Mon Apr 26th 2021
Players With The Most To Lose In The Draft
The NFL draft is this week! It's one of the best weekends of the year for dynasty managers, as we finally get to see where the rookies we've been evaluating and ranking for the last few months get drafted by their NFL teams. In my rookie evaluation process, draft capital and team fit are the two most important factors in ranking the rookie class. All of that gets decided this week during the 2021 NFL draft.
As fun as it is to watch which teams draft the rookies we care about in dynasty, there is also heartache that comes in the draft when rookies are drafted by teams whose players you already have on dynasty rosters, bringing instant competition for such players. A few teams seem most likely to draft offensive playmakers in the first three rounds of the draft this year, and when they do, the dynasty value of other players on their teams will diminish to varying degrees. Here's a list of the ten teams I believe are most likely to draft offensive players on day one and two of the draft and some thoughts on which players' dynasty value will be most affected by these draft picks.
- The Jets are loaded with early draft picks. They have two in the first round (#2 and #23), the second pick of the second round (#34), and two in the third round (#66 and #87). It seems clear that they will draft Zack Wilson with pick 2, and they are likely to pick a running back with pick 23 or 34. Running back is the weakest part of their offensive roster, with second-year Lemical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Tevin Coleman on their depth chart. Perine and Johnson played decently in their limited work last season, but neither proved they could handle the load, and neither have significant draft capital. Perine was drafted in the fourth round last year, and Detroit drafted Johnson in the sixth round in 2019. Coleman was added by the Jets as a free agent this past offseason, another sign that the Jets do not trust Perine and Johnson to be their lead running back. I predict the Jets will draft Travis Etienne with the 23rd or 34th pick of the draft since he has the skills best suited for the zone running scheme run by the new Jets offensive coordinator, Mike LaFleur, who comes from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree. Whichever running back the draft, he will become the instant starter, leaving Perine as a handcuff on dynasty rosters and rendering Johnson and Colemen droppable from most dynasty rosters. The addition of a top-tier running back and a new quarterback will make the offense more fun to watch, but I am sure they will have growing pains in year one. The Jets have a solid receiver corps now with their free-agent addition, Corey Davis, their veteran, Jamison Crowder, and second-year man, Denzel Mims. It's hard to know which of these three receivers will become Wilson's primary target. From a dynasty perspective, all of the Jet players' value will increase with the hopes of a new coaching staff and two top rookies on the team. The only players who lose value after the NFL draft will be the running backs sitting far behind their first or second-round draft pick.
- The Falcons have the fourth pick in the first and third round and the third pick in the second round of the draft, and their first-round pick is when the draft should get very interesting. Quarterbacks will get drafted first, second, and third, leaving Atlanta with the option to take the fourth quarterback, Ja'Marr Chase, Kyle Pitts, or trade back to gather additional picks from the team that wants a quarterback. I think Atlanta is going to stay put with pick number four and draft Chase or Pitts. In this draft, both players are far and away the best players at their positions, wide receiver and tight end. They've reaped the benefit of drafting skilled players in round one, trading up to draft Julio Jones with the 6th pick in 2011 and drafting Calvin Ridley with the 26th pick in the 2018 draft. Julio Jones is showing his age, as Ridley has passed him by, so it may be time to add another number-one rookie receiver in Chase. That said, Pitts is a graded by all NFL scouts and a once-in-a-generation talent. Matt Ryan had many glory years with Tony Gonzalez on the team at the end of his career. I am sure he could get Pitts off to a fast start to his career. They can't go wrong either way with Pitts and Chase. Atlanta is also in the running back market. They added Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson in the offseason and let Todd Gurley, Ito Smith, and Brian Hill go. Atlanta might pick a running back right after the Jets do in the second round with pick #35. I believe they will draft a running back sometime in the draft, but they may wait until around three instead of round two. Mike Davis proved that he could effectively carry the load last year in Carolina when he played in place of Christian McCaffrey while he was injured most of the season. He does not have a lot of wear and tear since he's been a back-up for most of his career. Arthur Smith, the new head coach for Atlanta, maximized the talent of Derrick Henry the last few years when he was the offensive coordinator in Tennessee. He may look to add another Alamaba running back if Najee Harris is available at pick #35. Whatever Atlanta does with its first three picks, Calvin Ridley's value remains solid, and Julio Jones's dynasty value will continue to fall but still help dynasty teams next year when healthy. Matt Ryan has a long history of excellent fantasy seasons followed by mediocre seasons. Another top-talent like Chase and Pitts should cause his dynasty value to increase a bit even though he's 35 years old. Mike Davis's dynasty value has the most to gain or lose depending on when or if Atlanta drafts a running back. He could return to the back-up role he held for all of his career, or he could come out of the weekend looking like and reliable RB-2 in fantasy, finishing the season as the 16th highest scoring running back like he did last year.
