The NFL Draft is now behind us and unlike past years, this draft was pretty straight forward without a ton of trades early on. I was anticipating a Chip Kelly blockbuster trade that would land him Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, but he stuck to his word and did not pull the trigger. In fact, the first trade came when the Chargers moved up to the 15th overall pick as they surrendered their 17th overall pick along with a fourth round pick and a 2016 fifth round pick. That's when they drafted running back Melvin Gordon. We all anxiously waited for Draft Day and now it's behind us. The good news is that we now have a better idea of the roles some of these highly rated players will play in their rookie season now that they have a home. Below I'll break down some of this year's first round picks and their fantasy outlook.
Jameis Winston QB, Buccaneers
Winston came into the draft as the best quarterback of his class. As a rookie, he set national freshman records for passing yards (4,057) and passing touchdowns (40). He also won the Heisman Trophy that season. His sophomore year wasn't as great, but he still elected to enter the draft after his subpar season and it ended up being a wise decision as he was the first overall pick of this year's draft. He was taken by the Bucs, which appears to be the perfect situation for Winston. They were in desperate need of a starting quarterback and have some decent weapons. Winston will have the pleasure of passing the ball to Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson who are two huge receivers that have great hands and can jump over defenders to make tough catches. Evans showed off his skills last season and Jackson has proven to be a reliable and productive receiver throughout his NFL career. Not to mention, the talented second year tight end tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins who is 6'5 and is expected to be fully healthy to start the season. Granted, the Bucs o-line struggled to pass protection last season, ranking 26th, but the team addressed that need in the draft as well as in free agency. Winston has just about all of the tools needed to be a great quarterback. He has arm strength, accuracy, poise, anticipation, and has the size. He has drawn comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger, although I would temper my expectations because Big Ben has accomplished a ton in his NFL career. Winston's only knock would be his off the field issues and the lack of maturity he has shown. Assuming he stays out of trouble and plays, he should be just fine in this league. As far as fantasy is concerned, he's likely the only rookie quarterback I'm drafting in redraft leagues. I'd snag him in the late rounds as a low-end No. 2 quarterback with upside. In rookie only drafts, he's a first round pick.
Marcus Mariota QB, Titans
I may be in the minority here, but I think that the Titans should have given Zach Mettenberger a shot at the starting gig. I know it's not completely out of the question, but after taking Mariota number two overall, it's very unlikely. Mariota is coming off of a great junior season with the Oregon Ducks where he won the Heisman trophy. In college he threw over 30 touchdowns in each of his three seasons. What concerns me about Mariota is that he's coming from a style of offense that isn't pro style or successful in the NFL. It's the type of offense he's been playing since high school. The questions are, can he transition to be an NFL quarterback and/or will the Titans rearrange their offense to fit Mariota's strengths? That's something I'm not too sure of. Mariota is smart, has good work ethics, has a strong arm, can pass on the run, and throws an accurate football. The knock is that he's never really been asked to look downfield and scan his receivers. This is definitely something he can improve on with practice, but the fact that he's only flourished in a fast high-tempo style offense is worrisome. The Titans drafted Dorial Green-Beckham in this draft as well, which should be a great weapon for Mariota. The Titans added two veteran receivers to go along with their young receivers. With that said, I'm still skeptical about Mariota this season as I fear he will go through plenty of growing pains being less pro ready than Winston. He's definitely a first round pick in rookie only drafts, but in one quarterback re-draft leagues, he won't be in my radar.
Todd Gurley RB, Rams
Was I the only one shocked when the Rams took Gurley in the first round? Not knocking the pick or the player whatsoever, but they drafted Zac Stacy in the 2013 draft and Tre Mason in the 2014 draft, so the last position I had them taking was a running back. To be honest, I don't blame them because Gurley is a rare talent. He pretty much is your prototypical NFL running back. He's a strong runner, has light feet, tough to tackle, lowers his pads and bounces off defenders, has great hands, can block, and once he sees the hole, he quickly erupts right through it. I washed film on Gurley and it reminded me a lot of Adrian Peterson. I'm not saying that I'm expecting Peterson-like numbers, but there is a resemblance in their style of running. Many people compare Gurley to Marshawn Lynch, who is arguably one of the best running backs in the NFL. Needless to say, Gurley is an absolute beast. The only red flag is the fact that he's coming off of a torn ACL that he suffered in November 2014 and he's also missed time in his college career due to ankle injuries, so durability is a concern. That being said, sometimes the risk is worth the reward and this is one of those times. He rushed for 3,285 yards in 30 college games averaging 6.44 yards per carry. He also scored 36 rushing touchdowns in that time span. At this time, it's unsure whether he will be ready for the start of the season, but that doesn't mean you disregard him in your fantasy drafts. He's someone that should be drafted in all types of leagues and stashed until he gets on the field. The Rams didn't draft him number 10 overall to hand Tre Mason the rock more often than Gurley. Once he's healthy, he should see the bulk of the carries for this Rams offense.
