NFL Draft Rounds 2-3 Fantasy Football Winners and Losers: Setting Realistic Expectations

NFL Draft Rounds 2-3 Fantasy Football Winners and Losers: Setting Realistic Expectations

The NFL Draft is a challenging exercise and one of those Nobody Knows Anything events. We all accept that. But it’s also time to accept that NFL teams are getting smarter with their imperfect guesses.

The shape of the 2024 Draft, with three rounds in the books, clearly reflects that.

My assignment here is to wrap Rounds 2-3 for fantasy football winners and losers, and we’ll serve that to you in a minute. But the first thing we need to do is set your expectations in a reasonable pocket. The home run picks, the high-upside picks, they’re mostly gone. They went in the first round. Thursday’s first pass was overwhelmed by offense (mostly with passing offense), and that’s symbolic of how much smarter NFL teams are today. Offense has more year-over-year continuity, and passing pieces are obviously more critical than running pieces.

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It was just five years ago when several WR superstars were found in the second round: Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf. And Diontae Johnson and Terry McLaurin, two more hits, were called in the third round. But that was also a draft where receivers were ignored until Pick 25 (Marquise Brown). The league had a different focus then, and in most cases, it was a broken focus.

Today, we deal with the market correction.

This is my roundabout way of hammering home that we need to be reasonable with the fantasy expectations from Friday’s NFL Draft haul. Some of these players will pop, and some will become reliable fantasy contributors, sure. But if you think there’s a Deebo Samuel or A.J. Brown hiding in the bushes, I think you’re fooling yourself. Alas, maybe this will look silly in a few years, like so many instant analysis articles do. Nobody was writing a sonnet about Puka Nacua 12 months ago.

Onto the Winners and Losers

I can’t use the word “ecosystem” because Matt Harmon trademarked it about three years ago. That belongs to him. But it’s encouraging to see so many of the second-round receivers landing with teams where they can be somewhat relevant quickly.

Keon Coleman was the first pick of Day 2, heading to a Buffalo offense that needs to distribute Stefon Diggs’s departed targets. There’s plenty of competition for the ball in Buffalo: Khalil Shakir, Dalton Kincaid, Curtis Samuel. Secondary tight end Dawson Knox isn’t going to disappear. But Coleman’s boundary and playmaking skills could make him a rookie who pops, though his critics are going to constantly harp on his 4.61 40-time at the combine.

I’m thinking Coleman’s size (6-foot-3, 213 pounds) and catch radius make him important at some point in 2024. No, he won’t be an opening-day fantasy starter, but none of the receivers we discuss today will check that box.

A lot of pundits like Georgia’s Ladd McConkey, who went with the second pick of the second round. McConkey’s a tight-space technician who could quickly become the preferred Justin Herbert target on third downs. There’s very little competition for the ball in this LAC receiver room, wth Keenan Allen and Mike Williams departed. That said, new coach Jim Harbaugh and new OC Greg Roman probably want to play bully ball in the AFC West, which means they’re going to pound the rock as much as humanly possible. McConkey has a decent chance to get on base as a rookie, but I doubt he can be a home run.

Texas speed merchant Adonai Mitchell felt disrespected on Friday, as his name wasn’t called until Pick 52. But Mitchell should feel fortunate that he landed in a good spot, getting to work with a brilliant play caller in Shane Steichen and an ascending quarterback in Anthony Richardson. The Colts could be a fantasy carnival as soon as 2024, running up and down the indoor turf and putting up pinball stats. Alas, there’s plenty of competition for the ball here — top receiver Michael Pittman is a star, secondary target Josh Downs is a good player, Jonathan Taylor is a touch gobbler in the backfield, and Richardson will run in some touchdowns, too. Bottom line, Mitchell’s speed should be put to good use here. Even if he’s not immediately fantasy relevant, he should be fun.

