Where the Prime Skill Position Picks May Land, and how existing performers will be affected
With the NFL Draft less than one week away, there are many highly-talented players coming out that scouts and analysts are foreseeing bright futures for. Running back Saquon Barkley out of Penn State has been graded as one of the most highly-anticipated running back prospects the NFL has ever seen. However, Barkley may not even be picked in the Top 5 because of the need for quarterbacks, along with the supply of high-quality talents the position is producing in the 2018 Draft. Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen are all projected to off the board by pick 12. Perhaps the best athlete in the draft (including Barkley), Lamar Jackson, may not be selected in the first round. On top of all of that, the running back class in 2018 is projected to rival the 2017 group, which produced many sensational rookies, including Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt.
Quarterbacks and running backs mean changing Fantasy implications going into 2018. While it is often difficult to project how studs in college will adapt to the NFL, adding a rookie to the depth chart at the running back or QB can alter a depth chart and affect the usage of a veteran on the team. This can produce negative regression or positive regression for a player. Drew Brees was the QB3 in 2016, but Kamara’s 120 carries (to go along with Mark Ingram’s 230 totes) cut his pass attempts from 673 to 536. His touchdowns suffered, along with his Fantasy owners, as that number went from a beautiful 37 touchdowns to a mid-tier 23 last season. The improvement of the Saints defense can also be attributed to the run-first approach from New Orleans, but this style of play made Ingram’s owners delighted with his output – improving from RB10 in 2016 to RB6 in 2017.
Kamara had an otherworldly year, which may explain his ability to affect one player positively and another negatively in terms of Fantasy, but rookies change the landscape of Fantasy Football every season. Being able to project these outcomes can make life a lot easier come Fantasy draft day.
Obviously, the top of the first round is going to produce a lot of impact talent at quarterback and these guys will compete for starting jobs. Cleveland has the first pick and is expected to draft a QB, but even if they do, Tyrod Taylor will most likely be the Week One starter. With the talent around him in 2018, Taylor can be a serviceable quarterback. He is a matchup-dependent streamer, and if the Browns have success early, then Taylor will most likely remain the starter.
The Browns have the first and fourth overall selections in the first round. If they elect to go Sam Darnold/Bradley Chubb, for instance, then put a red flag next to Taylor’s name as he could be eventually replaced. However, if the Browns do not pick a quarterback and they select Barkley with one of their picks, Taylor’s value would go up substantially. In this case he would be the perfect choice for a late-round QB selection in 12-team leagues. Regardless of what the Browns do in the draft, Taylor will most likely be the starter Week One against the Steelers.
The Browns’ weapons of Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry will be drafted in the second and fifth rounds in mamy re-draft leagues with Taylor as the assumed starter. With Taylor as the starter, David Njoku is a sneaky late-round tight end pick. Charles Clay was a viable option in Buffalo with Taylor throwing him the ball and Njoku is an upgrade for the QB in terms of athleticism. Carlos Hyde is being drafted in the middle rounds as of right now and he will share touches with Duke Johnson Jr. The Fantasy implications of these players would be in question if the Browns switch to a rookie at QB mid-season.
The Saquon Factor
Even though the Browns signed Hyde this offseason, they could very well pick Barkley with one of their selections. This selection would potentially boost every Fantasy-relevant player on this roster except for Johnson. Hyde would still be used and like the Saints above, could see a boost. Taylor, with no quarterback threat behind him, and the addition of Barkley, would be a borderline low-end QB1 in 2018.
Eli Manning would be the biggest beneficiary of the addition of Barkley if the Giants select him at the number two overall pick. The Giants’ running game was non-existent last year, which made things extremely difficult for the 14-year veteran, not to mention that all his receivers were injured -including Odell Beckham Jr. Manning was rarely a streaming option last season because of those factors, but a healthy receiving core AND the addition of a threat in the backfield would instantly give Manning Fantasy value once again. If the Giants draft Barkley, consider Manning a streaming option for season-long leagues with Top 12 upside.
As for the current backs in New York, Jonathan Stewart and Wayne Gallman have little Fantasy appeal right now. At this point both can be drafted, as some production has to come from the Giants’ backfield at some point.It cannot possibly be worse than their 1,933 yards rushing (26th overall) in 2017. Gallman showed flashes of talent and is worth a late-round flier, and you pretty much know what you’re getting with Stewart. If the Giants draft Barkley, Gallman would presumably be the odd man out, as Stewart can be a goal-line guy and Shane Vereen can handle passing downs when Barkley is not on the field.
