a versatile contributor. For his career, he had a 51-492-1 rushing stat line, and as a junior he exploded with four kick return touchdowns.
And apparently, it’s his versatility that interests the Falcons.
Evidently, the team plans to move Green to running back.
Although he’s unlikely to see much (if any) playing time behind Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith, Green might be worth a speculative roster spot in dynasty: The Falcons can get out of Freeman’s contract in 2020, and Green could ascend to the No. 2 role if that happens.
And even if all he ever does is see a few snaps each game as a change-of-pace back, Green might have 2014 Antone Smith potential. At some point, he might be a viable late-round best-ball flier.
Pick No. 211: Rodney Anderson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
- Height: 6’0″ | Weight: 224 pounds
- School: Oklahoma | Class: Redshirt Junior | 2019 age: 23
While Joe Mixon dominated college defenses in 2015-16, Anderson stood on the sideline watching his teammate. It’s only natural for him to do the same as a professional.
But if the Bengals were ever to find themselves without Mixon’s services, Anderson might be able to replace him.
Anderson was a four-star recruit and one of the top running backs in the country entering college, but his career at Oklahoma was hardly a consummation devoutly to be wished. If not for his medical history, Anderson might have been the No. 1 back in the draft.
Instead, he was one of the last players drafted in Round 6.
Anderson played just two games as a true freshman in 2015 before breaking his leg, and then he missed the entire 2016 campaign because of a fractured vertebra in his neck. In 2017, though, he impressed in the lead role, totaling 1,442 yards and 18 touchdowns on 188 carries and 17 receptions, looking every bit like a future NFL starter.
But then in Week 2 of the 2018 season, he suffered a season-ending knee injury, which prevented him from working out for scouts before the draft.
With Anderson, the situation seems pretty straightforward: If he’s able to stay healthy, he could be a top-10 NFL back for a half decade. He could also fade into the obscurity of memory after a string of injuries.
Either way, he’s worth taking near the bottom of Round 3 in rookie drafts as a speculative high-upside option.
Pick No. 214: Darwin Thompson, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
- Height: 5’8″ | Weight: 198 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.47 seconds
- School: Utah State | Class: Junior | 2019 age: 22
The Chiefs have a somewhat unsettled and/or unproven backfield. Damien Williams hasn’t been a full-time lead back since college. Carlos Hyde is on his fourth team in a little over a year. Darrel Williams is a fullback/halfback tweener who saw limited playing time last year as a rookie.
Amazingly, Thompson has the potential to work his way into a contributing role this year. Thompson isn’t big, but HC Andy Reid has shown a willingness in the past to employ smaller backs in lead roles with Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles. Even if all he does is play as a change-of-pace option, that could be enough to give Thompson fantasy value.
He has never played against elite competition, but in his two years at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and single season at Utah State, Thompson averaged 116.7 scrimmage yards and 0.97 touchdowns across 35 games.
Willing to run between the tackles and capable of catching the ball out of the backfield (23-351-2 receiving with the Utes in 2018), Thompson could develop into a long-term committee back for the Chiefs.
Pick No. 239: Dillon Mitchell, WR, Minnesota Vikings
- Height: 6’1″ | Weight: 197 pounds
- 40-yard dash: 4.46 seconds
- School: Oregon | Class: Junior | 2019 age: 22
Under general manager Rick Spielman, the Vikings have recently done a great job of finding undervalued rookie wide receivers in Adam Thielen (2013 undrafted free agent) and Stefon Diggs (2015 fifth-rounder). They might have found another one in Mitchell.
A two-sport high-school athlete, Mitchell entered college as a four-star recruit, and he lived up to the hype. The coaching staff intended to sideline him for his first year on campus, but in the middle of the season he was needed as a reserve, so he used a year of eligibility on what was essentially a redshirt season: He had just two receptions as a freshman.
But as a sophomore, he broke out, serving as quarterback Justin Herbert’s No. 1 receiver with a team-high 42 receptions and 517 yards despite missing a game. And as a junior he progressed with a team-best 75-1,184-10 receiving line.
Mitchell doesn’t have elite speed or size — but he’s very physically comparable to Diggs (six-foot, 195 pounds, 4.46-second 40-yard dash), and he flashed in his two seasons of real action.
Mitchell has the talent to develop into an NFL contributor. He has experience out wide and in the slot, and he’s an above-average after-the-catch yardage producer. As unbelievable as this sounds, Mitchell might be able to play in three-wide receiver sets as early as this year: Laquon Treadwell is the most unproductive No. 3 receiver in the league. He’s done nothing through three seasons, and the Vikings might be ready to give his snaps to another player.
Mitchell will be challenged to earn targets with Thielen and Diggs on the team, but he probably has the most upside of any player selected in Round 7, and he should be available late in rookie dynasty drafts or on waivers.
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