Opportunity and volume are king.
Those are words that most fantasy players live by. No one can predict the future, but we can do our best by analyzing who is put in the best situation to succeed. So, with the NFL Draft underway, let’s take a look at which first-round picks will be valuable this season.
In a league where Tom Brady was the 14thbest quarterback in standard scoring in 2018, it’s hard to imagine that any rookie quarterback would be relevant. However, talent isn’t always the most important factor when it comes to fantasy contributions.
Kyler Murray– The first overall pick joins an Arizona Cardinals team that was abysmal on the offensive side of the ball in 2018. They ranked last in both passing and rushing yards per game last season. However, there may be an opportunity for Murray to succeed. With the addition of offensive-minded head coach Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals gain a creative, balanced attack. Kingsbury’s Texas Tech passing offenses finished top-10 in the country in all six years of his tenure. Add to that, Murray’s explosive running ability, his upside might be higher than that of Lamar Jackson.
Jackson was the 7thbest fantasy quarterback in the last seven weeks of the regular season when he took over the starting role for the Ravens. Murray may not be the runner Jackson is, but Jackson is a far inferior passer than Murray. With Kingsbury’s offense, David Johnson out of the backfield, Larry Fitzgerald and talented second-year receiver Christian Kirk, Murray will likely be a QB2 with low-end QB1 upside.
Daniel Jones– Most people would agree that the Giants’ decision to draft Duke quarterback Daniel Jones was perplexing, to say the least. I am one of those people. But instead of talking about his transition to the NFL, it’s easier to dive into his fantasy relevance. It’s easy because he has no relevance. Eli Manning will be the starting quarterback for the Giants. Sure, Jones will likely get an opportunity at some point when the Manning experience inevitably goes south, but Jones’ supporting cast will be suspect at best.
With the loss of Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns, New York’s receiving core is led by Sterling Shepard, a talented player, but not an ideal number one option. Manning was the 16thbest quarterback last season with a top-tier receiver to throw to. At the end of the day, the Giants’ top two receiving weapons (outside Saquon Barkley) are Shepard and Evan Engram. That like doesn’t even cut it for a quarterback that will play.
Dwayne Haskins– The Redskins are likely ecstatic about taking the former Heisman Trophy candidate without having to trade up from the 15thoverall pick. However, you can probably ignore him during this upcoming fantasy season. He will take over an offense led by unreliable tight end Jordan Reed, who in 13 games last season, posted 558 yards and just two TDs. That is his best-receiving weapon.
Given a young quarterback and minimal threats on the outside, Jay Gruden’s offense will likely be very run-heavy. Despite his lack of weapons this year, Haskins may be relevant in dynasty leagues. He is a talented player with a strong arm and pinpoint accuracy on deep balls as well as short throws. Remember, Kirk Cousins succeeded fantasy-wise in Jay Gruden’s offense (top-5 QB in 2016), so keep Haskins on your radar in dynasty leagues.
Josh Jacobs– Joining a backfield of Isaiah Crowell and Jalen Richard, Jacobs immediately takes over as the most talented Oakland running back. With Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin gone, red zone carries will likely be Jacobs’ duty given Richard’s stature and Crowell’s fumbling deficiencies. The opportunity for Jacobs to succeed is certainly there, but what about his talent?
He averaged 5.3 yards per carry on 120 carries with 11 TDs last season with Alabama. Sure, the volume might not be where you want it to be, but Alabama had a lot of mouths to feed, and he was certainly a standout. I don’t see the lack of volume in college as a bad thing. He has taken fewer hits and should be ready to take on a workhorse load for the Raiders. He has mid-tier RB2 potential for his rookie year.
Marquise Brown– What a shame this pick was. The most run-heavy team in the NFL selected perhaps the most exciting receiver in the draft. ‘Hollywood’ Brown was electric in college, catching passes from Kyler Murray.
We likely won’t see that same electricity this year.
Lamar Jackson is a fantastic talent and a good fantasy player, but it is hard to imagine many relevant receiving options in Baltimore. Yes, I think the Ravens will make an effort to throw the ball more and limit hits on Jackson. But his lack of accuracy, combined with the offense’s running volume, Brown’s productivity likely won’t match his talent.
N’Keal Harry- Any receiving option in a Tom Brady-led offense certainly has a path to success. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Arizona State product can serve as the Patriots’ main threat on the outside, a position that Josh Gordon briefly filled last year.
The New England offensive volume is well known, but it has shifted to more of a run-heavy offense. The Patriots were 3rdin the NFL in rushing attempts per game, and Brady finished as just the 14thbest fantasy quarterback. We all know how dangerous it can be for the rest of the league if Brady creates a strong rapport with a player like Harry. He may be worth a late-round pick, but there should be some caution surrounding the hype of this talented rookie.