The Lions signed undrafted free agent WR Jonathan Adams out of Arkansas State. Adams puts a big check mark in the measurables box, going 6’2 and 210 pounds with a huge 39-inch vertical. He puts that to good use, flashing plus ball skills and contested-catch ability on tape. He’s coming off a big 1,111-yard, 12-TD senior season, accounting for 28% of his team’s receiving yards and 31% of the TDs. Adams obviously faced weaker competition in the Sun Belt conference but did post a 8-98-3 line on Kansas State this past year. We wouldn't be surprised if he made Detroit's roster -- although he obviously has a long ways to go to be a fantasy factor.
The Jets signed undrafted free agent TE Kenny Yeboah. A WR-turned-TE, Yeboah spent 4 years at Temple before transferring to Ole Miss for the 2020 season. The move paid off, as the 22-year-old tallied 27-524-6 across 8 games. He ranked 2nd on the team in yards, tied for 2nd in catches and 3rd in receiving TDs. Yeboah added highly efficient marks in yards per catch (19.4) and yards per route run (2.25). However, drops were an issue here, while Yeboah’s blocking remains a major work in progress. We’ll see how he develops in New York, where there is opportunity on the TE depth chart.
Undrafted free agent RB Jaret Patterson signed with Washington. The University of Buffalo product tallied a freshman record 1,013 yards and 14 TDs in 2018. He posted 1,799 yards and 19 TDs on 312 carries as a sophomore before tallying 141-1,072-19 in 2020. Fueled by quick feet and sharp cuts, Patterson ranked 7th in the nation in missed tackles forced last year, per Pro Football Focus. The 5’7, 195-pounder absorbed contact well in the MAC, but he’s clearly undersized for an early-down role. Plus, as a pass catcher, Patterson went all of last season without a target. He recorded 20 total catches from 2018-2019. He’ll battle for a roster spot in Washington.
The Lions signed Wake Forest WR Sage Surratt as an undrafted free agent. Surratt posted a solid 41-581-4 line as a redshirt freshman in 2018 and was 1 of the most productive receivers in the country in 2019, averaging 7.3 catches, 111 yards and 1.2 TDs across 9 games. A shoulder injury cost him the final 4 games, though, and he opted out of the 2020 campaign. Surratt’s tape gave us all sorts of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside vibes. He’s 6’3, 209 pounds and plays even bigger, consistently making grabs in traffic and in contested situations. But Surratt is painfully slow -- confirmed by his 4.7-second 40 time -- and rarely created separation against college DBs. He looked like an NFL longshot to begin with, and going undrafted doesn’t help his chances. But he at least lands on a weak depth chart in Detroit.
The Seahawks signed South Dakota State WR Cade Johnson as an undrafted free agent. Johnson was a 0-star recruit out of high school, walked on at South Dakota State and was redshirted in 2016. He made an impact as a kick returner the following year -- and then exploded as a receiver. Johnson racked up 67 catches for 1,332 yards and a school-record 17 TDs in 2018 and followed that up with a 72-1,222-8 line in 2019. He opted out of the 2020 campaign but put together what Pro Football Focus called an “elite performance” at the Senior Bowl. Johnson goes just 5’11 and 184 pounds but plays well through contact and has plenty of juice to his routes. We’ve seen him compared to new teammate Tyler Lockett. But Johnson is obviously a long shot for fantasy value.
Washington selected BYU WR Dax Milne in the 7th round of the 2021 NFL Draft. After totaling just 31 catches over his first 2 years on campus, Milne emerged as Zach Wilson’s top target last season. He tallied 70 catches for 1,188 yards and 8 scores -- although the 30% yardage share and 24% TD share were less impressive. Milne didn’t do himself any favors at his Pro Day, running a 4.57-second 40 with a 31-inch vertical at 6’1 and 193 pounds. That matches the tape. Milne has reliable hands and nice ball skills. But he doesn’t have the speed or burst to create big separation. We're not optimistic about his NFL upside.
The Lions drafted RB Jermar Jefferson in Round 7. Jefferson broke out as a true freshman with 239 carries for 1,380 yards (5.8 YPC) and 12 TDs. He added 25 catches that year, although he totaled only 18 receptions over his final 2 seasons. Jefferson’s rushing production dropped in 2019, partly because of foot and ankle injuries. Last year he rebounded on the ground to post 133-858-7 (6.5 YPC) in 6 games. The tape shows a runner with plus vision, but there is some concern over his athletic profile. Jefferson posted a 7.38-second 3-cone (8th percentile), a 4.38-second short shuttle (28th percentile), a 31-inch vertical (10th percentile) and a 115-inch broad jump (25th percentile). In Detroit, he could be battling Kerryon Johnson for a 2021 roster spot. With D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams -- at least -- ahead of him, we wouldn't bother with Jefferson in dynasty rookie drafts.
