👣 A Veteran RB on the Move

Where will he land?

Fantasy Life sponsored by BetMGM

All right. Show of hands. Who agrees we should start the NFL draft this week?

In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by BetMGM:

  • Former Ravens rusher meets with a Super Bowl contender

  • Michael Penix Jr. Prospect Profile: Future Raiders QB? Maybe.

  • Tier 4 of the WR Rookie Super Model: Dwain drops more knowledge

  • It’s 4/3. Take it away, Chris Allen…

It wasn’t long ago that we were following the RB signings during the first wave of free agency. From prominent acquisitions like Derrick Henry joining the Ravens to underrated additions like Cordarrelle Patterson going to Pittsburgh immediately after the league revealed the new kickoff rules, we reacted. Based on contract details and landing spot, we could evaluate the result.

But a few fantasy-relevant rushers are still waiting in the wings. Accordingly, as we start to project landing spots for the top RBs in this year’s draft class, a veteran signing may torpedo our Year 1 expectations.

Pete highlighted Ezekiel Elliott’s potential return to Dallas which would ruin any 2024 hype for Jonathon Brooks. And yesterday’s news hinted at another FA to watch as we approach the draft.

J.K. Dobbins was cleared for football activities early last week. Since then, he’s met with the Chargers and, most recently, the former Baltimore RB was in Kansas City talking with the reigning Super Bowl champions. But despite his old teammate trying to recruit him, the outcome wasn’t as positive for Dobbins.

My natural inclination was Dobbins doesn’t have the juice anymore. It’s understandable. He’s suffered three catastrophic lower-body injuries in as many years. But it’s not like the Chiefs’ backfield set the standard for health and reliability in 2023.

Isiah Pacheco missed two games due to a shoulder injury and was held out of the regular season finale as a precaution. When he returned for the playoffs, the Chiefs’ starter posted bottom-6 numbers in EPA per rush and success rate. Jerick McKinnon couldn’t even play until the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Clyde Edwards-Helaire totaled 76 yards on 24 carries as the de facto starter during Pacheco’s absence.

If healthy, Dobbins could mix in to keep Patrick Mahomes out of long-down-and-distance situations. It’s fair to be skeptical, but the OSU product has shown us he can be productive if given the rock.

  • Early-Down Success Rate: 46.9% (Dobbins), 33.8% (Pacheco)

  • Short-Yardage EPA per Rush: 0.80, 0.39

  • Explosive Play Rate: 10.1%, 6.1%

KC hasn’t closed the door on Dobbins completely. CEH could move into McKinnon’s role if he doesn’t re-sign. And most mocks have the Chiefs primarily focused on adding a receiver. Regardless, a sensible, one-year flier to bolster the Chiefs’ ground game would be all it takes to shake up everyone’s ADP.

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Michael Penix Jr. Profile by Ian Hartitz

Even though we’re all ranking Michael Penix Jr. outside of the Big Three at QB in this class, he didn’t make it to the college national title game by accident. Ian breaks down the Washington QB (while reminiscing about the time Penix Jr. dunked on his Buckeyes) along with setting fantasy expectations for the incoming rookie.

📝 Michael Penix Jr. Scouting Report

  • Underdog ADP: 228.2 overall (QB32), rookie QB5

Unlike the other big-six QBs in this class, Michael Penix Jr. wasn’t an overly hyped college prodigee. Don’t confuse this as a Rudy situation, but the Tampa, Florida product was “just” a three-star recruit and ranked as the 21st-best pro-style QB in the 2018 class.

The No. 1 pro-style QB recruit in that class? Trevor Lawrence. That’s what six years in college will do for a man, as Penix spent four seasons at Indiana before eventually linking back up with his former offensive coordinator and QB coach turned Washington head coach Kalen Deboer.

It was a good choice. Washington went 25-3 with Penix under center, and the 2023 Heisman Trophy runner-up had the Huskies in a one-score game in the fourth quarter of last season’s National Championship before ultimately falling short.

We are looking at one of the best and most productive throwers of the football that college football had to offer over the past two seasons:

Penix among 89 Power Five QBs with 300-plus dropbacks 2022-23:

  • PFF pass grade: 91.2 (No. 6)

  • Passing yards: 9,547 (No. 1)

  • Passing TDs: 67 (No. 3)

  • Passer rating: 105 (No. 25)

  • Yards per attempt: 8.6 (No. 21)

  • Adjusted completion rate: 74.3% (No. 32)

Of course, Penix benefited mightily from having a full college career under his belt by the time he joined the Huskies. Getting to play with not one, not two, but three high-end WRs – as well as the country’s Most Outstanding Offensive Line Unit in 2023 – also certainly helped matters.

