Fantasy football season may be over four months away, but it's never too early to take a look at which offensive players taken in round one of the NFL Draft this past weekend can make an impact for your fantasy team in 2009.
1. Matthew Stafford - QB - Detroit Lions
By giving him the largest guaranteed contract in the NFL, the Lions are expecting big things from Matthew Stafford. They are hoping to do the same thing the Falcons did with Matt Ryan last season. But last year's Falcons were an infinitely better team than the Lions and the team likely won't rush Stafford onto the field if he isn't ready.
From a keeper league perspective, Stafford is obviously worth a mid to late-round flyer, depending on your league rules. In a non-keeper league, Stafford is a very late round pick at best. I expect him to sit for at least the first half of the season, if not longer, as he watches and learns from Daunte Culpepper. Because of this, it's hard to even trust Stafford as a backup.
However, if you are in a league that starts two QBs, which I highly recommend, Stafford should be owned.
5. Mark Sanchez - QB - New York Jets
Based on what they gave up to move into the No. 5 slot to pick him, the Jets believe in Mark Sanchez. With only Kellen Clemens and Erik Ainge now on the depth chart at QB, Sanchez will get the opportunity to compete for the starting job.
Sanchez has great depth at RB to help him ease into the NFL with veteran Thomas Jones, speed demon Leon Washington, and rookie Shonn Greene. However, with the departure of Lavernaues Coles, the Jets' wide receiver corps looks like that of an AFL team, with Jerricho Cotchery as the only recognizable name.
Finally, it needs to be noted that Sanchez was born in Southern California and went to high school and college there as well. Now he moves into the Meadowlands, where the weather isn't so friendly. It might not be a huge factor, but it is sure to affect his game.
Due to the lack of QB depth on the roster and the likelihood of starting in week one, Sanchez should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues. Like Stafford, he is more valuable in keeper leagues, but I wouldn't use too high of a pick on him for this season.
7. Darrius Heyward-Bey - WR - Oakland Raiders
This is not a debate about whether or not the Raiders were aware that Michael Crabtree was still on the board. Al Davis loves him some speedy players, and Heyward-Bey was the fastest at the combine.
As a wide receiver, DHB has the skills, but the production is lacking. Going to an Oakland team with little depth at the position makes it likely for him to play right away, if not start. However, JaMarcus Russell has not lived up to his No. 1 billing and may actually hurt the development of DHB.
Rookie WRs do not usually contribute, and I don't see this being the exception. DHB will be good for the occassional 80-yard TD bomb, but will not do enough to warrant a starting spot on your fantasy team. I see him as a late round pick based solely on upside.
10. Michael Crabtree - WR - San Francisco 49ers
Quick, name a WR on the 49ers roster. I bet you couldn't do it without looking it up either.
Rated as a 96 by Scouts Inc., third overall in this year's draft, Crabtree is a great wideout who tops the 49ers' depth chart the moment he puts pen to paper. While he isn't a deep threat like DHB, he knows where the end zone is, and finds it often.
Having Shaun Hill or Alex Smith as his quarterback will hurt, but Crabtree is in a great situation to develop this year in San Francisco. He won't put up huge numbers right away, but he should absolutely be taken in all keeper leagues and is worth a middle round pick in most formats.
12. Knowshon Moreno - RB - Denver Broncos
This pick makes a lot of sense to anyone who had Peyton Hillis on their roster last year. The Broncos rotated running backs through a revolving door last year due to injuries and clearly are looking for a stud to solidify the position in Moreno.
Gone is Mike Shanahan and his hatred of fantasy football, so hopefully new coach Josh McDaniels picks a starter and sticks with him. I have a feeling it will be Moreno, and even if he gives up goal line carries to someone like Hillis, he could potentially be a No. 2 running back by the middle of the year.
The Broncos still have six other backs on their roster as of now, so draft carefully if that is still the case. However, running backs are traditionally the quickest to adapt to the NFL, so my prediction is Moreno is the top rookie fantasy player in 2009.
17. Josh Freeman - QB - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This was the pick that most mock drafts got right. Freeman is a great prospect, but has "hit-or-miss" written all over him. The Buccaneers are thin at QB, with just Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown as established players, but expect one of them to win the starting job.
Freeman has all the tools, but will need time to adapt, and probably won't make an impact this year. He is a late round pick in keeper leagues only.
19. Jeremy Maclin - WR - Philadelphia Eagles
A gift to Donovan McNabb sent courtesy of Al Davis. By picking Darrius Heyward-Bey at No. 7, the Raiders set the draft in motion to where the Eagles were able to trade up to No. 19 and steal the third-year sophomore out of Missouri.
