Fantasy Football Fallout: 2018 NFL Draft Round One

The first round of the NFL draft is complete! All-in-all, eight fantasy football eligible players went in this round, and three of them were quarterbacks. Two of them were tight ends. That leaves a running back and two wide receivers coming off in the first 32 picks. Not all fantasy football eligible players will go off the board in drafts this summer, but it’s worth looking at them. At least I thought so, but I dropped almost 2,500 words on these guys, so what do I know?

1. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma to Arizona

The Arizona Cardinals taking Kyler Murray was the NFL’s worst-kept secret over the last month or so, with the dynamic playmaker and rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury making like Mac and Charlie in The Gang Dines Out. It was so obvious, in fact, that I finished writing this at 4:18 PM on April 25, 2019; a full hour before Murray was officially a Cardinal. Kingsbury and Kyler seem like a match made in heaven. Kingsbury likes to run a fast-paced, Air Raid offense. He ran it to perfection in college with three former first-round picks Baker Mayfield, Johnny Manziel, and Patrick Mahomes.

These three quarterbacks are all slingers who love to run the ball all over the field, and with the exception of Mahomes, they are all little guys. Do you know who else is a little guy? Kyler Murray. Do you know who else loves to run the ball all over the field, and sling it as much as possible? Kyler Murray. Or at least, his 4,300+ yards, 42 touchdowns, and 1001 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns in his 2018 Heisman Trophy-winning campaign say he loves to do all that stuff.

Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury are the obvious choice to maximize each other’s skill sets. What does this mean for fantasy football in 2019? Well, Josh Allen showed last season that even a bad quarterback can have a ton of value, as long as he runs the ball. Josh Allen was the top fantasy football QB over the last five weeks of the season, and while Kyler doesn’t have Josh Allen’s arm, he has as much athleticism, if not more. He also has a better offense and better offensive weaponry to work with.

Murray immediately enters the discussion as a fringe fantasy football QB1 with his Kliff Kingsbury pairing. Only two roadblocks stand in his way: Josh Rosen and the offensive line. The Cardinals would be smart to do a lot about both, in order to maximize Murray’s potential.

6. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke to New York Giants

The New York Giants shocked the NFL Draft world by taking Daniel Jones, a quarterback out of Duke with the sixth-overall pick. This means that Eli Manning is officially on notice, and all it took was a zero-star recruit from a non-football school in Duke. There’s not much to analyze here from a 2019 fantasy football perspective.

You do not want Daniel Jones on your fantasy football squad. In fact, it makes it increasingly likely that you don’t want any New York Giants player not named Saquon Barkley if Daniel Jones is under center. Unfortunately, this also probably hurts Saquon Barkley. If Daniel Jones gets any snaps this year, it means things have gone horribly, horribly wrong for the G-Men.

It says a lot that everyone in the world thinks that Dwayne Haskins would have been the better pick. Josh Allen wasn’t even in the top-30 in college in touchdown percentage or yards per attempt. That having been said, his propensity to not bail on a play will be useful to the Giants if he does play. This is because their offensive line is abject trash. Things are not shaping up well for the Giants and their fantasy football production in 2019, and this pick does nothing to help that. In fact, it likely hurts the stock of fantasy football talent in New York. This throws a big batch of uncertainty on them. While I am not leaning into guys like Sterling Shepard or Golden Tate, but this could mean Evan Engram can be found at a value this summer.

Oh and one last thing: his NFL.com draft profile…

Ryan Tannehill. Yikes, but it could be worse. It could be Eli.

8. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa to Detroit

As Jimmy Graham gracefully fades from NFL relevance, we have another top-flight tight end that we can repeatedly hear about how he used to play basketball. Matt Patricia continues his efforts to rebuild the Patriots in Detroit, getting his big, athletic tight end a la Rob Gronkowski. T.J. Hockenson will be a good weapon for Matthew Stafford to have and will be on the short list of potential 2020 fantasy football value picks. However, I am not bullish on his 2019 prospects. The Lions will likely use him like the Patriots used Gronk, as he is a great blocker and a more-than-proficient pass catcher and route runner.

