Fantasy Implications of the NFL Draft (Rounds 1-3)
by Alan Seslowsky
The results for rounds one, two, and three are in. We now know another piece of the fantasy puzzle that we are trying to construct for our dynasty, redraft, and bestball leagues. RosterWatch’s rankings will undoubtedly adjust to the new information that has been revealed, but it is important to weigh our rigorous pre-draft process as a key when putting together our ultimate fantasy cheat sheets. Below are a few of the interesting storylines that developed over the first two days of the NFL draft.
Quarterbacks in Round One
The consensus top four QBs; Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, and Jordan Love all went in the first round, as expected and in close to the order they were expected. The surprise was Green Bay trading up to 26 to draft Jordan Love. The reaction was mostly negative from fantasy players as many still see Rodgers as an elite option at QB. Upon a deeper look Rodgers’ performance has declined. His yards per attempt were down to 7.0 in 2019, a steep drop from his peak in 2011-2014 where he had one season at 10.5 yards per attempt. Rodgers finished 2019 as the QB7, well below where he was drafted. Aaron Rodgers is still a solid QB1 for fantasy, but Green Bay is securing its future with the high upside thrower from Utah State.
Hail To The Chief
In the modern NFL, teams are moving toward not taking RBs in the first round. The reason is mostly due to the shorter shelf life of the position and the ability to find RB value later in the draft. Kansas City is squarely in win-now mode, and added Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a diverse pass-catching RB that can help them today. Damien Williams will be a free agent in 2021, and the Chiefs needed a more reliable all-around back to support him before replacing him. Andy Reid gets his new version of Brian Westbrook.
The Run on Running Backs – Round Two
Fantasy players were most interested in how this exciting class of running backs would start to shape up based on landing spot. Round two provided the answer key for most of the top prospects. RosterWatch’s top six pre-draft RBs Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, JK Dobbins, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Cam Akers, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn were all drafted to teams where there is a clear path to ascend. The RB ranks will vary across the industry, because of how each landing spot presents its own positives and negatives; which is why we rely heavily on RosterWatch’s pre-draft evaluation process. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Vaughn appear to have the path least resistant to immediate touches, where Taylor has the most upside and Swift, while an electric talent, seems doomed to fester in a Kerryon Jonhon-like purgatory until a new staff is in place in Detroit.
Wide Receiver Fits
RosterWatch has over a decade of WR evaluation experience professionally and a lifetime prior. We have carefully crafted our process over the last 12 years to form a grading system that helps rank players in order of talent. Since WRs come in many shapes, sizes and skill-sets NFL teams will have rankings based on a specific team need. Teams may value the speed WR over the elite route runner. Or the big redzone target over the technician that can work the middle of the field. The first three rounds of the NFL draft was a perfect illustration of this.
Henry Ruggs was a 5:1 longshot to be the first WR drafted, and because the Raiders valued Ruggs’ speed based skill-set, they drafted him as the WR1.
CeeDee Lamb was RosterWatch’s WR1, pre-draft, based on talent alone. Lamb ended up being the 3rd WR drafted, at pick 17 overall, likely because the Broncos who drafted Jerry Juedy as the WR2, valued Jeudy’s skill set as a pro-ready high floor prospect.
Jalen Reagor was somewhat unexpectedly the fourth WR drafted. Upon reflection, it makes sense that the Eagles drafted a down-field threat, speed WR rather than a technician like Justin Jefferson, who was widely mocked as the WR4 pre-draft. Eagle’s field stretcher DeSean Jackson is 33 years old, and after an explosive Week 1 in 2019, was not able to return from injury. Reagor can immediately step into that role.
QB Depth Never “Hurts”
Speaking of The Philadelphia Eagles, they shocked the NFL by selecting Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts in round two. Pre-Draft, Hurts’ draft position had the largest range of outcomes of any player this year. There was a case to be made for Hurts as a late first-round pick or a third-round selection. Lamar Jackson‘s MVP season in 2019 along with how The Saints used Tayson Hill was eye-opening for NFL GMs. The perception of how a player like Hurts can be used in the modern NFL has shifted. The fantasy community had a mostly negative reaction to the landing spot for Hurts, as they do not see a path for relevance. Eagles GM, Howie Roseman said that the team wants to be “a factory” for great QBs. The more likely rationale for the pick is that Wentz has had injury issues since entering the NFL, and Head Coach Doug Peterson thinks he can utilize the skills of Jalen Hurts to make the team less predictable and more dynamic.