2014 NFL Draft Winners and Losers for Fantasy: NFC

Anthony Amico May 12, 2014 3
2014 NFL Draft Winners and Losers for Fantasy: NFC

With the 2014 NFL Draft now a thing of the past, it is time to evaluate it as a whole for fantasy. This is the second article in a series of post-draft fantasy pieces you are going to want to check out before making your rankings or drafting this summer. I already took you through the first round at a glance. Now it is time to break down who won and who lost for each NFL team, starting with those in the NFC:

Arizona Cardinals

Winner: Carson Palmer, QB

Most people expected the Cardinals to add a quarterback in the draft that could be their future signal caller, if not challenge Palmer right away. Fortunately for owners of the USC grad, the only quarterback Arizona drafted was Virginia Tech project Logan Thomas. It is safe to say that Palmer’s job is safe for at least another year, which keeps both his dynasty and redraft value level.

Loser: Rob Housler, TE

Housler has been a trendy name on sleeper lists for the last couple of seasons, but has not yet panned out. The Cardinals’ drafting of Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas may be the last nail in the coffin for him. The players are certainly very different in terms of skill set, but with tight end production already coming as scarcely as it did last season, the margin for error was already incredibly small.

Atlanta Falcons

Winner: Levine Toilolo, TE

Tony Gonzalez retired and the Falcons did not draft a player who could replace him. Insert Toilolo, who already has shown some red zone proficiency for Atlanta previously. He probably doesn’t do much more than score a few touchdowns, but the opportunity will certainly be there for him.

Loser: Matt Ryan, QB

As mentioned above, the Falcons failed to add a serviceable replacement for the Hall of Fame tight end they lost. In fact, they failed to add any weapon of note for the former Eagle, leaving him with just the talented yet oft-injured Julio Jones, the declining Roddy White, and the not-as-good-as-last-year’s-numbers-say Harry Douglas to throw to. That probably keeps Ryan out of the mid-to-upper tier of fantasy QBs.

Carolina Panthers

Winner: Kelvin Benjamin, WR

I’ve made it fairly well known already that I do not like Benjamin as a prospect, but it is pretty difficult to ignore where he ended up. Carolina needed a receiver in this draft, probably two, in order to give Cam Newton some more weapons on offense. Fortunately for the Florida State product, the Panthers drafted no other receivers! That leaves Benjamin in a great position to contribute right away, especially in the red zone, even if he doesn’t look great in camp. Opportunity may be rewarded here.

Loser: Cam Newton, QB

It is pretty difficult to not tab Newton a loser here for the Panthers. Carolina’s two biggest needs were receiver and offensive line. They addressed the former with an overrated, old prospect, and barely addressed the latter with a green guard. Unless Cam has a ridiculous year rushing the ball, it is hard to see him produce anywhere close to where we are used to seeing.

Chicago Bears

Winner: Ka’Deem Carey, RB

The Bears only devoted two picks to the offensive side of the football, but Carey is a true winner here. After releasing Michael Bush, Chicago was left with just Michael Ford and Shaun Draughn at running back behind fantasy stud Matt Forte. That makes Carey the clear backup in an offense that allowed Forte to set career highs in virtually every category. Despite Carey’s 4.7 40 time at the combine, he showed at Arizona that he could handle a heavy workload and was an asset in the passing game. He would be an immediate plug and play should Forte miss any time.

Loser: Jordan Palmer, QB

This ones a stretch, but hey, someone has to lose. The Bears drafted David Fales who I think can be successful in the NFL. Due to his intelligence and accuracy, he should have no problem overtaking Palmer to be Jay Cutler’s primary backup. This eliminates any chance of Palmer being this year’s Josh McCown.

Dallas Cowboys

Winner: Tony Romo, QB

The greatest fear for any Romo dynasty owner came to pass on Thursday when Dallas decided to pass on mercurial quarterback Johnny Manziel in order to take offensive tackle Zack Martin. Not only did he avoid being unseated by the popular rookie, but he improved his protection, which will be critical after undergoing back surgery late December.

Loser: Tony Romo, QB

In classic Romo form, he manages to both win and lose in the draft. While he maintains job security and protection, the Cowboys failed to add more weapons in a deep receiver class. Dez Bryant in elite and Jason Witten is reliable, but the next best receiver is Terrence Williams, who flashed early as a rookie, but fizzled down the stretch. After that Dallas is left with a crew of nobodies led by Cole Beasley.

Detroit Lions

Winner: Eric Ebron, TE

I already mentioned this in my first round pick analysis article (link at the top), but it bears repeating: Ebron could not have gone to a better spot than Detroit. Locked into a sizable role in a high volume passing offense makes Ebron a TE1 in redraft leagues, and someone who may be worth a pick in the top half of the first round of rookie drafts.

