May marks a return to "fantasy football mode" for a lot of us, and that starts with getting up to speed on what you need to know about the results of the NFL Draft. Rookie minicamps, OTAs, training camp, and the preseason will help us get a better handle on the fit and development for the newest crop of rookies, but for now we can still have a pretty good idea what teams were thinking when made their selections, and how that will affect our fantasy teams.
The Dallas Cowboys picked up an extra third-round pick to move down in the first round, and they used it to take Baylor size/speed wide receiver Terrance Williams. Miles Austin could be on the chopping block next year, and the No. 3 wide receiver role was pretty good to Laurent Robinson two years ago.
Philadelphia made a bold move to trade up to the top of the fourth round for former USC quarterback Matt Barkley. While head coach Chip Kelly was associated with quick-footed passers at Oregon, Barkley could fit in his offense because he is a quick thinker. Kelly has faced Barkley four times and knows his game very well. Eagles GM was reportedly very high on Barkley according to NFL Network (and former weekly Audible guest) Daniel Jeremiah, who was an Eagles scout from 2010-2012. The Kelly offense could produce a ton of players, and he should have a true open competition to start at quarterback, so Barkley could have fantasy value sooner than later.
Kelly and company also revealed that the tight end will be a big part of their offense by drafting Zach Ertz early in the second round. The team also made a point of signing James Casey very early in free agency, and they still have Brent Celek and Clay Harbor on the roster. Ertz isn't a flashy talent, but he could be an answer to the Eagles red zone woes.
The Redskins brought back Fred Davis on a one-year deal, but they also drafted Jordan Reed in the third round. He's a tight end from Florida who looks like a middle-class Aaron Hernandez, and he should have a chance to be a prominent target from the "joker" tight end position by 2014.
Odds and Ends: Dallas might not have needed to take him in the first, but the addition of center/guard Travis Frederick should be a big boost to the running game. In the second round, the Cowboys took former San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar in their third attempt to find a top second tight end in the second round in 2006. Escobar was overrated, so look for this to go about as well as the Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett picks did. Dallas also took former Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle in the fifth round. He has a direct line to the backup running back job, which means he has a good chance to be relevant in redraft leagues this year. The Giants couldn't resist moving up for former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib after the passer that some had rated first in this class fell to the fourth round. Don't be surprised if they flip him for a second in a few years a la Andy Reid. Mike Shanahan is at it again, this time taking speedy former Florida State back Chris Thompson in the fifth and a destitute man's Ray Rice, former Rutgers back Jawan Jamison in the seventh. Shanahan reportedly thought Thompson should have went in the first or second round, but the Redskins got him at a discount because he's coming off of an ACL tear. Roy Helu and Evan Royster's backup jobs could be jeopardy.
In maybe the biggest fantasy football story in the draft, the Packers ended up taking the latest Alabama pro back, Eddie Lacy, in the second round, and then followed by trading back into the fourth round to get former UCLA back Johnathan Franklin. Lacy was considered the top back going into the draft, but ended up going fourth at his position because of durability worries related to a turf toe condition that was surgically repaired after the 2011 season. The Packers have seemed inclined to go with a clear lead back, but Franklin and Lacy have complementary skillsets, and many analysts had Franklin in their top three running backs before the draft. This will be one of the most closely followed camp battles in fantasy football.
After getting two players that many projected in the Top 15 at No. 23 and No. 25, Vikings GM Rick Spielman felt like he could deal the team's second, third, fourth, and seventh-round picks to move back in the first round for a third selection, former Tennessee wideout Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson is basically a bigger version of Percy Harvin at this point in his development, which is a good thing when you consider his destination. The Vikings already have a defined role for a "get the ball into his hands however you have to" weapon in their offense. Patterson could be a big surprise in redraft leagues this year, as he'll be facing defenses obsessed with stopping Adrian Peterson.
Jay Cutler running for his life might soon be a rarer sight on Sundays, as the Bears continued their offensive line rebuild by taking former Oregon lineman Kyle Long at No. 19. Long is very athletic and has terrific bloodlines, but he also has character questions and four career starts at the FBS level.
The Lions pick of former Virginia Tech wide recevier Corey Fuller might not have gotten much ink, but fantasy football owners should monitor his performance in training camp. Detroit's presumptive No. 2 receiver 2012 second-round pick Ryan Broyles is coming off of another ACL tear, and the stiffest competition on the roster after that is Nate Burleson, who took a pay cut to stay with the team this offseason. Fuller has the vertical speed to punish defenses who focus too much on Calvin Johnson in coverage.
Odds and Ends: The Chicago Bears took a talented, but risky wide receiver in the seventh round. Former Washington State wideout Marquess Wilson walked out of a practice and quit on Mike Leach last year, but the Bears don't seem bothered by this. The Lions took a former wide receiver who now plays running back in the sixth round, Notre Dame's Theo Riddick. He might be an interesting backup to Reggie Bush down the line. The Packers took a small school size/speed freak at the wide receiver in seventh round. Charles Johnson could conceivably dress on game days as the fifth receiver if he can make team. Two fantasy-friendly tight ends joined the division as UDFAs - former wide receiver Jake Stoneburner (Ohio State) in Green Bay, and massive red zone force Joseph Fauria (UCLA) in Detroit. Both could have good long-term fantasy opportunity if they can stay in those organizations.
How boring was the NFC South drafts for fantasy football? Tampa Bay third-round quarterback Mike Glennon was the most interesting pick in the division from a fantasy standpoint. With Josh Freeman in a walk year, Glennon could give the team a viable alternative if he develops well this year and Freeman flops.
