5 fantasy takeaways from Round 1
Jeff Ratcliffe breaks down the five biggest fantasy takeaways from Round 1 of the 2016 NFL draft.
5 fantasy takeaways from Round 1
Round 1 of the NFL draft is in the books and the 2016 fantasy landscape is already starting to take shape. It wasn’t a night filled with offensive skill position players (just eight selected), but the ripple effect from tonight’s action can already be seen. Here are the five biggest fantasy takeaways from Day 1.
1. Ezekiel Elliott is a top 10 fantasy running back.
Ordinarily, it would be a bold statement to rank a rookie as an immediate RB1, but Elliott is no ordinary running back. He enters the league with prototype size at (6-0, 225 pounds) and tested very well at the combine with a 4.47 40 time.
Prolific at the collegiate level, Elliott rushed for 3,699 yards and 41 touchdowns the past two seasons with 3.6 yards per attempt after contact. He also displayed big play ability with 24 runs of 15-plus yards and 41.0 percent of his total rushing yards. Not to mention that he’s one of the most polished pass blocking backs in this year’s class, allowing just one sack on 108 pass blocking snaps in 2015.
But of course, I’m burying the lead. Elliot landed in arguably the most desirable running back spot in Dallas. The Cowboys have graded out as our No. 1 run blocking unit in each of the last two years. Elliot gets to play behind that line, and he has the chops to stay on the field for all three downs. That means an enormous fantasy ceiling. Given how the rest of the picks fell in the first round, it’s hard to endorse anyone other than Elliott as the top pick in rookie drafts.
2. Marcus Mariota and Demarco Murray are winners.
In the lead-up to the draft, the many had the Titans taking Laremy Tunsil with the first overall pick. Of course, that was before the Rams traded up to get Jared Goff. But the Titans still ended up getting their offensive lineman, moving up to the eight spot and passing on Tunsil (whose night was quite bizarre) to select Jack Conklin.
The pick makes a lot of sense, as the Titans need to protect Marcus Mariota after he was sacked on 26.2 percent of his dropbacks last season. Conklin graded out as our No. 3 tackle overall last year, but where he especially excelled was as a run blocker.
So this move not only helps Mariota, but it also has a positive impact on Demarco Murray. With the Titans’ depth chart extremely thin at running back, Murray is in a position to get the lion’s share of touches. While he may not replicate his breakout 2014 numbers, Murray is set up well to rebound from his abysmal 2015 campaign.
3. And so is Carlos Hyde.
Hyde is a very good football player who was stuck behind a not-so-good offensive line (at least the right side of it). Over the first six weeks of the season last year, Hyde was our most elusive back, causing 31 combined missed tackles. However, excluding his big Week 1 performance, Hyde was ranked just 31st in fantasy scoring over that span.
Like the Titans, San Francisco took a step to shoring up their offensive line, trading with the Chiefs to move up into the back end of the first round and select Josh Garnett. Our No. 1 run-blocking guard in this year’s class, Garnett’s addition eases some concerns about Hyde. The 49ers still have some major deficiencies (cough … quarterback …), but Hyde is now shaping to be a solid RB2 option with upside.
4. The air got let out of the Corey Coleman fantasy balloon.
Entering tonight, Coleman was my top-ranked wide receiver in this year’s class, but it’s tough to get excited about his landing spot in Cleveland. He’s still a freakish athlete with 4.4 wheels and a 40-inch vert. He’s still a dynamic player maker who caused 29 missed tackles and averaged 6.8 yards after catch on 138 catches over the last two years.
But he’s now on a team with a glaring hole at quarterback, among many other positions. The good news is that, as of now, he’s really the only show in town. So volume could certainly be in Coleman’s favor. However, the landing spot just isn’t ideal, and it’s tough to envision Coleman making a significant fantasy impact in the short-term.
5. The Vikings drafted the ideal receiver for Teddy Bridgewater.
Minnesota would have been another poor landing spot for Coleman, but it was one the best destinations for Laquon Treadwell. Much maligned for his lackluster 40 time, Treadwell ended up being the fourth wide receiver off the board. But in his case, speed isn’t the biggest part of his game. He still flashed the ability to run after the catch, causing 17 missed tackles (4th among draft-eligible receivers). He also dropped just 9-of-123 targets.
Treadwell’s ability in the short and intermediate areas of the field meshes well with Bridgewater, who ranked 32nd in aDOT at just 7.5 yards per throw. While Treadwell may not profile as an elite-level fantasy receiver, his skill set bodes well for PPR production.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.