In the end, the most notable takeaway for dynasty league enthusiasts is for the second year in a row, there was no running back selected in the first round. It’s a clear indication NFL teams are relying on role players in the backfield and choosing to open up the offense through the air. This isn’t to say the ground and pound approach is dead, but the days of carry-the-load backs appear to be nearly over.
It was believed that nearly seven receivers could come off the board on day one and, perhaps, four quarterbacks. After the final selection was read, five receivers were selected and with the 32nd selection being Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr was the only remaining name to slip into the second day from the quarterback position. At the receiver position, Marqise Lee was a surprise name not to grace day one. He’ll be an early day two selection, most likely to Cleveland at selection #35 or Oakland at #36, but don’t count out Jacksonville in a trade-up scenario. Unsurprisingly, only one tight end, Eric Ebron (Detroit), found his way into the first round.
There’s plenty of intrigue on tap for day two in what is sure to be an exciting few hours to come tonight. Let’s take a look at the first round with an eye toward fantasy (specifically dynasty) league relevance.
1. Houston – Jadeveon Clowney, DE
When the Texans’ ten minutes of first round fame was up, no team was willing to meet their price for the rights to the Freak. Starting on the opposite side of JJ Watt, the Texans now have a defensive line that will strike fear in the hearts of offensive line coaches and their quarterbacks across the AFC. His long arms and burst off the end should provide a lot of flexibility on defense.
2. St. Louis – Greg Robinson, OT
No real surprise here. Word is Robinson will start at left guard before transitioning to left tackle. It’s a good upgrade for Zac Stacy as Robinson excels in run blocking. He’ll be an integral part to keeping Sam Bradford on his feet as well.
3. Jacksonville – Blake Bortles, QB
I mocked a quarterback to Jacksonville, but changed from Bortles to Johnny Manziel a couple weeks back. The Jaguars badly need a face of the franchise and he’ll likely assume that role before 2014 is up. The first quarterback off the board is a relatively safe selection in fantasy and Bortles has the size to be a good one. Dynasty coaches will need to be patient and the Jags badly need a second receiver of note.
4. Buffalo – Sammy Watkins, WR
Not a surprise that Watkins goes in the top five and only a small surprise that Buffalo traded up for his rights. I’m not high on the situation for Watkins, but he’ll start across from Mike Williams and Buffalo does have an established rushing attack. It’s an upgrade for EJ Manuel and plus points for Mike Williams. The Bills are building a young stable of playmakers.
Receivers taken in the top five selections of the NFL draft are nearly always among fantasy elite at the position. I’ll be watching Watkins’ production and development with great interest.
5. Oakland – Khalil Mack, LB
Mack was in play for the first pick but fell due to greater need by teams. In the end, the Raiders get a great bargain and an impact player on defense. Some believe he’s superior to Von Miller and IDP’ers should take notice of the selection. He’ll pressure opposing quarterbacks early and often and has great instincts at all levels.
6. Atlanta – Jake Matthews, OL
Matthews is a solid right tackle and a certainty to start protecting Matt Ryan from day one. This is good news for the Falcons passing game and the health of Ryan.
7. Tampa Bay – Mike Evans, WR
Word was Manziel wouldn’t make it past Tampa with this selection, but Evans fills a need for the Bucs who shipped away the aforementioned Mike William,s but still have the aging Vincent Jackson. I’m not as high on Evans as most in the fantasy community, but it’s a good spot for the large receiver. He’s clearly the second receiver off the board in upcoming rookie drafts and should be in the starting lineup from day one. He’ll be a red-zone threat and should benefit from Jackson’s experience and double teams.
8. Cleveland – Justin Gilbert, CB
I thought the Browns had traded up to take Manziel, but they pull the surprise and get an athletic cornerback with special teams ability. It’s a good pick, if not a bit of a surprise.
9. Minnesota – Anthony Barr, LB
Looking to get younger at linebacker, the Vikings pull a minor surprise with the selection, but fill a definite need. He’ll have lower end IDP attractiveness, but I’ll need to see production before committing a roster spot to him.
