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By the Numbers

Positive and Negative Draft Impact on Veterans

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: April 28, 2020, 1:48 am ET

The NFL draft has come and gone. Now we have three months to wrap our collective minds around brand-new rosters around the league.

Countless veterans were impacted by the developments that took place between April 23-25. Still, we should keep in mind that rookies generally don't have a great shot to emerge as high-end fantasy performers if drafted outside of the top-three rounds:


Of course, rookie don't need to necessarily provide great production in order to sink the ceiling of their teammates. Opportunity is king in fantasy football, and just the added presence of capable youngsters in a position group can sometimes be enough to totally swing a veteran's fantasy outlook.

What follows is a team-by-team breakdown to identify which QBs and skill-position players were positively and negatively impacted by the draft. Every skill-position player drafted will be listed after "Notable selections" along with their draft round and pick position in parenthesis (1.06 is the sixth pick of the first round).

Arizona Cardinals

Notable selections: RB Eno Benjamin (7.08)

Veteran impact: Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds likely have nothing to worry about. Benjamin might have carved out a small cult-like following along fantasy analysts thanks to his proven pass-catching ability and tendency to rack up broken tackles on fun highlights. Still, seventh-round picks simply don't have a habit of getting significant roles as rookies.

This *should* be Drake's backfield if the second half of last season was any indication of what is to come:

  • Week 9: 19 combined carries and targets, 84% snaps
  • Week 10: 17, 64%
  • Week 11: 23, 90%
  • Week 13: 18, 79%
  • Week 14: 14, 66%
  • Week 15: 23, 75%
  • Week 16: 28, 81%
  • Week 17: 16, 96%

The lack of a WR pick is good news for both Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella. Obviously the Cardinals traded for DeAndre Hopkins to be their clear-cut No. 1 WR, but this offense should be good enough to enable multiple fantasy-relevant WRs. Four-WR sets are tentatively expected to include each of the aforementioned three receivers along with Larry Fitzgerald, although the likes of KeeSean Johnson and/or Trent Sherfield could also be involved.

Atlanta Falcons

Notable selections: None

Veteran impact: It was somewhat surprising to see the Falcons not address their backfield or WR room. This means Ito Smith and Brian Hill are the prime contenders to see a 30-40% snap role behind clear-cut No. 1 RB Todd Gurley.

Additionally, Russell Gage is locked in as the slot WR with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley on the outside.

Nobody has more available targets in their offense than the Falcons, so expect massive seasons from Jones and Ridley to be complemented by potentially more-than-solid campaigns from Gage and TE Hayden Hurst.

Baltimore Ravens

Notable selections: RB J.K. Dobbins (2.23), WR Devin Duvernay (3.28), WR James Proche (6.22)

Veteran impact: The Ravens hardly needed to add another rusher to their offense; each of Lamar Jackson (No. 1), Gus Edwards (No. 3) and Mark Ingram (No. 7) ranked highly in yards per carry among 47 players with at least 100 rush attempts in 2019. Still, they had Dobbins as their overall RB1 and were happy to scoop him up in the middle of the second round. The Ravens can save $5 million in cap space by moving on from Ingram after the 2020 season, but don't expect him to give up his starting spot too easily in the meantime.

Dobbins' role could easily just replace both Edwards and 2019 fourth-round pick Justice Hill. A souped-up backup that essentially combines Edwards' ~135 carries a year with Hill's 20-plus targets could certainly be a viable fantasy contributor inside of the league's highest-scoring offense. Tentatively I expect both Dobbins and Ingram to provide borderline RB2 fantasy value, although the ceiling for both is obviously hampered a bit by this newfound competition.

Duvernay projects as a shifty slot WR that could add a new dimension to this Ravens' passing attack. Still, it's hard to see anybody other than Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown providing consistent fantasy production in the league's most run-heavy offense. Both Duvernay and Proche will have to beat out either Brown, Snead or Miles Boykin in three-WR sets. Hollywood doesn't have anything to worry about, but neither of the latter two WRs should be relied on for breakouts in 2020.

Buffalo Bills

Notable selections: RB Zack Moss (3.22), WR Gabriel Davis (4.22), QB Jake Fromm (5.22), WR Isaiah Hodgins (6.28)

Veteran impact: Singletary was never going to have an exclusive workhorse role due to Josh Allen's vulture-esque tendencies as a rusher inside the 10-yard line, but now he's at risk of losing some work in both the run and pass games. The Bills' 2019 third-round pick emerged as a reliable three-down back and played at least 65% of the offense's snaps in every game that he wasn't either injured in, or was just returning from a layoff. Singletary worked as the PPR RB18 during Weeks 7-16, but that could be wishful thinking if Moss manages to not only take Frank Gore's old role but also eat into Singletary's target share.

Neither Davis nor Hodgins have much of a chance at breaking into three-WR sets behind Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley and John Browns. Second-year TE Dawson Knox should push for a near full-time role without having to worry about an incoming rookie at the position.

It's unclear what Josh Allen would have to do in order to be benched. Careless risk-taking in absolutely vital moments doesn't seem to be an issue ...

... so don't expect Fromm to serve as anything more than a true backup until the Bills have to make a decision regarding Allen's long-term future following the 2021 season.

