Finding Fantasy Football Value From the NFL Draft!
After months of research, preparation and tons of mock drafts, the NFL Draft came and went! Hopefully you watched the Fantrax coverage hosted by yours truly, but if you missed it, we condensed it into short videos discussing the fantasy relevant players from the first round! With all seven rounds now in the books, we can officially look at those players who are good fits and should be on your radar for Fantasy Football!
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Fantasy Football Values from 2019 NFL Draft
Arizona Cardinals Draft
I loved what the Cardinals did, at least for fantasy football purposes. First, they made what I think to be the correct decision and drafted Kyler Murray first overall. The top ranked running and passing college QB in 2018, according to PFF, has a very high ceiling, and floor, due to his rushing ability. I break it down here, but because of his rushing ability I think Murray should be taken in the back half of the top 12 QBs. With QB being so deep this year, if I am drafting one in the QB7-12 range, why not take a shot on that upside? If he flops, you can find a fine replacement on the waiver wire.
The Cardinals also did a nice job adding weapons around their new franchise QB. They added Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson in the draft to go with Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk and David Johnson. Isabella is a speedster who ran a 4.31 40, tied for the fastest among WR at this year’s combine. He dominated at UMass and can play both inside and out wide. Butler is 6’5 and ran a 4.48 40 yard dash, showing you the size and speed he possesses. Johnson, no not that Keyshawn, is another big wideout who will help give the Cards depth. New Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury has already said the Cards plan to space things out more than other teams in the NFL and make them cover five wide. That should help open things up for both Murray and Johnson, which only makes me like them more. As for the receivers in this offense, I think they are best left for best ball leagues, as there will be many targets if they plan on incorporating all these new weapons into the offense. If you want to read up on more of the affects Kingsbury will have on this offense you can do so here.
Josh Jacobs to Raiders
Jacobs was viewed as the RB1 in this year’s class and it is no surprise that he was the lone RB taken in round one. Also, it should be no surprise that the Raiders were the lone team to draft a running back in the first round. Jacobs will be the first rookie RB to go off the board in fantasy football drafts, and rightfully so. Marshawn Lynch has retired and the Raiders brought in Isaiah Crowell to replace him. However, the draft capital they paid for Jacobs clearly indicates that they view him as a starter and Beast Mode replacement.
Despite the limited work at Alabama, Jones profiles to be a workhorse back for the Raiders. He should dominate carries, especially near the goal line. However, I still have questions if he will be used in passing scenarios, or if the Raiders turn to their pass catching specialist, Jalen Richard. Let’s not forget he tied for the team lead in receptions (68) and was third on the team with 607 receiving yards. Jacobs was seldom used in the passing game in Alabama, his season high was 20 receptions, but we have learned that doesn’t always translate from college to the NFL. It is just how often and effective Richard was used in the passing game last year that gives me some questions. I think others will be higher than I will be on Jacobs, I just worry about Richard eating too much of the passing game work. Due to that, I value him more as a low-end RB2.
David Montgomery to Bears
When the Bears traded Jordan Howard to the Eagles and signed Mike Davis, many speculated that he would be the workhorse back for the Bears. That was until they traded up and drafted David Montgomery in the third round. Montgomery is a shifty back who showed the ability to be a workhorse in college. He topped 250 carries in two straight seasons and flashed his ability in the passing game with 36 receptions in his sophomore season at Iowa State. With Howard out of town that opens up 250 carries on the Bears, and Tarik Cohen has never had more than 99 at the NFL level.
Additionally, Bears Head Coach Matt Naggy said it is “nice” to have a three-down back. It sounds like Naggy has big plans for Montgomery and I expect he slots in as the lead back for the Bears, with Cohen being used in passing situations. However, his value likely takes a hit if Naggy wants to use Montgomery more on third down to keep the offense less predictable. He should be the second rookie RB off the board in fantasy drafts.
