Now that the 2017 NFL draft has come and gone, it is time to focus on the upcoming 2017 season. With 11 offensive skill players selected in the first round, most of them are expected to have a major impact at some point this coming season. A lot of things will change by the time the season starts, but below I give an early outlook for each first round pick.
QB Mitch Trubisky (Chicago Bears): Selected number two overall, the Bears clearly see him as the future franchise quarterback. However, with Mike Glennon signed in the offseason, Trubisky is going to sit and watch for a while. If the Bears’ season turns ugly quick, Trubisky likely will get on the field, but with the lack of experience and lack of weapons around him, you can find plenty of better options in weekly and daily leagues. In dynasty leagues, Trubisky is worth a pick later on as the Bears didn’t waste the draft currency to get him only not to give him a shot at some point.
RB Leonard Fournette (Jacksonville Jaguars): As a top five pick, Fournette signals a change in the Jaguars’ offensive game plan going forward. Fournette is the kind of running back that needs 20 plus carriers in a game to make an impact as he possesses that violent, physical running style to wear down opposing defenses. The Jaguars want to slow the game down and take pressure off Blake Bortles. The offensive line has improved since last year with the trade of Brandon Albert and drafting of Cam Robinson, but it’s still not great. Expect T.J. Yeldon to cut into Fournette’s touches some while Chris Ivory might be on the roster bubble come September. With an average at best line and some touches going to Yeldon, expect Fournette to be a high end RB2 with a safe floor barring injury.
WR Corey Davis (Tennessee Titans): With the pick the Titans acquired from the Rams as part of the Jared Goff trade, the Titans provide their franchise quarterback with a big time weapon. Davis doesn’t have another receiver who threatens his targets except reliable tight end Delanie Walker. However, the team still wants to run the ball with their two big time running backs and that will have an impact on the number of targets Davis gets. Davis should start the season at the team’s number one wide receiver on the depth chart, but with the team’s run first philosophy, Davis has a limited value and should be considered a WR3 with upside. However, after being drafted inside the top 5, Davis looks like the consensus top picks in dynasty leagues.
WR Mike Williams (Los Angeles Chargers): Assuming Keenan Allen comes back 100% healthy, which we shouldn’t, Williams’ value is limited as Philip Rivers has a full set of weapons to throw to. However, expect Williams to get his fair share of red zone targets and touchdowns. Expect him to be the third highest scoring FLEX player for the Chargers behind Allen and Melvin Gordon. Williams has value as a low WR3 with upside given Allen’s injury history. Now if Allen gets injured and misses time again, Williams gets pushed into the WR1 range with expectations similar to what Saints’ Michael Thomas did last year.
RB Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers): The biggest wildcard in the first round, McCaffrey has boom or bust potential for your fantasy team. If you are in a PPR league or get credited points for kick and punt returns, he might be the most valuable rookie. However, in standard leagues, he won’t be the starting running back with Jonathan Stewart still around. Plus, with the drafting of Curtis Samuel in the second; a similar player to McCaffrey, could cut into his touches both as the complimentary running back on the depth chart and out as a slot receiver. Keep tabs on McCaffrey as you get closer and closer to your draft as his value is weighed based on what Samuel presents to the Panthers’ staff in camp, during the preseason and early on in the regular season. With Stewart’s injury history, it’s safe to assume he will miss time again this season, and when he does, McCaffrey has RB1 value. For anyone that takes Stewart in your draft, make sure you don’t miss out on grabbing McCaffrey because if you don’t you will regret it!
WR John Ross (Cincinnati Bengals): The most surprising pick of the top ten, John Ross doesn’t have the value you would hope for out of a top ten draft pick. A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert are still the top targets in the passing game. Expect Tyler Boyd, last year’s 2nd round pick, to improve in his second season. Plus, the Bengals are a team looking to run the ball as they have three second round running backs on the roster, including Joe Mixon; don’t expect much from Ross on a week to week basis. He’ll be more of a Will Fuller who will go off one week, then ghost the next three. Now in a pinch start covering a bye week, he might be worth a flier or in daily for low value with high upside spot. Expect Ross to have weeks where he is basically shut out and other weeks where he rips off 100 plus yards and two touchdowns on four catches. The question is, can you figure out when to play him? He is a WR4 with upside if Green or Eifert goes down with an injury.
QB Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs): The player on this list with the least fantasy value this season as Mahomes isn’t expected to get on the field at any point this year. However, in dynasty leagues Mahomes has major upside value starting the 2018 season as only 3.6 million of Alex Smith’s 20 million dollar cap number is guaranteed leading to his release and Mahomes taking over as the starter.
QB Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans): Expect a training battle between Watson and Tom Savage for the starting spot. If Watson wins the competition, he will be put in a situation with a lot of weapons around him. However, with most rookie quarterbacks you should be careful with your expectations. If he is the starter expect him to put up solid but not great numbers and have a high number of interceptions. He should be a low end QB2 in bigger size leagues. For dynasty leagues, he should be considered the best option among the rookie quarterbacks.
TE O.J. Howard (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Great landing spot for him in reality, not so much for fantasy. There are a lot of mouths to feed in that offense. Mike Evans is going to get his targets similar to last year. Howard will have to fight for second tier targets along with DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate, Adam Humphries and fellow rookie Chris Godwin. Unless Howard becomes a red zone touchdown machine, expect decent numbers from him this season as a TE2.
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TE Evan Engram (New York Giants): Great pick for the Giants and he could be a major sleeper at the position this year. With a lack of improved running game, plus with the amount of attention defenses will be spending on Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall on the outside, expect Engram to create mismatches in the middle of the field against slower linebackers and smaller safeties. Engram should be a redzone threat which is key for fantasy tight ends. Engram could easily finish second in scoring at the FLEX spot behind Beckham. Engram is a low end TE1 with high upside.
TE David Njoku (Cleveland Browns): Just a day after selecting Njoku, the team released Gary Barnidge opening up the starting spot. Still with no clear cut choice as the starting quarterback, Njoku’s value is limited. He should get a fair number of targets given the lack of passing options around him, but that also means a lot of attention from the defense as well. Expect Njoku to have a pretty solid number of targets but lack touchdown production as the Browns will struggle on offense. Njoku is a low TE2 but worth a look in dynasty leagues if you believe the Browns will ever fix their quarterback problem.
Again these are early expectations and could change simply with an injury to another player. Overall, do not expect a lot of production out of the first round rookie class, but there are a few potential big play guys depending on a few other variables. Check back again soon for my favorite non first round pick fantasy rookies!