The NFL Draft is one of the most exciting times of the year for football fans, especially keeper and dynasty owners. Not only is there an influx of fresh talent to attach unreasonable hopes and dreams to, but there is also the Fantasy Football fallout. Like when the Rams drafted Todd Gurley and Zac Stacy tweeted out, “Yikes.” There are plenty of Fantasy owners that get nervous around draft time for fear of a young stallion impeding on their veteran’s established value or their deep sleeper’s potential. Even a mid-to-late round RB prospect is a threat. Just ask Andre Ellington, Lamar Miller, Alfred Morris and Isaiah Crowell owners if they are comfortable with the rookies they now have breathing down their necks. Zach Mettenberger had a splash of long-term sleeper appeal that all dried up when the Titans took Marcus Mariota with the second overall selection. Marquess Wilson went from potentially replacing Brandon Marshall in Chicago to a potential afterthought with the drafting of Kevin White.
If you are looking for discussion on the impact of the extra point rules or Deflategate, you will have to check elsewhere. What I do have to offer are veterans whose stock has risen or fallen in the aftermath of the NFL Draft. Let’s discuss!
Joe Flacco is not all of a sudden going to vault into elite status this year, but he is an underrated deep league and streaming option for you in 2015 and beyond After all, he did quietly have the best year of his career in 2014. He will likely be without Dennis Pitta for all or most of the season, Torrey Smith has taken his talents to San Francisco and Steve Smith is not getting any younger. On the plus side, the Ravens spent early picks on Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams. They also snagged pass-catching RB Javorius Allen and 6’6” receiving project Darren Waller. Perriman may struggle to adjust, but he has a higher ceiling than Torrey Smith. Expect Flacco to crack 4,000 passing yards for the first time in his career, along with the potential for 30 TDs. Do not sleep on Flacco this year as a value QB option.
There were plenty of threats to Latavius Murray’s sleeper status this offseason. He survived free agency with only the addition of Roy Helu and Trent Richardson following the retirement of Maurice Jones-Drew and the departure of Darren McFadden. Exhale. Then there were the rumors of interest in Adrian Peterson. Well, good news because it looks like he is staying in Minnesota. Then came the NFL Draft with one of the deepest RB classes in recent memory. Again, Murray survived unscathed. Time to get excited about his 2015 potential? Absolutely. Murray has the profile of a solid RB2 this year, but there is upside for a Top 12 finish. He does run a bit upright, but has the home run ability to break long gainers along with the power to be a grinder in between the tackles. If anyone is concerned about T-Rich or Helu syphoning his Fantasy value, you might even be able to acquire Murray at a discounted rate. Once the summer comes, there is no telling where the hype machine will have his value.
Charles Johnson was a nice surprise last season for the Vikings. He showed a solid rapport with Teddy Bridgewater and emerged as the Vikings’ go-to receiver in the second half. After being cut by the Browns prior to the season, the size-speed freak has found a home in Minnesota. This offseason, the Vikings added deep threat Mike Wallace to the mix and there were many that thought a rookie receiver would also be selected. Fortunately for Johnson, they only selected return specialist Stefon Diggs. Cordarrelle Patterson still lingers as a threat if he can figure things out, but that is a major if at this point. (Side bar – Patterson is a nice buy low lottery ticket in dynasty leagues). With a developing Bridgewater and returning Adrian Peterson, Johnson could be in for a lift in production this year. The addition of Wallace should also be looked at as more of a positive than a negative as well, because it will lead to even less defensive attention. For now, we should consider Johnson a WR3/4 with upside.
The obvious beneficiary from the Jimmy Graham trade was athletically intriguing Josh Hill. The Idaho State product has received glowing praise from the Saints’ staff for his potential. The fact that they did not draft a TE is more of an endorsement than anything said publicly. His Fantasy stock is on the rise in a big way. Hill has the size, speed and strength to be a dangerous receiving threat. He is not going to completely fill the giant hole in the offense left by Graham, but he can certainly hold his own. Last year in limited time, he caught 14 balls for 176 yards and five TDs. Think of him as a TE2 with the ceiling of a true Top 10 asset. If you like to gamble, offer a descending talent like Vernon Davis or Martellus Bennett in exchange for the unproven Hill.
