1) Cleveland Browns select Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Garrett joins a Browns defense that was terrible in 2016. They ranked second to last in yards allowed and rush yards allowed, and third to last in points allowed. They also recorded the third-fewest sacks. Not only was Garrett widely considered to be the best overall prospect in this draft, but he also fills one of the Browns’ biggest needs. He is a pass-rushing end who is skilled at getting to the quarterback – he recorded 8.5 sacks in just 11 games as a junior.
In most leagues, Garrett’s addition has very little fantasy impact. In IDP settings, he is should be a good option, as the Browns are likely to still be a bad team that sees a lot of defensive snaps.
In extremely deep leagues – like, at least 20 teams, maybe even deeper than that – he makes the Browns reasonable option for the last managers to draft a team D/ST. He joins linebacker Jamie Collins and cornerback Joe Haden. Collins is one of the best linebackers in the league. 28-year-old Haden was arguably the best cornerback in the league in 2014, but was limited by injuries for the past two seasons. If Haden, who is recovering from offseason surgery, can return to his old self, the Browns could become a league-average defense.
2) Chicago Bears select Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Just one month ago, the Bears won a bidding war for former Buccaneers’ backup Mike Glennon. Some (me) considered that $45 million contract an overpay, but whether or not it was a good idea, it represented a significant investment in Glennon as their QB. In that light, trading up to grab any quarterback was a shocker, especially since some experts pegged Trubisky as more like a third or fourth round talent.
The Bears can get out of the Glennon contract after one season, and one of the biggest knocks on Trubisky was that he didn’t have enough experience. The most likely scenario here is that Trubisky starts the season as a backup while the Bears see what they have in Glennon. The Bears spent a ton of draft capital trading up to get Trubisky, giving up two third-round picks and one fourth-round pick for the right to move up one spot. The biggest fantasy impact here is that Trubisky hurts Glennon’s value, as the Bears will have a hard time giving Glennon a long leash. A quarterback controversy is likely, and the Bears don’t have elite weapons at any other offensive skill positions (Jordan Howard is not elite). Bears QB is a position to avoid in 1-QB drafts.
4) Jacksonville Jaguars select Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Halfway through 2015, sophomore Fournette seemed like a Heisman shoe-in, averaging 193.1 rushing yards and 2.1 rushing touchdowns per game through seven weeks until three straight losses bounced him from the conversation. His junior season also started with a bang, but he was limited to only seven games due to injury. He’s fast, a powerful runner, and has talent worthy of a top-five pick.
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Fournette joins Chris Ivory, a still-effective 29-year-old who led the Jaguars in red zone rushes in 2016. Fournette is likely to be the lead back, but Ivory will probably get some carries to limit the wear and tear on Fournette. Fournette has already dealt with some injury problems, and his power-run style increases his injury risk. His selection probably ends the already-limited remaining fantasy value T.J. Yeldon, who saw nearly 30 percent fewer carries as a sophomore than as a rookie. Ironically, this selection could hurt QB Blake Bortles’ value, as his best fantasy attribute is his ability to accrue stats late in games when the Jaguars are down big. There is a good chance Fournette is the first rookie drafted in most fantasy leagues in 2017.
5) Tennessee Titans select Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
This is supposed to be a strong year for wide receivers, but personally, I’m not sold on any of them. There was no consensus that Davis is the best wide receiver prospect, though few had him outside the top two. He’s a speedster who can line up in the slot or as a wide-out, and he is not afraid to fight for a ball or catch before contact. One of the biggest concerns is that he is recovering from ankle surgery, and it is possible he won’t even be ready by the start of the regular season.
Assuming Davis is anywhere near as good as most experts expect, his addition is a big win for Marcus Mariota, who was the 13th best QB in 2016 despite limited receiving talent. Davis’ addition is bad news for Tajae Sharpe believers, but Davis probably does not pass Rishard Matthews as the team’s top receiver. If Davis is healthy before the preseason, then he may be worth a late-round flier in standard leagues.
7) Los Angeles Chargers select Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Phillip Rivers should be excited by this pick. The Chargers snagged arguably the best offensive talent in the draft, bolstering an offense already loaded with talented skill players. The Chargers have so many talented pass catchers – Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Antonio Gates – that Mike Williams is unlikely to make too much of an impact as long as everyone is healthy. However, Keenan Allen has only played nine games in the past two seasons, and if he goes down again, Williams has a chance to beat out Williams and Benjamin to become the leading receiver in his absence. The added talent boosts the value of Rivers and Melvin Gordon, as it will further discourage defenses from stacking the box.
