The Money Draft

My last draft tonight, and my most important one, was my PPR superflex dynasty league, with 16 teams. This was a rookie draft, although the league allows veteran free agents to be drafted too. This is the league that costs $50/year.:

1.01: RB Breece Hall (NYJ): Of course. Easily the best RB in this year’s draft class, even if he does have to split carries with Michael Carter. Did I mention I already have Carter too? If either of them gets hurt, I’m golden!

1.14: QB Malik Willis (TEN): The darling of the pre-draft scouts turned out to be a very impressive rookie in preseason, although he is still raw. Since I have Carr and Winston already, I don’t mind sitting on Willis for awhile.

2.15: RB Zamir White (LV): While you can accuse me of being a homer with this pick, White is the likely successor to Josh Jacobs. White has shown he can be good this preseason, So it is a matter of time until he claims the starting role in Vegas.

2.16: TE Isaiah Likely (BAL): My current starting TE is Dalton Schultz. Not a bad TE, plus the fact he is being buoyed by the offense around him. But I can easily see Likely supplanting Mark Andrews at some point in the future, maybe even this year.

4.16: RB Ty Chandler (MIN): Chandler had a good preseason, plus he is third on the Minnesota depth chart behind Alexander Mattison, who is currently being shopped around the NFL.

I can only repeat myself: if the Raiders regarded White as the potential successor for Jacobs, they would not have waited until the 4th round to draft him. NFL teams don’t do that. White is an insurance policy for this season, and the Raiders will spend an earlier pick on an RB next year, if they don’t give Jacobs a new contract.

Still, with the 31st pick in a rookie draft, White is a solid choice.

The Ravens extended Andrews through 2025 last year. His cap hit is $10m this year and $13.5m next year. They will not fade such a high-paid asset in favor of a rookie who arguably played well in a preseason game.

The earliest I can see Likely rise to relevancy is 2024. More likely (no pun intended) 2025. Which is still the standard development time for a TE, before they reach their prime.

If you were looking for a TE who’d start producing earlier, Daniel Bellinger might have been the better choice.

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There is already talk out of Baltimore about them using Likely as a third receiving option. Keep in mind, who is the third best receiver there after Andrews and Bateman? There really isn’t one, other than Likely. If their RB room turns into a MASH unit again, I expect Likely will feast.

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I wouldn’t rule out that Likely will become the #3 receiver. But how much is that really worth?

The Ravens were the lowest-volume passing offense in 2019 and 2020. And the only reason they weren’t in 2021 is because they managed to land an entire throng of RBs on IR.

Unless that repeats, they will return to the bottom of the passing list. That should translate into barely over 300 completed passes and south of 3,500 passing yards. Only in the TD department, they usually do well through the air.

To become the #3 target, Likely would have to leapfrog Devin Duvernay. Even if I gave him Duvernay’s entire projected volume (which is a bit rich, as Duvernay isn’t going away), that would push Likely in the range around TE#15.

The only chance for Likely to rise to relevancy in the next 3 years is if the Ravens fade Mark Andrews. And why would they do that?

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Because Likely is super-efficient. He catches everything. When you see a player like that, what do you do? Ignore him because “he’s a rookie”? Or do you find ways to get him involved in your offense? As innovative as the Ravens offense is, I fully expect them to find ways to get Likely involved. Maybe he won’t replace Andrews, but he can easily replace Duverney and any of the other 7 Dwarves in the WR room.

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He looked spectacular, it’s hard to argue that. But it was a preseason game. Remember how terrible JaMarr Chase looked in the preseason last year? His owners were ready to jump ship. Those who did regretted it deeply.

Preseason means little. How many Hard Knocks darlings have we seen not surviving roster cuts in recent years? Matter of fact, fantasy managers usually react a lot stronger to preseason games than NFL coaches do.

I don’t blame you for drafting Likely at #32 overall. When players look as good as he did, yes, we do stash them and see how they will develop.

But expecting that Likely could supplant Mark Andrews soon, maybe already this year, is jumping headfirst onto a preseason hype train, and that rarely leads to anything good.

Maybe Likely can become Andrews’ successor in 2025. Until then, he will be bench fodder, no matter what the Ravens will do to keep him involved. Because as long as he won’t become the #1 or #2 target in Baltimore, he will not be startable in fantasy.

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I won’t say he’ll supplant Andrews. But he reminds me of Tony Gonzalez, and that is good company to keep. This kid will find a way to make it in the NFL. It is only a matter of time.