Apr 23, 2010
Here’s a quick look at the risers and fallers based the entire draft. This list will be expanded and updated early in the week this week.
Tony Romo (Dal) – The Cowboys are 100% committed to Romo as their guy for the long haul, and if there was any doubt about that fact, the drafting of Dez Bryant (who grew up at Cowboy fan) pretty much seals the deal. This is now officially an embarrassment of riches for Romo in terms of dynamic and dominant skill players, so Romo’s looking damn good for fantasy this year. Even if Bryant’s contributions this year are minimal, he at some point is going to chip in here – and he could certainly emerge as a serious force later in the season. Romo’s certainly not afraid to pull the trigger, and Dallas should be particularly deadly in the red zone, given the size and physicality of Bryant, Miles Austin, and Roy Williams, not to mention the incredibly savvy TE Jason Witten. Romo’s a player whose fantasy production has been more impressive than his play on the field, but he’s certainly been a pretty dynamic player for the Cowboys. And at this point, given all these weapons, his imperfections as an NFL signal caller may not even matter for fantasy purposes; the guy can clearly put up big numbers despite them, and his supporting cast at the skill positions is incredibly good. The one issue that could cause him to fail to reach (admittedly very high) expectations is their OL. It’s an aging group, and it’s deteriorating. First and foremost, Romo needs for Doug Free (or someone else) to effectively replace the released Flozell Adams. But there’s no doubt Romo’s looking better after the draft’s first round.
Aaron Rodgers (GB) – The only concern we had with Rodgers last year was his protection. It got downright scary at times in 2009, but things are really looking up here. Not only will the Packers have veteran tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher back and presumably healthy, but they were incredibly fortunate that LT Bryan Bulaga (who just looks like a Packer) was still on the board. Given this pick, their problems protecting on the edges may be over, and Bulaga can protect Rodgers’ blindside for years to come, so it’s good news for his keeper value.
Carson Palmer (Cin) – There was clearly a need at TE, but we weren’t sure the Bengals would pull the trigger on Jermaine Gresham because they had a guy in Chase Coffman, who despite his struggles in 2009, is still a very interesting receiving prospect. But Cincy did pull that trigger, and you have to believe they did so with confidence and plan to play him a fair amount this year, if not a lot. Gresham might be a little raw, but his package of athleticism, size, and speed, along with his competitiveness and work ethic, should give the Bengal offense a boost. The position hasn’t been a factor here for years, so they now have more of a complete offense. Given this addition and the free agent acquisition of WR Antonio Bryant – along with impressive slot receiver Jordan Shipley drafted in the 3rd round – Palmer clearly has the weapons he needs to put up good numbers. It’s now more so simply a question of whether or not Palmer is healthy and effective enough to take advantage of his new toys. If he can somehow regain his elite form, Palmer could be one of the best values at the QB position in 2010 given all these upgrades.
Joe Flacco (Bal) – We’re going to give GM Ozzie Newsome the benefit of the doubt because there appeared to be a couple other TEs who had more upside potential as receiving threats, but the Ravens did get two TEs (Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta), and both of them are move types who are much more athletic than they are physical. Newsome has a good track record in the draft, and he is, of course, one of the best TEs in league history, so he knows what he’s doing. If these players pan out (or even if one of them does), they should finally get that vertical threat at the position they need. And if they do, then we’re looking at a complete offense with a legit #1 in Anquan Boldin, possession receivers, some speed, and a good backfield. If one of these TEs pans out, then this offense is pretty loaded.
Donovan McNabb (Phi) – Not a huge upgrade, but the guy desperately needed a LT, and he got one in Trent Williams. Williams is very athletic, and he’s a good fit for Mike Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme, so he should start from Day One and give a significant boost to an OL that was simply atrocious in 2009.
Josh Freeman (TB) – It looks like the Bucs finally got a legit wideout in Arrelious Benn, who is a bigger receiver with good physicality and strength, along with deceptive speed and elusiveness. He’s a powerful possession receiver who’ll go over the middle, and he should be an attractive target for Freeman, who needs a lot of help at receiver. Benn needs to be coached up a little bit and become more polished, but he should contribute immediately, given this horrendous receiving corps in Tampa. They also added Mike Williams, a big and physical receiver with solid hands and athleticism who has the tools to develop into a quality player if he proves his off-the-field transgressions are in the past.
