NFL Draft 1st Round Fantasy Focus

John GustafsonContributor IApril 23, 2010

by John Gustafson,

1. Sam Bradford, Stl- No surprise here. This could work out to be an ok pick, maybe even a good pick. I’m not sold on it though. The good news for Bradford is he has a nice corps of young WRs (Avery, Robinson, Gibson, Burton) to throw to and the 2nd best RB in Steven Jackson. His quick throwing background at Oklahoma should help him transition to the west coast offense the Rams run which also features quick timed passing.

Fantasy Impact: It will remain to be seen if they go with Bradford right away or bring him along slowly during the AJ Feeley era. My best guess would be Bradford is starting sooner than later. I won’t take him in my redraft leagues, but I would snag him late in a keeper league and at the end of the rookie draft first round in dynasty leagues.



8. CJ Spiller, Buf- Spiller is a very special player. Buffalo has lacked special players lately and I can’t blame them for wanting to take Spiller even though they already had two capable RBs in Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Initially I felt that this pick hurt Jackson’s value. However, I don’t feel that way as several teams have shown that a 2 back system can work and translate into good numbers for both backs. This move also means that Marshawn Lynch is probably getting traded at some point this weekend.

Fantasy Impact: I love Spiller, he’s fast and a high character guy. He should be an excellent complimentary back and a threat in the passing game. Is he Chris Johnson? He gets compared to him often, but could there really be 2 Chris Johnsons to enter the league in the last 3 years? I’m skeptical simply because Chris Johnson type players come along once a decade. I do think Spiller can be very good though. I would take him in the 7th-10th round in redraft leagues as my 3rd or 4th running back. In keeper leagues, he’s definitely on my radar and in dynasty leagues, he’s a bonafide top 3 pick.

As far as Jackson, he should still be considered the starter. Adding Spiller should help Jackson carry the load. Jackson can carry the load most weeks, but I’m not convinced he can do it every game all season long by himself. That’s not really the type of back he is. Hopefully this move doesn’t effect his value negatively. Jackson is a very effective back. Had Dick Jauron figured that out sooner last year, he may have been able to win a few more games and not have gotten fired. Before the draft, I had Jackson at 12 meaning he’d be a starting fantasy RB1, but I’m going to be moving him down. However, this may mean that he could be considered a sleeper as most people will be love-drunk with Spiller and sleep on Jackson, just like they did last year. Jackson should still make a very nice RB2.


12. Ryan Mathews, SD- Mathews and SD were an obvious fit. I’ve always felt that Mathews is a poor man’s version of LT. However, I didn’t project Mathews going to SD because I didn’t think he’d fall to them at 26. Apparently neither did Chargers GM AJ Smith as he traded up to get Mathews. Yesterday, Coach Norv Turner said that he was in SD when they drafted LT and remembers what that felt like and how excited he was and that he felt that same excitement yesterday when they selected Mathews. Those are some high compliments. I do think Mathews is the real deal, but I have my concerns. Can he stay healthy? At Fresno State, Mathews had a handful of backs behind him to spell him. In SD, other than Sproles on 3rd down, the Chargers won’t be looking to bring someone to spell Mathews. My other concern is the Chargers OL. They didn’t look good last year and if Mathews is going to be successful, they’ll have to play better.

Fantasy Impact: Don’t get me wrong, I like Mathews a lot, I’m just not willing to deem him the next LT like some people are just yet. He will have his growing pains this year, but he should have a very nice career. This offense is high octane so Mathews won’t be relied upon early which will allow him to get his NFL legs under him and develop into the back they expect him to be. I would target Mathews around the 4th-6th rounds as my 3rd RB. I won’t take him in the 3rd round, but I’m afraid that’s what it’s going to cost if you want Mathews on your fantasy team this year. I’m an aggressive fantasy player, but even that is too rich for my blood. In the first 3 rounds you want solid, proven players. That’s too early for me to take a chance on an upside guy like Mathews. As far as keeper leagues, I would target him around the same time. In dynasty leagues, Mathews is a top 2 pick, maybe even the #1 pick depending on your preference.

