The NFL Draft has wide-reaching effects. Not only are the drafted players obviously impacted, but their presence sends ripple effects across the roster of their new teams. In other cases, the lack of drafting players at a specific position can also affect existing players on these rosters.
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Carson Wentz (QB – PHI)
It may seem counterintuitive to state the Eagles needed an upgrade at left tackle entering the draft when they currently employ Jason Peters, a future first-ballot Hall of Fame player who may be the greatest at his position to ever play the game. But Peters is now 37 years old and was unable to finish multiple games last year, playing on 79% of offensive snaps. The Eagles were forced to bring him back for at least one more season because of the shortage of viable free agents at the tackle position this offseason. In a deep draft for defensive players, Washington State’s Andre Dillard fell down the draft board further than most mock drafts projected. When he was still on the board at 22, the Eagles traded up three spots giving up a fourth and sixth rounder to jump up and draft him. Dillard was the best left tackle in the draft, comes from a pass-heavy college offense, and allowed just one sack on 677 pass attempts in 2018. Per Football Outsiders the Eagles ranked 17th in pass protection in 2018 while their 6.7% Adjusted Sack Rate ranked 16th. The addition of Dillard will allow the Eagles to continue a two-decade run of top-end left tackle play that started with Tra Thomas continuing with Peters. And he will be an upgrade to the 37-year-old version of Peters now on the roster.
If the Eagles only upgraded their offensive line, Wentz would have had an excellent draft. The selection of Miles Sanders and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside upgraded a nice draft to an excellent one. Sanders is the first running back selected in the second round or earlier by the Eagles since LeSean McCoy in 2009. The Eagles philosophy has been to use a running back committee put together from spare parts found laying around the scrap yard up until adding Sanders. Jordan Howard was acquired for a 2020 sixth-round draft pick, Wendell Smallwood was a fifth-round draft pick, while Corey Clement and Josh Adams were both undrafted free agent additions. Sanders provides Wentz with a legitimate running back for the first time in his career. Sanders is good enough of a receiver that he can stay on the field all three downs. The other Eagle running backs are so specific to their roles that defenses know if the coming play is run or pass just based on their presence on the field. Sanders’ versatility takes that luxury away from the defense. Having a running back that he can confidently check down to should enable Wentz to check down on plays instead of holding on to the ball too long and taking unnecessary punishment.
Arcega-Whiteside may not provide an immediate impact in fantasy, but he provides another weapon in Wentz’s arsenal. He’s shown an elite level of touchdown scoring ability with 23 touchdowns over his final two college seasons, including 14 in 2018 for Stanford. He also provides another weapon for the Eagles who ranked just 17th in red zone touchdown scoring percentage in 2018. They can now run red zone plays with four players standing 6’3″ or taller, with Arcega-Whiteside (6″3″), Alshon Jeffery (6’3″), Zach Ertz (6’5″), and Dallas Goedert (6’5″). Jump balls in the back of the end zone will be a common site with Arcega-Whiteside’s elite jumping ability. With the addition of Dillard and his new toys on offense, I expect Wentz to move back into the top five in scoring in 2019 and going forward.
Sterling Shepard (WR – NYG)
Shepard has had as successful of an offseason as any wide receiver could ever want. It started when the Giants traded away former number on wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Clevland Browns. In 11 career games without Beckham Jr. playing Shepard has averaged nearly two more points per game in PPR scoring leagues. The 2017 season gives a more direct analogy to the current situation, though. Once Beckham Jr. was lost for the season in game four Shepard took over as the primary receiver in the Giants offensive game planning. He responded by averaging 14.4 fantasy points per game in those final four games, compared to 10.9 points per game during the first four weeks. Shepard has shown linear progression during his career, which is frustratingly rare when it comes to both real and fantasy football. His receiving yards have increased every season. He put up 683 yards as a rookie, 731 in his sophomore season in just 11 games, and 872 last year. While his reception totals have remained consistent, 65, 59, and 66 last season, his yards per reception have increased every season from 10.5 yards in his rookie year to 13.2 yards per reception last season which indicates he may be much more than “just” a slot receiver.
He then signed a four-year, $41 million extension, with $21 million of that guaranteed with the Giants through the 2023 season, which shows how committed the Giants are to him as a focal point of their offense. Shepard’s contract slots him in as the 18th-highest paid wide receiver for the 2020 season. There was plenty of chatter entering the draft about how much the Giants needed to add another receiver to the team. And in fact, the Giants did just that. They added Darius Slayton. In the fifth round. That’s it. They added no other receivers. Teams tell you what they think during free agency and the NFL Draft. The Giants just told the world they believe in Shepard as the number one wide receiver on their roster.
