By Leo Paciga (@FFHoudini)
So here we are the Monday morning after the 2013 NFL draft has come to its conclusion. If you’re already scouring the internet looking for dynasty content, rookie evaluations and post draft insight then you are a fantasy football owner after my own heart. In this particular article, I’m going to focus my attention on a few running backs and wide receivers that either gained or lost value depending on their new NFL team. So let’s get to what you’re here for and jump right in with a closer look at some fantasy football winners and losers from this weekend’s draft.
Running Backs – The Winners:
Giovani Bernard, RB – Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals selected UNC RB Giovani Bernard as the first running back off the board with the 37th overall pick. What I really like about Bernard is his combination of agility, quick burst and solid vision. Bernard does a nice job of pressing the line of scrimmage, but he’s also able to cut back and change direction without losing much momentum. Giovani Bernard has exceptional hands and never seems to fight the ball on any receptions making him a dangerous weapon in all phases of the passing game. Bernard will most likely split time with current incumbent BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the Bengals backfield, but he will have plenty of chances to display his rapid acceleration and game breaking abilities. It’s only a matter of time before BenJarvus Green-Ellis goes from being “steady” to simply pedestrian and slow. Giovani Bernard brings a “dynamic” aspect sorely missing from the Cincinnati rushing attack.
Montee Ball, RB – Broncos
The Denver Broncos selected Wisconsin running back Montee Ball with the 58th overall pick creating a very nice situation for the 215 pound power back. I’ve never been a huge fan of Montee Ball’s skill set, but you certainly cannot deny his productivity at Wisconsin where Ball rushed for over 5000 yards and 77 touchdowns. Ball is an intelligent player and a willing pass blocker, both essential ingredients if you’re going to be an integral part of any Peyton Manning offense. Ball is also decisive, runs with balance, sustains his momentum while changing direction and maintains his physicality all the way to the ground. Factor in the many unanswered questions surrounding the other Denver RBs – including Willis McGahee’s health, Knowshon Moreno’s consistency and Ronnie Hillman’s ability to be more than a change-of-pace back and Montee Ball could be in line for a very productive rookie season.
Le’Veon Bell, RB – Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell with the 48th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Bell finds himself in an excellent situation with tremendous opportunities waiting for him in Pittsburgh. Rashard Mendenhall is gone having found a new football home in Arizona and both Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman are uninspiring talents at best. Le’Veon Bell is a big back (6’1”, 230 lbs.) that runs with a downhill style exhibiting good pad level and uses that size to his advantage. Bell also possesses more quickness and athleticism than he is often given credit for and should fit nicely into Mike Tomlin’s offense. This is the perfect example of a player with just the right amount of ability landing in a situation with a ton of opportunity….. a “perfect storm” of sorts for dynasty owners with top 5 rookie picks.
Running Backs – The Losers:
Eddie Lacy/Johnathan Franklin, RBs – Packers
Fantasy football owners everywhere rejoiced when the Green Bay Packers selected Alabama running back Eddie Lacy with the 61st overall pick. Of course, those same owners developed a severe case of indigestion when the Packers went back to the running back well and selected UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin at pick #125. Eddie Lacy is a powerful running back who runs with a punishing style, but also has enough finesse and breakaway ability sprinkled in to be a game changing weapon at the NFL level. Lacy is the type of angry runner that provides instant credibility to a Green Bay running game desperately in need of a physical presence. Normally this would be the perfect scenario for a gifted runner like Lacy (and dynasty owners everywhere), but the addition of fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin certainly muddies the RB waters in Green Bay. Johnathan Franklin is the real deal, a running back capable of being effective carrying the ball between the tackles or beating defenders to the edge. Franklin is extremely fluid and possesses an extra gear near and around the line of scrimmage that allows him to make the most of small openings and seemingly nonexistent creases. I think Franklin possesses all of the attributes necessary to eventually become an All-Pro running back at the NFL level…and honestly, I’m not sure why he slid so far in the draft. Green Bay drafted two potentially dominant running backs with terrific skill sets; how things shake out while sharing a backfield is anyone’s guess and the cause of many sleepless nights for dynasty owners everywhere.
