After months of mocks and weeks devoid of sports, the first round of the NFL Draft brought a much-needed distraction, and for fantasy owners finally provided an answer to the question of where some of these rookies would be playing at the next level. With 11 skill players being selected in the first 32 picks, let’s take a quick glance at their possible fantasy impacts in their new homes.
1.01 - Joe Burrow, Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals
In one of the worst kept secrets over the past couple weeks, the Bengals selected the LSU quarterback with the first pick of the NFL Draft. Currently slotted in as my dynasty QB11, Burrow should be a fairly safe prospect to return fantasy value with the weapons at his disposal. One thing to remember, however, is the shortened offseason programs may make rookies (especially at quarterback) less productive in year one, but in dynasty we are playing the long game.
1.05 - Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback, Miami Dolphins
The smokescreens were being lobbed out on social media for the past week or so about what the Dolphins would do with their first of many selections in the 2020 draft, but in the end it was the SEC southpaw who had his name called. As it currently stands, he may or may not be starting as a rookie with Ryan Fitzpatrick in place. However, as long as Miami continues to sink capital into protecting Tua and surrounding him with talent they should be able to support fantasy production for my dynasty QB16.
1.06 - Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Los Angeles Chargers
As the beginning of the draft continued to be ‘chalky,’ the Chargers selected Justin Herbert at number six. Similar to Tua, Herbert may not be starting to begin his rookie season, but unlike the quarterback headed to Miami, the Chargers have the offensive talent to support Herbert right away. With Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler at the skill positions and an offensive line upgrade Bryan Bulaga, Herbert will have the opportunity to be fantasy relevant as soon as he is handed the reigns.
1.12 - Henry Ruggs, Wide Receiver, Las Vegas Raiders
In the first real surprise of the draft, Henry Ruggs was the number one receiver off the board and is headed to Las Vegas. With the blazing speed and vertical ability that Ruggs possesses, it is unfortunate that he is paired with Derek Carr. Carr ranked 19th among quarterbacks in air yards in 2018 and 24th in 2019. The main beneficiary from this selection may very well be running back Josh Jacobs, who should see more space at the second level and beyond as Ruggs draws defenders downfield with his speed.
1.15 - Jerry Jeudy, Wide Receiver, Denver Broncos
It remains to be seen if Denver is a fantasy haven, as the jury is still out on Drew Lock. In Lock’s five starts to close out the 2019 season, his Average Completed Air Yards was 4.6, just ahead of the league-worst duo in Pittsburgh that was Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges (4.5). Promising young receiver Courtland Sutton saw his production dip with Lock, as his average yards per game dipped from 69 to 56. If Lock can make some improvements in his sophomore season, Jeudy could be a great complement to Sutton. However, relying on Lock to support two fantasy-relevant wide receivers this early in his career seems wishful.
1.17 - CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboys
With an established quarterback in Dak Prescott with proven ability to make his wide receivers fantasy assets, Lamb ends up in an outstanding landing spot in Dallas. While the receiver corps currently include Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, Lamb should have no issue making an immediate impact in the passing game. With new head coach Mike McCarthy at the helm, the Cowboys will pass: in his final three seasons in Green Bay, McCarthy’s teams finished 2nd, 7th, and 1st in the NFL in passing rate. Granted, Kellen Moore remains the offensive coordinator for the Dallas team that finished middle of the pack in 2019 in pass rate, but with the three-headed monster of Cooper/Gallup/Lamb, it’s hard to imagine them not passing at a higher frequency. Although the crunch for targets may scare off some fantasy owners, Lamb has the skills and talent to overtake Gallup for the #2 option in that offense.
1.21 - Jalen Reagor, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles spurned mock drafters all over the internet by choosing Reagor over Justin Jefferson, who was still available at pick 21 and had been regularly projected to land in Philly. Reagor instead steps into one of the thinnest wide receiver corps in the league, and as such should be an immediate contributor in that offense. While Alshon Jeffrey remains in the fold for now, Carson Wentz lacks other consistent options in the passing game which is one reason Jalen Reagor should be rising up rookie draft boards.
1.22 - Justin Jefferson, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings
From a target perspective, Jefferson steps into the role vacated by the offseason trade of Stefon Diggs to Buffalo. While Minnesota had the third-lowest pass rate in the league in 2019, the opportunity to see the field often in his rookie season should be an appealing aspect of the Jefferson/Minnesota marriage. How both Jefferson and Adam Theilen coexist as predominantly slot receivers remains to be seen.
1.25 - Brandon Aiyuk, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers
The sixth wide receiver off the board was Yards After Catch maestro Brandon Aiyuk. After struggling in 2018 while sharing the field with future NFL first-rounder N’Keal Harry, Aiyuk broke out in 2019 with nearly 1200 yards and eight touchdowns. Now in San Francisco, Aiyuk will compete with both Deebo Samuel and George Kittle for touches, who together accounted for nearly 40% of the 49ers targets in 2019.
1.26 - Jordan Love, Quarterback, Utah State
The Green Bay Packers made a bet on the future in selecting Jordan Love as the heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. The good news is that Love will presumably be sitting behind Aaron Rodgers and learning the position at the NFL level for the next few years, much in the same way that Rodgers did with incumbent Brett Favre. The bad news is Love is a major projection who does not help the Packers this season and will not help fantasy owners anytime soon.
1.32 - Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Running Back, Kansas City Chiefs
The first running back finally came off the board with the final pick in the first round, and Edwards-Helaire took that honor in being drafted by Kansas City at pick 32. In what many believe to be the best possible landing spot for a rookie running back, Edwards-Helaire enters a similar offense to what he played in at LSU in 2019, where he racked up over 1800 total yards with 55 receptions to boot. Considering landing spot and draft capital, Edwards-Helaire will be knocking on the door of 1.01 in rookie drafts.
While the four-hour-long first round did not disappoint, there is still so many more landing spots to be determined. With wide receivers like Tee Higgins, Denzel Mims, and Michael Pittman, and running backs like D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, and JK Dobbins all still on the board, the next few rounds should provide even more surprises, for better or for worse.