You thought you had to wait forever for the NFL draft to arrive? Oh no, my friend. That was nothing. Now that the draft has come and gone, the real wait begins. The wait for the actual start of the NFL season, which won’t occur for more than three months. Buh-rutal.
Fortunately, the end of the draft signifies the beginning of fantasy football mock draft season, at least according to this degenerate. Sure, you could have done a mock fantasy draft before last week (and, ahem, some of us did), but now we have a much more complete picture of NFL teams’ personnel.
So how did the draft affect the fantasy landscape? Well, of course, that remains to be seen, but here are some thoughts about players whose fortunes took turns, either for the better or for the worse. Note: I’ll frame this in terms of re-draft leagues, and only mention players likely to be drafted in at least many of those leagues.
A turn for the better:
- Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons. Steven Jackson will turn 31 in July, and already hit the “injured and ineffective” portion of his Atlanta career last season. Jacquizz Rodgers is 24, but is more of a change-of-pace guy and was also ineffective in 2013, meaning that Freeman should be a solid late-round target.
- Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions. With a high-powered passing attack already augmented by the acquisition of Golden Tate, and holes aplenty on defense, Detroit spent its No. 10 overall pick on … pass-catching tight end Eric Ebron. So it seems safe to assume that the team is more committed than ever to letting Stafford heave it around all over the field, often in an attempt to make up for a scoreboard deficit.
- Jordan Cameron, TE, Browns. Okay, the Josh Gordon news wasn’t directly related to the draft, but it emerged at the same time as Cleveland was busy not drafting any new receivers, so I’ll lump it in here. Gordon, who led the NFL in receiving yards despite playing only 14 games, is reportedly facing a lengthy suspension, even potentially for the whole season, which would be bad news for the Browns, but likely good news for Cameron’s fantasy prospects. Remember that in Weeks 1 & 2 last season, when Gordon was suspended, Cameron had two of his three biggest receiving-yardage totals.
- Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots. New England didn’t spend a high pick on a running back (it took Wisconsin’s James White in the fourth), which, coupled with the free agency departure of LeGarrette Blount, means that Ridley should have every chance to reclaim his primary-back spot in training camp. At least until Ridley fumbles in the preseason.
- Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints. Getting drafted by New Orleans does wonder for his fantasy value. Cooks’ speed just leaps out from highlight films, and he is well positioned to pick up much of the work Darren Sproles and Lance Moore left behind.
- Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles. Another rookie who landed in a great spot. Chip Kelly made a star out of Riley Cooper last season, and even with Jeremy Maclin returning from injury, there’s no reason he can’t so the same for the big, talented Matthews, perhaps sooner than some folks may expect.
- Josh McCown, QB, Buccaneers. At the very least, he’s likely to be drafted in leagues in which I’m a participant. It’s not hard to connect the dots here — Tampa saw what he did for the Bears last season, and not only signed him, but spent high picks on WR Mike Evans and TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, giving McCown a super-size receiving corps (including Vincent Jackson) tellingly similar to that which he had in Chicago (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett).
- Bishop Sankey, RB, Titans. This is simply obvious. Tennessee cut Chris Johnson, leaving Shonn Greene (who just had knee surgery) to mind the shop, then made Sankey the first running back drafted. He should get plenty of touches behind an offensive line that appears to be the Titans’ sole repository of above-average talent.
A turn for the worse:
- Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. Sure, Carolina took a huge wide receiver in the first round, but that was the only pass-catcher this exceedingly receiver-deficient team drafted. And even the draftee in question, 6-5, 240-pound Kelvin Benjamin is not without major question marks; his speed (4.61 at the combine) is impressive for a man his size, but not impressive at all for an NFL wide receiver, and he has a long way to go in terms of technique. Benjamin will probably make an early impact in the red zone, but wouldn’t he then be canceling out some of Newton’s own prowess in that department?
- Frank Gore, RB, 49ers. The second-round addition of Carlos Hyde to a group of potential usurpers that already included Kendall Hunter and Marcus Lattimore, can’t bode well for Gore’s job security, can it? Then again, it seems like every year brings new reminders that reports of Gore’s fantasy death tend to be greatly exaggerated.
- Gio Bernard, RB, Bengals. After showing exceptional ability in frustratingly limited action as a rookie, Bernard appeared to be a candidate for a much bigger role in 2014, especially with BenJarvus Green-Ellis looking like a very senior partner in any law firm. But Cincinnati not only drafted a running back, LSU’s Jeremy Hill, but took him in the second round, which, at this point, is like taking any other position in the first. Bernard will still get plenty of touches, and rip his share of big plays, but he probably won’t get enough work to make him a steady RB1.
- Andre Johnson, WR, Texans. It looks like he’ll either be catching passes from weak-armed Ryan Fitzpatrick or fourth-round project Tom Savage, all while Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt ensure that Houston is rarely losing by a huge amount. Or if things really work out for Johnson, Case Keenum will find himself back under center.
- Zac Stacy, RB, Rams. Like Bernard, Stacy looked like someone ready to join the RB1 ranks until the draft happened. In Stacy’s case, his new rival for touches is third-rounder Tre Mason, last seen running all over Florida State in the national title game.