The NFL Draft is a tease. There is no knocking that it is an entertaining weekend event, but it leaves everyone thinking about football, knowing all along we are months away from any real action. While we wait for rookie mini camps to start, we will be resigned to discussing all of the picks and their potential Fantasy impact in your keeper/dynasty league. Let’s start with the QB and RB rankings:
What the 2013 QB Class lacks in top-notch talent it makes up for in… well, not much. There are some potential NFL starters, and maybe even a franchise QB or two. If you need someone to lock down the position on your keeper/dynasty roster, though, start hitting the trade market. Do not expect much instant impact outside of very deep and 2QB leagues.
- EJ Manuel (Buffalo Bills) may have been a reach as the first QB off the board, but he certainly has the highest ceiling of any signal caller in the class. He is very much a work in progress, but has the size, athletic ability and arm to be a legitimate QB1. He lands in a spot that could be a quick-strike offense with C.J. Spiller, T.J. Graham, Stevie Johnson and fellow rookies Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Da’Rick Rodgers. Manuel will need time to develop, and the Bills would be wise to let Kevin Kolb start at least the first half of the 2013 season. If you are looking for a risk/reward QB selection, Manuel is it
- Geno Smith (New York Jets) was considered the odds on favorite to be the first QB drafted, but he slid to the Jets in the second round. Smith has the requisite skill set to succeed in the NFL, but does he have the drive and mental focus? The Jets added Smith but failed to surround him with any dynamic offensive talent. Outside of raw prospect Stephen Hill from last year’s draft, they have solid, if unspectacular, players that lack upside at WR and RB. Much like Manuel, he would benefit by sitting for an entire season. Also like Manuel, he will likely see action by the second half of the year because the QBs ahead of him on the depth chart aren’t a true threat. If he can put in the work and refine his game, he has Top 15 upside. He is far from a sure thing though and will likely be overdrafted in rookie drafts this summer based on name recognition.
- Tyler Wilson (Oakland Raiders) was the sixth QB off the board, but may be the safest bet for solid Fantasy success. Wilson lands in a good spot with developing WRs and what should be a reliable run game. He has very good accuracy, leadership skills and excellent poise in the pocket. He may not develop into an elite option, but a solid QB2 for Fantasy purposes is certainly attainable. He should be a great value pick in rookie drafts.
- Matt Barkley (Philadelphia Eagles) is not the poster child for staying in school. He would have been a surefire first rounder last year, but went back to USC for his senior year and ultimately was drafted in the fourth round. He carries name value and an extensive college resume, but lacks the upside to match. While he gets knocked for his lack of arm strength and athletic ability, Barkley does have the skills to be a serviceable starter. He will never be more than a QB2, but the opportunity for him to develop in Chip Kelly’s offense is intriguing. He is fully capable of making the quick short and intermediate throws necessary to move the chains. If he can rise to the top of the depth chart, he will have a full complement of dynamic talent to work with.
- Ryan Nassib (New York Giants) was in the running to be the first QB drafted, but fell to the Giants in the fourth round. He was a value pick for the G-Men, who will develop him as a backup for 32-year-old Eli Manning. He is a handcuff for Manning owners and a stash in deep QB-heavy leagues, but will have a tough time making any type of short-term impact outside of injury. In the long term, he has the skills to become a starting QB. Learning behind Manning for at least two seasons should benefit him.
- Tyler Bray (Kansas City Chiefs) possesses the size and arm to be a quality Fantasy QB. Despite his talent, he was not drafted, and signed with the Chiefs shortly after. It is a good spot for him to be, as Andy Reid loves a QB project. The Chiefs have an explosive runner in Jamaal Charles and a legit go-to receiver in Dwayne Bowe, but otherwise are devoid of major skill position talent. Plus, Alex Smith is only a slightly above-average starter and Chase Daniel lacks Bray’s upside. What may hold him back is his gunslinger mentality, which leads to accuracy issues, bad decisions and streaky performances. Still, he is worth a late-round rookie draft selection because of his potential.
- Mike Glennon (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) has a massive arm and the upside that comes along with his 6’7” frame. Unfortunately, his decision-making skills are below average and his accuracy will need a lot of work before he can even be considered serviceable. It is clear that the current Bucs coaching staff is not all in on 2014 free agent Josh Freeman. If he struggles this year, Glennon could see action. He’s purely a gamble.
- Matt Scott (Jacksonville Jaguars) is an above-average athlete who is not quite there as a passer. He does have obvious upside and maybe one of the best landing spots of any rookie. The Jaguars clearly have issues at QB with only underwhelming on-field performers in Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Scott is worthy of a speculative add or late-round rookie pick in QB-heavy leagues.
