IDEAL FANTASY LANDING SPOTS FOR TOP ROOKIE QBs AND RBs
The NFL Draft is all about opportunity. It is an opportunity for NFL teams to build their future one pick at a time. It is an opportunity for collegiate athletes to live out a life-long dream. It is also an opportunity for Fantasy owners to find out where the players that could help them win future championships will be starting out. Let’s take a look at some of the top skill position prospects, where they could end up, and what that means for their Fantasy value.
While this QB Class does not possess any surefire franchise talents, there is depth and it would not be surprising if a handful of Fantasy relevant signal-callers emerged from this Draft. More than any other position, QB landing spots are key to short and long term values. Do not expect much, if any immediate Fantasy impact outside of 2QB and deep re-draft leagues.
Geno Smith is regarded by many as the top QB in the Draft class and he has been linked to several teams in the first round. Smith is a good athlete with enough arm strength to make all the throws. He needs to work on his accuracy and footwork, but potential is there for him to become a franchise QB. He would be best served by a situation where he could sit on the bench and learn for an extended period of time. Fantasy owners should not be expecting much in Year 1, but depending on where he ends up, he might be asked to start from the outset.
Ideal Landing Spot: The Philadelphia Eagles would be an ideal scenario, as Smith's skill set should fit nicely with what Chip Kelly wants to do on offense. The pieces are already in place for a potentially explosive offense with LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Geno would not likely have a Fantasy impact in 2013 because of the presence of Mike Vick and Nick Foles, but Smith to the Eagles would be great news for keeper/dynasty owners.
Less than Ideal: The New York Jets would likely force Smith into action early if they drafted him because of a lack of appealing options and an attempt to grab headlines. The Jets need so much on offense at every single skill position that Smith would struggle mightily and it could ultimately affect his long-term development. Stephen Hill is the only piece of dynasty inventory with game-breaking upside, as Mike Goodson, Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley and Bilal Powell are less than appealing. If he lands in NY, his situation will be a headache for Fantasy owners.
E.J. Manuel may be an unfinished product, but all the tools are there for him to be a very productive Fantasy starter. He is a dual-threat QB with prototypical size and arm strength. Much like Smith, he should not be thrown into the fire early or ideally at all in 2013 as he works on adapting to the speed of NFL defenses. Manuel has legit QB1 upside.
Ideal Landing Spot: The Arizona Cardinals have solved their immediate QB hole by acquiring Carson Palmer, but they still have a need for a long-term answer. Head Coach Bruce Arians has had success with large, mobile QBs in the past (Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck) and with Palmer in place there would be no need to rush Manuel. With Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts and potentially Rob Housler, reliable receiving options are already in place. Given the proper time to develop, Manuel could blossom in the desert. Patience will be required for both his NFL team and Fantasy owners.
Less Than Ideal: The Jacksonville Jaguars thought they were solving their QB woes two drafts ago when they took Blaine Gabbert in the first round. He has not panned out as expected. He looks the part in practice, but that has not translated into results on Sundays. Chad Henne performed respectably after Gabbert got hurt, but neither player is a future starter.
Over the past month, Ryan Nassib’s prospect status has picked up a ton of steam. There is even talk that he could be the first QB off the board on Thursday night. Nassib does not have the high ceiling that you would like to see from a potential first round QB, but he does have enough arm strength and accuracy to develop into a steady QB2 for Fantasy purposes. Nassib struggles with his footwork and touch on passes at times, but he gets high marks for his leadership qualities and intangibles. He has experience in a West Coast Style offense and that would be the best fit for him schematically at the next level.
Ideal Landing Spot: He has ties to the Buffalo Bills coaching staff and that is a very popular mock draft spot for him, but it does make a lot of sense. With the Bills he would be up against mediocre competition from Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job this summer. While not quite NFL-ready, he has the smarts to hold his own as a rookie. They have one of the best playmakers in the league in C.J. Spiller, a reliable possession receiver in Stevie Johnson and an emerging threat in T.J. Graham. If Nassib develops as expected and they add a big receiving target, this could be a high-scoring offense. He will not make much of a re-draft impact regardless, but long-term this is the best situation for his Fantasy prospects.
Less than Ideal: If the Bills pass on him and he makes it by the Jets, we could be waiting until Friday to find out where Nassib lands. Could the Oakland Raiders be a fit? Yes, but it is not necessarily a preferred option. The WR corps is still very much developing and the offense as a whole will likely run through Darren McFadden for the time being. The Raiders want to make plays downfield, which is a noted area of weakness for Nassib at the moment. He has more ability than game-managing Matt Flynn and the ultra-athletic Terrelle Pryor, but the entire situation would be one to avoid for Fantasy owners. After the dust settles, Nassib would emerge because he is the best option for the job, but his Fantasy production will likely be too unreliable.
Once considered a lock for the Top 10, Matt Barkley lacks physical upside and pedestrian senior year have hurt his stock. He does still have the football acumen to develop into a reliable system QB. For Fantasy purposes, he is no more than a QB2 in the right situation. Similar to Nassib, Barkley has great make-up, work ethic and leadership skills but really needs a West Coast style offense to be successful. His arm strength will ultimately hamper his Fantasy upside and it remains to be seen if the accuracy he showed in college will translate to the NFL as the pressure is dialed up.
