The Best Fantasy Football Landing Spots for This Year's NFL Draft Prospects
Over the course of every draft cycle, we hear a lot about team needs and how valuable a player at a certain position will become if they go there. However, this makes an unfortunate assumption, for instance, that every running back plugged into the Tennessee offense will thrive simply because the Titans need one. We need to look at these draft prospects less as a position and more as a singular player.
With so many specialized roles in the NFL and specific skill sets for each of these players, it only seems to make sense that we can't make a simple one-to-one comparison of speed back Lache Seastrunk and power back Jeremy Hill. For this reason, this article looks at dream scenarios for each player’s individual value. Which team would best benefit the fantasy impact of each of these highly-rated draft prospects?
For our purposes, I only suggested likely landing spots for each player, based both on team needs and draft value. For instance, Eric Ebron would clearly be most valuable in an offense favoring the tight end heavily like that of the New Orleans Saints, but this is very unlikely. With pseudo-wide receiver Jimmy Graham still on the team, it makes no sense for the Saints to spend a first-rounder on another receiving tight end, and it’s also improbable that the highly-prized Ebron falls to the bottom of Round 1.
Johnny Manziel: Cleveland Browns
Johnny Football is hailed and ridiculed for his improvisational, dangerous style of football. This brand of “schoolyard ball” is characterized by Manziel looking for the deep ball too long, sensing pressure, scrambling around backwards 15 yards, and then heaving the ball on a prayer. New Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has experience working with young, headstrong quarterbacks who are also smaller and have plenty of mobility, so I could really see him getting through to Manziel well.
In addition, the big, fast receiving corps in Cleveland includes Josh Gordon (10th in Reception Net Expected Points per target in 2013 among pass-catchers with more than 75 targets) and Jordan Cameron (34th in Reception NEP per target), not to mention the sure-handed, reliable Nate Burleson (70.91% catch rate in 2013). This offense is on the upswing, and Manziel will be the spark plug for it.
Teddy Bridgewater: New England Patriots
This has been a popular rumor recently, and I think it would be a perfect fit. New England has been a West Coast style offense for years, and this dynamic would fit Bridgewater in a big way. At Louisville, a quarterback’s depth reads were supposed to go from short-to-deep. The standard NFL offense operates on a deep-to-short read pattern. New England? Closer to Louisville's patterns than you think. Add in one of the best security blankets in the league in tight end Rob Gronkowski (0.87 Reception NEP per target in 2013, equal to Josh Gordon), a dynamic ground of backs, and one of the best offensive lines out there, and you have a recipe for success. Bridgewater’s intellectual style will mesh perfectly with head coach Bill Belichick.
Running BacksCarlos Hyde: Tennessee Titans
Another draft rumor that probably makes more sense than a lot out there, the Titans are desperately in need of a lead back after the departure of Chris Johnson. Shonn Greene was capable as a change-of-pace back last year, but the Titans will need a true top runner in order to give their offense balance this year. Hyde has phenomenal strength to go with above average athletic qualities too. Like Eddie Lacy last year, Hyde should fall into Round 2 and be snapped up high tomorrow night.
Lache Seastrunk: Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta has many more needs than running back, but Steven Jackson is not the solution for the future. In fact, no current Falcons back with more than five rushes in 2013 had a higher than 50% Success Rate, a rate that measures the percentage of runs that result in a positive Net Expected Points gain. I’ve expressed concerns in other media about Seastrunk’s ability to be a complete back (he had a total of nine receptions in his college career), but there is no doubting his lightning speed and elite agility. Even if Jackson lingers, Seastrunk should be a great early-down runner for the Falcons, and this will open up the field for the passing game more.
Brandin Cooks: Kansas City Chiefs
I decided not to mention Watkins or Evans, because they are such elite talents that they should thrive wherever they go. If the Chiefs target a receiver in the first round, Cooks could provide Andy Reid a new DeSean Jackson in his offense. Their physical profile is nearly identical (both under 5’10, 200 lb.), and they have a similar hard-nosed, “need for speed” kind of game. Cooks may be diminutive, but he plays with the fight of a much larger receiver. If Dwayne Bowe, still a viable receiver but no longer a WR1 (having accumulated 0.60 Reception NEP per target), draws away some coverage, Cooks’ speed and tenacity should allow him great success.
Allen Robinson: Seattle Seahawks
A big, prototypically-sized receiver with insane quicks to boot. Robinson spent most of his college career as Penn State’s unquestioned WR1, drawing double-coverage all over, not to mention with inexperienced quarterback play. In Seattle, he can do what Sidney Rice was always expected to and truly be an NFL WR1.
Russell Wilson will relish a huge, fast target to add to Percy Harvin in his wide receiving corps. Losing Golden Tate to free agency creates a need here, as only he and Doug Baldwin crossed the 0.75 Reception NEP per target threshold for Seattle pass-catchers in 2013.
Eric Ebron: Arizona Cardinals
An extremely unconventional call, but one that I think makes a ton of sense. Arizona has been lacking at the tight end position since the days of Leonard Pope, as Rob Housler has immense physical skills and upside, but just has never panned out. Ebron will add yet another elite playmaker to a stable of talent that already includes Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, and he should thrive underneath with the receivers pulling the top off the defense. Carson Palmer loves when his tight ends are reliable, and last year the full sum of Arizona tight ends Reception NEP was 41.52, or less than what Rob Gronkowski accumulated in only seven games. Ebron can thrive with Palmer, who made even Brandon Myers a viable fantasy option a few years back.
C.J. Fiedorowicz: Green Bay Packers
Homer pick alert! I’m begging GM Ted Thompson to draft C.J. or Notre Dame prospect Troy Niklas, as both are immense players with speed, who can function both as elite in-line blockers and good receiving options underneath. Since Jermichael Finley came into the league, he hasn’t quite lived up to what was expected of him. Now he’s departed to free agency, and the advent of a true power run game behind Eddie Lacy means a true two-way tight end is not just a luxury, but a need, in this draft. Finley was on pace for 79.52 Reception NEP before his injury last year, which would have been close to a top five score; there's a chance for a tight end to step in and make a massive immediate impact if he can stay on the field for blocking assignments too.