Our previous exercise continues as we look at our teams in the middle. You may not agree with all of my rankings, but each of these teams pair good to great fantasy options with other question marks on offense.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
I know what you’re thinking, “they have Jamaal Charles!” That alone does not elevate this team higher on my list. Alex Smith is a fine game manager, but his deep ball is lacking and if the numbers from the WR’s last season indicate anything, this team doesn’t have a lick of consistency. Jeremy Maclin is an upgrade over Dwayne Bowe, but even this is speculative as Maclin could be the next WR to disappear from relevance. Travis Kelce has elite talent but had several brutal weeks to go with his successful ones. Worth drafting: Jamaal Charles is going to go in the first round, for good reason, but to expect 16 healthy games is unrealistic, Knile Davis is a fine handcuff. Travis Kelce finished near the top of TE’s but had some really bad weeks; draft with cautious optimism that he can be even better. Alex Smith is a QB2 or bench depth at best; he’ll never be a top 10 QB.
22. Oakland Raiders
Young, skilled, and unpredictable. This team could very well surprise and finish with several high profile fantasy heroes. Derek Carr showed flashes of brilliance last year, and the addition-by-subtraction move to let Darren McFadden go means the talented Latavius Murray will get the start in the backfield. Add Amari Cooper into the mix and you have the makings of a solid offensive team. Worth Drafting: Latavius Murray is a popular pick to elevate his game, especially after reports indicated they’ll be tailoring the offense to Murray’s strengths. Cooper will likely be valued a little high on draft day so you may be disappointed in year one. Carr showed he has what it takes to make it in the NFL, I expect him to elevate his game even more.
21. Minnesotta Vikings
There’s a lot of distraction with the Adrian Peterson saga still unfolding, but I’m operating under the assumption that he starts in week one for the Vikes. Even still, expect them to ease him back into the line up, lightening the load early. Teddy Bridgwater is in the same boat as Carr; a ton of talent but still has to prove how to use it. His WR’s are a bit of a question mark. Charles Johnson seems like he might be a breakout candidate, but Mike Wallace is an over the top receiver with little upside compared to his contemporaries. I’d love for Kyle Rudolph to bring it all together, as he has elite TE talent, but can’t stay on the field. Worth Drafting: Adrian Peterson could still be the AP of old, and many will bet that he is. At worst he’s still a RB1. Bridgewater has to do it with less weapons than the other youngsters in the league, so I figure he’ll struggle to find his stride early, but could suprise; a good upside QB 2 with no threat to his job. Maybe I just don’t like Mike Wallace, but I don’t think he’s as much of a difference maker going forward as I think they’ll look to involve Johnson and Patterson a bit more, both of whom are worth a look later in drafts. Kyle Rudolph will be less expensive than he has been in the past, I’d bet on the production if healthy.
20. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton is only 26 years old, so the feeling that he’s past his prime is just wrong. He’s matured and should be healthy heading into the year. Top 5 finish isn’t out of the question, but a conservative view has him around 10 in my rankings. Jonathan Stewart has the pieces, but the health elludes him. He’ll be good when he’s on the field but I’d rather go elsewhere in the first 3 rounds. Kelvin Benjamin should benefit the most from Newton’s presence, and should be a top 10WR target. Worth Drafting: Newton and Benjamin need each other for success, as the other pieces are lacking. Stewart is a fine back but I’d bet it’s more probable than not that he misses time. Cotchery in PPR leagues could be worth a look in the middle rounds, or a late flier in non-PPR.
19. San Fransisco 49ers
Every year there’s a QB that I think is going to elevate to the top teir. Last year it was Ben Roethlisber, this year it’s Colin Kaepernick. He struggle last year trying to adjust to a pocket passing role. In the off season he’s worked tirelessly to improve his efficiency and I expect hiim to see a spike in fantasy production. Carlos Hyde will likely get drafted far to early, and I caution against over hyping a player that has never been a full time starter. Adding Torrey Smith means more room for Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin to run. Both should continue to see good production, and Smith should benefit from Kaep’s strong arm down the feild. Worth Drafting: My bold prediction is Kaepernick finishes inside the top 10 at his position. Boldin is a machine and should produce, and Vernon Davis will bounce back. Carlos Hyde will look good for stretches but I don’t want him as my RB1.