- The Bengals have the fifth pick in the first and third round and the 6th pick in the second round. The Bengals pick right after Atlanta and will be forced to consider one of two options. They can select whoever the Falcons did not select betweens Chase and Pitts, or they can draft an offensive lineman to protect their #1 draft pick last year, Joe Burrow. They have a glaring need at tight end but not at wide receiver, so Pitts might make more sense than Chase, but Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase won a national championship together in 2019 and had the best offense in college football history. The Bengals will have a tough decision. There is depth in the offensive line class this year, but two players are first-round talents, Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater. Teams like the Cowboys and Colts have dramatically improved their offense by drafting linemen in the first round. They often make a more significant difference to a team than a splashier skill player can. I think that Cincinnatti will draft a lineman with this pick, even though it will be hard to pass up on Chase or Pitts. If they do draft a lineman, the dynasty value of all Bengals players stays the same or increases a bit with an improved offensive line. If they draft Pitts, dynasty values of players will remain the same, though Burrow should have an even brighter future. The real threat to dynasty managers is Chase. If the Bengals draft Chase, Tee Higgins's value takes a slight hit, and Tyler Boyd's value takes a tremendous hit. I love Tyler Boyd and the very safe WR-3 value he provides week to week in PPR leagues, but if the Bengals draft Chase, Higgins and Chase would see the bulk of the targets for the rest of their careers, leaving Boyd in the dark from a dynasty perspective. Given my shares of Boyd and Higgins, I hope the Bengals do draft a lineman in this draft. I think the Bengals should double down on lineman and draft another one in the second round too. They need to protect Joe Burrow at all costs.
- Miami has four picks in the top 50 of this year's draft, picks 6,18, 36, and 50. They will draft offensive skill players with at least two of these top 50 picks. If Cincinnatti does draft an offensive lineman, then the Chase and Pitts scenario lands in their lap, and they can pick whomever Atlanta did not choose. They traded back to 12 and then traded back up to 6, so they clearly have their eye on one or two players they believe will fall to them given the number of quarterbacks selected ahead of them. Their trades prove that they are committed to Tua Tagovailoa as their quarterback. Now they can give him some weapons in the draft. Miami's UDFA running backs, Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, played really well last year on a team that gave their running backs 20 plus touches per game most weeks. Gaskin and Ahmed were some of dynasty managers' best waiver wire additions last season. As great as it was to find these players on the waiver wire and start them on their healthy weeks, that ride is likely coming to an end after this draft. I believe Miami will be the first team to draft a running back with their 18th pick. Pittsburg picks 24th, and they are looking for running backs, and I already mentioned that the Jets and Falcons would look for a running back in the second round with the two picks just ahead of Miami in the second round. I'm not sure with running back they will like most, but I suspect it will Najee Harris or Javonte Williams, given their strength running between the tackles like Miami did so much last year. If this happens, Gaskin will become a solid back-up to hold on rosters, given what he proved last year, but Ahmed will be droppable from most dynasty rosters. Miami addressed wide receiver in free agency by signing Will Fuller, though it was only a one-year contract. By doing so, they showed the type of wide receiver they think they need to unlock the offense. Devante Parker is an excellent possession receiver, and Preston Williams, when healthy, can be their big-bodied receiver. What they lack is a dynamic playmaker like Fuller, who wins downfield with his speed. Since they showed their cards a bit by signing Fuller, I believe they have their eyes on Jalen Waddle, Tua's former teammate, though they may be eyeing DeVonta Smith as well. Smith's size makes it hard for me to believe he will get drafted in the top 10 picks. That's why I believe Waddle will be their pick at #6. The only possible other scenarios would be if Pitts or Chase somehow fell to Miami at #6. If they draft a wide receiver with the sixth pick, Preston Williams, I'm afraid, will lose most of his dynasty value, which is a bummer because he is one of my favorites. Devante Parker, however, will keep his stable role on the team. Fearing that Parker would get replaced by a rookie, one manager in my league offered him to me for my second-round pick (pick #22). I accepted the trade pretty quickly because Parker is signed through the 2023 season, and he was Tua's top targeted player last year. I've always believed in Parker and believe his late breakout is indicative of his true talent and not a fluke. Miami will have two first-round receivers starting for the next year, Parker, the 14th pick in 2015, and their 6th pick in 2021. Will Fuller will get in the way a bit this first year while he is under contract, but in the years to come, Parker and this year's pick will dominate the targets from Tua, whose dynasty value is on the rise after this year's NFL draft.
