How great is the NFL Draft? Thursday night started off as one of the most chaotic nights ever as the experts' mock draft were left in shambles by picks three, four, five, six and seven all being swapped. The Cowboys making a huge splash by trading up to get Morris "4 on the Wonderlic" Claiborne, the Eagles were able to get their man Fletcher Cox at 12, the Chargers snatching up Melvin Ingram at 18 and the Patriots moving up twice to get defensive studs in Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower were the big storylines. There's a bottomless pit of fantasy analysis and we'll certainly be focusing on all how guys like Matt Kahlil can change some values. You can also bet we'll be tackling IDP, but today we're just going to focus on the direct analysis of the rookies and which players have seen their value change for standard leagues.
The follow is a list of the rookies that were drafted in the first round ranked based on their fantasy value for redraft leagues:
1. Trent Richardson, 3rd Pick by the Cleveland Browns- Richardson is going to off the board early in fantasy drafts. He is going to be the workhorse for the Browns and their offensive line isn't as terrible as their 31st-ranked 3.7 YPC might suggest. Joe Thomas is one of the best tackles in the league and their young O-line should see some improvements.
Richardson is the most talented RB prospect since Adrian Peterson and while it's certainly en vogue to wait on running back with all five of the top-five rushers last year not being drafted in the first round, the Browns hitched their wagon to the Heisman finalist. Richardson will be Brandon Weeden's new best friend to help offset the ferocious pass rushers of the NFC North. T-Rich had 29 receptions last year and figures to be utilized on swing and screen passes in the West Coast O.
The Alabama product is going to fly off the draft boards for many owners and some owners will be willing to spend a late-first pick to get his services in a redraft. Yes, I'm serious. Personally, after the disaster of Ryan Mathews' rookie year two seasons ago and Daniel Thomas falling on his face last year, it's really hard to grab a rookie in the first 15 picks. That said, I do think Richardson is a superior talent and is going to be a rock star. I'd happily spend a third-round pick on him. If you're in a keeper, he has to go first even though RGIII could be a fantasy monster.
2. Doug Martin, 31st pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers- It's not just about talent when it comes to panhandling for gold in the RB market. Fantasy is all about maximizing opportunity and Martin hit the jackpot for a guy that wasn't a lock to be taken in the first round. Greg Schiano, the new head coach, has already gone on record showing his affinity to the Boise St. Bronco. "Complete football player, and a winner. I do see a little Ray Rice in Martin," Schiano said when describing his new tailback. Schiano ran Rice upstream and downstream at Rutgers and their measurable traits compare favorably with both measuring at 5-foot-9 and Martin having a few more pounds on Rice as well. Martin also turned in an solid 4.55 40-yard time for a guy of his stature.
LaGarrette Blount is once again going to be incensed by a Boise St. Bronco and based on the praise of Schiano. Let's hope he doesn't throw haymakers this time. It's not a stretch tho think that Martin will unseat one of the most impressive backs in 2010. Last season, however, Blount finished with abysmal 5.7 carries per game in the final three contests. Blount's inability to be used on passing downs figured to come back to bite him eventually and Martin's selection evidently could be the beginning of the end of his days as an RB2 in fantasy. As for Martin, Schiano also said he's an "all-around back" and even dropped the term "three-down back" when asked about him. Of course, there's a little bit of the smoke-and-mirrors game that we have to play considering they just drafted him, but Martin does have adept skills out of the backfield with 28 receptions in each of his last two years with the Broncos.
Tampa Bay was dead last in carries last year thanks largely due to their inept defense that allowed the most rushing yards, so we shouldn't put too much stock into them being 30th in rushing yards last year. Tampa's schedule is pretty good and there's nowhere to go but up. His ceiling right now is to be drafted in the fifth round and I don't see him slipping past the eighth in any competitive league. He reminds me a lot of Mikel LeShoure and Ryan Williams, both of whom were taken around the 80th pick in mocks last year before their devastating season-ending injuries.
3. Robert Griffin III, 2nd pick by the Washington Redskins- RG3 is almost impossible to hate, but fans of the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles will probably start hating him pretty quickly for making defenses look terrible. To stick with the NFL Network lingo for the evening, RG3 is a beast. He ran a 4.41 at the combine-- the fastest by a QB since Vick put up a 4.33-- and has all the skills as a passer that should translate to being an elite quarterback. I can see Griffin setting up everything for the Redskins. Well, almost. Shanahan utilizing the screen passes more than any other offense while also allowing the Heisman winner to get close two double-digit rushes per game is not unfathomable.