Christine Michael/Spencer Ware, RBs – Seahawks
Much like the Green Bay Packers, the Seattle Seahawks came away from the 2013 NFL draft with two talented running backs – Christine Michael from Texas A&M at pick #62 and LSU’s Spencer Ware at pick #194. The difference with the Seahawks, however, is that they already have two talented running backs on the roster. 27 year old Marshawn Lynch is coming off a very productive 1,500 yard, 11 TD season and fellow teammate Robert Turbin flashed some serious NFL skills during his rookie campaign. In this case, the Seahawks simply felt Christine Michael was too talented to pass up. Michael possesses an impressive combination of power, speed, elusiveness and agility that makes him a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. Michael has also shown himself to be somewhat immature with some poor decisions at A&M and then oversleeping during the interview process at the NFL combine. Even with a few red flags, Christine Michael could have been a serious upside selection in dynasty drafts if he had only ended up on a team with more opportunity. The other running back selected by Seattle is a different animal when it comes to physicality. Spencer Ware is a violent runner who pounds the ball with excellent pad level and possesses some serious lower body strength. Bottom line, this kid simply enjoys physical contact and likes to wreck defenders at every opportunity. Early reports have the Seahawks considering a move to fullback for Ware, but at the moment, I still consider Ware another capable body in a very crowded Seattle RB stable.
Wide Receivers – The Winners:
Tavon Austin, WR – Rams
The St. Louis Rams traded up to select West Virginia WR Tavon Austin with the 8th overall pick and he will fill a pressing need for the Rams with the departure of Danny Amendola to the Patriots. Austin is a special player with deft body control and an amazing ability to change direction without losing high-end quickness. Austin also demonstrates start/stop moves that seem to defy logic as both a receiver and a return specialist. Austin does have a few weaknesses in his overall game; he needs to improve against tight man coverage and he needs to add some strength to ensure he can withstand the constant punishment at the NFL level. All in all, St. Louis is a great landing spot for this speedy wide receiver and Austin should see plenty of targets in his rookie season as Sam Bradford’s new security blanket.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR – Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings traded back into the first round to select Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson with the 29th overall pick. Patterson is a freakish athlete with excellent open field vision and a rare combination of the “double E’s” – elusiveness and explosiveness. Standing 6’2” and weighing 216 lbs, Patterson ran a 4.42 forty and posted a 37-inch vertical jump at the NFL combine reaffirming his athletic upside. The only drawbacks to Patterson’s game are his inexperience (only 1 year of Division 1 football) and some technical flaws that he should be able to overcome with practice and patience. Landing in Minnesota will provide Cordarrelle Patterson plenty of opportunity right away; unfortunately I’m not that confident in Christian Ponder’s ability at QB to fully utilize Patterson’s impressive skill set. Without a doubt, Patterson has the highest ceiling of any player in this draft class, but he also carries the biggest risk factor.
Aaron Dobson, WR – Patriots
This is a great landing spot for Aaron Dobson simply because he’ll have the opportunity to contribute right away and he’ll be catching passes from Tom Brady. The Patriots snagged the former Marshall WR with the 59th overall pick in the draft and it’s pretty clear they envision Dobson settling in at the “X” receiver spot on the field. Aaron Dobson has good size (6’3”, 210 lbs.), catches the ball well and possesses enough speed to stretch the field. He is somewhat lacking in short burst quickness and that hurts Dobson at times coming off the line of scrimmage. Many draft analysts are concerned that Aaron Dobson is still “raw”, that he needs development and that he runs a limited route tree. None of that really worries me too much since I think all of those shortcomings can be fixed with time and practice. What is concerning to me, however, is Dobson’s hesitation to use his size and physicality to his advantage. Aaron Dobson tends to play “smaller” than his 6’3″, 210 lb frame would suggest and I’m hoping that’s something the Patriots coaching staff can correct. Still, even with some concerns, Aaron Dobson finds himself on a championship caliber offense with a future Hall of Fame quarterback at the helm and very little competition in his way at the X wide receiver position. Everything considered, it’s a great landing spot and fantastic opportunity for the young man from Marshall.