Vince Young (Ten) – A very slight upgrade, but Young’s receiving corps did get better with the 2nd-round addition of Damian Williams, who looks like a nice future #2 here. He may not play over Nate Washington too much in 2010, but the Titans have clearly given Young some toys in the passing game the last two years. Now he has to show he can take advantage of all of them.
Frank Gore (SF) – Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye wants to run the ball, and Gore’s blocking should get a boost in the form of Mike Iupati, the best G in the draft. The 49ers also added LT Anthony Smith in the 1st round, so their OL should be in pretty good shape. With Smith solidifying their protection, QB Alex Smith will be in a better position to take advantage of his solid receiving corps, which will have a residual affect on Gore. They also added one of the best blocking TEs in the draft in Nate Byham. In short, there’s great interest in running the crap out of him, and the team went out and improved themselves up front, which has to help Gore.
LenDale White (Sea) – While we’ll forever be concerned with how White really fell out of favor in Tennessee (his lack of time wasn’t all about Chris Johnson in 2009), you have to move White way up your draft board after his move to Seattle. It’s not a great spot overall, but the Seahawks did help themselves up front with #1 pick LT Russell Okung – and more important, White moves to a team coached by Pete Carroll, his old college coach at USC. Despite the presence of smaller and more dynamic backs Leon Washington (who’s no lock to be 100% early in the season) and Justin Forsett, Carroll will look to pound the ball plenty with White, so he’ll have definite fantasy value in 2010. They do still have Julius Jones on the roster, but White’s the perfect guy to pound inside to protect your shaky passing game and help move the chains.
Steven Jackson (Stl) – We’ll see if QB Sam Bradford starts much in 2010, but the Ram QB situation certainly got better when they brought him into the fold. More importantly for the short-term, the Rams took further steps to improve their blocking up front. They selected T/G Rodger Saffold with the 33rd pick, which was a good one, and got the best blocking TE in the draft in Michael Hoomanawanui, which will help. They also didn’t draft a back who has a legit chance to take some touches away from Jackson. So Jackson will continue to be a major workhorse for the Rams and will be running behind a continually upgraded OL.
None of note.
Zach Miller (Oak) – He’s somehow managed to be productive (122 catches last two years) in a horrendous offense, one that’s been stifled by terrible QB play. Now, with Jason Campbell added, Miller finally has a legit NFL starter. Campbell’s not perfect, but he’s a big upgrade over JaMarcus Russell. Campbell should be able to easily win the job over Bruce Gradkowski, and his track record of getting the ball to TE Chris Cooley in Washington is pretty good. Things are looking up for Miller, who might actually now get recognized as one of the better TEs in the league, which he is.
Kyle Orton (Den) – The word “stopgap” comes to mind when you think of Orton now that QB Tim Tebow is on the roster. However, given Tebow’s lofty draft status and the obvious love affair head coach Josh McDaniels has with him, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Tebow on the field in some packages this year at QB, especially near the red zone. That alone could make Orton totally worthless, so he’s going to be someone to completely avoid in 2010. On the positive side, Orton reportedly bowled a 268 on draft night (4/22). Nice.
Matt Moore (Car) – Not that you were going to be all over Moore in fantasy drafts this year, but his stock does drop due to the addition of Jimmy Clausen. Moore’s been in the system for a few years, but Clausen is NFL-ready, and the team was very high on him, so if Moore doesn’t perform and the team is losing, a switch to Clausen later in the season can’t be ruled out. Keep in mind the Panther system is very similar to Charlie Weiss’ at Notre Dame, so Clausen should be able to pick things up quickly. Clausen will immediately be slotted as the #2 QB, and he’s clearly their guy for the future, so Moore’s going to have to play at a pretty high level to stave him off all season. The team also drafted QB Tony Pike, who some projected as a 3rd-round pick, so the draft weekend wasn’t exactly an endorsement for Moore.