While the Bears drafted a high upside replacement for Brandon Marshall in West Virginia’s Kevin White, all is not blue skies for Jay Cutler heading into the 2015 season. With Marc Trestman out as head coach, the pass-happy attack could be dialed back under John Fox. Even if his skills were fading, Marshall was still a strong possession receiving option for Cutler. Now he will have to get White up to speed quickly or risk forcing the ball to Alshon Jeffery on every other play. Matt Forte is a reliable receiver out of the backfield, but he is approaching 30 years old. Plus, Martellus Bennett was reportedly on the trading block prior to the draft, leaving him with an uncertain future. Cutler has missed 14 games in the past five seasons. He has only topped 4,000 yards once in his career and last year marked his first time with 30 combined TDs. With the loss of his favorite target, a new coaching staff and an erratic performance history, it is fair to wonder what Cutler’s future is in Chicago. One thing is for certain; he is miscast as anything other than a QB2 until he proves otherwise.
When the Rams drafted Tre Mason with the 75th overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, Zac Stacy owners everywhere got a wakeup call. It did not take long for Mason to take the RB job and run with it, amassing over 900 yards and five TDs in 12 games as a 21-year-old. Optimism was high heading into this season, as Mason flashed RB1 potential in his rookie season. That quickly faded as Roger Goodell uttered, “The St. Louis Rams select Todd Gurley, Running Back, Georgia.” This was not just some fourth or fifth round pick brought in to be a backup. Gurley is the best RB prospect since the one everyone is trying to erase from their memory, Trent Richardson, and a true franchise caliber talent. To many, it was a luxury pick considering their other holes. With a torn ACL last season, Gurley will likely be eased into NFL action, which gives Mason some immediate value. That is a small consolation prize for Mason owners, who are now left with three potential outcomes. 1. Hold Mason stubbornly in the hopes that Gurley is not what his physical tools say he can be in the NFL. 2. Make every attempt to acquire Gurley, likely paying through the nose for his services. 3. Trade Mason for pennies on the dollar to the new Gurley owner. None of that sounds great, especially when you were sitting on a hot commodity just five weeks ago.
A year ago, the optimism surrounding Justin Hunter was off the charts. He did not do much as a rookie, but his 19.7 YPC and four of his 18 catches going for TDs were enough to fuel the fire. This offseason it is the complete opposite for him. He is coming off of a brutal season in which, despite QB issues in Tennessee, he did not produce anywhere close to what many expected. The Titans brought in free agent receivers Harry Douglas and Hakeem Nicks. No severe threat to Hunter in the long-term, but another player to battle with for targets. Then they snagged Dorial Green-Beckham in the second round a few weeks ago, causing many to bury Hunter on the spot. DGB is an immensely talented prospect, but one with serious off the field baggage as well. If he can put that behind him, he has beastly potential. Kendall Wright is locked in as the possession receiver and that leaves Hunter fighting for a job. He still has an intriguing size/speed combination and downfield ability, but remains the raw product he was coming out of college. It is way too early to give up on someone with Hunter’s upside, even if he is a long shot to reach his vast ceiling. Time to buy low in dynasty formats.
At times over the past couple of seasons, Mychal Rivera has looked like a serviceable TE option with some upside to develop into even more. He is a move TE that racked up a halfway decent line of 58-534-4 in his second season. The Raiders attempt to load up on talent around Derek Carr led to the drafting of TE Clive Walford. The Miami product brings better size and overall athleticism to the table, putting Rivera on immediate notice. They could conceivably coexist, as Walford is a very good blocker that profiles as an in-line TE. With even more competition for Carr’s attention, Rivera’s default receiver targets are sure to take a big hit. Add in Walford’s talent and Rivera promises to be a Fantasy non-factor in no time. Unless you are in a very deep, TE-heavy league, it is time to cut your losses here. There is just not enough long-term appeal to warrant the roster spot.