The Colts could draft Barkley if he is available at six overall. which would be just what the players need to boost their Fantasy production (besides getting Andrew Luck back). If Luck is healthy, Barkley can make Luck a Top 6 QB in 2018. The threat of a gamebreaker in the backfield always benefits a deep threat and Luck would absolutely have a field day tossing lobs to T.Y. Hilton out of the play-action. A healthy Luck and Barkley obviously moves Hilton up the draft boards, but Hilton still moves up with the Colts selection of Barkley if Jacoby Brissett under center as well. Brissett works well out of the run/pass option and has the ability to get the ball downfield. Brissett is nothing more than a streaming option, however, with the addition of Barkley
Other Running Backs
The Giants could go QB at number two and take a running back at pick 34. LSU’s Derrius Guice or Sony Michel out of Georgia can certainly help Manning’s production. But both could be taken in the first round. Guice will likely be the next back off the board after Barkley and the Buccaneers (pick seven), the Seahawks (pick 18), and Lions (pick 20) all have a need for a running back. If the Buccaneers cannot get Barkley at seven, they may trade back in order to address their running back need. Guice would be fantastic for Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. Guice has three-down potential and would give Winston a serviceable option in the flat for chunk yardage. The Bucs had little success running the ball last year and Evans dropped from WR2 to WR18 in 2017. If they get Guice, or perhaps Ronald Jones II out of USC in the second round, look for things to open up for all of the Bucs’ Fantasy options.
The Seahawks may not want to pass up first-round types on the offensive line, but if their guy is not available and Guice is still on the board, Seattle could end up with a talent that Playerprofiler.com compares to Ezekiel Elliott. Chris Carson, a seventh-round pick in 2016, was by no means expected to receive the majority of the workload last season. Yet, when Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy could not be relied on, Carson was given the opportunity and made the most of it, providing Fantasy value as a waiver wire pick-up until he was injured in Week Four. Carson’s workload looks substantial right now with only Mike Davis and C.J. Prosise threatening for touches. However, if Seattle adds Guice, Carson is an afterthought in Fantasy. Prosise would still have a role as a pass-catching back, but Guice would most likely take over the majority of touches out of the backfield.
Russell Wilson’s Fantasy stock could drop with the addition of a solid running back. Wilson passed 546 times in 2016 and 553 2017 and finished as the QB11 and QB3. In 2016, he saw his rushing yards suffer because of an ankle injury, but otherwise he would have been a Top 5 quarterback. If the Seahawks do not draft a running back, Wilson has QB1 upside with a high floor, but if they draft a guy like Guice, his pass attempts could go down, which may see his overall numbers drop slightly in terms of Fantasy. He may not have a QB1 finish if Seattle adds a prime RB, and that sort of scenario would certainly make his draft stock fluctuate.
Among the WR prospects the #Cowboys have had in for top 30 pre-draft visits: #Bama WR Calvin Ridley, #Maryland WR DJ Moore, #OKState WR James Washington, and #Florida WR Antonio Callaway. Jason Garrett was also the only head coach at #SMU WR Courtland Sutton’s Pro Day.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 13, 2018
There could be up to four wide receivers selected in the first round; or there could be only one depending on the flow of the draft. Calvin Ridley is usually the name you will see at the top of draft boards at wideout. It is hard to predict the impact of rookie wide receivers as they could have little impact on their teams, but if he is selected by San Francisco at nine overall he would seemingly have an instant role in their offense. Ridley would be on the outside, which would put Pierre Garcon in the slot, a role that he would flourish in. With Ridley, Garcon goes from a borderline WR2/WR3 to a PPR monster in the slot with high upside. The pressure of being the number one receiver would be non-existent for Garcon and his role would be more desirable for Fantasy owners. Marquise Goodwin would still remain on the outside but could turn into the third or fourth option in the 49ers offense. His draft stock would go down as he would not be able to be counted on week-to-week even though the “boom” potential would still certainly exist, as he possesses breakaway speed.
Picking Ridley would give a boost to Jimmy Garoppolo. If Ridley is able to play the majority of the snaps as the X receiver, Garoppolo could have Top 10 upside. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan had a great deal of success with another former Alabama wide receiver named Julio Jones and the offensive mastermind may surprise many and take a shot at the draft’s best receiving prospect.
If Ridley is taken at nine, the draft could see a run on wide receivers in the first round. Arizona is at pick 15 and needs a receiver to not only play on the outside and complement Larry Fitzgerald in the slot, but one who will succeed the future Hall of Famer when he retires. D.J. Moore out of Maryland is a perfect fit for that role. He can play the outside and the slot and is great after the catch, skills that Sam Bradford would certainly benefit from. Fitzgerald needs to haul in the pigskin 92 times to pass Tony Gonzalez for second on the all-time list for receptions. He is a lock for getting past Gonzo out of the slot with somebody like the field-stretching Moore on the outside.
The Cowboys would have their guy Courtland Sutton out of SMU if Moore is scooped up by Arizona. At 6’3”, Sutton can provide Dak Prescott in the red zone, but that is about it. Prescott would benefit more from a guy like Moore, who has a 4.42 40-yard dash time and has the ability to turn a 10-yard slant into a 60-yard score.
Derrius Guice Featured Image: (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)