JaMarcus Russell (Oak) – He’s scheduled to make $9.5 million this year, so unless he’s willing to take a major pay cut, he’ll likely be released. It’s going to be very interesting to see if he garners any interest. Russell’s already really close to being considered one of the biggest draft busts in the history of mankind.
Jerome Harrison/James Davis/Chris Jennings (Cle) – We’ve always spoken highly about Harrison going back to the Romeo Crennel era, yet we were still shocked to see Harrison handle such a massive workload and run so well inside in 2009 because we always viewed him as more of a complementary changeup/3rd -down back due to his lack of ideal size. Well, the new regime in Cleveland led by Mike Holmgren must feel the same way because the drafting of Montario Hardesty suggests Holmgren doesn’t feel confident Harrison can handle the full workload. Hardesty has great size and is a banger, a downhill runner. In Cleveland, where there are weather issues later in the year, the Browns should lean on Hardesty at some point. In fact, there are some, including our own Greg Cosell, who believe Hardesty has the potential to be a very productive lead back, or at least a 1st – and 2nd-down back. Durability is an issue, but his addition is not good news for Harrison, who might eventually be pushed into that complementary role he seems best suited for. As for James Davis, he might be out of luck (keep in mind the new regime didn’t draft him), and Chris Jennings may not make the team.
Marshawn Lynch (Buf) – New GM Buddy Nix said after the draft that nothing changed with Lynch after they surprisingly drafted Clemson’s C.J. Spiller – so we have to assume they wanted to discard Lynch well before the draft. There’s no getting around the fact that Lynch has been a disappointment in Buffalo on and off the field, and with the solid Fred Jackson obviously in the mix and more effective, Lynch’s time in Buffalo may be over. The team swears no trade is imminent, but we still think it should happen. Perhaps Lynch can move on to a team that is actually a good fit for him, but for now, his stock has dropped even further.
Fred Jackson (Buf) – While Lynch’s stock (at least in Buffalo) plummets with the drafting of C.J. Spiller, Jackson’s takes a hit as well. Spiller’s not considered a great blocker, and he needs a little more polish in the passing game, but he’s extremely dangerous as a receiver, so he should take away from the versatile Jackson in the passing game. Spiller can play in the slot or split wide and run vertical routes, so he’s going to be utilized as a receiver, and at Jackson’s expense, most likely. The good news for Jackson is that the veteran is a methodical runner who does a solid job running inside, so he should get a healthy number of touches still, despite the addition of Spiller. But clearly, the Bills ignored a ton of other needs for what can be considered a luxury pick in Spiller for a reason: They desperately need someone who can create some excitement and big plays, so the rookie will play a lot right away.
Kevin Smith/Maurice Morris (RBs, Det) – While rookie Jahvid Best won’t be a lead guy, he’s clearly going to play, perhaps more than some expect, considering the Lions moved back up into the 1st round to take him. Smith may not even be ready for Week One, so we might see Morris playing a substantial role initially. But once Smith is able to play, Best should take away from Morris more because Best is a solid receiver with a lot of upside in the passing game. It will be interesting to see how Best does in terms of his blocking and pass pro because if he picks things up quickly, that will give the team even more reason to play him. Bottom line, though, Best is an explosive game breaker, and he’s going to take away from anyone else involved in this backfield.
Arian Foster/Ryan Moats (Hou) – It was only a matter of time until the Texans finally drafted a bigger back with some pedigree, and they did with Ben Tate, who may be one of the 3-4 best RBs in this draft class. Tate has the size they need and fits in very well with their one-cut and go running scheme (he played in a zone blocking scheme in college), yet he also has surprising speed for a bigger back. Foster and Ryan Moats are hosed here because it will be Tate and Steve Slaton all the way for Houston.