- The Lions are in full rebuild mode. They only have four picks in the first three rounds, picks 7, 41, 72, and 102. They seem to me to be the most likely team to trade back to acquire more draft picks this year or in the 2022 draft. A team may like to trade up for one of the two remaining quarterbacks. If so, I think Detroit will do it. Whether they trade back or not, they have team needs at almost every position except tight end and running back. They solidified their running back corps by signing Jamaal Williams this offseason to add depth behind DeAndre Swift, who they drafted in the second round last year. T.J. Hockenson has the tight end spot locked down, and Jared Goff is competent and gets to show what he can do under a new system. The wide receiver position is what Detroit needs to address in the draft, whether they hold pat at pick #7 or trade back. They could trade back for more picks and take a couple of stabs at receivers in this very deep and diverse class. Whichever receiver they draft, he will have every opportunity to be the leading wide receiver from day one. Detroit's low-key signings this offseason of Terrell Williams and Breshad Perriman are not enough to keep a rookie buried on their depth charts, and Quitez Cephus didn't prove enough last year which is why Detroit felt the need to address wide receiver in free agency. The dynasty value of every player on Detroit took a hit once it became clear that Detroit was rebuilding by trading away Matt Stafford and letting Kenny Golladay walk away in free agency. Not much changes from a dynasty perspective, no matter who Detroit drafts this year. Hopefully, Detroit will act like dynasty managers do in a rebuilding season and acquire as many picks as possible this year and next.
- The Giants have three picks in the first three rounds of the NFL draft, picks 11, 42, and 76. Many reputable mock drafts have the Giants drafted a wide receiver at pick #11, but I don't believe that will be the case. The Giants addressed their wide receiver needs in free agency when they signed one of the top free agents, Kenny Golladay, and added a low-key weapon in John Ross. The Giants now have all the types of receivers that need with different sizes, speeds, and skills. They added Devontae Booker to back up Saquan Barkley and Kyle Rudolph to back up Evan Engram. In my opinion, the Giants did everything they needed to do to strengthen their skilled positions and have put themselves in a position to draft the best player available, which may indeed be a wide receiver at pick #11, but offensive lineman or defensive backs may be a better use of their resources. I don't believe a lot of dynasty value will change with the Giants but mention them here because many experts seem to think so.
- The Bears have the 20th pick in each of the first three rounds of the draft. The biggest weakness on their team offensively is wide receivers, though they are a sneaky candidate to draft a quarterback in the first round if one were to fall to them. The Bears added Andy Dalton in free agency after not re-signing their first-round draft pick, Mitchell Trubisky. Dalton will bring stability to the offense, though he's not the type of quarterback that can make the offense and his receivers much better. Allen Robinson stayed with the team and is again saddled to a mediocre quarterback, but that has never stopped him from being a top-15 fantasy wide receiver in his career. The major weakness in Chicago is their depth at wide receiver. Darnell Mooney was a surprise breakout last year in his rookie season after being drafted in the 4th round. He's the speedster on the team to pair with Robinson's size as a possession receiver. Anthony Miller should be the perfect slot receiver in Chicago, but his inconsistency and off-field problems have landed him on the trading block. Javon Wims is their next best receiver, though they did sign Marquise Goodwin this offseason, too. This wide receiver class is loaded with slot receivers, and Chicago is bound to draft one of them with their first or second pick. They could take draft Elijah Moore or Rondale Moore in the first round or wait for a player like Amari Rogers or Tutu Atwell in the second round. Whoever they draft will not affect the dynasty value of Robinson, who outperforms his value every year no matter who his quarterback is. If they draft a wide receiver at all, it's a clear sign that Miller's playing time in Chicago will diminish, and he will not be on the team after next year. A first-round draft pick would know Mooney's dynasty value quite a bit, but not as much if they wait to draft a player in the second round. I would hate it for my Mooney shares, but I would rather draft Rashod Bateman, my second-ranked rookie wide receiver in this class if I were Chicago. Bateman is more fit for a role outside, but having Bateman and Robinson as starting wide receivers would make the offense better.
