The NFL draft has finally come to a close. It was a wild few days with a lot of surprise picks and trade action. For many, this marks the true beginning of the 2018 season. For others, it is a short-term peak of excitement that leads to a few dull months of anticipation. The next big event for many is the fantasy football draft. Most savvy team owners will start researching players and compiling a list of players they like for their draft. Here are some veterans and rookies whose fantasy draft stock was affected by the rookie draft.
Fantasy Football: 2018 NFL Draft Winners and Losers
For the Denver Broncos, Case Keenum comes out of the 2018 draft breathing a huge sigh of relief. Mainly, because the Broncos decided against drafting a quarterback. With top prospects like Josh Rosen and Josh Allen still available when the Broncos were still on the board, it shows a lot of faith in Keenum being their guy.
The Broncos already had a solid receiving corps with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and now they added wideout Courtland Sutton in the second round. In addition to that, they went with Royce Freeman to replace (and hopefully provide an upgrade from) C.J. Anderson. Last year with the Minnesota Vikings, Keenum finished as the QB14 in standard leagues. Don’t be surprised if he makes it into a top 10 finish with these weapons and another year of starting under his belt.
Another quarterback who benefitted greatly from his team’s draft is Andrew Luck. The Indianapolis Colts had five picks in the first two rounds. They spent two of those picks on guards (Quenton Nelson – sixth overall, Braden Smith – 37th overall) to protect their high paid quarterback. Luck missed all of last season rehabbing a shoulder injury, and has been hit way too much so far in career.
When he is on the field, Luck is a top fantasy option at quarterback. He has never finished less than the overall QB4 in a fantasy season where he started at least 15 games. His best season was his last fully healthy season in 2014, where he was the QB2, right behind Aaron Rodgers. He should be right back to where he left off in fantasy with his new protectors, and finish as a top-five quarterback again next season.
Our first rookie of the list is Saquon Barkley, drafted by the New York Giants. Barkley really could not have landed in a better spot with G-Men. If he was taken by a team like the Browns, he would face stacked boxes non-stop. With the Giants, he has Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. in the passing game to keep team’s honest.
Last season, the Giants squeezed all they could get out of their run game when all their wide receivers got the injury bug. It was still underwhelming. Lead back Orleans Darkwa finished as the RB28 in standard leagues. Overall the Giants finished 26th in rushing, but that will change in 2018. While he still doesn’t have the offensive line Ezekiel Elliott did his rookie season, he should still have an excellent first year in the league.
Another rookie who landed in a great situation with the Carolina Panthers is D.J. Moore. Carolina is in desperate need of wide receivers, and Moore just might be the answer. Devin Funchess was solid last year, but is anyone really convinced he is the long-term solution as quarterback Cam Newton’s number one option?
Funchess saw decent numbers last season after being peppered with targets but should have done more. He caught 63 of 113 passes thrown his way, which was a dismal 56 percent catch rate. The Panthers need someone more reliable than that. This will give Moore his shot sooner rather than later. Don’t be surprised if he starts the season as the Panthers number one option.
He’s someone to watch during the preseason and could be worth a late-round flier pick in fantasy drafts.
Moving back to veteran players, one who must be extremely happy with the way the draft went is Jimmy Graham. The Green Bay Packers decided they trust that their new tight end still has some stuff left in the tank, opting against drafting one. The team decided not to bring back Jordy Nelson and Richard Rodgers, but have done little to replace him. They did take wide receivers in rounds four through six, but they are unlikely to make an instant impact.
The only other two options for quarterback Aaron Rodgers are Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Adams has shown flashes that he can be a number one option, falling just short of 1,000 receiving yards in 2016 when Rodgers was healthy. He still managed almost 900 with Rodgers only playing half a season. Cobb projects as the number two option, but he hasn’t looked good in a few years. Graham is in line to get a ton of targets without much competition.
Graham looked washed up last year, but still saw a ton of red-zone targets. He likely keeps that role, with a chance to get a lot more yardage with Rodgers tossing him the rock.
AFC West Quarterbacks
As soon as the Broncos announced their first-round pick as Bradley Chubb, Derek Carr, Philip Rivers, and Patrick Mahomes‘s hearts probably stopped. Von Miller already gives teams enough trouble, and now they’ll have to worry about Chubb as well.