Carolina Panthers

Notable selections: None

Veteran impact: The Panthers went all defense in their draft for good reason; they currently boast anyone's idea of the worst overall unit on that side of the ball. Christian McCaffrey should again see all the carries and check-downs he can handle in an every-down role.

Things are a bit more jumbled in the passing game. The most-likely scenario for this offense seems to be D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson on the outside with Curtis Samuel operating out of the slot. Let's make one thing clear: Samuel wasn't miscast as a field-stretcher in 2019; Kyle Allen was miscast as a starting QB. Anderson also sure didn't receive a lot of help in terms of catchable targets. The presence of Teddy Bridgewater, who threw downfield at the league's lowest rate in 2019, won't help anybody's air yards, but at least the league's single-worst offense in catchable deep balls should see a few more accurate passes this time around.

The NFC South should again be home to more than a few shootouts in 2020.

Chicago Bears

Notable selections: TE Cole Kmet (2.11), WR Darnell Mooney (5.28)

Veteran impact: There are two problems with projecting Kmet for much rookie success, regardless of how talented the Notre Dame TE might be.

  1. The Bears have a laughable number of TEs on their roster at the moment: Jimmy GrahamDemetrius HarrisAdam ShaheenBen BrauneckerJ.P. HoltzJesper Horsted, Eric Saubert, Dax Raymond and Darion Clark. Even if Shaheen is traded, clearly an every-down role isn't in Kmet's immediate future.
  2. Literally only Evan Engram and Rob Gronkowski have finished as top-12 PPR performers among all rookie TEs over the past decade. The former player even needed Odell Beckham to miss 12 games in order to achieve this.

Graham's fantasy stock went from being on life support to in the dumpster.

The selection of Mooney is seemingly more of an issue for Javon Wims and Riley Ridley than either Allen Robinson or Anthony Miller. Nick Foles is the best QB A-Rob will have had since college, and Foles' tendency to feed the slot in Philadelphia could resurface in Chicago with a player of Miller's caliber. Both are undervalued at their current average draft position (ADP).

New OC Bill Lazor regularly utilized committee backfields in previous stops with the Dolphins and Bengals. Don't expect this to change in Chicago. Luckily, David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen are different-enough "talents" that there should be enough touches to go around. The former RB didn't fulfill lofty expectations as a rookie, but his 267 touches wound up being good for the 12th-highest mark in the league. Montgomery did begin to come on strong towards the end of the season, averaging more than four yards per carry in four of his five final games after doing so just twice in Weeks 1-12 combined. I'd be more concerned about Cohen's role evaporating than Montgomery's.

Cincinnati Bengals

Notable selections: QB Joe Burrow (1.01), WR Tee Higgins (2.01)

Veteran impact: Obviously the selection of Burrow will mean the end of Andy Dalton's tenure as the Bengals' starting QB. There's enough talent in this offense with the 2019 National Champion and Heisman Trophy winner to flirt with borderline QB1 production, but I'd caution against expecting too much too quickly. The QB position has produced just six rookies that finished their debut season as a top-12 fantasy performer since 2010. The most-prominent trend from this group was the existence of a rushing floor, as each of Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray displayed fantasy-friendly rushing ability as rookies. Burrow is plenty athletic enough to escape tackles and create off-script goodness, but we shouldn't necessarily expect him to post similar rushing production as those aforementioned dual-threat talents.

And then we have Higgins, who showed off true No. 1 WR upside during his time at Clemson. The question is whether he'll see anything close to enough volume as a rookie to capitalize on his upside. A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd are almost surely entrenched in three-WR sets, but the statuses of John Ross and (especially) Auden Tate are in question. It'll be important to monitor preseason usage from this group in order to clarify whether Ross still has a full-time starting role.

Joe Mixon finished 2018 and 2019 as the PPR RB10 and RB13, respectively, despite splitting plenty of snaps with Giovani Bernard and operating behind one of the league's worst offensive lines. The addition of Burrow, combined with the return of 2019 first-round OT Jonah Williams, should help both Mixon's touchdown equity and efficiency. There isn't much reason to believe Gio (40% snaps) will take a full backseat to Mixon (59%), while second-year backs Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson don't figure to steal more than a few reps away from the duo. Mixon's ceiling is as high as ever entering next season.

Cleveland Browns

Notable selections: TE Harrison Bryant (4.09), WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (6.08)

Veteran impact: Thankfully the Browns addressed their offensive line with the No. 10 overall pick instead of doing something stupid. It's reasonable to expect steps forward from the entire crop of Baker Mayfield, Kareem Hunt, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham and Austin Hooper thanks to the potential for increased efficiency in new coach Kevin Stefanski's play-action heavy attack. None of the offense's incoming rookies should do much to change the playing time outlook for anybody involved. There are still volume concerns in the run and pass games alike due to the number of talented players involved, but none of those issues were enhanced by a draft decision.

At the most, Bryant could compete with TE David Njoku for the No. 2 TE spot (I got Njoku), and Peoples-Jones could win the No. 3 WR role over KhaDarel Hodge in an offense that is expected to utilize plenty of two-TE and two-RB formations.

Ian Hartitz

All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.