With the long 2019 NFL Draft season in the books, we now settle into a bit of a football summer hibernation until mini-camps and preseason football break out. But rookie mini-camps are already just a few days away, and many dynasty leagues are jumping into their rookie drafts soon. Fantasy football has no offseason, after all.
The NFL Draft affects more than just the rookies in fantasy football. Every team is impacted. For some teams it means a big opportunity for a new rookie face. For others it means a second chance for a veteran that may have been overlooked. Some players may benefit indirectly, from help on the offensive line or defense, too. Let’s go around the NFL, and look at the fantasy football fallout for each team, starting with the NFC. Be sure to pay attention to both rookies and veterans — it all matters in fantasy football…
The Cardinals look more immediately different than any team in football after the draft. Out with Josh Rosen and in with Kyler Murray. Expect Murray to start from Week 1, and he should be a viable fantasy option immediately in Kliff Klingsbury’s spread offense. Fantasy quarterbacks either need high volume or significant rushing stats to separate themselves from the pack, and Murray should have both. Arizona will pass a lot and should put Murray in position to use his running ability. The touchdowns may be harder to come by until Arizona’s offensive line and overall offense improve, but Murray could be a top-10 fantasy QB from the get-go, with top-5 upside quickly. He’s absolutely worth consideration with your top dynasty pick and a slam dunk if you’re in a 2QB league.
The rest of the Cards situation is a bit murkier. Larry Fitzgerald is probably a name to avoid this season. He’s old and this offense should spread the ball around between a bunch of viable targets. The upside was already gone and now the floor may be too. Rookies Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler are interesting dynasty dice rolls, but the WR targets may be split pretty evenly four or five ways and Christian Kirk is probably the best bet this year. I like Isabella better long term as the guy the Klingsbury planted his flag on early.
David Johnson should benefit from a better offense around him. While he may lose some touches with more weapons around him, his offense should also have the ball more, with more chances to score. Expect a higher floor and a safe RB1 but maybe without the monster ceiling.
It looks like the Falcons didn’t make any major fantasy changes in the draft, but looks can be deceiving. Atlanta used a pair of 1st-round picks to upgrade its offensive line, and that’s the sort of move that helps the entire offense — in particular, the run game. The Falcons let Tevin Coleman walk and didn’t draft a replacement until Qadree Ollison in the 5th round. That all sets up nicely for a huge Devonta Freeman bounce-back year.
Like the Falcons, the Panthers addressed the O-line early and not much else on offense, outside of the surprising Will Grier. Grier gives them some Cam Newton insurance but shouldn’t worry you too much yet, and there’s no use selling low in dynasty anyway. With no new investment at WR and Devin Funchess gone, expect D.J. Moore to be a very popular breakout name this fall.
The Bears didn’t pick in the first two rounds but jumped right into offense after that, adding RB David Montgomery in the 3rd round and WR Riley Ridley in the 4th. Montgomery joins Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis in an open backfield now that Jordan Howard is gone. He is a shifty runner who led the NCAA in missed tackles per rush, and the Bears traded up to grab him despite their lack of picks. He should have an excellent shot at leading the Bears and carries and could be the top rookie RB. The presence of him and Davis should keep Cohen in his similar role. Ridley could be a long-term fit but looks unlikely to make an immediate impact with this WR depth chart.