He’s unlikely to make the type of fantasy football impact you would expect from a guy that you select at your fantasy drafts. Instead, he’s entered the big, messy morass of streaming fantasy tight ends. I do preach a bit of caution, as the Lions already spent big money on Jesse James. And we all know a Jesse James wouldn’t take money for nothing. Hockenson will probably be brought along slowly, getting a TD here and there in the first half of the season before Matt Stafford leans on him to help a likely struggling Lions offense.

Hockenson’s run blocking skills will help him stay on the field, which means more target opportunities, especially in the red zone. Look out for him in the second half, as he will be more accustomed to the NFL game. Not only will he be more accustomed to the game, but he gets the #8 and #10 defenses against TEs in 2018 in the fantasy playoffs. This might be the earliest a week-specific sleeper pick has been called, but if Hockenson is going to have strong fantasy football relevance this season, that’s likely when it will come.

But it’s not like the Detroit Lions have wasted a top-ten tight end in the draft before or anything.

15. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State to Washington

Washington used their fifteenth overall pick on a quarterback, which is exactly what you want to do when you trade a second rounder and a promising young cornerback for a quarterback about a year ago. Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite the way they wanted. And by “things” I mean “the direction Alex Smith’s foot was pointed.” Reports are that Daniel Snyder meddled all the way up into this pick, and that is unsurprising. He did the same thing for Robert Griffin III back in 2012. Unfortunately for Snyder, RG3’s leg also forgot which direction it was supposed to go in, and it ruined his career. What is with Washington and leg injuries? Something about wounded knees? What does Dwayne Haskins to Washington mean for fantasy football in 2019?

Well, I am not at all hopeful for Dwayne Haskins in 2019, thank you for asking. At least, not how Washington is currently constituted. They don’t have any weaponry around him, with their best wide receivers being Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson. Those two guys don’t scream “a QB-ready offense just screaming for someone to come in and produce.” The Washington offense will also, presumably, be read by Derrius Guice (coming off of injury) and Jordan Reed (always coming off of injury). The offensive line is also a mess, mostly due to… you guessed it… being ravaged by injuries.

I’m starting to sense a pattern here.

As for Haskins, his NFL.com player comparison is Drew Brees, and he posted a 40-yard dash on the wrong side of five seconds. But a fun game will be seeing who calls him “athletic” or a “dual threat,” for some reason. At 6’3” and 231 pounds, he is a big, slow guy who will absorb hits and use his strong arm and accuracy to do the running for him. If Washington can get Alex Smith into the building this season, that will bode well for Haskins’s fantasy football prospects come 2019. Smith is an excellent teacher, and already fixed questionable decision making for Patrick Mahomes (heard of him?). I wouldn’t look towards him in the draft, but that has more to do with the players around him than Haskins himself.

20. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa to Denver

Joe Flacco loves his tight ends. He turned Dennis Pitta into a fantasy football commodity until his hip exploded. Multiple times. Ow. Noah Fant shouldn’t have those issues, as he isn’t made of glass, and he should immediately become Joe Flacco’s favorite target. Flacco has always had a safety blanket target, and that is frequently a TE or a TE-as-WR (Anquan Boldin, anyone). Fant is exceptionally athletic and a great pass catcher, and will do wonders for Joe Flacco’s touchdown counts in 2019. He had 21 red zone targets, and hauled in twelve touchdowns on those targets.

Unfortunately for those of us searching for fantasy football production out of Fant in 2019, I wouldn’t be so fast to wanna Fant-ah in your drafts. Tight ends are notoriously terrible at fantasy football in their rookie seasons, and the exceptions to this have been Jeremy Shockey, Evan Engram, and Rob Gronkowski. Unfortunately, Joe Flacco wasn’t involved in the 18-1 Super Bowl, so his tight ends don’t get the year one bump.

If you play in a two-TE league, then fire away on Fant, but rookie TEs are mostly useless. Add Jeff Heuerman to the mix, as well as Jake Butt, and you have a TE mess. I doubt Heuerman makes that big of an impact on Fant as the season wears on, but Butt could really poop things up for Fant. In normal, not insane leagues, Fant could have streamable usefulness in 2019, but that is likely his cap.

