The NFL draft has been completed, which means it is time to get ready for the next season. While some rookies are able to make immediate impacts for fantasy owners, what they end up doing most is changing the values of the veterans already on those teams. In order to properly prepare for the 2015 season, we need to understand how the NFL draft impacted the roles, and values for veterans we may or may not have been considering drafting.
I have four different categories for which I am going to be classifying players in. The first two categories are what you would expect, those whose values went up, and those whose values went down. The next two categories are for those who have a perceived value of being better or worse, but I am not believing that and still believe there values should be looked at the same now as it was before.
The values of these players are viewed upon as of today, and are subject to change with roster moves, injuries, and more information given that can clear up, or even clog in some cases, roles these players have. Now let's see which veterans were impacted by the 2015 NFL draft.
Vincent Jackson - Last season Vincent Jackson was targeted 143 times, which was tied for 8th most in the NFL last season, however he only caught 2 TD's. To put into context how few that actually is, the average TD's of those who had as many or more targets than he did had just over 9 TD's each. The QB play last season wasn't very good to put it nicely between Mike Glennon and Josh McCown. Jameis Winston is now the Starting QB for the Bucs, and showed that he was an NFL ready QB during his tenure at Florida State. Now is he a great QB who can come in and play as well as Luck did his rookie year? I don't believe that he is, but he does like to take his chances down the field, something Vincent Jackson thrived on in his years at San Diego, and first year with Tampa Bay. Winston will do a better job of getting Jackson balls that he can catch, as it really can't be worse than the 49% from last year.
The Tampa Bay offense last season struggled to run the football, and I don't see that changing in the coming year, which means the Bucs will have to rely on the passing game again this season, even if they don't want to put that much pressure on Winston. With the amount of targets he is to see staying roughly the same, we can expect him to put up a better statistical season. I think he should finish the year with 1,100 yards, and 7 TD's. Those stats would put him right around the top 15 last year, and for a guy who you should be able to draft as your WR3, that will provide some great value.
Ryan Tannehill - I was wary of Tannehill at the beginning of this offseason due to the changes in offensive weapons. With losing Mike Wallace, and more importantly Charles Clay, I began to think that it would be difficult for him to replicate his top 10 season again. After going out and signing Jordan Cameron, I began to think there may be a chance for him to come close, but they were still missing that WR to go opposite of Jarvis Landry. Low and behold the Dolphins drafted the guy I believe as the second best receiver in this draft class behind Amari Cooper in DeVante Parker.
Parker is replacing Wallace, who caught 10 TD's last year, but only accumulated 862 Receiving Yards. Parker will finish his rookie year with close to 1,000 yards, and 6 TD's. The difference in TD's from Wallace will be made up by Jordan Cameron, who will score more than the 3 times Charles Clay did last year. Now add in the fact that Landry, Parker, Stills and Cameron represent his best receiving corps since he has been in the league, and you have a recipe for another top 10 season.
Marques Colston - The change in value here doesn't come from what the Saints did during the draft, but more of what they didn't do. Most people will probably start to point to Josh Hill being the prime benefactor from the draft, but I just don't see it. Colston has been around for a long time with Brees, and has seen his production go down the past few seasons for a number of reasons. The emergence of Jimmy Graham and the heavy involvement of him in the offense, and the continued drafting of more WR's with Kenny Still, Brandin Cooks and others. Well Stills and Graham are no longer on the team, and the Saints didn't draft a TE or WR that will step in and become a starter immediately, which leaves Brees with what was there last year to help him in 2015. Now Cooks will be back in 2015, and he is the receiver that should be drafted first from the Saints, but a lot of targets left town and need to be picked up by a number of people. Hill will see an increase to his targets, but his skills are still relatively unknown to this point, while with Colston you know exactly what you are getting.
