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Just like that, the best four hours of quarantine have come and gone. No more speculation on how far Tua Tagovailoa will fall. No more theorizing about which running back will get taken first. And, of course, no more wondering how Seattle will screw up their first-round pick.
While we’ve still got a lot of picks to go, here are some early winners and losers from this year’s draft. Note that I’m focusing on veterans, not on rookies, as I’m more interested in how the first round affects players already on NFL rosters.
Remember, it’s still early, and we’ll have a better picture after all seven rounds. My winners are guys who will see added success with the new talent around them, and I’m not going to feature guys who have a better shot at starting since their team didn’t add first-round competition. The conversation around those guys (like Devin Funchess, Gardner Minshew, and Jordan Howard) could be very different after tomorrow. Similarly, I’m not going to pull losers from teams that failed to improve their rosters much so far, as a lot can still change before the draft ends. Let’s begin.
A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon
I feel like Joe Burrow’s potential to reignite Cincinnati’s offense could be getting better coverage. The Bengals were a playoff team in the not-so-distant past, and they’ve got the offensive weapons to make a return. They may not have the offensive line yet, but there’s still a good chance these three guys see a boost in their fantasy stock.
Let’s compare Burrow’s college stats with Andy Dalton’s. In his final season at LSU, Burrow completed 402 passes for 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Dalton, in his final year at TCU, completed 316 passes for 2,857 yards, 27 scores, and six interceptions. Sure, Burrow played two more games than Dalton, but that’s not enough to explain the difference. It’s looking like the Bengals got a straight upgrade, and their playmakers won’t be limited by Dalton’s pedestrian talent anymore.
Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley
I expected the Giants to land Tristan Wirfs here, but Andrew Thomas is no slouch. He’ll shore up an offensive line alongside anchors Kevin Zeitler, Nate Solder, and Will Hernandez.
The Giants’ offensive line finished at 17th in ProFootballFocus’ rankings, and tackle was their biggest weakness by far. The addition of Thomas should give Danny Dimes more time to throw, and it should give Barkley a little extra time behind the line. While the Giants may continue to struggle defensively next season, it’s easier to play from behind when you’ve got good blocking to help your playmakers put up points.
Most people expected the Broncos to land a wide receiver, and they didn’t disappoint. John Elway took Jerry Jeudy at fifteenth overall, and the Alabama product should be another useful weapon in Lock’s arsenal.
The sophomore quarterback will now get to work with Jeudy, Melvin Gordon, Courtland Sutton, and Noah Fant, all of whom appear poised for success in Denver’s offense. While Vic Fangio’s defense won’t need Lock and the offense to score too much next year, Lock should still be a high-end QB2 in Superflex leagues.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt
The Browns have seemingly turned a corner. We said it last year, but this year could be different. Incoming head coach Kevin Stefanski is actually qualified, Baker Mayfield now has two years under his belt, and the Browns have made seemingly smart decisions during the draft and in free agency.
But after Round 1, I’m most excited about Chubb and Hunt for 2020. The Browns already added stud tackle Jack Conklin in free agency, and now they’ll get to pair him with Jedrick Wills. Sure, they’ll have to replace Greg Robinson, but the future looks bright in Cleveland — and for once, that’s not because the river’s on fire.
Saints fans, I’m sorry you didn’t get Kenneth Murray or Patrick Queen. But you got Cesar Ruiz, and he’ll help bolster your already-elite offensive line. He’ll help you while you’re in win-now mode with Drew Brees, and he’ll help you long after Brees retires.
As in Cleveland, however, I’m more inclined to hype up New Orlean’s running backs than their quarterbacks after Round 1. While Brees is pretty much a known commodity, Kamara struggled with efficiency last season. The running game wasn’t the same without Mark Ingram (although Latavius Murray did flash at points), and Kamara got hurt early in the year, so an addition like Ruiz seems like it could help rejuvenate the running back room.
Last season proved that the Chiefs needed a real running back. Yes, I know they won the Super Bowl and everything, but they limped through the first half of the season, and that was partly due to their weak backfield. Fortunately, Clyde Edwards-Helaire can be everything that Damien Williams (and post-30 LeSean McCoy, Darrel Williams, and Darwin Thompson) couldn’t be.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave much room for Damien Williams. While he’s a postseason stud, Damien has never started a full NFL season, and the Chiefs had no reason to expect anything different from him next year. He’ll retain high-end handcuff value behind Helaire if the Chiefs keep him, but I don’t see much else in his future.
Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper
I whiffed hard on Dallas’ first-round selection. When my friend suggested that they’d take a wide receiver, I genuinely laughed at him. I guess he’s laughing at me now that Dallas has added CeeDee Lamb to their offense.
Oklahoma featured Lamb both inside and outside, so I’d look for him to pick up some of slot receiver Randall Cobb’s workload. The veteran earned 83 targets last season, which should give Lamb a decent enough floor. However, that also leaves fewer opportunities for Gallup and Cooper. While both should post numbers similar to 2019, anyone who gave them a boost after Cobb’s departure should reconsider.
I didn’t want to believe that the Chargers would take Justin Herbert at sixth overall. I’m a big fan of Tyrod, and I’ve always felt that he got the short end of the stick in Buffalo. He helped them get to the playoffs, and what does he get? Replaced. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
Tyrod’s on the wrong side of 30 now, however, so the Chargers probably know he can’t be their quarterback of the future. Although people weren’t expecting much from him going into 2020, this all but confirms that he’s just a stopgap guy who’ll get benched as soon as Herbert is ready. Or, you know, when the Chargers feel like it. Taylor will be a solid option at QB2 for Superflex leagues in his handful of starts, however, as his supporting cast should help him put up some solid numbers — they’ll just come with an expiration date.
I’m going to break one of my rules. I’m putting Murray here because the Cardinals haven’t drafted an offensive lineman yet. While Isaiah Simmons was probably the right pick at eighth overall, there’s still uncertainty along the line in Arizona. Center A.Q. Shipley remains a free agent, and their best option at right tackle is 32-year-old Marcus Gilbert, a guy who didn’t play a single down last year.
So while Arizona looks like a better football team after the Simmons pick, Murray’s fantasy prospects could have come out further ahead after Round 1. He got sacked 48 times last year, and while 23 of those sacks were his fault, better blocking could’ve helped reduce that number. The Cardinals could’ve had Jedrick Wills, Tristan Wirfs, or Mekhi Becton, but now they must turn to day two prospects for help in the trenches.
I’m a big fan of the Justin Jefferson pick. I’m also a big fan of the Jeff Gladney pick. In fact, even my friend from Minnesota, Jeff, is a big fan of the team’s draft so far, although he’s a little bummed they couldn’t land Jeffrey Okudah. Jeff.
That said, Thielen’s fantasy owners are probably not a fan of the Jefferson pick. His 2019 season saw his usage decline, but injuries and lots of touchdowns obscured that reality. Sure, missed games limited his overall ceiling, but he also earned his fewest targets per game since 2015. You should read the tea leaves on this soon-to-be-30 wideout and avoid him in 2020 — unless he slips far enough down draft boards to return value.