NFL Draft: How the First-Round Picks Impact Veterans

NFL Draft: How the First-Round Picks Impact Veterans

This article is part of our NFL Draft series.

It was the final pick of the first round that provided the most interesting moment of Thursday night from a fantasy football standpoint, with the Chiefs adding to their embarrassment of riches on offense when they drafted LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire at No. 32 overall. Damien Williams quickly became the biggest fantasy-value loser of the night, sure to plummet from his fourth/fifth-round ADP in early best ball drafts.

In addition to looking at Williams' tumble, and we'll check out some of the other veterans impacted by Thursday night's draft picks. The caveat, of course, is that there are still six rounds of the draft remaining, and Day 2 in particular offers plenty of opportunity for a player's team context to improve or deteriorate.

Winners From Day 1

QB Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys

Amari Cooper is under contract for the next five seasons, Michael Gallup has two years remaining on his rookie deal, and now CeeDee Lamb joins the party with five seasons of team control (more if you include the franchise tag possibilities). On top of all that, Prescott has Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and a trio of fearsome blockers in LT Tyron Smith, RG Zack Martin and RT La'el Collins. Translation: the Dallas offense will manage just fine without Travis Frederick, Randall Cobb and Jason Witten. For what it's worth, I thought Lamb was the best WR prospect in this draft and a sensible top-10 pick... the Cowboys got him at No. 17. Now they just need to give Prescott his bag.

  

QB Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs

Mahomes is like a rich kid who gets cool presents on each night of Channukah and then another huge gift or three on Christmas. Brett Veach and Andy Reid sure like to spoil their quarterback, and the selection of Edwards-Helaire over Jonathan Taylor hints at continued commitment to a pass-heavy offense (duh). Taylor is second to none in this draft class as a pure runner, but Edwards-Helaire caught 55 passes for LSU last year, earning comps to a lesser version of former Reid favorite Brian Westbrook. 

  

QB Drew Lock Denver Broncos

Five weeks of competent game-managing doesn't have me sold on Lock as a starting NFL quarterback, but we can at least say that if he struggles it won't be for a lack of weapons. The Broncos were fortunate to see Jerry Jeudy on the board at No. 15, adding him to an offense that already has Courtland Sutton, Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay and Noah Fant. The O-line also looks solid, finishing 12th in PFF's 2019 rankings despite getting only three games from prize free-agent addition Ja'Wuan James.

  

QB Carson Wentz Philadelphia Eagles

We knew the Eagles would take a wide receiver in the first or second round, and I think they did well to choose Jalen Reagor, an athletic freak who was held back by brutal QB play and some drops at TCU. Justin Jefferson would've been the "safe" pick, but do you really need a dependable slot guy when you already have Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert? The Eagles were right to take a shot on Reagor, whose combination of deep speed and YAC ability gives him a dominant No. 1 receiver ceiling.

  

WRs Jamison Crowder + Breshad Perriman New York Jets

The Jets should draft a receiver soon enough, but the guy(s) they end up with isn't/aren't likely to see as many targets as Lamb or Jeudy, the wideouts that frequently were connected to Gang Green in mock drafts. Instead, the Jets finally deployed some serious capital toward their O-Line, a contrast from their bargain-bin, quantity-over-quality approach in free agency. From Sam Darnold's perspective, I'd have no complaints about OT Mekhi Becton in Round 1 and a wideout prospect in Round 2. In any case, Crowder remains the favorite to lead this team in overall targets, and Perriman the favorite to see a plurality of the deep passes.

  

WR DeVante Parker Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins didn't use any of their three first-round picks on players that catch passes or take handoffs, but they did acquire a potential franchise QB (Tua Tagovailoa) and an OT (Austin Jackson) to keep him upright. It's a good outcome for anyone banking on Parker, Mike Gesicki or Preston Williams (knee) to see big volume in 2020, though Miami still has plenty of draft capital to give Tua some better weapons.

  

TE Darren Waller Las Vegas Raiders

We pretty much knew the Raiders would exit Thursday with a new wide receiver, so the best Waller could hope for was someone that can occupy safeties without drawing a high volume of targets. Enter Henry Ruggs, who blazed a 4.27 40-yard dash at the combine but never caught more than 46 passes in a season at Alabama. 

Part of my concern with Waller moving forward is that he won't come close to last year's mark of 9.8 YPT unless his aDOT rises from 7.3. He might be good enough to post solid efficiency numbers on the YAC-heavy formula, but the 10 YPT range probably isn't reliable for anyone with that approach besides George Kittle. My hope here is that Ruggs can move safeties away from the middle of the field to help Waller became more of a seam-stretcher and less of a flats guy. Granted, Derek Carr isn't exactly known for trying aggressive throws over the middle (and neither is Marcus Mariota).

  

Losers From Day 1

QB Tyrod Taylor Los Angeles Chargers

There was some talk the Chargers might use the No. 6 pick on a left tackle, but instead they went the predictable route with Justin Herbert, which means Taylor will have to compete for a starting job in an offense with a clear weakness at the most important O-line spot. The Chargers later traded up to draft linebacker Kenneth Murray at pick No. 23, so they're scheduled for only one selection (No. 71) on Day 2. Maybe they try to flip that pick for Trent Williams?

