A lot happens in three days at the draft, and not all of it has to do with the picks. You're forgiven for tuning out a bit once the first round marquee stories run their course in the sports mass consciousness. It's a beautiful jazzfest weekend down here in New Orleans and we all have lives to lead. I've run down the biggest fantasy-adjacent stories from the second and third days of the draft to catch you up:
So long, Tyreek: Tyreek Hill is not participating in team activities and after a damaging (to put it lightly) conversation between him and his fiancee surfaced, his criminal investigation was reopened and the Chiefs gave up a fifth-round pick so they could move up five picks for Georgia WR Mecole Hardman, a speed merchant who can play Hill’s role. Let’s hope things get a lot better for Hill’s child now that more details have become public, as the human story greatly eclipses the football one in importance.
So about Todd Gurley’s knee: After insisting that Gurley wasn’t hurt last year and not making any big moves to indicate worry about Gurley long term, the Rams traded two third-round picks to move up in the third and get a running back from Memphis in Darrell Henderson who can take any touch to the house. Perhaps he’s a long-term insurance policy for Gurley’s knee, but he’s also a player who can contribute as a receiver and game-breaker as a change of pace. It’s a bad spot for an immediate opportunity, but it may be an ideal spot for long-term upside.
Fantasy Football Winners: Darrell Henderson
The 49ers have a type, and not just at running back: After Matt Waldman called the 49ers running backs “minions” because of their similarity to each other, they added another wideout minion early in the second day with South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel. He should jump to the front of the line for targets, but with Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, and Richie James - all inside/outside receivers with different calling cards. They also drafted Baylor WR/RB/TE(?) Jalen Hurd in the third, who can be their best short-yardage running back, their “big” receiver to balance out the speed/route running/yards after catches aces. San Francisco joins Chicago, Philadelphia, New England, and Indianapolis among others as teams that will have 8-10 players touch the ball each week, making fantasy football more difficult to project week-to-week and rewarding fantasy players who understand how to anticipate rational coaching’s approach to attacking a defense’s weaknesses with the personnel at their disposal.
Fantasy Football Winners: Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel
Drew a Lock to the Broncos, just not in the first: The Broncos got a potential quarterback of the future and Joe Flacco got young competition much to his chagrin. Lock is athletic with a big arm and he’ll get the year to sit behind Flacco with less pressure to “put the first round pick in”. The Broncos also got Kansas State Dalton Risner, who will be molded by new offensive line coach Mike Munchak.
Will Rudolph the Red Zone Reindeer pull a different sled?: The Vikings select yet another tight end, this time Irv Smith Jr from Alabama. While tight ends can be slower to develop than other skill positions, Smith is a good two-way player and will overtake Kyle Rudolph sooner than later. There have been rumors floating around about Rudolph being traded to the Patriots, which could actually make him a fantasy winner when the dust settles. The Vikings offense will continue to skew more run-heavy, and Smith can help with that right away. The Vikings also took a nifty power runner and Matt Waldman favorite, Boise State’s Alexander Mattison, on the last pick of the second day to bolster their thin depth behind Dalvin Cook. SPARQ freak Mike Boone will have competition and Ameer Abdullah might not make the roster now
Too Early To Call: Kyle Rudolph
The Titans give Corey Davis a quality running mate: Adam Humphries is a good slot receiver. Taywan Taylor is a nice role player, Tajae Sharpe might not even be that. Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis needed some help, and it arrived in the second round via Ole Miss inside/outside receiver AJ Brown. Brown is going to help with his route running, toughness, and ability after the catch. Mariota might not be the quarterback to harness his savvy when plays are extended a la Juju Smith-Schuster, but it helps nonetheless. It’s better for Mariota and Davis than it is Brown.
Fantasy Football Losers: A.J. Brown, Adam Humphries
The Eagles get their alpha running back: Miles Sanders isn’t Saquon Barkley, but he wouldn’t have been sitting behind many college backs other than Barkley. He’s very athletic and versatile and gives the team that loves to use 3-4 backs every game one that can be their lead back if they want to lean on someone. The Eagles didn’t take a back in the first, but they still took one early, as Sanders went in the mid-second. He’ll take carries away from Jordan Howard and snaps away from the entire group, while likely costing Josh Adams a roster spot (and maybe one of Corey Clement or Wendell Smallwood). While the multi-back approach is a ding for Sanders long-term outlook, the lack of top-end competition and quality of the offense and especially the line makes this a win for him. The Eagles continue to play the draft well by drafting for needs two to three years out instead of desperately plugging holes. The Eagles also took J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, a huge receiver from Stanford. The second-round pick will mix in red zone looks, but might not have a chance to get as big a target share in this offense with a plethora of quality players. His draft stock still helps him in the second straight draft to see bigger wide receivers fall farther than expected.
