Some people might find it strange that someone obsessed with the NFL, as the Madman certainly is, can be so obtuse about the draft, which the Madman mostly is.
Maybe it is the lack of immediate gratification, the absence of closure, the prevailing uncertainty. The fact is we still don’t know, with a significant degree of confidence, which rookies will excel and which, as Mike Tyson might say, will fade into Bolivia.
But at least we know what uniforms they will be wearing when they begin this journey. And as discussed before the draft, the Madman had a few landing spots on the radar for players at particular positions — positions which we were going to find intriguing regardless of what name filled those spots on the depth charts. Here’s a look at how those panned out:
Packers running back
We were rooting for Dalvin Cook to land here, but Green Bay opted to trade away that possible pick. Instead, we got three later-round targets — Jamaal Williams (fourth round), Aaron Jones (fifth) and Malachi Dupre (seventh). Of these three, we’re going to keep our eyes on Williams and Jones, who we anticipated to battle with Christine Michael for playing time. Then the Packers cut Michael early last week. Which changes things a bit.
After the release of Michael, we have our eyes squarely on the battle between big-bodied rookies. We expect (hope) one of the two to become the primary ballcarrier on early downs, with Montgomery more suited for a third-down/pass-catcher role. That isn’t to say Ty Mont won’t get his share of touches — this is Green Bay, where every down is a passing down. This team will not have a bellcow back, but hopefully a two-man platoon between Mongomery and one of the rookies. If it turns into a three-an show, then on Montgomery carries season-long value — particularly in PPR leagues.
We’re going to ignore Dupre, who seems like a redundancy to Montgomery.
Redskins running back
Everyone is looking for the big sleeper surprise. Last year Jordan Howard starred in “The Heist” — the Bears’ fifth-round pick quickly stole the starting job from the underwhelming Jeremy Langford. This year, we get a remake starring fourth-round Redskins pick Samaje Perine as Howard, and unimpressive incumbent Rob Kelley as Langford. Though it probably won’t be quite as good as the original.
Bears wide receiver
First Chicago signed quarterback Mike Glennon in the offseason, presumably to improve the passing game. Then the Bears spent big assets to draft a QB, trading up to No. 2 overall to get Mitchell Trubisky. What they don’t have are proven WRs for these uninspiring QBs to target, and they opted not to add any in the draft. This gives Cam Meredith more draft weight based strictly on volume, and it keeps Kevin White on draft boards, as stale as that sounds. In other words, it’s not good news for anyone on the fantasy front.
Chiefs running back
Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West are pedestrian at best. Will fourth-round pick Kareem Hunt pass the test? If we were to guess, then he is indeed blessed with opportunity to wrest the job away from those already in the nest. But if pressed, we would not be in jest to suggest a committee causing a fantasy mess.
Titans wide receiver
The good news: Corey Davis (fifth overall) is a dynamic playmaker on an offense who needs exactly what he offers. Bad news: Everyone will know this, so he won’t be a bargain on fantasy draft day.
Jaguars running back
Yeah, they needed a back. Yeah, they probably got the best one available in Leonard Fournette. And yeah, we definitely will be interested, at the right price. But … like Davis, this one won’t come cheap. And we are not ready to pay high for an RB on this squad. We were holding out hope for something a little less splashy. But they went predictable, and fantasy owners will be predictably overanxious. Don’t know exactly where we will slot him in the rankings just yet, but the Madman’s guess is, wherever we slot him, he will be gone by that point.
Bills wide receiver
Knowing Sammy Watkins’ injury history, and knowing the fantasy community’s general lack of faith in QB Tyrod Taylor, we’re pretty sure the name Zay Jones (second round) won’t move the needle, at least not initially. There is the possibility he can be a nice fantasy value in bottom half of drafts, with hope he will slip that far.
49ers wide receiver
They added what has been called a “Wes Welker-type” in the fifth round with Trent Taylor. But that’s like saying RC Cola is Coke-like. Taylor would have to steal Jeremy Kerley’s job to be viable, and even then, he only would be a consideration PPR formats.
Other notable picks
Mike Williams, WR, Chargers
This one is interesting. Wasn’t expecting San Diego, er, Los Angeles, er, the other L.A. team, to grab a receiver, certainly not this early. But Williams’ size and skill set make him attractive — as is landing on a strong offense with a more-than-capable QB in Philip Rivers. The only worry is how much playing time and target share he will get on a team with so many other options. Then again, Keenan Allen can’t seem to stay on the field, and last year’s breakout rookie Tyrell Williams doesn’t have an upside as high as the newest Williams.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
The Vikes added hum-drum Latavius Murray in free agency. They still have versatile Jerick McKinnon. And the offensive line is a fantasy albatross. Would have loved Cook on some teams, this is not one of them. Figure he will win the starting job at some point during the season, but this is not a year we want to rely on him. Nevertheless, we will draft him with confidence in keeper and dynasty formats, hoping the Vikes figure out the whole blocking thing sometime soon.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
His versatility (expect him to line up as WR on occasion and contribute on special teams) should make him useful. His rushing workload alone likely won’t be enough to make a major fantasy impact — particularly since goal-line chances almost certainly will go elsewhere. He will be an interesting DFS play from week to week, but not someone to rely upon on your seasonal roster. We expect him to be drafted long before we would feel comfortable selecting him.
Curtis Samuel, WR, Panthers
Just as McCaffrey is likely to line up on the outside at times, also expect to see some Samuel in the backfield. Expect him also to fill the Ted Ginn void, giving Carolina a deep threat and reverse option. Feels like a late-round selection or free-agent pickup.
John Ross, WR, Bengals
We’re going to consider Ross a cheap alternative to DeSean Jackson. He is going to deliver some long scores, but won’t get consistent volume or production.
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
This incredibly talented runner joins a crowded backfield that already includes a productive Jeremy Hill and a talented Giovani Bernard. Sure, maybe Mixon is better than both, but how quickly does he work his way into a feature role? And, yes, we’ve all the seen the appalling video of him punching a woman. But the Bengals have a track record for reforming troubled prospects. Oh, wait … no they don’t. I was thinking of a different team. The Madman doesn’t trust this guy to get enough reps or to behave.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers
With Martavis Bryant returning, we have limited enthusiasm about Juju’s immediate impact. But in keeper or dynasty, this smells like a life-after-Martavis pick.
Taywan Taylor, WR, Titans
As much as we like the Corey Davis addition, we can’t ignore Taylor either. He will play a different role, in the slot, and will have more work to climb the depth chart. But as a third-round pick, he won’t enter training camp as a scrub, so keep an eye on his progress during camp. By midseason, he could fight his way into an active role.
Amara Darboh, WR, Seahawks
Gives Russell Wilson are bigger target than Doug Baldwin — who is undersized by WR1 standards. Darboh’s is a name that will be on our sleeper list.
In redraft leagues, we virtually ignore rookie QBs. For every Andrew Luck, there is a Jared Goff, or Jimmy Clausen, or Ryan Leaf, or even a Carson Wentz (who, for all his praise, was not a fantasy factor). There are too many more bankable options at QB to justify the risk involved. That said, we will keep an eye on Deshaun Watson, who lands in a comfortable spot in Houston — with a legitimate running game and some quality receivers. But he would be a backup plan only taken if all other more reliable options are gone. In keeper leagues, Watson and Patrick Mahomes II are on our radar.
This is not a position in which rookies are often productive. In fact, very rarely are they fantasy relevant. Evan Engram (Giants) is versatile enough that perhaps he will break this mold, but with so many mouths to feed already in Giants passing game, that edge is dulled. Hard pass on the rookie tight ends.