- Non-rookies who saw their fantasy value increase or decrease as a result of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The NFL draft is an exciting time for the best college players in the nation. They may not know where they’ll end up, but they do know it will be with an NFL team. It is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, the payoff for all those two-a-days in the blistering summer heat.
On the flip side, the draft can be a tense couple of days for veterans. Every player drafted can be a threat to someone already on the roster, bringing new dynamics into the locker room. Sometimes, a new player can fill a huge positional need, causing a ripple effect throughout the roster, helping some players and hurting others. Every time a rookie makes an impact, the snaps and opportunity he fills are taken from a veteran.
Following the 2019 draft, here’s a look at some veterans who should benefit from the influx of young talent, and others whose fantasy value may plummet after seeing the names of their likely replacements scroll at the bottom of their TV screen next to their team’s logo.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens
Jackson didn’t do much through the air last season, attempting only 22.6 passes per game as a starter and throwing for a measly 1,201 yards and six touchdowns. His fantasy value was still sky-high, though, thanks to his 79.4 yards and 0.57 touchdowns per game on the ground. Jackson will be a prime rushing threat under offensive coordinator Greg Roman, but there’s also hope for him as a passer. His arm talent is unquestionable, and the Ravens dedicated four picks in the first five rounds to the offensive side of the ball.
The Ravens plucked the most explosive player in the draft in the first round, grabbing receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown out of Oklahoma. Brown is undersized at 5’ 9” and 166 pounds, but he has great hands, tracks the ball well downfield and is lighting fast. Brown should be an instant impact player for the Ravens, even if his own fantasy numbers are inconsistent. Jackson averaged a mere 7.05 yards per attempt last season, just a hair higher than Andy Dalton. Brown should single-handedly increase that number. Even an inaccurate throw can be a touchdown if you throw it deep enough to a speedster like Brown, and no one ever questioned whether Jackson can sling it.
Third-rounder Miles Boykin out of Notre Dame should help, as well. He’s another fast receiver who needs a little time to develop, but he’ll have every opportunity to win a job and connect with Jackson early on this season. Running back Justice Hill, a fourth-round selection out of Oklahoma State, is another athletic player with take-it-to-the-house ability who will complement free agent acquisition Mark Ingram. The Ravens got more explosive on offense in the draft, and Jackson should benefit.
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
Mixon was excellent last season, averaging 15.85 fantasy points per game, good for ninth among running backs. He improved in every statistical measure last year, and with a forward-thinking, offensive-minded head coach in Zac Taylor, was already set to take another step forward in 2019. Cincinnati’s draft only made that more plausible.
Most interesting, the Bengals used their first- and second-round picks on guard Jonah Williams from Alabama and tight end Drew Sample out of Washington, respectively. Williams might be the best offensive lineman in this draft class, and Sample is arguably its best blocking tight end. Williams should start immediately at either right tackle or right guard and will make things much easier for the Cincinnati running game. Sample will get early looks in two-tight end formations, and he’s just functional enough as a receiver to keep edge rushers honest. Sample could very well take the starting job from the oft-injured Tyler Eifert and the thoroughly average C.J. Uzomah. With better blocking in front of him, Mixon should be near the top of every owner’s draft list.
Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, WRs, Broncos
Sutton and Hamilton had mixed results last season, even after Demaryius Thomas was traded and Emmanuel Sanders was injured. They averaged only a combined 14.5 fantasy points per game as the Broncos passing offense struggled and the team floundered toward the end of the season. This year, they get a new coach, a new quarterback and, most importantly, no additional competition on the depth chart. Denver didn’t take a receiver until the sixth round, and Juwann Winfree looks like a project who seems destined for the practice squad.
Denver figures to be a run-heavy team with its two-headed backfield, Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, but Sutton and Hamilton are still worth considering as late-round picks in redraft leagues. Say what you will about the Denver passing offense as we enter the season, but opportunity and targets are often what dictate a successful fantasy season. For some veterans, the player not drafted is even more important than the player who is.
