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The Five Biggest Losers From the NFL Draft

Last week we took a look at the biggest winners from the NFL draft (non-drafted players). For every winner though, there are just as many losers. Guys that lost their spot to drafted players. Players that could see much less volume or less opportunities than they once had. Some guys didn’t receive the help they needed. For any number of reasons, here are the biggest losers from the NFL Draft.

James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

James Robinson, one of the biggest losers from the draft.

Can someone answer that phone? Because I called it! There’s very little doubt that the Jacksonville Jaguars 25th overall pick will be the starter this year. Urban Meyer’s claims Etienne will be a third-down back or his switch to wide receiver in rookie minicamp. I’ll believe that when I see it. Robinson was a nice story, and was fairly successful. The thing is we’ve seen similar stories before. Robinson’s efficiency wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either. His 4.5 yards per carry puts him 20th amongst running backs. To be fair though, many of the people ahead of him had much less carries and were on better teams. Still, it isn’t enough for an undrafted guy to have a secure job, especially with a new coaching staff. 

Comparing their college success or physical traits (Etienne is about the same size and had a much faster 40) gives Etienne the advantage. Plus, Etienne is every bit the receiver that Robinson showed himself to be last year. There’s really nothing that Robinson does obviously better than Etienne, which makes sense considering one was drafted in the first round and one was not drafted at all. Combined with the fact that Etienne played three seasons with Trevor Lawrence, it’s pretty much a wrap for Robinson. 

Even if it doesn’t start out that way, Etienne will have the job eventually. Robinson is untouchable in the top rounds. Even in a best case scenario where Robinson maintains the “starting” role all year, he won’t come close to his 289 touches last year, which was sixth in the league. With his average efficiency, any timeshare will be brutal for him, especially since he looks to lose most receiving opportunities which will kill him in a PPR. Robinson is a late round pickup that you’re hoping will give you a few playable games before he’s banished to the bench in real life and the waiver wire in fantasy. 

San Francisco 49er’s Running Backs

Bit of a different direction here, as this isn’t a straight up replacement situation like it is for Robinson. The San Fran running backs, especially the presumed starter in Raheem Mostert, are going to suffer not because the 49ers got Trey Sermon (although he will factor in considering how much the 49ers love their running back committees) but because of Trey Lance. In his only full college season Lance had 14 rushing touchdowns. Lance is a physical runner, and he’s got size and speed. He’s 6’4” 224 and was said to run a low 4.5 40. That projects Lance to be a touchdown vulture in the NFL if and when he gets in. 

The 49ers love to run the ball, so the 49ers running backs will always have value. That value will be a lot less with Trey Lance around however. The vulture potential is just too high. Any short yardage situation there will be at least a 50% chance Lance takes it himself. Even if Lance only takes five touchdowns away (a conservative estimate) that’s 30 points lost for the 49ers backs. That’s a big difference. Enough to make you feel even more nervous about drafting Raheem Mostert that you already were due to his injuries. In an odd twist though, the two Treys may dump the value of Mostert low enough to be worth taking again.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans

Tannehill comes out a loser for what the Titans didn’t do versus what they did. The Titans lost two of their three most productive pass catchers and did very little to replace them. Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis both left and the Titans haven’t really gotten anyone notable. They signed Josh Reynolds from the Rams and used a fourth and sixth round pick in the draft on receivers. If either of those guys can fill the Davis void it would be a major steal, and it’s very unlikely to happen. They also didn’t draft a tight end and just re-signed two guys they already had. 

In addition their line was far from a strength, especially in pass blocking where they only had one guy score an above-average PFF grade. They did use a high pick on a tackle, taking Dillon Radunz in the second round but it’s not much and counting on a rookie lineman is risky

Ryan Tannehill has been a top 10 fantasy QB since moving to the Titans, but there’s a large chance that ends in 2021 unless a big move is made somewhere. Still, he probably wasn’t going very high in drafts as is, and there are worse ways to spend your 12+ rounders if he does fall that far.

DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins

Parker had a breakout 2019 before coming back down to earth in 2020, and Parker seemed to struggle to connect with Tua Tagovailoa. Not a good sign as he is the quarterback for the foreseeable future. Parker only broke 100 yards three times in 2020, and two were with Ryan Fitzpatrick. The only game he did it with Tua was a huge blowout from the getgo and Tua had to throw 58 times. 

That was with Parker as the fairly clear cut No. 1 receiver on the team. With Will Fuller IV joining in, he’s probably number two. Then the Dolphins drafted yet another wide receiver in Jaylen Waddle with the tenth overall pick which they moved up for. Clearly they like Waddle a lot, and Waddle reunites with his quarterback of two years. I don’t expect Waddle to be that amazing year one, but both the Dolphins and Tua like him, and Parker hasn’t shown that same connection yet. Going from the top dog to possibly number three on an average to below average passing volume team isn’t a recipe for success. 

Parker is just a sleeper bench stash at this point, a fall from grace from his ADP in the 70s last year.

Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Marquise Brown came into the league with a lot of hype, but in terms of fantasy he really hasn’t delivered. He hasn’t finished as a playable wide receiver yet, coming in at WR 44 in 2019 and WR 37 in 2020. His real life stats haven’t been incredible either, never breaking 800 yards or 60 receptions. His touchdown numbers are pretty good though, at seven and eight his first two years. 

Things will only get harder for Brown with the Ravens taking Rashod Bateman in the first round of the draft. Brown was already competing with Mark Andrews for catches and touchdowns, and it only gets more crowded with Bateman in the picture. Bateman also projects as more of a high volume red zone threat than Brown, which may relegate him to even more of a field stretcher role. 

Three pass catchers is a lot for any team to properly sustain in fantasy, even more so for the Ravens. Lamar Jackson is simply not a high volume passer. He had just 376 this year in 15 games played, good for 24th in the league and behind guys like Joe Burrow who only played ten games. The Ravens are also a team that wants to run. They’ve finished first in rushing attempts the past three years and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. 

Simply put, Brown was already not getting enough volume, and adding Rashod Bateman isn’t going to help. Brown should be nothing but a speculative late round flier at this point.

Honorable Mentions

The Giants and the Bengals added first round wide receivers, which drops a lot of guys one more spot down the depth chart. Tee Higgins and Darius Slayton will probably feel the brunt of that. Jamison Crowder might get pushed out by second rounder Elijah Moore, and Melvin Gordon could get his touches eaten into by Javonte Williams. David Montgomery may face competition from Khalil Herbert but more importantly might get vultured by QB Justin Fields, who is a talented runner in his own right.