18. New England Patriots
At this time, Brady is expected to miss 4 games, meaning a quarter of the season will feature backup Jimmy Garoppolo. Despite that the experts think he’s still the best QB in the division, I sense a down tick in production for each of New Englands big guns. Edeleman relies on Brady’s accuracy and LaFell is usually a later option. Can Garoppolo read the D like Brady and involve all of his weapons? Brady could beat his suspension which would likely rank this offense higher. Worth Drafting: Tom Brady has a chip on his shoulder, if you can survive 4 weeks with a backup QB, he’s worth a pick. I don’t draft a Patriots RB ever, for reason that should be obvious. Blount is not an elite NFL running back. Gronk shouldn’t see too much of a dip in production, but LaFell and Edeleman may struggle for a few weeks.
17. Cincinnatti Bengals
Andy Dalton has been the most frustrating of NFL quarterbacks in terms of fantasy. He produces for a time, then he kills you for a time. AJ Green is a stud, even if his numbers took a hit with Dalton’s struggles last year. The big question is does the team invest in surprise starter Jeremy Hill or does it go back to Gio Bernard? Worth Drafting: Dalton has shown he can be a low end QB starter, but you’re asking a lot from a player that struggled at times. A.J. Green is a safe pick, he’s as elite as any in the league. Despite Jeremy Hill’s success on the field, he put up similar numbers to Gio Bernard when he started, I feel a committee coming on.
16. New Orleans Saints
If you’re convinced Mark Ingram finally hit his stride, that could spell disaster for Drew Brees as he’s tumbling down draft boards with managements admittance that they’d like to balance the offense. No more will Brees attempt 650 passes, and this hurts them across the board. Brandin Cooks is a great WR and should do well taking over for Colston as the #1, but Ingram is the big question mark. An underwhelming start to his career was instantly wiped out of the minds of fantsy owners after a solid, if unspectacular year. Worth Drafting: Despite the reports, I’m not convinced Ingram can carry the load, and if Brees falls due to the buzz, I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him in the 3rd or 4th round. Ingram isn’t going to hit a lot of home runs but he should avg around 4 YPC and have a handful of TD’s. The fear is injuries or regression. Cooks is a stud in the making, and Brees will be looking to him often. Colston is another player who may fall beyond their value in your draft. PS. Josh Hill is not Jimmy Graham, so don’t mistake the two come draft day.
15. Baltimore Ravens
When Torrey Smith left, I was worried that Flacco lost his deep threat, but Breshad Perriman could prove to be an even better reciever than Smith. Steve Smith Sr. will likely prove his doubters wrong, and Justin Forsett finally provides stability in the backfield even with Taliefaro lurking in the wings. Worth Drafting: As always, Flacco takes a hit due to the scheme Baltimore runs, but his up weeks are great, solid back up or QB 2 in two quartback leagues. In ways that I don’t with other backs, I believe Forsett can run the football well enough to be a fantasy contributor. Steve Smith will be good again, and Perriman should be one of the rookies to perform in the top 20 of his position.
14. Arizona Cardinals
The team didn’t replace Ellington in the draft, meaning they think he can still perform. Maybe they’re not ready to say that a healthy Carson Palmer will make things different across the board. The stable of WR’s in Arizona are deep and talented, and they should create mismatches across the field. Worth Drafting: Palmer when healthy has the tools around him to be a top 15QB. Fitzgerald is a safe bet to be a top 10 WR and between Michael Floyd and John Brown, defenses will have a hard time adjusting. All of these players will be in play come draft day. Andre Ellington will either play well or be pushed out by the talented David Johnson, who I’d look at as a sleeper in the late rounds. Either way, there should be more consistency the backfield to open up the passing game.
13. Philadelphia Eagles
I personally think all things being equal, Sam Bradford is a superior quarterback to Nick Foles. Add in DeMarco Murray and you have the makings of a good to great offense. Jordan Matthews is only 22 but has big play ability and Chip Kelly has excelled with speedy talented players. The biggest boon for this team was the addition of DeMarco Murray. If LeSean McCoy’s troubles were less about running lanes and more about the runner, Murray should be in for another good year with a ton of touches. Worth Drafting: DeMarco Murray is still a top 5 back, and in Chip Kelly’s offense has a chance to finish at the top of the league again. Bradford will be a sexy pick on draft day, but try to maximize value at the QB position and he may not be that guy. Cooper should continue to see targets on intermediate routes and Matthews was a beast as a 21 year old, but Nelson Agholor could eat into his touches just a bit. Speaking of Agholor, he’s a quality sleeper candidate on a good offensive team. Look at him later in drafts.