Fantasy Football Winners: Miles Sanders
Fantasy Football Losers: Jordan Howard
The Saints make their move: New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis knows the clock is ticking on Drew Brees career and their Super Bowl window, so he acted accordingly, giving up next year’s 2nd to move up for Texas A&M center Erik McCoy. Stalwart starter Max Unger unexpectedly retired this offseason, leaving a gaping hole. McCoy was projected to be a first round pick and he’ll be an instant starter. The Saints also moved up early on the third day to get Florida DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, another first round pick on some boards who is smart, athletic, and can fit in almost any spot in the secondary
The Colts add speed on offense: Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell was almost exclusively used near the line of scrimmage even though he has legitimate deep speed. His route running at the Combine built faith on his translation to a downfield role and the Colts pounced in the late second. He wasn’t a first-round pick as some projected, and the Colts have a lot of mouths to feed, but he’s still a strong slot option and he has a great quarterback and offensive brain trust around him
Fantasy Football Winners: Andrew Luck, Parris Campbell
Fantasy Football Losers: Devin Funchess (but he was underrated heading into the weekend
The Dolphins get their quarterback of the future… for now: The Cardinals were in a bind and had only one semi-serious suitor left for 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen. While waiting for more need to emerge via injury or having an open competition between Rosen and #1 overall pick Kyler Murray might have been viable options, the best and safest path was to avoid any locker room/team chemistry complications and move Rosen out to the highest bidder. They got a late second and fifth next year from the Dolphins (more on that later), while the Dolphins get a quarterback that could be their long-term solution, but for capital that means they can still take a quarterback early next year if Rosen doesn’t win the job from Ryan Fitzpatrick or have a strong stint once the season is lost. The rare win-win deal.
Fantasy Football Losers: Ryan Fitzpatrick
The Cardinals create an arsenal: With the pick acquired from the Dolphins, the Cardinals took speedy wide receiver Andy Isabella from Massachusetts. Then with the first pick of the third day, they got size/speed/strength monster Hakeem Butler from Iowa State. Add in Christian Kirk, David Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald and you have more questions than defenses can answer. The offensive line is still a big question mark, but you can’t pin your ears back and come after Kyler Murray and live to tell the tale with so much speed and prowess at wide receiver when the play breaks down. Butler fell farther than expected, but the landing spot is ideal. The team also added excellent route runner KeeSean Johnson from Fresno State in the sixth round. Be afraid defensive coordinators, be very afraid.
Fantasy Football Winners: Kyler Murray, Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, David Johnson
Hello DK, so long Doug?: The Seahawks revealed that Doug Baldwin might retire this offseason, so with the last pick of the second round, they welcome a wide receiver who couldn’t be much different than Baldwin in Ole Miss’s DK Metcalf. Metcalf is massive, ripped, and blazing fast, but his game doesn’t have much subtlety beyond those qualities, in part due to missed time with injuries. He does have great feet for a big receiver, and he should be a favorite for Russell Wilson when the play breaks down. He could start right away and be one of the biggest fantasy hits of the rookie class this year.
Fantasy Football Winners: Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf
The Steelers use the top pick acquired for Antonio Brown to take a receiver: Diontae Johnson wasn’t a high third round pick on many draft analyst boards, but he was on the Steelers. Johnson has speed and quickness to spare. Miles Boykin and Hakeem Butler were big receivers with lots of physical gifts, but the Steelers went small. Johnson can play inside and outside and should also help the return game.
Fantasy Football Winners: Diontae Johnson
The Bears and Bills get potential future starting running backs on the third day: After both teams were active at running back in free agency, the Bears and Bills spent what in this draft are among the top picks spent on backs. The Bears took David Montgomery from Iowa State and the Bills Devin Singletary from Florida Atlantic. Both are well-known for their ability to break tackles, and Montgomery is also excellent in the passing game. Mike Davis was signed to be the co-lead with Tarik Cohen, but Montgomery can push him for snaps and touches. Singletary isn’t as versatile as Montgomery, but with Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy both likely gone next year and TJ Yeldon only under contract through 2020, he could lead the backfield in touches next year.
