Under the Radar: 2019 Rookies

Under the Radar: 2019 Rookies

Our Under the Radar column looks at a specific grouping of players that are poised to outproduce their currently perceived value and consensus projection.

In this segment of Under the Radar, I will take a look at 2019 rookie players that I think have a good chance to exceed current consensus expectations.

Gardner Minshew QB (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Minshew is a prospect that I have become increasingly fond of throughout the draft process.  He currently slots in as my QB7 among rookies, one spot ahead of fellow prospect Will Grier. Minshew began his college career at Northwest Mississippi Community College (go Rangers) where he helped his team secure the NJCAA championship in 2015.  In 2018, Minshew threw for the second most passing yards among FBS quarterbacks after transferring to Washington State from East Carolina. Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State was the only FBS quarterback who threw for more yards in 2018. Minshew also threw 38 touchdowns in 2018 which was good for fourth among FBS quarterbacks.  Only Haskins, Tagovailoa, and Murray threw for more. In addition to the impressive stats, he also managed to lead Washington State to an 11 win season in 2018 which broke the school record. The Jacksonville Jaguars took Gardner Minshew in the 6th round of this years draft with the 178th overall pick. He projects to be the backup to Nick Foles to begin the season.  While Foles has unquestionably had moments of brilliance, I don’t believe he is a long term answer in Jacksonville. He has been inconsistent at best whenever he’s played for any team outside of Philadelphia. Should Nick Foles crumble under the pressure of a big contract, Minshew could find himself in a great situation on a Jacksonville team that has long sought stability at the quarterback position.  While Minshew certainly carries less value in a single QB league, he is certainly worth keeping an eye on. However, in Superflex leagues I’ve been targeting him late in rookie drafts. He is especially valuable if you have Nick Foles as a starter regardless of format.

Trayveon Williams RB (Cincinnati Bengals)

Trayveon Williams was a workhorse back for Texas A&M in 2018.  On the year, he amassed 1,760 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on 271 carries.  He also flashed his ability as a receiver as he caught 27 balls for another 278 yards and 1 touchdown.  I’ve had Williams higher than most since I began the 2019 draft process back in January. Currently, he comes in as my RB13 among rookies.  Meanwhile in rookie drafts, I have seen him go as late as 97 overall which is rather low for a running back of his caliber. Williams got drafted by Cincinnati with the 182nd pick and Snell by the Steelers at 122.  I see Snell and Williams as similar players, not so much in style or build, but in other ways. They were both workhorse backs for their college teams, they both played in the SEC, and both are currently sitting third on their respective NFL teams depth chart.  However, for some reason Benny Snell has gone way ahead of Williams in every rookie draft I’ve been apart of this year. Snell sits behind James Connor and Jaylen Samuels while Williams has Joe Mixon and Giovanni Bernard ahead of him. When considering the situation of each I believe Williams has the clearer path to playing time.  Even with Mixon in Cincinnati, Bernard has had a role in the offense, however he is injury prone and will be a free agent after this season. I expect that Williams will carve out a role in that new look Bengals offense before long and could end up being an absolute steal for savvy dynasty owners.

KeeSean Johnson WR (Arizona Cardinals)

A four-year starter, Johnson had a great career at Fresno State as he caught 275 balls to go for 3,463 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns.  While Johnson showed steady improvement in his first two seasons, the bulk of his production came in his final two years at Fresno State. In those 2017 and 2018 seasons, he had back to back seasons where he caught 8 touchdowns and eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards.  Johnson has been Fresno State’s best receiver prospect to be drafted since Davante Adams. Also noteworthy, both Johnson and Adams played for Palo Alto High School prior to college. Johnson has consistently improved each year as a college player, and I fully expect this trend to continue into his NFL career.  Many are scoffing at the Arizona landing spot, partially due to the fact he was the third rookie receiver taken in this years draft and also because Arizona is already loaded with weapons. With all this in mind, I believe that there is some sneaky value to be had with Johnson. We saw a similar situation in Green Bay last year with the Packers selecting three receivers in the draft while also having some productive veterans on the roster at the time.  Since last year in Green Bay, Randall Cobb has departed in free agency and the second receiver they took in 2018, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, looks to have emerged as the receiver to own in Green Bay after Davante Adams. I can see a similar situation unfolding in Arizona as they have a relatively unproven receiving corps outside of an aging Larry Fitzgerald. In my rookie drafts this year, I have seen Johnson go off the board as early as WR18 and as late as WR22.  This seems rather low as I currently have Johnson ranked as my WR16 among rookies. Arizona projects to be a high powered offense for years to come with Kyler Murray under center and Kliff Kingsbury calling plays. With what he has shown so far, I believe KeeSean Johnson has the ability to carve a role in the Arizona desert when his opportunity comes.

Donald Parham TE (Washington Redskins)

Parham is perhaps the most under the radar of all the players discussed in this article.  Unlike the rest of the players I’ve listed, he was not drafted. Instead, Parham was signed by Detroit as a priority rookie free agent following the 2019 NFL Draft.  Detroit already had a crowded tight end group after selecting Hockenson eighth overall and signing Jesse James in the off-season. However, as fortune would have it, Detroit waived Parham not long after signing him and Washington picked him up off waivers.  In 2018, Parham led all college tight ends in receiving yards with 1,319 on 85 catches to go with 13 touchdowns. He broke just about every receiving record at his FCS level alma mater, Stetson. While this was against FCS competition, the outrageous numbers and proven pass-catching ability are hard to ignore.  Parham is rather tall for an NFL tight end as he stands at 6’8” and he will likely need to add some muscle to his 243 pound frame. However, his athletic traits are undeniable as he ran a 4.68 forty at his pro day. For reference, this year’s top tight end prospect, T.J. Hockenson, ran a 4.70 at the combine. Now in Washington, Parham finds himself in a great situation.  Washington currently has the oft injured Jordan Reed listed as their starting tight end. The 35-year-old Vernon Davis is second on the depth chart and a completely unproven player with a history of off-field issues, Jeremy Sprinkle, currently sits third. After that, Matt Flanagan and J.P. Holtz sit ahead of Parham in the pecking order as it stands for now. I envision Parham climbing the depth chart this summer and making a legitimate case for the third tight end spot on that Washington roster.  For a player that is going undrafted in most leagues, he is a great end of roster stash in deeper dynasty leagues.