🏆 TE News and Combine Risers

No illegal tampering this weekend everyone...

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The Super Bowl was only 26 days ago. Sheesh…

In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by BetMGM:

  • Big news on Russell Wilson, Jonnu Smith and Darren Waller

  • Bears CB Jaylon Johnson got PAID

  • NFL Combine Risers: Adonai Mitchell made himself some money

  • It’s 3/8. Take it away, Ian Hartitz…

Every football fan’s favorite oxymoron begins next Monday, March 11. The start of legal tampering means the beginning of commitments from the free market’s biggest names; contracts are often little more than a formality by the time free agency ‘officially starts’ the following Wednesday at 4 pm ET.

Of course, this didn’t stop the NFL from supplying us with some fantasy-relevant news on an otherwise ho-hum offseason Thursday. I’m no Stanley Yelnats, but let’s dig in anyway.

👀 Russell Wilson to the Steelers?

It’s looking like a pretty decent possibility at this point.

While nobody should expect Pittsburgh to get a prime version of Russ, Mr. Unlimited still has a penchant for creating some off-script magic and deserves credit for posting the NFL’s third-best mark in completion percentage over expected (+4.9%) last season.

Honestly, working inside Arthur Smith’s run-first, play-action-heavy scheme while throwing to the likes of George Pickens, Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth might be what’s best for Wilson at this point of his career. The match also makes sense from the Steelers’ point of view, considering their relative lack of cap space and the potential for Russ to take a veteran-minimum deal.

🐬 Jonnu Smith signs with the Dolphins

Somewhere, Arthur Smith is crying.

It’s a two-year deal worth up to $10 million for the 28-year-old veteran, who is coming off career-best marks in receptions (50) and receiving yards (582), showcasing plenty of his patented YAC ability along the way. Overall, only Isaiah Likely and George Kittle posted better ESPN YAC scores than Smith in 2023.

The fast get faster in Miami. Although, Smith’s fantasy ceiling isn’t all that high considering Dolphins TEs rank dead last in total targets (120) since Mike McDaniel got to town back in 2022. Wild but true: You can’t score fantasy points in the year 2024 without getting the football first.

😮 Darren Waller is strongly considering retirement

Does this sound like someone expecting to play football in the year 2024 to you?

This comes a week after the New York Post reported that Waller “will play for the team in 2024” and won’t be a cap casualty. It’d make at least a little sense if the 31-year-old veteran is waiting to see if the organization has plans of upgrading at QB sooner rather than later.

The often-injured veteran averaged six-year lows in yards per reception (10.6) and yards per route run (1.55) while only clearing the 50-yard mark on four occasions in 2023. It's more probable than not Waller has played his best football. If so, what a truly great comeback story it has been.

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Around the Watercooler (August 2022)

📺 How should you approach Justin Jefferson in 2024 drafts? Well, it depends…

🐻 Chicago strikes a long-term deal with one of their very best players. The contract has a lot of zeroes.

🤑 The Saints lock down a HUGE piece of their secondary. Great day to be great.

😬 Michael Thomas had some things to get off his chest. That escalated quickly.

💰 Trevor Lawrence got some big help on Thursday. And by big we mean large.

🤔 If you had an NFL draft time machine, what's one thing you'd change? Lots of regret in the replies.

🐶 Cool drafting update over at Underdog Fantasy. Thanks guys! 

 Which WR has ranked dead last in separation over the past four years? You know this.

Fantasy Life Peter Overzet NFL Combine Risers

The NFL Combine has already impacted the drafting landscape on Underdog. Today, Pete dives into some of the key rookie risers in the Big Board contest and explains why they are still targets.

One of the best parts about drafting year-round is the way certain events shake up the draft board.

These events give us a chance to not only rethink how we value these players but also anticipate how the market will react to the new information. 

The NFL Draft is obviously the biggest one, but the Combine also sends minor shockwaves through the ADP landscape as drafters become more and more bullish about the physical profiles of the incoming rookies.

I often see pushback to “chasing rookies up draft boards” solely because of Combine performances and “double counting” data points that many believe are already baked into the current ADP.

I understand this sentiment in a vacuum, but we aren’t overreacting to Combine performances. We are properly reacting to updated draft capital forecasting.

Fantasy Life Peter Overzet NFL Combine Risers

This is to say: players like Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell will undoubtedly go higher in the NFL draft than they would have pre-Combine. And because early draft capital is one of the strongest indicators of playing time and opportunities, we would be silly not to react in tandem with NFL evaluators who are the ones pushing these guys up draft boards. 

Not all of these WRs will hit – that is a given – but the ones who do provide us league-winning upside relative to where they are going in drafts. This lesson was one of my key takeaways from 2023 best ball drafts.

Putting my money where my mouth is, I drafted two Big Board teams on Underdog Fantasy on Monday morning after the Combine concluded and aggressively targeted a handful of rookies who impressed over the weekend. Then on Wednesday, I drafted a team with six rookie WRs with the Badge Bros. Even crazier: I think many of these risers are still screaming values, even at their elevated price tags.

Let me explain…

📈 WR Adonai Mitchell (ADP: 137 > 111)

Had it not been for Worthy, Mitchell would have been the headline of the WR performances from the Combine. Mitchell ran a 4.34 40-yard dash and displayed elite athleticism at 6’2 and 205 pounds:

His showing in Indy appears to have cemented his status as a mid-to-late Round 1 NFL draft pick. In his recent Mock Draft, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler slotted Mitchell to the Buffalo Bills at pick 24.

Every WR who was selected in Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Quentin Johnston, Zay Flowers, and Jordan Addison – closed the drafting season with an ADP inside the top-84 picks.

Mitchell is no lock to succeed at the NFL level – he has some red flags on his profile (2.2 YPRR in 2023) – but he is a lock to go much, much higher in drafts over the next few months.

The time to load up is NOW.

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