What Is Donte Moncrief's Future Fantasy Football Outlook?
At my local grocery store, there's a weekly special I always try to take advantage of: Sushi Wednesdays. To many, eating raw fish and seaweed is an acquired taste, whether the texture initially bothers them, or the taste itself is just turns them off.
When I was younger, I hated the idea of eating something uncooked. I tried eel when I was five, and consequently swore off sushi until much later in life, when my tastes had matured.
This is how many fantasy owners are currently looking at Donte Moncrief, rookie wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts: “Sure, he looks pretty good, and everyone is telling us he’s tasty in this offense, but a player that raw?”
For fantasy owners and NFL connoisseurs, we have to understand that the hype about the player is not hollow; we just have to wait a bit for our tastebuds to figure this delicacy out. What can we tell about Moncrief’s future thus far?
Shopping at the Fish Market
To start the process of making sushi, a master sushi chef selects only the choicest fresh fish from the market every day. Similarly, fantasy football “masters” devote much time to the research into the raw materials (players and statistics) that they will use to compose their lineups. Especially in dynasty leagues, this process starts with the NFL Combine and draft.
Let’s take a look at Donte Moncrief’s measurables and draft status from the 2014 draft and see just how he compares to his peers. The table below shows the ranks for his combine performance, age at Kickoff 2014, draft selection, and an aggregate score that accounts for his measurables. How did Moncrief stack up for rookies this year?
|Age||Pick||40 Time||Vert||Broad||3-Cone||Shuttle||WR Score|
Moncrief, by far, was one of the most impressive wide receiver prospects in a stacked 2014 class. Ranking in the top five in all of what could be termed the “explosiveness metrics” (40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump) makes him an elite talent in the speed and weaponry category, especially when you consider that he stands 6’3”, and weighs 220 lb. That’s not quite Calvin Johnson territory, but it’s about as good as can be hoped for.
Where Moncrief loses some points – and also the reason why he fell from a 1st/2nd round draft grade – is in the “agility metrics” (3-cone drill, short shuttle). Comparing these lower scores in agility to elite explosiveness paints the picture of a player with great natural gifts who has not refined them into change-of-direction and route-running ability - exactly Moncrief’s reputation. Still, despite these flaws, he graded physically as the seventh-best wide receiver prospect in the draft, and was still selected fairly highly.
Making the First Cut
There is much made about the selection and preparation of the ingredients in sushi making, but the real moment of truth comes when the fish is sliced into. The master’s cut can make or break a piece of sushi, no matter how perfect that fish was when they selected it.
With a raw prospect like Moncrief, it takes a good developmental atmosphere and a strong guiding hand to make them more than the sum of their parts. In his case, this means elite physical tools, but put into an environment with Andrew Luck to instruct and pass to him, with veterans T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne to mentor him, this seemed to be a great place for Donte Moncrief to blossom into a force to be reckoned with. How has he performed to this point?
The tables below show Moncrief’s ranks in Net Expected Points (NEP), our signature metric here at numberFire. NEP is a measure of exactly how much a player’s performance on the field advances his team’s chances of scoring on any given play, from any point on the field. You can read more about NEP in our glossary.
For Moncrief, we will examine him first in the context of lower-volume receivers this season (10 to 40 targets on the year). Is this fantastic fillet a delicacy yet, or do we still need to wait for him to be rolled?
|Player||Rec NEP||Rank||Target NEP||Rank||Rec NEP/Target||Rank|
We can see that, among the receivers in 2014 who haven’t gotten as many opportunities as their peers (whether injured, benched, developing, etc.), Moncrief ranks fairly high in each category. Almost exactly in the middle of the target spectrum (24 targets), it’s fair to say that a raw rookie ranking in the top third of his direct peers is fairly impressive, even accounting for the innate prowess that the Colts offense imparts. As Moncrief gets more opportunities, his Reception NEP will rise, as he has a very good Target NEP, indicating some mix of both good targets coming his way and that he is a reliable option to pass to.
One area that will need work is his Reception NEP on a per target basis. We know already that change-of-direction and agility is not Moncrief’s cup of tea, so this is to be expected. As he learns to play the NFL game and maximize his gifts, though, I expect him to make more of each target he gets.
Combining the Right Ingredients
For a sushi master, every step of the process is important, down to the consistency of the rice, the cuts of the vegetables included, everything. Everything else ties the eating experience together for the sushi to really make an impression on the diner.
When we put Moncrief’s work in the conversation with his other rookie peers, we begin to get a full picture of his abilities and rawness. Some of the class of 2014 was ready to go right away (i.e. Sammy Watkins), and some still needed some work (i.e. Jeff Janis). Let’s look at Moncrief against the rest of the rookie class of 2014. How has he done so far?
|Player||Rec NEP||Rank||Target NEP||Rank||Rec NEP/Target||Rank|
Of the 28 rookie wide receivers who have been targeted once this year, Moncrief ranks in the top half of every category, despite also only ranking 12th in targets among them on the season. In any other draft class, his impact would be much more noticeable than it is. Yet, there was an insane amount of talented players at the receiver position who declared eligible in 2014, and Moncrief has become somewhat lost in the shuffle.
He’s still producing at a very good clip for a “developmental” player, and we should also not forget that he is one of the youngest receivers in this draft class. His potential is still very high, and the ceiling hasn’t yet been approached on Donte Moncrief’s abilities. For you redraft players, in shallower leagues he can be dropped if you need to make room, as I don’t expect him to contribute much more this season than he already has. In dynasty leagues, however, he should be a coveted asset as the umami of his play can already be sensed; soon, we’ll be able to enjoy it in full.