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Great!  Another “Players to Avoid” article to skim through and dismiss the second I see a player that I like.  That’s not what this is.  Yes, today I am going to give you three WRs to avoid, but they aren’t ones to completely dismiss.  In fact, I love certain aspects of each of these players.  Actually, if they drop to a certain point in your rookie draft it would be foolish not to take them.

What I hope you take from this piece is that given the current picks that these three WRs are going to cost, they may be WRs to avoid in your dynasty league’s rookie draft.  However, before I just jump right into it, I’d like to frame the mindset behind the reasons for avoiding any specific player in dynasty rookie drafts.

Many team owners/managers – whatever you want to call them – in the dynasty community claim to hold to a “Best Player Available” (or BPA) drafting strategy when it comes to startup or rookie drafts.  For example, if I’m sitting at 2.02 this year, 12 WRs & Ezekiel Elliott are off the board, but somehow Derrick Henry, Kenneth Dixon & C.J. Prosise are all still there, I’m not going to reach for a lesser WR just because I think my team could use WRs more.  I’m a huge believer in drafting the best player available, no matter what.

However, here’s the problem.  After the NFL draft many owners will throw that out the window and reach for guys who have some sexy opportunity even though they may not be the best player available, talent-wise.  That leads people to make huge mistakes like Cordarrelle Patterson with the Vikings.  He was an early-mid 1st round pick that year in rookie drafts.  Now where is he?  He’s probably burning a hole in someone’s bench or on your league’s waiver wire.

Here’s where I hope this article is especially helpful.  Remember these WRs to avoid after the NFL draft.  If they land somewhere with opportunity, don’t go reaching for them.  Take them where they belong or not at all.  As always, if you have questions or comments feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @FF_TravisM.

 

Pharoh Cooper

Pharoh extends to make a catch.

Okay, okay.  I hear you.  Pharoh is only 21 years old.  He didn’t have the best QB play for his two full seasons at wide receiver.  He was a 4-star athlete coming out of high school that played just about every skill position on the field.  I get it.  I’m not arguing that.  In fact, I like many things about Pharoh (I just like to say his name because it’s awesome), but he is also a WR to avoid for me right now in rookie drafts.

Out of all the rookie mocks I’ve been doing this off-season he’s gone as high as the 1.10 and as low as 2.05 for the most part, which is quite the variance.  Frankly, I wouldn’t want to spend a pick anywhere in that range for Pharoh.

For some reason, I grabbed him in a couple Devy leagues (where you draft college players far before they’re in the NFL) last year hoping he would continue to develop as a WR this past season.  Here’s a hint.  He really didn’t.  Yes, it was a fall-apart year for South Carolina, but he actually had fewer receptions, yards, lower average yards per reception, & TDs.  That’s not what you want to see.

Okay, so he had a down year, cut the guy some slack!  I wanted to.  Trust me, for my own teams’ sake, I wanted to.  However, since I already had some level of investment I decided to dig deep into Pharoh, game by game.  Some games I logged every snap, just hoping to be excited in the end.  What I found had its pros and cons, but mostly cons.

What’s undeniable is that Pharoh is a smart player.  He can sell a post or a slant into a go route leading to splash plays.  He can settle into zones well while making excellent post-snap reads of defensive backs.  That’s necessary to succeed at the next level.  But…

When it came to any other coverage besides soft zone or off-man (and I mean way off) coverage he really struggled to get open.  Every once in a while he could win a match-up in the slot when pressed, but for the most part it was bad.  Where his struggles showed possibly the worst was against Florida this past year.

In the first six passing plays they intentionally lined Pharoh up at right wide receiver against Vernon Hargreaves (consensus 1st round pick, top 5 DB in this class) three times.  Twice the QB wanted Pharoh to get open, but looked him off, pulled the ball down & either scrambled or was sacked.  The other time they threw a quick sideline completion to the other side of the field.

South Carolina quickly found out Pharoh just couldn’t get open against Hargreaves so they changed the plan & put him back in the slot like usual.  13 plays in, Pharoh received his first target on an out route against zone for a short gain.  19 plays later he caught his second ball for short yardage again against zone on another out route to the sideline.  On the 42nd play, nearing garbage time, down 10 late in the 4th quarter, Pharoh read single high safety coverage biting on a crossing route from a play that worked early in the game and easily scored a touchdown on a skinny post thanks to his man pretty much just releasing him.  Every reception Pharoh was lined up in the slot & went untouched.

That’s what he does.  He makes splash & short plays from the slot.  He does it against zone or blown coverage almost exclusively.  Then, oh yeah, he runs a 4.6+ 40, & basically can’t jump given his 31” vert & 9’3” broad jump.  Top 15 pick in rookie drafts?  No thanks.  He’s a rookie WR to avoid.

Braxton Miller

Braxton Miller making a solid hands-catch.

I’ll get this out of the way.  I don’t like Ohio State.  That is the censored version.  However, Michael Thomas isn’t on this list.  Braxton Miller is.  There’s a reason for that.  He is not worth the top 12-18 rookie draft pick that he’s going to cost you this year.

