The first round of the 2018 NFL Draft has finally come and gone and with it, the fantasy stock of a few veteran players has already been altered. In this running post through the first two days of the draft, we’re going to talk about some of those veteran players that have been affected the most. Because we’re discussing relevant fantasy options, this is the wrong place to find analysis here on Saquon Barkley taking over a previously rag-tag Giants’ backfield, Rashaad Penny sticking a nail in C.J. Prosise’s fantasy coffin and hope for any Chris Carson recovery, nor where Maxx Williams stands with Hayden Hurst joining the Ravens.

 


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Expect Rookie Passers too Early


We had five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the draft on Thursday for the first time since 1999. Now, more than ever, rookie passers are finding the field sooner rather than later. Anything that we hear from these organizations over the next few months about taking it slow with their new prospects should be taken with a grain of salt as we should expect the majority of these guys to start multiple games as rookies. That puts the likes of Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, Josh McCown, and AJ McCarron all in a bucket of passers that really need to outperform their own personal — as well as their team expectations — entering the season to make through all 16 games. If you liked any of those guys as QB2 options in early drafts in Best Ball leagues, I would move completely off of them going forward. The one exception of the group should be Lamar Jackson in Baltimore as they traded back into the final pick of the first round to grab Jackson. Joe Flacco enters 2018 at 33-years old, but still has four years left on his contract with the next two seasons checking in at $24.7M and $26.5M cap numbers with $28.7M and $16M in dead money over those seasons.   

 

The last first-round quarterback that failed to start a game over his inaugural campaign was Jake Locker in 2011 and he is also the only one to do so of the 27 quarterbacks selected in the first round over the past decade.  Over that span, the average games started by a first-round quarterback is 11 games with 20 of those 27 passers starting more than half of their rookie seasons.

 

First-Round QBs and Week Started Over the Past 10 Years

 

 

 

Smith-Schuster Set for Big Second Season


I’m cheating a bit because it didn’t impact the first round of the actual draft, but the Raiders trading a third-round pick to the Steelers for Martavis Bryant during the draft does have a significant impact. The big winner here is obviously JuJu Smith-Schuster. Not that Bryant was a major threat to JuJu continuing to elevate in his sophomore season but does clear 14.5 percent of the team targets to reallocate, with Smith-Schuster likely to accrue a healthy portion of those available targets. In the one game that Bryant missed a year ago, Smith-Schuster received 32.3 percent of the team targets which he turned into seven receptions for 193 yards and a touchdown. Smith-Schuster also received 23.3 percent (6/75/1) and 37.0 percent (9/143/1) of the targets in the two games that Antonio Brown missed a year ago. In the games in which both Brown and Bryant both were active, Smith-Schuster saw just 13.3 percent of the team targets.  It’s not hard to see those numbers as the lead or number two option at the receiving position in neon lights. Smith-Schuster will firmly end up as a WR2 over the summer.

 

Bryant – turning 27-years old during the 2018 season- will be heading to Oakland to join the combination of Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson. After sitting out all of 2016 due to a suspension, Bryant posted career lows in receptions (3.3) and yardage (40.2) per game while scoring just three touchdowns. Bryant’s target volume per game, yards per reception and touchdowns have dropped every year of his career after a promising explosive run over his rookie season. He’s likely the third option in Oakland that comes on the field while allowing Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson to move into the slot in three wide receiver sets.

 

It should be Oakland’s priority to allow Cooper to move around the offense more in his fourth season and create more accessible targets for him to maximize his skill set. They don’t have to play him excluisvely in the slot, but getting him into the 35-40 percent area of routes from the slot would go a long into enhancing his ability and the offense. Cooper’s best game of the 2017 season (an 11 catch, 210-yard game with two touchdowns on 19 targets) came when he received 10 targets from the slot. He turned those 10 targets into six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. For the rest of the season, Cooper only received 20 total targets from the slot outside of that game. Bringing Bryant in to stretch the field in 3WR sets in place of having Cooper run those routes while freeing Cooper up to add a new layer to his game would be far more advantageous to the Oakland offense rather than having Nelson go inside more often on those sets and turn Cooper into a far more consistent fantasy option rather than the volatile one he has shown to be. 

 

Was Devin Funchess’ Breakout Short-Lived?


With the 24th pick, the Panthers made D.J. Moore the first receiver to be selected in this draft. Moore was the top wideout for both myself and Ray Summerlin on this site a week ago and he immediately joins recent selections in Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel in getting more viable targets for Cam Newton in the shorter and intermediate levels while letting players work after the catch. He also is a threat to the breakout that Funchess enjoyed in his third NFL season.

