The first round of the NFL draft is complete! All-in-all, eleven (!) fantasy football eligible players went in this round. Wildly enough, we had four quarterbacks, six wide receivers, one running backs, and zero tight ends. Not all fantasy football eligible players that went in this round will go off the board in fantasy football drafts this summer, but it’s worth looking at all of them. At least I thought so, but I dropped almost 2,800 words on these guys, so what do I know?
Pick 1: Joe Burrow, Quarterback, LSU to the Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals snatching Joe Burrow first overall has been a fait accompli for a long time. A report from ESPN’s Dianna Russini on Wednesday indicated that the Bengals “could just turn off the ringers on [their] phones” about trading out of #1 and not taking Burrow. He was extraordinarily good at LSU, but I don’t expect another 60 touchdowns out of him this year. What about Burrow for 2020 fantasy football? Well, let’s take a look at fantasy-relevant rookie quarterbacks over the last decade.
Last year, the QB 12 (min. 10 games played) scored 17.4 fantasy points per game (Carson Wentz). Six rookie quarterbacks scored at least 17.4 fantasy points per game in their rookie campaigns over the last decade. Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, and Marcus Mariota all pulled it off, while averaging 35.4 rushing yards per game. While Burrow does not have the running in his game of a Kyler Murray or RGIII, he does have rushing ability. He had at least 20 rushing yards in 17 games over the last two seasons, which comes out to an extra two fantasy points per game.
What does that mean? Well, rushing yards tend to wallpaper over some of the struggles that rookie quarterbacks have. Gardner Minshew’s scrambling ability last year helped cover-up for his passing game struggles: he turned in at least 27 rushing yards in eight of his twelve starts last year.
Ultimately, given Burrow’s talent level and the weapons around him (A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and Joe Mixon), he should be able to turn in multiple valuable fantasy weeks. He could end the year as a fantasy football QB1 in Cincy and is worth a pick in all leagues at least as your second QB. As for the Bengals weaponry: what they did last year with Andy Dalton & Co. was the floor this season. Especially for A.J. Green!
Pick 5: Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback, Alabama to the Miami Dolphins
We all thought this would happen, and there’s just Ryan Fitzpatrick ahead of him on the depth chart. The medicals didn’t scare the Dolphins, or they didn’t know what they were looking at (both are likely). Either way, he’s likely to get worked along slowly, to make sure they don’t destroy the future of their franchise. I’m expecting about eight games out of Tua if the Dolphins play it safe, and starting day way one if he gets a clean bill of health.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Tua doesn’t play in 2020. His hip injury is completely up in the air right now, as NFL draft prep in the time of the ‘rona leaves a lot of medical visits uncompleted and Pro Days unattended. If Tua plays, he’s likely going to get worked in slowly. In deeper two-quarterback leagues he is 100% worth a stash if your bench space allows it. He’s Russell Wilsonesque with better vision and anticipation (but worse decision-making). He’s truly Russell Wilson 2.0, with questions about his height, a pretty deep ball, and incredible accuracy. Unfortunately, the copy doesn’t quite have the durability of the original. While Russell Wilson hasn’t missed a game in his career, Tua already has two ankle surgeries, his hip injury, a broken nose, and a concussion on his ledger.
The Miami Dolphins had plenty of offense last season, thanks to Ryan Fitzpatrick and the emergence of both Mike Gesicki and DeVante Parker. Tua should keep the party going, provided that he is healthy. Tua fits the mold of a successful fantasy football rookie quarterback much better than Joe Burrow. If we get football back this year, and Tua has a clean bill of health, I’m getting him over Burrow 100 times out of 100 because he doesn’t just have a chance to sneak in a QB12 performance, he has the ability and skillset to kick the door down and end up as a top-five QB. If you’re looking for upside, he has it.
Pick 6: Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Oregon to the Los Angeles Chargers
I’m not a huge fan of Justin Herbert. I think his decision making and propensity for getting flustered in the pocket will cause all sorts of problems for him in the NFL. However, he has a great shot at starting in 2020. Tyrod Taylor has barely flashed at times in an inconsistent career, and Anthony Lynn will likely end up on the hot seat and will feel the pressure to give Herbert a shot at starting. Lynn stated this offseason that he wanted to get a mobile QB to replace the statue, Philip Rivers. While Herbert isn’t Tua, he has some wheels. He also has a freaking cannon for an arm.
If Herbert gets the start, I expect enough long bombs and scramble runs to give him some fantasy relevance. He’s likely a poor man’s Josh Allen for fantasy football purposes: not the best NFL QB, but he does enough different things and has enough big plays to contribute to flash startable weeks his rookie year and contribute to fantasy football leagues as/if his career develops.