The other piece that is working in Colston's favor is his large body that will be able to become Brees' primary target in the redzone. Now will Colston score the amount of TD's that Graham was able to score over the last few years? I highly doubt it, but it would not surprise me if Colston is flirting with 10 TD's at the end of the season. A season like the one I laid out for Vincent Jackson I think is fair for Colston, with around 1,000 yards though and 8 TD's. His upside is also much lower than most receivers, but I think Colston will be the quiet pick late in a draft you will be thrilled with at the end of the year.
Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams - This one is fairly simple, and may change within the next month if Dallas signs someone like Steven Jackson or Chris Johnson. The Dallas Offensive Line was by far the best run blocking line last year, and have been able to keep in intact while adding another 1st round talent for it last Thursday. I just don't see the Cowboys giving Darren McFadden the lion's share of the carries like they did with Murray last year. The Cowboys are a smart organization and that they know if they run McFadden to the ground in the first couple of weeks, they will find out he is unable to stay healthy, and is not the same guy he once was running through defenders and racing off towards the endzone.
Joseph Randle is the obvious choice for fantasy owners and the Cowboys as well seeing as how effective he was last season in a limited role. Randle has proven that he can hit a hole with one-cut, and then explode through it for a nice chunk gain. His pass blocking and receiving skills are limited, but they are by no means atrocious.
Ryan Williams I view as the wildcard on this roster, as he is the most complete back on the team. The problems with Williams has been, like McFadden, due to injuries. At this point, I think we have to scrap what we think we know of Williams to this point and start over. Although Williams didn't play a singe game for the Cowboys last year and stayed on the practice squad, he was able to go the entire year without getting hurt, and the Cowboys had no reason to bring him up to the 53 man roster. I fully believe that Williams is a better downhill runner than Randle is, and a better pass blocker than he is. Now his skills in the passing game are not as strong as Darren McFadden's is, but that is something they can spell Williams out for if needed.
At this point, Williams is only on the draft board for Fantasy Owners in deeper leagues, but as the offseason progresses, I would keep an eye on this situation, and see what they are doing during training camps and preseason games. As of right now I would rank the three in this order: Randle, McFadden, Williams, but there is not much to separate the three for me.
Donte Moncrief - What exactly was the Colts plan going into the draft this year? Clearly they had to of thought that the team didn't have any real weak areas they needed to improve by going out and drafting a WR in the first round, even with the guy's they already have. Now the Colts taking Phillip Dorsett could be a precursor that they do not intend to resign T.Y. Hilton after the season, as they will need the money to lock up Luck long term. The Dorsett pick drastically hurt the breakout potential of Donte Moncrief. Before the pick of Dorsett, Moncrief was looking like the flanker in 3 WR sets, while also picking up other snaps to spell Andre Johnson in 2 WR sets. I still think Moncrief is the second best receiver on the Colts, but Indy will be finding ways to get Dorsett on the field, and it isn't coming at the expense of T.Y. Hilton or Andre Johnson. Moncrief has now become a late round flier, who you will show you within the first couple of weeks whether he is going to be worth holding onto, or dropping for the hot waiver wire pickup.
Terrence West - I have never been a Terrence West fan, as I think that Isiah Crowell is the superior back between the two of them. Well now that the Browns drafted another RB in this year's draft, Duke Johnson, the odds that Terrence West will be able to be trusted in a given week baring injury to the other backs with the new three back committee. The pecking order to start the season will be something like West and Crowell as 1a and 1b, which by week 3 or 4 will turn into Crowell 1 and West 2. By midway through the season, Duke Johnson will have supplanted West as the guy next in line after Crowell. I personally believe that Crowell will be able to run away with this job after the first month, but since the chances of that happening are not too encouraging, I would advice staying away from having to start one of these three backs to start the year, West especially. West is now a late round RB who you take in case the guys in front of him get hurt, as that is the only way he will be able to provide starter value to your team.