- The Steelers are in a bit of a bind. They have three late picks in every round, picks 23, 55, and 88. They want and need to draft a running back, but their offensive line is so bad that it might not matter how good of a running back they have. If Miami does not draft a running back at pick #18, Pittsburg will be the first team likely to do so. Their hand is forced a little bit because the three prototypically sized running backs will be drafted by the time they get to pick at #55. I was surprised last year that they did not draft a running back but drafted Chase Claypool in the second round when they could have drafted J.K. Dobbins at pick #49. Last year's running back class was much deeper, so a Dobbins-like player will not be available at pick #55 like it was last year at #49. I think the Steelers will draft a running back in the first round and draft for offensive line depth later in the draft. Javonte Williams would be an excellent fit in Pittsburg, and if he is drafted at #23, the rest of the Steelers' backfield will become un-rosterable for dynasty managers, except for Benny Snell, who would be Williams primary back-up. Dynasty managers' hopes for Anthony MacFarland, Jaylen Samuels, Kalen Ballage could finally come to rest. However, if Pittsburg waits for the second or third round to draft a running back, I would hold on to Snell, MacFarland, and Ballage just to see it play out for part of the season next year. Samuels has already had enough opportunity to drop either way.
- The question is the same this year as it was last year: Will the Packers finally help Aaron Rodgers out? Last year the Packers did not draft a wide receiver in a deep class. This year's class is arguably deeper, with a greater variety of types of prospects. It's very possible that Rashod Bateman, Elijah Moore, or Rondale Moore could be available for the Packers to select at pick #29. There will be other exciting prospects available at pick #62, too, players like Tutu Atwell, Shi Smith, Marlon Williams, and D'Wayne Eskridge. If the Packers draft a receiver in one of the first two rounds, that player would already have far greater draft capital than the receivers on the roster not named Devante Adams. The Packers drafted Marquez Valdes-Scantling (MVS) in the 5th round in 2018, and Allen Lazard was an undrafted free agent. If the Packers draft a wide receiver, MVS and Lazard's dynasty value drops quite a bit, and it would be a battle to see which of the two remains on the field in three-receiver sets. Aaron Rodgers dynasty value rebounded quite a bit last year, even at his age, after his 48 touchdown QB-1 season last year. If Green Bay drafts him a better second target and there's even more for Rodger's value to hold. Adam's and Rodgers have perfect chemistry. Drafting a wide receiver would not bring down Adam's dynasty value in the slightest. He'll still be one of the most targeted players in the NFL.
- The Titans have four picks in the first three rounds of the draft, picks 22, 54, 86, and 101. After what they did this offseason with their pass catchers, they are almost certainly going to draft a wide receiver with one of their first two picks. Tennessee let Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith walk in free agency, leaving 92 and 63 targets, respectively, for someone else. A.J. Brown is sure to receive far more than the 106 targets he had last year, but someone else needs to contribute to the offense too. The Titans signed Josh Reynolds, who looks to fill the hole left by Corey Davis, but Tennessee still has horrible depth at the wide receiver position. I have to confess, I went to OurLads this week to look at the Titans depth charts, and I did not know the name of the player listed as their third wide receiver, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. The same players mentioned as being available to the Packers will be available to the Titans, who pick six spots ahead of the Packers in the first round and seven spots ahead of them in the second round. The Titans will take at least one receiver in round one and one or two more on day three of the draft. No matter who they draft, I am very excited about Josh Reynolds's opportunity in Tennessee. He's always been a favorite deep player of mine. He's going to have a significant role in the offense no matter who Tennessee drafts. A.J. Brown is a top-five dynasty wide receiver already. He's the alpha on this team, no matter who they draft. Tennessee funnels their offense on Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown, but Corey Davis finally had his breakout year last season. Someone else will have the opportunity to do the same, whether it's Reynolds or a rookie.
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