Nick Foles, QB, Jaguars
Credit the Jaguars brass for trying to help out their high-priced free agent acquisition. While the team didn’t draft a receiver, Jacksonville solidified its offensive tackle position with the selection of Jawaan Taylor out of Florida in the second round. Taylor had a top-15 grade on many draft boards, and the Jaguars may have ended up with the biggest steal in the draft. They followed that up with tight end Josh Oliver in the third round. Oliver showed flashes of elite receiving talent at San Jose State, and Jacksonville hasn’t had a legitimate threat at the tight end position since Marcedes Lewis was in his prime. Foles will be happy to know he has a safety valve in Oliver to go with free-agent signee Geoff Swaim from Dallas.
Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones, RBs, Buccaneers
Like with Sutton and Hamilton, the value Barber and Jones got from the draft was in who the Buccaneers didn’t take. Tampa Bay focused heavily on the defensive side of the ball, foregoing offense until taking Bowling Green slot receiver Scott Miller in the sixth round. In a Bruce Arians offense, there’s going to be a wealth of opportunity in the running game, especially for a back that can catch the ball. Jones had a forgettable rookie season, but he caught 32 passes at USC. He’s worth considering as a late-round flier in all formats.
Barber doesn’t look like a starting caliber running back and he doesn’t put up big numbers, but if he wins the job again and gets another 234 carries in this offense, he could be a steal for fantasy owners. Barber must have breathed a sigh of relief after he watched days one and two of the draft go by without Tampa Bay drafting a running back. As a side benefit of all those defensive picks, the Buccaneers could play more close games and run the ball more often than they did last year. Tampa Bay eschewing the running back position in the draft was a great development for this duo.
David Johnson now has a dynamic quarterback in Kyler Murray, and two downfield threats in Hakeem Butler and Andy Isabela to take the safety out of the box; Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman have to be happy about two plug-and-play offensive linemen in the first round in Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary; Lamar Miller should enter the season as the starter once again after the Texans elected not to draft a running back, and he’ll be happy to see two new mauling linemen in Tytus Howard and Max Scharping, who might move inside to guard. Ditto for Desean Watson; DeVante Parker got two new quarterbacks this offseason, and the Dolphins didn’t draft a receiver; Kirk Cousins and Carson Wentz both got help in the form of new weapons and new offensive linemen.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills
Already coming off a down year where he gained only 514 yards on 3.2 yards per carry, McCoy was set to enter the season battling it out for snaps with veterans Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon. Then the Bills took Devin Singletary in the third round. Singletary was wildly productive at Florida Atlantic, rushing for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past three seasons and scoring a staggering 66 touchdowns on the ground. He caught 45 balls over his first two seasons and looks like a natural runner, with a low center of gravity and a powerful lower body. Singletary may not start immediately with such a crowded depth chart, but he’s likely to push at least one of the three veterans off the roster. If the Bills decide to move forward with their young core, McCoy might be the odd man out. Even if McCoy retains his starting job, his workload will likely be inconsistent at best, making him a fringe RB3 in most fantasy league formats.
Jordan Howard, RB, Eagles
Howard fell out of favor with the Bears due to his deficiencies in the passing game and was shipped off to the Eagles, a team desperately in need of some stability in the backfield. For all his failings as a pass-catcher, Howard has proved he’s capable of being a workhorse, averaging 4.3 yards per carry on 778 attempts in three years in Chicago. The draft started encouragingly for him, with the Eagles using a first-round pick on offensive tackle Andre Dillard out of Washington, the likely heir-apparent to veteran left tackle Jason Peters. It all came crashing down in the second round, however, when the Eagles took dynamic and versatile running back Miles Sanders out of Penn State.
