Another year, another draft. Fantasy football is year-round, but this is about the time where we settle into the marathon that is fantasy draft season. At least in for redraft leagues.
So who came out of the draft looking pretty? Which players landed in bad situations? Who dodged a bullet? When will the Jets find a quarterback? Most of these questions will be answered below.
Rookie tight ends. Can’t trust ‘em.
Outliers like Rob Gronkowski aside, rookies are traditionally bad in the fantasy realm. Critics will say low-production O.J. Howard will not buck that reality, particularly given Cameron Brate’s presence on the roster. But why did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers expend a valuable first-round pick on the position if Brate was good enough to start?
If he does win the starting gig, he will be paired with the best tight-end-loving quarterback this side of Tom Brady. Jameis Winston propelled NFL scrub Nick O’Leary to a Mackey Award in college and Brate to top-10 fantasy status last season on the wings of 82 targets and eight touchdowns. Think about that. Brate was sixth in standard fantasy scoring last season. Cameron Brate.
Christian McCaffrey/The Entire Panthers Offense
Super Bowl hangovers are the worst, and they are magnified by injuries and bad luck. Such was the life of the Carolina Panthers offense last season. That is no longer the case, in spite of their 280-pound former first-round receiver.
Christian McCaffrey has long been my favorite running back of the 2017 draft class. The kid has everything you would want in a modern NFL running back—elusiveness, soft hands, route-running prowess, vision, and so on. Pairing him with ever-dangerous Cam Newton out of the backfield is titillating in and of itself, but his ability to shred defenses in the passing game is going to make him a touch hog in an otherwise muddled backfield.
The Packers were pegged to draft a running back by many analysts. Even after trading out of the first round, Green Bay was in prime position to take Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, or Alvin Kamara at the top of the second.
Green Bay did take Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively, but neither of those guys should pose any real threat to Montgomery’s playing time. On the contrary, the casualties of those picks were already laid bare when Christine Michael and Don Jackson.
Montgomery was a revelation last season, and it looks like his path to playing time is clear after this offseason.
This is cheating a bit considering all the factors that make Philip Rivers a fantasy winner after the draft, but the chief of those factors is the addition of a bona fide big receiving threat in Mike Williams. At least it’s a good thing if he works out better than the previous Mike Williamses of the NFL.
Williams joins a loaded weapon set for Rivers, who gets back Keenan Allen from injury and has rising Hunter Henry and fading Antonio Gates to throw to. The offensive line also got a boost in the draft when the Chargers were able to swipe first-round talent Forrest Lamp in the second round.
Rivers is one of those fantasy quarterbacks that tends to slide in drafts as fantasy owners gun for the bigger, brighter names. But he could prove to be a huge value this season, assuming the Chargers don’t physically deteriorate again.
Deshone Kizer and Deshaun Watson
Whodathunk a Browns player would make the “winners” list, but here we are.
Both Deshone Kizer and Deshaun Watson landed in some good spots for fantasy production in 2017. True, Bill O’Brien and Rick Smith said some mumbo jumbo about Tom Savage being the starter, but that was just some giddy coach-speak for, “We found a quarterback!” I am a Watson believer, and he should be the Week 1 starter on an offense with some great pieces
Kizer has a clearer path to starting, but his offense is a bit further behind the Texans. That said, Hue Jackson is in Year Two of the rebuild, and there are some exciting weapons for Kizer to utilize in Cleveland. Namely, fellow rookie David Njoku, a massive steal for the Browns at the end of the second round.
Of course, the big loser in the O.J. Howard acquisition is last year’s No. 6 fantasy tight end, Cameron Brate. The big Jameis Winston target was sitting pretty as a likely value in fantasy drafts this season until Howard’s name got called on draft night. Hopefully his feelings weren’t as hurt as Mike Glennon’s.
There’s a chance Brate wins the starting gig by virtue of experience and blocking skill, but he stands to lose a ton of targets regardless. Howard is the better athlete and receiver, and that will steal him plenty of playing time.
By many accounts, Leonard Fournette found an excellent landing spot for his fantasy prospects. He has an excellent path to playing time in spite of third-year running back T.J. Yeldon on the roster, and the Jaguars are sure to try to run the ball more after taking Fournette fourth in the draft. Plus, keeping the ball out of Blake Bortles’ hands as much as possible seems like a good idea.
Unfortunately, Fournette is going to be far too expensive to meet his value this year. Fresh off the incredible rookie year Ezekiel Elliott had after many thought the Cowboys used too high a draft pick on him, expectations will be sky high for Fournette. The problem here is twofold--he doesn’t run behind Dallas’ offensive line, and he doesn’t catch the ball like Elliott.
Let us set aside the real-world implications of the Bengals drafting Joe Mixon. That is a topic best discussed in another forum.
The fantasy implications of his arrival in Cincinnati, however, are not good. Jeremy Hill welcomed the idea of a new teammate in that backfield, even though it will mean splitting time with yet another back. Between Hill, Mixon, and Giovani Bernard, touches are going to be difficult to predict on a week-to-week basis.
New Orleans Backfield
If the Bengals backfield is muddled, New Orleans’ is positively a swamp.
The Saints have Mark Ingram signed to a nice contract, and they decided to wade into the free agency waters to sign legendary Adrian Peterson. That was already a confusing mess before they decided to trade up in the second round to draft Alvin Kamara.
True, Kamara brings a different game to the table, and it’s possible he will be utilized in different roles. But for now there is just no telling who will benefit in that backfield.
True, the Bears gave Mike Glennon the same vote of confidence the Texans gave Tom Savage after they moved up to No. 2 to draft Mitchell Trubisky, but there are a couple of differences here.
Firstly, Trubisky isn’t ready to start in the NFL. Secondly, and more importantly, the Bears just paid Mike Glennon--who is very sad about this whole situation -- $15 million to be their starter this season. Chicago isn’t going anywhere this season, so Glennon may as well keep the seat warm for the quarterback of the future.
Even if Trubisky were to wrest the starting job from his pouty predecessor, what do the Bears have in the way of offensive weaponry? Their starting receivers are currently Eddie Royal and Kevin White.
The Entire Jets Offense
Here, in the offseason, lie the 2017 New York Jets. May they rest in peace.
That organization is in the middle of a rebuilding phase, and it seems Todd Bowles and his front office are trying to get the defense in order first. They appear to believe Christian Hackenberg is the future or that football octogenarian Josh McCown is going to swoop in and save the day.
New York did little to immediately improve its offense this offseason, and the draft certainly didn’t help. They didn’t take a franchise quarterback or replace Brandon Marshall.
The good news is that all Jets offensive players will come at discounted prices this draft season. That will help ease the sting when Hackenberg is driving their fantasy value into the turf like a football.