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2017 NFL Draft Analysis: Fantasy Football Values

Jake Ciely Senior Writer April 29, 2017 11:00AM EDT
Keep this page bookmarked, or just keep it open and follow along throughout the NFL Draft. As each skill player is drafted, I’ll be updating their Fantasy Football value and impact here. If you want to read up on the pre-draft breakdowns, check out QBs + RBs and WRs + TEs via the links.

Celebrate! The 2017 NFL Draft is here! And for Rounds 1-3, each pick will have an update within minutes.

Leonard Williams stops by to talk Jets NFL Draft and his favorite part of the NFL.

Don’t forget: once NFL Draft weekend is over, I’ll have draft grades from a Fantasy Football angle for all 32 teams, and I’ll be releasing my updated (and still too early) 2017 Fantasy Football rankings.

Listen below for the call-in/audio version of many of the NFL Draft first round picks.

2017 NFL Draft First Round

Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky, QB – First surprise, and it’s a doozy. Bears gave up a bunch to move up one spot and grab their quarterback of the future. As mentioned in the pre-draft write-up, Trubisky only has one year starting in college and ideally needs a year to develop. I would expect Mike Glennon to be the Bears starting quarterback in 2017 with Trubisky learning behind him. Obviously, that means Trubisky isn’t draft worthy in redraft leagues. For dynasty and keeper leagues, Trubisky has a high ceiling with his mobility, athletic ability and a NFL arm. He also has high bust potential. Trubisky could become a QB1 in Fantasy with the right development and work on his mechanics or he could bust and never be worthy of a roster spot.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB – Despite my disdain for taking a running back while being another year from truly contending, the Jaguars jump in and take Fournette. Only Joe Mixon ranked higher on my list given Fournette’s amazing combination of size and speed. People also fail to realize that Fournette is a solid pass-catcher and a great blocker, giving him the ability to be a three-down running back. There are questions around Blake Bortles as the franchise quarterback, but when it comes to Fantasy Football, Bortles and this offense is valuable. In fact, this points to the talk about taking the load off Bortles. Fournette can easily match Jordan Howard’s rookie campaign, which makes him a Top 10 option in redraft and a second round pick.

Tennessee Titans: Corey Davis, WR – LOVE this pick. Marcus Mariota was inside my Top 5 for way too early rankings, and he’s staying there. Davis was my No. 1 rated receiver, and when I say he looks like Terrell Owens, that’s not hyperbole. Davis has the NFL body, athleticism, route running skills and moves to succeed Day 1. Davis will challenge Rishard Matthews as the team’s No. 1 option, even as a rookie. Matthews finished as the 13th best receiver despite seeing limited work to start the year. Davis is my 1.01 pick in dynasty and a high-end WR3 in redraft. Seeing him 100 percent healthy and acclimating to the offense this offseason will push Davis into the mid-low WR2 range. He’s the real deal.

Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams, WR – Annnnddd… don’t love this pick. I am a big fan of Williams and think he was being overly criticized heading into the draft, but how many receivers do the Chargers need? If Keenan Allen is healthy (yes, big if), Williams will step in to battle and likely overtake Tyrell Williams for the No. 2 role. But Tyrell isn’t going to completely fade away, and then you still have Travis Benjamin and Antonio Gates. Philip Rivers threw 662 passes two years ago with 570 and 578 the year before and after. Still, the ol’ cliche of only one ball to go around applies here. Williams has a great NFL body, and while there are concerns with his separation ability, especially downfield, he outplays defenders regularly. Williams will likely see 60-70 targets as a rookie, and that caps his upside. Williams is a fringe WR3/4 that carries value because of his touchdown upside over his volume of targets.

Instant, live reaction to Mike Willams.

Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB – McCaffrey is underrated if you can believe it. Similar to David Johnson when he came out and people over-emphasizing his receiving ability, McCaffrey’s between the tackle power and elusiveness gets overlooked. He will step in and be the Panthers best running back as a rookie with Jonathan Stewart relegated to backup work. He truly has three-down ability with the vision and explosiveness to be a solid RB2 as a rookie. That assumes McCaffrey sees lead-role work, but that’s a safe assumption with the draft cost the Panthers are making here.

Cincinnati Bengals: John Ross, WR – Ross has speed, and then some, and then a bit more. Ross has some concerns with injuries and size, but he can fly. It’s that speed that helps him separate and overcome more powerful corners. Ross is also a terrific ball tracker, which helps that big-play ability. This isn’t the best landing spot for Fantasy Football purposes though, as A.J. Green gobbles up this offense’s targets. Ross is more intriguing for DFS and those with a solid receiver core looking for that boom/bust, DeSean Jackson-like weekly production. Ross is a WR4, who can finish higher with end-year numbers but weekly inconsistency.

Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes, QB – This is a draft and develop pick. Mahomes has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this draft, but he’s not ready to start, which is why this makes sense for the Chiefs having him sit behind Alex Smith. Mahomes has major mechanical issues, but he has everything you want in a NFL quarterback with the body, arm, athleticism, you name it… just not the mechanical fundamentals. Andy Reid and the Chiefs can help him more than most teams, which makes him an intriguing dynasty stash, but he’s off the board for redraft.

Pat Mahomes live Fantasy Football analysis.

Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, QB – The Texans have their quarterback. Watson is headed to Houston to man a playoff team with one of the best RB-WR combinations in the league. Watson is similar to Jameis Winston positively and negatively. Watson is inconsistent and inaccurate, struggling with read progression. However, Winston was a Top 15 quarterback as a rookie with Mike Evans, and Watson can be with DeAndre Hopkins, especially with his rushing ability. Watson is a mid-high QB2 with the potential to near QB1 value if Bill O’Brien and the Texans coaches can improve Watson’s inconsistencies.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: O.J. Howard, TE – Great for Jameis Winston, not so much for Cameron Brate. Howard is the most complete tight end in the draft, but there are question about his receiving upside after limited opportunities in college. Howard has a freak build and great athleticism, can overpower defenders and out-run linebackers. Simply put, a linebacker cannot defend him alone. Tight ends are notoriously slow to provide rookie value, and Brate showed he has value in the passing game. While this hurts Brate’s value, it also caps Howard’s value to a degree as a rookie, especially with Mike Evans dominating the red zone. Howard is a TE2, but he could find TE1 value in the second half or if Brate were to miss time. As for Winston, he was QB11 last year and is locked into QB1 value.

New York Giants: Evan Engram, TE – Engram has question as a blocker, but when it comes to the passing game, he’s among the best. He does need work in route running and separation, but he can line up wide and is already a quality receiver. As mentioned with Howard, tight ends rarely make a Fantasy impact as a rookie, but Engram has the potential to hit low-end TE1 status in a high-powered offense, as the Giants look to give Eli Manning one more shot at a title. Brandon Marshall is going to command a lot of red zone looks though with Odell Beckham being Odell Beckham. Engram might have the TE1 total at year’s end but have weekly inconsistency similar to John Ross at receiver.

Fantasy Football impact of Evan Engram pick.

Cleveland Browns: David Njoku, TE – We only care about Fantasy here, so we’re not to concerned with Njoku lacking in pass blocking. Njoku has a terrific build and the speed to create matchup problems, as linebackers struggle to keep up. He made big plays at Miami and makes tough catches, thanks in part to his large hands. He draws some similarities to Quincy Enunwa. The Browns have quarterback questions and Gary Barnidge still in the mix, but Njoku is looks to have TE1 potential in year two.

Update: NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that the Browns have released Barnidge. This is an obvious boost to Njoku’s value, but we still have the quarterback issue in Cleveland. Njoku is now a high-end TE2, as Barnidge finished as TE20 even with the quarterback issues last year. As with Evan Engram though, it will be a roller coaster ride.

2017 NFL Draft Second Round

Buffalo Bills: Zay Jones, WR – The Bills have long needed a quality No. 2 receiver, and they found their solution in Jones. If you want a possession type receiver, look no further. Jones left ECU as the FBS career leader in receptions and adjusts well to the ball. On the down side, Jones doesn’t run many deep routes and could improve on his comebacks. The other problem is that it’s the Bills, and Tyrod Taylor attempted just 437 passes in 15 games last year. Jones will have more value in PPR leagues, but even in said format, Jones will struggle to reach WR4 value in the Bills offense.

Carolina Panthers: Curtis Samuel, WR – This is with the assumption that many are making where Samuel moves to wide receiver in the NFL. As such, he is elusive with the ability to get back up to speed quickly from stops and breaks. Samuel adjusts well to his quarterback and finds space well, but he does need to develop more. With Ted Ginn gone, Samuel gives Cam Newton a more dynamic option than the big-bodied Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. He’s a bench option in Fantasy Football though with some DFS appeal in the right matchups. With the McCaffrey and Samuel additions, Newton looks primed for a big bounceback year.

