Day 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft concluded one week ago, as the top prospects all found a new home for the this fall and beyond. We went over the outlooks for the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end options from a fantasy perspective in their rookie season, but what about the rest of the league? Here are my winners and losers following the 2018 NFL Draft.
Winner: Mitchell Trubisky, Bears
Trubisky was already trending upwards following free agency thanks to the signings of Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, but Chicago was able to have a knockout Day 2 of the draft when center James Daniels and wide receiver Anthony Miller were both added to the offense. Now, Trubisky has an excellent receiving trio, an emerging tight end, and one of the best running backs in the league—not to mention new head coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich leading things. A big 2018 could be in store for the former second-overall pick.
Loser: Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Seattle must be hoping that a full offseason together will be the key for their offensive line, as they didn’t even address the unit until the fifth round with Ohio State tackle Jamarco Jones, who probably isn’t going to start this year. That could mean Russell Wilson is running for his life yet again, and even the running back they surprisingly took in the first round—Rashaad Penny of San Diego State—isn’t a good pass blocker. The only other weapon the Seahawks took was tight end Will Dissly, and he’s not a dynamic receiver.
Winner: Derek Carr, Raiders
Jon Gruden is clearly doing things his own way in Oakland, and he parted with a quality draft pick (No. 79) to get another weapon, wide receiver Martavis Bryant, in a trade with the Steelers last week. Of course, the move could completely backfire if Bryant fails another drug test, but if not, Derek Carr will have three dangerous wideouts at his disposal in an offense that is sure to be unpredictable. A 4,000-yard, 30-touchdown season is certainly possible for the Raiders’ triggerman.
Loser: Dak Prescott, Cowboys
I’m actually not that worried about Jason Witten’s retirement for Dak Prescott, and the new weapons led by Allen Hurns will likely be a better fit than the aging Dez Bryant was, but the Cowboys could have had a much different draft from a fantasy perspective. In the first round, Dallas had their choice of any wide receiver, and then on Day 2, they passed on wideout Anthony Miller to draft offensive lineman Connor Williams before settling for Michael Gallup in the third round. From a real-life perspective, I like their draft; from a fantasy perspective in regards to Dak, not so much.
Winner: Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
The fact that people believed Carolina might draft a running back as high as pick No. 24 is all the proof you need that a lot of “experts” look at the statistics and not much else, but Christian McCaffrey—despite averaging 3.7 yard per carry last year—is going to be the Panthers’ feature back and offensive centerpiece this season and beyond. McCaffrey was actually a Dave Gettleman pick, so Carolina could have easily taken an early-down pounder to pair with him to show they don’t believe the 21-year-old can carry the workload, but they didn’t address the position at any point in the 2018 NFL Draft, which proves they have high hopes for the dual-threat back. Hopefully dynasty owners bought low while they were able to.
Loser: Carlos Hyde, Browns
Even before the draft, Cleveland was absolutely loaded with offensive talent, but that wasn’t a negative for Carlos Hyde until they selected running back Nick Chubb on Day 2. The former Georgia standout might not be the starter right away, but I think he has the most talent on the roster (he was a top-20 prospect for me) and could quickly force his way onto the field at Hyde’s expense. With Duke Johnson also still around to take receiving work, the veteran probably went from intriguing mid-round pick to late-round flier.
Winner: Marlon Mack, Colts
NC State’s Nyheim Hines was a home-run pick at the top of the fourth round in my opinion, but he is unlikely to be a bellcow option at five-foot-eight, which bodes well for Marlon Mack, especially after Indy passed on Kerryon Johnson, Ronald Jones II, and Derrius Guice on Day 2. The second-year runner will need to earn it in training camp, but he has a real shot of leading a backfield committee in an offense orchestrated by Andrew Luck—which could lead to plenty of fantasy points.
Loser: LeGarrette Blount, Lions
We knew the Lions were going to change the running back rotation by the week depending on their opponent, but Kerryon Johnson being added to the mix certainly clouds LeGarrette Blount’s season outlook. A tough, physical runner that can catch passes and finish in short-yardage situations, Johnson might take away scoring opportunities from Blount because of his ability to stay on the field when Detroit plays fast under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
Winner: Jay Ajayi, Eagles
Make no mistake, Philadelphia still has a crowded depth chart with Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey, and Wendell Smallwood all possibly contributing, but they were thought to be in the market for a rookie runner because of Ajayi’s impending free agency. However, all they’ve done recently is sign Josh Adams as an undrafted free agent, so Ajayi could be locked into early-down work in 2018.