We’ve examined the top of the RB draft class earlier in the week, but this year featured another above average WR class. Several of the top players were drafted early in the first round, so lets take a look at the guys who may get snagged on Fantasy Draft day. For the purpose of the article, I’ll seperate the WR’s from the TE’s
Amari Cooper / Oakland Raiders: Being the first WR off the board at the third overall pick, Cooper finds himself as the defacto day one WR1 in an improved Oakland offense. With the emergence of Derek Carr, Cooper finds himself in an enviable position to produce from day one. His ability to run most routes and quickness to beat DB’s, Cooper will be leaned on heavily to produce for the Raiders.
Kevin White / Chicago Bears: You can’t teach size, or at least that’s what I’ve heard. Kevin White is a big, physical reciever with 4.3 speed who will terrorize DB’s with Jay Cutlers big arm. His ability to adjust to the ball and catch at it’s highest point will be invaluable to an offense that often times relies on it’s recievers to make plays for their QB. On day one will be a red zone threat, and with Alshon demanding the double teams, expect White to breakout early.
DeVante Parker / Miami Dolphins: What the Dolphins were lacking was a sizable reciever to be a redzone threat, and that’s exactly what they got when they drafted Parker in the first round. He will pair well with the current stable of receivers, offering a different look for Ryan Tannehill when looking down field. Depending on how often he’s used in the endzone, Parker’s value could fluctuate from week to week in this offense.
Nelson Agholor / Philadelphia Eagles: A much improved Eagles offense snagged Agholor toward the end of the first round. With a huge buzz building heading into the draft, Agholor presents a wonderful weapon to an offense that has plenty. His ability to run crisp routes and play both inside and outside will be a boon for a Sam Bradford lead offense, but temper your expectations as DeMarco Murray should dominate the touches early on as they work toward offensive balance.
Breshad Perriman / Baltimore Ravens: This pick makes a ton of sense for the Baltimore Ravens. With Torrey Smith gone, they needed a speedy WR to pair with Flacco’s monster arm. In Perriman they got a kid that ran a 4.2 at the combine and impressed scouts and experts with his ability to make plays on third and fourth down. As we’ve seen in the past Baltimore will attempt to balance their offense but with new OC Mark Trestman, they may throw the ball more than ever. This will certainly help Perriman offer better value to Fantasy owners.
Phillip Dorsett / Indianapolis Colts: Dorsett is a fine player with a ton of speed and ability, the problem I have with this pick from a fantasy perspective is that he’s going to be buried on a Colts roster featuring TY Hilton and Andre Johnson. If there is an injury to either of those players, Dorsett’s value sky rockets, so keep tabs on how he’s used to see when if at all you should draft him.
Devin Smith / New York Jets: A good all around WR, Smiths fantasy value takes a hit just being in Jets’ green. With as questionable the QB position is I wouldn’t expect Smith to produce, at least not early in the year with Decker and Marshall ahead of him on the Depth Chart.
Dorial Green-Beckham / Tennessee Titans: One of the most contriversial skill players in the draft, Beckham may have the best set of tools in the draft for WR’s. Pairing him with Marcus Mariota may mean some inconsistency early, but if he continues to be a beast on the field, he could put up monster numbers for fantasy owners brave enough to ignore his off the field issues.
Jaelen Strong / Houston Texans: Not your typical deep threat despite good size, Strong has been knocked for being “too raw” as he seems to still be finding his stride as a wideout. With questions at QB and DeAndre Hopkins and Cecil Shorts being the go to’s, strong may be a project for Houston, and should be viewed as a draft and stash in keeper and dynasty leagues rather than a contributor this year.
Maxx Williams / Baltimore Ravens: Last year the TE position was in such flux and left so many questions, Baltimore went out and grabbed the top TE in this years class. Williams should be a day 1 starter, and given Baltimores use of TE’s in past season with Joe Flacco, I expect there to be a fairly good return on investment with this player.
Clive Walford / Oakland Raiders: Lauded as a young combo TE, Walford has some work to do if he wants to steal the starting gig from Mychal Rivera. A sizable TE with good catch radius, may be worth watching in camp if he can win some playing time.
