We often see veterans displaced by rookies each year during the NFL Draft. But oftentimes, a veteran can have their fantasy outlook improved by the additions made on draft night. Let's go over some big names that received such a boost.
QB Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
In the offseason, the Broncos made a move to improve their lead running back position with the addition of Melvin Gordon. Even so, there remained plenty of questions around the fantasy viability of quarterback Drew Lock as a passer. He had success in his rookie season in wins (4-1), but Lock averaged only 204 yards passing in his five games in 2019.
Wide receiver Courtland Sutton (72/1112/6) emerged last season, and tight end Noah Fant (40/562/3) looks positioned to gain value in his second year in the NFL after being selected 20th overall in 2019.
It was widely known that the Broncos were going to add another wide receiver with the 15th overall pick, but most mock drafts had them choosing between some of the second-tier options after receivers CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy came off the board.
When the Jets decided to go with an offensive tackle (Mekhi Becton) and the Raiders pushed up WR Henry Ruggs, Denver fans knew their offense had a chance to be much improved this season.
The selection of WR Jerry Jeudy gives Lock two top WRs plus pass-catching talent at RB and TE. For a quarterback to rank highly in the NFL and fantasy football, he needs a minimum of four weapons in the passing games. When a QB has five top tier receiving options, he has a chance to offer a special season.
Well, in the second round, Denver downshifted, hit the gas, and moved into the passing lane when they added WR K.J. Hamler. His speed, quickness, and playmaking ability give the Broncos their fifth option to developed into an elite offense.
I can’t expect all options to hit the ground running in 2020, but the structure of Denver’s passing game points to Lock being fantasy relevant this year.
In the early fantasy draft season, Lock was the 24 QB selected. After doing the quarterback research for the Sports Illustrated magazine, I gave Lock the breakout tag while improving his early projections to over 4,000 yards passing with a chance at 27 TDs. Even with a lower initial ranking, he has the tools to develop into a top 15 QB in 2020 with a higher ceiling if his receiver core develops quicker than expected.
RB Todd Gurley, Atlanta Falcons
Heading into the 2020 fantasy draft season, RB Todd Gurley is going to have a wide range of opinions from fantasy owners. Many will want to avoid his injury risk, and they feel his career as an elite player is over. Others will embrace a new home and hope he rebounds after a down season with the Rams.
Before this year’s NFL draft, there was speculation that the Falcons would add another top tier running back for insurance. RB Ito Smith hasn’t developed as expected, and Atlanta’s next insurance cards at RB look to be between Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison.
The Falcons went with CB A.J. Terrell and LB Marlon Davidson with their first two picks in this year’s draft. They didn’t add another RB in this draft, which gives Gurley a brighter shade of green in the fantasy world.
With no young upside running back added to the roster in the draft, Gurley maintains his expected value as a goal-line back and pass-catcher. Atlanta stated earlier that they would rotate in a second RB to limit the exposure to Gurley.
When at his best for the Rams, Gurley averaged over 22 touches per game. He scored 54 TDs over his last 44 games. In 2019, Los Angeles still allowed him to be active in pass routes (top-five ranking in this area), but they used him more as a decoy with no intention of him catching the ball on many plays. Gurley would consistently run to the left or right flat at the line of scrimmage to draw a player in coverage.
This year the Falcons will get him more chances in the passing game. They have no financial risk (Gurley signed a one-year, $6 million contract), which means Atlanta can push him as far they need to win games.
Look for Gurley to get between 16 and 18 touches per game while adding value in TDs and catches. His early ADP is 33 at the 16th RB off the table.
RB Jordan Howard, Miami Dolphins
When the Dolphins signed RB Jordan Howard in mid-March, he looked like an upgrade on early downs, but there was a sense that Miami would add another young RB in this year’s draft class.
The Dolphins had five draft selections over the first two rounds, but each time they passed on adding an option at RB. Miami invested in a franchise QB (Tua Tagovailoa) plus picked up a pair of offensive linemen (Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt).
