There’s no question that the talk of this year’s draft surrounded the top quarterbacks available, and what we saw on draft day confirmed all the chatter in the days and weeks leading up to it. There were five quarterbacks taken among the first 32 picks, which was the highest such total in 19 years.
But while there are plenty of reasons to believe Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson can all have successful NFL careers, more often than not, rookie quarterbacks simply don’t produce the statistical and point totals in fantasy football that would justify being taken in most redraft leagues. In dynasty or keeper-based leagues, however, that’s certainly not the case, as many of them could be entrenched as their team’s starter by the end of the year (if not much sooner).
The real intrigue, however, will almost certainly be focused on the running back position. We saw four different rookie running backs finish among the top 15 at their position in 2017 (in PPR/half-PPR leagues), and it wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprising to have just as many finish among the top players at their position this year. Obviously, it all starts with running back Saquon Barkey of the New York Giants, the second overall pick in this year’s draft. With Barkley’s combination of size and speed (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds despite weighing 231lbs), and his ability to catch passes both out of the backfield and when lined up in the slot, he’ll be an extremely valuable fantasy asset (especially in PPR/half-PPR leagues).
But Barkley is simply the headliner of this group, given that there were seven other running backs taken among the top 100 picks. The Seattle Seahawks surprised a lot of people when they took Rashad Penny from San Diego State late in the first round, but they envision him as something along the lines of another Marshawn Lynch. The New England Patriots took Sony Michel from the University of Georgia at #31 overall; the smooth-running Michel is another dual-threat weapon who was among the most dangerous weapons on offense for the Bulldogs last year. Nick Chubb (selected by Cleveland) and Ronald Jones II (selected by Tampa Bay) will immediately compete for carries, and possibly win the starting job with their respective teams by the end of the season. Kerryon Johnson (selected by Detroit) and Derrius Guice (selected by Washington) could very well be this year’s Kareem Hunt: guys taken later on among their position group, but win the starting job at the end of training camp, and end up with the most production among their class by the end of their first season.
At wide receiver, there wasn’t really a true “blue chip” player among this year’s group, and none of the wide receivers drafted this year will be forced to come in and be “the man” for their respective teams. D.J. Moore (selected by Carolina) and Calvin Ridley (selected by Atlanta) were the only receivers taken in the first round, and will have guys who dominate their quarterbacks targets ahead of them. Similar to last year, the top wide receiver by year’s end might be one of the guys taken in the second round.
Christian Kirk could win one of the starting wide receiver jobs in Arizona, catching passes opposite of Larry Fitzgerald. Courtland Sutton of the Denver Broncos, the first receiver taken in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft, will also be given every opportunity to unseat incumbents Demaryius Thomas and/or Emmanuel Sanders. James Washington of the Pittsburgh Steelers was one of the most explosive deep threats in this year’s class, and will fill that same role in Pittsburgh’s offense as the replacement for the departed Martavis Bryant.