- Zac Dysert (Denver Broncos) was not a need pick, but nonetheless an interesting one. The Broncos have Peyton Manning at the helm for the next couple seasons and will be grooming two potential heirs apparent. Last season, they drafted strong-armed Brock Osweiler in the second round. Dysert, drafted in the seventh round this year, brings similar upside. If the Broncos can reel in his decision-making, he has the arm, accuracy and mentality to be a very good Fantasy QB. The Broncos situation is less than ideal with an established starter and young backup already in place, but do not overlook Dysert because of it
- Brad Sorensen (San Diego Chargers) gets the ball out of his hand in a hurry. He offers the size, build, arm and accuracy to develop into a Fantasy relevant talent. Plus, he lands in an interesting situation. Philip Rivers is just 31 years old and has three years left on his deal, but he has not been able to get the Chargers over the hump. Rivers could get back on track, but if he does not, the door could be open for Sorensen. If you own Rivers, he is a recommended addition. If you are in a deep or 2QB league, he is worthy of a stash regardless.
DIGGING DEEP: Ryan Griffin (New Orleans Saints), Landry Jones (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Sean Renfree (Atlanta Falcons) are deep league handcuffs for established starters but could develop into long-term options.
The RB landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade. With many teams going with a committee approach, there are more Fantasy relevant RBs available. It also makes the bell cow backs even rarer. This class offers plenty of long-term upside but many landing spots were disappointing.
- Giovani Bernard (Cincinnati Bengals) lands in a great Fantasy situation. The Bengals have been looking for a playmaking runner for years now and have come up empty until now. He will instantly be the speed counterpart to an uninspiring Benjarvus Green-Ellis. By 2014, if not before, Bernard should supplant the Law Firm as the lead back in Cincinnati. He is an excellent pass catcher and runs with surprising power for his size. He is an immediate flex option and a long-term potential RB1 in PPR leagues.
- Eddie Lacy (Green Bay Packers) has the best combination of power, size and workhorse potential in this Draft Class. He runs with impressive agility and speed for his size. His landing spot looked a lot better before the Packers stole Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round. He has the power to be a goal line beast and fourth quarter closer. Red flags on Lacy include questions about his ability to stay healthy and desire to be great. He is a first round talent that could still carve out RB2 value in a committee this season. Long-term he could be a Top 10 producer.
- Johnathan Franklin (Green Bay Packers) is a better fit for the Packers offense than second round pick Eddie Lacy. He is a well-rounded back with excellent receiving ability that will be utilized heavily by Aaron Rodgers. He should enter the summer competing with DuJuan Harris, but should be able to carve out a role as Lacy’s running mate before long. He has the skills to overtake Lacy in the long-term as the lead back. More than just a high-upside handcuff, Franklin is going to cost you at least a second round rookie pick. He gets an extra bump in PPR leagues and could end up the most productive Fantasy back from the class when all is said and done.
- Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers) should step in and immediately become a Fantasy factor. Bell has good quickness for his size (6’1” and 230 lbs.) and runs with the power to be a short yardage/goal line beast. He was drafted to be the Steelers future workhorse RB and that may just happen in 2013. He should have little issues passing the mediocre talent already on the depth chart on his way to regular touches. He has the inside track to be the most productive RB as a rookie. He needs to work on his pass protection, but is a capable receiver out of the backfield. His talent is that of an early second round rookie selection, but because of his landing spot he will not make it out of the first.
- Christine Michael (Seattle Seahawks) might be the most talented tailback in the Draft class with an ideal mix of size, power and speed. He has had plenty of off-the-field issues, but the Seahawks grabbed him in the second round nonetheless. The initial situation is not promising. Marshawn Lynch is running wild over the entire league and Robert Turbin looked every bit like a potential starter last year. That is not even mentioning promising rookie Spencer Ware (more on him a little later). In keeper/dynasty leagues, though, you should always consider talent over situation. If you can afford to sit on him for a few seasons, he has the upside to make it worth your while. Michael is a special talent.
- Marcus Lattimore (San Fransisco 49ers) owns legit first round talent, but comes with a well-documented injury history. He is still rehabbing his latest knee injury and was a tremendous value pick for the Niners. A healthy Lattimore is a potential Top 10 RB. He should pass Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James by 2014 and make Frank Gore expendable shortly thereafter. Be prepared to keep him stashed for most or all of this season, but it could really pay off in the long run. If you already have an established contending roster, Lattimore is an ideal second round luxury pick.
- Zac Stacy (St. Louis Rams) is another RB with a solid skill set that finds himself in an intriguing immediate situation. He was a workhorse at Vanderbilt and while not special in any one area, he runs with power and picks up chunks of yards after first contact. Speedy change-of-pace types Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson will be his primary competition in St. Louis. Opportunity is there for Stacy to get significant work as a rookie, making him an excellent value in the second round of rookie drafts.
- Montee Ball (Denver Broncos) had an extremely productive career at Wisconsin, but his lack of physical upside is concerning for dynasty purposes. He lands in a situation that is tailor made for his skill set, the best possible scenario for his long-term value. He will likely make Willis McGahee expendable and become the Broncos between the tackles bell cow. If he shows enough this summer, he will have a good chance to lead the team in rushes and rushing TDs. Ronnie Hillman, last year’s third round pick, will complement him as the chance of pace threat. His landing spot makes him the number one overdraft candidate in keeper/dynasty leagues. Ball is more of a second or third round rookie draft talent, but is easily going inside the Top 10. Perhaps he can carve out a Shonn Greene-like run of effective mediocrity.