The Packers picked RB Kylin Hill in Round 7 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Hill broke out in 2019 with 242-1,350-10. But playing under new HC Mike Leach in 2020, the 22-year-old’s progress came to a halt. While he opened eyes with 23 catches (15 at Kentucky; 8 at LSU), Hill made only 3 appearances and totaled just 15 carries. He received a 1-game suspension before getting deactivated for 2 because of “personal issue,” per Leach. He promptly skipped the remainder of the season to prep for the draft. When right, Hill uses his 5’10, 214-pound frame effectively as an inside/outside runner. His 4.51-second 40 time shows good enough speed, while his 36-inch vertical (68th percentile) and 122-inch broad jump (72nd percentile) show the burst. Those traits -- plus clear pass-catching ability -- made Hill 1 of our favorite RB sleepers. Landing in Green Bay offers clear pass-catching upside in the wake of Jamaal Williams' departure. We'll see how he fares this summer. For now, Hill makes for a solid upside shot to take late in dynasty rookie drafts.
Despite going undrafted, Louisville RB Javian Hawkins might have landed in the best possible spot. Hawkins delivered impressive production over 2 years with the Cardinals. (He redshirted after 2 games as a 2018 freshman.) Hawkins racked up 1,525 rushing yards in his full debut and averaged 5.9 yards per rush across the past 2 seasons. The obvious limitation is his size. Hawkins checked in at just 5’9, 183 pounds at his pro day. There’s not much recent history of NFL production at RB from players in that size range. It doesn’t help Hawkins’ outlook that he caught only 20 passes over his 2 starting seasons. He’ll need to average much more than 1 reception per game if he’s to present any fantasy value in the pros. Mark us down as skeptical that Hawkins will emerge as a fantasy factor. But Atlanta's backfield is probably his best shot at early relevance. The Falcons drafted no RBs and thus finished the draft with only Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Qadree Ollison and Tony Brooks-James on the roster at the position. We'll see how Hawkins' summer goes, but the landing spot makes him more interesting near the end of dynasty rookie drafts.
The Broncos nabbed WR Seth Williams in Round 6 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Williams goes 6’3, 211 pounds with 4.5 speed and a 37-inch vertical. He struck us as 1 of the more impressive size-athleticism prospects in this year’s WR class. And while his raw numbers weren’t big at Auburn, he topped a 30% share of receiving yards and TDs as a sophomore and junior the past 2 years. The tape is frustratingly inconsistent, though. Williams will make a highlight-reel grab 1 play, then run a lazy route or drop a pass the next. He’s the definition of a boom/bust prospect. But he’s 1 of just a handful of WRs in this class with alpha potential. The low draft capital spent certainly doesn't help his outlook. And he joins a crowded Denver WR corps, led by Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. We'll see how things go from here.
Chicago selected UNC WR Dazz Newsome in Round 6 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Newsome broke out for a 72-1,018-10 line back in 2019, beating Dyami Brown in catches and finishing just behind him in yards and TDs. He took a step back this past year, though, tallying 54 catches for 684 yards and 6 scores. And then he bombed his Pro Day, running a 4.59-second 40-yard dash with bottom-barrel agility scores at 5’10 and 190 pounds. We thought Newsome looked more athletic on tape, especially after the catch. But he’ll likely be pigeonholed as a slot receiver in the NFL. If that holds in Chicago, he could potentially step in early if the Bears trade away Anthony Miller (which has been rumored).
The Bears picked up RB Khalil Herbert in Round 6 of the 2021 NFL Draft. After an underwhelming stint at Kansas, Herbert transferred to Virginia Tech and enjoyed a breakout 2020. As a 22-year-old senior, the Florida native tallied 154-1,182-8 in 11 games. His 7.68 YPC ranked 4th nationally. On film, Herbert excelled both after contact and as a contact-dodger. He also exits college with only 1 career fumble (507 career touches). On the negative side, Herbert is still largely unproven in the receiving game. He at least managed 17.9 YPC on his 10 receptions last season. In Chicago, he could be fighting Damien Williams for a 2021 roster spot.
The Browns selected Demetric Felton in the 6th round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Felton played RB at UCLA but also worked at WR in practice. He then worked at receiver at the Senior Bowl. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that Cleveland plans to use him at RB, a designation that probably helps his fantasy outlook. We'll see about the specific plan for a guy who stands just 5'8.5 and 189 pounds.