Markus Wheaton, WR – Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers went into the 2013 draft looking for a wide receiver to replace Mike Wallace and they got a good one with the 79th pick when they selected Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton. Wheaton may only stand 5’11”, but he has a nice combination of speed and quickness that he uses to his advantage when setting up defenders. Wheaton also appears comfortable anywhere on the field and is equally dangerous on vertical deep routes or in crowded spaces over the middle. I’ve never been a big believer in Pittsburgh WR Emmanuel Sanders and I think Markus Wheaton will eventually surpass Sanders on the depth chart. It may not happen right away, but I believe Wheaton will be the starting wide receiver opposite Antonio Brown by the start of the 2014 season.
Wide Receivers – The Losers:
Robert Woods, WR – Bills
Don’t get me wrong, I like Robert Woods’ ability to be a slot receiver at the NFL level and I believe in the right situation Woods could have produced nicely as a rookie. Unfortunately, Buffalo is the about worst spot for a rookie WR to land this side of N.Y. Jets camp. The Bills have QB questions galore after selecting E.J. Manual in the 1st round and I’m not convinced new HC Doug Marrone or OC Nathaniel Hackett will be able to steer this offense out of the shark invested waters that currently surround it on all sides. Even with Wood’s polished route running, soft hands and his knack for adjusting to the football in traffic; I believe he’ll struggle in his adjustment to the NFL.
Stedman Bailey, WR – Rams
Another tough landing spot simply because the Rams now have a very young, crowded stable of wide receivers. Bailey brings solid route running ability, quickness and above average technique with him from West Virginia were he played alongside fellow Rams rookie Tavon Austin. Stedman Bailey also possesses a sweet double move and quarterback Sam Bradford will love the way Bailey shields off defenders with his body while catching the ball in traffic. This all comes down to playing time and targets for me. On another team, Bailey could have stepped in and been a viable contributor to your fantasy football squads in week 1….but on a St. Louis team with Brian Quick, Chris Givens, Jared Cook and Tevon Austin; I’m just not sure how productive Bailey will be on a weekly basis.
Justin Hunter, WR – Titans
The Tennessee Titans selected University of Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter with the 34th pick in at 2013 NFL draft. I really like Justin Hunter’s skill set and there are quite a few draft pundits out there who really like this landing spot. Honestly, I would have preferred a different destination for Justin Hunter. Kenny Britt is a year removed from his knee surgery and seems to be focused, in excellent physical shape and heading into a contract year (go figure $$$). Kendall Wright is coming off a very impressive rookie season and with his ability to get open in a phone booth (you younger readers may have to Google “phone booth”), Wright will demand more targets and claim a bigger stake of the offense in 2013. I’m also not sold on Jake Locker as the guy to get it done at QB for the Tennessee Titans. Locker’s accuracy is simply awful at times and he hasn’t shown the ability to read NFL defenses pre-snap or post snap with any consistency. Obviously, if Kenny Britt moves on after the 2013 season or if he holds up a 7-11 during a post game victory party, then Justin Hunter will have an open road to a starting role at WR and all will be well. Justin Hunter has all the skills required to become a big time WR#1 at the NFL level, we’ll just have to see if he’s able to survive his current situation and continue to mature/transition at the next level.
Well, there you have it, a few rookie players that I think gained or lost some value due to landing spots and current situations. You may or may not agree with my analysis on the players mentioned above, but hopefully you’ve at least enjoyed the article. I encourage everyone out there to take the time to research players, watch some film and continue to actively improve your dynasty rosters. The tools and opinions provided here at DFW can certainly help take your teams to the next level. Feel free to contact me on Twitter @FFhoudini with any questions or comments.