The NFL draft has come and gone, and now that we’ve seen how teams stocked themselves with the available top college talent, we can better assess the fantasy football landscape. Here are the major winners and losers, from a re-draft (as opposed to dynasty) perspective, following the league’s three-day casting call.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
We have to start the list of winners here. One can question whether Dallas made the smartest move by going for the Ohio State star with the No. 4 pick with so many high-quality defensive players available, but Elliott could hardly have landed in a better spot. Combining his gifts, which include receiving and blocking skills that should keep him on the field for passing downs, with the team’s top-notch offensive line could create a stats monster as soon as this season. Rookies almost never crack the first round in fantasy drafts, but the guess here is that Elliott will be that rare exception.
Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants
Shepard is arguably the wide receiver most prepared to play right away, and he steps into a great situation in New York as the team’s likely Day 1 slot receiver. Odell Beckham Jr. will draw a massive amount of defensive attention, and Eli Manning is smart enough to find the open man (which, of course, will be Beckham a lot of the time, but Shepard should get his).
Robert Griffin III, QB, Browns
Josh McCown is still around, for the time being, to provide competition for the starting spot, but Cleveland surprised many by (with all due respect to third-rounder Cody Kessler of USC) not drafting an obvious QB-of-the-future type. The team did select a dangerous weapon, Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman in the first round, plus three more wideouts, giving Griffin some much-needed pass-catching options.
Laquon Treadwell and Stefon Diggs, WRs, Vikings
Treadwell was a stud against SEC defenses, which should count for plenty, but his poor 40 time and other measurements at the combine hurt his draft stock, causing him to fall to Minnesota with the 23rd overall pick. He’ll be a good-sized (6-foot-2, 210) possession receiver and should have little trouble catching the eye of QB Teddy Bridgewater, who doesn’t have the strongest arm. In turn, Diggs benefits by seeing the team draft a complement, rather than a threat, to his big-play role.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals
Cincinnati appeared to have been the odd team out following a three-WR run (Will Fuller, Josh Doctson, Treadwell) from picks 21 to 23. At 24, and out of first-round-worthy options at that position, the Bengals took cornerback William Jackson III before grabbing a wide receiver, Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd, in the second. Boyd is a good route-runner but he lacks elite athleticism and does not offer any reason to think that, after both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu left, Eifert won’t be the clear No. 2 target after A.J. Green.
Frank Gore, RB, Colts
Things Indianapolis drafted: offensive linemen, and lots of them (four), finally making a concerted effort to provide QB Andrew Luck with some protection. Things Indianapolis did not draft: running backs, indicating great confidence in the soon-to-be-33-year-old Gore (and/or possibly his backup, Robert Turbin). Obviously, the bolstered o-line should also help Gore, who found little running room en route to a career-low 3.7 yards-per-carry average last year.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins
Miami’s faith in Ajayi looked shaky earlier in the offseason, when the team signed C.J. Anderson to an offer sheet that Denver ultimately matched. But the Dolphins’ only draft addition in the backfield, Alabama’s Kenyan Drake, projects to be a change-of-pace back and kick returner, leaving Ajayi as the unquestioned lead back. It also doesn’t hurt that stud offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil dropped into Miami’s lap after a bizarre draft-day incident involving a pot-smoking video caused him to slide out of the top 10.
Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons
A Stanford product who has good size at 6 feet 4, 254 pounds and showed encouraging athleticism at the NFL combine, Hooper was a third-round pick, indicating that the Falcons might envision a big role for him. Although TEs typically face a steep learning curve, he doesn’t have much competition at the position — Atlanta’s depth chart includes the likes of Jacob Tamme, Levine Toilolo and DJ Tialavea — so Hooper could see the field plenty in his first season.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans
He wanted out of Philadelphia, but how happy can Murray be in Tennessee, which used a second-round pick on hulking Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry? Actually, at this point in his career, Murray might be relieved not to take all the abuse of carrying the mail for the Titans, but his fantasy value certainly took a hit.
Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers
The consensus top TE in the draft, Henry now gets the unenviable task of trying to unseat Antonio Gates for targets. Ask former Charger Ladarius Green how easy that is to do. Of course, Gates will turn 36 in June and surely is near the end of the line, but for now, Henry appears to have a Hall of Fame roadblock in the way of any kind of immediate NFL success.
Willie Snead and Brandon Coleman, WRs, Saints
With the offseason departures of Marques Colston and Ben Watson, there are targets to be had from Drew Brees, and Snead and Coleman appeared to be the likeliest beneficiaries — until New Orleans spent the 47th pick on Ohio State wide receiver Michael Thomas. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound specimen presents an immediate rival to Coleman for red-zone work, and he could push Snead out of the role of WR2 on the team to Brandin Cooks.