Mychal Rivera - I was going to be all aboard the Rivera train as a deep league TE you could wait on to draft, but that is now going to be changing. The Raiders drafted Clive Walford, signaling that the Raiders do not believe Rivera can learn to become a competent blocker for them. That has always been the one thing holding Rivera back from being considered a decent TE in non fantasy terms. Now that the Raiders have Walford, they are going to have him on the field to help with blocking for the team, taking away snaps from Rivera. If Walford can prove during the preseason that he isn't a complete liability when running routes and trying to catch the ball, he could continue to see an expanded role in the offense at Rivera's expense. I would now hold off on drafting Rivera in pretty much all formats at this point unless we see that his role hasn't changed from last season.
Arizona RB's - Arizona's RB situation is similar to the Cleveland situation that I described earlier, so I won't take too long to describe why I don't like it for the Cardinals. Andre Ellington was very underwhelming last year, and that was when he didn't have any real competition for carries. The Cardianls drafted David Johnson, who is a decent downhill runner, which is something Ellington proved he is not good at doing. Ellington will continue to be on the field frequently, as he is a tremendous receiving back, but his touches and carries are going to be less with Johnson there now. Ellington isn't even in consideration to be a starter in 12 team leagues I think at this point unless it is a PPR league. Johnson is also going to be a tough case as he will not be able to wrestle the entire starting role away from Ellington due to his value in the passing game, even though Johnson is a very good receiving back as well. Draft Ellington now as a RB3 who may provide value if he can regain his 2013 numbers and take over the entire starting role like he was supposed to last year. Johnson should be drafted as your 4th or 5th RB and a guy who has Jeremy Hill like potential if he is given the bulk of the touches.
Perception Stock Down, But I Am Still Buying:
Joique Bell - I don't believe for a second that Ameer Abdullah is going to detract from Joique Bell's value. This is a guy who has been playing with Reggie Bush for the last few years and has shown that he is still a productive back for fantasy owners. Bell finished as the number 14 RB last year in standard scoring leagues, and I see him being able to finish around the top 15 again in 2015. He is a guy who has had some problems with fumbling in the past, but his ability to play through injuries and consistently add value through his receiving abilities make him a solid RB2 to have on your team.
Martavis Bryant - The Steelers essentially drafted another Martavis Bryant in the draft with Sammie Coates. Coates is a raw athletic receiver who oozes potential, but still has a long ways to go for him to tap into that potential. Bryant will not be effected at all by this pick for the 2015 season, as he showed the kind of upside he possess, and has a full year over Coates in the offense and working on his game. Bryant is going to be a popular sleeper pick for me, as even after all of the targets that are going to Antonio Bryant, there will be a good amount to go around to Bryant in this potent offense.
Isaiah Crowell - See West, Terrence above. I believe he will become the starting back who is getting the bulk of the touches by week 4 and never looks back from that role. You should be able to get him as your RB3, which is great as you won't have to rely on him as a starter for the first few weeks in case this all blows up in my face and Terrence West or Duke Johnson steal the role and take it themselves.
Perception Stock Up, But I Am Not Buying:
Joe Flacco - Flacco is who he is at this point in his career. For the Ravens he is a very good QB, but for fantasy owners he just is too hard to trust in any given week. Perriman is being compared to Torrey Smith, and if that is truly the case, why should we care about Flacco as anything more than a bye week fill in? He finished as the 13th best QB last year, and that was with his ridiculous game against the Bucs. Don't by into any hype he may receive. Not on the radar unless in two QB leagues.
Josh Hill - See Colston, Marques. I don't see Hill taking a step forward as Colston is still there and can do the same exact things Hill can, except he has actually proven his worth to Brees over the years.
Geno Smith - I am not even sure he is the starter by week 8, or even week 1 for that matter with Ryan Fitzpatrick now a member of the Jets. The receiving additions do nothing for me for that reason alone. Smith really has to show me during the preseason that his arm is more accurate, and his decision making isn't as terrible as last year to start warranting consideration in leagues as a backup even.
If you have any questions regarding the 2015 season, whether it be other players you would like a take on, keeper decisions that you need to make or something else, leave a comment or send an email to the one on my profile.