24. Joshua Jacobs, RB, Alabama to Oakland

Football Absurdity’s resident Raiders fan immediately threw cold water on my joy for this pick. The Raiders offensive line is abject garbage and needs to be swiftly and thoroughly addressed, or it won’t matter who is behind that line.

Ok, is Evan gone?

I really like this pick for the Raiders, and for fantasy football in 2019. Garbage offensive line be damned, Josh Jacobs was the only way for the Raiders to make an appreciable dent in their offensive talent deficiency with the #24 overall pick. In preparation for the draft, I watched three games of the 5’10”, 216 pound back, and in those three games, he was tackled for loss once. The NFL average is one out of every five carries or so goes for zero or one yards. Jacobs went an entire game without going for zero or fewer yards. That is good.

Jacobs can also overcome the terrible offensive line because he is hard to bring down, and he is exceptionally shifty in the open field. In short, he will make his own blocking for the Raiders. The short of it: he’s fast enough (not a burner), he runs with all kinds of extra effort, and he’s the only game in town.

The Raiders depth chart does not boast any competition for carries or targets, as the other RBs are Isaiah Crowell (still living off his 85-yard run from several years ago) and Jalen Richard. With this selection, Josh Jacobs is immediately a top-25 fantasy football running back in 2019.

25. Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma to Baltimore

The Ravens took Hollywood Brown near the end of the first round of the NFL Draft. I know two things for certain about Brown: (1) he immediately becomes the best wide receiver on the roster, and (2) he probably won’t do much of value for fantasy football in 2019, and it may be considered a lost year. It’s not hard for the first point to be true, as the Ravens receiving room without Brown was one of the worst in the NFL (led by Willie Snead).

As for #2… it’s hard to know where to start. First, Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore offense. They’re run-first, through and through. Jackson proved that last season when the game plan was to hand the ball off with one second on the clock as many times as possible. If you want to doubt this, let me tell you the tale of John Brown. Before Lamar Jackson took over, John Brown, the 2018 Baltimore Ravens speedster, was on pace for a 56 catch, 998-yard (let’s call it 1,000 yard) season, with six scores. After Jackson took over, he failed to top 27 yards once and ate three games with single-digit yard games. That’s much worse than before if you are keeping track at home.

Second, the Lisfranc injury is extraordinarily concerning for his rookie campaign, and it is absolutely insane that the ESPN broadcast acted like it was a question of him “being ready for training camp.” Lisfranc injuries are notoriously awful injuries, especially in the season following the injury. I won’t bore you with the details of the research, but “[a]lthough professional NFL athletes return to play at a high rate (83%) following Lisfranc injury, their league participation and performance is significantly decreased on return.” Nope. I don’t like that. Don’t draft him in redraft, but best-ball…

32. N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State to New England

Harry was one of my two favorite wide receivers in this draft, along with A.J. Brown. After it looked increasingly likely that my beloved San Francisco 49ers might have a shot at Harry, I was giddy. In typical New England Patriots fashion, they swooped in and did something that annoyed the rest of the league. In this case, they snatched up a great wide receiver after they won the Super Bowl. To me, this is like watching them beat the Rams, again. A slow, inevitable collision. You couldn’t avoid it, and it will only do great things for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Harry reminds me a lot of Dez Bryant, which makes the league handing him to the Patriots downright excruciating to think about. He’s a big receiver, whose 6’2”, 228 pound measurements are earned. He is a big wide receiver who can catch anything thrown his way, and even if he isn’t open, it doesn’t matter. That sounds a lot like Tom Brady: when his wide receivers aren’t open, it doesn’t matter.

Harry in New England is immediately a fantasy football-relevant wide receiver. He’s not necessarily a top-36 selection, as we don’t know how things will go with Brady. Let’s not forget that the Patriots routinely try extremely talented WRs who flame out because they cannot mesh with the scheme, so Harry doing well is not a foregone conclusion. Still, I’ll own him in some fantasy football leagues.

 

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