Has any RB's fantasy outlook improved more than that of Mike Davis through draft weekend? As of this writing (late in Round 6), the Falcons have spent all of their NFL Draft picks and drafted 0 RBs. "It just didn't fall our way," GM Terry Fontenot said of their RB considerations throughout the draft, according to ESPN's Michael Rothstein. That leaves 30-year-old Cordarrelle Patterson as the next most accomplished NFL rusher (167 career carries) behind Davis on the roster, and Atlanta does list Patterson at RB. Qadree Ollison and Tony Brooks-James join them. Fontenot and HC Arthur Smith added that they'll look at undrafted free agents and consider trades, free agents and post-June 1 cuts. So we'll see if the Falcons can add someone better than Davis. He has cleared a big hurdle through draft weekend, though.
The Panthers selected South Carolina WR Shi Smith in Round 6 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Smith was a 4-year starter for the Gamecocks but was stuck behind guys like Deebo Samuel, Hayden Hurst and Bryan Edwards for his first 3 seasons. He finally emerged as the team’s lead receiver in 2020, snagging a career-high 57 balls for 533 yards and 4 scores. Smith has 4.4 speed and plenty of quickness. But he goes just 5’10, 186 pounds and struggles with contact. He projects as a slot receiver in the NFL without much fantasy upside.
The Bills added Houston WR Marquez Stevenson in the 6th round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Stevenson tore his ACL in 2017 but then broke out as a redshirt sophomore the following year, leading the Cougars with 75 catches and 1,019 yards. He took a step back in 2019, though, finishing with a 52-907-9 line. And then he caught just 20 balls in 6 games last year, missing 2 with a left ankle injury. Stevenson is undersized at 5’10, 180 pounds but did run a 4.48-second 40 with solid agility scores at his Pro Day. He has a shot to make it as a slot receiver but is unlikely to become a real asset for fantasy squads. He’ll battle for a roster spot in Buffalo behind Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders and Gabriel Davis.
The Giants spent a 6th-round pick on Arizona RB Gary Brightwell in the 2021 NFL Draft. Brightwell amassed just 245 carries across 4 years with the Wildcats, topping out at 91 rushing attempts as a redshirt freshman in 2018. Brightwell did average 17.6 rushes per game over 5 contests in 2020 but managed just 4.4 yards per rush and 4.1 yards per catch across his 13 receptions. Brightwell followed that with lackluster testing, including a 4.62-second 40. He could fight for a backup job right away in a weak depth chart behind Saquon Barkley, but there's not a lot to get excited about here.
The 49ers have added Louisiana RB Elijah Mitchell to their backfield crowd in the 6th round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Mitchell sports impressive testing numbers, including a 4.35-second pro day 40, an 83rd-percentile vertical, a 94th-percentile broad jump and a 71st-percentile 3-cone drill. His production for the Ragin’ Cajuns was fine, but a strong O-line certainly helped his 6.2-yard rushing average. Mitchell also spent his whole college career splitting touches basically evenly with limited prospect Trey Ragas. Sophomore Chris Smith tied Mitchell for the backfield lead with 16 receptions in 2020. He'll face even stiffer competition in San Francisco, which returns Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson and JaMycal Hasty, added Wayne Gallman and already drafted Trey Sermon. We didn't like Mitchell as more than a late consideration in rookie drafts heading in. He doesn't look any more attractive now. Mitchell will need to fight for a spot on the 2021 roster.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that Bears HC Matt Nagy wants to have QB Andy Dalton spend this season as the starter, with Justin Fields learning behind him. Nagy, of course, was the Chiefs OC in 2017, when K.C. traded up to 10 to draft Patrick Mahomes and then sat him for a year behind Alex Smith. Overall, history says that Fields is more likely to enter the starting lineup at some point this season. But this report is worth taking seriously for at least current best-ball drafting. Dalton doesn't come close to Fields in upside for either real or fantasy football, but he's pretty similar to what Smith was in 2017. Dalton does throw a lot more INTs, however, than Smith did. He has also posted sub-.500 win-loss records in his past 5 seasons. It's hard to imagine a struggling Bears team not making a switch to Fields. It's also worth noting that Fields enters the league as a more-polished passer than Mahomes did. We'll see if the buzz changes once we get into training camp and preseason.
In a Saturday interview on NFL Network, Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians called rookie WR Jaelon Darden "kind of a combo" of Emmanuel Sanders and John Brown, each of whom he coached early in their careers (Sanders with the Steelers; Brown with the Cardinals). Brown might be the most hopeful comp for Darden's upside. Brown stood just 5'10, 179 as a 2014 prospect but also ran a 4.34-second 40. Darden still checks in even lighter (174) and shorter. The height of 5'7 and five-eighths at his pro day places the North Texas alum in the 1st percentile, according to Mockdraftable. Darden is fast, but also falls short of Brown in that category (4.46 pro day 40). We'll see how he fares in Tampa but aren't betting heavily on Darden's fantasy future.
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