8) Carolina Panthers select Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
This is bad news for fantasy managers who were planning on keeping Jonathan Stewart for next season. Stewart dominated the carries for the Panthers in 2016, eating up 218 out of 311 for the season, despite missing three games. McCaffrey should be a legitimate challenger for carries while Stewart is healthy, and Stewart has missed at least three games in each of the past five seasons. McCaffrey is a great option for “zero RB” aficionados looking to load their bench with talented backs who are one tackle away from a bell-cow role.
9) Cincinnati Bengals select John Ross, WR, Washington
Tyler Boyd never took hold of the second wide receiver role for the Bengals, and – as any fan of the Panthers, Patriots, or Bengals will tell you – Brandon LaFell is not actually good. Ross feels like a slight reach, especially given his injury history (torn ACL in 2015). Depending on how the preseason plays out, one of Boyd or Ross will probably emerge as worthy of a late-round pick. There is a lot of value in being the wide receiver playing opposite A.J. Green, assuming one player takes control of that job.
10) Kansas City Chiefs select Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Alex Smith is the starting quarterback in Kansas City, and while he’s no star, he’s done enough to earn some wiggle-room. Even though the Chiefs paid mightily to trade up and select a QB, Smith has had enough success that a couple bad games won’t be enough to generate a true quarterback controversy – in the short term. But teams don’t give up two firsts and a third unless they think they’ve found someone important. In keeper and dynasty leagues, Smith’s value takes a big hit. In standard redraft leagues, this pick is unlikely to mean much.
12) Houston Texans select Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
First of all, wow. I did not see this coming. Second of all, awesome. The Texans gave up two first round picks to trade up and select Watson, and it is an excellent move. The biggest winners here are DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Those two could have top-five and top-40 talent for their position, but their fantasy value was brutalized by the poor play of the Texans’ quarterbacks in 2016. Watson is a highly mobile QB with a strong arm and the ability to step up his play in crunch time. With Watson and Lamar Miller, defenses will have to devote a lot of energy to stopping the ground game, but unlike last season, defenses will also have to show some respect to the passing game. There is so much talent around Watson, combined with his ability to run, that he has a very realistic path to becoming a high-end QB2.
17) Washington Redskins select Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
The Redskins allowed the fifth-most yards in 2016, and recorded the fourth-fewest sacks. Allen is a skilled pass-rusher, and fills a clear need for the team. Allen was one of the highest rated prospects this year, and the Redskins’ are fortunate to land him as low as they did. He was recruited as a linebacker, which speaks to his versatility and speed. He’s not likely to be an elite IDP option right off the bat, but he’s good enough, and in a good enough situation, to warrant drafting.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers select O.J. Howard, TE, Miami
Just last week, tight end Cameron Brate signed his one-year exclusive tender with the Buccaneers. Brate is a 25-year-old entering his fourth season after a breakout-ish year when he went for 660 yards and eight touchdowns. Howard is bigger than Brate, and is a better receiver than blocker. As long as Brate is around, it seems unlikely that either will be worth drafting in standard leagues, but the fact that the Bucs passed on other needs to select a pass-catching tight end is a big blow to Brate’s long-term prospects.
20) Denver Broncos select Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
I so badly wanted to talk about an offensive lineman in this post. The Broncos had one of the worst offensive lines in the league last season, and getting the top lineman on the board this late in the draft is a huge get. Unfortunately, I don’t believe in any of the Broncos quarterbacks or running backs – yes, including C.J Anderson – so this pick will have zero impact on my drafts this fall.
If, for whatever reason, Trevor Siemian or Kapri Bibbs really get you hot’n’bothered, then this pick boosts their value.
23) New York Giants select Evan Engram, TE, Mississippi
The TV announcers and twitter seemed to really like this pick. For fantasy purposes though, it doesn’t seem very important. The Giants have a loaded wide receiving corps with Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard, so even the most optimistic projections shouldn’t peg Engram any higher than the fourth receiving option. Engram should be able to pass Will Tye to become the lead tight end, but as the fourth-or-worse option, he’s likely to end up as one of the myriad of “meh” TE options grouped between 10th and 20th.
29) Cleveland Browns select David Njoku, TE, Miami
Cleveland gave up a fourth round pick in order to move up four spots and select Njoku. This likely signals that they have lost confidence in 2015 breakout Gary Barnidge, since the Browns are not good enough to invest in redundant talent. Barnidge’s fantasy points halved in 2016, despite playing in all 16 games. The Browns are don’t have much receiving talent besides promising sophomore Corey Coleman and the aging Kenny Britt, but they also have one of the worst quarterback situations in the league. If the Browns end up with a mildly capable quarterback, the lack of offensive weapons could enable Njoku to become a fantasy TE1.