Loser: Golden Tate, WR

Tate will still have a solid role with the Lions this year, but there is no question that the Ebron addition hurts him some. By adding another viable option into the offense, Tate loses some of the luster he gained when he was initially signed to be Calvin Johnson’s primary running mate. Bump Tate down a bit on your cheatsheats, but don’t get too crazy. He will still receive plenty of targets this year.

Green Bay Packers

Winner: Davante Adams, WR

Adams is a huge winner after being taken by Green Bay, and will have immediate sleeper appeal as a rookie. He scored a ridiculous 38 touchdowns in two seasons at Fresno State, and should be a big time red zone threat for the Pack. Think of Adams as what every James Jones owner over the last 7 years wishes he was. It would not be ridiculous to spend a top 5 rookie draft pick on him. If he pans out, he could potentially have a big role in an offense led by Aaron Rodgers.

Loser: Jarrett Boykin, WR

If Adams is enjoying the “James Jones plus” role, the Boykin is back to the “in case of emergency” role. Still an adequate fill in should an injury befall Randall Cobb or Jordy Nelson, Boykin will lose essentially all redraft and dynasty appeal in the wake of the drafting of Adams. If you believe in Boykin’s talent, this is a clear buy-low opportunity.

Minnesota Vikings

Winner: Adrian Peterson, RB

It may be a little crazy to consider a perennial top 5 pick a winner, but Peterson is just that to me. There was a lot of buzz going around the draft that the Vikings would add a third down type of running back, which would mitigate some of his receiving numbers this year. However, the only back Minnesota drafted was Jerick McKinnon, who will be making a position change to running back from option quarterback. McKinnon has some impressive measurables and is a prospect I am high on, but I have my doubts that he can come right in as a rookie and pass protect well enough to take Peterson off the field. Adrian is my top PPR running back right now.

Loser: Matt Cassel, QB

The Vikings traded back into the first round (pick 32) to select Teddy Bridgewater, a move that ultimately means the end of Matt Cassel. When that move will happen is anyone’s guess, but if you owned Cassel in a 2QB dynasty league, it’s probably time to cut bait. It also takes away any sleeper appeal he may have had in redrafts.

New Orleans Saints

Winner: Brandin Cooks, WR

Cooks is one of the biggest winners of draft weekend. He will be put into an offense that knows how to use dynamic playmakers, which Cooks is, and should have the opportunity to return kicks as well. I fully expect him to be targeted early and often in New Orleans, making him a clear cut WR3 in redrafts with upside for more, especially in PPR. In rookie drafts, don’t expect Cooks to last past the top three to five picks.

Loser: Kenny Stills, WR

Stills is in a similar situation to Golden Tate was previously in this piece. He still will have upside and should improve on his numbers from last season, but that upside is now capped considerably lower with the addition of Cooks. The sophomore receiver did most of his damage on “go” routes last year, which should lead to inconsistent production should he be kept in that role again this year. With Cooks’ ability to run the full route tree, I think that situation has become increasingly likely.

New York Giants

Winner: Eli Manning, QB

The Giants selected Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round, and regardless of what you think of the pick in a vacuum (a reach in my opinion), it helps the offense and, likewise, the quarterback. Manning will have a full set of weapons at his disposal in Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Beckham, and Jerrel Jernigan as new OC Ben McAdoo tries to install an offense similar to that in Green Bay. Big Blue also added running back Andre Williams, which should give them more chances to establish a run game that was sorely lacking last season.

Loser: Rashad Jennings

I think that most people’s obvious selection would have been the aforementioned Randle, but I still believe in his talent, especially since the Giants’ base offense will probably involve three receivers. Jennings, however, looks like he may not get as big of a workload as expected. Andre Williams is a bruising back who could establish a short yardage role right away. Couple that with the expected return of David Wilson, and Jennings does not look like the three down menace he could have been. By season’s end, he may just be the teams third down back.

Philadelphia Eagles

Winner: Jordan Matthews, WR

Matthews was one of my favorite receivers pre-draft, and the landing spot is even better. The underrated athlete with big time college production will most likely start his career in the slot with Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper on the outside, but should have opportunities to excel. Jason Avant put up a 37-447-2 line in that role last year, and Matthews is a player of superior talent. Also, Maclin will be coming off of an ACL tear and my not be able to return to form. He is a free agent after this year, so the Vanderbilt alum could slide into the number one role as early as next season. Matthews will be worth a first round dynasty rookie pick.

Loser: Jeremy Maclin, WR

People are getting rather excited about Maclin in the wake of the DeSean Jackson release, but the draft tempered my expectations very much. The aforementioned Matthews should have an impact right away this year, and the team also drafted former Oregon Duck Josh Huff. The Eagles have Maclin on just a $5.5 million contract for one season, while Riley Cooper signed a 5 year, $22.5 contract in February. The money and draft investment say that Maclin may be expendable if his knee does not look strong from the get go this year.

