Five up, five down: 2015 NFL Draft fantasy stock watch
This business of grading every NFL team's rookie class only hours after the draft — sorting out the winners and losers immediately, prior to any actual on-field winning and losing — is, of course, ridiculous. I'll concede that point right here at the top.
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When Seattle was building the foundation of a two-time NFC championship roster, for example, many draft analysts were handing out Cs and Ds. Predictive analysis of any sort is tough in the NFL. Where the draft is concerned, it's absurd.
And still ... well, here we are.
Our mission today is to identify NFL veterans who've made the biggest moves in terms of projected 2015 fantasy value, based on their team's draft decisions. (If you're looking for a list of rookies who landed in prime spots, click right here.) There's no hard science behind today's exercise, obviously, only guesswork. Mini-camps and OTAs are weeks away. Our preseason fantasy ranks will be shuffled and reshuffled countless times before you assemble any fake rosters for 2015.
But if you're interested in knee-jerk fantasy spin, here are ten players who gained or lost value over the weekend, while their teams were acquiring talent...
RB Darren McFadden, Dallas
To be clear: McFadden at this stage is a brittle, zombified, uninventive runner who really should not see meaningful snaps for a contending team. He averaged 3.4 yards per carry for Oakland last year, and 3.3 in each of his two prior seasons. He is a fantasy plague, basically. And yet McFadden somehow remains atop the backfield depth chart in Dallas, after the team focused on defense in the draft — five of the Cowboys' top-six picks were defensive players. Zero of Dallas' selections were running backs.
As much as we'd all love to erase McFadden's name from our pre-draft cheat sheets, he happened to land in an ideal spot for running back production. The Cowboys' O-line is a monstrous group, tremendous run-blockers; the team averaged 29.2 points per game last season and ranked second in rushing yards. Thus, anyone running the ball for Dallas belongs in the fantasy conversation, even this crumbling husk of a back.
Wow, did I ever want David Cobb or Tevin Coleman to land in Big D. Shame.
QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami
After making gains in virtually all significant statistical categories last season, Tannehill is well-positioned for another jump in 2015. Miami dealt away Mike Wallace back in March, sure, but the team also added Jordan Cameron, Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings to a receiving corps that already featured Jarvis Landry. On the first night of this year's draft, the Dolphins snagged Louisville's DeVante Parker, a smooth receiver with excellent hands and wingspan. It's awfully tough to imagine Tannehill taking a backward step, given the talent in his supporting cast.
TE Josh Hill, New Orleans
If you expected the Saints to target a tight end in the draft, following the trade of Jimmy Graham ... well, nope. Didn't happen. Hill figures to see a massive jump in targets coming off a five-touchdown campaign in 2014, and his head coach loves his blend of size, speed and athleticism. (Just check the numbers from Hill's pro day back in 2013.) As we get deeper into draft season, the Hill hype is probably gonna reach or exceed Kelce levels.
QB Sam Bradford, Philadelphia
Bradford was one of many players attached to the ludicrous four-person, three-pick offer reportedly made by Philly, as the team attempted to land Marcus Mariota. But apparently a seven-player package didn't satisfy Tennessee. As of this writing, Bradford is the presumptive opening week starter for the Eagles, and he'll be at the controls of a land-speed-record offense. Jeremy Maclin is gone, but USC rookie receiver Nelson Agholor was a terrific addition. There's more than enough talent at the skill spots in Philadelphia; health is the primary worry with Bradford (and it's a big one), not supporting cast.
QB Joe Flacco, Baltimore
In the days before the draft, Flacco publicly discussed a notable weakness in Baltimore's receiving corps:
"Without Torrey [Smith] now, the one thing we probably don't have as much of is that speed, is that one guy who can stretch the field."
On Thursday, the Ravens selected UCF burner Breshard Perriman, adding a vertical threat with 4.26 speed. Perriman is something of a developmental prospect, but he certainly has the right measurables. Baltimore added another quality receiving threat in Round 2, snagging tight end Maxx Williams, a kid with freakishly large hands and a terrific highlight reel. I don't know that a pair of rookies are enough to vault Flacco into the top-15 at his position, but his outlook is certainly much brighter, post-draft. He was an impressive 21-for-56 on deep throws last year (20-plus yards downfield), tossing 11 TD passes and only two picks. There's no question he has the arm to maximize Perriman's talents.
RB Tre Mason, St. Louis
Well, duh. Nobody lost value like Mason. After the Rams selected Georgia beast Todd Gurley with the tenth overall pick in the draft, Zac Stacy knew what was up...
Days later, Stacy is an ex-Ram and Mason is merely a rotational runner. Tre's best path to fantasy value in 2015 involves Gurley sitting in September and October, as he continues his recovery from ACL repair. Mason was plenty impressive as a rookie, generally performing well against the elite defenses in his division. But when healthy, Gurley belongs to a different tier altogether — and if you're not on board, please enjoy the Clemson clips.
RB Denard Robinson, Jacksonville
T.J. Yeldon wasn't the next RB on my draft board when Jacksonville selected him in the second round, but it's clear enough that the Jaguars view him as a three-down player. He gets the featured role, while Robinson slips to handcuff status.
WR Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis
So much for this can't-miss fantasy breakout. First, the Colts agreed to terms with Andre Johnson, a Hall of Fame receiver with a little something left to prove. Next, Indy used its Round 1 pick on Phillip Dorsett, a blazing-fast wideout from Miami (4.33 speed). This team has a terrifyingly deep and talented group of receivers, but the offense increasingly has a spin-the-wheel vibe. The only reliable high-end investment here is Andrew Luck.
Cleveland Browns, everywhere
The Browns entered this year's draft needing help just about everywhere, so we shouldn't bash them for not addressing every spot. But various rumored moves failed to happen, which leaves the team's offensive depth chart an uninteresting mess. We're looking at a Manziel-McCown battle ahead at QB, a three-headed mess at RB, and Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline as the top two receivers. That's just ... um ... well, it's pretty terrible. Unless you think McCown-to-Bowe in 2015 can be just like Anderson-to-Edwards in 2007, stay away.
WR Marquess Wilson, Chicago
If the Bears would have gone another direction with the seventh overall pick, then Wilson might have entered camp as a buzzy fantasy sleeper, a player in line for 100-plus targets. But Chicago selected Kevin White in the first round, a combine star (4.35 speed) coming off a huge collegiate season at West Virginia. Wilson and Eddie Royal will now fight for scraps, behind White, Jeffery, Forte and Bennett.