2015 Midseason Rookie Review, Part 2: Disappointments and Handcuffs
With almost half of the NFL season now in the books, it's time to take a look at the 2015 rookie class and evaluate their progress at the midway point. While it's unfair to make definitive career judgments this early, the numbers and film can demonstrate who is trending in the right direction, who needs a lot of work, and who may not have the skills to cut it. This is especially valuable for dynasty or keeper managers looking to buy low or sell high on some of their rookie assets as the playoffs approach.
While injuries have taken their toll on many of the top players in this class, there have still been plenty of highlights across the board.
In part one we looked at the top three tiers, breaking them down based on both their present status and my thoughts moving forward based on what we have seen and what the Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics indicate. For those unfamiliar with NEP, it is our signature metric that quantifies how a player performs, indicating how many points above or below expectation-level he adds to his team's expected scoring output. The higher the score, the more positive impact a player has.
Most rookies with good NEP scores have already been examined, as there are some studs and upside players in this rookie class.
While these are not rankings moving forward, they are ordered based on the significance of their contribution or perceived future contribution in both the 2015 season and the years to come.
Tier 4: The Talented Disappointments
Devante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins
Perhaps generating the most concern of the top prospects, DeVante Parker has failed to make a dent on an offense in need of a boundary receiver with speed. While injuries hampered him early, he has been healthy on and the field more than many other rookie receivers and has only four receptions to show for it.
Perhaps we have been spoiled by the immediate success of receivers in recent years, but dynasty owners should be concerned about Parker's inability to transition as a rookie. This Dolphins offense still looks to have major holes, and Parker can't surpass Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews or Kenny Stills on the depth chart. That's not good. He's a hold right now for dynasty owners with his value so low.
Breshad Perriman, WR, Baltimore Ravens
It's hard to believe we will see Breshad Perriman at any point this season, and his slow recovery from a PCL injury is very concerning. That being said, the Ravens' reluctance to place him on IR demonstrates not only the desperation they have for a playmaking receiver but also the belief that perhaps he can contribute this year.
If he plays, he is my favorite receiver in terms of opportunity and talent, and he could really help fantasy teams down the playoff stretch. I'm willing to buy low on him and stash him until he receives his opportunity. With Steve Smith out for the season, only Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown stand in his way for targets in Baltimore.
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Tennessee Titans
Perhaps a coaching change will bring out the best in Dorial Green-Beckham, who many thought was the most physically gifted receiver in the 2015 rookie class. Indications are that he will see more targets as the coaching changes take shape, and he is a player whose value could rise demonstrably in the second half of the season.
The good news is that he has remained on the team this year, which was a major concern based on his past off-the-field issues. The bad news is that he has only seven receptions all season, although he has shown flashes of his talent as a red zone target with his two touchdowns. With no receivers really standing out in Tennessee right now, he is a player I am actively trying to buy low in dynasty formats.
Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Perhaps second to only Parker in the disappointing category, Nelson Agholor has failed to replace Jeremy Maclin's production in a high-powered Chip Kelly offense, and he has only eight receptions this season. Nothing we have seen would indicate that his will become a top-24 NFL wide receiver anytime soon, and he looks poised to remain a role player at best in the near future. With only eight receptions on the season, it's hard to evaluate anything related to his metrics. Maybe Sam Bradford is the problem?
Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers
Despite the immense opportunity available to second-round pick Devin Funchess, he has failed to deliver in Carolina, catching less than a third of his targets for only 90 yards and getting outplayed by the stone handed Ted Ginn Jr.. He is in the bottom 10 in the league in Reception NEP, Target NEP, and Reception NEP per target for all receivers with more than 20 targets. He's been bad and doesn't look ready to contribute anytime soon.