Fantasy Football Winners: Devin Singletary, David Montgomery
Fantasy Football Losers: T.J. Yeldon, Mike Davis
The Packers finally help out Aaron Rodgers on day two: After a first round that saw two defensive picks, the Packers got one of the best interior offensive linemen on the board in the second round in Mississippi State’s Elgton Jenkins, who can play guard or center, and then got a seam-ripper with a lot of upside at tight end from Texas A&M in Jace Sternberger. Both picks were excellent intersections of need and value
Fantasy Football Winners: Aaron Rodgers after all, Jace Sternberger
Fantasy Football Losers: Jimmy Graham
Washington gets some weapons for Dwayne Haskins: They got their quarterback, and they got him one of his own receivers when they took Terry McLaurin in the third. He has excellent route-running and speed to stretch the field. In the sixth, they got Kelvin Harmon from NC State, who isn’t that different from first-round pick N’keal Harry other than a slow 40 that doesn’t match his tape and an overall less than impressive athletic profile. Josh Doctson isn’t cutting it, and Jordan Reed is on his last toe. In the fourth, they got a running back who can break long players as a runner and receiver who was discounted because he’s coming off of a torn ACL. Bryce Love can be Chris Thompson plus, as long as he fully recovers from his injury. This was a very cheap way to spruce things up for the incoming franchise quarterback.
Fantasy Football Winners: Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin
Leonard Fournette should be looking over his shoulder: Ryquell Armstead wasn’t a household name outside of deep draft analyst circles, but he’s a very capable inside runner and he has surprising speed. There’s an argument that the offense won’t lose that much if Fournette is out now that his backup isn’t Alfred Blue. The better Armstead looks this spring and summer, the shorter the leash for Fournette. It’s not a worst-case scenario for Fournette, which would have been an early round running back, but it’s a threat nonetheless.
The Bengals get two outstanding backs in the sixth round: Trayveon Williams was one of the best pass blocking backs in the draft and he has enough burst to keep defenses on their heels. Rodney Anderson is a power back with highly refined passing game skills who might have been an early round pick were it not for a 2018 torn ACL and a myriad of other injuries in his past. There’s not much opportunity here, but both names are worth monitoring to see if the Bengals got two steals at running back as some think they did.
Darwin Award: The Chiefs spent a sixth-round pick on a running back Matt Waldman loves. Utah State’s Darwin Thompson can hang with Damien Williams and we know this team isn’t afraid to promote new backs over incumbents when their performance and potential dictate it. Don’t knock Williams or Carlos Hyde down in redraft yet, but be ready to act fast if Thompson is wowing observers this summer.
More fantasy-worthy picks to mention:
- The Texans get yet another receiving tight end to develop in the third round, San Diego State’s Kahale Warring, good for Deshaun Watson, bad for the Jordans from last year’s draft Akins and Thomas
- The Patriots get a strong and solid all-around back in Damien Harris. The immediate opportunity might not be great, but the quality of the offense is outstanding, and enough to make him a late-round pick in redraft leagues and a good second-round pick in dynasty rookie drafts
- The Ravens add Miles Boykin a size/athleticism prospect who was high on some draft analyst boards. He complements first-round Hollywood Brown perfectly and gives the Lamar Jackson a credible set of receivers to grow with.
- The Bills got a tight end in the third round with an athletic profile that says he’s in for bigger things. Remember the name Dawson Knox next year if this offensive line and offensive philosophy come together this year.
- The Ravens got a back who runs like he was shot out of a gun in the fourth round. Justice Hill is the perfect complement to Mark Ingram II for now, and perhaps leading their run-heavy offense in carries later.
- The Steelers took a hard-nosed no-nonsense back in the fourth round who will be ready to produce if James Conner goes down. Benny Snell is probably the preferred handcuff to Conner, although I’ll hold out hope that Jaylen Samuels is used more in two-back sets and even as an H-back (but I won’t hold my breath)
- The Bears get another Georgia receiver in the fourth round. Riley Ridley was high on some draft analyst boards, but he had a poor combine. He’ll be at the bottom of the depth chart, likely below former teammate Javon Wims, but he can give them a real threat as their fifth receiver, and in an offense that likes to use everybody on game day.