3 Players to Buy for a 3rd Round Rookie Pick

A rookie draft pick that “hits” is a player that goes on to produce at least one Top 24 (Top 12 for QB and TE) fantasy finish at their position.  Many studies have been conducted on rookie pick hit rates, but the estimated rate for 3rd round picks is about 10-12%.  That means that we can only expect to see 1-2 players picked in the 3rd round of dynasty rookie drafts to ever become fantasy relevant. 

During this time of the year, rookie hype is at an all-time high and most dynasty managers have already pegged their favorite late-round rookie sleepers.  Capitalize on this hype by offering mid to late 3rd round rookie picks for the following players that have either shown they can produce at a high level or already found themselves in a good situation:

Phillip Lindsay

The future seemed bright for Lindsay after he became the first Undrafted Free Agent RB to rush for 1,000+ yards in his first two seasons.  But the signing of free agent Melvin Gordon to a 2-year deal was a sign of bad things to come for the 3rd year back.  The team was verbally committed to Lindsay remaining a major part of the offense, but that was not the case in 2020.  While battling injuries, Gordon out-carried Lindsay 215-118 and Lindsay finished the year as RB65.

Despite a disaster 2020 season, there is some hope for Lindsay’s fantasy outlook.  Throughout the entire season, Lindsay battled various hip and knee injuries which clearly affected him on the field.   He posted his career lows in Yards per carry, Yards per target, and evaded tackles.  He still ranked 12th in big runs (20+ yards) and saw a 6.8% big run rate which was 5th best among RBs, so the speed is still there.  While Gordon will remain with the team in 2021, a healthy Lindsay should be able to establish a solid 1-2 punch.  The Broncos plan to tender Lindsay, who is a Restricted Free Agent, for 2021.  He will then become an Unrestricted Free agent in 2022.  Melvin Gordon might also be facing suspension to start next season as he currently deals with a DUI charge from last October. 

Quintez Cephus

Cephus plummeted down draft boards after he ran an abysmal 4.73.  Pair that with a mediocre production profile at Wisconsin and Cephus slipped into the 6th round of the 2020 NFL Draft.  He saw an immediate opportunity to get onto the field when Kenny Golladay missed Week 1 because of an injury.  Cephus played 80% of the snaps and saw 10 targets.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see much more of him throughout the year, other than a couple of splash plays.  He only saw 35 targets in his rookie campaign. 

Scouts liked his large frame, good hands and physical style of play but his overall athleticism has always been a question.  That sounds very similar to the Rams’ Cooper Kupp, who was the favorite target of new Detroit QB, Jared Goff:

 Cooper KuppQuintez Cephus
Height6’2”6’1”
Weight204 LBS202 LBS
Breakout Age20.220.4
Dominator Rating40.4%35.7%

Regardless of what happens with Kenny Golladay or the Draft, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola alone will vacate 184 targets from 2020.  Cephus will have a great opportunity to take over the “Big Slot” WR role and hopefully establish the same chemistry that Goff had with Kupp. 

Cole Kmet

Kmet was quiet to start 2020 while Jimmy Graham operated as the Bears’ top TE for most of the season.  Nagy finally came to his senses after their Week 11 bye and unleashed Kmet.  From that point, he saw an average of 5.5 targets/game which is a 16-game pace of 88 targets. That would have put him tied for 10th most among TEs in 2020.  Jimmy Graham is expected to be a cap casualty soon, with the Bears able to save $7 million by cutting him.  Cole Kmet would become an instant TE1 candidate once Graham is gone. 

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