The NFL Draft is complete, and each front office thinks they executed a perfect plan. Phrases such as “stayed true to our draft board,” and “took the best available player,” are recycled like yesterday’s laundry. But what does it all mean for our fantasy football teams?
A great NFL draft may not equate to a strong fantasy football draft. For our purposes, the main focus is determining which teams improved (and didn’t improve) their offensive potential. Here are the three winners and losers from the 2017 NFL draft for fantasy football.
NFL Draft Fantasy Football Winners and Losers
No team had a better draft from a fantasy football perspective than Tampa Bay. The biggest overall winner is their franchise quarterback Jameis Winston, who failed to have the breakout year many had predicted for 2016. Winston averaged 17.1 fantasy points per game, ranking 18th among all quarterbacks.
Tampa Bay already added free agent flyer DeSean Jackson to start alongside All Pro wide receiver Mike Evans. The Buccaneers then went and drafted an athletic freak in tight end O.J. Howard, who brings 4.51 40 yard dash speed with a 6’6″ frame. The Buccaneers also return tight end Cameron Brate, who tied for the positional lead with eight touchdowns.
After Howard, their next two offensive picks are even better. Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin brings 4.42 40 yard dash speed and serves as a great backup to DeSean Jackson. Godwin could impact the team this year, or learn behind the veteran Jackson who will turns 31 this season.
Their best selection is Jeremy McNichols of Boise State, who could be Tampa Bay’s starting running back in September. Jacquizz Rodgers is an underwhelming athlete, and veteran (and fellow Boise State alum) Doug Martin will serve a three game suspension to start the season after testing positive last December for performance enhancing drugs. McNichols runs a 4.49 40 yard dash at 214 lbs, and was a dynamic receiver at Boise State. He was an incredible steal in the fifth round.
The offensive weapons for Jameis Winston are potent, and that makes the Buccaneers huge fantasy winners from draft night.
Sometimes the draft gives insight into the mindset of a particular team. It is clear from this draft that the Kansas City Chiefs are in “win now” mode. After going 23-9 over the past two seasons but failing to reach the AFC Championship game, head coach Andy Reid has made a statement with these three offensive picks.
First statement? The Chiefs clearly have doubts on Alex Smith as their starting quarterback. Kansas City traded the 27th pick, a third round pick, and next year’s first round pick to Buffalo to acquire the 10th pick and select Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes. In a weak quarterback draft class, a team doesn’t make that type of move unless they have lost faith in their starting quarterback.
Second, veteran running back Spencer Ware should start looking over his shoulder. The Chiefs traded up again to grab Toledo running back Kareem Hunt in round three. While not as athletic as other rookies, Hunt has three down ability as a 5’10” 216 lb pass-catching back. As a senior, he posted 1,400 rush yards, 10 touchdowns, and 41 receptions. Ware better be careful because as a marginal athlete himself, Hunt presents a similar profile with much better pass-catching ability.
Lastly, Michigan wide receiver Jehu Chesson presents a huge upside pick in round four. Chesson suffered a knee injury in his junior year bowl game after recording five catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. He won MVP of that Citrus Bowl game, and team MVP for Michigan as a junior. Chesson never looked the same last year but has declared himself completely healthy for 2017, and certainly looked it at the combine:
This draft illustrated the narrative that Kansas City is “going for it” right now. The Chiefs have a strong defense, are well coached, and needed offensive upgrades to make a full push towards the Super Bowl. AFC teams? Be on notice.
Team: Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns are finally doing it right. They acquired three solid offensive pieces in an overall fantastic draft. It’s not so much who the Browns drafted, but how they did it. They fooled the Chicago Bears into thinking they wanted North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, and then traded down from 12th pick to the 25th pick so Houston could select Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. The Browns also received Houston’s first round pick in 2018, giving them two first round picks for the fourth time in six years.
The Browns selected the best tight end in the draft, David Njoku of Miami. As an incredibly gifted athlete, Njoku brings a 6’4″ 246 lbs frame and an incredible 35 1/4″ arm length. He is a decent run blocker and will be a superior red zone weapon for whoever is the Browns’ starting quarterback come September.
That quarterback could very well be rookie DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame. He brings size (6’4″) and a solid overall quarterback profile as a second round pick. The Browns avoided the trap of being forced to draft a quarterback in the first round. Kizer could absolutely prove to be as good or better than the second overall selection, Trubisky.
The Browns even got value with their seventh round pick of NC State’s Matthew Dayes. While relatively small at 5’9″, his 98 total receptions in four seasons is incredible production. Dayes also tallied some great rushing games against top ranked college defenses like Florida State (104 yards), Clemson (106 yards) and Notre Dame (126 yards).