10. Detroit – Eric Ebron, TE
A nice landing spot for the athletic move tight end. This significantly hurts the value of both existing tight ends, Joseph Fauria and Brandon Pettigrew, as Ebron should be starting from day one. He won’t offer much in the way of run blocking or pass protection, but Detroit is obviously looking to open up the passing game with the selection after adding Golden Tate in free agency. Ebron has been said to be a little emotionally “needy,” but he has good hands, field stretching ability and is an immediate upgrade in the Lions’ high octane offense.
This is an upgrade for Matt Stafford and it’s hard not to like the Lions’ offense.
11. Tennessee – Taylor Lewan, OT
The Titans surprise with this pick as it isn’t a great need. He has a mean streak and toughness to burn. No significant fantasy impact here, though.
12. New York Giants – Odell Beckham Jr., WR
A minor surprise, not because the Giants selected him, but because he fell this far considering recent hype. Beckham has receiver and special teams ability and is a gritty player who has an undeniable dynamic and work ethic. He fits in between Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle to give brother Manning a trio of weapons.
I like the spot for Beckham and the upgrade for Manning. This doesn’t help the fact Manning was on his back far too often in 2013, but a sure-handed receiver running quick crossing routes will aid in getting the ball out more quickly. Fantasy wise, Beckham will lose some value in this situation, but his talent is undeniable. Randle is no sure-bet to retain WR2 duties after the departure of Hakeem Nicks, so there are targets to be had here.
13. St. Louis – Aaron Donald, DT
14. Chicago – Kyle Fuller, CB
A contact seeking defensive back, Fuller will bring a level of physicality to the Bears. He won’t factor in IDP leagues for a couple of years unless he’s really picked on early, but he’s a cornerback who could be meaningful in time due to his desire to seek out contact.
15. Pittsburgh – Ryan Shazier, LB
Shazier is a rangy, athletic, freak who fits the Steelers perfectly. He’s a speed demon who can leap out of the building and will play sideline to sideline. Time will tell whether Shazier will have enough tackle impact to factor in fantasy, but he’s sure to be a relatively high selection in rookie IDP drafts.
16. Dallas – Zack Martin, OT
Martin has a great motor and will solidify the right side on the left side of the line. He’s a great selection for the run game, but won’t have a significant fantasy impact.
17. Baltimore – CJ Mosley, LB
A great pick for Baltimore and likely to be the next Ray Lewis on the inside of the linebacker corps. He has great instincts, wrap-up ability and can stay on the field for all downs. He’ll compete with Clowney and Mack to be the first IDP off the board, but I give the edge to Mosley.
18. New York Jets – Calvin Pryor, S
It’s a need and a fit for the Jets. For fantasy, we’ll have to wait and see, but IDP’ers who must start defensive backs should have him on their radar.
19. Miami – Ja’Wuan James, OL
A true right tackle with some guard ability. He fits as a starter on day one but doesn’t offer much in the way of fantasy impact. Perhaps a few plus points to Knowson Moreno and Lamar Miller.
20. New Orleans – Branin Cooks, WR
The Saints obviously wanted him badly as they traded up for the rights to select him. He’s an immediate impact player with the departure of Lance Moore and Darren Sproles. Cooks is lightning quick and they’ll put him in space to allow him to work his magic.
Cooks has amazing start-stop ability to go with elite balance and in that Saints offense, will be in the mix for the third player off the board in fantasy rookie drafts. He’s my WR3 in this year’s class and this situation solidifies that ranking on my board. He was ultra-productive in a pro-style offense and will likely now solidify his spot as a top four selection in fantasy, likely as the 1.03 over Beckham.
21. Green Bay – Clinton-Dix, S
He’s a rangy safety who can cover ground and has a nose for the ball. Like Calvin Pryor earlier, time will tell just what impact Clinton-Dix will have, but I like his ball skills more than Pryor.
22. Cleveland – Johnny Manziel, QB
His wait lasted longer than expected, but the Browns get their guy in the end. It’s amazing to think they could have had Watkins AND Manziel. He’s an exciting and raw quarterback who will stretch the bounds of what is expected from the position, but he’ll put butts in seats and he’s throwing to Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron.
