Fantasy football impact: NFL draft first round

Wow. What a first round of the NFL draft we witnessed on Thursday night.

The festivities started with a bang as the Browns, who have made big splashes in the offseason so far, picked Baker Mayfield as the No. 1 overall selection. The safe pick was Sam Darnold. Josh Rosen was also more likely to go to Cleveland. Saquon Barkley was even a possibility. But word got out early Thursday that Mayfield was a real possibility.

It’s too early to know what, if any, kind of fantasy impact Mayfield has this season. Tyrod Taylor is in Cleveland and should at least start the season as the No. 1 QB. The upside for Mayfield is probably higher than any quarterback in this draft. He would be a good pick for dynasty leagues, but you can’t use any draft capital on a backup in a standard league.

The Cleveland Browns select Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield as the first overall pick in the NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Thursday, April 26, 2018. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS)

The Giants didn’t bite on a surprisingly available Darnold. Instead they went with the guy they were expected to take in Barkley. Now he’s a player that will have value in fantasy drafts. He’ll be penciled in as the Giants’ next starting running back with only Jonathan Stewart, Paul Perkins and Wayne Gallman as his biggest competition. The offensive line needs help, but Barkley is an undeniable talent that will be valuable from Day 1.

The other team from New York, the Jets, had to be truly grateful that Darnold landed in their lap at No. 3. Like Mayfield, I don’t see Darnold as an early asset for fantasy. He’s still only 20 years old and Josh McCown will likely start the season. But if you’re drafting for a dynasty league, I have him ahead of Mayfield. He probably doesn’t have the upside that Mayfield has, but he has a much higher floor I believe.

Sam Darnold, a quarterback from USC, with Commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected third overall, by the New York Jets, at the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas, April 26, 2018. The Cleveland Browns took Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield with the top pick. (Cooper Neill/The New York Times)

The next skill position to get selected was Josh Allen at No. 7. He went to the Bills and I’ve got to admit I’m not a fan. Allen’s not efficient and I don’t see how a quarterback who can’t throw for at least 57 percent in the Mountain West can succeed in the NFL. But what about his athleticism? Allen rushed for more than 60 yards just twice in 2017.

I’m a big fan of the next quarterback taken, Rosen by the Cardinals. He’s been described as the most NFL-ready quarterback of the group. Rosen goes to a team with a fragile starter in Sam Bradford. Targets like Larry Fitzgerald, J.J. Nelson, Brice Butler and Cobi Hamilton aren’t scary, but they’re enough if Rosen can get on the field. He’s another solid dynasty pick that I actually like more than Darnold and Mayfield.

Josh Rosen of UCLA reacts after being picked #10 overall by the Arizona Cardinals during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Behind Barkley, I think D.J. Moore will have the biggest fantasy impact this season. He was my highest-rated wideout and he goes to a team where he can contribute early. Devin Funchess and Torrey Smith aren’t WR1 material and Moore should get on the field early. The amount of screens he took for huge gains in college makes me think he can do the same for Cam Newton.

Calvin Ridley was the next receiver drafted and he becomes the third piece of what looks to be an impressive trio in Atlanta. He’ll battle Mohamed Sanu for the No. 2 spot behind Julio Jones. I think the location keeps Ridley’s ceiling pretty low. He may end up as a solid flex player this season, depending on if he can overtake Sanu as Matt Ryan’s second-favorite target.

What came after the Ridley pick was a huge and intriguing surprise. The Seahawks took Rashaad Penny, and though it’s a reach in real-life terms, it makes him a totally viable fantasy option. The guy rushed for 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns in his last season with San Diego State. The Seahawks don’t have a true starter on their roster. Penny caught just 19 passes last season, but he carried it 289 times proving he can be a bell cow. He’s a dynamite return man as well.

A video board displays an image of Rashaad Penny of San Diego State after he was picked #27 overall by the Seattle Seahawks during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Some saw the Patriots taking Lamar Jackson late in the round, to try to find a new-era replacement for Tom Brady. They sidestepped that scenario by taking Sony Michel instead. The better of the two Georgia running backs joins a crowded backfield. The Pats have Jeremy Hill, Rex Burkhead and James White. I wouldn’t draft Michel in standard leagues, but he could be an early-season pick up if he finds a role in New England.