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The Cowboys already used their 1st rounder on Amari Cooper, who’ll get a whole season now as the clear top Dallas receiver. Memphis RB Tony Pollard is a versatile pass-catching weapon that looks like a change-of-pace option more than a Zeke handcuff.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson is the big offensive addition in Detroit, and he’ll be expected to start right away, but rookie tight ends typically don’t put up big fantasy numbers. Hock will make an immediate impact as a blocker as this offense looks likely to move toward more of a run focus under new OC Darrell Bevell, and he’s a great addition to the team but more of a Jason Witten type long-term, more valuable to his team than your fantasy squad. Even as valuable as top tight ends can be in fantasy, he may not be worth a significant dynasty investment, and you’ll likely wait awhile for the payoff even if it hits.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers grabbed two defenders in the first round, but this team has a history of turning later picks into fantasy gold and has two contenders from this draft. TE Jace Sternberger led Texas A&M in yards, receptions, and TDs his only season there and looks like a significant receiving threat. He’ll be behind Jimmy Graham this year and should slow you from making a big investment there but could have 8-to-10-TD potential a year or two from now. RB Dexter Williams dropped to the 6th round. He’s a tough runner without any real elite competition in his way, and Aaron Jones never stays healthy. Sternberger and Williams are sneaky dynasty stashes if you can wait. It’s always good to have a piece of an Aaron Rodgers offense.
Los Angeles Rams
The big name here is RB Darrell Henderson, a 3rd-round pick out of Memphis. Henderson was a monster with an absurd 8.9 yards per carry in each of his final two seasons with the Tigers. He looks like the heir apparent to Todd Gurley, and suddenly it’s looking like that may not be so long into the future. What’s happening with Gurley? No one knows for sure, but where there’s smoke there’s fire. Henderson is at least a must-handcuff to Gurley, and he’s a monster upside stash if Gurley goes sour.
The Vikings invested early and often — finally — on the offensive line, and that should be great news for Dalvin Cook. Cook is a legit post-hype sleeper now that he’s had a full healthy offseason after his knee injury. Don’t worry too much about Alexander Mattison. He’s a solid no-nonsense runner who should take the Latavius Murray role but won’t threaten Cook’s big picture.
Irv Smith looks like Kyle Rudolph’s replacement a year from now. He’s a nice fit but a moderate upside with a sizable wait, so he shouldn’t be a big dynasty target. Minnesota didn’t add much at WR and didn’t pick up Laquon Treadwell’s option, so Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs should roll with massive volume again.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints had only five picks, fewest of any team, with no significant changes to report. Expect to see more of the usual, which is good news in New Orleans. Latavius Murray and Dwayne Washington will fight for the Mark Ingram role, and Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas should be awesome again.
New York Giants
The Giants certainly had one of the loudest drafts with three 1st-round picks, including QB Daniel Jones at #6. Jones will be Eli Manning’s replacement … at some point. There’s not much to get excited about from a fantasy perspective. He doesn’t run and won’t get much volume and he doesn’t have a top WR with Odell Beckham gone, replaced by Golden Tate.
This offense looks like check-down city again. That should mean another monster usage year for Saquon Barkley, but everyone else looks like an avoid, including both Eli this year and Jones long term. There’s little reason to believe he’ll be worth the wait in fantasy football or in real life.
The Eagles drafted two of the more intriguing skill players in RB Miles Sanders and WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Sanders was a workhorse at Penn State, and JJAW is a tall, speedy target who could be a huge red zone target. The problem is these guys are buried behind veterans on a team that loves to spread the wealth.
Sanders has to fight Jordan Howard for carries, plus Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, and Josh Adams are still around to steal snaps. Sanders is the one upside guy in the group, but Philly has given us little reason to believe they’ll do anything other than hot-hand committee, so his presence might just bring everyone’s ceiling down.
Arcega-Whiteside is a decent long-term target with Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson on the older side and injury-prone. He could easily lead the Eagles in receiving in a year or two at a high-turnover position for the team, but he’ll struggle to put up numbers worth much as a rookie. I like Arcega-Whiteside as a solid dynasty stash, but Sanders will be drafted far too high to be worthy of the investment with limited upside in an offense that spreads the ball around. Invest elsewhere.
