We will have months to further evaluate the depths of what these players mean for fantasy purposes, but you’ve come to the right place for a rapid reaction as the NFL draft unfolds.
2) QB Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Welp … Few prognosticators saw that coming. The Bears signed quarterback Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million deal earlier in the offseason. The contract gives an out after the first year and provides Chicago with a reason to give Glennon a shot while Trubisky learns. The rookie has only 13 career collegiate starts under this belt, and such a route could create trade value for Glennon.
Trubisky has no draft value in single-year formats. Given his inexperience, we’re looking at 2019 before he is legitimately a starting fantasy consideration. He is accurate and has good footwork. It will come down to learning the system and having enough talent around him.
4) RB Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
The powerful rusher will help balance out the Jaguars on offense and rein in Blake Bortles. Fournette should be the featured back but will share some touches with Chris Ivory and/or T.J. Yeldon. The latter is a better receiver, so it stands to reason he will be involved in passing situations. Ivory’s contract probably means he sticks for 2017 and is out next offseason.
Fournette will be overvalued to a degree by fantasy gamers. He is a talented player but not quite Ezekiel Elliott. Injuries are a concern, as is playing for the Jaguars. The organization has a new coaching staff and doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt just yet. Fournette is a risky RB2 and a better third back in all scoring formats. Reduce confidence in him for PPR scoring.
5) WR Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans
Davis comes from Western Michigan but brings all of the necessary tools to start in his rookie season. The Titans had to improve on the outside, and at 6-3, 209 pounds, he offers plenty of size for Marcus Mariota. He will compete for looks with a thin receiving corps in a run-first offense.
Growing pains can be expected from any rookie receiver, much less one from the MAC. He’s a productive, competitive, versatile playmaker who has shown a nose for the end zone. Davis’ best attribute is his route-running ability; few rookies are as polished against man coverage. Davis is a fourth fantasy receiver in 2017 drafts and has a white-hot future in dynasty formats.
7) WR Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
Philip Rivers gets a new toy with great size and tremendous potential. The 6-4, 218-pounder from Clemson appears every bit the part of a starting NFL receiver. He may need extra time to learn the nuances and improve his route tree, but the sky truly is the limit for his upside.
The team formerly known as the San Diego Chargers has suffered through a rash of wide receiver injuries in the past few seasons. Tight end Antonio Gates is on his last legs. Talented receiver Keenan Allen cannot be trusted to stay on the field at this point. Williams should be mixed in and probably used as a red zone weapon early on. He has WR4 potential in 2017 and WR1 in the long run.
8) RB Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Few players, let alone rookies, are as versatile as McCaffrey. He can play from anywhere on the field and is as dangerous of a receiver as any back. This fits well with the Panthers’ personnel and gives Cam Newton not only another weapon but a pressure-relief valve.
Jonathan Stewart should remain the lead back on clear running downs and near the end zone. The best value McCaffrey offers fantasy owners is found in point-per-reception setups. There is so much to like in both the short and long term; he’s a No. 3 in PPR this year with RB2 potential, while dynasty leaguers can treat him as the second back to add in rookie drafts.
9) WR John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals
Ross is a speed demon, posting the modern-era record 40-yard time at the NFL Scouting Combine this year with a 4.22. The Bengals carried over two drafted receivers from 2016 in Tyler Boyd and Cody Core, in addition to having talent in A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and even Brandon LaFell.
Ross is a versatile weapon who can play all over the field. There is some DeSean Jackson going on here, but it will take time. Ross is capable of special teams excellence and taking the top off a defense. He’ll need to learn how to better escape press coverage. It will be maddening knowing when to play Ross in fantasy, and he’s probably nothing more than a DFS flier at this point. The future is bright, but it will take some personnel shakeups and a little time.
10) QB Patrick Mahomes II, Kansas City Chiefs
This is totally an Andy Reid pick. Mahomes is a quarterback opposite of Alex Smith in virtually every way imaginable. The steady Toyota Camry will be replaced with a Ferrari 458 Italia — but probably not for another year.
Mahomes has a monster arm, is athletic enough to create plays, and has the gunslinger mentality that will take Reid back 20-something years to a young Brett Favre. Reeling in Mahomes will prove to be a tall task, but he is a TD strike waiting to happen — just not in 2017. His 2018 value is in the midrange QB2 territory, in the best-case scenario. In Year 3, however, Mahomes could be a fine starting fantasy passer.
12) QB Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
The Texans traded up, which speaks volumes of the confidence in Tom Savage. The likelihood of Savage being the starter more than a few games in 2017 is pretty low. The 6-2, 221-pound Watson, with a good offseason, has a strong shot at starting come Week 1.
The Texans have a full stable of weapons to help ease the transition for Watson — and DeAndre Hopkins has to be considered the fantasy winner with this pick after the Brock Osweiler disaster. There will be mistakes from Watson in Year 1, and fantasy gamers should expect as much. Yet, Watson will be a capable fantasy starter in time. Learning a pro-style offense is his biggest challenge, but head coach Bill O’Brien will be an asset for Watson’s maturation. Avoid the young quarterback in 2017 drafts.
19) TE O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The best tight end in the draft class joins a potentially lethal offense. The Buccaneers added wideout DeSean Jackson this offseason, and Mike Evans is coming off a stellar season. Quarterback Jameis Winston gets more height among his targets.
Howard is a promising receiver capable of making all of the NFL catches. He was underutilized in that area at Alabama. Howard is an effort blocker and improved from 2015 to ’16. Rookie tight ends rarely make a splash in fantasy. Plus, Howard will see looks but has to contend with Cameron Brate, who displayed chemistry with Winston last season. Howard is no better than a shaky TE2 in 2017; remember him for 2018 and beyond.
23) TE Evan Engram, New York Giants
Engram has been rising of late and presents the tools to start, in time. The Giants haven’t shown much interest in utilizing tight ends under Ben McAdoo, but it’s not like the position has been brimming with talent, either. None of them are in the mold of Engram, whose best NFL comparison is Washington’s Jordan Reed. The Giants sport plenty of targets, which could lead to a depressed role in Engram’s rookie year.
As discussed above with Howard, tight ends are not typically fantasy contributors as rookies. Engram may chip in a few touchdowns in 2017. Predicting them figures to be a crapshoot. His long-term future is much more favorable.
29) TE David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
The university known for pumping out elite tight ends has another feather in its cap of NFL talents. Miami’s Njoku stands 6-4, 246 pounds and is a fine combination of all things needed to develop into a stud. The Browns have overachieving tight end Gary Barnidge and a plethora of young wide receivers, but Njoku has star potential the others don’t offer. That is a polite way of saying he is raw.
Given Cleveland’s woes, Njoku could be thrust into the spotlight early in his career. In time, he should grow into an all-around tight end. For now, though, his best asset will be his athleticism. Njoku is a fringe consideration for depth in fantasy this draft season, but the long view of his career is brilliant.
Update: After print, Barnidge was released. This paves the way for Njoku to see extensive attention in the passing game. He’s still a fringe TE2 in 2017, however.