Was Penix really the difference-maker inside this lethal passing game? Or was it simply the perfect COLLEGE marriage between a relatively elderly talent being propped up by objectively one of the best-supporting casts in the country? (Wait are we talking about Jayden Daniels or Bo Nix now?)

Let’s do our best Stanley Yelnats impression and dig in on the Pros and Cons of one of the draft cycle’s more polarizing prospects.

Watercooler

📺 Marcas and Dwain are joined by a special guest to talk WR evaluation and who to target. The crossover episode we needed.

🚨 Wake up babe, a new NFL mock draft dropped. The Vikings take a QB.

🏈 First set of offseason programs started yesterday. Football is (kind of, almost) back!

😢 The Colts pay tribute to Vontae Davis. He’ll be missed.

😲 The Chiefs add some depth to their offense. Now they have two SB-winning QBs on the roster.

👀 Jason Kelce: future NFL Hall of Famer or future WWE star? How about both?

🤑 Aaron Rodgers gets some extra money from the league for his 2023 performance. What a haul!

🤔 Seattle adds former Jaguars’ WR/KR to the offense. Dynasty managers rejoice.

🎲 Tier 4 – Role Traits With Room to Grow into WR3-Plus Talents

💪 Ladd McConkey | Georgia

  • WR Super Model: 53rd percentile

  • Age: 22.8

  • Height: 6’0”

  • Weight: 186

1️⃣ Pedigree

  • Program Quality Index: 65th percentile

  • NFL Mock Drafts: Pick 33, Round 2

  • 247 Recruit Player Rating: 3 of 5 stars

McConkey was not a super highly-lauded recruit coming out of high school as a three-star WR, but he found his way into a sizeable role at a strong program at Georgia. His expected draft capital has risen from Round 5 to a borderline Round 1 pick over the last nine months, making him one of the biggest climbers at the position.

2️⃣ Production

  • Adjusted Career RYPTPA Index: 36th percentile

  • Career Total TDs Per Game Index: 42nd percentile

  • Career Targeted QB Rating Index: 79th percentile

McConkey redshirted as a freshman before earning playing time in his second year on the Georgia campus. He never earned a full-time role, and his highest route participation came as a redshirt sophomore, at 68%.

That part-time status took a toll on his Career RYPTPA Index—he finished his career in Athens with a 36th percentile score. We can’t dismiss McConkey’s inability to carve out a more significant role because earning playing time matters. The first step to earning targets and yards is getting on the field.

That said, McConkey was the third-best prospect in the class in the QB Rating Index, with a 79th-percentile score. It tells us how good a player was on a per-target basis, which helps balance out a stat like RYPTPA.

3️⃣ Fantasy Outlook: Hit Rates

  • Underdog ADP: WR56, Round 11

  • Rookie Dynasty ADP: WR8, Pick 12

McConkey is my preferred prospect in this range. Tier 4 contains many players who have questions about their game. With McConkey, the question is whether he can earn a more prominent role at the next level.

FF Hit Rates

Adonai Mitchell | Texas

  • WR Super Model: 52nd percentile

  • Age: 22.9

  • Height: 6’2”

  • Weight: 205

1️⃣ Pedigree

  • Program Quality Index: 50th percentile

  • NFL Mock Drafts: Pick 28, Round 1

  • 247 Recruit Player Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mitchell played his first two seasons at Georgia before transferring to Texas as a junior.

2️⃣ Production

  • Adjusted Career RYPTPA Index: 28th percentile

  • Career Total TDs Per Game Index: 47th percentile

  • Career Targeted QB Rating Index: 61st percentile

Mitchell might be an uber-athletic specimen, but his athleticism never showed up in the way you would expect. If he goes in the first round of the NFL Draft, his 28th percentile Adjusted Career RYPTPA would be the lowest on record. The average first-round pick is at the 65th percentile since 2018.

While a deep threat can always find a niche role on a team, the league is littered with players who never grew into more—think Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Miles Boykin. MVS had a 31st percentile Adjusted Career RYPTPA coming out of USF, and Boykin left Notre Dame at the 16th percentile. 

3️⃣ Fantasy Outlook: Hit Rates

  • Underdog ADP: WR47, Round 8

  • Rookie Dynasty ADP: WR7, Pick 9

No other player is being propped up more by their projected draft capital than Mitchell. His hit rates with draft capital are far higher than without, so he needs the first-round capital to have any value.

FF Hit Rates
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