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NFL Draft Cool-Down: Slow the hype train on new Packer, Christian Watson

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Drama. Chaos. Intrigue.

These are key ingredients in an NFL draft … and the 2022 edition was no exception.

With a dizzying number of trades and QBs falling like Tesla #stonks, emotions ran high. Pair the frenzy of the weekend with an already frenetic offseason and fantasy heads are spinning.

The puzzle pieces appear more scattered than ever and that seems to have led to an abundance of knee-jerk analysis.

[Set, Hut, Hike! Create or join a fantasy football league now!]

So let’s take a collective breath and examine the circumstances surrounding five of this weekend’s most popular picks.

Pick No. 12: Jameson Williams, WR, Detroit Lions

The Lions’ receiving corps is certainly thin. And Williams is a top-six prospect on nearly every industry board. Detroit understood the offensive need and identified the Alabama product as a solution.

That doesn’t mean, however, that he’s going to pop for fantasy in Year One.

The 21-year-old tore his ACL in January. He may believe that he’ll be ready for training camp, but athletes tend to underestimate their length of recovery. Not only is Williams working his way back from a serious injury, but he’s also learning a new playbook for a team and a coaching staff that is far from proven. Furthermore, there’s no impetus for Detroit to rush Williams onto the field. Not with D.J. Chark — who also has 4.3 speed — on a one-year prove-it deal.

The upside of this pick isn’t about Williams (who may not even suit up until October) … it’s about Amon-Ra St. Brown. As Matt Harmon and I discussed on the Yahoo Fantasy Football Forecast, Williams’ ability to thrive as an outside deep threat (20.7 YPR at Alabama) figures to stretch the field for St. Brown, allowing the second-year slotman to pick up in September where he left off in January.

Pick No. 20: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

The hometown headlines write themselves. Pickett staying in Pittsburgh is the sort of narrative editors get weak-kneed over. Everyone wants Pickett to work out in Steel City.

Everyone, that is, except Mitchell Trubisky.

The Steelers didn’t waste any time securing Trubisky, signing the former first-round pick to a two-year deal immediately after the legal tampering window opened on March 14. The alacrity of the Trubisky acquisition is noteworthy. Either it was part of some elaborate and expensive smokescreen or there are concerns Pickett might need a bridge.

Fantasy managers should expect a QB competition this summer. Trubisky figures to win the Week 1 starting gig … and then lose it to the rookie sometime before Halloween (after the Steelers fall to Cincy and Baltimore).

Pick No. 34: Christian Watson, WR, Green Bay Packers

Last Thursday, Aaron Rodgers admitted that, when he decided to re-sign with the Packers ($150.8M over three years), he believed that Davante Adams would also be returning. The irony of Rodgers feeling “surprised” by a lack of transparency is almost as confounding as the team’s decision to pass on a WR in the first round.

Yet, as has been a trend, GB skipped over trading up in the first for either Treylon Burks and Jameson Williams (both of whom Rodgers claimed to be high on) last Thursday only to trade up at the top of the second round in order to make a move at the position.

If all of that wasn’t head-scratching enough, the Packers selected Christian Watson.

Christian Watson #WO35 of North Dakota State runs a drill during the NFL draft combine
The Green Bay Packers selected Christian Watson in the NFL draft. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

The ND State product — who emerged as Trey Lance’s favorite target in 2019 — crushed the pre-draft process, impressing at the Senior Bowl and testing well at the Combine (earning a max-99 athleticism score from Next Gen Stats).

However, Watson remains an unpolished prospect with a limited route tree and questionable hands (12.7 percent career drop rate).

The exits of Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (who comps similarly to Watson) open up over 220 targets in Green Bay. Obviously, Watson will benefit from a volume perspective. And he is attached to a future HOF quarterback. But time is not on this duo’s side. Rodgers is 38 years old. Evolution doesn’t happen overnight — or over a summer. Even Adams didn’t break out until his third year with the team (2016).

Watson could be a star someday. But Green Bay needs a star today.

Pick No. 54: Skyy Moore, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Full disclosure: I’m not out on Skyy Moore. He’s more Golden Tate than Tyreek Hill, but there are looks to be had in KC. That doesn’t mean it’s not a head-scratching choice, though.

Moore is an ace ball tracker with reliable hands (only seven career drops) and fist-pumping after-the-catch ability. He projects to work as a slot receiver — with deep threat potential — at the next level. Following those dominoes would mean JuJu Smith-Schuster would likely operate largely on the outside … which is not where he thrives.

Admittedly, Smith-Schuster is only on a one-year deal ($10.75M). So, it’s entirely possible that KC acknowledged their positional need and selected the best player available, choosing to invest in the future and just “figure it out” this season.

For redraft purposes, I would have preferred the Chiefs had snagged Jameson Williams (who was long gone … again to my BPA point) or Jalen Tolbert (who was selected by Dallas 34 spots later). Their respective skill sets would have allowed JuJu to stay in the slot and maximized the FF potential of KC’s receiving corps.

As it stands right now, both Skyy and JuJu are WR4 options, just outside of the top-40 players at the position.

Pick No. 71: Velus Jones, WR, Chicago Bears

I’m going off-script on this one. Chicago’s selection of Velus Jones was only popular in that it was COLLECTIVELY RIDICULED.

When reviewing how the Jets enthusiastically used this draft to further invest in Zach Wilson’s success, it is maddening to see the Bears — helmed by a new regime — set Justin Fields up for failure.

Allen Robinson is out the door and neither Byron Pringle nor Darnell Mooney is a No. 1 WR. Nor, unfortunately, is Jones. The Tennessee (by way of USC) product is largely considered a special teamer who projects to be a development slot receiver at the next level.

Yahoo’s draft expert Eric Edholm considered Jones (who will turn 25-years-old later this month!!!) a lesser Cordarrelle Patterson.

That’s particularly insulting, considering that Patterson was on the Bears roster in 2019 and 2020 (one stop before his breakout in Atlanta), touching the ball a total of 113 times for 550 scrimmage yards and one whole touchdown over those two years.

Chicago had a chance to deliver Fields David Bell or Jalen Tolbert, both of whom were still available (and, in fact, went later in Round 3). Instead, they reached for a return guy. Fields is clearly a loser in the situation and figures to be ranked just outside of the top-15 players at the position (his mobility provides enough upside to keep him inside the top-20) as a result.

If there is a winner here, it might be Cole Kmet, who is positioned to have little competition for targets (especially now that Jimmy Graham is finally gone). Kmet started to come on over the back half of the season and demonstrated solid chemistry with Fields. The (then) second-year tight end averaged 6.5 targets per game with Fields as the starter (from October through December). It’s still hard to rank him inside the top-15 fantasy TEs, though.

I’m not a meteorologist, but I predict a cold winter for Chicagoans in 2022.

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