The NFL Draft is one of the most cherished times of year for football fans. Over three days, new players are added, hopes are raised (or diminished) for fans across the country, and we get a small look inside of what NFL teams will look to do moving forward. The Draft also brings along with it some new talent for fantasy football players to evaluate. With the 2014 first round in the books, let’s investigate some of last night’s picks and how they may impact the fantasy landscape this season:
2. Greg Robinson, OT, Rams
Robinson is obviously not a player that will touch the ball this season, but his selection indicates that the Rams have every intention of leaning on their run game. They have done a great job of stabilizing their offensive line this offseason, giving second year back Zac Stacy a great chance of raising his pedestrian 3.9 yards per carry average from a year ago. Robinson should also give Sam Bradford a better chance at staying upright this season, making him a somewhat attractive fantasy sleeper at QB in deeper leagues.
3. Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars
The Bortles selection is something to keep in mind when drafting Jaguars skill players this year. It is far from a lock that he will start opening day over the incumbent Chad Henne, but most would expect him to see the field at some point this season. This tempers my expectations for Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon (if he plays), but raises them for free agent addition Toby Gerhart. Remember, Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley was previously the defensive coordinator for Pete Carroll in Seattle and would probably like to lean on the run game to begin with. A rookie quarterback stepping in would only increase that dependence.
4. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills
The Bills move up from nine to four to select the Clemson receiver, giving the Bills a plethora of weapons on offense. Watkins joins second year receiver Robert Woods, Mike Williams, and the running back duo of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson to form a great supporting cast for signal caller E.J. Manuel. Given the weapons and the assumed tempo of a Doug Marrone called offense, this could give Manuel a huge boost in his sophomore NFL season. It may be wise to add him to an already deep QB group as a committee player. Unfortunately, this probably spells the end for Stevie Johnson in Buffalo. It was already being reported before the draft that Johnson could be shipped out if the Bills took a receiver early.
As for Watkins himself, I am not entirely sold on what his production will be as a rookie. The Bills had more rushing attempts than passing attempts last season and I think that at best they are a 50/50 team in terms of run/pass ratio. As talented as he is, it will be hard for him to establish a target dominance as a rookie with other talented players in the fold. The silver lining here is that Marrone has shown already that he finds ways to get his playmakers the ball, and that probably gets Watkins some manufactured touches each game. Think of him as a low end WR3 with upside for now.
7. Mike Evans, WR, Bucanneers
As predicted by many before the draft, Tampa Bay adds a receiver that is a very good facsimile of their current number one, Vincent Jackson, in the first round. Jeff Tedford is expected to lean on the run game as the Bucs offensive coordinator this season, but when they pass, I think it is safe to say that both receivers will be the heavy favorite for targets. Quarterback Josh McCown showed last season in Chicago that he had no problem throwing it up to big receivers in single coverage, and there should be a lot of that this year in Tampa. It will be difficult to double both outside threats while simultaneously defending the run. Consider Jackson a high-end WR2 with the addition, and Evans in a similar position to Watkins as of now. If I had to choose one of the two rookies so far, it would be Evans because of his potential for touchdowns in year one to go along with a better defined role at this point in time.
10. Eric Ebron, TE, Lions
Ebron is not a player I was very high on in the pre-draft process, but it is impossible to ignore his fit with the Lions as being ideal. The Lions’ new offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi, was formerly the quarterbacks coach in New Orleans and it is expected that he will install a similar offense in Detroit. Furthermore, it seems as though Lombardi already has big plans for Ebron in the offense, with a role similar to Jimmy Graham’s with the Saints. Ebron is not as big or as fast as Graham, so don’t expect numbers as dominant as the former Hurricane’s, but he is firmly in the TE1 mix for 2014 and has tremendous upside. The presence of Calvin Johnson will prevent teams from constantly doubling him, and he should still be a matchup problem for linebackers and many safeties. Also, if you had any doubts that Matt Stafford will be a high-end QB1 this season, this probably removes them.
12. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants
The Beckham pick will do more for the Giants than it will for fantasy owners this season. It further clouds the Giants’ feelings on Reuben Randle, whose value plummets with the addition, making him a buy right now if you still believe in his talent. New OC Ben McAdoo was part of a staff that featured three receiver sets often in Green Bay, so perhaps the Giants just desired more playmakers for the offense. This should give Victor Cruz more opportunities if more weapons can stabilize the offense a little bit from what it was last season. Overall, this is more of a situation to monitor than to evaluate right this moment. Beckham has a good chance to be featured on returns as a rookie in addition to his offensive role, but is no higher than a WR4 at the present time. Eli Manning is the only clear beneficiary of this pick, but his lack of efficiency and running ability probably still keeps him from being startable this year. The Giants will look to be balanced as always on offense.
20. Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints
The Saints moved up in the first round to make sure they acquired Cooks, a player I’ve been on record as saying will be a plus version of DeSean Jackson in the pros. He has a great chance to be active in the return game this year, and flashed talent rushing the ball at Oregon State in addition to his receiving ability. Cooks could replace a lot of what Darren Sproles did in the offense prior to his departure this offseason (he averaged 77 receptions in his three years in New Orleans). The Saints still have high expectations for second year player Kenny Stills, but with Marques Colston on the decline, Cooks should carve out a nice role as a rookie in 2014. He’s a WR3 and third on my list of rookie WRs drafted thus far, and should get a boost in PPR leagues.
22. Johnny Manziel, QB, Browns
The Browns landed their signal caller of the future in Manziel, and I think that most expect the future to be now in Cleveland. Manziel possesses a dynamic skill set and is a true dual threat quarterback. The Browns currently boast Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron as weapons in the passing game, and may add another receiver before the draft is over. Combine that with new OC Kyle Shanahan’s most recent work with Robert Griffin III, and Manziel becomes a QB1 as a rookie if he starts. Ben Tate should also be a beneficiary of Manziel’s addition in Cleveland.
However, I think that this move probably sends Josh Gordon to the bottom of the elite tier of WRs for 2014. It is highly unlikely that the Browns will duplicate the 681 pass attempts they had in 2013, and the reduced volume should hamper Gordon enough to at least keep him out of the discussion for one of the top few receiver spots. I don’t want to knock him down too much because he is still a dynamic talent and Shanahan has a history of getting his number one receiver the ball, but the expected reduction in pass attempts as well as regression to the mean from his absurd 18.9 yards per reception last year is impossible to ignore.
28. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers
I could not be more disappointed with this pick by Carolina. The Panthers were a clear fantasy opportunity for receivers in the draft (Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant are hardly intimidating first options), but I am not sold on Benjamin’s ability. He should be a fixture in the red zone after scoring 15 touchdowns on just 54 receptions as a Seminole last year, but between the 20′s he still leaves much to be desired. Because of his situation, Benjamin will probably be overdrafted as a high-end WR3 or even a WR2, but I still may rather have every other rookie WR mentioned so far than the Florida State product. In fact, if the Panthers draft another receiver early on day 2 of the Draft, I think that player could present a real value opportunity in redraft leagues this year. The selection also does not do much to improve the plummeting fantasy stock of one Cameron Jerrell Newton.
32. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Vikings
Day 1 of the Draft closed with the Vikings getting their QB of the future in Bridgewater. Again, it is unclear as to whether or not the Louisville product will start opening day or learn for a few games under Matt Cassel. There is no clear fantasy impact here just yet. I love Teddy as a prospect so I do not think that his insertion into the offense will have the negative impact that Bortles’ would have, and Adrian Peterson is already a fixture in the offense. This is definitely a long term win for the Vikings, and dynasty leaguers need to take note, but that is about it for now in Minnesota.
That’s it for day 1 of the Draft! Continue to check out No Coast Bias for more fantasy updates as the draft continues as well as throughout the offseason. Remember, it is never too early to start thinking fantasy!