This pick is good news for guys like Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, as Herbert is more likely to air it out than Tyrod Taylor. It lessens the check down upside of Austin Ekeler and Hunter Henry, but not enough for me to worry significantly.
Pick 12: Henry Ruggs III, Wide Receiver, Alabama to the Las Vegas Raiders
The Robin to Jerry Jeudy’s Batman, Henry Ruggs didn’t get the publicity of his former teammate, but he’s surely gotten enough publicity in his own right. Ruggs ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the combine, which was the fourth-fastest WR time ever and the fastest since John Ross broke the record with a 4.22 40-yard dash in 2017. If you want the short evaluation: DeSean Jackson. If you want the long evaluation: Henry Ruggs is a speed threat who is capable of taking any pass all the way to the end zone on any given play. He’s a home run hitter and has the ability to transform an offense by his mere presence. He struggles mightily with press coverage, but if you give him an inch, he’ll take your soul.
I was completely wrong with my valuation, as he went pick 12. My valuation said he would “go somewhere in the teens.” Come on Jeff, be better.
It was shocking, to me, that he went ahead of teammate CeeDee Lamb. But, clearly, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock saw something they liked with Ruggs in their offense. It makes a lot of sense for them to get a deep speed guy, the middle of the Raiders’ field is full up with Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, and the football that Nelson Agholor just dropped. Derek Carr rarely throws deep, but when he uncorks one, he is usually on-target. Gruden & Co. are banking on uncorking Carr a bit more. For fantasy football, he’ll be a boom-or-bust WR3 to start but could easily fly up the rankings as the season goes along.
Pick 15: Jerry Jeudy, Wide Receiver, Alabama to the Denver Broncos
The pre-draft consensus WR1a to CeeDee Lambs WR1b, Jeudy compares most easily to former AFC West WR Amari Cooper. Jeudy is polished and crisp as a route runner and has incredible fluidity. Everything looks easy with Jeudy… except for contested catches. He’s 6’1” and 192, so the Broncos will probably get him on a strength regimen to bulk up a bit. He’s an incredible wide receiver, and it’s shocking that the 49ers passed on him.
Either way, the Denver Broncos pass-catching corps is suddenly on the massive come up. After adding Melvin Gordon in free agency, the Broncos turn ascendant WR Courtland Sutton into the 1a to rookie Jeudy’s 1b. This is an absolute coup for fantasy football purposes and opens up a ton for Noah Fant in the middle. Fant is a locked-and-loaded top-8 tight end, Sutton stays in the WR15 range, and the surprise riser… Drew Lock is going to finish the year as a top-twelve quarterback. There are simply too many weapons in mile-high for him to not pull that off. Jeudy will probably be more useful to Lock than he is in fantasy football leagues, but he’s worth a shot as a WR4 or WR5 in the double-digit rounds of your draft.
Pick 17: CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma to the Dallas Cowboys
CeeDee Lamb was my favorite wide receiver in this draft. While I wouldn’t fault you for going Jeudy, Lamb’s exceptional point-of-the-catch and after-the-catch ability had me all aflutter. Lamb is nearly impossible to bring down in the open field. While he doesn’t make it look as fluid as Jeudy, it looks just as easy.
This is a preposterously unfair pick for the Dallas Cowboys to make, as Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup are among, if not, the best WR corps in the league now. It makes it a bit rough on Michael Gallup to take a step forward in year three, but I still have faith in him. Amari stays Amari Cooper with this one, WR15 who gets drafted at WR10 because we constantly draft him where we wish he would end up.
As the season wears on, Gallup will likely be the best non-Cooper WR in Dallas not named Amari Cooper on a week-to-week basis in any PPR or half-PPR leagues. In Footballguys.com parlance, Lamb starts as a “what the heck flex” early on but will have huge returns in DFS games and best-ball leagues. All three guys are must-draft players in all fantasy football leagues.
As for Dak Prescott, he should not end up anywhere outside the top-five when the season shakes out. If he falls outside of the top-five, then tagging him was probably a savvy move for Jerry Jones, since it means he sucks out loud. I am fading Blake Jarwin entirely.
Pick 21: Jalen Reagor, Wide Receiver, TCU to the Philadelphia Eagles
Reagor has good and easy speed. He isn’t the most physical wide receiver out there, but he can jump out of the dang gym for the football. He tends to avoid all contact, if at all possible. That’s a smart move when you’re under six-feet tall ad less than 200 pounds. Reagor is an #AnalyticsTwitter darling, as he has a young breakout age, a big target share, and productivity in a bad situation. All of that will come in handy in Philadelphia, as the always injured Alshon Jeffery, the probably over the hill DeSean Jackson and the magical disappearing J.J. Arcega-Whiteside all need someone to cap the wide receiver room.
