NFL Draft Day Survivors
Every year during the build-up to the NFL draft we predict where the incoming rookies may land and how it will affect the players on the teams they land on. During this time we begin to devalue existing NFL players in the fear of an incoming rookie taking over the role they have or reducing their opportunity. So following on from this year's NFL draft, rather than looking at where these incoming rookies have landed, let's take a look at where they didn't land. Which veteran NFL players have managed to avoid the added rookie competition that many of us thought they would get?
New England Patriots
An obvious starting point to this article would be Jarrett Stidham. Many had predicted that, following on from not pursuing a QB in free agency, the Patriots would look to the NFL draft for their franchise QB heading into the 2020 NFL season. Names such as Jordan Love and Jalen Hurts were mentioned as possible targets with their 1st round pick, or possible a trade up for Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert. In the end, neither happened as the Patriots traded their 1st (23) round pick to the LA Chargers for a 2nd (37) and 3rd (71) round pick. They didn't even take a late-round QB during the draft, instead opting to sign UDFA's Brian Lewerke and J'mar Smith. Leaving only the former 2019 4th round pick Stidham and 34-year-old Brian Hoyer to compete for the starting job. Seeing as we haven't seen much action from Stidham as a rookie while been behind Tom Brady on the depth chart, apart from a poor showing against the New York Jets where he completed 2 out of 3 passing attempts for only 14 yards and 1 interception, let's take a look at his college career and what the Patriots saw in him when drafting him in 2019.
After a solid sophomore year, Stidham appeared to take a step back in his junior year. He seemed to lose his confidence and began to rush things and lose his composure in the pocket. This resulted in him falling to the 4th round of the 2019 NFL draft and he became a more developmental QB. But what better landing spot for him to learn his trade than the New England Patriots sat behind Tom Brady and been coached by Bill Belichick.
The fact that Belicheck has opted to stick with just Stidham and Hoyer is a great vote of confidence for Stidham, and the reports coming out seem to show that they really like him and are happy to role out with Stidham week one.
He's a solid cheap buy right now in SF dynasty leagues, who could probably be had for as little as a mid 2nd round pick which is a great value for a starting QB. Stidham is also a very capable scrambler which is often overlooked but a great asset to have for a fantasy QB.
Other QB NFL Draft Survivors: Dwayne Haskins Jr, Gardner Minshew, Drew Lock
Next up is Miles Sanders, a 2nd round pick in the 2019 NFL draft. The rookie had a very successful rookie season, especially when Jordan Howard went down with an injury. Following Howard entering free agency, and later been picked up by the Miami Dolphins, many people didn't expect the Eagles to use a high draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on a RB... but most thought they would at least add someone to maybe form a 1-2 punch alongside Sanders. Names such as AJ Dillon and Zack Moss were mentioned as a nice compliment to pair alongside Sanders, but instead, the Eagles focused their attention more on their need for WR's during the draft. This leaves only Boston Scott and Corey Clement behind Sanders on the depth chart. As of writing this article, the Eagles have been linked with free agents such as LeSean McCoy and Carlos Hyde but neither of these poses much of a threat to Sanders, especially not to the level of other free agents that have been signed such as Melvin Gordon or some of the early round rookies.
Sanders kicked off his career with a solid rookie season, racking up 1327 yards from scrimmage (RB13). After a steady start to the season, Sanders really began to breakout once Jordan Howard went down injured, leading to a significant jump in snap% from week 10 onwards. The only thing that eluded him was the touchdowns, that was until week 15 against the Washington Redskins when Sanders went off for stats of 19/122/1 on the ground and 6/50/1 through the air. In the end, Miles Sanders managed to wrap up his season as the RB15 in fantasy points.
So in conclusion, after a solid rookie season, all signs point to another step forward in his sophomore year in the NFL with the lack of competition behind him. I feel his value has taken a jump back up following on from the draft so you will have to pay the price to get him. If Sanders was in this year's rookie draft I would be taking him as the RB3 after Jonathan Taylor and Clyde Edwards-Helaire so it would probably take the 1.03 pick in 1QB leagues to get him or the 1.05 in SF leagues.
