2017 Draft: Fantasy Football Winners and Losers
After months of prospect evaluation, the NFL draft has come and gone. Now that we know which rookies have landed on which teams, we can begin to assess the fantasy football landscape for 2017. Here are two winners and losers – one rookie and one veteran – at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.
1. Mitch Trubisky (QB – CHI)
On the surface, he’s a winner. The Bears are obviously invested in him, and his competition for starting reps is just veteran backup Mike Glennon. Dig a little deeper, and things don’t look as good.
The best way for a young quarterback to be successful is to be surrounded by real weapons. Chicago has a good running back in Jordan Howard, but he isn’t a primary pass catcher. At wide receiver, Chicago has a lot of bodies, but all have significant question marks.
Tight end has capable but brittle Zach Miller, low-ceiling Dion Sims, and some young guys that need time to develop. All of Trubisky’s pass catching options are suspect, which makes it hard for him to succeed. The problem is compounded because the Bears traded away so much draft capital (that could have been spent on other weapons) to acquire Trubisky.
2. Alex Smith (QB – KC)
Mahomes could win the starting job outright, or, if their season goes poorly, might get the starting gig during the year. Either way, Smith could lose his starting job at some point in 2017. Even if Smith keeps the starting job this year, his career as a starter could be over.
After this season, cutting him will save Kansas City $17 million dollars against the cap. Given what Kansas City paid to acquire Mahomes, expect Smith to hit the street at the end of the season.
3. Alvin Kamara (RB – NO)
Another situation that looks good on the surface; New Orleans is a prolific offense. But Kamara isn’t likely to threaten Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson as runners, and both Ingram and Travaris Cadet are capable receivers.
Kamara doesn’t have much special teams background either. Barring injury, it will be hard for him to find fantasy-relevant usage.
4. Latavius Murray (RB – MIN)
Murray already went from one of the league’s best offensive lines (Oakland) to one of its worst. Now Murray’s opportunity will get squeezed hard from both ends. On one side, Jerick McKinnon isn’t great, but he’s more established than the rookies Murray had to compete with last year.
On the other, he now he has to compete with Dalvin Cook, one of the better prospects in this class. Cook didn’t go in the first round, but the Vikings did use their first pick on him, which tells us how much they like Cook, and also suggests they’re not sold on the idea of Murray as their workhorse.
5. Dede Westbrook (WR – JAC)
Westbrook fell to the fourth round and was the 15th WR off the board. Regarding draft capital, not many players taken that late in the draft go on to have fantasy success. And Westbrook landed in Jacksonville, which has three good, established veteran WRs.
It will be hard for Westbrook to crack that rotation. Even if he does, the selection of Leonard Fournette with a top-four pick signals that Jacksonville plans to run more and pass less.
6. Tyrell Williams (WR – LAC)
Williams gets hit with a double whammy — the return of Keenan Allen and the addition of top-10 pick Mike Williams. Travis Benjamin is still on board, as is Dontrelle Inman. Williams had a successful 2016 based on volume he’s unlikely to see in 2017 if everyone else stays healthy.
1. Deshaun Watson (QB – HOU)
Watson may not be the best prospect at the position, but he arguably ends up in the best position. Competing against just Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden, it’s quite possible Watson becomes the starter at some point this year. If he does, he’s got quality weapons at WR, RB, and TE, and a playoff caliber defense to back him up.
2. Jameis Winston (QB – TB)
In addition to young stud Mike Evans and free agent acquisition DeSean Jackson, Winston gets top tight end prospect O.J. Howard to go along with last year’s breakout Cameron Brate. He also gets the productive wideout, Chris Godwin, and versatile back Jeremy McNichols to provide depth.
3. Christian McCaffrey (RB – CAR)
He should quickly supplant Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker in the change-of-pace/third-down role. He should also be able to take a healthy portion of Jonathan Stewart’s rushing work. At 29 years old, limiting Stewart’s workload seems like a good idea.
The common concern is that Cam Newton doesn’t throw much to RBs. The rebuttal is simply that he hasn’t had receiving backs like McCaffrey before. Given the top-10 draft capital,
I think it’s safe to assume that Carolina has a plan to get McCaffrey heavily involved in the offense. McCaffrey can also contribute as a receiver and returner, a boon in return-yardage leagues.
4. Wendell Smallwood (RB – PHI)
Many pre-draft mocks had the Eagles taking a running back early in the draft, but that didn’t happen. Their only acquisition at the position was the dynamic but pint-sized Donnel Pumphrey, who doesn’t seem a likely workhorse.
Ryan Mathews is still on the roster, but he hasn’t played a full season since 2013 and may get cut. Smallwood should have a decent role on offense and could end up as the lead back.
The Rams brought in Robert Woods, but otherwise, Kupp’s competition is all lower-drafted rookies or second-year players that didn’t do much last year. Oh, and they’ve upgraded their coach from Jeff Fisher to Sean McVay, so they should play at a faster pace as well.
6. Breshad Perriman (WR – BAL)
The argument for Perriman is largely the same as the one for Kupp. Now that Steve Smith has retired, and Kamar Aiken left in free agency, Baltimore has 151 vacated targets. With a full season finally under his belt, the opportunity is there for Perriman to take a big step forward.
Charlie Kleinheksel is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Charlie, check out his archive.