Expect Brian Hoyer to start until the game slows down for Johnny, but the chants will likely be heard starting with the first game. It’s a situation that is hard not to like and success is never guaranteed, but he couldn’t ask for a much better situation. I worry about Manziel’s character and accountability, but there’s no denying his dynamic or his desire. Fantasy ballers will need to be patient while we watch him mature on Sundays.
I believe he’ll still be the first quarterback off the board in fantasy, even despite being selected nearly twenty picks later than Bortles.
23. Kansas City – Dee Ford, DE
An edge rusher with an edge. He’s quick with good hands and fits a need for the Chiefs. I felt that receiver was a greater need at this selection but they are aging at the position. There’s likely not a lot of IDP value in his early years.
24. Cincinnati – Darqueze Dennard, CB
A great value pick here for the Bengals as Dennard lasted much longer than I expected. He has good hands and toughness on the corner. Not much early-career IDP value.
25. San Diego – Jason Verrett, CB
A smaller cornerback with good closing speed, Verrett is a good fit for the Chargers. But like Dennard above, I don’t see much fantasy value to be had.
26. Philadelphia – Marcus Smith, LB
He’s a true outside backer in a 3-4 scheme. A little surprising in my book as I didn’t have Smith in the first round but there’s no doubting the need on defense. Like most IDPs from here on out, it’s hard to forecast fantasy impact in early years.
27. Arizona – Deone Bucannon, S
A hard hitting safety with speed, I like this pick for the Cardinals, especially considering their division. He could produce early in leagues awarding tackle points.
28. Carolina – Kelvin Benjamin, WR
It was probably the worst kept secret that the Panthers would be targeting a receiver in the first round. After shipping away nearly every receiver on the roster, the Panthers give Cam Newton a BIG target in Benjamin. I suggested he could play a hybrid tight end role in the right system but in either case, he has a body that will cause problems for defensive backs.
Benjamin has only produced in a single year which lowers his floor significantly, but his size/speed dynamic creates an intriguing high-ceiling scenario. He’ll come with a lot of risk, but there’s little doubt that he’s in a great starting scenario for a first round receiver. He’ll start from day one, but he’ll need to mature quickly.
29. New England – Dominique Easley, DT
He’s coming off an ACL but gets a vote of confidence by Belichick and the Patriots. No fantasy relevance of note, but he fills a void.
30. San Francisco – Jimmie Ward, S
An undersized safety who can close space in a hurry. He’ll need to add bulk but has true center-field ability.
31. Denver – Bradley Roby, CB
A corner with high-upside and athleticism who underperformed his skill set. It’s turned into a secondary draft rather than a receiver draft in the first round. Keep in mind IDP value for rookies often comes with them being picked on by opposing quarterbacks, so many of these rookie corners could produce early.
32. Minnesota – Teddy Bridgewater, QB
If not for a late trade by the Vikings, Bridgewater indeed would have fallen out of the first round. I still have Bridgewater as my top rookie quarterback and that’s after multiple film session reviews of the top four slingers.
Bridgewater, who fits perfectly in Minnesota’s system, is a candidate to start immediately as the most NFL-ready quarterback. His pro-day sunk his draft stock, but I contend that far too much weight was put on that performance. He’ll inherit a great run-game, a dynamic young receiver in Cordarrelle Patterson and a city looking for a new face of the franchise after the failed attempt that was Christian Ponder.
He’ll need to add weight and strength and he’s a long way from a sure thing, but he’s easy to root for and will be given a long rope as he searches for his place in the NFL.
Obviously I’ll be watching for a few names to come off the board early on day two, specifically receivers like Marqise Lee, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson and Jordan Matthews, who shouldn’t have to wait long. At the running back position, I’m focusing on Carlos Hyde, Bishop Sankey, Lache Seastrunk, Jeremy Hill and Tre Mason. At the quarterback position, Derek Carr remains my top focus and I suspect he’ll have to wait no more than a few minutes before he gets his call.
There have been a few surprises thus far and there’s certain to be more but it’s going to be a fun day two. Stick with us as we return tomorrow with another review.
For immediate analysis throughout the draft, make sure you check out our pick-by-pick analysis as well.
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You can find Jeff on Twitter at @dlf_jeff