The end of the NFL season this time around exhibited more change in routine and normality than usual. The ‘new normal’ (stop it) of daily waivers replaced by daily briefings, weekly matchups by weekly changes to lockdown measures. The effect on the NFL has been limited so far, with the draft seemingly unaffected apart from the lack of Vegas pomp thanks to the ability of the entire world to swap face-to-face human interaction with a constant stream of Zoom meetings.
We’ll see whether the league can start as normal but the void between draft and season-start almost certainly won’t be filled by camp battle hype and that will have just as much effect on fantasy football as it does on the players themselves (or nearly as much…).
Regardless of pandemics or global destruction, you can be sure of two traditions continuing: NFL players getting arrested for carrying guns in their glove compartments, and the UK Dynasty rookie draft. On we go with the fourth annual event.
Round 1 in brief
1.01: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, KCC - Flitwick Fireflies
1.02: JK Dobbins, RB, BAL - Andover Sandslashers
1.03: CeeDee Lamb, WR, DAL - Derby Otters
1.04: Jonathan Taylor, RB, IND - Oxford Seahawks
1.05: Deandre Swift, RB, DET - Oxford Seahawks
1.06: Cam Akers, RB, LAR - Flitwick Fireflies
1.07: Jerry Jeudy, WR, DEN - Oxford Pythons
1.08: Justin Jefferson, WR, MIN - Wigan Wombats
1.09: Jalen Reagor, WR, PHI - Chippenham Beavers
1.10: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, TBB - Andover Sandslashers
1.11: Tee Higgins, WR, CIN - Wigan Wombats
1.12: Henry Ruggs, WR, OAK - Hereford Chargers
Pick 1 - Flitwick Fireflies, Clyde Edwards-Helaire RB
Everyone thought that the Fireflies were a shoe-in for the first overall pick in Mike’s first year in charge last year, but they were bumped out of that slot by the Chargers. Mike has made a sterling effort to bring in young talent and give the franchise the best shot at escaping the perennial battle for 1.01 and made further strides towards that goal today with the acquisition of LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He slots into an RB room that includes Josh Jacobs, the Fireflies’ pick at 2nd overall a year ago.
“I remember the exact moment I knew Clyde was destined for the Fireflies: it was the final pick of the 1st round of the 2020 NFL draft and the Chiefs pulled his name out of the hat”, Mike said, teary-eyed only moments after putting the pick in. “Naturally, I put down my expertly spiced chicken wing and said to myself ‘I’ll go with him then I suppose’.”
Edwards-Helaire was barely on dynasty radars a year ago, but leapt to prominence in the second half of the 2019 college season in the terrifying LSU offense. Four 100-yard rushing games on the bounce in November and a 164 all-purpose yard performance in the Championship game saw ‘CEH’ catapulted into first-round conversation, and his selection as the first RB off the board by the Chiefs saw him fly up dynasty draft boards into 1.01 consideration.
Pick 2 - Andover Sandslashers, JK Dobbins RB
The Sandslashers eschewed the first round of the draft last year, but have first round experience from 2018 when they capitalised(?) on three picks in the top 12. The Sandslashers were vocal about their disappointment in missing out on Edwards-Helaire - perhaps expecting the Fireflies to take the other big name in rookie ADP 1.01 right now in Jonathan Taylor - but were quick to change course and opt for Ravens’ 2nd-round selection JK Dobbins.
Sandslashers’ owner Scott Westwood was obviously pleased with his new star. “After a long offseason vacationing in the Pitcairn Isles, it was time to focus on the new class of stars.” he said. “We assessed our team needs and decided that Dobbins fit best for what we are building here in Andover. We have many picks in this draft but it was important to get a stud running back for an offense-heavy team as our base.”
Pick 3 - Derby Otters, CeeDee Lamb WR
The Otters have never picked in the top 3 before, but sent audible shockwaves through the league by denouncing the near-consensus “top 5 RBs” of the 2020 rookie draft season and plumping to take the first wide receiver off the board in Cowboys’ CeeDee Lamb.
“It’s lambing season,” said Otters owner and part-time Shakira impersonator Chris Shepherd. “And Shepherds are drawn to Lamb.”