Loser: Jonathan Stewart, Giants
Was anyone expecting Jonathan Stewart to suddenly be an RB2 again after signing with the Giants in free agency? No, probably not; but he had some FLEX appeal similar to 2017 that was instantly erased when New York drafted Saquon Barkley with the second-overall pick last Thursday night. Now, the veteran will simply be a weak handcuff that would split work with Wayne Gallman if Barkley gets injured.
Winner: T.Y. Hilton, Colts
Arguably the most underrated receiver in the NFL since entering the league with Andrew Luck in 2012, T.Y. Hilton is coming off a 57/966/4 line without his superstar quarterback throwing him passes, and in the previous four seasons, he averaged 81 receptions for 1,250 yards and nearly six touchdowns. The Colts waited until Day 3 to take Daurice Fountain and Deon Cain, so Hilton should be absolutely peppered with targets in 2018 on an offense that will have better protection up the middle with Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith—which will lead to more time for Luck to find T.Y. with the deep ball.
Loser: Devin Funchess, Panthers
It will be interesting to see what kind of role Devin Funchess and first-round pick D.J. Moore play in Norv Turner’s offense, but it sounds like the rookie is going to be featured as the “X”. That would leave Funchess as a complimentary option in Turner’s offense, and he could be behind Moore, Greg Olsen, and Christian McCaffrey for targets. However, the long-time offensive coordinator has had success with bigger targets being the focal point, so this is probably a position we should keep an eye on in training camp.
Winner: Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t really need much help to put up huge numbers, but with Saquon Barkley in the backfield, defenses will be forced to bring more defenders in the box, which will give the superstar receiver more space to operate. A single-high look is obviously easier to beat than two-deep, and it might only take one play with a creeping safety to get OBJ behind the defense.
Loser: Mohamed Sanu, Falcons
Atlanta has been able to rely on Mohamed Sanu as a solid, reliable wideout for the past two seasons, but his stock took a significant hit when the Falcons spent a first-round pick on Calvin Ridley. The offense will often use 11 personnel, so Sanu is still going to be on the field most of the time, but Ridley is probably the new “Robin” to Julio’s “Batman”.
Winner: Kelvin Benjamin, Bills
I think Josh Allen will see the field sooner rather than later in Buffalo, and Kelvin Benjamin is the clear top option in a passing game that could surprise people if the rookie plays up to his potential early on. KB is used to playing with a strong-armed, mobile quarterback from his time with the Panthers, so it might not take long for a connection to form between the veteran and the Wyoming gunslinger. Plus, the Bills didn’t add any offensive weapons in the draft.
Loser: Jordy Nelson, Raiders
Jordy Nelson is one of my all-time favorite fantasy options, but his outlook with the Silver and Black is trending down after they traded for Martavis Bryant. I would be surprised if Jordy wasn’t a full-time player and starter opposite Amari Cooper, but Bryant will need his targets, including in the red zone, which is where Nelson has done a lot of his damage throughout his career.
Winner: Luke Willson, Lions
Detroit was a potential landing spot for Mike Gesicki and some of the other top tight ends in the 2018 NFL Draft, but the fact that they didn’t target the position suggests that they have big things in mind for Luke Willson. The former Seahawk is a great athlete with ideal size, and he could provide TE1 upside at a very cheap price this summer.
Loser: Jared Cook, Raiders
Again, with the acquisition of Martavis Bryant by the Raiders, there is another mouth to feed in Oakland. It should be noted that Cook remaining the clear starter is a positive (because we know Gruden wouldn’t be afraid to bring in an upgrade if he could), but the veteran is already fairly inconsistent, so all the other options on offense might just make him even more volatile in 2018.
Winner: Hunter Henry, Chargers
This isn’t really about what Los Angeles did in the draft, but with news coming down that Antonio Gates won’t be re-signed, the door is now wide open for a breakout by Hunter Henry this season. The 23-year-old had eight touchdowns as a rookie in 2016 and was a big factor in games he was featured last year. Another offseason in the offense along with going into training camp as the clear starter for the first time in his career will only help Henry.
Loser: Maxx Williams Ravens
Maxx Williams had some high expectations when the Ravens drafted him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the field to make an impact. Now, he could be going from possible starter to battling for a roster spot after Baltimore took Hayden Hurst in the first round and Mark Andrews in the third round last week. A change of scenery could be best for Williams at this point.