 

Funchess took off once the Panthers traded Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills eight weeks into the season. From Weeks 9-16, Funchess was the WR19 for fantasy purposes, turning 23.8 percent of the team targets into 28 receptions for 435 yards and four touchdowns. The positive news is that prior to Benjamin being traded, Funchess was still usable, coming in as the WR33 over that span on 21 percent of the team targets. Of course, this also covers a period when the Panthers were without Greg Olsen, who they recently extended for another two seasons. Funchess still projects to be the best red zone option by far among this group, which keeps him as an option in Best Ball formats as a WR4, but in an offense that has had Cam Newton throw the football more than 500 times just twice over seven seasons with a high of 517 attempts, Funchess will have to  scrap to  approach the 111 targets that he received in 2017.

 

Sanu Has Company Behind Julio


Two picks after Moore was the first receiver selected, the Falcons added Calvin Ridley to the roster to join Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu. Ridley’s best fit in the NFL was arguably beginning his career in the slot, but with Sanu already in place as one of the top slot options in the league, Ridley will enter the season as flanker in three wide receiver sets. The bad news there is that Atlanta ranked 24th in the league in use of 3WR sets (69.9 percent) on passing plays a year ago. While I’d more than expect Ridley to best the 33-378-1 line that Taylor Gabriel notched a year ago, he’s still an ancillary option to open his career since Jones commands such a high amount of volume while Sanu’s role in the slot and as a goal line option shouldn’t be impacted greatly. Of course, Sanu is still just a PPR floor option as a bench receiver on rosters, but Sanu leads the Falcons in receptions (16) and touchdowns (nine) in the red zone since joining the Falcons.

 

New England Adds Michel to Backfield Mix


Michel was one of the best combo backs in the draft, checking in at 5-foot-11 and 214, he drew similar comparisons to Alvin Kamara from a year ago. Michel was far more productive than Kamara was in college as a rusher and joins an elite offense in New England. Michel ran for 7.9 yards per carry at Georgia a year ago and will compete right away for touches with Rex Burkhead, James White and at least one of Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill in what is always a backfield that has been a roller coaster for fantasy owners.

 

A year ago, the Patriots had a far more linear usage with their backs, settling into a combination of Dion Lewis and Burkhead for the crux of their season until Lewis took over as a borderline feature to close the regular season before turning back into a combination backfield of Lewis and James White for the postseason. Once again, always a ride here, but one generally worth taking as New England has ranked inside of the five in the league in rushing attempts from inside of the 5-yard line in each of the past seven seasons.

 

The addition of Michel compromises Burkhead the most since White is strictly a pass catcher and both Gillislee and Hill were solely end of draft picks in the event that somehow one of them ended up garnering goal line looks.  But this all may not be the death for Burkhead if he’s actually the one still used on those “money” snaps. Burkhead was the RB13 in fantasy from when he returned Week 7 up until he was injured in Week 15 and did so on just 11 touches per game while Lewis averaged 14.4 touches per game because Burkhead was tied for third in the league in touches inside of the 5-yard line over that span. He was also highly effective with those touches, converting five for touchdowns. There’s a looming concern that that usage he had was a once in a career spurt as he played just 12 snaps total when returning for the postseason, but New England made retaining him a priority early in free agency with a 3-year deal. He’s still on the radar as a Zero-RB type.

 

White ranks eighth among all running backs in receptions over the past three seasons (156), but has almost no functionality in the rushing game, carrying just 22. 39 and 43 times over that span with only two scores on the ground. White’s best-case scenario is Michel solely operating as a lead back and not impacting the passing game, which his unlikely. In the end, we know the Patriots are going to use all of Michel, White and Burkhead and the investment into Michel Thursday Night shows that they value Michel a great deal, but playing for the cheaper options may be the route owners want to go when trying to squeeze out some nectar from this offense if Michel ends up as a locked in RB2 among drafters this summer.

 


Day 2-3


Picking up from where we left off yesterday, Day 2 of the NFL Draft saw more skill position players selected, but most went to places that did not heavily impact the outlook for veteran players that may have had shakier ground in fantasy circles. Players like Christian Kirk landed in a spot where he can play heavily with little resistance. The same can be said for Ronald Jones, who already had a higher ADP (104.5) in DRAFT formats than Peyton Barber.