Minnesota Vikings: Dalvin Cook, RB – Great value for the Vikings, and they found their running back of the future… yes, despite the Latavius Murray signing. Cook was one of the best running backs in college for years with great change of direction ability, the IQ to set up defenders or know where to go to elude them, strength between the tackles and solid pass catching ability. Look for Cook to split time with Murray immediately and surpass him before long. Cook is a high mid-round pick with the upside for fringe RB1 value if he pushes Murray aside completely. I’d draft Cook before Murray given Murray being a volume runner and that likelihood that he loses the lead job.

Los Angeles Rams: Gerald Everett, TE – Just like most of the tight ends to this point, calling Everett a tight end isn’t accurate. He’s more of a wide receiver with good athleticism and strong body. Everett isn’t a high quality blocker, but he’s a dangerous seam weapon with power and after the catch movies. Everett fits the description of a Fantasy tight end with impact coming in his second season and not as a rookie, when you consider Jared Goff is at quarterback and Tyler Higbee coming into his second season at tight end. That said, Everett won’t line up at the typical tight end spot most of the time, allowing both he and Higbee to be on the field together… but again… Goff.

Chicago Bears: Adam Shaheen, TE – Shaheen didn’t make the Top 5 tight end cutoff, and for redraft purposes, you don’t need to be too concerned. A healthy Zach Miller means Shaheen won’t see much value, but he’s an intriguing dynasty pick alongside Everett value wise with a likely better quarterback situation.

Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Mixon, RB – As a pure player, Mixon is the most talented running back in the draft, and he will lead the Bengals backfield right away. Obviously, Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill are still in the mix, so would could see a committee with Mixon leading the way. As for Mixon, he has a NFL build, some of the best acceleration and quickness with a class-leading lateral ability. With the depth of this backfield, Mixon is behind Fournette in the rankings. However, there was talk about the Bengals souring on Hill completely, and Bernard has injury concerns. I would bet on Mixon being the lead and commanding the majority of work before long. He’s a RB2 with RB1 upside in this offense.

Cleveland Browns: DeShone Kizer, QB – The Browns get their quarterback, and while I would have waited until next year for Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold, we have to break down the situation at hand. Kizer has the dual-threat ability to provide Fantasy Football value with the size and body for the NFL. Kizer is good on the move and outside the pocket, keeping his eyes downfield and is among the best at hitting the small windows. However, Kizer makes plenty of poor decisions, is slow in progressions and finding open receivers with too many risky throws. Kizer has the skills, especially for Fantasy, but he needs refinement. If he’s starting Week 1, Kizer is a mid-level QB2 with the rushing numbers. Kenny Britt would be a WR3 with Kizer (was WR24 with Goff!) and Corey Coleman a WR4/5. Smart money is on Kizer not starting until 2018 though, and with Cody Kessler, the values of Britt, etc. don’t change much.

Pittsburgh Steelers: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR – JJSS has good acceleration and smooth movement that lets him slip past defenders. Smith-Schuster also has good hands the body to break tackles after the catch. I wouldn’t expect much from Smith-Schuster as a rookie assuming Martavis Bryant is back to his old self and on the field. You have a pecking order of Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Bryant before you even get to JJSS and Eli Rogers. On the positive side of things, Smith-Schuster can learn and develop with a great team and coaching staff, giving him solid dynasty value. This likely ensures that Sammie Coates is on another team in 2017.

2017 NFL Draft Third Round

New Orleans Saints: Alvin Kamara, RB – The Saints traded up with a 2018 second rounder to make this pick, so this tells you their valuing of Kamara. Mark Ingram has been a solid pass catcher, but we know how much Sean Payton loves having a pass-catching specialist. Adrian Peterson isn’t going to be involved in the passing game, but Kamara was overrated by many. He looks for the big play too often and has narrow vision, but the Saints will help offset that by getting him in space. He has great acceleration and good elusiveness. Think of this like the old Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles mix with everyone seeing touches. Ingram takes a bit more of a hit now, moving him to the low-end RB2/RB3 conversation with Peterson a RB3/4 and lower in PPR and Kamara as a RB4 but potential high-end RB3 in PPR. As you can tell though, you might want to stay away.

Los Angeles Rams: Cooper Kupp, WR – Many people weren’t as high on Kupp as I was, and I understand that he may be best served out of the slot, but I believe he has more upside than that. Kupp succeeds against man and zone coverage with a high level ability to find space in defenses. Kupp also has some of the best hands in the draft. Of course, we come back to Goff being his quarterback. Kupp should slide in as the team’s No. 2 option alongside Robert Woods and could lead the team in receptions, but this offense will limit his potential. Kupp has more upside in PPR, but with Goff, Kupp is a bench option for bye weeks and DFS.