Philly Adds a Potential Workhorse Back and WR
The Eagles had an interesting draft. First, they drafted Miles Sanders in the second round, who will likely slide in atop the Eagles depth chart. Sanders fantasy value will be determined by his use in the preseason, but there are two conflicting thoughts at play here. The first is the Eagles under Doug Pederson have never had a workhorse back. In fact, since Pederson took over in 2016, the Eagles have had just two players top 150 carries, while none have topped 175. Still, we have never seen the Eagles invest in a running back as they did with Sanders. They traded just a sixth-round pick for Jordan Howard, who has seen his effectiveness decrease in every season he has been in the NFL. The Eagles other backs on the depth chart are a who’s who of JAGS such as Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams. Sanders fantasy value for this season is still being determined, but Eagles GM Howie Roseman spoke him up after the draft as a three-down back. I would value him over Jordan Howard and the other Philly backs, as of now.
The Eagles followed up the Sanders pick with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside just four picks later. Arcega-Whiteside is a receiver I liked a lot in this draft class. He is a big target (6’2, 225 lbs) and is excellent in small spaces. He also is the best contested and jump ball receiver in the class, which should make him an instant red zone option for the Eagles. The Eagles receiving core is crowded with Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor. He won’t be a consistent fantasy contributor right away, but if there is an injury to the older Jeffery or Jackson, he could become a top waiver wire target. He is a natural fit to replace the older receivers as well, making him a value in dynasty leagues.
N’Keal Harry to Patriots
Harry was my favorite receiver in this class, as I thought he had the perfect combination of upside and safety. Harry is a physical receiver who is great at using his body to get in front of defenders and prevent them from playing the ball. He did a lot of his damage at ASU from the slot but can also play out wide. If it was any other team, I would not love the fit as the Patriots already have Julian Edelman, Bruce Ellington, and Maurice Harris, all who specialize in the slot. However, I do not think Bill Belichick decided to draft a receiver for the first time in his tenure to not play to that receiver’s strength. There is no coach who better puts players in a position to utilize their strengths than Belichick. Plus, the Patriots attack the middle of the field a ton and Harry will be utilized there as well, and he is great at picking up YAC. In fact, the Patriots ranked 17th in the NFL at yards out wide, while they ranked ninth in yards from the slot. Harry has the ability to be the second target in the passing game, behind Edelman and perhaps James White. With Gronk retired, Josh Gordon in limbo and Chris Hogan in Carolina, three of the Pats top five targets from 2018 are gone. Harry will be one of, if not the first rookie receiver to go off the board in drafts this summer.
Also, I am not worried about Demaryius Thomas at all. He is 31 and coming off of his second Achilles injury in his career. I think he is washed up and would much rather back Harry.
DK Metcalf to Seahawks
Remember back in February when DK Metcalf was going viral like daily and many thought he would be the first receiver off the board? His strong combine was derailed by a terrible 3-cone drill, and then the fact that he primarily ran on one side in college, has a very limited route tree and had a worse three-cone drill than Tom Brady. The three-cone drill tests agility and DK tested poorly, rightfully raising concerns of his ability to not only change directions but also to change speeds. Still, he could not have found a more perfect fit. Even if he struggles with the short and intermediate routes, there is one thing we cannot question: Metcalf has blazing speed. He ran a 4.33 40 yard dash and should be able to create plenty of separation on deep routes down the field. That is a staple in the Seahawks offense. They will run the ball a bunch and let Russell Wilson, who I think is the best deep ball thrower in the NFL, air it out when they actually let him pass. Metcalf will not be a high target receiver, but I think he can be like his now teammate Tyler Lockett: a low catch, but high yard per reception and touchdown dependent receiver. Last year Lockett had 965 yards and 10 touchdowns on just 70 targets. Also, Metcalf is 6’3 and a physical freak. He also had a 40.5 inch vertical leap. He should be the Seahawks best red zone weapon since Jimmy Graham, and we remember how many times Wilson threw his way in the red zone/end zone.
He will be inconsistent week-to-week, but this was the perfect fit for Metcalf. While I think he is best owned in a best ball format, I think he can be very solid bench WR with upside. The status of Doug Baldwin, who may be forced to retire due to injuries, needs to be monitored going forward as well. If Baldwin does step down, it will mean more opportunity for Metcalf.