Other RB NFL Draft Survivors: Sony Michel, Raheem Mostert/Tevin Coleman, Kenyan Drake, Chris Carson/Rashaad Penny
Green Bay Packers
Before the 2019 NFL season began, many thought it would be either Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Geronimo Allison who would battle to be the Packers WR2. But as the season went on it was the 2018 UDFA Allen Lazard that slowly began to establish himself as the WR2 behind Davante Adams. Leading up to the 2020 NFL draft many people believed that the Green Bay Packers had to take a WR during the draft to give Aaron Rodgers another weapon outside of Davante Adams. Players such as Jalen Reagor and Justin Jefferson were mentioned as targets for the Packers with their 1st round pick. The Packers ended up trading their 1st round pick and a 4th round pick to move up 4 spots to pick 26... only to take QB Jordan Love. If that wasn't surprising enough they then used their 2nd round pick to take RB AJ Dillon and left the draft without drafting a single WR. That left Lazard with only recent FA signing Devin Funchess and Valdes-Scantling to compete with for the No. 2 spot for the 2020 season.
Lazard didn't get much game time to start the season. It wasn't until week 6 that he received the opportunity to show what he could do, but he took the opportunity with both hands going for 4/65/1 against the Detroit Lions. From then on Lazard started to claim the WR2 role as his snap count shot up to an average of 65% a game and finishing the season with a stat line of 35/477/3.
Lazard is in a great situation to claim the WR2 role in Green Bay. Devin Funchess may vulture some red-zone targets away from Lazard, and Green Bay seem to be transforming into a more run-heavy offense but been Aaron Rodgers No.2 is never a bad position to be in. If Lazard can take another step forward in 2020 he could start to take a larger amount of targets away from Davante Adams. Lazard is still a relatively cheap option at WR and could be had for potentially a late 2020 2nd/early 3rd round pick.
Other WR NFL Draft Survivors: N'Keal Harry, Emmanuel Sanders/Tre'Quan Smith, DeVante Parker/Preston Williams, Darius Slayton
Finally on my list of NFL draft day survivors is Carolina Panther TE Ian Thomas. Thomas was drafted in the 4th round of the 2018 NFL draft by the Panthers. He has received limited work during his first 2 years in the NFL as he has mainly backed up Greg Olsen but this offseason Olsen has been released and moved on to join the Seattle Seahawks. The TE class in the 2020 NFL draft had been touted as a weak class but there was still the chance that the Panthers could use a draft pick to provide Thomas with some competition. Names such as Albert Okwuegunam and Cole Kmet could have given Thomas some competition but the Panthers decided against it and focused on their defense during the draft. So with no free agent competition either, this has given Thomas the opportunity to take over the starting TE role in 2020.
Thomas managed to see a good amount of action during his rookie season mainly due to the fact that Greg Olsen was injured at the beginning and end of the 2018 season. Thomas then went back to a backup role in 2019 with Olsen back to full fitness, only really receiving any considerable snaps during the final 5 games of the season. When given the opportunity, Thomas has proven himself to be a capable starting TE and with Teddy Bridgewater signing a 3-year contract with the Panthers this offseason, Thomas could provide a great safety blanket over the middle for him in 2020.
With no considerable competition in his way, Thomas has an ideal path to be the starting TE for the Panthers in 2020 and is a hotly tipped selection for a breakout player next season. I don't see the price for Thomas been too high as he is been selected around the group of other TEs such as Jonnu Smith and Dawson Knox. I think a late 2020 2nd round pick would be an ideal price to pay or possibly an aging vet like Jared Cook if Thomas is on a contenders roster.
Other TE NFL Draft Survivors: Jonnu Smith, Chris Herndon/Ryan Griffin, CJ Uzomah/Drew Sample