2017 NFL Draft Recap and Fantasy Football Fallout
Checking the post-draft fantasy stock for all 32 NFL teams
That’s a wrap for the 2017 NFL Draft. It was a weird one, and it’s easy to lose track of who everyone took after three long days of picks and trades. With the offseason well in the rear-view mirror, NFL teams now look much like they will as the preseason opens in August.
Not every team drafted an impact offensive player that will make noise in fantasy football, but every team was impacted. Those without a high draft pick may have solidified a veteran’s value or created a new sleeper. Let’s take a look around the league to see how things shaped up for each team…
The Cardinals offense should be mostly unchanged from last season, though a bounce back is in order for the passing game. The D/ST added a couple fun toys in Haason Reddick and Budda Baker and looks like a nice pickup.
The Falcons offense remains untouched outside of OC Kyle Shanahan leaving, good news for all involved. New RB Brian Hill could have some value if Freeman or Coleman get hurt, with the way Atlanta uses use multiple RBs.
The Ravens went all-in on their defense in the draft, and the offense remains pretty barren. Baltimore should be good and that leaves opportunity here if one of West, Woodhead, Taliaferro, or Allen can step forward at RB. The Ravens passing game is even more bare with only Mike Wallace and Breshard Perriman at receiver. Look for Dennis Pitta to become a nice TE option.
Buffalo showed it is building toward the future. There was no early QB, so Tyrod Taylor should be a useful QB2. Zay Jones caught 399 passes in college including 158 last year. He looks like a nice complement to Sammy Watkins and could have some real PPR upside if Watkins’ injury woes continue.
Christian McCaffrey is a stud and was my favorite weapon in the draft. He adds a new dimension in and out of the backfield that this team didn’t have. He’s an exciting prospect especially in PPR leagues, even more if you count return yards. The problem is Carolina spent their next pick on a similar talent in Curtis Samuel. Carolina could have a formidable attack but they’ll be better in real life than fantasy. Either of these two will be at best the third option in the passing game behind Olsen and Benjamin, and Stewart should still be the lead runner. Plus the Panthers have thrown to their RBs less than any team since Cam Newton arrived.
McCaffrey should get something like 10–12 carries, 3–5 catches, and a couple special teams touches a game. How valuable that is may depend on your scoring, and Samuel is likely a step down from there while both take away from Jonathan Stewart. The real winner here was Cam Newton. Newton was as good as he’s always been in his career in 2016, just not 2015 MVP level. Even if he runs a little less, he looks like a high-upside bargain as QB8 late in the 6th round right now.
The Bears paid a lot to move up and get QB Mitchell Trubisky, but there’s almost no way he’s playable in fantasy this season, nor new TE Adam Shaheen. Both may take awhile to develop or even get on the field. Proceed with caution on Jordan Howard. He’s a top-10 pick right now but he has no help around him and a young team that will be in real flux. He’s a possible sell-high in dynasty leagues.
Which QB should your favorite team use a first-round pick on? The answer may likely be none of the above
Don’t get too excited just yet about John Ross in fantasy leagues. He’ll be a fourth option at best, probably worse, and fellow rookie Josh Malone is buried even further. Both are stretch-the-field guys which does less for them and more for stabilizing the value of Andy Dalton and especially A.J. Green, who should benefit from not being the only real receiver target.
Joe Mixon joins a crowded backfield with Hill and Bernard. Mixon was in a timeshare already in college and still put up 1800 yards and 15 TDs last season, over eight yards a touch. He’s a strong runner and a good pass-catcher and was maybe the best all-around RB talent in the draft. He has the highest long-term potential of any rookie as a player but may not get there til late in the season or next year. He’s also a bad human being who cold-cocked a woman. You can decide for yourself how that affects your draft strategy.
The Browns made a lot of good moves in the draft, acquiring a lot of picks and taking some calculated high-upside gambles. They’ll be better off in the long run for it, but they’re still going to be bad in 2017. Don’t expect much production from rookie TE David Njoku. The opportunity is there but he’s raw and tight ends almost never produce valuable numbers as rookies. DeShone Kizer has some long-shot Cam Newton potential as a QB with his running ability, if you’re in a 2QB league and want to stash him. The real winners here are Isaiah Crowell and Corey Coleman. Crowell looks like a great 4th round RB especially if you go WR-heavy early while Coleman will be a high-upside pick in the 7th or 8th.
The Cowboys added some impact players defensively, but their offense returns intact. Ezekiel Elliott will continue to be a top-5 pick.
The Broncos added offensive line help for C.J. Anderson, who looks like the safest bet on a team in transition. You have to figure Denver moves its offense over to last year’s first round pick Paxton Lynch at some point in 2017, which could hurt the receivers a bit. WR Carlos Henderson could benefit long-term by building an early rapport on the practice squad with Lynch, which could make him more of a favored target down the road.