The Eagles will have Reggie Brown, Kevin Curtis, and DeSean Jackson in front of Maclin to start, but Maclin could be the playmaker the Eagles have been lacking at the position.
I look for him to start out slow as he gets adjusted to the NFL but to make an impact in the second half, at WR and possibly in the return game if the Eagles choose to put him there. This is a guy I might reach a bit for in fantasy drafts.
20. Brandon Pettigrew - TE - Detroit Lions
I thought this would be an offensive lineman to protect their new QB, but instead Detroit gave him a target. When Michael Gaines is your current No. 1 TE, it means that the first round draft pick will likely step in and start right away.
Despite that, Detroit's offense is awful, and Pettigrew is a better blocker than receiver. While he will play, I don't see him being a fantasy factor, as there will be at least 12 TEs with better stats than him this season. Pettigrew is no more than a bye week replacement.
22. Percy Harvin - WR - Minnesota Vikings
Forget the off-the-field troubles for a minute and look at the skills. Harvin is ridiculously fast, Devin Hester fast even. He will make an instant impact in the return game if the Vikings choose to put him there.
With teams focused on Adrian Peterson, Harvin will see some openings as a wideout, but will be a big threat to score on trick plays, like the reverse or lining up in the Wildcat formation. Who knows, he might even line up at RB with AP taking the snap.
The Vikings need to find a way to get Harvin involved immediately, which will pay dividends to his fantasy owners. Look for him in the middle of the draft, and even higher in those which count return yards and return TDs.
26. Donald Brown - RB - Indianapolis Colts
The Colts picking Brown over Beanie Wells was a bit of a surprise, but it's clear they want him to spell Addai, who has never quite been able to play a full year.
Barring an injury to Addai, Brown will likely not get enough carries to make him a starter on any fantasy teams, but he should get some goal line looks to make him a serviceable bye week replacement.
Brown should only be drafted in very deep leagues, unless you are using him as a handcuff to Addai, which I highly recommend.
29. Hakeem Nicks - WR - New York Giants
Plaxico out, Nicks in. The Giants let Burress go and have yet to re-sign Amani Toomer, meaning the depth chart is full of young players and opportunities for draft picks. The Giants also took 6'6" WR Ramses Barden out of Cal Poly, so both should get opportunities.
If Nicks gets the chance to start, he immediately becomes a target in the red zone and will get looks for some TDs. Nicks has all the skills to be a solid WR, but with more established youngsters like Domenik Hixon, Mario Manningham, and Steve Smith on the roster, I'm not sure if he will get the playing time necessary to be a fantasy factor.
Not to cop out, but the jury is still out on this one until their depth chart is resolved. If Nicks is in the top three, I would take him in the late rounds; if not, I'd leave him on the waiver wire.
30. Kenny Britt - WR - Tennessee Titans
The Titans desperately needed WR help this offseason and got it. Playing behind Justin Gage and Nate Washington, Britt will learn a lot and possibly develop into a solid WR.
However, the Titans love to run the football, and with the combination of LenDale White and Chris Johnson in the backfield, look for them to continue that trend in 2009. I expect to see Britt on the field, but not as a starter and not as one to contribute to any fantasy teams. He should only be picked up in really deep leagues.
31. Chris Wells - RB - Arizona Cardinals
I'm getting nightmares thinking about this split backfield for 2009. Wells is certainly good enough to play right away, but will more than likely split time with Tim Hightower, at least at the outset.
The only other slight concern is durability. Wells missed three games last season with a toe injury and, while he was able to bounce back, injuries to a RB are hard for a fantasy team to take.
Wells should be selected in all keeper leagues and is worth a middle round pick in most standard formats. My gut feeling is that he will get to be the goal line back, making him slightly more valuable than his backfield mate.
Other notable offensive draft picks who could contribute in 2009:
Brian Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi - WR - Cleveland Browns
Even more so if Braylon Edwards is traded before the season.
LeSean McCoy - RB - Philadelphia Eagles
At least handcuff him to the often-injured Brian Westbrook.
Shonn Greene - RB - New York Jets
If Thomas Jones goes down, I think Greene will be the guy ahead of Leon Washington.
Juaquin Iglesias - WR - Chicago Bears
They have nobody else. Iglesias should start the season no lower than No. 3 on the depth chart.
Austin Collie - WR - Indianapolis Colts
Could see a lot of action if he is the No. 3 receiver behind Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez. Brandon Stokley thrived in that role for years.
Nate Davis - QB - Ball State
I'm not sold on Shaun Hill or Alex Smith, and Damon Huard must be 40-years-old by now. He won't play right away, but if he does, you could do worse for a backup.