2020 NFL Draft - Fantasy Impact Part One
Well....that was weird.
Round One of the 2020 NFL Draft may not have been as wild as many of us expected however it still produced plenty of surprises at the back end of the round as well as many hilarious footnotes. Someone taking a 'break' in Mike Vrabel's rest room and CJ Henderson looking like he wanted to get hit by a station wagon after the Jags drafted him (who wouldn't?) were among my personal highlights.
From a fantasy perspective, plenty changed with numerous winners and losers across the league and we're only one round in!
Following the fantastic work done by Rish (@FF_Rish) and Nick (@NickSarnelli) on the Astros Ticker (check it out here NFL Draft Live Ticker) I look to dig a little deeper on the Fantasy implications of the 2020 NFL Draft which I'll be spreading across Draft Weekend. In Part One, we look at all of the Fantasy implications from the moves made in the first half of Round One.
1.01 CINCINNATI BENGALS SELECT JOE BURROW - QB - LSU
In the least unexpected pick of the first round the Bengals, of course, took 'Old Joe'. Joking aside, anyone who has listened to recent episodes of the British Ballers Podcast (@British_Ballers) will know I had a change of heart on Burrow in the days leading up to the NFL Draft moving him to my QB1 marginally ahead of Tua Tagovailoa.
Joe Burrow was a late bloomer to say the least. Starting his college career at Ohio State he transferred to LSU prior to his Junior season with very little college production behind him. By his own admission, he was average in his first season with the team (219/379 for 16 Touchdowns, 5 Interceptions and 2893 passing yards). He and the LSU offense took an astronomical leap in the 2019 Season going 15-0 with Burrow racking up 5671 passing yards (402/527 60 Touchdowns 6 Interceptions) that saw him go from late round flier to the consensus number one pick in the space of one fall following one of the greatest college seasons in history.
This rags to riches story for Burrow deserves a happy ending and despite their 2-14 finish last year, the Bengals are in a great position to help him succeed. In his Senior year, Burrow's phenomenal accuracy, poise and playmaking ability and his knack for getting the ball to his playmakers sets him up perfectly with plenty of weapons around him in Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd, a healthy AJ Green and good depth at Wide Receiver with Auden Tate and Alex Erickson sitting behind. The Bengals showed him they meant business in Free Agency and now they have their guy we could see a very quick turnaround.
Post Draft Player Comps - Baker Mayfield, Marcus Mariota, Jared Goff, Andrew Luck
If the Bengals play to Joe Burrow's strengths as a rhythm passer who can release his playmakers early there's every reason to believe he'll succeed. The next step should be ensuring the Offensive Line is shored up to protect him.
Fantasy Outlook - Joe Burrow jumps straight in as my QB7 with room to develop further in Dynasty and as alluded to, he is now my QB1 in this Rookie class. In Superflex startups I currently have him ranked just outside of my Top 30.
Fantasy Winners - All of the Benagls offensive pieces.
Very difficult to downgrade anyone on the Bengals offense with Burrow at the wheel and in fact, big uptick for Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd and AJ Green (if healthy).
Fantasy Losers - Me
I've doubted Joe all offseason and I'm eating my Fat L for breakfast.
1.05 Miami Dolphins select Tua Tagovailoa - QB - Alabama
Thank the Lord. The #TankforTua campaign came to fruition. The Dolphins didn't tank as hard as they should have as they stupidly went and won 5 games and they were incredibly lucky it didn't cost them. All of the talk over the last few weeks that he had been removed from their board or that they were higher on Justin Herbert were smoke and mirrors. Tua has been their guy for more than a year when they were already fully aware of his durability issues. My reason for dropping him to the QB2 late in the process was me getting cold feet over those same issues but as a team looking for their new franchise QB, this is a high risk incredibly high reward pick.
If he comes in to the league 100% healthy, he is an absolute no doubt home run hit with the accuracy, anticipation and touch that could see him earn elite status. His leadership skills are second to none and he will elevate the players around him and earn their respect instantly.
He was productive throughout his college career at Alabama with video game like numbers in his sophomore season where he played in all 15 games. He had a completion % of almost 70 for his career as well as passing for 7442 yards and 87 touchdowns against only 11 interceptions.