Last year Howard held off RB Miles Sanders over the first nine games with the Eagles. His best play came from Week 3 to Week 9 (513 combined yards with seven TDs and seven catches), which came to 14.33 fantasy points in PPR leagues.
To rank 15th in RB scoring PPR leagues in 2019, a running back needed to average 13.74 fantasy points.
Miami had massive problems running the ball last year. Their RBs gained 962 yards on the ground on 297 carries with seven TDs. They also had 79 catches for 602 yards and no TDs on 121 targets. In both areas, the Dolphins struggled to make big plays (3.2 yards per rush and 7.6 yards per catch).
Over his first three years in the NFL, Howard gained 3,938 combined yards with 25 TDs and 72 catches.
I don’t expect him to be a stud, but Howard is in position to receive well over 225 touches. I expect newly acquired RB Matt Breida to be active as well while working as the change of pace option. With 25 catches, six TDs, and 1,000 combined yards, Howard would work as a rotational RB3 in most fantasy formats.
In the early draft season, he has an ADP of 139 at the 46th RB off the table. Miami should be improved offensively, giving Howard a chance to be better than my initial projections.
RB Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers ran the ball great in 2019, and RB Raheem Mostert emerged as the best option at the end of the year. Over the final nine games, including the playoffs, he gained 859 yards with 13 TDs and ten catches while averaging 14.8 touches per game.
On the year, San Fran’s RB gained 2,246 yards on 449 carries with 22 TDs plus 77 catches for 753 yards and six TDs on 103 targets. They had one of the best running back opportunities in the league, but the 49ers used three RBs in their rotation.
With RB Matt Breida shipped to the Dolphins, Mostert locks in his 15 touches per game with a chance to be more active in the passing game. RB Jerick McKinnon remains a wild card after missing the last two seasons. RB Tevin Coleman will maintain his role, but he can’t match the explosiveness of Mostert.
At age 28, Mostert has low mileage on his legs due to receiving only 47 chances over his previous four seasons in the NFL. The lack of length on his resume is a concern, but Mostert’s speed does separate him from the other options on the 49ers.
Look for him to be an undervalued RB2 in 2020 with an early ADP of 63. Coleman should be an easy handcuff (ADP of 133). Just remember, Mostert averaged 19.3 fantasy points per game over his final nine games, which was well above a top-ten RB opportunity in 2019.
QB Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
Over his first six years in the NFL, Carr flashed top tier QB value at times. On too many days, he settled into a dump off game manager while not allowing his best receivers to make plays in tight coverage. His peak in TDs (32) came in 2015, and Carr set a career-high in passing yards (4,054), completion rate (70.4), and yards per pass attempt (7.9) in 2019.
The Raiders did their best to give him the right structure of playmakers in this year’s draft. WR Henry Ruggs (first Alabama WR drafted) has the speed to burn plus the ability to make plays in the open field, along with scoring value on crossing plays in the red zone. At the very least, Ruggs keeps a defense honest, which will help push the safety out of the box in the run game.
WR Bryan Edwards was an undervalued asset coming into the 2020 draft. His combination of size, hands, and speed scream WR1 while being a steal with the 17th pick in the third round of this year’s draft. Edwards was the 16th wide receiver selected in 2020.
Las Vegas even took a flier on RB/WR Lynn Bowden, who may earn his best value coming out of the backfield for the Raiders. Bowden plays with toughness and the vision to turn small seams into big plays.
The Raiders now have a top RB in Josh Jacobs and a developing TE (Darren Waller). Edward works as the big WR while Ruggs falls into the playmaker role. WR Hunter Renfrow helps to move the chains out of the slot. Las Vegas will also lean on WR Tyrell Williams and WR Nelson Agholor to help bridge the gap on the outside.
In the end, Carr has the tools to set a career-high in passing yards, big plays, and TDs. If he can’t get it done, QB Marcus Mariota will be the next man up. In the early draft season, Carr is the 28th ranked QB. I now view him as an upside QB2.
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