By: Nate Leer
This year’s NFL draft was a deep one and that is reflected in the number fantasy prospects who are entering the league. It also impacts a number of current NFL players by improving the talent around them and/or increasing their opportunities due to competition for touches NOT being drafted. As we will see below, several decent to very good QBs got receiving help as opposed to RBs who could cut into their passing attempts. Young, stud RBs can shift the balance of an O by demanding the ball and making plays. Fortunately for us fantasy football players, the many of the top WRs and TEs (and a great receiving RB) went to teams with good QBs and the top runners went to teams who are likely to feed them the ball. I for one can’t wait to see these rooks suit up in September!
Here’s 10 impact fantasy football players who were helped most by what team drafted them and/or by players their team drafted:
1. Philip Rivers – QB – SD: Rivers is the most accomplished fantasy QB who got significant help from the draft. Getting big WR Mike Williams gives the San Diego O another great option who could actually help the players around him including recovering WR Keenan Allen as well as TEs Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry.
2. Marcus Mariota – QB – Ten: WR Corey Davis adds needed size, speed and skill to Mariota’s group of targets. The Titans also added 2 pass catchers in the 2nd round and OL depth late. All of that offensive talent should help Mariota progress into a borderline elite QB.
3. Christian McCaffrey – RB – Car: McCaffrey landed in an ideal home. He will not be the focal point for Ds (QB Cam Newton) or have to be a power back (Jonathan Stewart) but can put his elite receiving and edge rushing skills to use. Plus the Panthers have downfield threats to pull Ds away from the line of scrimmage and they invested in the OL in free agency as well as the draft. Don’t be surprised if he puts up over 1500 yards from scrimmage plus double digit TDs.
4. Jameis Winston – QB – TB: The Bucs gave Winston another excellent receiving TE (OJ Howard) as well as another WR. Along with the signing of deep threat DeSean Jackson and resigning of emerging TE Cameron Brate, Winston now has a good looking receiving corps. Plus they did not invest early in a RB which could means more passes.
5. Mike Williams – WR – SD: Williams ends up with the best passer of any of the top rookie WRs. That alone makes him a possible breakout rookie WR. He becomes the most physically talented pass catcher on the team but there are other excellent options to keep Ds occupied including HOF TE Antonio Gates and recovering WR Keenan Allen.
6. Eli Manning – QB – NYG: I am a huge fan of 1st round TE Evan Engram and think he could have fantasy value right away. That means Eli is throwing him the ball. Engram and free agent signee WR Brandon Marshall add much needed balance to the Giants passing game. They also did not upgrade the RB sitch in the draft or free agency so that means more throws for Eli. He has become an excellent late round sleeper to platoon at QB.
7. Leonard Fournette – RB – Jac: Fournette looks like a high risk/high reward RB heading into 2017 fantasy drafts. He could be an elite NFL runner in a well balanced lineup making him an immediate stud or an overrated talent with a crap QB making a bad pick for where he will get drafted. Very possibly it will be somewhere in between those extremes and/or a different combination. He could be the type of back who excels when given running lanes but can’t create as much as expected. If QB Blake Bortles can regain some efficiency, the Jags have good WRs to take the pressure off of Fournette. This setup could lead to fantasy gold across the board or the Jags could underachieve and generate a bunch of fantasy duds.
8. DeAndre Hopkins – WR – Hou: Hopkins gets a QB who I think should have been the #1 or #2 pick in the draft in Deshaun Watson. If head coach Bill O’Brien can meld what Watson does well with his O, there could be immediate dividends for Hopkins and maybe other Texans skill players. It seems highly unlikely that Watson is worse than the QBs flinging it around last year which means better opportunities for Hopkins..
9. Jamal Charles – RB – Den: Charles benefitted retroactively from the Broncos drafting mauling OL Garett Bolles and NOT drafting a RB until late. The Broncos backfield is still crowded but Charles is by far the most accomplished of the group and could get first shot at carries and targets out of the backfield.
10. Gary Barnidge – TE – FA: He gets out of Cleveland!
Losers: Joe Flacco – QB – Bal, Latavius Murray – RB – Min, Mark Ingram – RB – NO, All Bears players & coaches & fans.