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San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers drafted a pair of WRs in the top-70 in Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd. Hurd is more of a weapon than a “receiver.” He’s a converted RB from Baylor who moved to WR his final season and will likely be a low-usage weapon, unreliable in fantasy. Samuel is a big target with good YAC ability. He really muddies the water in San Fran with Dante Pettis and Marquise Goodwin fighting for targets. One or two of those guys could be very good, but it’s anyone’s guess on the order. All three will likely be underrated in drafts for a 49ers offense that could take a huge step forward in Year 2 of Kyle Shanahan’s offense with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo.
D.K. Metcalf was the talk of the NFL Combine with The Hulk’s body and The Flash’s speed, but his inability to run anything other than a go route dropped him to the end of the 2nd round. Luckily for him, he’s an absolutely perfect fit in Seattle, where he can use his blazing speed to create space while Russell Wilson buys time and chucks it downfield. Metcalf could be a frustrating fantasy play, with a sprinkling of targets and big hit-or-miss potential, but he does raise Wilson’s ceiling a bit.
The bigger news out of draft season is that Doug Baldwin may need to retire. That would be a huge loss to this offense and to Wilson, who’s always been much better with Baldwin as his security blanket. Metcalf is not even remotely a Baldwin replacement, and that’s not Tyler Lockett’s game either. It could be that David Moore is the intriguing Seattle sleeper. Though it’s just as likely to see this team fall even more into running the ball with playaction bombs, which probably hurts everyone’s fantasy upside.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs were abysmal on defense, so they spent their draft addressing it and left the offense pretty much untouched. Looks like Jameis Winston has the job to himself at least one more year. He should be a nice QB2 with upside, and Chris Godwin will be a popular WR sleeper. The biggest news is probably Peyton Barber, who should lead the team in rushing unless Ronald Jones magically learns how to play football this offseason. Barber isn’t sexy but fantasy football is always about opportunity, and he and Jameis have it.
Washington looks like a team in transition after their draft. Dwayne Haskins was the top pick at #15. Haskins will be starting by season’s end unless this team stays in the playoff hunt. He’s not mobile at all, so you’re fully reliant on pocket passer numbers from a fantasy standpoint, and that means Haskins is a low-upside long-term investment to stay away from. With that transition likely coming sometime this season, that makes the entire offense a bit unreliable as other changes could come along the way and skill players tend to struggle with a rookie QB.
RB Bryce Love and WR Terry McLaurin will also draw some fantasy interest. Love was an awesome runner at Stanford but will probably miss most of this year recovering from knee surgery. Derrius Guice should get a full load this year if he looks healthy, and Chris Thompson will get the lion’s share of the receiving work again. Washington doesn’t have much at WR, but McLaurin is more of a speedy deep threat and probably won’t be a consistent fantasy producer. Unless you really like Guice, this may be a team to avoid in 2019.
NFC dynasty rankings
Obviously not many play in an NFC-only league, but this is a two-part piece and the AFC is coming soon. We’ll do a full rookie rankings there. For now, let’s put the NFC guys in order. With so many rookie unknowns, I typically look especially for opportunity and upside. Who has a path to quick playing time, and who’s worth the stash in the right offense if things do work out?
Go get em
1. RB David Montgomery CHI 2. QB Kyler Murray ARI
Overpriced, let someone else invest
3. RB Miles Sanders PHI 4. WR D.K. Metcalf SEA
Huge-upside lottery tickets
5. RB Darrell Henderson LAR 6. WR Deebo Samuel SF 7. WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside PHI
Good-upside stashes with an eye toward 2020
8. WR Andy Isabella ARI 9. TE Jace Sternberger GB 10. WR Hakeem Butler ARI 11. RB Bryce Love WAS 12. TE T.J. Hockenson DET 13. TE Irv Smith MIN 14. RB Dexter Williams GB
Low-upside long-term projects
15. RB Alexander Mattison MIN 16. WR Riley Ridley CHI 17. QB Dwayne Haskins WAS 18. WR Terry McLaurin WAS 19. QB Daniel Jones NYG 20. WR Jalen Hurd SF