With the NFL draft in the books is time to start looking at the fantasy implications of last weekend's picks. We start our tour at fantasy's most coveted postion, running back.
1(4). Oakland Raiders: Darren McFadden, Arkansas
McFadden has all the tools to be the man, but going to the Raiders significantly hurts his chances to be successful. Fantasy owners that draft him as No. 1 running back are going to be disappointed, at least this season. Oakland will likely get rid of Lamont Jordan, but still have Justin Fargas, Dominic Rhodes, and last year’s draft pick, Michael Bush, in the mix. Head coach Lane Kiffin will find a role for his young playmaker, but between the crowded depth chart and the fact that the Raiders will be often playing from behind will limit his opportunities and his fantasy value early on. He will start somewhere around 20-25 on my cheat sheet at running back.
1(13). Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Stewart, Oregon
Stewart is going to be a great fit in Carolina. The team parted ways with DeShaun Foster in the off-season, handing the starting job to DeAngelo Williams, the team’s first round pick in 2006. This one smells like a running back-by-committee. Williams will likely keep a hold on the job for now, but look for Stewart to get involved in the offense immediately, particularly with the goalline carries. Neither back possesses enough of an edge to warrant looking at them as No. 2 fantasy RB’s, but both runners have great long-term potential. Williams is somewhere around No. 25 to No. 30 running back on the board, with Stewart just a few spots behind him (No. 30-35) heading into ’08.
1(22). Dallas Cowboys: Felix Jones, Arkansas
With Julius Jones now a Seahawk, Marion Barber finally slides into the starting spot he has so rightfully earned. Now there is a new Jones in Dallas though, Felix. The former Arkansas running back lived in McFadden’s shadow in college and now will play second fiddle in the Big D, at least this year. Barber is a hard-nosed runner who will certainly be the Cowboys’ man at the goalline and see the bulk of the carries as a legitimate No. 1 fantasy running back. Jones is nothing more than a FLEX option for now, but see increased value in both yardage and keeper leagues (Barber in final year of contract).
1(23). Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois
Willie Parker’s already declining value is falling fast and with him coming off a broken leg the Steelers clearly had enough concern about his future to grab Mendenhall, who should’ve never dropped this far into Round 1. The Illinois product has everything it takes to be an every down running back in the NFL as he is big and powerful, but also has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and use his speed to break a long one at anytime. Parker now looks like a No. 2 fantasy back at best with Mendenhall being a must-have handcuff.
1(24). Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson, East Carolina
The Titans desperately need to add something to their backfield, but I’m not sure if Johnson is the total answer. He calls himself a “faster Brian Westbrook” and does have the ability to be worked in both the running and passing game for Tennessee. LenDale White is still the Titans’ back to have though. Look for the team to pound him and use Johnson more as a change-of-pace back, receiver and return man. Though they drafted in Round 1, Johnson doesn’t excite me unless you are in a PPR league or have deep enough rosters to carry five or more running backs.
BEST OF THE REST
2(44). Chicago Bears: Matt Forte, Tulane
As if Cedric Benson’s value wasn’t already shaky enough, now Forte enters the mix and if things go right this summer, he could steal the job in Chicago. Keep your eyes on this situation as the season approaches.
2(55). Baltimore Ravens: Ray Rice, Rutgers
With Musa Smith and Mike Anderson out of the picture the Ravens needed to reload their backfield depth. Rice is going to overwhelm in you in any category, but is a versatile back that will be playing behind the injury-prone Willis McGahee.
3(64). Detroit Lions: Kevin Smith, Central Florida
My favorite sleeper on the list. The Lions traded up to grab him with the first pick of Day 2 and can you blame them? Smith nearly broke Barry Sanders’ rushing record and with Tatum Bell and Brian Calhoun at No. 1 and No. 2 on the depth chart, he could easily slide into a starting role.
OTHER BACKS DRAFTED
3(69). San Diego Chargers: Jacob Hester, LSU
3(73). Kansas City Chiefs: Jamaal Charles, Texas
3(89). Houston Texans: Steve Slaton, West Virginia
4(122). Dallas Cowboys: Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech
5(139). Denver Broncos: Ryan Torain, Arizona State
5(146). Detroit Lions: Jerome Felton, Furman
5(149). Arizona Cardinals: Timothy Hightower, Richmond
5(163). Seattle Seahawks: Owen Schmitt, West Virginia (FB)
5(166). San Diego Chargers: Marcus Thomas, UTEP
6(172). Atlanta Falcons: Thomas Brown, Georgia
6(176). Miami Dolphins: Jalen Parmele, Toledo
6(179). Buffalo Bills: Xavier Omon, NW Missouri State
6(202). Indianapolis Colts: Mike Hart, Michigan
6(204). Miami Dolphins: Lex Hilliard, Montana
7(213). Jacksonville Jaguars: Chauncey Washington, USC
7(227). Denver Broncos: Peyton Hillis, Arkansas (FB)
7(233). Seattle Seahawks: Justin Forsett, California
7(238). Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cory Boyd, South Carolina
7(240). Baltimore Ravens: Allen Patrick, Oklahoma