For fantasy football, I’m not sure how interested I am in Reagor. He’s a talented player, but the Eagles are the only team who didn’t throw to their WRs at least half the time in each of the last two seasons. That severely limits his upside, but given the M*A*S*H* unit that made up the Eagles WR last year, he’ll likely get his opportunity sooner rather than later. He is a boom-or-bust WR4 or WR5. I’m not interested in drafting him in redraft leagues, given he will likely be maddening on a week-to-week basis.
Pick 22: Justin Jefferson, Wide Receiver, LSU to the Minnesota Vikings
Joe Burrow’s slot wide receiver makes his way into the NFL with the Vikings. Jefferson comes in at 6’1” and 202 pounds, but he looks bigger than that on film. He’s a slot maestro, with the great hands, focus, and ball skills necessary to succeed at the NFL level. He flashes athleticism, with good burst off the line, but has trouble sustaining that over the course of the route. Speaking of routes, they can be sloppy at times, giving him trouble with better man-coverage receivers. Luckily, he thrives in zone coverage, which more than offsets that problem. His athleticism shows in his yards-after-catch ability, where he ranks second in the class (behind Devin Duvernay) with 714 yards after the catch.
The Vikings had a huge need at WR after trading away headache and superstar Stefon Diggs. They replaced him with a guy who was a zero-star recruit, so you know they won’t quite have their hands full with him the same way they did with Diggs.
Pick 25: Brandon Aiyuk, Wide Receiver, ASU to the San Francisco 49ers
Brandon Aiyuk is fast and plays faster than his 4.5 40-yard dash would indicate. Why? Dude has fancy feet. He’s extremely agile (though he didn’t complete agility tests at the combine), and has significant burst, which allows him to juke opposing defenders out of their shoes en route to the end zone. Aiyuk also shows incredible ball skills downfield. He is going to make Jimmy Garoppolo very happy. Some people want to peg him as being small, but at 6’0” and 205 pounds, he is bigger than Jalen Reagor, who has very few people worrying about his size.
The 49ers did a straight-across replacement of Emmanuel Sanders (5’11” 180 pounds) with Aiyuk. He’ll also get Dante Pettis and likely Richie James off the roster, as he’s an incredible return man, as well. I’m more interested to see what Kyle Shanahan does with such a versatile beast of a player across from Deebo Samuel. The 49ers don’t pick again until the fifth round, so it’ll be interesting to see how they integrate Aiyuk into their offense. It could open everything all up and make Jimmy Garoppolo an intriguing flier.
Pick 26: Jordan Love, Quarterback, Utah State to the Green Bay Packers
Jordan Love surprisingly went as the #3 quarterback off the board. That part isn’t surprising (I had him as #4), but his destination—Green Bay—certainly raises some eyebrows. Aaron Rodgers literally can’t be mad at this (though he definitely is mad at this), as his situation mirrors Brett Favre’s exactly. They’re about the same age, and Love went with about the same pick that Rodgers did. It’s a smart move for Green Bay’s future.
As for Jordan Love, he reminds me of a less athletic Colin Kaepernick. Calm down, Clay Matthews, you aren’t even a Packer anymore. This shouldn’t trigger you. Jordan Love is athletic, but frequently has balls die on him outside the numbers and his arm strength is iffy. He has great release on the move, and is strong in the pocket. His big issue is that he has serious issues with rotating coverages and underneath defenders. He has amazing highlights, and if you just watch those, you’d wonder how the Packers got this guy at 26. He makes a lot of bad decisions, especially since he never found a tight window he doesn’t love. All you need to know about his ups and downs: 20 touchdowns, 17 interceptions last year. He needs to get coached up, and luckily, he will have plenty of time.
As for fantasy football… he’s the #2 behind Aaron Rodgers. Don’t overthink his 2020 redraft value.
Pick 32: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Running Back, LSU to the Kansas City Chiefs
The easiest comparison here is that he’s Maurice Jones-Drew. He runs like a bowling ball full of knives, he’s a little guy with massive quads, and… AND(!) he has a hyphen in his name. I will save us all some time here and call him CEH for the rest of this piece. He has an amazing jump cut and is an incredible, agile back. He doesn’t move the pile, but he uses his shiftiness and change-of-direction to avoid the pile entirely. CEH has exceptional patience, sometimes coming to a complete stop to analyze the situation before screaming to the edge. He may have pass protection issues but I watched four games of him and I didn’t see him in pass protection once.
Don’t overthink this, but the opposite of Jordan Love. He’s a top-12 running back in the Chiefs’ offense. We did this with Damien Williams last year. And CEH is actually good. Luckily, the Chiefs got something to make their offense better. It was only kind-of historic last year.
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