Detroit focused on its defense in the draft so the offense remains intact. All of Stafford, Tate, Jones, and Abdullah look like good high-upside picks at their current ADPs. People seem to forget this was a playoff team last year.
4th round rookie Jamaal Williams is a similar player to James Starks, but that’s not really a compliment. He’s not a super dynamic runner and doesn’t add much to the passing game. However Green Bay cut Christine Michael after the draft so he’s the only traditional Packers runner for now, and there’s certainly value in opportunity on a high-powered offense. Ty Montgomery will likely lead the way, which is another way of saying you should lock in Aaron Rodgers as the top QB in fantasy drafts. Montgomery will get 8–10 carries and 2–4 catches a game without many goal line carries. You’re probably not going to want to rely on a Packers RB in 2017.
The Texans will turn the offense over to QB Deshaun Watson sooner than later, and he genuinely can’t be much worse than Osweiler last season. Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins have as much upside as they did a year ago but come a round or two cheaper. If Watson is decent, they should be good picks. If he’s good, this could be the second best team. One sleeper to keep an eye on is TE C.J. Fiedorowicz. Rookie QBs love to check down to their tight end, and Fiedorowicz quietly became a go-to player down the stretch. Don’t expect D’Onta Foreman to do too much unless Lamar Miller goes down — Houston tends to feed their main runner.
The Colts focused on their defense, which leaves them with a really weak offensive line. Andrew Luck is the only one keeping Indianapolis from a full rebuild, so put a caution flag next to Indy with that weak OL protecting him. RB Marlon Mack could have a chance to play if Gore finally blows a tire this year. He’s a long-term stash.
The Jaguars invested heavily into their rushing attack in the draft, and fantasy owners surely took notice. They’ve improved their OL significantly in free agency and the draft, and #4 pick RB Leonard Fournette is ready to roll. He should see 15–20 carries a game, most touches of any rookie. He won’t do much in the passing game and the TDs may be sparse with Bortles, but there’s a route to 275 carries and 1100+ yards. A healthy Fournette looks like a good RB2, but he’s definitely not Ezekiel Elliott — he’s not as rounded and doesn’t have the same weapons or OL, so don’t even go there. He is a nice 4th round gamble but could sneak into the 2nd by draft time, probably too high.
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The Chiefs mortgaged their future on QB Patrick Mahomes, but he’s unlikely to play much in 2017. Rookie RB Kareem Hunt is an all-around talent, so he should be in the mix for touches early with Ware and West. The Chiefs tend to ride the hot hand and give most of the touches to a lead RB. That will be Ware to start the season but don’t be surprised if it’s Hunt by the end of the year.
The Chargers added a pair of behemoth guards that should upgrade a shaky OL, and that stabilizes Melvin Gordon as a good first pick in drafts. His YPC has been lacking, but an improved line makes him a candidate for RB1 if things shake out right. Mike Williams may have the most upside of any rookie receiver. Keenan Allen is the clear go-to guy if healthy, while T.Williams, Benjamin, Gates, and Henry are in the mix too. But this crew never stays healthy, and Williams adds size none of the other WRs bring. It’s tough to see him being reliable early but he might be the top rookie WR in dynasty.
The Rams sure tried to add some weapons for Jared Goff. Cooper Kupp out of EWU has a shot to develop into a top target, though it’s hard to see him or fellow rookie WR Josh Reynolds showing any fantasy value this season. Sam Rogers at fullback may help the run game a bit, but you should still be scared about Todd Gurley. You won’t touch another Ram on draft day and there’s just not a lot of hope for this offense this season. One name to watch down the line is rookie TE Gerald Everett. He could get a Jordan Reed role as a receiving-only TE, though it’s hard to see him get there as a rookie.
The Dolphins drafted for defense and added a nice run-blocking guard. The line still isn’t great, but it’s full speed ahead on the Jay Ajayi bandwagon.
Get excited about Dalvin Cook. The Vikings added the best all-around back in the draft and there’s a clear route to playing time. The team didn’t invest a ton into Latavius Murray, whose upright running style was going to struggle behind this awful OL. The line was also upgraded some in the draft, and Cook was second in the NCAA in yards after contact and first in missed tackles. He should see 200+ carries and a few catches a game and can break a long run on any carry. Cook should become a reliable RB2 by midseason, and there’s upside for more if the offense clicks.
The Patriots already had their draft before this weekend, trading their top picks for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy. Cooks is the most talented WR Brady has had since Randy Moss, in case you needed a reason to draft him.
The Saints added Alvin Kamara to an already crowded backfield, but don’t write him off too quickly. The Saints loved him in workouts, and he found the perfect team as he’s excellent out of the backfield. Kamara isn’t really fighting Ingram or Peterson for a role, but rather filling the Darren Sproles spot. He should get 50+ catches, maybe upwards toward 70–80 if everything breaks right, so there’s some real PPR value here.
