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.

Fantasy football: Browns trade for new-look offense

The Cleveland Browns started Friday just like any other day, but ended it with a new look to the offense.

The Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry to help their passing attack and breathe life into their last-place scoring offense. The addition of those pieces can lead to bigger things down the road.

In Taylor you have a capable dual threat at quarterback, who isn’t a stranger to QB1 status in favorable weeks. In Landry you have one of the best, if not flashy, receivers in the league. He led the NFL with 112 receptions and scored nine touchdowns last season with downright bad quarterback play.

FILE – In this Aug. 15, 2015 file photo, Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) dives for the first down marker during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Carolina Panthers in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert, File)

Though Taylor passed for just 187 yards per game last season, he added 427 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground. Outside of LeSean McCoy, he didn’t have a lot of help in terms of pass catchers. Taylor’s fantasy value could increase with the trade. He’s definitely an upgrade over DeShone Kizer at this point.

The addition of Taylor and Landry to the offense not only changes their own fantasy value, but it could drastically affect the skill players already on the Browns.

Josh Gordon looks serious about turning his career around and caught 18 passes in five games for 335 yards and a score to end last season. If he gets together with Taylor soon, they could develop enough chemistry to make a big impact next season. The 26-year-old has a decent amount of quality years left if he can stay on the straight and narrow.

Second-year tight end David Njoku could provide a nice outlet for Taylor. As a rookie, Njoku caught 32 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns. With Gordon and Landry on the outside, Njoku has potential for a breakout year.

An upgraded passing attack can do a lot to relieve the pressure on the running game, a running game that could feature the exceptionally talented Saquon Barkley should the Browns take the Penn State product with their first pick. The offensive line for Cleveland is actually one of their few strengths, so it’s easy to see why Friday’s moves got the league’s attention.

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine, Friday, March 2, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

A lot of NFL players took notice as news of the trades broke. You can’t help but wonder if top free agents took notice as well. Could Kirk Cousins actually start taking the Browns seriously now that they have some real receiving threats? Is Taylor just an insurance policy if Cleveland doesn’t land this season’s free agency big fish? Time will tell. With the new additions, free agency and five of the top 65 picks in the draft, it looks like the Browns might finally have their ducks in a row.