The Falcons might have found a replacement for Tony Gonzalez in fourth round tight end Levine Toilolo (Stanford). At a towering height of 6'8", Toilolo has a chance to get on the field in two tight end sets, and he could become a top red zone target in the future.
New Orleans has one of the more interesting number three wide receiver battles coming up in training camp between Joseph Morgan and Nick Toon. Their fifth round pick, Kenny Stills, could make some noise if his MMA training adds physical edge to a game that already displayed great speed and ability to go up for jumpballs.
Saints head coach Sean Payton said that his left tackle situation kept him up at night, but if third-round pick Terron Armstead can become half as dominant in the NFL as he was at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Payton and his quarterback Drew Brees should sleep well for years to come.
Odds and Ends: The Panthers selected a speedy smaller back in the sixth round, Kenjon Barner (Oregon). He could be an interesting addition to spread packages that allow him to run outside of the tackles, as he often did with the Ducks. The Buccaneers don't have a clear backup to Doug Martin right now, but utility back Mike James (Miami-Florida) might end up being the answer in the sixth round. Atlanta might be forced to rely on 2012 UDFA Dominique Davis to back up Matt Ryan at quarterback, but Matt Waldman favorite Sean Renfree (Duke) was their seventh-round pick, so he should be in the No. 2 quarterback mix as soon as 2014.
Judging by the picks of college teammates Tavon Austin (8th overall) and Stedman Bailey (92nd), the Rams appear to be constructing a spread passing offense like the ones Austin, Bailey, and Bradford excelled in on Saturdays. Austin should have a Darren Sproles-type presence in the offense from day one, and he should also be the first rookie wide receiver taken in redraft leagues. Bailey is an underrated talent who could pass 2012 second-round pick Brian Quick if Quick's development doesn't gain steam this year. Either way, Sam Bradford is a lot more interesting in fantasy leagues than he was at the end of last year.
For the second straight year, the Seahawks surprised everyone with their first pick when they took former Texas A&M running back Christine Michael in the second round. Marshawn Lynch is entrenched as the starter, and 2012 fourth-rounder Robert Turbin was very impressive last year, but Seattle obviously loved Michael's raw running talent, which might have been the best in the entire draft. He also had multiple serious leg injuries in college and has been questioned from a character standpoint (including sleeping through meetings at the Combine), but if Michael ever gets to take over the Seahawks backfield, he'll be a huge fantasy hit.
What do you get for the team that has everything? How about the best overall running back talent in the draft in the fourth round? The San Francisco 49ers smartly used one of their plethora of 2013 picks to take former South Carolina back Marcus Lattimore, who projects as a three-down back if he can get all the way back from his catastrophic knee injury. The 49ers have the depth at running back to be patient with Lattimore. If he hits, he'll hit huge for fantasy leagues lining up next to Colin Kaepernick - but not until 2014.
The Rams 2012 second-round running back, Isaiah Pead, was a huge disappointment in his rookie year and by his own admission was "miserable" and "tired of football". Their seventh-round pick in the same draft, running back Daryl Richardson, made a splash with his speed during his rookie year, but he doesn't have the bulk to run inside. With this backfield possibly ripe for the taking, the team took former Vanderbilt back Zac Stacy in the fifth round. Stacy is a compact, efficient back with surprising speed and power. He'll be a favorite deep sleeper in early drafts, but he could rocket up draft boards with a good training camp.
Odds and Ends: The Arizona Cardinals improved their running game and interior pass blocking in one fell swoop with Jonathan Cooper at No. 7 overall and Earl Watford in the fourth round. Later in the draft the Cards scooped up two good talents at running back: all-around grinder Stepfan Taylor (Stanford) in the fifth and speed back Andre Ellington (Clemson) in the sixth. Both are more than good enough to produce if Rashard Mendenhall flops and Ryan Williams continues to battle the injury bug. New Cardinals GM Steve Keim didn't limit his third-day offensive skill position value picks to backs, also taking speedy slot receiver Ryan Swope in the sixth. Swope will be buried on the depth chart to start out, but he was considered a 2nd/3rd round prospect who only fell to the sixth because of his four concussions. The 49ers also snapped up more depth at some key fantasy positions: tight end Vance McDonald (Rice) in the second and wide receiver Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech) in the fourth. McDonald is a size/speed prospect who need to improve his hands, and Patton is a highly productive collegiate receiver who is still a work in progress as a route runner. Patton could battle with 2012 first-round pick AJ Jenkins to replace Anquan Boldin next year. Not to be outdone by San Francisco, the Seahawks too added quality depth on the third day with wideout Chris Harper (Kansas State) and super-sleeper tight end Luke Willson (Rice). Harper is built like a running back, but has good enough speed to threaten defenses downfield. If Sidney Rice can't stay healthy, Harper's opportunity could come sooner than later. Willson was a relative unknown, but he has a terrific size/speed combination and is already turning heads in minicamp.
More from Sigmund Bloom:
This Week in NFL News - 4/18 - April 17
Way Too Early 2014 Fantasy TE Rankings - April 16
Way Too Early 2014 Fantasy WR Rankings - April 15
This Week in NFL News - 4/11 - April 11
Way Too Early 2014 Fantasy RB Rankings - April 10
Way Too Early 2014 Fantasy QB Rankings - April 8
This Week in NFL News - 4/4 - April 4
Free Agency Winners and Losers - QB - March 25
This Week in NFL News - 3/27 - March 24
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