Now that the 2016 NFL Draft is in the books, we can transition from pre-draft conjecture to some actionable takeaways about how this batch of rookies will affect the fantasy football landscape in 2016.
With so much yet to be determined regarding this draft class – camp battles, injuries, etc. – rapid reaction pieces can be tricky. What we can glean almost immediately however, is how teams feel about their respective depth at each position.
It may be the only time during the NFL calendar year in which we can truly trust what teams tell us, so let’s take advantage.
The Ravens waited until the fourth round to take their first skill-position player, wide receiver Chris Moore. Before the draft, Jon Moore alerted us to Moore’s potential to be a big-play threat in the mold of Martavis Bryant. Pairing with Joe Flacco certainly sets him up to do so. The current WR depth chart in Baltimore is crowded, but Moore eventually ascending is certainly not out of the question.
Taking Kenneth Dixon at pick 134 seems like a very nice fit for offensive coordinator Marc Trestman’s scheme. Pass-catching running backs have thrived in Trestman’s system and Dixon was one of the best in that area in this class.
A rather uninspiring cast of Justin Forsett, Javorius Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Trent Richardson and Terrance West comprise Dixon’s competition for touches, but opportunity still exists for Dixon who is a similar athlete to Allen with slightly better senior-year production:
And finally, Keenan Reynolds, who holds the NCAA record for career rushing touchdowns, was also added in round six. As an option quarterback in college, it’s difficult to know how he can perform as an RB in the NFL, making his fantasy prospects difficult to assess.
The Bengals took just two skill position players with their seven selections, both of which were WRs.
Despite being a pedestrian athlete, Tyler Boyd landed in one of the best spots for early opportunity for WRs and ranked third among all 2016 WR prospects in Jon Moore’s Phenom Index. Boyd could easily overtake Brandon Lafell as the WR2 behind A.J. Green during the 2016 season making his current WR7 rookie ADP appear to be an accurate evaluation.
Cody Core joins Boyd in the WR ranks in Cincinnati, bringing with him elite speed relative to this draft class. Given his draft position and lack of substantial collegiate production however, I wouldn’t bank on Core breaking into fantasy relevance in the immediate future.
After the Browns hired Paul DePodesta, I fully expected this draft class to be an exciting one, and I was not disappointed.
Starting off with Corey Coleman at pick 15, the Browns addressed a major need as they move forward with the assumption that Josh Gordon will not be on the field in 2016. Comparisons to Odell Beckham are warranted, and the path to a large target share early on in his career is clear.
The Browns went on to add three more WRs during the draft but Coleman stands alone as the one most likely to make an immediate fantasy impact.
In rounds four and five, Cleveland added three more WRs, each with their own upshots:
- Ricardo Lewis is a fantastic athlete who is currently going un-drafted in rookie drafts.
- Despite testing below-average in agility drills at the combine, Jordan Payton has a few intriguing NFL comps.
- And Rashard Higgins, who I profiled back in February, tested near the bottom of every athletic metric but was a stud producer in college.
It all lines up for a fierce camp battle this summer at the WR position, with potential value to be had for fantasy purposes depending on which later-round rookies end up sticking.
I wanted to mention Cody Kessler here as well, not so much because I think he should be on anyone’s fantasy radar at the moment, but because the Browns spent a third-round pick on him and the Browns’ quarterback situation is anything but settled.
It was clear going into this draft that the Steelers were going to address their defense, and they ended up doing just that.
It wasn’t until pick 229 that Pittsburgh took DeMarcus Ayers, WR from Houston, to address the need for a kick returner after the departure of Brandon Boykin this off-season.
Ayers amassed over 1,600 yards in kick returns during his freshman and sophomore seasons, and added in a 97/1221/6 line after shifting full-time to WR in 2015. While that collegiate production is certainly impressive, Ayers’s combine performance was superbly awful.
For fantasy purposes, not much has changed in Pittsburgh following the draft. You’ll have to pay a steep price to get them, but it’s Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger and to a certain extent, DeAngelo Williams.