Draft Reactions – Day 1
Where and when a player gets drafted has a significant impact on how successful they can become. Draft capital leads to opportunity and opportunity leads to fantasy football success. Eight of the top offensive rookies in this class found new homes in round one of the NFL draft. In part one of three in this draft reaction series, we take a dive into the fantasy football implications from the first round of the draft.
Kyler Murray to the Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals are a great fit for Kyler Murray. The 2018 Heisman Trophy winner joins head coach Kliff Kingsbury who wants to implement a fast-paced and pass-heavy offense. Kyler and Kliff are a match made in heaven. The first overall pick has elite pocket awareness, throwing accuracy, and athleticism. He as all of the necessary tools to be a top fantasy football quarterback.
Kyler’s arrival is an immediate boost for the entire offense. Things could not have been much worse for the Arizona Cardinals in 2018. The team finished with the fewest offensive yards and touchdowns in the league last season.
Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, and David Johnson will be the three primary weapons for Murray. With an upgrade at quarterback, an exciting new coach, and few weapons elsewhere on the roster, we can expect all three players to outproduce their 2018 season. As for Kyler himself, landing with the Cardinals gives him the opportunity to finish as a top-12 QB in his rookie season.
Daniel Jones to the New York Giants
Daniel Jones was selected sixth overall by the New York Giants. Our very own Jeff Smith pegged the Giants as the best landing spot for Daniel Jones before the draft. But he had Jones being picked at the end of the third round. Yikes.
In three years the starter at Duke, Jones had one season with an above average passer rating. This is not what you want to see from an early first-round pick. College passer rating is not the only red flag for Jones.
That is bad company for Jones. History is not on his side. The New York Giants have indicated that they plan to let Jones learn behind Eli Manning. It is Eli’s job to lose. However, quarterbacks drafted in the top-10 overall picks tend to see the field sooner rather than later. Do not be surprised when Jones takes over for the giants in the first half of the season. The real question is, how long will he last? Jones is a player to avoid in all formats except superflex until he proves he can be productive in the NFL. Saquan Barkley might be the only Giant we can trust in 2019.
TJ Hockenson to the Detroit Lions
TJ Hockenson was the first tight end picked as the eighth overall pick in the draft. Hockenson offers the most versatile skill set of any tight end in this draft. He has all of the traits to succeed as a blocker and a receiver in the NFL. Jesse James signed a four-year $25 million contract with the Lions earlier this offseason but he is not a major threat to the rookie tight end. Let’s take a look at how tight ends have fared in fantasy football with Matthew Stafford in the past.
Stafford has only supported one top-10 fantasy football tight tend since 2012. Stafford and the Lions failed to make the most out of Eric Ebron in his four-year tenure. That raises concern for Hockenson’s receiving outlook. Hockenson will be the clear-cut starting TE for the Lions in 2019. Rookie tight ends rarely make an impact their rookie season so Hockenson is not a recommended target in redraft leagues. His value in dynasty leagues, however, is a different story. Hockenson has a clear path to become a TE1 over the next two to three years. Hockenson has the potential to grow into an elite fantasy football tight end, but do not expect too much in his rookie season.
Dwayne Haskins to the Washington Redskins
Dwayne Haskins was our consensus QB2 in this rookie class before the draft. The Washington Redskins were able to snag him with the 15th overall pick. He steps into a situation where he is expected to win the starting job before week 1. Let’s dive into how quarterbacks have fared under Jay Gruden.
Gruden has shown he can lead his quarterbacks to fantasy football success in the past. We have also seen Gruden have success with rookies. While offensive coordinator of the Bengals in 2011 Andy Dalton finished as QB17 in his rookie campaign. With Gruden still around Dalton followed up with QB12 and QB4 finishes in his next two seasons. More recently, Gruden helped Kirk Cousins finish as a top 10 fantasy QB in three consecutive seasons with the Redskins.
Above is Alex Smith’s passer rating by receiver in the 10 weeks he played before his season-ending injury. The scariest part of Haskin’s situation is his current supporting cast. Jamison Crowder left the team this offseason, so the top three receivers on the roster are now Paul Richardson, Josh Doctson, and Trey Quinn. Any receiver drafted in the next two rounds of the NFL draft could be a huge help for Haskins. As it stands, Quinn is expected to start in the slot and could be the biggest beneficiary with Haskins at the helm. Haskins excelled with short quick passes to Parris Campbell in the slot at Ohio State.
