The excitement of the draft has come and gone which once again leaves us fantasy freaks left somewhat in a state of limbo, wondering what else we have left to fulfil our off season emptiness! Fear not, there is plenty to think about. Let’s start by assessing the rookie class that’s entering their inaugural season in the NFL. Unfortunately, I for one wasn’t overly impressed by some of the landing spots of some of the higher ranked offensive players.
My draft grades for fantasy:
- Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans – A
- DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns – A
- Mitch Trubitsky, Chicago Bears – B
- CJ Beathard, San Francisco 49ers – B
- Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs – C
As a top quarterback coming into the NFL draft, the most likely landing spot is going to a team that struggled the previous year and is most likely after a change at the position or in need of a replacement. But unfortunately in these cases, the landing spots aren’t necessarily a juicy spot for fantasy purposes unless it is a rare circumstance e.g Andrew Luck going to Indianapolis. In the case of the top 2 QB prospects in this year’s draft, Mitch Trubitsky and DeShone Kizer, they have been handed particularly uphill tasks as they have joined up with 2016 strugglers Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns respectively. Both rookies are likely to be starters this upcoming season, but both are certain not to have an easy ride. In my opinion Kizer has the better opportunity out of these two as Cleveland has improved in a lot of areas during this off season. Kizer will likely have better protection than last years failed quarterbacks Josh McCown, Cody Kessler and Robert Griffin III received behind the o-line in Cleveland as they have added key pieces like Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter whilst also making sure guard Joel Bitonio won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. With Griffin III and McCown now having parted company with the Browns, Kizer could well see himself favoured for the starting role. CJ Beathard has a big chance to take the reins in San Francisco during pre-season, although he’ll have to beat out 8 year pro Brian Hoyer which will be no easy task. I can see Pat Mahomes becoming a solid dynasty quarterback in the next few years but for this season at least he will more than likely have to be patient and learn from veteran signal caller Alex Smith. The player I believe has the biggest opportunity to be effective this season is the Houston Texan’s newcomer, Deshaun Watson.
I’m not saying he will set the league alight like Dak Prescott did last year, after all, Dak walked into a position where he was protected by arguably the best offensive line in recent history. But the Texan’s have some good pieces on the offensive side of the ball including two explosive recievers in DeAndre Hopkins who is desperate for a talented passer in order to recapture that scintillating form of 2015 and, of course, Will Fuller who will be keen to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump this season.
- Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars – A
- Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers – A
- D’Onta Foreman, Houston Texans – B
- Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins –C
- Donnel Pumphrey, Philadelphia Eagles – C
These fantasy grades are exactly what they suggest. I’m picking out players who I think have the biggest chance to succeed this season. That’s the reason why you don’t see higher draft picks like Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon and Alvin Kamara involved, I simply do not see those particular players being placed in a situation where they are effective to plug and play in your fantasy teams. In Cook’s case, The Vikings have struggled to make any running back productive not named Adrian Peterson who has an average of 1,616 yards over his last 3 full seasons (more than 14 games played in 2012, ‘13 and ‘15) as opposed to Matt Asiata and Jerrick Mckinnon who combined carries in 2014 totalled just 1,056 yards and in 2016 a measly 941 yards. The Vikes have also acquired Latavius Murray in the off-season who has some experience and value to his name meaning a committee is likely. I think in Cook’s case it is a wait and see type situation. He’ll likely serve as a 1B option behind Murray to start with, but I wouldn’t be completely surprised if he takes the main role over towards the end of the season as I believe Cook’s raw talent outshines Murray’s. It’s a very similar situation to what Joe Mixon finds himself in Cincinatti. He’ll have to prove he is better than both Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard to land the starting job, both have got plenty of experience behind them in the NFL. For me, this situation stinks of a committee to start the year. The reason I have former Stanford star Christian McCaffrey as my my second ranked rookie RB is because of his extraordinary talent. Being a talented runner and a comprehensive pass catcher is worth its weight in gold in this league; just ask David Johnson, Le’veon Bell or even Danny Woodhead.
He’s in a situation in Carolina where current running back Jonathan Stewart is the wrong side of 30 and winding down in his career and a quarterback in Cam Newton who would benefit greatly from a competent short distance option to throw to when scrambling out of the pocket. McCaffrey can make this backfield his and I expect him to do this early on in the season. Leonard Fournette for a long time was touted to be the next best star out of college football. That opinion slightly waned after inspections of his tape were carried out, but he still managed to be the number 4 pick off the board. He has landed in a pretty good situation, he should be able to beat off fellow running backs in TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory who combined to carry the load on a below par season last year. Fournette will probably find himself in starting job come week 1 of the new season as both previously mentioned failed to impress last year, so much so it was deemed necessary to draft the LSU grad with such a high pick. This indicates the back room staff in Jacksonville are confident the once dubbed “new Adrian Peterson” to come in and make this role his own. Acquiring Cam Robinson in the second round of the draft certainly helps the jags run offence too as he will certainly sure up some of the holes that were plain to see in 2016. Don’t forget though having said all of that, the Jags schedule this year means they will face a top 15 defence in rushing yards conceded 10 out of the 16 games. D’onta Foreman and Semeje Perine have similar situations within their teams, Texans and Redskins. Both will be competing against lead rushers from last year Lamar Miller and “Fat Rob” Kelley. Despite having a fairly good fantasy year, Miller still wasn’t over impressive and Foreman’s “beast mode” physical ability will give the Texans a tasteful temptation if Miller fails to impress in Houston again this season. I must admit I don’t know too much about Perine except the unbelievable feat of benching 30 reps at the combine and outdoing almost every offensive lineman and beating every other running back by 6 reps. I know that seemingly over the last 3 or 4 seasons Washington’s backfield has been somewhat of a train wreck, thus the opportunity for the former Sooners running back may soon come round quicker than most. Donnel Pumphrey is another mid round running back who certainly benefitted from a good situation. Philadelphia came into the draft with seemingly a hole to be filled in the backfield with injury prone and lacklustre half back Ryan Mathews not impressing last season and veteran Darren Sproles predominately being used as a special team’s returner. Pumphrey is certainly one to keep an eye on throughout the remainder of the pre-season.
Thanks for reading part one of my fantasy rookie previews and be sure to check back in a few days when I will discuss the Wide Receiver and Tight End class!
By Rob Grimwood