Tennessee Titans: Taywan Taylor, WR – Bit of a reach in my opinion, but Taylor is quick, has the speed to get behind defenders and is a solid route runner. He can still improve there as well as with his footwork, and strong defenders can jam him. Taylor can be a solid deep-play threat at worst though, but as a rookie, he’ll have little value behind Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker.

New York Jets: ArDarius Stewart, WR – Great value for the Jets. Stewart gets up to speed better than most and uses his size to its max. Stewart succeeds against man and zone with top-end route running with quality adjustments to the pass. Stewart can be effective deep or in the slot as a rookie, even with the Jets questionable offense. Eric Decker is the top option (if healthy) with Enunwa being that WR/TE hybrid. Stewart can be a starter/in the mix in Week 1 and have deep league value with Josh McCown at quarterback.

Denver Broncos: Carlos Henderson, WR – Many shy away from liking Henderson due to his size (5’11”, 199) but how did that work out for Odell Beckham? NO! He’s not OBJ, but Henderson has great speed, can shake physical corners and even break tackles despite his size. Henderson has a nice set of moves before and after the catch. While he needs some route running work, Henderson can eventually replace Emmanuel Sanders. In redraft, he’s off the board, but you need to know the name for dynasty.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chris Godwin, WR – While I wish it was a better landing spot for one of my favorite underrated receivers, we can deal with this because DeSean Jackson won’t last much longer, and he’s played 16 games just twice in his career. Godwin can beat press coverage due to excellent route running and has the speed to get behind defenders. Godwin wins contested balls with great body control and is elusive. Godwin is a deep stash, but he would have WR4 value with upside for more if/when DJax misses time.

Kansas City Chiefs: Kareem Hunt, RB – Hunt’s landing spot will push him much higher in my post-draft rankings compared to pre-draft. Hunt does everything well but isn’t amazing at anything. I compared him to Frank Gore, but to be fair, Gore has put together a great career and RB1 seasons. Hunt is patient with good cuts and is a solid pass catcher. With Spencer Ware looking like a flash in the pan and Jamaal Charles gone, Hunt can be the Chiefs new lead option. Ware and Hunt will likely share the touches to start, but I give the edge to Hunt, and if he sees the majority share, Hunt will be a solid RB2. Consider him more of a RB3… for now, though.

New York Giants: Davis Webb, QB – No Fantasy Football value outside of a mid-dynasty pick. Giants looking for a potential Eli Manning successor.

Houston Texans: D’Onta Foreman, RB – Foreman is a power running back, plain and simple. He doesn’t go down easy and blasts through arm tackles with a great low center of gravity. Foreman also has the vision to let blocks develop and make cuts, and he’ll wear down defenses as his touches increase. Foreman needs to keep his weight and check, isn’t very elusive and won’t contribute in the passing game. Don’t dismiss him as a pure backup, as Lamar Miller hasn’t turned into the top-end player the Texans thought they might get. Foreman could end up carving out a shared load as the power option with Miller. Draft Foreman late and stash for his potential, especially if Miller ever missed time.

Detroit Lions: Kenny Golladay, WR – Great size/speed combo, good metrics, but a draft and develop receiver that body catches a bit much. Dynasty pick only.

Arizona Cardinals: Chad Williams, WR – Good size, great speed, sluggish footwork, needs route development and there are concerns about his level of competition. Dynasty pick.

Tennessee Titans: Jonnu Smith, TE – Many, myself included, thought that the Titans would go O.J. Howard in the first round, but they end up adding a tight end on Day 2. It’s funny because some have said he profiles similarly to Delanie Walker. Smith has great speed before and after the catch, but he’s actually a better blocker than most of the tight ends drafted so far, not named Howard. Draft in dynasty and don’t forget his name for 2018.

Pittsburgh Steelers: James Connor, RB – Terrific/inspirational story. Connor is another power running back with decent speed and vision. However, he struggles at the second level with the more powerful linebackers and lacks the speed to beat the quicker backers and outrun the secondary. He’s a no nonsense runner with more determination than most (not surprising given his story) and is a smart pick in the mid-late rounds given Le’Veon Bell‘s history of missed games.

Seattle Seahawks: Amara Darboh, WR – Enviable athleticism and a NFL body, but he hasn’t maximized those traits. Darboh is inconsistent catching the ball with too many drops, and it’s frustrating given his potential. He need route work (wastes movement), and is a developmental pick. High ceiling that is worth reaching for in dynasty, especially with a team that can coach him up like the Seahawks.