Lamb was fearfully productive at Oklahoma, scoring 25 times in his sophomore and junior seasons and reaching over 1150 receiving yards in both of those years. His PlayerProfiler.com comp is no other than legendary Jerry Rice, so the 6’2” first-rounder has big expectations to reach when he slots into the Cowboys offense.
Pick 4 - Oxford Seahawks, Jonathan Taylor RB
The Seahawks have a mixed history in the early rounds of UKD rookie drafts, having previously spent first and second picks on such stars as Darrell and Carlos Henderson. Seemingly in an attempt to hedge bets and make amends, they positioned themselves with no less than three first round picks in 2020, and wasted no time in taking Colts’ running back Jonathan Taylor with the first of those at 1.04.
“We were surprised to see Taylor still on the board here, and couldn’t write his name down quickly enough to hand in the pick,” said Seahawks GM Dan Abrey. “He would have been in our plans had we had the first overall pick in this draft, so was an easy choice at 1.04.”
Taylor was supremely productive in college, notching up 12 200-yard rushing games and 6174 total rushing yards in his three years at Wisconsin, with no small thanks to their stellar offensive line. He has some of that same luxury in the NFL, with the Colts certainly in the top few teams in that regard, but it remains to be seen if he can translate that almighty college production to the big-time.
Pick 5 - Oxford Seahawks, Deandre Swift RB
The Seahawks doubled down on running backs and added Lions’ second-round selection Deandre Swift to a running back room that already includes his Detroit stablemate Kerryon Johnson. Swift was the closest there was to a consensus dynasty rookie 1.01 selection prior to the NFL draft, but the landing spot dampened the flames on that somewhat.
“We actually pondered trading out of this pick, but we’re pleased to land Swift here,” said Abrey. “We’re not done with Kerryon yet, but it’s nice to have that insurance either way and we hope the Lions will continue with a run-first strategy. Swift is a talented player and we look forward to seeing him in the NFL.”
Pick 6 - Flitwick Fireflies, Cam Akers RB
Flitwick made their second selection of the 2020 draft and followed a similar track to the Seahawks, doubling down on running backs with the selection of Florida State’s Cam Akers. Akers was all the rage after his freshman year at FSU, rushing for over 1000 yards and 7 TDs, but took a step back in his sophomore year before bouncing back in 2019 with another 1000 yard season and 18 total TDs.
“Did you know that he played behind a bad offensive line?” Fireflies coach Mike Ki-Fun asked the assembled press, with a wry smile. The sorry state of FSU’s offensive line has been much talked about when discussing the NFL prospects of Akers, as he had to make a lot of his chances himself and wasn’t given the same giant gaps that were afforded to his counterparts like Jonathan Taylor at Wisconsin.
He will now line up behind the Rams’ 31st ranked line (per PFF, 2019), so that practice may need to come in handy if he’s to be equally productive in the NFL. The opportu nity is certainly there, though, with the absence of Todd Gurley and only Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson in the way.
Pick 7 - Oxford Pythons, Jerry Jeudy WR
Although the order of the “top 7” may have been a bit surprising, there were no surprise entries, with the Pythons completing the septet with the selection of Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy was also the second wide receiver off the board in the NFL draft, at pick 15 overall for the Denver Broncos.
Jeudy joins a cramped WR room at the Pythons, becoming no less than the 18th receiver on the roster, but Pythons owner Olly Conway was obviously pleased to draft some extra quality at the position and sees the ex-Alabama star as a future NFL star in his own right. “We are delighted that Jeudy is a Python,” he said. “We’ve relied heavily on Tyreek Hill for too long and we snatched the opportunity to bring in the best receiver in this class.”
Pick 8 - Wigan Wombats, Justin Jefferson WR
It was leaked out of the Wombats’ war room that they were very disappointed with the two picks prior to their selection at number 8, not shy about revealing their hope that one of the top 5 running backs might fall and their love for the idea of pairing Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy on their roster.
