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Fantasy Football Rookie Predictions: The Actual Draft

A few weeks ago I did an article predicting how players from the first round would do before the draft. The draft has actually happened now, and things went pretty chalk. Of note was the six straight offensive skill positions taken, and seven offensive players taken overall. Besides the Mac Jones and Trey Lance switcheroo and the Chicago Bears moving up to take Justin Fields though, this was fairly similar to the latest mock drafts. Where the rookie is the same, I’ll keep the same analysis unless there is something more to add. 

Pick 1: Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars

No change for Lawrence himself for me. Talented guy, solid skill positions, but a bad team and a first time NFL coach. Decent production, can maybe start him some games but he won’t be a start-every-week QB 1. The one interesting wrinkle here is the fact that the Jaguars took Lawrence’s teammate in Travis Etienne. If you’ve read my other work I’ve been very doubtful of James Robinson, about his talent and his ability to keep the starting job. Taking Etienne 25th overall pretty much removes Robinson from fantasy consideration as there is almost no way Etienne isn’t the guy right away.

Etienne should be more talented than Robinson, and offers the same run/receiver flexibility that Robinson does. Lawrence is comfortable with him, having played with him for multiple years and Lawrence will probably look for him a lot. Overall, it’s a plus for Lawrence, but not enough to move him much.

Pick 2: Zach Wilson to the New York Jets

No change. Not likely to find a ton of success year one. 

Pick 3: Trey Lance to the San Francisco 49ers

Rookie Trey Lance

Our first major difference, with the 49ers not going with Mac Jones and instead rolling with Lance. However, I think a lot of what I said back then applies here even though Jones and Lance are very different players. The 49ers aren’t going to want to pass that much. They’ll want to get back to what got them to the Super Bowl, which is running and defense. 

That being said, Lance’s potential here is a lot higher than Jones. Lance can very easily contribute to the mass amount of running the 49ers are likely to do. His size and speed will make him a red-zone threat at the very least, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him vulture multiple scores ala Cam Newton. He’s lighter, but faster than Cam Newton, but he’s also 20 pounds bigger than Raheem Mostert, the presumed top back on the 49ers. Mostert is also more of a speed guy than power while Lance is a 6’4” 220+ pound truck.

I’m worried about Lance’s passing numbers on this offense, and there is still no guarantee he’ll be ready to go and start over Jimmy Garoppolo, given that Lance only played one year in college. Still, the tantalizing running ability and the cannon arm that matches well with Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle is much more promising here than Jones would have been. 

Pick 4: Kyle Pitts to the Atlanta Falcons

No change. Buy buy buy.

Pick 5: Ja’Marr Chase to the Cincinnati Bengals

No change. The talent and chemistry is there, but will the opportunity? Chase could be a Justin Jefferson, or he might get just 70 or so targets. He’ll probably cost you an arm and a leg in the draft, and there’s a good chance he won’t be worth it. 

Pick 6: Jaylen Waddle to the Miami Dolphins

No change. He’ll have big games, but the volume just won’t be there to feel comfortable. 

Pick 10: Devonta Smith to the Philadelphia Eagles

Couple of picks higher, but no change. Smith will come and go as Jalen Hurts and the Eagles overall go. Similar to Ja’Maar Chase where he could be incredible or be a fantasy dud. He will cost you much less than Chase probably will though, and he’s still going to be a WR 1. If you can get good value, Smith could win you the league.

Pick 11: Justin Fields to the Chicago Bears

Probably our first major deviation in prospects. The Detroit Lions (where he was projected to go in the last article) are much worse than the Bears are, and that helps Fields a lot. Not only that, but his pathway to starting is much shorter on the Bears, with just washed up Andy Dalton and Nick only-successful-in-Philly Foles in his way. 

Fields’ running ability will always give him value, and Allen Robinson is way above anything the Lions would be able to trot out at the wide receiver position. I also don’t really believe in the David Montgomery train myself, so I don’t think the offense will be dominated by Montgomery. 

Not only that, but the Bears defense is still quite good, and getting a few short fields will help, which the Lions would probably not be able to do. I don’t expect Fields to start immediately, but maybe 2-4 games into the season, and from that point there is a lot to like about him. He’s my early pick for top performing fantasy QB in year one. 