Between these great offensive picks and the exceptional first round defensive picks of defensive lineman Myles Garrett and safety Jabril Peppers, the Cleveland Browns were huge draft day winners.
Team: Los Angeles Chargers
Impact Picks: Mike Williams, WR (1st round);
The Chargers’ draft made absolutely no sense. They select only one offensive player, and it’s at their strongest overall position of wide receiver? With the seventh overall pick? Keenan Allen will return after a torn ACL, Dontrelle Inman had 58 receptions for 810 yards, Tyrell Williams had seven touchdowns, and speedster Travis Benjamin returns in the slot receiver position. In addition, the Chargers also have two great receiving tight ends in Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. Selecting a wide receiver in round one made no sense.
If the Chargers are worried about Keenan Allen‘s health (he has suffered four season ending injuries in five years), they still should have passed on Mike Williams. With quality receivers like Zay Jones and JuJu Smith-Schuster available in round two, the Chargers should have drafted a defensive player with the seventh overall pick, and looked for supplementary receiving weapons much later.
Even more shocking is that Mike Williams best receiving attribute is his size (6’4″ 218 lbs). However, both Tyrell Williams (6’3″) and Dontrelle Inman (6’3″) already serve that role well. This pick makes no sense and Williams will be an unpredictable fantasy factor this season.
While quarterback Philip Rivers may be happy, the Chargers used their first overall pick to select a redundant offensive position. Therefore, the Chargers are a draft day fantasy football loser.
Team: Buffalo Bills
Impact Picks: Zay Jones, WR (2nd round); Nathan Peterman, QB (5th round)
The Bills needed a wide receiver badly, but missed out on the top three when Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and John Ross were all selected before their spot at the tenth position. Therefore, the Bills decided to trade the 10th overall pick to Kansas City for the 27th and 91st pick in this draft plus Kansas City’s first round pick next year. This was a massive haul for what turned into quarterback Pat Mahomes.
The problem is, Buffalo then whiffed on their first round pick.
With massive offensive needs, the Bills took LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White, who is undersized at 5’11” 192 lbs. The Bills needed a wide receiver, tight end, and backup to running back LeSean McCoy since Mike Gillislee signed with the New England Patriots. By taking White, Buffalo passed on the best overall tight end prospect in the draft, David Njoku of Miami.
The Bills did draft East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones in round two, which should provide a solid receiving option across the field from Sammy Watkins. But great running back prospects like Jeremy McNichols and D’Onta Foreman were both available later in the draft, and the Bills failed to select a running back in the entire draft.
As for the quarterback position, it’s hard to envision Nathan Peterman of Pittsburgh being the answer. With limited arm strength and weak mobility, it seems Buffalo just took a quarterback out of necessity. The Bills did not improve their offense much with this draft.
One wide receiver, no running backs, and a fifth round marginal quarterback? That first round trade with Kansas City may help the future, but in terms of a fantasy football perspective for next season, the Buffalo Bills are clearly losers.
The Jets are playing checkers while everyone else is playing chess. While most teams are looking to improve their passing offense and defense, the Jets seem to be staying with an outdated NFL roster construction model.
While first round pick Jamal Adams is a highly rated run stopping safety, the Jets needed desperately to upgrade a poor all around offense. They gave soon-to-be 38 year old Josh McCown a one year $6 million dollar contract, yet failed to surround him with any legitimate offensive weapons that can make an immediate impact.
Third round pick ArDarius Stewart will be a non-factor. He is not explosive and struggled to create route separation in college. Stewart has decent speed (4.49 40 yard dash) but is only 5’11”. He currently projects to be the Jets seventh best receiver, if that. Why waste a third round pick on a glorified kick returner?
If one mediocre wide receiver isn’t good enough, why not double-down with Chad Hansen of California? Another wideout who struggled getting separation, Hansen at least has decent size at 6’2″. But with just average speed (4.53 40 yard dash) and arm length (32 1/8″), is he really contributing to an deep wide receiver core? Why not package these last two picks in a trade instead of drafting safeties in both rounds one and two?
Lastly, running back Elijah McGuire from Louisiana-Lafayette brings a pass-catching profile with 130 receptions over his college career. That is really his only role however, which makes him a one-dimensional draft pick. The Jets already have two similar running backs with Matt Forte and Bilal Powell, so what is the long term plan? Will he even make the team this year as a 6th round pick? Are the Jets really confident with Josh McCown at quarterback and 31 year old Matt Forte as their main running back? Then again, maybe this was a harbinger of things to come for Jets fans:
Tony Richardson had some trouble while announcing a Jets draft pick. https://t.co/zFpLz6k9CT
The New York Jets will have a solid defense, but by failing to address their offensive concerns, they are fantasy football losers in the 2017 NFL Draft.