Alas, it was not to be, and the Wombats dutifully selected the second LSU alum of the first round in Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson. Like his college teammate Edwards-Helaire, Jefferson jumped to stardom during their historic 2019 season, when he broke out for 1540 receiving yards and a somewhat ridiculous 18 touchdowns. Jefferson joins a Vikings offense that has voided itself of Stefon Diggs this off-season, so Wombats GM Jonathan Moffatt will be hoping he can immediately produce with that opportunity.
“With Lamb and all the top running backs off the board, we wanted to take the receiver with the best opportunity to contribute next season.” Moffatt said. “Jefferson proved himself against many of the top college teams last season, and with the Vikings trading away Diggs, he should get a chance to start at NFL level very quickly”
Pick 9 - Chippenham Beavers, Jalen Reagor WR
TRADE: The first on-the-clock trade of the 2020 UKD draft saw the Oxford Seahawks trade away 1.09, 2.04 and 2.08 this year, along with a 2021 2nd round pick, in return for Lions’ WR Kenny Golladay.
The newly rebranded Chippenham Beavers made a big move to get back into the first round and also acquire some 2nd-round capital from the picks-rich Oxford Seahawks, and wasted no time in making the first of the picks with Eagles’ pass-catcher Reagor.
Reagor will be expected to step up to help replace the traded-away Kenny Golladay in the Beavers wide receiver room spearheaded by Michael Thomas.
“I love Reagor’s upside with the Eagles and can see him building a decent future with Wentz,” said Beavers’ owner Tom Butler. “I love the draft capital invested in him and I love the floor he should have!”
Pick 10 - Andover Sandslashers, Keshawn Vaughn RB
Nothing can help your dynasty draft stock quite as much as being drafted into a backfield that recently also introduced Tom Brady, and that is exactly what happened to Vanderbilt running back Keshawn Vaughn when he was drafted by the Bucs in the third round of the NFL draft.
The talents of Vaughn are not generally seen in the same light as those of the “top 5”, but it cannot be argued that the opportunity isn’t there, with only Ronald Jones and 2019 off-season hype-man Dare Ogunbowale competing for carries. The Sandslashers also have Ronald Jones on the roster, which seemed to be one of the deciding factors when pulling the trigger on the pick for GM Scott Westwood.
“Vaughn, paired with Ronald Jones II, brings that 1-2 Tampa punch that Andover has been looking for,” he said. “Some critics may have issues with us going RB-RB early on, but with such a deep WR pool, we can load up later on.”
Pick 11 - Wigan Wombats, Tee Higgins WR
Tamurice “Tee” Higgins went off the board as the first pick on Day 2 of the NFL draft, to be paired with first overall pick Joe Burrow as the new-look Bengals offense takes shape. In UKD world, the Wombats added him as their second wide receiver of the first round after the earlier selection of Justin Jefferson.
Higgins is tall and athletic, and one could be forgiven for marking him down as simply a redzone threat. 20% of his catches at Clemson resulted in a touchdown, a quite insane statistical representation of his willingness to find the endzone, but his tape shows a wider range of ability than that, and it will be interesting to see how his career pans out at Cincinnati.
“There wasn’t much between the next three or four receivers available, so we went with Higgins, who potentially has the most upside if Burrow lives up to expectations.” explained Wombats GM Jonathan Moffatt.
Pick 12 - Hereford Chargers, Henry Ruggs WR
The enigma. Only 98 catches in his entire college career at Alabama, Ruggs doesn’t have the sort of college production that makes one say “this guy is definitely making it in the NFL”. What he does have, however, is lightning fast speed (4.27 sec 40 time), an insane reception-to-touchdown ratio (24 TDs on those 98 catches) and equally insane big-play ability, taking 42 of those 98 catches for over 15 yards.
Although his lack of production can partly be pinned to being part of an offense filled with offensive talent, Ruggs will have to break the analytics mould to succeed, but you wouldn’t put it past him doing so.
“Although we were hoping to sure up our RB depth, no one really caught our eye. However, we like the look of Ruggs and believe he has the speed and situation to produce,” said Chargers GM Jason Reese. “I believe he will be a great value to the Chargers. The guys have already stapled rugs to his car as a welcome gift.”