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Day 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft is in the books and Fantasy owners now have a feel for how some of their favorite teams in real football stack up headed into this season. But the real question is, how does each drafted offensive skill player improve that dynamics of their new team? Over the next two months, I’ll be doing the research for all 32 teams, so I’ll just make a quick run through some observations from the player drafted in the first round.
First, can Eli Manning be a top five QB drafted in 2017? He has one of the most impactful WRs in the game with Odell Beckham. Sterling Sheppard will only get better while lining up in the slot. Just to keep defense’s honest, New York added Brandon Marshall. This is very exciting to me.
Now with the 23rd pick in the first round, the Giants added TE Evan Engram. He’ll offer electric speed (4.42 40-yard dash and quickness for his size (6’3” and 234 lbs.) creating mismatches downfield. His weakness will come in his blocking ability until he gets stronger and he needs to prove he can handle working the short areas of the field. Last year Eli completed 79 of 112 passes for 609 yards and two TDs to the tight end position. Overall, Engram will add more value to the QB than drive his value at the TE position in the Fantasy market as he will still be the fourth or fifth option in the passing game.
From a winning perspective and overall dynamics added to the offense, the Houston Texans must be ecstatic with the selection of QB DeShaun Watson. He instantly upgrades the WR DeAndre Hopkins while adding another dimension to the offense with his ability to run. I don’t see any way Tom Savage beats him out for the starting job. Savage has a nice arm, but he is slow footed. His lack of mobility can’t extend the passing window, which is needed with Houston’s explosive WRs on the outside. Watson comes from a winning program, and he’s played in high-pressure games.
The power rushing offense will be in full effort for the Jacksonville Jaguars this year with RB Leonard Fournette added. The Jaguars have talent on defense, and they would love to play a ball control offense to keep the opposing offense off the field. The strength of Fournette as a runner will lead to defenses moving their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage creating a better deep window for both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Jacksonville will be much better running the ball inside the ten-yard line. In 2016, their RBs only scored five rushing TDs. The Jaguars must improve the talent on their offensive line as well.
Last season Marcus Mariota made a nice step forward in TD production mid-season (25 over nine games) despite having below league average talent at WR. The Titans have a great foundation at running back, and they tried to add an impact wide receiver with Corey Davis with the first overall pick. Over four seasons at Western Michigan, Corey caught 331 passes for 5278 yards and 52 TDs highlighted by his senior season (97/1500/19). Davis is solid route runner with enough strength with his hands to make an impact in his first season in the NFL. Corey did suffer an ankle injury in late January leading to him missing the NFL Combine.
Last season the Panthers completed only 44 passes for 369 yards and a TD on 69 targets to the RB position. This opportunity will go up dramatically with RB Christian McCaffrey added to the backfield. His best season came in his junior year at Stanford when gained 2664 combined yards with 45 catches and 13 TDs. McCaffrey did miss multiple games in 2016 leading to a step back in production (1913 combined yards with 16 TDs and 37 catches). His game was less explosive at pass catcher last year (8.4 yards per catch – 14.3 in 2015). Christian’s upside on early downs may be limited in his rookie season with Jonathan Stewart still on the roster, and Cam Newton will steal many rushing TDs. Overall, he will make the Panther’s offense more explosive from the running back position.
Just like Eli Manning, Jameis Winston will be much more attractive as a Fantasy QB in 2017. Tampa added WR DeSean Jackson in the offseason plus TE O.J. Howard with the 19th pick in the first round of the 2017 draft. His resume at Alabama isn’t elite (114/1726/7) even with him playing 46 career games, but it’s more of a product of the system. He’ll add speed to the TE position for Tampa. I expect him to blossom in the Pro game, but Howard needs to improve as a blocker while showing more grittiness at the point of attack. His path to playing time isn’t clear with Cameron Brate coming off a nice season (57/660/8). O.J. will improve the value of Winston with his game possibly having the most value in the second half of 2017.