As a casual football fan, how many receiving yards do you think Braxton Miller had last year?  500?  800?  How about receptions?  60?  80?  What about touchdowns?  He had to have like 5, maybe up to 8 touchdowns last year, right?

 

Braxton’s WR to Avoid 2015 Stats:

25 Receptions

340 Receiving Yards

3 Touchdowns

 

Come on, he ran the ball a ton too!  Not really.  He had 261 yards and a touchdown.

Don’t get me wrong here.  Braxton is a nasty athlete.  His sheer measurable are top 10 among WRs invited to the combine.  That’s almost undebatable.  When he actually runs his routes right, he had some success.  Plus, everyone knows he needs some time to develop before he can properly utilize his athleticism to dominate at the next level.

That’s just it though.  Braxton’s a WR to avoid for me because he’s going safely in the first half of the 2nd round in rookie drafts right now.  He’s being taken ahead of wide receivers that have literally hundreds more career receptions than him.  That’s not enough to convince you?  Let’s break it down.

His “best” game came against Maryland.  Most people point to his Virginia Tech game being his best because that’s where he had that “breath-taking” spin move for a 53-yard rushing TD.  However, I say his Maryland game was his “best” because it was his highest receiving yardage total (79) and one of only two (yes, just two) games where he caught more than 2 balls.

Against Maryland I saw the best & worst of Braxton.  Very early on, even against Maryland’s best corner (who will “Likely” be drafted next year…if you get that joke we just became best friends), he beat some tight man coverage.  However, a couple of times, given Cardale’s (the QB) reaction, he did so to the detriment of his intended route, causing some confusion.  Braxton showed off his incredible agility in short-intermediate routes for most of the game, but man, outside of the simple slants & outs he was pretty raw.

In fact, on the only two plays of note for Braxton against Maryland he really didn’t do anything to get open.  One reception for 33 yards was against blown coverage (no one was within 5-10 yards of him) where he was the inside slot WR to the left.  He ran a really sloppy post route (kind of) & made a pretty athletic catch on a stereotypical awful Cardale Jones throw.  His 19-yard touchdown then came on a miscommunication between cornerback & safety because of a cleverly schemed 3-WR stack to the right leaving him wide open by the front pylon of the end zone.  That’s 52 of the 79 yards already accounted for in his “best” game this past season.

If it weren’t for a nationally televised prime-time game against Virginia Tech in September, Braxton Miller’s stats for the year would be as follows:

23 Rec, 262 Rec Yds, 2 Rec TDs, 37 Rush Attempts, 199 Rush Yds, 0 Rush TDs

Again, is that worth a top 12-18 rookie draft pick?  Please.  I like Braxton’s athleticism.  I like his tenacity against man coverage.  I like that he is a ferocious competitor.  However, he’s still a WR to avoid this year in rookie drafts given his current price tag.

Tajae Sharpe

Tajae Sharpe is skinny.

Are your eyes bleeding yet?  Good.  This one, I’ll keep pretty brief.  Thanks for bearing with me.

Tajae Sharpe should be a fantastic WR if you look at the number of receptions & yards he grabbed over the past two seasons at UMass (196 catches for 2600 yards, even).   That production is earning him a spot safely inside the top 20 players off the board this year in rookie drafts.  I saw him taken as high as 13th just this past week.  Well, that stinks.  It means I will most likely have 0 shares in Tajae this year.

I’ve watched a lot of him over the past two seasons and I like him.  He’s an absolute market share (target hog) monster.  However, I did notice after a while that he really doesn’t beat the weak level of UMass’ competition on a consistent basis.

It may be partly due to the fact that he’s 6’2” 195 pounds, soaking wet.  Maybe it’s because he barely runs under 4.6 in the 40.  Perhaps it’s because his agility is so bad that he was one of only a few WRs at the combine this year to elect not to participate in any agility drills (shuttles & 3-cone).  Maybe it’s his tiny hands that magically grew a half an inch between the Senior Bowl & the combine.  It’s probably a mix of all of that.

The one thing he does do well, even against the only real competition he faced last year in Notre Dame, is get off of press coverage pretty well for a guy who’s really just a slightly skinnier, non-athletic version of Kenny Bell (5th round talent last year).  He wasn’t consistently open against Notre Dame.  In fact, he was visibly frustrated several times, either by the tight coverage or the lack of perfect timing by his QB to get him the ball.  However, I’ll give one thing to him.  On deep routes (post, corner, & go) he beat the press no matter where he was lined up quite often.

That’s about it with Tajae.  If you force him the ball 15 times a game he can get the job done against mediocre competition.  When faced with stiff competition his coaches would have to use rubbing crossing routes, well-timed comebacks, & other creative methods to force feed him the ball.

Tajae may have a place in the NFL, but it’s not going to be on my fantasy team.

He’s married to his beautiful wife, Kelsey. Purdue University Class of 2011. Boiler Up! Lives in Nashville, TN. Titans fan (sympathetic gifts accepted). Works on music row by day. Writes about fantasy football by night. He plays club ultimate frisbee because it’s awesome. He longboards to work because he can. Find him on Twitter @FF_TravisM.

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