Post Draft Player Comps - Dwayne Haskins, Teddy Bridgewater, Mark Sanchez, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray
A few names in there will frighten some owners however the comps with Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray are extremely positive and Dwayne Haskins, who by no means has been given a fair shot as yet, is not the death sentence it may seem.
Fantasy Outlook - Tua is currently my QB11 with an incredibly high ceiling to move up those rankings quickly. I have him ranked as QB2 in this rookie class and in Superflex Startups he is ranked just outside of my Top 50. In terms of immediate impact, if i'm Miami, i would red-shirt him during his rookie season to allow him to return in 2021 100% healthy buying them more time to build around him in terms of offensive weapons and protection. A process that already began with the selection of Austin Jackson at 18th overall.
Fantasy Winners/Losers - Too early to commit at this stage. Tua will no doubt elevate those around him but the Dolphins offense could look very different at the end of the 2020 NFL Draft.
1.06 Los Angeles Chargers select Justin Herbert - QB - Oregon
Predictably with Tua off the board the Chargers selected Justin Herbert. Though with the amount of false rumours leading up to Thursday night, i'm certain that he was always their guy and the Tua interest was a smokescreen from one party or another.
Herbert is a prospect I have gone back and forth on throughout the process and continue to do so. In my view, he may not be ready to start the 2020 NFL season and it may benefit him to sit behind Tyrod Taylor if there is a season at all. I covered this issue in an article a few months ago (cheap plug i know) and stand by it now:
Justin Herbert has an absolute rocket for an arm and is a great athlete who can use his legs to get himself out of trouble which will be helpful if the Chargers offensive line is as porous as it was in 2019. He makes accurate throws on the move and will be very strong out of the play action however his accuracy does take a serious nosedive when under pressure which is something that must be fixed if he is to succeed as a starting QB at the next level.
He was productive every season of his four year college career which does bode well putting up monster yards in excess of 10,000 before he graduated from Oregon. In the right scheme and with with improvements in his accuracy he can be a solid producer.
Post Draft Player Comps - EJ Manuel, Blaine Gabbert, Josh Rosen.
Hmmmm...not good. Not good at all. My take on these comparisons is I would expect him to be much more successful at the NFL level with improvements already noted and he has a big advantage of coming on to a team with plenty of excellent weapons in Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry (Sorry Mike Willams truthers but he ain't it).
Fantasy Outlook - Justin Herbert is currently just inside the top 20 of my QB rankings and he's the QB3 in this years class with a long drop off from Tua at QB2 to Herbert at QB3.
Fantasy Winners - Austin Ekeler
Not so much for this pick but on the Chargers offense as a whole. Austin Ekeler is now the undisputed lead back in LA. I had my concerns that the Chargers could take a Running Back early on Day 2 but their trade up for Kenneth Murray means they have no picks until Round 4. I still expect them to add depth at the position but not in direct competition to Ekeler's workload. He should be a top 10 Running Back in 2020 no matter who is under center.
The jury is out on the impact on Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry. If Herbert adapts quickly, a scheme heavy on play action and bootleg should see both of them schemed in to wide open spaces on short and intermediate routes but everything will depend on his development.
Fantasy Loser - Mike Willams
Mike Willams will find a way to waste air yards no matter who his QB is. Save yourself the pain and frustration and avoid him unless you can get him well beyond his ADP.
1.12 Las Vegas Raiders select Henry Ruggs III - WR - Alabama
The Raiders should put the Green Bay Packers on their Xmas Card list ASAP. Until their pick of Jordan Love late in the first round, this was by far the worst and most baffling offensive selection so far.
With elite talents such as Ceedee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Jalen Reagor on the board the Raiders selected the unproductive Henry Ruggs. For a team who already has an elite receiver this pick would have made much more sense as despite his many flaws, due to his incredible speed, Ruggs at least forces a defense to account for him and with other options, Ruggs could have the time to develop in to more than just an explosive after the catch receiver. The issue is, the Raiders don't have anything close to it and Ruggs is a long way from being ready to be an elite receiver.