Parris Campbell to the Colts
The Colts’ primary slot receiver in 2018 was Chester Rogers. He played adequately, but he is still on the roster and the Colts went out and drafted Parris Campbell in the second round. Campbell is a speedster who ran a 4.31 40-yard dash, tied with Isabella for the fastest among receivers at this year’s combine. He fits in as the primary slot receiver for the Colts. Devin Funchess and T.Y. Hilton, who both averaged less than 10 slot routes per game in 2018, will man the outside, with Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle handling tight end duties. Campbell can be fantasy relevant right away, as the Colts averaged 9.3 targets per game from the slot, the second most in the NFL last year. He will not score a lot of touchdowns, given that Ebron, Funchess, and Hilton should be the top red zone targets, but he can be a nice PPR asset.
Mecole Hardman to Chiefs
Hardman is a tough one to figure out, no pun intended. So much of his fantasy value depends on what happens with Tyreek Hill. I will not get into Hill, but I suspect he will not be playing a ton of football this season. If that is the case, Hardman steps up as his replacement, at least when it comes to speed and deep route running ability. Hardman only racked up 60 catches for 961 yards and 11 touchdowns in his last two seasons at Georgia, but he showcased his blazing speed running a 4.33 40-yard dash at the combine. If Hill is cut or suspended, Hardman should shoot up to be one of the first, if not the first, rookie running backs off the board. Sammy Watkins is constantly banged up and the other receivers they have on the roster are Demarcus Robinson and Sammie Coates. If Hardman starts on the Chiefs, a team led by Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, well then he should 100 percent be on your radar in fantasy football.
49ers Adding Weapons
The 49ers added a ton of offensive weapons this draft. They took Deebo Samuel in the second round and Jalen Hurd in the third. For those who don’t know about Hurd he is a former running back who started over Alvin Kamara at Tennessee. The Niners envision him playing receiver, but perhaps getting some carries and even being used at tight end at times. The 49ers now have Dante Pettis, Samuel, Hurd, cut candidates in Marquise Goodwin and Jordan Matthews, along with George Kittle, and Jerick McKinnon/Tevin Coleman/Matt Brieda catching passes from the backfield. Kittle is the top option in this offense and Pettis is a big breakout candidate, but there will also be a lot of mouths to feed… which bodes best for Jimmy Garoppolo. This is shaping up to be a situation where you want to own the QB more than most of the weapons.
Quick Hits: Noah Fant was my top tight end in this draft because he is a better athlete than his former teammate (more on him in a minute), which I thought gave him higher upside. He is in a great fit with the Broncos, as Joe Flacco loves him some tight ends. The Ravens have ranked in the Top-7 among tight end targets in each of the past three seasons. Fant should instantly provide a safety blanket for Flacco over the middle and once the ball is in his hands, watch out. I think he will be fantasy relevant this season… The Lions selected Fant’s college teammate T.J. Hockenson eighth overall and I also expect he will be fantasy relevant in his first season. Outside of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and the RBs, there is not a whole lot of competition for targets… The Bills drafted Devin Singletary in the third round. He is in the mix of a crowded backfield, with LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon on board, but the fact that the Bills drafted him where they did shows me they have plans for him. He will not be fantasy relevant if the Bills do not make any moves, but if anything was to happen to Shady, he makes the most sense as the next man up. Plus, he reminds me of a less athletic version of Shady! … The Redskins added two rookie receivers in Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon. Outside of Josh Doctson and Trey Quinn in the slot, there is plenty of targets up for grabs. Keep an eye on this situation all summer, as one of the two rookies could develop a real connection with Dwayne Haskins. There could be real fantasy value to be had here.
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Michael Florio is the winner of the 2018 FSWA Baseball Article of the Year and was a finalist for the 2017 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year. He has hosted video/radio shows, written for a number of print and web publications including the AP, NY Daily News and much more!
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