Noah Fant to the Denver Broncos
Noah Fant was picked 20th overall soon after his former Iowa teammate TJ Hockenson. This is the first time in the modern NFL era that two tight ends from the same school were drafted in the first two rounds. As mentioned with Hockenson, rookie tight ends rarely produce in fantasy football. Fant’s freakish athleticism and receiving ability could make him the exception. As pointed out by our own Tim Torch, Fant is also a better blocker than most realize.
Joe Flacco has had moderate success with his tight ends throughout his career. He has supported a TE1 in three of his last four seasons. Noah Fant will be one of the best tight ends Flacco has had the opportunity to play with. Fant could very well be the number two receiving option on the Broncos behind Courtland Sutton in 2019. Any rookie tight end comes with significant risk in fantasy football, however. But Fant’s upside cannot be ignored. Dynasty owners should pay close attention to the next rounds of the NFL draft to see if the Broncos draft their quarterback of the future.
Josh Jacobs to the Oakland Raiders
With the 24th pick of the draft, the Oakland Raiders selected Alabama running back Josh Jacobs. This was one of the best spots in the league for a running back to land. Jacobs should immediately step into the starting role for the Raiders in 2019. Jacobs can excel as a rusher and as a receiver in the NFL. Our very own Raju Byfield has Jacobs most comparable player as Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jon Gruden has a history of giving his number one running back a large workload. 2018 can mostly be ignored because Marshawn Lynch only played 6 games due to injuries. Not including 2018, Gruden’s top running back has averaged 220 carries. Jacobs only competition in the backfield is Isiah Crowell and Jalen Richard. Richard should have his usual passing down role and Crowell does not pose as a threat to Jacobs. The Raiders drafted Jacobs to use him. Volume alone will put Jacobs on the RB2 map in 2019.
Marquise Brown to the Baltimore Ravens
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown was the first receiver off the board in 2019. He is on his way to the Baltimore Ravens to join Lamar Jackson. A prospect not all that different than Desean Jackson lands himself in an interesting situation for 2019. Brown will be the clear number one option for the Ravens in 2019. The next best receiver on the roster right now is Willie Snead. So what can we expect from Jackson’s top receiving option? Below are the splits for John Brown with and without Lamar Jackson last year. The “in split” column is all games in which Lamar Jackson started.
This paints a bleak outlook for Hollywood Brown in 2019 and beyond. The Ravens made it clear they want to be a run first team with LJ. Jackson averaged only 22 attempts per game in his seven starts last season. If that average continues it will be extremely difficult for Brown to be a consistent fantasy football asset. However, there is also reason to be optimistic when it comes to Lamar Jackson. Sam Lane outlined the many reasons why Lamar Jackson’s passing abilities might be getting overlooked here. If the Ravens trust Jackson to throw more in 2019, Hollywood could be a steal in fantasy football drafts.
N’Keal Harry to the New England Patriots
With the last pick in the first round, the Patriots drafted wide receiver N’Keal Harry. Harry entered the draft as our consensus number one receiver in this class. He might have some improvements to make with his route running, but there is no denying his elite college production.
Harry had above average college production in all three of his seasons at Arizona State. Commanding a large market share at such a young age is an extremely positive sign for Harry. Harry has the potential to be a Juju Smith-Schuster caliber player in the NFL. So what can we expect from him in New England? Below are the fantasy finished for Tom Brady’s WR1 and WR2 throughout his career.
Brady’s top receiver has finished as a WR2 in every season except one since 2007. However, Brady’s second receiving option has not been valuable in fantasy football over the last four seasons. This is largely due to the Patriots lacking a true number two wide receiver in that time span. That trend should end in 2019. Edelman will likely remain as Brady’s go-to guy in the passing game in 2019 but that should not scare you away from Harry. The Patriots were in serious need of receiving weapons after Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan left the team this offseason. It also remains uncertain if Josh Gordon will play in 2019. Those three players combined for 195 targets last season. It will take much fewer targets than that for Harry to produce WR2 numbers in 2019.