Five Veteran Winners From Round 1
The NFL Draft is rightfully all about the incoming rookies, but when it comes to fantasy football, rarely do rookies make a huge splash. It’s not true for every first-year player, but oftentimes the veterans are the ones most immediately impacted by the draft.
So with Round 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft in the books, let’s look at five veteran winners. Some of this could change as a result of Rounds 2-7, but you get a clear indicator of what teams are looking to do the following year by how they draft in Round 1.
The Buffalo Bills already had Robert Woods, Mike Williams, and Stevie Johnson, but the addition of Sammy Watkins gives E.J. Manuel a potential game-changer. Editor’s note: Johnson has been traded to San Francisco.
There’s a chance Watkins steps into the Bills’ No. 1 receiver spot from the start, but at the very least he will be their No. 2. Manuel had a rough go of it last season — his PFF rating was –19.8 — but he was working with the aforementioned Johnson (who was largely ineffective) and Woods (who was a rookie himself).
Add Watkins to the mix, and Manuel has the necessary weapons to take a step up. That’s doubly true when considering the recent addition of Williams, who is a great red zone threat, and C.J. Spiller out of the backfield. Those factors, plus Watkins, makes Manuel an intriguing QB2 option.
Eric Ebron joins an already crowded Detroit receiving corps — running backs included — but that certainly doesn’t hurt Stafford’s fantasy value.
Ebron has drawn comparisons to Vernon Davis, and regardless of whether or not you buy into that, it’s clear his size and speed will creative matchup advantages for the Lions.
Detroit already throws the ball a ton — Stafford had the fourth most attempts of any QB in the league last season — and adding Ebron with the 10th overall pick further demonstrates the team’s commitment to the pass.
The Lions still have Joseph Fauria, who caught seven touchdowns last season, and Brandon Pettigrew. Ebron is a more enticing player than both, but the Lions appear infatuated with Pettigrew, and Fauria proved himself to be capable in the red zone.
There was a case to be made that the Lions already had too many receiving options, but a deep group of pass catchers means a single injury to one of them would be less impactful on Stafford’s value. It also means the Lions can roll out unique game plans nearly every week.
It may seem counterintuitive, but I think the addition of another big-bodied wide receiver in Tampa Bay will help Jackson, even if it comes at the expense of targets. Jackson was no stranger to targets last season; he had 156, tied for sixth most in the league with Dez Bryant.
However, Jackson was an unsteady fantasy player despite all of those targets. That’s because the targets were not evenly distributed, and his catch rate was poor (50 percent). There was one game (Week 4) in which Jackson was targeted 11 times but caught just two passes.
If nothing else, the presence of Mike Evans will help open up the field for Jackson a little more. Yes, Mike Williams has departed Tampa Bay, and he was an excellent red zone threat, but the Buccaneers did not spend the seventh overall pick in the draft for Evans to turn into a glorified red zone threat — they are going to use him all over the field.
It’s true that before the team drafted Evans, Jackson was lining up for another huge year in regard to targets. But Jackson will still lead the team in targets, and the addition of Evans simply takes some of the pressure off, which hopefully means we get to see a more consistent Jackson in 2014.
A weekly starter at quarterback is exactly what Cameron needs, and one has to figure that’s what Johnny Manziel will be for the Browns.
Cameron had a breakout year in 2013, made even more impressive by the fact Cleveland was unstable at quarterback. Jason Campbell took 521 snaps, Brandon Weeden took 473, and Brian Hoyer took 155 for a combined PFF rating of -15.7.
Cameron was clearly impacted by the mercurial quarterback play. He caught just two touchdowns from Week 5 on after flying out of the gates with five touchdowns in the first four weeks.
Rookie quarterbacks don’t often work wonders for pass catchers, so I need to explain a bit more why I see Manziel as a good thing for Cameron. I do not expect Cameron to be as good as he was from Weeks 1-4 last season, but I do expect him to be better and more consistent than he was from Weeks 5-17.
In other words, I expect Cameron to be much less of a flirt in 2014. To me, that means upgrade.
Stacy burst onto the scene last year after proving to be by far the most productive of St. Louis’ running back options, and the Rams found a home in the run game as a result (even if it was an unintended consequence of Sam Bradford’s knee injury).
Spending the second overall pick on OT Greg Robinson from Auburn helped solidify the offensive line, though it’s possible Robinson will play guard. There were also reports that the Rams were attempting to trade back into the first round later in the draft to take another offensive lineman, which to me says that the team is entering 2014 with power football on their minds. That bodes well for Stacy’s fantasy value.