The Los Angeles Chargers defense is already sneaky good and got even better. They already have two premier pass rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. They also have two very good corners with Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams. Jason Verrett is also shutdown when he’s on the field. Well, now they add safety, Derwin James. This is a team quarterbacks are going to have fits playing against.
Khalil Mack has been a beast for the Oakland Raiders, but he has been their only real pass rushing threat since he got there. Well, the Raiders decided to take a chance on Maurice Hurst in the fifth round of the draft. There is no question about his playing ability. He would have been a first-round pick if it were not for a heart condition that scared teams away. Oakland also went for defensive end Arden Key in the fourth round. Key is another player who could have been a first-round pick, but off-field issues dropped his stock. If the two can take care of their non-football issues, the Silver and Black’s pass rush can get real scary, real fast.
This makes for a tough schedule for AFC West quarterbacks and decreases their fantasy value.
While it was no surprise that the Cleveland Browns took a quarterback in the first round, there is no doubt that Tyrod Taylor must be disappointed. While head coach Hue Jackson announced that Baker Mayfield will start third on the depth chart, we all know that is just coach-speak. At this rate, Taylor will be lucky to even start a few games. A team does not draft a quarterback first overall to watch him sit on the bench. His time in Cleveland was done as soon as he got there.
Carlos Hyde probably breathed a sigh of relief when the Browns chose Mayfield, and then the Giants went after Barkley immediately afterward. That was short lived though, as the Browns went for Nick Chubb with one of their second-round picks. Hyde will still get his touches, but Chubb probably begins the season as the starter in a crowded backfield that also includes Duke Johnson.
Not that it is anything new, but the Browns offense should be avoided altogether in fantasy.
It would not be a surprise if Dak Prescott was among the Dallas Cowboys fans at the draft who walked out after their first-round pick was announced as linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. With wideout Dez Bryant being released, and Jason Witten’s retirement all but guaranteed, Prescott and his fans were surely hoping the Cowboys would use their top pick on a pass catcher to fill the void. Instead, they waited until round three to get a receiver in Michael Gallup.
To make matters worse, former Philadelphia Eagles kicker David Akers gave a nice long troll speech to Dallas fans in their own building right after trading up to pick right before them in round two. Philly ended up picking tight end Dallas Goedert, who many believed the Cowboys were set to choose with the very next pick.
Prescott finished as the QB11 in fantasy last season, making him hardly rosterable. This season he probably stays on the waiver wire.
The biggest surprise of the first round would have to be the Seattle Seahawks going with San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny. He led the entire NCAA in rushing yards and finished his college career with five straight 200-yard games.
Seattle made Penny the second running back to go off the board, even though he was ranked in many circles as the fifth best back. Penny must have been pleasantly surprised. As a first-round pick, he is almost guaranteed to immediately take over as their lead back. Had he been taken later by another team, he may have had to split carries with someone. Who knows how much playing time he would have gotten.
Still, now there is immediate pressure to perform, and the Seahawks offensive line doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for blocking the past few years. In 2017, the Seahawks were ranked 23rd in rushing offense, and 25th in 2016. Quarterback Russell Wilson was their leading rusher last season. Hopefully, Penny will reestablish the team’s tough, run-first style that they have missed since Marshawn Lynch’s departure.
He’s still draftable, but we’ll have to wait until we see him in the pre-season to determine a realistic ADP.
The Arizona Cardinals are probably still giddy that they were able to trade up to number ten of the first round and give up almost nothing to select Rosen. To many, he had the look of the most NFL ready quarterback. Of all of the quarterbacks drafted, he is probably the only one who has a chance at having a fantasy impact, but as a rookie, the odds are still stacked against him.
First, he has to beat out Sam Bradford, who the Cardinals just signed to a one-year prove it deal (Although now that is looking like a one-year stopgap deal.) Bradford plays very well when he is on the field, but it probably won’t be his play that keeps him off the field. His knees seem to be made of glass. It just feels inevitable that we will see Rosen sooner, rather than later.
If he does hit the field, he is set up for success. Future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald will be an easy, reliable, go-to target. Teams will also be stacking the box to defend against the star running back David Johnson. The Cardinals also drafted wide receiver Christian Kirk in the second round. He should get plenty of reps in the offseason with Rosen, so they might develop a quick chemistry together.
Keep an eye on Rosen for when he does get his shot.