2017 NFL Draft Rounds 4-7

Jacksonville Jaguars: Dede Westbrook, WR – I like that the Jaguars grabbed another wide receiver given Allen Hurns‘ inconsistency and that Marqise Lee played better, but still hasn’t fully capitalized on his talent. Westbrook is lean, using his speed and intelligence to find space in the defense. He has nice moves, but Westbrook could struggle with strong corners. Westbrook is a nice draft and develop receiver for the Jaguars that could push for a starting role in 2018.

Washington Redskins: Samaje Perine, RB – Surprising. I thought he’d be the perfect fit to complement Ty Montgomery and lead the Packers backfield, but here he is in Washington. Perine is the definition of a power back, and you rarely see him tackled solo. If he can regain his early-college speed, look out. Perine will come in and give Rob Kelley a fight for the lead role, and I’d bet on Perine as of today. Kelley won’t go away completely with a shared workload likely coming. That makes Perine a RB2/3 and Kelly a RB3/4.

Los Angeles Rams: Josh Reynolds, WR – Another pick I like in Round 4 already. The Rams need receivers for the future, even after the Robert Woods signing (you know my disdain for Tavon Austin). Kupp is a terrific possession receiver, while Reynolds is a good deep threat and plays faster than his 40 time. Reynolds also attacks the ball well, but one more time, we have to go back to the Jared Goff factor. Reynolds will push to form a nice trio of Woods, Kupp and him for this team, but this passing game isn’t going to support all three until changes are made.

San Francisco 49ers: Joe Williams, RB – We know Carlos Hyde has struggled with injuries, and we know Kyle Shanahan likes his running backs and sharing the load. Williams has some of the best speed in the draft with good initial burst and vision, but he struggles to find running lanes if they aren’t there. Williams will sometimes make too many moves instead of plowing ahead, but he can be a nice complement to Hyde. Williams a great mid-late pick too with Hyde’s history.

Philadelphia Eagles: Donnel Pumphrey, RB – We have a new Darren Sproles for the Eagles, but wait, Sproles is still here… at least for 2017. Sproles’ contract is up next year, and Pumphrey is the perfect replacement. He’s 5’9″, 176 pounds with great quickness and has lined up in the slot. Obviously, he’s only a PPR option and not until next year, unless Sproles were to get hurt.

Dallas Cowboys: Ryan Switzer, WR – If Switzer was bigger, he’d garner a lot more attention. At just 5’8″, 181 pounds, he’s going to struggle at the NFL level, but Switzer is quick, elusive and has great cuts. Switzer does lack elite speed, which hurts given his size, but he can be a nice gadget player for the Cowboys; likely no value in Fantasy. Will be dangerous in the return game though, if you play in such leagues.

Green Bay Packers: Jamaal Williams, RB – I love this kid, and I love this spot. Williams was my fifth ranked running back, and it’s because he knows what it takes to be a NFL running back. Williams has the best vision of the draft, lets holes develop or finds his own and has a terrific lower half. Williams also has high-end acceleration with that power and what I call “Madden button moves” (spin, juke, truck, stutter step). Ty Montgomery won’t go away completely, and Williams might take a few weeks to gain full control of the backfield (like Jordan Howard last year), but he will produce weekly RB1 numbers at some point of the 2017 season.

New York Giants: Wayne Gallman, RB – Gallman is an intuitive runner but sometimes relies on his instincts a bit too much, making one move too many and losing what would have been a first down or solid gain. He has a good mix of moves to evade tackles and power to break many, so if Gallman improves his intelligence, he too could be a lead option. I would expect him to split time with Paul Perkins, more as the lead with Perkins the passing down option. In a pass happy offense though, it will be hard for either running back to have consistent or startable value.

New York Jets: Chad Hansen, WR – Hansen has the speed and ability to beat defenders deep but can struggle with stronger corners. Fortunately, Hansen is a great ball tracker and works the sides of the field well. Hansen isn’t a starter out of the gate for the Jets or Fantasy, but he’s worth keeping an eye on in dyansty.

Indianapolis Colts: Marlon Mack, RB – Mack is a great athlete with the power to break tackles but is very inconsistent. The inconsistency is evident right in that power. Mack will shrug off arm tackles and push back defenders when up to speed, but he’ll also get tripped up by blitzes from the secondary and smaller defenders if they make quality contact. With Frank Gore‘s age and career work, Mack is a must-have handcuff and great late pick to stash if this happens to be the year when Gore finally breaks down completely.

Main Image Credit: Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire

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