Phillip Dorsett, WR, Indianapolis Colts
The selection of Phillip Dorsett in the first round was an odd choice in the moment, and a fractured ankle and fibula will hinder his opportunity to prove the Colts weren't absolutely stupid in making the selection. Up until his injury he had been good for one or two solid plays per game but nothing that would indicate we are dealing with a future star or major contributor for the Colts. That is especially true with the emergence of Donte Moncrief and the resigning of T.Y. Hilton.
Dorsett was middle-of-the-pack average in his NEP scores before getting hurt, comparing almost identically to Jarius Wright. It may be a while before Dorsett becomes a fixture for this suddenly stagnant Indianapolis offense.
David Cobb, RB, Tennessee Titans
Injured and now allegedly overweight, David Cobb certainly has an opportunity to carve out a role in a Tennessee backfield starving for a playmaker, but it remains to be seen if he can take advantage of it. He should be activated soon from IR, but condition issues could keep him out for a few more weeks. He is worth a stash just to see, as he has great power and quickness for a big back and an agility and receiving ability that reminds you of a less dynamic Eddie Lacy.
Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears
It is likely a lost season for Bears rookie receiver Kevin White, which obviously suppresses his dynasty value a bit. However, it is worth remembering that this guy was the seventh overall pick in the draft and was considered by many to be a comparable talent (if not better) than Amari Cooper. With Jay Cutler and the Bears looking better on offense than many anticipated, he could walk into a solid situation next year alongside Alshon Jeffery. He is a perfect buy-low candidate for a team out of contention and looking to restock the shelves for 2016.
Jaelen Strong, WR, Houston Texans
When he's on the field, all Jaelen Strong does is catch touchdowns. Unfortunately, he is rarely on the field and has just three receptions and two touchdowns. Inconsistency with the playbook and in practice has caused Strong to remain on the bench this season, but he looks like a decent stash if the Texans can find a way to land a quarterback in the next year or so.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins
Early draft reports had many teams considering Jay Ajayi as the second or third most talented running back in this 2015 class, but reports about a career limiting knee injury dropped him all the way to the fifth round. A preseason rib injury then landed him on IR designated to return, and he is eligible to be activated beginning this week.
The Dolphins seem much more committed to the constantly undervalued Lamar Miller, but Ajayi has the ability to be the power complement the team lacks right now. Still, the coaches don't seem to have a high priority for putting him on the field right now, so his value is stuck in neutral. He is another potential buy low candidate with Miller in the final year of his rookie contract and seemingly never a priority in Miami.
Tier 5: The Handcuffs
Jeremy Langford, RB, Chicago Bears
Bears rookie Jeremy Langford will get his opportunity to show he is more than a handcuff this weekend as he fills in for the injured Matt Forte. It might be too late to buy low, as Forte is in a contract year and likely won't be back in Chicago. A great game on Sunday could propel Langford up a few tiers. To this point, he has been nothing more than a handcuff to Forte, with 27 carries for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Javorius Allen, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Javorius Allen hasn't been bad by any means in 2015, but nothing we have seen on the field would indicate that he is anything more than a backup in the NFL. With limited speed and power, he is a nice player to have with his all around skill set but doesn't look like a threat to earn significant carries anytime soon. His positive Rushing NEP per rush score (0.02) is great to see, but on the field he looks like a backup. Even with Justin Forsett being a smaller, older back, Allen doesn't appear likely to be a major contributor in the future.
Mike Davis, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Davis had an opportunity on Sunday to demonstrate that the hype he received as a college sophomore wasn't a mirage, but he promptly broke his hand and is likely out for several weeks. He was averaging only one yard per carry this season as a backup to Carlos Hyde, and his value is likely non-existent in the near future.
Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Carolina Panthers
Rookie Cameron Artis-Payne would be in line for carries should Jonathan Stewart go down, but he would still be behind Mike Tolbert and potentially even Fozzy Whittaker in that line. As a runner, he has decent burst but little else. He looks like a change-of-pace type of player who isn't destined for a lead role anytime soon. In four games he has just 12 carries for 31 yards, and he has little value in any fantasy format.