He was never considered anything more than a WR2/WR3 on the Alabama offense and never came close to breaking out failing to top 800 yards in any one season. There are going to be a lot of growing pains for him at the next level and the Raiders don't have the time to wait.
Post Draft Player Comps - Curtis Samuel, Phillip Dorsett, Parris Campbell, Dante Pettis, John Ross.
Ruggs screams boom/bust and this is supported by his closest comps.
Fantasy Outlook - I guarantee i will have no Henry Ruggs on any team i own this year. Based on Draft Capital i have moved him up from WR9 to WR6 in my rookie rankings but overall he barely makes it inside my top 50 wide receivers.
Fantasy Winners - Darren Waller & Josh Jacobs
I have been an advocate for selling Darren Waller all offseason on the premise that the Raiders would add a stud Wide Receiver and siphon away his targets. This has not happened and if anything, he can take advantage of more open space underneath. Same rules apply for Josh Jacobs who i expect to see an uptick in opportunity in the passing game especially following this move. Jacobs is an excellent bet to be an RB1 this year.
Fantasy Losers - Derek Carr
Say what you will about Derek Carr but he has never been given a true stud WR to work with (Antonio Brown notwithstanding). I thought this was finally the year he would get one. The Raiders continue to put him in the worst possible situation.
1.15 Denver Broncos select Jerry Jeudy - WR - Alabama
Now this is more like it. John Elway must be chuckling into his Wheaties this morning. Their Division rival Raiders made a complete mess in leaving Jeudy and Lamb on the board meaning the Broncos didn't need to consider moving up to get their guy.
I, presumably like the Broncos have no concerns around Jerry Jeudy's knees and either he or Ceedee Lamb were 'can't miss' prospects at this spot. Jeudy is the most polished route runner in the class and he is as 'plug and play' as you can get. He will be able to be utilised in the slot or on the outside as an alpha posing a frightening 1-2 punch with Courtland Sutton.
His production at Alabama is slightly misleading and many will point to his lower than expected market share but don't let this frighten you away. He is an exception to the rule when it comes to the analytical point of view and one look at his film eases any worries.
He put together awesome back to back seasons in his sophomore and junior seasons with his market share only affected by the number of weapons in the Alabama offense. He has slid down fantasy draft boards on this basis and you should take advantage wherever you can.
Post Draft Player Comps - Nelson Agholor, Justin Hunter, Odell Beckham Jr, Jeremy Maclin, Robert Woods
Again, some of these comps, such as epic bust Nelson Agholor shine a light on the flaw in the analytics process and i say that as an analytic nerd myself. I have seen enough of the Jerry Jeudy tape to forego any concerns.
Fantasy Outlook - Jerry Jeudy was my WR2 Pre-Draft and he is still there now. In my Dynasty Rankings he is on the cusp of the Top 20 of an incredibly deep position group and i have no doubt that he will climb higher and at a quick rate once we see him on the field.
Fantasy Winners - Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton
We will find out very soon if indeed Drew Lock is the long awaited answer in Denver. He showed flashes that he could be down the stretch in 2019 and he has a loaded offesne to work with. Adding Jeudy to Courtland Sutton, Philip Lindsay, Melvin Gordon and what was one of my favourite breakout candidates Pre Draft in Noah Fant is how you build around your young signal caller.
There is a misconception in fantasy circles that an elite receiver suffers if another stud is signed or drafted. I disagree. If you are the WR2 or WR3 on your team you are always in a precarious position of being usurped however if you are the alpha, like i believe Sutton is, a defense having to account for another stud can only help you take advantage of more single coverage. I expect Sutton to have a monster 2020 season.
Fantasy Losers - Noah Fant, Philip Lindsay
Let me be clear, i still love Noah Fant and think he will take another step in 2020 but as aforementioned, the drafting of Jeudy is going to lessen opportunity further down the depth chart. Fant was one of my top candidates for a huge breakout next season and those expectations have now been tempered at least slightly.
Philip Lindsay's value takes another hit as i expect the Broncos to be more pass heavy which benefits Melvin Gordon much more than it does Lindsay. Special mention must go to Royce Freeman however he was long since irrelevant in this offense. This may just be the final nail in the coffin.