Mark Ingram’s value is buried at this point. Peterson will steal carries and goal line touches, and Kamara will take away a lot of his catches. Ingram was a 2nd round pick a week ago. Now he’s a low-upside RB2. The Saints didn’t draft anyone to replace Brandin Cooks, so Michael Thomas could see his value climb into the top-15 by draft day.
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TE Evan Engram was an odd pick for the Giants, maybe a panic pick after narrowly missing out on O.J. Howard. Engram is not nearly as good as Howard, more of a receiver than a tight end, and that could give him a steeper than usual learning curve. Wayne Gallman could be a name to keep an eye on at RB. He’s the best pure runner on the Giants roster. Everyone keeps waiting for Paul Perkins to break out, but Gallman could be the lead runner by the second half of the season and he has high TD potential as well.
The Jets offense is a dumpster fire, and picking a couple safeties early in the draft won’t change that. Jordan Leggett could have some long term potential in an offense under new coordinator John Morton who featured the TE a lot in New Orleans. Elijah McGuire is a good receiving RB who would have a higher ceiling if Forte and Powell didn’t share the same skill set. ArDarius Stewart should contend as a slot receiver. None of these guys are worth drafting for 2017 unless you’re stashing deep in a dynasty.
The Raiders didn’t add any players at the skill position, focusing on defense and OL depth. Get ready for the Marshawn Lynch hype machine!
Donnel Pumphrey is the sort of smallish RB you’d ignore most places but Philly loves their scat backs and this is a wide open backfield. He could have some longer-term value as a possible Sproles replacement, though he’s a decent runner too. For now, Ryan Mathews keeps the lead RB job and looks like a decent late value.
Hometown guy James Conner is a great story, a cancer survivor who should be LeVeon Bell’s main backup. That’s usually good for a couple RB1 games a season and upside for more in this attack. Pittsburgh also added JuJu Smith-Schuster, who will contend with four or five other boom-or-bust guys to clean up Antonio Brown’s scraps. Neither he nor QB Joshua Dobbs appears to have much immediate value, mostly as long-term replacements.
The 49ers focused on defense early. C.J. Beathard looks like a long-term pet project at QB, and TE George Kittle will play but mostly as a blocker. Joe Williams could have some appeal behind Carlos Hyde, but the 49ers also signed Tim Hightower this offseason so he’s likely buried for now.
The Seahawks added Pocic to improve their line so that should help whichever one of Thomas Rawls or Eddie Lacy gets the lead carries, but the line is still poor so that could hold Seattle back again.
The Bucs really rounded out their offense in the draft. O.J. Howard looks like a future stud at TE, but rookie tight ends almost never produce fantasy-worthy numbers. He’s a stash and hold or a guy to watch down the line, but he has top-3 TE potential. For now he kills Cameron Brate’s TE1 appeal. Chris Goodwin doesn’t have too much immediate appeal but he could be the long-term answer next to Mike Evans. The big winner was Jameis Winston. He’s got a lot of weapons now and looks ready to make the leap, a perfect QBBC candidate if you wait.
The Titans made one of the shock early picks taking WR Corey Davis fifth overall. Davis had a great career but did most of his damage in the MAC and struggled against more athletic competition. He’s going to get some hype in rookie drafts, but the Titans haven’t even had a 1000-yard WR since 2013. The upside here is limited as the lead WR in a run-heavy offense, though you’re hoping he becomes Mariota’s go-to guy. Davis is not Julio Jones or A.J. Green; be careful what you invest. Third round WR Taywan Taylor could have almost as much upside but he’s only a stash for now. Jonnu Smith is more of an H-back than a TE. He’s not on the fantasy radar.
The Redskins spent the draft trying to trade Matt Jones after drafting RB Samaje Perine. That’s good news for Perine, and even better for Fat Robb Kelley. Perine broke the single-game rushing record and put up monster numbers splitting time with Joe Mixon. He’s a pitbull runner so he’s ready to step in if Robb Kelley falters, though Kelley should settle in as a nice RB2 for now. Chris Thompson will keep his role as the receiving back.
1. RB Leonard Fournette JAX
2. RB Dalvin Cook MIN
3. RB Joe Mixon CIN
4. RB Christian McCaffrey CAR (up a spot or two in PPR)
5. WR Mike Williams SD
6. RB Kareem Hunt KC
7. TE O.J. Howard TB
8. WR Corey Davis TEN
9. RB Alvin Kamara NO (up a few spots in PPR)
10. RB James Conner PIT
11. RB Jamaal Williams GB
12. RB Wayne Gallman NYG
Also receiving votes: WR Zay Jones BUF, RB Samaje Perine WAS, WR John Ross CIN, RB/WR Curtis Samuel CAR, QB Deshaun Watson HOU