21. Jermaine Gresham, Cin- At 6’5, Gresham is a huge target over the middle for Carson Palmer. TE has been one piece that has been missing from the Bengals offense since forever. Gresham should get a chance to start immediately and bring a new aspect to the Bengals passing game. One knock to Gresham’s game though is he missed last year (his senior year) with a knee injury. Before going down last year, Gresham had a studly junior year racking up 66 catches for 950 yards and 14 scores.

Fantasy Impact: With this pick it looks like TE Chase Coffman will remain a backup and Gresham will take over. I would take Gresham late as a backup TE in redraft and keeper leagues. I’ll also go ahead and peg him as a sleeper candidate at the TE positon. In dynasty leagues, I would take him towards the end of the 1st round, start of the 2nd round as he should be a nice option at the TE position for years to come should he be able to stay healthy.

22. Demaryius Thomas, Den- Denver really screwed the pooch on this one. They had an opportunity to take a potential all-star in Dez Bryant, but Josh McDaniels stayed on his ego high horse and passed on Bryant. Thomas will be groomed to be the replacement to Brandon Marshall. He’s not as good as Dez Bryant but he does have a good opportunity because he’ll be their #1. Some were expecting Royal or Gafney to become the #1, but they are more suited for complimentary roles. Although I felt the Broncos should have taken Bryant, this pick should work out ok as Thomas has game.

Fantasy Impact: Thomas should be a decent WR in PPR leagues. In redraft and keeper leagues, I’d target him in the 7th-9th rounds as my 3rd or 4th WR. In dynasty leagues he’s a 1st rounder. This also helps out Eddie Royal and Knowshon Moreno’s value. 

24. Dez Bryant, Dal- I love this pick. Dallas moved aggressively and got a guy who can impact them now. Bryant has TO & Randy Moss type potential. When watching tape, Bryant looks like a man among boys. He’s my early favorite for rookie of the year. I am getting the feeling we may see the type of rookie season we saw from Randy Moss from Bryant this year. He’ll come in as the Cowboys #2, but he’ll never see double coverage as defenses will also have their hands full with Austin and Witten. I have Bryant ranked as my #1 rookie headed into 2010. I will target him in every draft and thank Jerry Jones for this fantasy gift.

Fantasy Impact: Bryant would be my #1 overall pick in dynasty rookie drafts. In keeper and redraft leagues, I’ll target Bryant in the 5th-7th rounds as my #3 WR. I like him a lot, but not enough to take him as a #2 when I know I can wait and get him as a #3. Should he go off in some preseason games, then expect his stock to skyrocket. This pick elevates Romo to the top 5 at QB and I’m bumping up Austin to #3 at WR now that he’ll never have to face double coverage. I’m really excited about this pick, but I don’t want to go overboard knowing that there are a lot of mouths to feed in Dallas.

25. Tim Tebow, Den- Not sure what to make of this pick yet. No doubt Tebow could work out, there’s also no doubt he could bust out. I’m taking the wait and see approach here. I was surprised he went this early. However, I wasn’t surprised that it was the Broncos that took him. I’m deeming Josh McDaniels the new Al Davis.

Fantasy Impact: Tebow has little fantasy value this year as he doesn’t have much chance to start. He could win the starting job, but I’m holding off on him this year. I’ll pass on him in keeper leagues as well. In dynasty leagues, I might consider him in the 3rd+ rounds.

30. Jahvid Best, Det- I was hoping Best would go to the Vikings or to the Lions. I said earlier this offseason that the Lions may address RB in the draft. Smith is still their guy, but they needed to do something in case he can’t return to his normal self. Best will be a Darren Sproles/Reggie Bush type player. The Lions made the right move by moving up to get Best. I love this pick. Great job Coach Schwartz and Co. For the record, my boy Zack Follett called this one.

Fantasy Impact: Best will touch the ball 10-15 times a game and handle some 3rd down duties. He’ll also be a threat in the passing and return games. I would take him around the 8th-10th rounds as my 4th running back or so in redraft and keeper leagues. In dynasty leagues, I’d take him in the middle of the 1st round. This doesn’t hurt Smith value in my opinion. Smith and Best can co-exist.