Roy Williams (Dal) – It certainly appears as if Williams will remain on the team, but now that Dallas has stud talent Dez Bryant, Williams will have to earn every snap. It’s questionable if he can. In addition to being a generally erratic player, Williams doesn’t seem to be a good fit for Dallas’ offense in terms of the routes they run, and he’s never exhibited much chemistry with QB Tony Romo. He will definitely help their offense in 2010, but Bryant’s playing time should steadily increase as the season progresses. And by the second half of the season, he could be starting over Williams. Long-term, it looks like Williams needs to move on to another team if he’s to have serious fantasy relevance again.
Miles Austin (Dal) – Austin’s a star on the rise, and he’s not going anywhere, but the drafting of Dez Bryant was also revealing for Austin. For one, it’s a reminder of how Austin is still a little unproven, and the Cowboys have been burned in the past by locking up young players with big contracts a little prematurely. And while you never know what they were thinking when they took Bryant, it’s fair to argue that the team views Bryant as a better #1 WR prospect than Austin. If Bryant stays out of trouble and works as hard as he should, he can be a high-end receiver for years to come. With a great combination of size, strength, and athleticism, he has the tools to be a dominant #1 NFL receiver. Austin is certainly no slouch, and, in fact, he’s very, very good, but he may not be getting that huge contract he’s looking for this off-season, and long-term he might settle in as their #2 WR (but what a #2 he’d be). The good news is that Bryant hasn’t played real football since September, and he, of course, is just a rookie, so while Austin’s stock drops a little for 2010, he’s still someone you should seriously consider as a #1 fantasy WR this year.
Muhsin Muhammad (Car) – He wasn’t expected to be re-signed this off-season, and now he most definitely won’t be, as the team invested a #2 pick in Brandon LaFell, who projects well as a physical possession guy and a #2. Muhammad’s almost old enough to be LaFell’s dad. The team also drafted Armanti Edwards (college QB projected to play WR) and David Gettis.
Andre Caldwell (Cin) – Not only did the signing of veteran Antonio Bryant mean Caldwell had no chance to start in 2010, but the drafting of impressive slot receiver Jordan Shipley also means Caldwell might not even be their #3 this year. They also added a solid prospect in Dezmon Briscoe, so Caldwell might be out of luck here.
Todd Heap (Bal) – His “starting” job should be secure unless he’s surprisingly released (haven’t seen his contract details), but you have to believe one or both of the rookie TEs, who both have vertical playmaking ability, will see the field and chip away at Heap’s already nominal fantasy potential. He’s not worth drafting this year, most likely.
Alex Smith (SF) – Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye believes in running the ball, and he will get helped by drafting the best guard in the draft in Mike Iupati, which helps Smith and the offense overall. But the 49ers also got a bookend tackle for Smith’s blindside in the 1st round in Anthony Davis. With what should be a solidified OL and a nice collection of skill players, Smith’s in a pretty good spot now, so there are no more excuses. His stock is holding steady or better simply because the team did not draft QB Jimmy Clausen in the 1st round – and it’s certainly an endorsement of Smith that they didn’t address the position in the draft at all.
Ryan Grant (GB) – The Packers did not draft a complementary back of note, so there shouldn’t be anyone on the roster who is a threat to Grant’s playing time other than Brandon Jackson, who’s been a disappointment. Once again, Grant’s the guy. He’s certainly not a sexy pick, but the guy was 10th in total fantasy points for 2009 at the RB position. The Packers did draft the speedy James Starks 193rd overall, but he’s probably not a threat in 2010.
LeSean McCoy (Phi) – Not that they were really expected to, but the Eagles didn’t invest a higher pick on a RB, which is a decent endorsement for McCoy. Philly did add a bigger back in Charles Scott, but with Mike Bell here, Scott won’t likely play much, so McCoy’s substantial role in the offense should be secure for 2010.
Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw (RBs, NYG) – The Giants didn’t get a crack at C.J. Spiller, and there was no back taken at all, so it appears to be status quo for one more year in the Giant backfield. Jacobs said he would have been offended if they drafted Spiller, but his drop-off in play in 2009 would have justified a fairly early selection of a bigger back. It didn’t happen, so these guys should have their values stabilized for another year.
