2019 NFL Draft: Winners And Losers For Fantasy Football
Someone always has to lose. If a rookie running back finds himself in a perfect spot for three-down work, that means that a veteran running back just got relegated to the bench. If a rebuilding team selects a young quarterback over a steady veteran, that teams’ wide receivers have to take a tumble in fantasy football projections. The 2019 NFL Draft shook up the fantasy football landscape to a pretty meaningful degree. We had first-round running backs, teams selecting three wide receivers, two first-round tight ends, a quarterback trade, and other purposeful transactions.
Fantasy Football Winners From The 2019 NFL Draft
David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
The 2018 Arizona Cardinals offense was one of the worst we’ve seen in the modern NFL. They were dead last in the league in points scored (225), dead last in the league in yards per play (4.3) and contributed -155.06 expected points. To compare that, the Buffalo Bills were the 31st worst offense and had -104.81 expected points. In 2018, the Cardinals were almost 50% worse than the second-worst team!
That will not be the case in 2019. Arizona added not only number one overall pick Kyler Murray (who had the best college football QB season of all time) but wide receivers Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, KeeSean Johnson, and tight end Caleb Wilson. Isabella and Butler are personal favorites of mine and they should raise the floor of the Cardinals passing game right away. While these rookies might not be playing perfect football from Week One (only 47 rookies played over 600 snaps in 2018 and only 15 had PFF grades over 70) the on-field product is going to be more dynamic than when Trent Sherfield was the Cardinals third wide receiver. David Johnson will have more running lanes, more opportunities to catch the ball and space and longer, sustained drives. He’s firmly back in the first round for me at this point.
Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
No matter how many times Lamar Miller is attempted to be buried by the fantasy football community, he continues to exist almost without competition. Despite an underwhelming draft class, most analysts expected that the Texans would walk away from the 2019 NFL Draft with at least one running back to compete with Miller. Instead, Houston took about 17 developmental offensive linemen (numbers might be exaggerated for effect) and didn’t select any backfield player until they found a fullback in the seventh round.
There were several UDFA running backs who I think could have had a realistic chance of making the Texans roster and challenging Miller, but Karan Higdon is not that guy. As it stands now, Miller projects to have a better offensive line in 2019 than in 2018 (thanks to all the developmental picks!) and less competition now that Alfred Blue has flown the coop. No way around it, we have another year of 200+ touches for Miller.
Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs
Simply put, everyone who said that the Chiefs were going to add competition for Damien Williams in the draft is wrong. Darwin Thompson, from Utah State, was a non-combine invitee who stands 5’8″, 200 pounds. There will be those who tell you that is Thompson is #good (and maybe he is) and that he is poised to take over Williams’ job. That is unlikely for the same reason that it is always unlikely. Good, veteran teams do not shake up the depth chart of unimportant positions simply for the sake of doing it. If Thompson is truly The Next Big Thing, then he could see solid work as a change of pace back for Williams but as the team heads into 2019, Damien Williams is the clear lead back for one of the five best offenses in football.
Joe Flacco/Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
Whoever starts the season for the Broncos (operating under the assumption that it is Flacco), they will have one of the more unique cadres of offensive talent to work with in 2019. A team that already had Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton as their young, developing wide receivers added super stud Noah Fant at tight end. The pass-catching group of Sutton, Hamilton, Manny Sanders, Noah Fant, and Phillip Lindsay is one of the better overall groups in terms of talent and the sinking ships of Flacco/Lock will be buoyed by the rising tide of this young, athletic group.
Marquez Valdez-Scantling, Green Bay Packers
How the Packers left the 2019 NFL Draft without selecting even one wide receiver is legitimately befuddling. Aaron Rodgers is coming off the worst season of his career, marred with injury and ineffectiveness and yet the team is going to run back the same offensive group from that horror season. MVS was the best of the rookie trio that Green Bay drafted last season and with no Randall Cobb, Valdez-Scantling projects for a very healthy dose of targets and could even end as a WR3 in terms of average draft position as we get nearer to the season.
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Fantasy Football Losers From The 2019 NFL Draft
Sony Michel, New England Patriots
Damien Harris wasn’t one of the most explosive or uber-talented running backs in the 2019 NFL Draft class but he was the most Patriots running back. Harris is good in pass protection, has played in big games his entire NCAA football career, was a decent pass-catcher compared to others in the class and in general, fits the athletic testing criteria we often see in Patriots running backs. Harris can fill in for the Burkhead and Sony Michel roles with relative ease and I expect that we are going to see one of the all-time ugly splits for the Patriots running backs in 2019 with four players all receiving meaningful touches.
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
It could be pretty close to over for the Todd Gurley-era in Los Angeles. The veteran running back with consistent knee troubles now has extra competition in third-round draft pick Darrell Henderson. #DraftTwitter has been caping for John Kelly for the last two seasons and with Gurley’s benching in the Super Bowl and NFC Championship game, many thought it would be Kelly’s time. The selection of Henderson as high as he went basically suggests that the Rams had a second-round grade on him. That sort of talent evaluation likely means that we will be seeing less Gurley and more Henderson sooner rather than later. I have not drafted Gurley on a single best-ball team and it is likely that I won’t for many months until his ADP corrects.
Taylor Gabriel, Chicago Bears
I was fairly high on Taylor Gabriel when we here at RotoExperts started doing our team-level down projections but that is not likely to continue. Despite my thinking that Riley Ridley is very bad at football (and he is), the fact that the team added him and Emanuel Hall in undrafted free agency portends bad things for Gabriel. In 2018, Gabriel filled a very specific role as the ‘move’ and misdirection player for the Bears but with Ridley/Hall as real threats for playing time, I don’t think Gabriel’s projectable market share will make him an FF relevant player.