Round 5 (49-60)
49. DeSean Jackson
50. Joseph Randle
51. Andre Ellington
52. T.J. Yeldon
53. Giovani Bernard
54. Rashad Jennings
55. C.J. Spiller
56. Vincent Jackson
57. Amari Cooper
58. Golden Tate
59. Andre Johnson
60. Brandon Marshall
Best Value: Andre Johnson (59)
Andrew Luck is the best QB Johnson has ever had by a wide margin. And lest you think Johnson is over the hill, we thought the same thing about Reggie Wayne two years before he actually was. The common denominator? Andrew Luck. Andrew Luck revives the careers of wide receivers. Lately, Johnson has gotten a reputation of not being very good in the end zone because in the last three years his touchdown totals have been inexplicably low compared to the yardage. True he's never been a big touchdown guy but he used to be in the realm of 8 or 9, not 3-5.
Look at his stats since 2007:
- 2007: 9 games, 60 receptions, 851 yards, 8 touchdowns
- 2008: 16 games, 115 receptions, 1,575 yards, 8 touchdowns
- 2009: 16 games, 101 receptions, 1,569 yards, 9 touchdowns
- 2010: 13 games, 86 receptions, 1,216 yards, 8 touchdowns
- 2011: played less than half the season
- 2012: 16 games, 112 receptions, 1,598 yards, 4 touchdowns
- 2013: 16 games, 109 receptions, 1,407 yards, 5 touchdowns
- 2014: 15 games, 85 receptions, 936 yards, 3 touchdowns.
You might be inclined to think that he's gotten older or that he's just not the same since his 2011 injury. But the receptions and yardage were still there in 2012 and 2013. I really believe in Johnson's talent but he's been working with below average quarterbacks his entire career. With Andrew Luck at QB, it will be like night and day. I'm not saying he's going to have 100+ receptions or ~1,500 yards like he has had through most of his career, but I think that even if he picks up just 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns (which I think is safe bet under the circumstances) he'll be well worth a 5th round pick. And don't worry that there won't be enough to go around. The departure of Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks, and Ahmad Bradshaw leaves 207 targets and 140 receptions up for grabs. He's a safe bet as a solid WR2 with upside.
Worst Value: T.J. Yeldon (52)
Rookies are always risky and I don't think the reward is as great compared to the other rookie running backs. The main factor restricting Yeldon's upside is the team he landed on, the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are near the bottom of the league in generating scoring opportunities. Besides that, I think it would be misguided to think that he's going to get all the work or even that the workload will be valuable given the mediocre offensive line and the inability of the offense to move the ball.
Additionally, I expect Yeldon to be eased into the offense meaning he'll be ceding some carries to Toby Gerhart and Denard Robinson at the start. Don't automatically assume that Yeldon is going to get 20 touches a game. Of last year's rookie running backs, I see more Bishop Sankey is his situation than Jeremy Hill.
Risky Pick: Andre Ellington (51)
I was all set to recommend Ellington. The Cardinals offensive line is the most improved in the off-season and Ellington's schedule is considerably more favorable than last year. Also, Ellington finished 20th among running backs despite playing hurt for much of the year and missing the last 4 games. Stretching his 12-game point total over a full season would have yielded 162 fantasy points, which would have been 12th among running backs.
But it's unrealistic to think that Ellington's role won't be reduced this year. He just doesn't have the size and frame to be a feature back. The Cardinals know this and drafted the 6'1" 224 pound RB David Johnson to be the thunder to Ellington's lightning. You'd figure that Johnson at very least takes over as the goal line back, an extremely valuable role in fantasy. To make matter worse, on August 17th, the Cardinals signed RB Chris Johnson, not exactly a vote of confidence for Ellington who is similar type of runner.
The various injuries he suffered last year also cannot be ignored. Ellington suffered injuries to his foot, hip, and finally a core surgery that ended his season prematurely. On one hand, the injuries might explain last year's poor YPC of 3.3 (39th out of 42 running backs). On the other hand, it also means Ellington comes as a significant injury risk.
I think Ellington has pretty high upside and it's not as if he wont be used at all; he might settle into a situation similar to what Giovani Bernard did in 2014. He's a fantastic pass-catcher and was on pace for 526 receiving yards, 3rd most among running backs. However, questions about his role and health make him a risky pick.
Safe Pick: Joseph Randle (50)
This one is a little weird but I picked Randle to make a point. First of all, Randle is safer than you think. Darren McFadden started camp on the PUP list and is notorious for having a lot of trouble staying on the field throughout his career. He has missed 29 games in his 7 seasons in the NFL and last year was the first time in his career in which he was active all 16 games. Even when he's played he's been banged up and it's been a long time since he's actually been good (3.3 YPC the last three years). I know we all want to believe that the Dallas offensive line is going to rejuvenate his career but it can't somehow make him not made of glass. Even if McFadden somehow stays healthy, there's going to be a cap on his workload. He had just 155 carries in 16 games last year and has never had more than 223 in any season. The Cowboys ran the ball 508 times last year. Barring some kind of Adrian Peterson-like scandal (which is not completely out of the question since he's had some off-field issues in the past) Randle will play and he'll play a lot. And behind that aforementioned offensive line, he's going to be really, really productive (he averaged 6.7 yards per carry on 51 carries in 2014). Even if McFadden scrounges up around 150 carries, I could see Randle getting 250-300.
But let's look at it from another angle. If the Cowboys had not signed Darren McFadden, where would Joseph Randle be ranked? With the unquestioned role behind that offensive line, he would be in the late 2nd or early 3rd round. Uncertainty caused by Darren McFadden is driving his price down and making him a bargain. Randle, unlike any of the other running backs available at this point in the draft, has a legitimate shot at finishing as a top 10 running back. But consider this: why not take both Randle and McFadden? Seriously, why not? Randle is a 5th round pick and Darren McFadden (ranked 95 overall) is an 8th. Spending a 5th and 8th for a top 10 running back is a steal. Even a 4th and 7th would be well worth it. If you're not worried about McFadden then Randle is a great deal by himself. If you are worried, then taking McFadden adds a level of safety to your investment. In an auction draft, it will be even easier to secure the pair.