There will be plenty of articles written in the coming days on how the skill players selected in the first round will perform with their new teams. In fact, our own Sal Stefanile has already finished one.
But I decided to go a different route. It’s great to speculate how rookies will impact fantasy lineups, but what about the players surrounding said rookie? Let’s delve into how the skill players that were drafted in the first round impact their fellow teammates.
Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, St. Louis Rams
The Rams traded up to get Austin and fantasy owners couldn’t have been more exciting. Much talk was placed on Austin heading to New York, which would have essentially killed his fantasy value. Instead, the Rams stole the diminutive away from the hapless Jets and got the most potent playmaker of the draft.
With Danny Amendola leaving for New England (#BostonStrong), Austin will immediately takeover the slot role. Brian Quick and Chris Givens will man the outside with Jared Cook anchoring the interior. I think Quick gets an added bump in value as he has the size and speed to be a beast in the league. He’s still very much raw, but with the Rams taking a receiver like Austin, it tells me they still believe Quick can be the outside threat they envisioned when they drafted him in the second round last year. Givens, however, could be the biggest loser simply because I doubt the offense, as a whole, can support the entire passing game on a somewhat consistent basis.
For Sam Bradford, it’s “no more excuses” time. The Rams have put forth the effort in surrounding him with weapons at every skill position, so it’s time for him to step up. Bradford displayed some nice progression with Brian Schottenheimer calling the plays in 2012, and will surely benefit from running the same offense for a second straight season; something he hasn’t been able to do with the revolving door at Offensive Coordinator in past years. Bradford should be a very capable fantasy backup quarterback with some low-end QB1 upside.
I’m a bit less optimistic than I was before the Austin selection concerning Jared Cook. Sure he’s got the potential, but hasn’t he always? I think Cook will be a low-end starter for your fantasy team, but nothing extraordinary.
The Rams’ offense should look formidable in the coming years. They should be exciting to watch just as long as Bradford is able to stay healthy and continue to progress.
E.J. Manuel, Quarterback, Buffalo Bills
Probably the biggest surprise of the first round was when head coach Doug Marrone opted for Manuel instead of his college passer, Ryan Nassib. The Bills were the team who “benefitted” from trading down with the Rams at the eight spot. And the more I look at Manuel pick, the less I like it.
My first reaction on Twitter was “Sometimes it’s how a player fits in a system than it is about talent.” I was obviously drunk, because now I just don’t get it. I mean, I suppose it’s possible Manuel gets the nod come Week 1 of 2013, but by no means is he ready for the NFL.
The obvious loser in this selection is Stevie Johnson, not because of Manuel per say, but because the Bills could very well end up starting Kolb in 2013. There’s been a lot of talk about Johnson moving around the offense more, becoming more involved in the slot. The idea of that (coupled with what we thought was going to be a Nassib pick) gave credence to Johnson’s rising value. Unfortunately, Manuel is an inaccurate passer and has much to learn before making anyone on the Bills’ receiving corps a reliable fantasy contributor. According to MyFantasyLeague.com, Johnson is currently being taken as the number 27 wideout at an ADP of 72. That’s probably where he’ll stay, and he should really be looked at as a middling to high WR3 for your fake squad.
The biggest winners of this draft pick have to be both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. Whether it’s Kolb or Manuel taking snaps from center, the Bills will have to lean on a heavy run game. I believe Spiller should still be drafted where he currently is (as the number five back, pick 7.25) but it’s FJax who stands to rise on draft boards. When healthy, he could get 10-plus carries a game and gobble up the goal line touches. His ADP is the number 43 runner off the board, which is great value. He should be a viable flex option with the occasional RB2 upside. His stock can only rise from here.
Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Cincinnati Bengals
That flushing sound you hear is Jermaine Gresham’s fantasy value going down the toilet. My exact tweet last night was, “If you think for one second Andy Dalton can make AJG, Sanu/Jones, Gresham and Eifert all fantasy viable, you need this drink in mine hands.”
Yes, I said mine.
I don’t hate the pick for the Bengals because longterm, I think Eifert has a much higher ceiling and floor than Gresham. What it did was kill any and all value Gresham had going into 2013, as he is currently being taken as the number 9 tight end in mock drafts. I don’t see a scenario in which Gresham (or Eifert) can be counted on as an every week fantasy starter this year. So while I love the move for the Bengals, I hate it for fantasy purposes.
There doesn’t seem to be any clear winners with this selection, just the clear loser. Dalton will be Dalton, a solid and dependable QB2. A.J. Green will be A.J. Green, and the rest of the receiving corps will be decent on certain weeks. If anything, the two tight end sets in which I envision the Bengals utilizing more will help the run game. Look for the Bengals to draft a quality runner during day two. He’ll be the Bengal you want if A.J.Green slips through your fingers.
DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Houston Texans
Finally, Andre Johnson has a running mate who will take away some of the opposing defenses’ attention. Johnson hasn’t had a true threat opposite him since…Kevin Walters? Right. Johnson could very well have less receptions and yards, but could get increased looks in the redzone with the addition of Hopkins and subtraction of James Casey. He’ll continue to be a WR1 in fantasy with a touch less of a ceiling. Currently being taken as the number 10 wideout, Johnson should be considered a good value there.
Owen Daniels is being taken as the 11th tight end and think he could be a steal there. Daniels only problem has been his lack of ability to stay on the field for an entire season. If he can stay healthy, the duo will garner enough attention on the outside to him up in the middle. He’s still Matt Schaub’s favorite red zone target, but could be sharing that role with Johnson now. If he’s out there when you approach pick 100, get him without question.
The Hopkins pick also should free up some room for the already potent run game. We all know Arian Foster’s greatness, but he looked to be slowing down last season. With more attention toward the pass game, it should open up holes for Foster to take less punishment, and he’ll challenge to be the top back points wise once again.
Schaub should see a slight uptick in coming fantasy drafts because the Texans now possess three receiving threats, aside from that of Foster. I’ll be curious to see what he can do with the addition. Given his ADP (number 24 quarterback, pick 173), I’ll be more than happy to land him as my QB2 late in drafts.
I don’t see a loser with this pick aside from Keshawn Martin…but he wasn’t going to be on any of my teams anyways.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings
In a surprise move, the Vikings traded up (and gave quite a bounty to New England) and landed Patterson with the 29th overall pick. It made sense as they lost Percy Harvin via trade with the Seahawks and needed another pass catcher opposite Greg Jennings.
Jennings needed the Vikings to do this, as did Christian Ponder and Adrian Peterson. Having just Patterson on the field should create mismatches for the entire offense. Sans Patterson, I thought Jennings’ ADP of 72 was a good value for potential owners. If the current ADP sticks moving forward, Jennings will award those who gamble on him with a nice return.
Perhaps the biggest benefactor will be Kyle Rudolph. With two legit threats on the outside, Rudy should have plenty of mismatches with linebackers and safeties. He’s being taken as the number 6 tight end (pick 81) and should challenge to be a top-5 one in 2013. The talent is there (not the QB), the run game is there and he’s their top redzone threat. Couple that with the mystery that is Rob Gronkowski’s recurrent infections and Aaron Hernandez’ shoulder ailments, the stars are aligning for Rudy to have the true breakout we all anticipated for 2012.
As for Christian Ponder? He’s not going to be on your fantasy squad unless you play in 30 team leagues and all backups are taken.