The obvious comparison is going to be to Cam Newton. Simply put, there's almost no way Griffin can repeat. What we saw from Cam was a fantasy story for the ages as he set the record for most rushing scores by a quarterback. Cam was the goal-line back at 250 pounds while Griffin tips the scales at just 220, so double-digit rushing scores isn't is the cards for the Baylor Bear.
Cam also had Steve Smith. Griffin? Well, he'll have Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan likely holding down the X and Y spots with Santana Moss possibly being cut. Garcon was arguably the most overpaid player this offseason with his absurd five-year, $42.5 million deal and Morgan never really stepped it up in San Fran even with receivers going down all around him (he was also hurt). As a side note, Fred Davis has some sleeper appeal.
Someone in your league will view RG3 as a low-end QB1 and while he absolutely has the upside to be that guy, I'd rather grab someone like Philip Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger. He's a guy to target in the ninth round or so for me and there's really no way that'll happen with the lovable Griffin.
4. David Wilson, 32nd pick by the New York Giants- The last pick of the night was a doozy. The Giants figured to reel in a back at some point with the departure of Brandon Jacobs and with all of their suitors at linebacker gone, they opted to take a chance on the VA Tech workhorse. The 205-pound Wilson ripped off a school-record 1,704 yards for the Hokies which ranked fourth in the nation last year. That production was also good enough to give him ACC Player of the Year honors as well.
It's not exactly an ideal situation for Wilson though. The Giants were last in rushing yards last year and their offense will be geared to air it out once again with one of the best 1-2 punches at WR with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. On the other hand, Ahmad Bradshaw battled a fracture in his foot that caused him to miss four games and it's a problem that has bothered him before. Martin would obviously need Bradshaw to go down, but the Giants have literally nobody behind Martin, which makes him one of the better handcuffs to grab.
The bottom line on this one is that Bradshaw's value drops about a round to a fourth-to-fifth round guy with Wilson a decent player to think about in the double-digit rounds.
5. Andrew Luck, 1st pick by the Indianapolis Colts- It's been about six months since we knew The Suck For Luck Sweepstakes would ultimately lead to Andrew Luck calling Indianapolis his home and we got no surprises on Thursday. While most of the industry experts will say that Luck is the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning, his fantasy value isn't something that is going to tickle fantasy owners much. He doesn't have the same weapons as Peyton Manning did with Garcon, Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme gone. Yes, he'll still have Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie, but that tandem is probably in the bottom third as far as talent goes.
The good news is that the Colts have always done a solid job of protecting their quarterback. Despite the indecisive play under center, the Colts were only 17th in sacks allowed last year. They still figure to struggle mightily in the ground game which could be a gift and a curse for his fantasy outlook. He'll have a lot on his shoulders. Furthermore, the Colts atrocious D figures to put the Stanford product down by double-digit scores with some regularity. It's also worth mentioning that his athleticism-- he clocked in a 4.66 in the 40-- could turn some dividends for owners.
There's a lot of upside and he's a player that owners can grab as a QB2 if they're not satisfied with the QB1 they acquired in the early-middle rounds.
6. Justin Blackmon, 5th pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars- Hey, do you know who was the worst quarterback in the league last year? Well, if you are a stats man, you'd certainly say Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert was 34th in the league in passer rating and yards per attempt, he was 33rd in completion percentage with 50.8 percent, he was tied with Ben Roethlistberger for third in sacks allowed (even though Ben had 100 more pass attempts) and the Jaguars were last in the league in passing yards. Could you chalk that up to Gabbert not having weapons? Yeah. Still though, to be that horrible should make any excuse as irrelevant as the 32nd pick in the seventh round. He had a three-week stretch that included passing yards of 93, 97, and 109 yards. Catching my drift here?
While Blackmon is has immense talent with 4.46 speed in the 40, averaging 116 receptions and 19 TDs in his last two years at Oklahoma State, and crisp route-running ability, it's just really going to be tough to count on him with such a disgraceful passing attack last year even though the Jaguars had the league's leading rusher in Maurice Jones-Drew. It's going to be tough to whip the fantastic game in the Fiesta Bowl from their memory banks, but it's something they might have to do in order to not reach for this man.