LaDainian Tomlinson (RB, NY) – The team traded away RB Leon Washington, which helps, but they also drafted Joe McKnight out of USC, who projects as a nice little complement to Shonn Greene. The good news for LT is that, while McKnight has good hands and a lot of potential as a receiver, his pass blocking is considered a problem, and he has ball security issues. So maybe LT’s role as an active #2 RB and likely 3rd-down back will be pretty solid in 2010.
Mike Sims-Walker (Jac) – They passed on WR Dez Bryant, and with Denver taking Demaryius Thomas, not only did Jacksonville opt not to draft a wideout who’s a legit threat to Sims-Walker’s #1 spot and role, but they also didn’t even address the position in the draft. So he’s good-to-go as the top dog in 2010. This is also decent news for Mike Thomas, who has a chance to start.
Michael Jenkins (Atl) – For what it’s worth, the Falcons didn’t draft a wideout of note other than Kerry Meier, who might be a sleeper down the road (former college WR), so it looks like Jenkins’ #2 job is secure for now.
Mike Wallace (Pit) – The team did not use an early pick on a wideout, which is probably an endorsement of Wallace as a starter on the outside. They did select the speedy Emmanuel Sanders in the 3rd, but he projects best as a slot receiver right now, which could be another sign they are comfortable with Wallace on the outside.
Owen Daniels (Hou) – Daniels’ recovery is reportedly going well, and while the Texans are simply adding players at his position as insurance for this year, it’s not exactly a great sign that the team selected two prospects who are receiving types in Garrett Graham and Dorin Dickerson. Both are athletic H-back or move guys.
Matt Leinart (QB, Ari) – Former Fordham QB John Skelton isn’t ready to start, so Leinart still really needs to play well to stave off only Derek Anderson in 2010. But it’s worth noting, for the long-term, that the current staff didn’t draft Leinart, so if he struggles, Skelton could get a chance in 1-2 years. Skelton is superior physically to Leinart.
Jamaal Charles (RB, KC) – This is going to take a little while to figure out because, while the Chiefs indicated they will use Dexter McCluster as a WR, most likely in the slot, he’s not considered a polished and brilliant receiver. Yet, he clearly has a lot to offer in the passing game and, in fact, showed a lot in that regard at the Senior Bowl, where he was arguably the most impressive player at his position. As a runner, he has skills that translate very well to the NFL; he can glide, stop and start extremely well, and he’s really explosive laterally, so we find it hard to believe that he won’t see time in their backfield, perhaps in the Wildcat at times (he did some of that in college). He’ll also be utilized in the return game, where he offers exciting potential. In short, he’ll be used all over the place. So while it’s premature to downgrade Charles, you have to think this hurts him a little bit, since Charles is also a dynamic player who can do some good things in the passing game. McCluster is just 5’ 8” and 165 pounds, so the Chiefs certainly won’t be overexposing him in any one area.
Rashard Mendenhall (RB, Pit) – He’s probably fine here, but if Jonathan Dwyer picks things up quickly and Mendenhall slips up in any way (and he could possibly in a few different ways), Dwyer could potentially give the team the physical inside running they are looking for. He does lack experience running in a pro-style system and outside the tackles, and his experience as a blocker and pass-catcher is limited. But he does have an interesting combination of size and speed for a big man. The Steelers want to and need to run the ball more in 2010, and with their first pick in Round One, they took the best C in the draft in Maurkice Pouncey. He’s also versatile enough to play G, so he should play a lot right away and given their shaky OL a boost. That pickup does help Mendenhall.
John Carlson (TE, Sea) – You have to be concerned a little about Carlson because Pete Carroll drafted TE Anthony McCoy, who he coached at USC. McCoy has solid size and is built well, but he’s also pretty fluid and athletic. His hands are considered good, and he’s tough and competitive catching the ball. He gives effort blocking and blocks with great fundamentals and is coming off a terrific senior season and has some upside.
Brad Cottam (TE, KC) – Cottam came on a tiny bit the tail end of the 2009 season, and he was presumably in line to seriously challenge for a ton of playing time. He still might, but the drafting of the underrated Tony Moeaki, who is a good blocker and a pretty solid receiver, gives him legit competition.