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Rider Bites: 3 Late Round Rookie Targets

Rookie draft picks after the third round are mostly dart throws.  Let me point you in the right direction towards a few of them.  

Josh Palmer – WR, LAC

Last year, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in MVP voting.  Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd among fantasy receivers.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.  Of course a wide receiver can excel in fantasy without one of the top quarterbacks, but it certainly helps to have one.  Who will the next great quarterback be?  I think we’ve found one on the west coast.  No rookie quarterback has ever thrown for more completions or touchdowns than Justin Herbert did last year.  This offseason, they signed Matt Feller to start at guard and Corey Linsley to start at center, and they drafted highly-rated OT Rashawn Slater in the first round.  With Austin Ekeler back from injury, this is an offense on the rise, and it’s one that I want a part of.  

Enter, Josh Palmer.  The Tennessee product is not significantly better than his peers at one exclusive skill.  He is, however, a very well-rounded receiver who suffered from incredibly poor quarterback play in Knoxville.  He looks better on film than his stats would indicate, and I have a feeling he is going to very much enjoy catching passes from Justin Herbert.  The third round draft pick can step in right away at the WR3 spot, and there is potential for more.  Mike Williams has not lived up to the hype of his seventh overall draft selection in 2017, and he will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.  Currently ranked as the 47th overall rookie, Josh Palmer is a guy I am aiming for at the end of my drafts.  

Hunter Long – TE, MIA

Long was the third tight end off the board, getting his name called by the Dolphins with the 18th pick in the third round.  At 6’5 255 lbs, he is not an extraordinary athlete by any measure, although he ran a respectable 4.68 40 yard dash.  As a catch-first tight end, he is at least average at route running and blocking, with work to do on both.  Now, why am I recommending a seemingly unspectacular tight end who got drafted by a team who also added a free agent receiver and a first round receiver, and will be returning a QB who threw for only 180 yards per game?  Here’s two great reasons why:

  1. Unless his name is Kyle Pitts, you should not be expecting to see great fantasy numbers from your rookie tight end.  First-year tight ends have to learn how to block and run routes, and that takes time.  If you’re drafting a tight end in the third round or later, you should reserve a spot on your taxi squad for him.  Although it seems like there is a lot of competition for targets in the Miami offense right now, a lot can (and will) change by the time Long will be ready to be inserted into your starting lineup.  Mike Gesicki, Miami’s starting tight end, will be a free agent after this season.  So will Will Fuller.  So will Preston Williams.  So will fellow backup tight end Durham Smythe.  As the first tight end HC Brian Flores has drafted for the ‘Fins, it sure seems like there will be plenty of opportunity for Hunter Long come 2022. 
  2. For most tight ends, the majority of fantasy production comes from touchdowns. Robert Tonyan burst onto the scene this year to become the league’s TE3, thanks in large part to his 11 touchdowns (tied for TE lead with Travis Kelce).  There are two factors that will help Hunter Long become a potential touchdown monster. The first is his size. Standing at 6’5, he will be taller than all the defensive backs and the vast majority of linebackers who will guard him in the red zone.  The second factor is Tua Tagovailoa’s accuracy.  The main trait that got him drafted fifth overall a year ago, Tua has been compared to Drew Brees when it comes to putting the ball on a dime.  Tua’s accuracy was put on display on both of these plays below, and it certainly helps that Mike Gesicki and Devante Parker are both tall.

Chris Evans – RB, CIN

On episode 107 of the Ride or Dynasty podcast, JJ, Don, and Matthew detailed a great list of late round prospects you should be keeping an eye on.  Unfortunately, Evans was not mentioned.  The good news is that I am here to pick up their slack and put Evans on your radar.  Most people probably only know Chris Evans as the guy who played Captain America and wore an awesome sweater in Knives Out, but there is also a Chris Evans who has a chance to make a difference on your fantasy team.  The 18th pick in the 6th round will be 24 years old in October.  While that number may scare a lot of people off, there is a positive spin to it.  He was suspended for the 2019 season, and only ran the ball 16 times in 2020.  This means that his football age is much lower than it may seem because he does not have the wear and tear of a four-year college starter.    

Evans lands on a rising team with high hopes (on the offensive side of the ball, at least).  As it stands right now, Evans is fourth on the depth chart behind Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, and Trayveon Williams.  I am much lower on Mixon than most people, but I’m pretty sure the only people who are high on Perine and Williams are their own mothers.  Williams has not done anything in his two years as a pro, and Perine is now in his second stint in the orange and black after being claimed off waivers twice.  I am predicting Evans to beat out both guys for the backup job once the season rolls around.  At this point in the draft (current rookie ADP is 57 overall and RB17), everyone is a dart throw.  I’ll take the dart throw that has the build (5’11, 211 lbs) and metrics (94% burst score, 92% agility score, and 85% SPARQ score) to take over the starting job when called upon.     

Brendan Taffe – Writer/Co-Host of The Rule of 3 Podcast
Twitter: @BCTAFFE

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