A quiet night overall for potential fantasy impact players in the 2018 season. Below is a pick by pick summary of the fantasy potential for each offensive position player taken in round 1.
Pick #1 – Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns – Mayfield has a lot to prove in Cleveland, and he may be the second coming of Drew Brees or the 100th coming of Chase Daniel, either way, he likely won’t be doing much in 2018. Tyrod Taylor will be manning the pocket in Cleveland for most of 2018, at best, Mayfield is a late season 2 QB league starter and a dynasty league sleeper for 2019.
Pick #2 – Saquon Barkley, RB, NY Giants – This is easily the biggest 2018 fantasy impact pick of the night, and likely the entire draft. The Giants have no talent on the roster who can challenge Barkley in any facet of the game. Barkley could easily have a similar rookie campaign to Ezekiel Elliot in 2016. He has a veteran QB with solid outside weapons on the offense to keep the spotlight off him. Conservatively, I put him at 1200 yards, 10 TD rushing, with 40 catches for 500 yards and a few scores through the air. He’s instantly a Top 10 fantasy running back to target.
Pick #3 – Sam Darnold, QB, NY Jets – this one is interesting. Darnold is raw and has some maturing to do, but the stable of QB’s on the Jets roster is not strong enough to hold him back if he takes flight in pre-season. Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown are not enough of a stumbling block to keep Darnold benched and I think we’ll see the rookie QB under center some time in the first five games of the season. I expect his rookie campaign to be similar to Carson Wentz’s rookie campaign. A mixed bag of results with a lot of growing pains. 12 games started with 15-20 TD passes and 10-15 INT’s is probably a good range for Darnold in year one. He’ll have a higher value in 2019.
Pick #7 – Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills – Allen may wind up starting the most games in his rookie campaign. AJ McCarron was signed this off-season but not for starter salary, there will be a full-blown competition between Allen and McCarron. The good news for Allen’s fantasy value is that he likely wins that battle, the bad news is that his prize for winning will be Zay Jones and Jeremy Kerley. The Bills offense is not good, so it will be a testing rookie season for Allen. He’s likely not going to be a fantasy relevant option in 1 QB leagues early on, but Allen has the foot speed to expand his game on the ground as well as through the air. I have him at 3000 yards, 18-22 TD, 15-18 INT, 350 rushing yards and a couple rushing TD.
Pick #10 – Josh Rosen, QB, Arizona Cardinals – Rosen is the best pure passer in the draft, the question for him is his ability to lead a football team. Rosen lands in the best offensive situation of all the rookie QB given the weapons the Cardinals have on offense. Sam Bradford is the starter heading into camp, but whether through injury or poor play on Bradford’s part, we will see Rosen on the field in 2018. When he plays, I believe he may offer the most weekly value of all the rookie QB’s. I put Rosen’s floor around 250 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT average per game in 2018. He’s a reasonable flier if you’re struggling at QB and he has become the starter, he’s a solid 2 QB starter.
Pick #24 – DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers – Moore lands in a nice spot for instant production. The wide receiver corps in Carolina is far from elite or established. Devon Funchess is the defacto #1 and the new additions of Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright are far from inspiring. The one hurdle for DJ Moore who has elite speed and big-play ability is that he is similar to second-year burner Curtis Samuel. Moore isn’t quite polished enough as a route runner to step into the slot, so he may have to compete with Samuel and Smith outside initially. That said, Carolina will manufacture touches for him on jet sweeps and screenplays. Cam Newton’s deep ball passing style fits with Moore’s over the top speed profile, the question will be if there are enough attempts to go around. Put Moore at 35-50 catches, 500-700 yards, 3-6 TD with some rushing yards. A much higher second-half value than first half value.
Pick #25 – Hayden Hurst, TE, Baltimore Ravens – We have a tight end sighting. This is a tough one to forecast given the spotty history the Ravens have with top end TE prospects (see: Williams, Maxx). Hurst profiles as a productive TE who is both a strong run blocker and dependable pass catcher. He has a Jason Witten profile to him and that would be his perfect world ceiling. There are a lot of new pass-catching faces in Baltimore with Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead joining the receiver corps, and Joe Flacco has struggled mightily in recent campaigns so the attempts may be tough to come by. Hurst could be a Heath Miller type chain mover late in the season making him a name to track, but not draft. I put him at 30-40 catches, 400-500 yards, and a couple TDs.
Pick #26 – Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons – Baby Julio? Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a fantasy WR winner for the night! Ridley steps into Atlanta where he will have a premiere veteran QB throwing the ball, an elite WR playing opposite of him, and a top end NFL rushing attack moving the chains. It’s a dream scenario for the rookie wideout. Atlanta doesn’t have any returning receivers who can block Ridley for the flanker job opposite Ridley and this team likes to toss the rock. I have Ridley at 65-75 catches, 800-900 yards, 5 TD and that could be low. Put him on your sleeper boards folks.
Pick #27 – Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks – This is earlier than I expected for Penny, but this is also good news for Penny’s fantasy outlook, kind of. On one hand, Penny comes aboard a team with no real returning starter. Chris Carson flashed upside before getting hurt, and CJ Prosise can’t stay on the field. The first, second and third down work is up for grabs in Seattle and the fact that Pete Carrol and John Schneider spent the #27 overall pick on Penny means they want him to grab it. That’s the good news. The bad news? Seattle’s OL is very good, so running room will be tough. Still, a volume running back is valuable in fantasy and Penny should step into the lead back role from day one and play on all three downs. Give him 1100-1200 yards, 8 TD, 30 receptions, 350 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD. He’s going to be similar to Jordan Howard’s rookie campaign which won people some fantasy football leagues in 2016.
Pick #31 – Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots – Just another day and another running back in New England. I don’t think I get this pick. Rex Burkhead, James White, Jeremy Hill and now Sony Michel? Michel has flashed lead back skills at Georgia over his 4 years averaging 6.1 yards-per-carry and 33 TD in that span, but there are a lot of mouths to feed in New England and Belichick is a slave to the “hot hand syndrome”. Presumably, Michel will be the front-runner to start, given his first-round price tag, but it’s not something you can take to the fantasy bank. Michel has the talent to be productive and if he gets hot early he could roll in New England. I put him at 650 yards, 5 TD, with a minimal passing game presence in year one. This is a total dart toss, I have no clue what Belichick is going to do and neither do you.
Pick #32 – Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens – Danger, Joe Flacco! Danger! Baltimore intends to use Jackson as a QB and you know that because they traded up to #32 to get him and have the 5th year option that comes with the 1st round price tag. Flacco remains the starter in 2018, but Jackson will be breathing down his neck. Jackson is electrifying and could be anything from a Michael Vick style QB to Marcus Mariota to Tyrod Taylor. There are questions whether his passing game will translate to the NFL and we may have to wait until 2019 to find out. Barring a meltdown by Flacco, we’ll likely only see Jackson in sub-packages in his rookie campaign making him fairly fantasy irrelevant for 2018, but if Flacco gets hurt or flounders, Jackson’s running ability makes him a high floor fantasy sleeper at QB.