Pick 15: Mac Jones to the New England Patriots

Keeping it 100 with you, as the kids say, I’m not a huge fan of Jones’ game. That being said, I like the Patriots situation a lot. They’ve got two great tight ends and one of the best pass catching backs in the league in James White, which is a lot of security blankets for a new QB to throw to. Also Bill Belichick is Bill Belichick, which helps.

I think it will take a bit longer for Mac to supplant Cam Newton though, longer than I think it would have taken Trey Lance. Honestly I’m not completely convinced Jones will play much at all this year. The lack of running from Jones is also concerning, it doesn’t give him that nice floor. Even though the wide receiver room is much better than it was last year, it’s still not amazing either. 

If Jones plays at all this year, and it won’t take THAT much, just a few more sub 100 yard passing games from Newton probably, he really seems like he’ll be more of a game manager in his rookie year than fantasy stud. Gun to my head, I’d rank the rookie QBs (in fantasy only) Fields, Lance, Lawrence, Jones, Wilson, with Jones and Wilson a distant tied last. 

Pick 20: Kadarius Toney to the New York Giants

I can’t decide if this or the Baltimore Ravens would’ve been a worse land spot for Toney. Honestly, it’s probably the Giants. Even though Daniel Jones is going to throw it probably 100 more times than Lamar Jackson will this season, the quality of the throws will be lower. Not only that, but Toney faces even more competition here than he would have in Baltimore. Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, Evan Engram and probably Sterling Shephard will all start ahead of him on the depth chart. Heck, even Saquon Barkley will demand more targets.

Toney has his role as the dynamic playmaker that the Giants don’t quite have yet, but realistically how many looks a game will he get. 3-5? Maybe? There’s almost no shot Toney will contribute fantasy-wise–not enough to ever feel good about starting him. Maybe in a best ball league?

Pick 24: Najee Harris to the Pittsburgh Steelers

Different player, but basically the same situation here. Harris is a touch bigger and a touch slower than Etienne and probably not QUITE the pass catcher, but I don’t think it makes a ton of difference. Harris has such a clear opportunity to get 250+ carries that his floor is basically a RB 2. The only problem is if you are paying RB 1 price for him and there’s no guarantee he will deliver. There are safer options to spend your first or second round pick which is probably what Harris will cost. 

Pick 25: Travis Etienne to the Jacksonville Jaguars

I don’t care that Urban Meyer says Eitenne will be a third-down back, you don’t spend a first rounder on a third-down back, plain and simple. I fully expect this to be nearly a one man show with Etienne, if not right away than early into the season. Etienne and Robinson are basically the same size, and Etienne ran a significantly faster 40. Etienne also has all the pass-catching chops that Robinson does, oh and he played with the new QB for three years. There’s no chance Robinson keeps this job.

With that, Etienne has a ton of potential. Meyer got a ton out of his running backs at Ohio State, with Ezekiel Elliott and J.K. Dobbins putting up great numbers with him at the helm. I expect Etienne to get a ton of work both rushing and receiving, and there is a lot of love about his situation. The one concern would be the offensive line. The Jaguars have invested heavily into the tackle spots without much success, and that could limit the damage Etienne could do. Still, this is basically a dream scenario for Etienne as long as he takes the job from Robinson, which again, he is very likely to do.

Pick 27: Rashod Bateman to the Baltimore Ravens

Another case of different player, similar situation. Bateman will undoubtedly help the Ravens offense, but will he personally get enough targets to be a fantasy option? Not likely, and the wide receiver position is pretty stacked already. Breaking into the top-24 to be a starter, or let’s say the top-36 to be a potential flex isn’t easy. Marquise Brown hasn’t done it yet, even when his QB was an MVP. 

That being said, Bateman is better here than Toney was. Unlike Toney, Bateman is different from Brown, and could snag the true number one pass catching option that I don’t think Toney was going to get. Bateman could easily get more catches than Brown or Toney would have, and his size makes him a far superior red zone target than either as well. Still, Jackson will only throw the ball 25 times a game, so how many need to go to Bateman and how many need to be touchdowns for him to be fantasy relevant? Probably too many to be realistic.

Something like a 70 catch, 700 yard and seven touchdown season seems on the upper limit of doable for Bateman (especially the catches, considering Brown has never had more than 60 in two years as the top wide receiver). In a full PPR, that’s 189 points, which would’ve been WR 29 last year, well within flex territory. That’s the best case scenario though, and probably not something to count on.