The first round ended as it began, with a Heisman Trophy winner getting selected. The Ravens took Jackson to be their quarterback of the future. Given that, he will be a high pick in dynasty leagues. He might even end up having the best career of all the QBs selected in this first round, but Joe Flacco will be the starter this season.

2017 fantasy football rankings following the NFL draft

An early look at 2017

It’s never too early to take a look at next season’s rankings, especially now that the NFL draft has happened.

You can probably call the first through third picks 1A, 1B and 1C. It’s really that close, but David Johnson is a real candidate to gain 1,000 yards in rushing and receiving. That would make him the third player to ever accomplish that feat, joining Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk.

Keep in mind if you play in a league that awards six points per touchdown for quarterbacks, they should be ranked higher than what you see here.

1. David Johnson, RB, Cardinals

2. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers

3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys

4. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers

5. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants

6. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons

7. LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills

8. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers

9. Jordan Howard, RB, Bears

10. Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers

11. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals

12. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

13. DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans

14. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers

15. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints

16. Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins

17. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

18. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts

19. Lamar Miller, RB, Texans

20. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints

21. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

22. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers

23. Brandin Cooks, WR, Patriots

24. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans

25. Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers

26. Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders

27. Spencer Ware, RB, Chiefs

28. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams

29. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks

30. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots

31. Davante Adams, WR, Packers

32. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles

33. Latavius Murray, RB, Vikings

34. Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars

35. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

36. C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos

37. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills

38. Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins

39. Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs

40. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs

41. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns

42. Drew Brees, QB, Saints

43. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos

44. Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons

45. Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders

46. Adrian Peterson, RB, Saints

47. Andrew Luck, QB, Colts

48. Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins

49. Brandon Marshall, WR, Giants

50. Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals

51. Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR, Redskins

52. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers

53. Eddie Lacy, RB, Seahawks

54. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers

55. Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons

56. Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots

57. Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals

58. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans

59. Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers

60. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers

61. Robert Kelley, RB, Redskins

62. Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks

63. Frank Gore, RB, Colts

64. Bilal Powell, RB, Jets

65. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals

66. Ty Montgomery, RB, Packers

67. Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

68. Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts

69. Jamaal Charles, RB, Broncos

70. Delanie Walker, TE, Titans

71. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers

72. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys

73. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos

74. Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins

75. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders

76. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars

77. Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks

78. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions

79. Golden Tate, WR, Lions

80. Kenneth Dixon , RB, Ravens

81. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers

82. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings

83. Matt Forte, RB, Jets

84. Rishard Matthews, WR, Titans

85. Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers

86. Paul Perkins, RB, Giants

87. Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins

88. DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers

89. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers

90. Mike Gillislee, RB, Patriots

91. Danny Woodhead, RB, Ravens

92. Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings

93. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers

94. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals

95. Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans

96. Eric Decker, WR, Jets

97. Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks

98. Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots

99. Theo Riddick, RB, Lions

100. Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers

NFL rookies ready to make a fantasy impact

The NFL draft has come and gone and with it the expectations have been set for the incoming rookie class. Here’s a look at the rookies who can make an impact in your fantasy football leagues.

Early contributors

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars — He passes the eye test and has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson. I have a few doubts about that comparison, but he’s in a good spot and I’d expect him to get the share of carries next season despite the presence of Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon. Last year’s running back picked at No. 4 (Ezekiel Elliott) turned out all right. Fournette is at least an RB2 in my book, and could end up being a top-8 running back by the time the season is over. He’ll probably go in the second or third rounds of fantasy drafts.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers — This is a great situation for the rookie; Jonathan Stewart is entering his 11th year and McCaffrey has the versatility to take over touches from the other backs on the roster. If what he did in college is any indication, he’ll be starting outright soon enough. McCaffrey will be expected to take a lot of pressure off Cam Newton, likely acting as an outlet in the passing game. Look for him to go in the second or third rounds if he’s taken early. He may end up putting up flex-to-RB2 numbers.

Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal scores on a nineteen yard touchdown run against the Rice Owls in the third quarter of their NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Mike Williams, WR, Chargers — Outside of Keenan Allen, who is a walking injury waiting to happen, the Chargers have a lot of mediocre options at the position. Williams can make an early impact if he makes the most of his targets. He’s likely to go in the sixth or seventh round.

O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers — This could end up being more beneficial to Jameis Winston, who now has Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate and now Howard as targets. Howard can line up almost anywhere on the field and will be a matchup nightmare. He might not be a TE1 to start the season, so don’t reach, but he could be a valuable late-round pick.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings — The offensive line is in rough shape, though they did address the need in the draft. If it improves significantly then Cook has a chance to produce. His ability to take it to the house on any play makes him an enticing pick. I see him as a flex player at this point, so he can be taken as early as the fifth, but maybe the sixth or seventh rounds are more appropriate given that Latavius Murray is in the picture.

Dalvin Cook #4 of the Florida State Seminoles carries the ball in the second half against the Michigan Wolverines during the Capitol One Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Samaje Perine, RB, Redskins — Matt Jones is still in the doghouse, but Rob Kelley is the likely starter. Perine can be an instant short-yardage and goal line specialist, which could prove to be valuable for fantasy. He’s got the size to handle a lot of touches so he may end up as Kelley’s handcuff.

Corey Davis, WR, Titans — The Titans have Rishard Matthews as their No. 1 wide receiver but Davis has the opportunity to become the new No. 1. He’ll have a chance to prove himself early and that’s a big factor for rookie success. He has WR2 potential.

Needing some seasoning

Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints — Draft experts saw him as the fourth best running back in the draft, but going to the Saints where Mark Ingram has been the starter and Adrian Peterson just entered the picture doesn’t bode well for early production.

Alvin Kamara #6 carries the ball against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee 45-34. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals — So many questions surround this pick. From character issues to the fact that he enters a crowded backfield with a bruiser and a pass catcher already in play. That said, if he gets the opportunity he may end up being the value pick of the draft. People will shy away for various reasons, but the talent is there to be an RB1. It will take some mock drafting to figure out where, if at all, you’re willing to take him.

D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texans — Lamar Miller will be the starter once the season gets going, but he’s had a history of getting run down in the latter part of the season. If Foreman makes a mark early, he can have a solid floor of production, even as a situational back.

Texas RB D’Onta Foreman goes through some pass catching drills as he performed for NFL scouts Tuesday March 28, 2017 during Pro Timing Day at the University inside the team practice bubble.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Zay Jones, WR, Bills — He can turn into a possession receiver if he can click with Tyrod Taylor early. Sammy Watkins is the best option on the team, but Jones can turn into the No. 2 WR if he can outplay Brandon Tate and Andre Holmes.

ArDarius Stewart, WR, Jets — With Brandon Marshall moving on to the Giants, there’s room for a new playmaker to rise to prominence. Stewart’s ability after the catch can help him carve a role with the Jets, but is Josh McCown going to play well enough for it to matter?

Possible sleeper

Joe Williams, RB, 49ers — Bad play-calling in the Super Bowl notwithstanding, Kyle Shanahan is an offensive guru and he was very happy grabbing Williams in the fourth round. Williams is definitely a risky pick, which is why you have to make sure your starting spots are filled before taking a flyer on him.

Let’s talk quarterbacks

The top four taken at the position all entered situations where they’ll sit or have to win a starting job. Not one is in a plug-and-play situation. Don’t draft any of them, but monitor closely. The key isn’t to wait on a big game before picking them up off the waiver wire. You have to see signs first. Then, only if you have room on your roster, you take a chance on the wire.

D’Onta Foreman’s potential fantasy value

D’Onta Foreman broke out in 2016, rushing for 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns with the Texas Longhorns on his way to taking home the Doak Walker Award.

