2019 NFL Draft Winners & Losers (Fantasy Football)
Good news – I’m not going to throw another set of 32 grades at you. For the majority of the picks from the 2019 NFL Draft, it’s too early to say how the individual players will pan out.
However, we can get a good idea of how the picks may help the players around them and their side of the ball. I’m going to run down two big winners and two losers from the draft when it comes to redraft fantasy leagues. These can be individual players, position groups or whole teams.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals skill position players
To be clear, I’m not knocking on Josh Rosen here. I think guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk could have had solid fantasy seasons under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury if the Cardinals’ offensive line made even marginal improvements.
But Kirk, Fitzgerald, and running back David Johnson will all receive a boost from Arizona’s 2019 draft. Possible value lost aside, No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray is going to be an explosive playmaker, especially with Kingsbury drawing up the offensive plays.
Murray is a generational talent who has made throws that very few other quarterbacks can make. Kirk and Fitzgerald will certainly have more opportunities for big plays with Murray under center and his ability to get out of the pocket and create plays even if the offensive line stumbles.
Then you have fourth-round receiver Hakeem Butler from Iowa State who is a prototypical X receiver. He can go up and grab contested catches and use his incredible length to make plays along the sidelines. This should leave the middle of the field open for Kirk to work his way underneath in the slot. Plus, Johnson is sure to get more work in 2019 than he did last year under a coaching staff in flux. With the addition of Murray and Kingsbury this offseason, everyone on the Cardinals’ offense stands to benefit.
Loser: Todd Gurley (RB – LAR)
Todd Gurley owners were likely over the moon with how he performed in redraft leagues last year. But dynasty owners, and anyone looking to take him in the top 10 again this year, likely started to get worried in the playoffs as Gurley’s production declined. Not to mention he had a mysterious knee injury that maybe wasn’t actually an injury. Those same people should be even more cautious now. Despite leading the league in per-game scoring in fantasy for the past two years, Gurley’s future with the Rams is severely in doubt after the team traded up to draft Memphis running back Darrell Henderson in the third round.
The fact that they traded up in the first place means that the Rams really liked Henderson and viewed him as someone they couldn’t pass up on. Add that to the fact that they already extended backup running back Malcolm Brown during free agency, and you’ve got the beginnings of a position battle.
Henderson averaged an astonishing 7.8 yards per carry during the 2017 and 2018 seasons at Memphis and can generate a burst of speed out of his cuts. C.J. Anderson’s performance for the Rams down the stretch should be proof enough that any running back could excel in the Rams’ offense, and with someone like Henderson’s speed, it’s hard to see the Rams keeping him on the bench for long.
Winner: The Ravens’ passing game
Coming into the draft, the Baltimore Ravens’ biggest need was at receiver. Coming out of this weekend, it’s one of their strengths.
Baltimore traded down in the first round to eventually take Oklahoma receiver Marquise Brown at No. 25 overall – a 5-foot-10 speedster who can score any time he touches the ball. Then, in the third round, the Ravens grabbed Notre Dame receiver Miles Boykin after trading up nine spots.
Unlike Brown, Boykin has the side to play along the sidelines at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. He led the Fighting Irish in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns last year despite having disappointing play at quarterback.
Boykin and Brown give an immediate boost to a receiving corps headlined by Willie Snead heading into Thursday. Now, there will still be questions around how often quarterback Lamar Jackson will be asked to throw this year, or whether he’ll want to. But at some point, Jackson will have to learn to take fewer hits and stay in the pocket. Now he has two targets in Brown and Boykin who have two different skill sets and can give him open throws in two different parts of the field.
Loser: Aaron Rodgers (QB – GB)
I love what the Packers did on defense. The pick of Darnell Savage Jr. late in the first round completes the total overhaul of their secondary, and No. 12 overall pick Rashan Gary is immediately the best athlete on their front seven.
But Rodgers — who had a disappointing season in 2018 by his standards — didn’t get much help on his side of the ball this weekend. He finished ninth in fantasy points per game among all quarterbacks, but was drafted as the No. 1 quarterback in fantasy last year.
It took the Packers until the 75th overall pick to draft anyone who would touch the ball on offense — Jace Sternberger, a tight end from Texas A&M. Sternberger could take over the starting gig eventually, but for now, the job belongs to Jimmy Graham.
Now, the Packers’ receiving corps is exactly what it was last year. There’s Pro Bowler Davante Adams, and then a bunch of unproven players, including two second-year receivers, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown. Adams scored 13 touchdowns last year and went over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. But Valdes-Scantling and St. Brown caught less than 59 percent of their targets, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, which is the lowest of all skill position players on the team.
Meanwhile, Graham finished the year with his lowest number of receptions since his rookie year, the second-worst catch percentage of his career, and tied his career low for touchdowns in a season (two). Given that this draft was so deep at receiver, it’s hard to see why Green Bay chose not to upgrade at that position. No. 44 overall pick Elgton Jenkins from Mississippi State should provide some help to the interior of the offensive line, but Rodgers could still use some more help at the skill positions.
Jon Munshaw is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Jon, check out his archive.