The TE class is really light this year. Several other players graded in the same range but may not have the ability to contribute this year and as thus will not be spotlighted.
There are plenty of players on the above list that will appear on championship teams come the end of this years Fantasy leagues, but the question is who and how do you get them. Will a player like Dorial Green-Beckham explode like we hope he will? Will Phillip Dorsett let down owners who are enamored with his 4.2 speed because he can’t crack the roster? Only time will tell.
With the first overall pick, the Tampa Bay Bucaneers select… QB Jamies Winston *queue the applause*.
Just like that, the first round of the 2015 NFL draft got underway. On day one we saw 10 skill positions find their first NFL immediately impacting the fantasy landscape surrounding several NFL players. As Zac Stacy so elequently put it on twitter: “yikes”.
What do these picks mean for the teams making them? Keep reading to find out.
Jameis Winston-QB / Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay had two talented WR’s that put up good fantasy numbers in rookie Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. What Tampa Bay lacked on offense was a steady QB under center. What Winston means to this team is that at some time down the road, consistency will develop and those guys will continue to beat defenses down the side lines. More importantly, it could open up the field for oft-maligned RB Doug Martin. Martin has had to deal with a sub par offensive general and constantly stacked boxes. I expect him to bounce back this year with an added focus on a QB who should be able to contribute.
Marcus Mariota-QB / Tennessee: I’m not sure that Mariota has the tools to be a good fantasy QB right away. Physically he’s gifted but he’s not your prototypical pocket passer, and with the issues Tennessee had keeping it’s QB’s healthy last year, Mariota is going to have to be doing a ton of scrambling. May have some value late, but I imagine inconsistinceny will keep him from being relevant right away. Expect some down weeks out of Wright and Douglas.
Amari Cooper-WR / Oakland: Oakland needed a WR to pair with QB Derek Carr, and they grabbed the best one on the board. What Cooper lacks in speed, he makes up for in crisp route running, good body control, and the ability to beat defensive backs. He’ll make an immediate impact as the defacto #1 receiver in an offense that had too many 2’s and 3’s.
Kevin White-WR / Chicago: This is a perfect marraige of player and team. Chicago has had most success when Jay Cutler can use his big arm to hit long, physical recievers down the side lines. To replace Brandon Marshall, the Bears snagged Kevin White who’s size and speed match up perfectly across from Alshon Jeffery. Expect Mike Evans kind of numbers.
Todd Gurley-RB / StL: I’m not sure this wasn’t just a pick and pray selection hoping Gurley pans out at number 10. His ACL injury clouds his ability to contribute this year, but when healthy he should be a workhorse back. In contrast, Zac Stacy, an in-vogue pick last year has aske to be traded, and if so could throw a wrinkle in elsewhere.
DeVante Parker-WR / Mia: A raw talent with elite skills, Parker won’t be asked to do too much in an Miami Offense that has two solid WR’s in Landry and Stills, and a top end pass catching TE in Cameron. A late grab and stash candidate, would only be relevant in fantasy terms if there were an injury ahead of him.
Melvin Gordon-RB / SD: I like this pick in the same vein as Chicago’s Kevin White pick. What SD likes out of it’s backfield is a quick, shifty back that can play in both running and passing downs. Most experts have pegged Gordon as the early “offensive rookie of the year” leader and in San Diego he should have plenty of opportunities to touch the football.
Nelson Agholor-WR / Phi: So much for the “future to Tennessee for Mariota” tade. Agholor makes a ton of sense to a Philly team that hadn’t replaced DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin but still found a way to win games. The big question will be who starts under center. Mark Sanchez hurts any one’s fantasy value in terms of consistency, but who knows if Sam Bradford would be any better in Chip Kelly’s offense. Expect power outages along with huge fantasy weeks.
Breshad Perriman-WR / Baltimore: Not a big physical receiver, Perriman has + speed (ran a sub 4.3 40) and will slot in nicely where Torrey Smith left. Paired with Joe Flacco’s monster arm, expect moderate fantasy numbers mostly in bunches.
Phillip Dorsett-WR / Idianapolis: Small and speedy, Dorsett may make the Colts a more formidable offense, but it does him no favors to be buried on an offense with TY Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief and Dwayne Allen eating up a chunk of the passes. With as deep as the talent pool is and as many sleeper candidates as there are, Dorsett won’t be on my draft watch list.