The bell cow is just about dead in the NFL these days, but we appreciate the rare cases when they appear. Williams was one of those unicorn league-winners last year, an under-appreciated fantasy pick who quickly shoved everyone else out of the way in the Rams backfield.

Good luck shoving Blake Corum out of the way this year. Corum landed with the Rams on Friday, the 83rd overall pick. This room got a lot more crowded.

Williams still projects as the starter and he’s more versatile than Corum — and as a veteran, obviously more proven. But this could easily set up as a thunder-and-lightning situation, with both players having games where they get double-digit touches. Williams still merits consideration as a possible first-rounder for fantasy, and he won’t slip any further than the early-second round. But if you already had Williams stock in your portfolio, Corum was not the name you wanted to hear selected.

The Steelers have a brilliant track record with picking receivers outside the first round, and at 84th overall Wilson dropped further than expected. That said, the Steelers have an unsettled quarterback room, and we watched OC Arthur Smith make a mess of a talented offense in Atlanta. I expect the Steelers to make a profit out of this value pick, even if it doesn’t happen right away. Maybe it feels like a copout, but Wilson is a yes for dynasty drafters, and a no for season-long players.

The Patriots are a little like the anti-Steelers when it comes to drafting wideouts; their resume has been a mess for years. (Mention N’Keal Harry to me at your own risk). Polk faces little competition for playing time in New England — the Patriots probably had the worst wideout room on paper entering this week — but the quarterback play could be rocky most of the year, with journeyman Jacoby Brissett a possible placeholder until rookie QB Drake Maye is ready. Polk has below-average speed and generally wins with his hands and technical chops, which probably makes him a reasonable floor pick for the long term. But he doesn’t offer a lot of immediate fantasy upside.

The NFL called 100 names in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft, and only four of them were running backs. Four! It took a while for the league to shrewdly figure out how to value running backs at the draft and in the negotiating room, but the cold reality days are here. So many collegiate running backs are still sitting on a couch, cell phone in hand. I wouldn’t wish that anxiety on anyone.

As for the backs who did get selected, well, it’s a mixed bag. There are no automatic wins here.

Jonathan Brooks was the first back called, Pick 46 to the Panthers. At full health, Brooks would have a good chance at winning Carolina’s starting spot — Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders are ordinary players. But Brooks tore his ACL last November and might not be ready to make a major contribution this year; at best, he’s a wait-and-see fantasy pick. And we can’t ignore Carolina was the NFL’s worst team by a mile in 2023; this is not a quick-fix situation. I will not be ranking Brooks proactively on my seasonal boards.

The Cardinals should be a young and fun offense for 2024, and Trey Benson fits that theme. James Conner, who feels like he broke in with the leather helmet NFL, is still at the top of the depth chart, but Florida State’s Benson will push for instant work. Benson has some medical red ink on his file, suffering a torn ACL In 2020. Benson didn’t look bad when the Seminoles asked him to catch passes, but they didn’t ask very often (33 career catches). His ability as a pass blocker will determine how many NFL downs he can realistically own as a pro.

Corum’s quickest path to fantasy relevance could come at the goal; he’s a physical and decisive runner who totaled 61 touchdowns (58 rushing) at Michigan. Teams are generally coy with goal-line plans and usage, so we’ll have to speculate on touchdown projections until we get some real action to navigate. If nothing else, Corum is an interesting insurance pick for Williams managers, or a high-upside lottery ticket for the managers who don’t roster Williams. Anyone with draft capital in a Sean McVay offense, we’re curious about.

MarShawn Lloyd (Pick 88) looks like a long-term play for Green Bay, which just handed its backfield keys to Josh Jacobs. Lloyd had a major fumbling issue in college, but he has an ideal NFL body for the position (5-foot-9, 220 pounds) and is capable of breakaway runs. Lloyd’s long-term upside is more interesting than his short-term relevance.

2024-04-27 05:04:19
#NFL #Draft #Fantasy #football #winners #losers #Rounds

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