Other second-round picks such as Courtland Sutton, Dante Pettis and Tre’Quan Smith landed in spots in which they’ll be treated as down the road investments beyond 2018, needing injuries to those ahead of them to move into a significant role for their rookie seasons. Players such as Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Pierre Garcon and Ted Ginn won’t be pushed while healthy, but all are over 30-years old and have outs on their contracts for seasons beyond this one.  Still, there were a few veterans that were impacted by Day 2, so let’s roll right into it.

 

Carlos Hyde


Hyde’s fantasy stock had already taken a hit when he signed with Cleveland, as he was joining a roster that had a clear pass catcher, then it took a secondary hit tonight when the Browns selected Nick Chubb with the 35th pick overall. Hyde’s 3-year contract that he penned this offseason is actually more like a 1-year deal if Cleveland wants it to be, with an out next year at just $2.3M in dead money. Chubb is a bit of a redundant asset and given the lofty draft capital invested into him, will immediately compete with Hyde for early down work. Hyde’s early ADP was in the 4th round, but this addition will make him more of a Zero-RB flyer than should settle in outside of the top-100 picks overall.

 

Samaje Perine/Rob Kelley


Owners were already conscious that both Perine and Kelley were on thin ice in the anticipation that Washington would add a back early on and they had arguably the second-best back in Derrius Guice slide all the way to them at pick 59. Guice won’t cut into the role that Chris Thompson has on this offense, who commanded 17 percent of the Washington targets per game while healthy. Jay Gruden has slow played rookie runners like Kelley and Perine in the past, but neither carried the investment or talent of Guice.

 

Ameer Abdullah/LeGarrette Blount


The Lions have desperately needed to jolt their running game and they traded up to select Kerryon Johnson at pick 43 overall. Johnson was one of the better Best Ball league values in early drafts at pick 170.7, which was exactly one spot behind the 170.3 ADP held by Abdullah. The Detroit backfield hasn’t been fruitful of late on the ground, as Johnson joins a team that has ranked 32nd, 30th, 31st and 28th in rushing yardage per game over the past four years, but he renders both Abdullah and Blount obsolete for drafters.

 

Devontae Booker


Booker held the RB1 slot for the Broncos by default for a few weeks after the release of C.J. Anderson, but many owners were cognizant that Denver would pursue another back in this draft, and they did so by selected Royce Freeman with the 71st pick in the draft. Freeman is the all-time leading rusher in FBS history and that spot was 65 picks ahead of where this Denver regime took Booker just two years ago. There was a period of a few weeks last year in which Booker was making a push for more snaps, but his role quickly reverted to an ancillary component for the final five weeks. Booker still stands to make this a potential committee given his receiving ability, but his underwhelming tenure this far in Denver will keep him in the RB4-5 bucket in PPR leagues.

 

Allen Hurns/Terrance Williams/Cole Beasley


With the 81st pick in the draft, the Cowboys selected Michael Gallup, who can immediately come in and play on the boundary for the Cowboys. The determining factor will be just how Dallas settles their slot position since Hurns has most of his NFL success from the interior and that’s the only spot that Beasley can play. At 6’1”, 205 pounds, Gallup doesn’t profile as a feature wideout, but only 12 percent of his routes at Colorado State came from the inside. Given the Cowboys’ resources at the position, Gallup could immediately push Hurns inside over Beasley or threaten to play across from Hurns and take snaps away from Williams, who the Cowboys have overextended patience with. If I’m drafting a Dallas wideout today, it’s still going to be Hurns, but overall this depth chart is not a daunting hurdle for Gallup.

 

Kevin White


More for Dynasty purposes instead of seasonal leagues, if you were still holding out hope that Matthew Nagy would find a spot to resuscitate White’s career, those hopes were dashed when the Bears selected Anthony Miller with the 51st pick overall. Miller is arguably the most pro ready wideout in this class and should immediately slides into the slot for the Bears as a rookie. 37 percent of Miller’s routes and 33 percent of his targets came from the slot at Memphis.

 

Dede Westbrook/Keelan Cole/Donte Moncrief


In an already muddle situation outside of Marqise Lee, the Jaguars added another young, athletic receiver in D.J. Chark with the 61st pick in the draft. Chark’s collegiate resume was one note as vertical flanker, averaging 21.9 yards per catch. That skillset overlaps what Westbrook does best, but this is a very open competition across all the positions as Lee has experience in the slot going back to the 2016 season when Allen Hurns was injured, and Cole played all three receiver positions during his rookie season. I still prefer Cole of the group for long term purposes as his versatility allows him more avenues to coming out of the pack, but none of these players are bankable outside of Lee, who is also a ho-hum fantasy option to begin with.


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