Melvin Gordon RB, San Diego Chargers
When the Chargers traded up two spots it was clear what their intentions were. They were in desperate need of a running back and Melvin Gordon made sense. If there's one rookie that should have an immediate impact, it's Gordon. If you look at the Chargers depth charts, there's really no player that threatens Gordon's chances of full time duties. In fact, Chargers GM Tom Telesco has praised Gordon's pass protection, which is a great sign because when backs struggle against pass block it usually decreases their chances of playing on third down situations, which ultimately leads to less volume. Gordon is a patient runner that waits for his blocks; he has good acceleration, keeps his legs moving after initial contact and can bounce off defenders, has strong legs, and is quick. His hands are unproven and his frame isn't ideal for that of an NFL back, but he's arguably in the best situation of all rookies. He should see plenty of opportunities and is the favorite to get the bulk of the carries in this offense. If Gordon can block like the team thinks he can and can show he's capable of catching passes then sky is the limit.
Amari Cooper WR, Raiders
If I had one word to describe Cooper it would be special. He is hands down the best receiver of this draft class. He's quick, has an explosive burst, can gain separation, great hand-eye coordination and awareness, and tends to get behind defenders often. Watching his highlight reels was something I enjoyed doing. He's good off of screens and is also a long ball threat. Talk about the complete package. He scored 31 touchdowns in 40 college games. Last year, he had an unforgettable season as he caught 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns. The only knock on his game would be the lack of effort in his route running at times, but that's really nothing to be too concerned about. The Raiders took him fourth overall and he immediately becomes their number one wide receiver. Last season, no receiver eclipsed 700 yards for the Raiders, which is something Cooper is potentially looking to change. He will bring a new dynamic to this offense and offer a great target for second year quarterback Derek Carr. Initially I was bummed about the landing spot because you don't tie in the Raiders with fantasy studs, but after looking into it a bit more, this isn't the worst landing spot for Cooper. The Raiders will likely be trailing in many games this season which will only create more passing opportunities. They also have no other reliable receiver who will take too many targets away from Cooper. All in all, Cooper has the skill sets and ability to be an elite and special receiver in this league. He's definitely someone I'm targeting in my fantasy drafts.
Devante Parker WR, Dolphins
Parker was my second favorite receiver in this draft class and that's why I'm writing about him before I write about Kevin White. Many people compare him to A.J. Green and after watching some film, I'd have to agree. He's a strong receiver, can leap, can shake off defenders, has long strides and is fast, can disguise his routes well, is a red zone threat because of size and leaping abilities, and shines in big moments. I did some homework on Parker and one of the stats that stood out the most to me was that he had a touchdown in every 4.7 catches. I mean, how impressive is that? He also lost his quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who moved onto the NFL, but was still able to produce almost identical numbers. The downside is that he is injury prone and could use some bulk. He also has room to improve in blocking and against press coverage. With that said, he should fit right in with the Dolphins. Ryan Tannenhill isn't known for his long ball so having a big target that can get yards after the catch is a huge asset. Not to mention a red zone threat that has been absent from this offense for quite some time. He may not receive a ton of receptions due to the amount of weapons on this offense, but he could potentially be the primary red zone target. He too, is on my radar for this upcoming season and will likely be in some of my fantasy teams. In rookie only drafts he's a first round pick without a doubt.
Kevin White WR, Bears
After parting ways with Brandon Marshall, the Bears needed to fill that void in the draft and they did just that by selecting Kevin White seventh overall. He has good size and frame, he's strong, has reliable hands, can leap, protects the football, is quick, can create separation, and breaks tackles. The downside is that he isn't a good blocker and lacks explosiveness at times. If there was one receiver of the three I've mentioned in this article that I'm most apprehensive about, it's White. There aren't many receivers that come out of West Virginia that become stud receivers in the NFL. Yes, they flourish in college, but for some reason struggle in the pros. That being said, if there was a team that White could flourish in it is the Bears. One of White's strengths is creating separation and something Jay Cutler loves to do is sling the ball, so there's hope for White. He's also going to a team where he won't have a ton of pressure and will almost never see the opposing team's best corner because of teammate Alshon Jeffery. All in all, White is in a good situation and should be able to be productive in this offense. It's just a matter of whether he can transition his game into the NFL. We will find out this season. It's unlikely White finds many of my teams because his ADP will more than likely be much higher than I'd be willing to take him. I'm not saying that I'd dismiss him completely, I'm just not as confident in him as I am in some of the other rookie receivers in this draft class.