Ideal Landing Spot: The New York Jets are a well-documented mess. As they remake their entire offense, Barkley is a player who could step in right away and challenge Mark Sanchez and David Garrard for the starting job. Not unlike Sanchez in many ways, it is Barkley’s touch and decision-making that separate him. He is one of the few QBs in this class that is headstrong enough to survive the growing pains of a rebuilding team if he’s thrown into the fire. While his ceiling is not elite, he also has the floor of a solid backup. At the moment the Jets are a blank canvas. If they can stack talent around him at WR and RB, Barkley could produce decent Fantasy numbers in time.
Less Than Ideal: The Cleveland Browns drafted Brandon Weeden in the first round last season, but the new regime may be looking for a change. While Barkley may bring better accuracy to the table, Weeden has a stronger arm and might just be a better QB if he gets another year under center. With an emphasis on the run game and still raw and developing WR talent, Barkley’s Fantasy impact in Cleveland would be minimized.
While devalued in today’s pass-happy NFL, elite RBs remain cornerstone Fantasy talents. All teams need depth in the backfield and even committee/timeshare types can make a significant Fantasy impact.
When you watch Eddie Lacy carry the ball it is hard not to want him on your Fantasy team. He possesses rare explosiveness and agility for a back his size. He almost assuredly will make it three years in a row that an Alabama RB will be the first off the board at the position. Injury concerns will continue to nag him until he proves otherwise, but there are a number of teams who could use his talent in the backfield. Lacy has true bellcow potential.
Ideal Landing Spot: The Pittsburgh Steelers are in desperate need of a franchise RB with only average options in Jonathan Dwyer, Baron Batch and Isaac Redman on the roster. Lacy would immediately take over as the Steelers starter and could be a Top 10 RB. His presence would boost the entire offense. Lacy is the type of runner that is made for Pittsburgh.
Less Than Ideal: Lacy has the talent to produce in just about any situation, but it is quite possible the Green Bay Packers would not take full advantage of his immense abilities. While they definitely have a need at RB, he could lack consistency because of their pass-heavy offense. Lacy’s presence would definitely lead to additional running plays and he would still be a Fantasy producer, but other teams would feed him the ball more. Ultimately he risks falling short of his considerable Fantasy ceiling if Green Bay drafts him.
For being just 5’10” and 205 lbs., UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin has the vision and enough deceptive power to run in between the tackles at the next level. He has a good broad base of skills that makes him a fit in today’s pass happy NFL. Franklin could start out as third-down back, but has every down upside for the future. Either way, he will be Fantasy relevant in 2013.
Ideal Landing Spot: The Cincinnati Bengals have a plodding Benjarvus Green-Ellis in the backfield, but not much else. Initially, Franklin would be a high-upside handcuff and the change of pace back Bernard Scott never could stay healthy enough to be. It would not be long before Franklin surpassed the Law Firm as the lead back for the Bengals. Franklin gets a bump in PPR leagues because of his receiving ability.
Less Than Ideal Landing Spot: The St. Louis Rams need an RB after losing Steven Jackson to free agency. They currently have three second year backs on the roster, but both Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson have similar skill sets to Franklin. While he may have more upside than either of them, he would not be used to the best of his ability in St. Louis. They need a more physical, between the tackles runner to complement the change of pace ability already in their backfield.
Giovani Bernard is one of the most explosive backs in this draft class. His playmaking potential, receiving ability and shiftiness make him a dangerous Fantasy threat. He could initially be drafted into a committee/timeshare situation and eventually emerge as a lead back. He is slightly undersized and there are durability issues, so it would not be a surprise for a team to limit his touches initially. He has the skill set to be Fantasy relevant even with limited touches.
Ideal Landing Spot: The Green Bay Packers have been lacking in the RB department for years and Bernard would fit right in on their explosive offense. Yes, DuJuan Harris has some intriguing upside, but Bernard gives the Packers a special talent in the backfield. He and Randall Cobb would team to form one of the most dangerous WR/RB duos in the NFL. If he lands in Green Bay, expect an immediate Fantasy impact.
Less Than Ideal Landing Spot: The Miami Dolphins do not necessarily need an RB, but they could be in the market if the value is right. Daniel Thomas does not run with the power expected of an RB his size. While very talented, Bernard is not a short yardage/goal line type of player by any means. He has a similar skill set to potential starter and breakout candidate Lamar Miller. For Fantasy owners, Bernard to Miami would end up being a problem to avoid.
Montee Ball has done nothing but put up big numbers at Wisconsin (including an NCAA record 77 rushing TDs), but a lack of burst and physical upside have his Fantasy stock in question. If he lands in a situation where his between the tackles ability will be complemented by a smaller, shifty back, he could certainly make a Fantasy impact. Ball is not the most exciting RB prospect, but has potential to carve out a workman-like career.
Ideal Landing Spot: As was mentioned above, the St. Louis Rams have an RB opportunity. Pead and Richardson have the burst and playmaking ability covered already. Ball could step right in and scoop up short yardage and goal line work. It would be a crowded situation, but Ball’s skill set would give him an advantage when it comes to Fantasy value. He could be the Lendale White to Pead’s (and/or Richardson’s) Chris Johnson.
Less Than Ideal: The Jacksonville Jaguars are in the market for a backup running back. While Ball would give them depth, his plodding style would not likely earn him much more than a few carries a game behind starter Maurice Jones-Drew. They need a dynamic talent who can make plays out the backfield and in space. Ball would wind up a handcuff in 2013, but not much more than that unless MJD has injury issues again. Even then, he would likely split touches with Justin Forsett. Plus, there are no guarantees that when MJD rides off into the sunset that the job would be turned over to Ball. A more talented, higher upside back would almost assuredly be brought in as competition.
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