2017 NFL Draft: Winners/Losers (Round 1)
Finally, the NFL Draft is here. With an exciting Round 1 that was full of surprises in the books, it’s time to dig into how some of the newly added prospects might positively or negatively affect the fantasy value of the players around them.
Eli Manning (QB – Giants)
If you were an NFL defense, would you want to attempt to cover Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and a tight end prospect who has been compared to Jordan Reed? Didn’t think so. The Giants have struggled at tight end the last few seasons. Larry Donnell‘s production has fizzled out due to nagging injuries and Will Tye simply hasn’t cut it as a weapon over the middle. So New York snagged Ole Miss product Evan Engram with the No. 23 pick on Thursday night. At a weight of 234-pounds at the NFL Combine, Engram ran a ridiculous 4.42 40-yard dash and dominated other speed, agility, and explosive testing drills. The addition of Marshall in free agency was already a nice boost for Manning’s fantasy outlook for 2017, but Engram’s selection in the draft is the cherry on top.
Marcus Mariota (QB – Titans)
Marcus Mariota thrived as a fantasy quarterback in 2016 despite having a mediocre set of receivers to dish to. Not that you need proof but Tajae Sharpe, a fifth-round selection in last year’s draft, was Tennessee’s No. 2 receiver behind Rishard Matthews last season. So the Titans looked to upgrade at the position and selected the top wideout prospect in Corey Davis with the No. 5 overall pick. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Davis, who scored 19 touchdowns in 14 games as a senior, becomes Mariota’s top option in the passing game when the 2017 season gets underway. The Western Michigan product adds yet another dimension to the Titans’ already dangerous offense and will likely keep opposing defenses on their toes, especially in the red zone.
DeAndre Hopkins (WR – Texans)
On Thursday morning, the Texans’ top quarterback was Tom Savage. Well, Houston went ahead and buttoned up that situation by selecting former Clemson star signal-caller DeShaun Watson at No. 12 overall. With a playmaker in Watson under center for Houston, DeAndre Hopkins is going to sleep well for the next few weeks. Sure, Watson will probably have to beat Savage out in camp for the starting job (he should have no trouble there), and he’ll face the growing pains that rookie quarterbacks endure, but there’s no denying that he’ll enhance Hopkins’ fantasy value going forward.
T.J. Yeldon & Chris Ivory (RBs – Jaguars)
Yeldon and Ivory combined for just five total touchdowns in 2016 and neither back managed to rush for 500 yards. So it makes sense that Jacksonville selected Leonard Fournette at No. 4 overall. As reported by Matthew Berry after the NFL Combine in March, Jaguars’ new head coach Doug Marrone “dodged the question” of who his primary back would be going forward. I’m willing to bet if he was asked the same question today, he wouldn’t hesitate to drop Fournette’s name. I’m also willing to bet the Jaguars are going to give the big back every opportunity to play three downs despite criticism that the LSU product may not be able to effectively catch the ball out of the backfield. Yeldon and Ivory will compete for scraps.
Keenan Allen (WR – SD)
Not to pour salt on the wound, but anyone who has owned Keenan Allen in dynasty knows that he’s only played in a combined nine games over the last two seasons due to injuries. So when the Chargers selected Mike Williams with the No. 7 overall pick, Allen’s value took yet another hit. In Williams, quarterback Philip Rivers now has another big, physical playmaker to target. Williams joins Allen, up-and-coming tight end talent Hunter Henry, veteran Antonio Gates, Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman in Los Angeles’ pass-catching corps. Rivers suddenly has a ton of mouths to feed. That’s good for the team’s offensive big picture but bad for Allen’s potential volume going forward.
Jonathan Stewart (RB – Panthers)
The Panthers snagged arguably the best offensive weapon in this year’s draft class in running back Christian McCaffrey. He brings his versatile skill set to a Carolina attack that stalled out last season and he should inject some excitement into what the Panthers are able to do on offense. McCaffrey is a threat out of the backfield, can be used as a receiver out of the slot and is dangerous as a return specialist. Not that anyone was propping up veteran running back Jonathan Stewart in his age-30 season, but the addition of McCaffrey brings a set of much-needed fresh legs to Carolina’s offense. Stewart has logged 200-plus rush attempts in each of the last two seasons, but it’d be surprising if he eclipses the 200-carry mark in 2017.
Cameron Brate (TE – Buccaneers)
Last season we saw the emergence of Cameron Brate as a game-changing tight end for fantasy owners. In fact, Brate tied Chargers’ tight end Hunter Henry for the most touchdowns among tight ends in 2016 with eight. But the Bucs made a significant upgrade at the position with the selection of 6-foot-6, 251-pound O.J. Howard in the draft. Howard’s presence is likely to siphon targets away from Brate, especially those coveted looks in the red zone (not to mention the addition of wideout DeSean Jackson in free agency to steal even more opportunities). Fantasy owners will be watching the upcoming season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” closely to garner clues to how this tight end pairing may play out. Either way, Brate’s value takes a blow with Tampa Bay’s addition of the freakishly talented Howard.