The Giants did add one offensive player of note in the draft, Daniel Jones. The fantasy community is down on Jones, as we were on Josh Allen last season (how’d that work out by the way?) but the Giants invested the sixth-overall pick on him. The hit rate on top-10 overall drafted quarterbacks is high enough that I’m more than willing to give Jones the benefit of the doubt. He has excellent mechanics and was a three-year starter at Duke. He’s accurate in both the short and deep passing attack. Eli Manning has been an impediment to a successful offense in New York for at least the last three seasons and Jones provides an immediate upgrade to Manning in his current form. A new role as the lead wide receiver, a new significant new contract, and a new quarterback all have Shepard’s arrow pointing up.
Kyle Rudolph (TE – MIN)
After a 2016 season that saw him finish with 83 receptions, 840 yards, and seven touchdowns Kyle Rudolph looked like a future stud tight end. He concluded that season averaging 13.1 PPR points per game (third most) and 7.9 standard points per game (seventh most). Since that season, though, his stat lines have decreased and his fantasy scoring has dropped as well. Rudolph finished as the TE12 with 5.5 points per game in standard leagues and the TE10 in PPR leagues with 9.5 fantasy points per game last year.
In 2016 he was targeted a team-high 132 times compared to the 82 targets he saw last season, finishing a distant third behind Stefon Diggs (149) and Adam Theilen (153). Already being phased out of the offense, Rudolph watched the Vikings draft his direct replacement last weekend in Irv Smith. Rudolph’s contract expires after the 2019 season in which he’s earning $7.6 million. The Vikings have a ton of cap space tied up in Kirk Cousins, Diggs and Theilen so unless he’s willing to take a massive pay cut it’s likely Rudolph is playing his final season in Minnesota. A better receiver than blocker at the moment, Smith will be used more as a receiving weapon in 2019, which won’t help Rudolph’s already diminishing usage in the passing attack. It’s more likely than not that Rudolph won’t even be able to match last season’s modest 64 receptions, 634 yards, and four touchdown stat line. If anyone in your league still believes in him as a legitimate TE1 you need to move Rudolph immediately before the bottom completely drops out on him in 2019.
Tarik Cohen (RB – CHI)
Cohen finished as the RB14 averaging 14.6 PPR points and as the RB21 in standard scoring leagues with 10.2 points per game in 2018. Cohen was extremely efficient finishing 14th overall with 1.24 Fantasy Points Per Opportunity per PlayerProfiler. The majority of his fantasy points derived from his receiving work. Cohen ranked sixth in both running back targets and receptions, while his 725 yards ranked third in receiving yards. He is a passing game specialist of the highest order. His rushing stats leave you wanting, though. His 99 rushing attempts ranked 48th, and his 441 rushing yards ranked 42nd at the running back position. For fantasy purposes what truly matters is how much of his fantasy scoring is based on his receiving work. Of his 233 fantasy points scored in 2018 74% came from his receiving work, while 67% of his fantasy scoring emanated from receiving work in 2017. The picture I’m attempting to paint for you is that Cohen is overly reliant on his receiving work for fantasy relevance.
The Bears added a couple of players this offseason that will eat into Cohen’s receiving back role. Mike Davis signed with the Bears and is an underrated role player. His 42 targets ranked 28th, and his 34 receptions ranked 33rd for running backs in the 2018 season. When you consider he did this while playing on just 38% of offensive snaps for Seattle last year his receiving work looks more impressive. He also averaged 7.5 carries per game and ran for 514 yards showing off his versatility.
In the NFL Draft, Chicago also added running back David Montgomery, selecting him in the third round. Keep in mind the Bears didn’t have a first or second round draft pick, and only ended up with five draft picks total. Draft picks are valuable capital to NFL franchises, and the investment of a third-round pick — and they traded up in the third — indicates that the Bears are committed to featuring Montgomery prominently in their offense.
Unlike Cohen, Montgomery has shown that he is a true three-down back. Over his two final college seasons, while doing a majority of damage on the ground, he did add over 18 yards per game on just over two receptions per game. He finished his three seasons at Iowa State with 71 receptions.
|Rushing Attempts||Rushing Yards||Receptions||Receiving Yards||Total Touches|
Not just a workhorse, Montgomery has shown to be incredibly elusive on the field. He holds the top two spots in college football history for most missed tackles forced in a season. Montgomery was drafted to be the Bears starting running back, and he’s a complete back at that. Cohen is no longer sharing the field with Jordan Howard who was an absolute negative in the passing game. He now has to share the field with Davis and Montgomery. Cohen has one skill while both Davis and Montgomery can both play on all three downs which will limit Cohen’s snap share and usage. If you own Cohen, sell now.
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Shane Manila is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Shane, check out his archive and follow him @DFF_Shane.