- Mike Gillislee (Miami Dolphins) has the makings of an ideal third down back. The Dolphins love what he can do in pass protection and with his receiving ability out of the backfield. He is not the power inside runner that the Dolphins desperately need, but has just enough strength and quickness to be an effective complement to Lamar Miller. With Daniel Thomas struggling in his two NFL seasons, Gillislee has a major opportunity to impress the Dolphins and cement a long-term role. His skills make him worthy of a mid-round rookie draft selection.
- Latavius Murray (Oakland Raiders) was a productive collegiate runner at the University of Central Florida and could be a Fantasy surprise with the Raiders. Given the lack of talent ahead of him on the depth chart, Murray has an excellent shot to establish himself as Darren McFadden’s handcuff. He runs with power, has good size and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Take a shot on his upside in the middle rounds of your rookie draft.
- Andre Ellington (Arizona Cardinals) does not have C.J. Spiller’s elite upside, but the former Clemson Tigers profile similarly for Fantasy purposes. The Cardinals are desperate for production at the RB spot and Ellington offers a playmaking element that is not currently found on their roster. Rashard Mendenhall is on a one-year deal and could establish himself as the workhorse. Third year back Ryan Williams is coming off of yet another injury, but he still has upside. Fellow rookie Stepfan Taylor figures to also be in the mix for carries. Still, Ellington’s excellent receiving ability and elusiveness make him especially interesting in PPR leagues. Not a physical runner, he struggles between the tackles and may be limited to a committee long-term. He could carve out a Fantasy relevant role as soon as this season, but more likely 2014.
- Joseph Randle (Dallas Cowboys) lands in an instant opportunity spot. The Dallas Cowboys have injury-prone Demarco Murray entrenched as their starter, but things are wide open after that. Despite that, he may top out as a backup or committee caliber at best. He was extremely productive in college, but that was more a product of the Oklahoma State system. He does have enough athleticism and initial burst to be effective in spot duty. Randle is likely to be taken earlier than his talent dictates because of the high profile landing spot.
- Spencer Ware (Seattle Seahawks) has the makings of a short-yardage specialist and potential TD vulture. He will start out his career as a fullback and could see limited action as a rookie. Ware runs with power and ferocity, but faces an uphill battle for touches with Lynch, Turbin and Michael ahead of him on the depth chart. He remains on the radar as an RB prospect and should be monitored closely in deep leagues.
- Denard Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars) is a wildcard. A supremely gifted athlete, Robinson was a college QB that was thought to convert to a WR. He was extremely raw and many wondered if RB was his best shot at success. The Jaguars felt like it was, when they drafted him in the fifth round. Robinson is likely to be no more than a gadget guy long-term, but the Jaguars backfield is wide open. Maurice Jones-Drew is a free agent after this season and only Justin Forsett is the current handcuff. Take a flier on him in the middle rounds of your rookie draft if you already have a solid stable of RBs.
- Miguel Maysonet (Philadelphia Eagles) is a small school prospect with upside worth monitoring. He runs with excellent power and is fully capable of picking up extra yards after contact. His landing spot leaves a bit to be desired, but if Bryce Brown’s fumbling issues continue, Maysonet could see time. Patience will be required here, but he is a late round rookie pick that could emerge in time.
- Kerwynn Williams (Indianapolis Colts) is not going to be a featured back in the NFL, but that does not mean he cannot carve out a nice Fantasy career. He is one to watch closely in PPR leagues because of his receiving ability. There is opportunity on the Colts for him to be a deep league asset.
- Knile Davis (Kansas City Chiefs) has a little trouble staying healthy. Ankle injuries have hampered his college career, but Davis is an athletic back that has enough talent to be Jamaal Charles’ direct handcuff. Durability and lack of power are going to hinder his long-term upside, but Davis is a must-draft for Charles owners.
- Stepfan Taylor (Arizona Cardinals) makes the most of his slightly above average talent. He has a workman like quality about his game, but no standout trait. Taylor is an effective downhill runner and capable receiver that may ascend to the top of the Cardinals depth chart solely due to attrition. A general lack of speed, power and upside make him a late-round prospect for rookie drafts.
- Ray Graham (Houston Texans) could be another undrafted find for the Texans. He has the skill set of a dangerous third down back who is a Fantasy asset in PPR leagues. An ACL tear in 2011 has sapped some of his explosiveness, but if he can regain it, he could see a few touches as a rookie.
- Rex Burkhead (Cincinnati Bengals) is not going to see immediate playing time without a few injuries, but he has potential. He is a max-effort, strong between the tackles runner who could eventually be Giovani Bernard’s handcuff. Not explosive or dynamic by any means, Burkhead is a no-nonsense runner that with long-term flex appeal.
DIGGING DEEP: Jawan Jamison (Washington Redskins) Kenjon Barner (Carolina Panthers), Theo Riddick (Detroit Lions) and Cierre Wood (Houston Texans) are all way down on their respective depth charts, but have the skill set to become Fantasy relevant in time.