Blackmon also has to worry about one of 2011 pleasant surprises with Laurent Robinson on the other side. Robinson was Dallas' best option in the red zone and one would think that was the main reason for Jacksonville ponying up the $32.5 million over five years.
There's just too much riding on Blaine Gabbert for Blackmon to be considered as a sleeper. Fantasy owners will be licking their chops to find another A.J. Green or Julio Jones, but it's just not going to happen this year. If J.B. is there in the 11th or 12th round, then he might be worth the risk for a guy with supreme talent. He probably won't be though.
7. Kendall Wright, 21st pick by the Tennessee Titans- All season long fantasy heads were trying to figure out who was going to bust out after Kenny Britt tore his ACL. It seemed like Nate Washington was destined to be a WR2, then Damian Williams got hot, then Nate again, and then Damian, then, well you get the picture. Wright makes that story totally obsolete as he should certainly become the second option at WR for Jake Locker. Locker showed he can hit some players on the deep routes late last year and Wright could become a guy that catches some big TDs against teams with soft secondaries. Fortunately, two of those teams, Indianapolis and Jacksonville, reside in his division.
Wright's 40 time was a hot topic with a mediocre 4.61. Subsequently, this called into question his work ethic and whether or not he could succeed at the next level. A strong pro day headlined by a 4.41 40 time appears to have convinced the Titans that he'll make an immediate impact in some capacity. This selection here is particularly interesting based on how all signs pointed to them going for an offensive lineman.
Kenny Britt figures to be a full strength and Wright's upside isn't all that high. He's really nothing more than a matchup play guy until further notice.
8. Michael Floyd, 13th pick by the Arizona Cardinals- Cardinals fans have been waiting for the next wideout to complement Larry Fitzgerald since AZ dumped Anquan Boldin and while Floyd is certainly the most talented player to call the 602 his home, he has his work cut out for him. He still has to beat out Andre Roberts and Early Doucet, which shouldn't be too difficult. Plus, the Cardinals have some issues at quarterback with the team already feeling buyer's remorse after forking over a five-year, $63 million deal to Kevin Kolb.
There's certainly some positives for the Golden Domer. Floyd is one of the most polished receivers to come out and he showed some exceptional skills to separate in space in college.Unless there's a tremendous buzz surrounding Floyd in the coming months, he's not a guy that'll be worth drafting in 12-team leagues.
9. Brandon Weeden, 22nd pick by the Cleveland Browns- He's 28 and there's really no way the Brownies would invest a first-round pick on a gray beard unless they were going to throw him into the fire right away. Colt McCoy failed to translate his remarkable preseason to the regular season. McCoy only had one 300-yard game and was just 33rd in yards per attempt. Nice knowing ya, Colt.
Weeden was second in the NCAA Division I for passing yards and has all the tangibles that scouts like at 6-foot-4, a strong arm and a fairly quick release. He's 28 though. 28. Weeden doesn't really have much of an arsenal with Greg "Butterfingers" Little as his main man and one of the worst WR2s in the league in Mohamed Massaquoi. I'd feel a little bit better if the Browns can somehow snag Stephen Hill on Friday. I don't see that happening though.
10. A.J. Jenkins, 30th pick by the San Francisco 49ers- Whoa. Did Al Davis get reincarnated as Jed York or something? Jenkins was arguably the biggest reach of the draft to this point. He has blazing speed at 4.39 and put up some good numbers at Illinois with 90 catches for 1,276 yards and eight scores. He'll enter a logjam with Mario Manningham, Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss as the secondary pass catchers to Vernon Davis. Not to mention, the Niners attack is predicated on the running game with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. Those three WRs mentioned avoid don't exactly scream durability, so there's at least some chance Jenkins can carve out a role once they start going down due to injury.
11. Ryan Tannehill, 8th pick by the Miami Dolphins- While the Miami Dolphins unequivocally stated that the Texas A&M stud is their QB for the future, it's a far cry from something the team will expect coming out of the gates when they travel to Houston for Week 1. Move along, there's nothing to see here.
Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter all weekend! I'll be watching just about every pick and discussing the breakdown as it happens.