Sanders is arguably the most complete and talented running back in this rookie class. Last season, he had 1,274 rushing yards and 24 receptions, including 162 yards and a touchdown on the ground against Michigan State’s top-ranked run defense. Sanders is big, fast, powerful and elusive. This landing spot may hurt the fantasy community as a whole more than Howard. Pairing the two backs likely means fantasy owners will be robbed of a bellcow in Howard, and likewise robbed of an elite rookie back in Sanders, as the two are likely to steal just enough of one another’s workload to make fantasy owners scream on a week-to-week basis.
Joe Flacco, QB, Broncos
Jake Butt and Jeff Heuerman, TEs, Broncos
After two years and only three games played due to injuries, Butt may struggle to find a role in the Denver offense after the Broncos used their first-round pick on dynamic receiving tight end Noah Fant out of Iowa. Butt was a seen as a long-term starter at the position when he was drafted out of Michigan in 2017, but it will be hard for him to compete against the ultra-athletic Fant. Likewise, Jeff Heuerman may find himself on the wrong side of the depth chart with the addition of Fant. Unlike with Sutton and Hamilton, Butt and Heuerman saw their replacement taken with a premium pick.
In some ways, Flacco benefits from the addition of Fant. Broncos tight ends accounted for only 18.5% of the team’s receptions last season, and the Flacco-Fant combination should improve on that. Flacco should also benefit from the addition of Dalton Risner, a plug-and-play mauler from Kansas State, drafted in the second round to compete for the right guard spot. However, the Broncos also took Missouri quarterback Drew Lock in the second round. Lock might have the best pure arm talent in the draft, and if Flacco falters early on and the Broncos start to slip in the standings, new coach Vic Fangio won’t hesitate to pull the plug on the Flacco experiment.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings
Rudolph struggled last year in his first season with Kirk Cousins at the helm, catching only four touchdowns, his lowest total since 2014 when he only played nine games. Rudolph was the subject of trade rumors before and during the draft, and when the Vikings took versatile Irv Smith Jr. in the second round out of Alabama, it became clear what the Vikings think of their veteran tight end. Smith might be even more dynamic than Rudolph after a 4.63-second 40-yard-dash at the combine, and he’s not a liability in the run game. He runs strong routes and should be ready to contribute immediately. While the Vikings very well might use multiple tight end sets to get both players involved, the writing seems to be on the wall for Rudolph as trade rumors continue to swirl.
Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins
Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins
Doctson and Thompson are two more players who may have watched as their team draft their replacements. Doctson has struggled with injuries and inconsistency over his first three seasons, and the Redskins used a third-round pick on the speedy Terry McLaurin out of Ohio State. McLaurin needs a little refinement in his route-running, but as a legitimate deep threat, he’s already a leg up on what was supposed to be Doctson’s primary strength coming out of TCU in 2016. Additionally, Washington drafted Kelvin Harmon out of N.C. State in the sixth round, who could be a steal. Harmon has excellent hands and body control, especially compared to Doctson, though he lacks the veteran’s ability to separate.
Thompson has been productive and hyper-efficient for the Redskins when given touches. He’s averaged 5.0 yards per carry and 8.2 yards per catch 170 receptions over his career in Washington. However, he’s coming off an injury and is entering the final year of his contract. The Redskins drafted explosive Stanford running back Bryce Love in the fourth round, who will be given every opportunity to take over Thompson’s role. Love is also coming off an injury and may not be ready to start the season, but things aren’t looking good for the undersized 28-year-old veteran back. If Love’s rehab gets ahead of schedule, Thompson could even be a cap-casualty.
Second-round receivers might wreak havoc on the league’s veterans. Already pushed down the depth chart with the re-addition of DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor may be on the roster bubble after the Eagles drafted J.J. Arcega-Whiteside; James Washington will need to earn his chance at snaps for the Steelers this season with the addition of Diontae Johnson; Meanwhile, Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor will be fighting to make the final 53 after the Titans added A.J. Brown.