College stats don’t transfer to the pro ranks, but those kinds of numbers make him a valuable fantasy football prospect.

With that in mind we’ll take a look at potential second-round landing spots for the running back, and what his possible fantasy impact will be.

49ers (34th overall) — The 49ers are tired of worrying about when Carlos Hyde will get injured so much that they signed Tim Hightower. It’s a crowded situation, but Foreman would add some talented youth to the rookie head coach, and former Longhorn, Kyle Shanahan.

Jets (39th) — The Jets situation is similar to the 49ers. They might miss their chance on Leonard Fournette in the first round, so they might take the Doak Walker winner instead.

Eagles (43rd) — This would be a great spot for the rookie to make an immediate impact. Ryan Mathews can’t stay healthy and Darren Sproles is an undersized third down option. If Foreman can improve his pass protection, he’ll make his way onto the field early.

Bills (44th) — With the loss of Mike Gillislee to the Patriots, the Bills will want some youth backing up LeSean McCoy. Gillislee rushed 101 times for 577 yards and eight touchdowns. Those would be fantasy-relevant stats if Foreman ends up on the roster.

Colts (46th) — Fantasy gurus have been writing off Frank Gore for about five years now. His touches have to decrease at some point and if the Colts see Foreman in the middle of the second round, they could snatch him up. They’ll need to improve on their run blocking for Foreman to make an impact.

Ravens (47th) — Terrance West is the starter for now, but the Ravens would like to have their leading rusher gain more than 774 yards. Foreman has the tools to do so.

Redskins (49th) — Washington isn’t totally sold on Rob Kelley as the No. 1 guy. Foreman could get significant playing time early if he gets taken by the Redskins.

Buccaneers (50th) — Doug Martin is only good every other year, and if they miss on Dalvin Cook in the first round, Foreman could end up here.

Giants (55th) — If he falls to the late second round, the Giants would be lucky to have him. They’ve already got pass receivers out of the backfield. They need a solid first and second down back.

Packers (61st) — What a gift if they can land the 2,000-yard rusher at this spot with only Ty Montgomery as the only serviceable back. Foreman’s fantasy value would be pretty high if this happens.

Here’s a look at Foreman’s career at Texas.

Road to the Draft: NFL Combine Forces

With the NFL Combine over we thought it’d be a good time to have a look at some of the top performers at the annual showcase of talent. Some of these players will make immediate impact on your fantasy team while others still have a ways to go. Monday we looked at running backs and quarterbacks. Today we’ll look at the wide receivers and tight ends who impressed at the combine.

Wide receivers

Will Fuller could turn into the kind of player that is a tough call week to week. He’s got speed, he ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at the combine, and could end up being a big-play type player if he can consistently make catches.

Kolby Listenbee ran a 4.39, second-fastest among wide receivers, and could serve well if he fills out and keeps showing he has a good set of hands. The product out of TCU isn’t the prospect his teammate Josh Doctson is, but his performance at the combine could get him some attention.

Texas Christian receiver Kolby Listenbee runs the 40 yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Texas Christian receiver Kolby Listenbee runs the 40 yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Someone who doesn’t seem like he’ll be ready to contribute early is Trevor Davis out of Cal. His 4.42 40 and good performances in the vertical, 3-cone drill and the 60-yard shuttle drill could help him land a spot as a returner, though.

Ricardo Louis out of Auburn ran a 4.43 and was a top performer in the bench press, vertical jump and broad jump. The results help, but he’s lacking a lot of the things you look for in a consistently good receiver. If he finds a way to catch the ball consistently and run better routes, he could make something of himself in terms of fantasy. Don’t take a risk on him at this point.

Tight ends

Ben Braunecker, the tight end out of Harvard, scored in the top-5 among tight ends in every drill at the combine. He’s a real interesting prospect in that he has size to be a matchup problem but is a little rough around the edges. He needed to do well in the 40, but his 4.73 probably won’t turn many heads. The jury will be out on him until he makes a camp.