A happy event for fans, rookies and most teams, the NFL Draft is far more stressful for many of the league’s veterans. We always hear about “winners” and “losers” from a team perspective, but the only clear losers at this point are the players that now face tougher paths to earning roles and/or roster spots.
Naturally, we’re most interested in potential fantasy contributors that seem less likely to be valuable commodities in 2016 due to the results of the recent draft. Without further ado, here are the tough-luck losers from an otherwise fun weekend:
Cowboys running backs Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris
Dallas used the No. 4 overall pick on Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, one of the top running back prospects in recent memory, boasting an ideal combination of size (6-0, 225 pounds), speed (4.47), college production (3,961 rushing yards) and pass-catching ability (27 receptions in 2015).
The Cowboys will obviously want Elliott to lead their backfield from day one, which likely leaves McFadden and Morris to fight for whatever scraps are left over. Given Dallas’ strength up front, there may still be some handcuff appeal if one of the veterans separates himself from the other during training camp and the preseason.
Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford
Already assured of a spot on this list, Bradford decided to skip voluntary team activities after the Eagles traded up to No. 2 overall with the clear intention to select Carson Wentz. Bradford reportedly even requested a trade, but the only real fit would have been in Denver, and the Broncos moved up to No. 26 overall to draft Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch.
While the Eagles may still envision Bradford as their Week 1 starter, it’s clear the veteran isn’t pleased to be used as a bridge to Wentz. A trade would be rather difficult to work out, with Bradford having recently signed a two-year, $35 million contract that includes a reported $22 million in guarantees.
He should probably just accept his situation, as the Eagles have obvious alternatives in the form of Wentz and Chase Daniel, who signed a three-year, $21 million contract this offseason. If he ends up spending a year on the bench, Bradford will be released the following offseason with his stock down the drain. Even if he won’t be in Philadelphia beyond 2016, he has a clear financial incentive to prove that he’s at least an acceptable low-end starter.
Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson
The Broncos stumbled into some nice value in the supplemental portion of the fourth round, picking up Utah RB Devontae Booker, who was widely viewed as a top-five running back in the draft. Set to turn 24 in May, Booker likely stumbled down boards because of his age and recent meniscus injury. However, he should be healthy for the start of training camp, and he has the skill/athleticism/production profile of a top-75, or even top-50, selection.
Anderson signed a four-year, $18 million contract this offseason and still figures to lead the backfield, but he could lose a good chunk of snaps to Booker and/or Ronnie Hillman. Granted, the Broncos will likely run the ball a ton, as they have an excellent defense but major questions at quarterback. Despite the size of Anderson’s contract, this backfield bears close watching throughout training camp and the preseason.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon
When the Redskins drafted TCU WR Josh Doctson at No. 22 overall, my initial reaction was to think that the team would surely release Garcon, who carries a non-guaranteed $7.6 million base salary for the final year of his deal. At that price, there was a decent case to release the veteran even before Doctson was drafted.
Redskins GM Scot McCloughan apparently sees things differently, having said in his post-draft comments that he will retain both Garcon and DeSean Jackson for the last season of their respective contracts.
Assuming McCloughan doesn’t change his mind, Garcon should retain his starting job but will now have to fend off Jackson, Doctson, Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed in the competition for Kirk Cousins targets. Already a fringe player in most formats, Garcon will be nothing more than a deep-league flier if the Washington receiving corps stays healthy throughout camp. And I’m still not totally convinced he won’t be cut or traded.