  

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins were never likely to pass on both Tua and Herbert, but my pre-draft projection for Fitzpatrick in 2020 did at least account for the slight possibility of it happening. The 37-year-old will face a challenge for the Week 1 job, but he should at least have better blocking than he had last season if he ends up making starts. In addition to drafting USC OT Austin Jackson, the Dolphins added LG Ereck Flowers and C Ted Karras in free agency. I won't say it looks like a good O-Line, but it's at least meandering in the general direction of competence. While we're on the subject, I guess Thursday can be viewed as a small win for Jordan Howard, who nonetheless seems likely to see backfield competition added Friday.

  

QB Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers

This is a double whammy for Rodgers, who likely was hoping for help at WR or TE but instead has to share the QB room with a first-round pick. While the 2020 starting job is perfectly safe, GM Brian Gutekunst wouldn't have drafted Jordan Love if he was confident in Rodgers following the Drew Brees, Tom Brady career arc. 

I guess the pick makes sense if you really love Love, potentially setting the stage for Gutekunst to rebuild his roster around the Utah State quarterback and whatever trade package Rodgers might fetch during the 2021 or 2022 offseason. The fact that Rodgers' compensation has been heavily bonus-based means any trade would leave a large dead-cap hit behind, but it also should make him more valuable to other teams because the base salaries are reasonable. Anyway, I'm probably getting ahead of myself. For the immediate future, it'll be interesting to see how Rodgers handles this.

  

QB Gardner Minshew Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars claim to be at the cutting edge of football analytics, so one might think they'd consider it a priority to gather as much intel on Minshew as soon as possible. A left tackle or wide receiver would've helped that process, and there were good options at both positions at No. 9 overall and No. 20 overall. Instead, the Jaguars drafted CB CJ Henderson and DE K'Lavon Chaisson, replacements for Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue. I'm not qualified to say if those were good picks or not, but I do know they won't help Minshew much. I'd rather see CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy taking snaps from Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook, or at least a left tackle to challenge 2017 draft bust Cam Robinson.

  

RBs Damien Williams + Darwin Thompson Kansas City Chiefs

Running back isn't a premium position, nor is it a spot where teams expect players to have long careers. If you draft one in the first round, you're doing it because you expect a major contribution from the jump. That's not to say Williams will disappear, but his snap shares from the playoffs (97, 85, 86 percent) were never going to be repeated in the 2020 regular season, and it's now fair to question if he'll even get close to 50 percent. 

Expect Clyde Edwards-Helaire to duke it out with Williams for the lead role, while Thompson's roster spot may depend on his ability to help on special teams. Remember that the Chiefs also have Darrel Williams, who contributes on special teams and also looked pretty decent on offense prior to his season-ending hamstring injury last year. Plus, they recently signed DeAndre Washington, albeit on a low-commitment, one-year contract. Pour one out for the Darwin dynasty owners.

  

WR Deebo Samuel San Francisco 49ers

With two first-round picks and a roster that's otherwise in good shape, the 49ers were always an excellent bet to draft a wide receiver Thursday night. It's unfortunate for Samuel that the pick turned out to be ASU's Brandon Aiyuk, a YAC beast who has been criticized for his lack of polish. I think Samuel will be fine because he's better than Aiyuk and better than most NFL players in general, but it's an annoyance to have yet another body competing for slants, drags and screens in Kyle Shanahan's horizontal offense. My preferred partner for Samuel would've been a deep threat like Ruggs, Lamb or Denzel Mims.  

  

WR Michael Gallup, WR Amari Cooper, TE Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys

The addition of CeeDee Lamb isn't exactly a disaster for the other Dallas pass catchers, considering the team lost 83 Randall Cobb targets and 83 more from Jason Witten. In the short term, it's totally possible Lamb and Jarwin do nothing more than replace those numbers, which would allow Gallup and Cooper to clear triple digits again. But we also know Ezekiel Elliott will get some receiving volume, and we can't count on Dak Prescott tossing 596 passes every season. The stacked arsenal works fine if the Cowboys are a shootout machine, but someone has to be left out if they actually pull their act together on defense and become an NFC powerhouse instead of an infuriating 8-to-10-win team. 

That said, touchdowns won't be in short supply, and we probably won't see the No. 4 WR or No. 2 TE poaching much volume. Heavy snap counts for all the key guys likely would be enough to avert disaster, and I'll also note that Amari Cooper produced 2.77 yards per route in the slot for Dallas in 2018 and 2.72 in 2019 (per PFF). Granted, it's a sample of only 127 snaps and 28 targets between the two seasons, but Cooper also did good work in his limited chances out of the slot in Oakland.

  

Interesting Tweets From Day 1

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Donabedian
Jerry was a 2018 finalist for the FSWA's Player Notes Writer of the Year and DFS Writer of the Year awards. A Baltimore native, Jerry roots for the Ravens and watches "The Wire" in his spare time.
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