San Francisco 49ers

Winner: Colin Kaepernick, QB

The 49ers continue to set up Kaepernick for success while he enters the last year of his rookie contract. They drafted South Carolina Gamecock, Bruce Ellington, in the fourth round, and traded a future pick for Bills receiver Stevie Johnson. Both are weapons that could potentially contribute right away. San Fran also drafted Carlos Hyde to keep their run game young, and two offensive lineman (a guard and tackle each in the third). All of this may culminate in Kaep’s best fantasy season yet.

Loser: Frank Gore, RB

Gore’s lengthy run of fantasy goodness may finally be coming to an end. The Hyde pick at least shows that the team is concerned with Gore and his age (he just turned 31), and the Ohio State product will join Marcus Lattimore and Kendall Hunter as players who could eventually unseat the former Hurricane. Gore is a player that is usually underrated and provides his drafter with value, but I think that run ends this season.

Seattle Seahawks

Winner: Russell Wilson, QB

The Seahawks did their best to add some weapons for Russell Wilson during this year’s draft. After trading back from the last pick in the first round, they selected Colorado receiver Paul Richardson, who dominated in college, but is very small in stature (6 feet and just 175 pounds). The team also drafted Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood. Hopefully one of these players can replace what Golden Tate did for the team last season. Seattle also added Justin Britt, a Missouri lineman who may fill the crucial right tackle spot vacated by Breno Giacomini.

Loser: Sidney Rice, WR

Rice returned to the Seahawks after tearing his ACL last season, but he may not be ready for a large role. He had a chance to be a trendy sleeper given his size and moderate success, but it is very possible he now does not get that chance.

St. Louis Rams, RB

Winner: Tre Mason, RB

The Rams selected Mason in the third round after drafting his teammate, offensive lineman Greg Robinson, with the second overall pick. He goes to a team that should be incredibly run heavy with Jeff Fischer as the head coach and no real passing game to speak of. Mason is a player that can be had extremely cheap in rookie drafts due to his landing behind a back people like in Zac Stacy, but still has mountains of talent (he was my number two running back in the draft). It is not unfeasible that Mason could eventually overtake Stacy, or at least carve himself out a sizable role. Buy late in both rookie drafts and redrafts this summer.

Loser: Zac Stacy, RB

Stacy is a player that performed well after being taken in the fifth round of last year’s draft. However, the addition of Mason at least provides a threat to his rock solid workload. Dynasty owners may find it more difficult getting full value for Stacy now, but it is worth exploring before Mason makes any kind of real move at his job.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Winner: Josh McCown, QB

McCown is one of draft weekend’s biggest winners. Not only did the team fail to draft a quarterback, but they added a slew of weapons for his disposal. Mike Evans is big (6’5″) and very similar to teammate Vincent Jackson. The team also drafted red zone monster Austin Sefarian-Jenkins in the second round, which prompted my collegue over at JAMSportz, John Schrank, to text me, “Are they playing basketball next year?”. The Bucs have done a great job of recreating what McCown had in Chicago, giving him big targets to throw to in single coverage, and even threw in West Virginia’s Charles Sims, who should be a third down maven from the get go. McCown should be a great sleeper in redraft leagues this year, and his dynasty value should rise in the short term.

Loser: Doug Martin, RB

Martin should be the lead back for Tampa this season, but the draft causes me to question exactly what that is worth. Many people expect a run-heavy approach with form Cal head coach Jeff Tedford calling the plays. However, when we take a look at the draft picks (Evans, ASJ, Sims, and Wyoming wideout Robert Herron), it appears that Tedford may be looking to pass more than previously thought. The Sims pick also adds yet another player to an already loaded backfield (Mike James and Bobby Rainey filled in admirably when Martin went down last season), which further clutters what was thought to be a monster workload for Martin entering the offseason.

Washington Redskins

Winner: Roy Helu, RB

Roy Helu seems to now be fully entrenched as the third down back in D.C. The only draft pick spent on a running back in Washington was Lache Seastrunk, who had more drops (10) than receptions (9) at Baylor and poses no threat to Helu’s role. It is also possible that Helu carves himself out an even bigger role this season and makes for a fine PPR sleeper in redraft leagues.

Loser: Alfred Morris, RB

Call me skeptical, but I think that Morris’ success the last two season had more to do with the Shanahan zone blocking scheme than his own talent. With Jay Gruden now in town, more power based runs are expected to be used, which could spell trouble for the Florida Atlantic grad. Combine that with the Seastrunk selection, and I think there is real cause for concern. Seastrunk is smaller, but is a much more explosive player and should vie for touches instantly in Washington.

That is all for the NFC today. Keep your eyes out for part two of this feature, which will assess the winners and losers of the AFC teams.

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