NFL draft and fantasy impact

The 2020 NFL draft starts tonight, and a sports world starved for any sports news is eager to embrace it. Okay, maybe embrace is the wrong world. Memo to sports world: You need to stay at least six feet from the draft and wear a mask.

The first round of the draft is tonight, with the draft continuing through Saturday when the draft will end. This year’s class of incoming rookies includes many potential impact players at the skill positions, but today I’ll only look at a few.

Let’s start with Joe Burrow, who will be selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the first pick. In 2019, his final season with LSU, Burrow passed for over 5,600 yards with 60 touchdowns – the most in a single season in NCAA history

Burrow, who played at Ohio State for three seasons before transferring to LSU, grew up in Athens. OH. So, Burrow comes home to lead a Bengals team that’s just not very good. It’s similar to what Kyler Murray was looking at last year in Arizona.

Two other quarterbacks, Justin Herbert and Tuanigamanuolepola “Tua” Tagovailoa, are expected to go early in the first round, although Tagovailoa’s situation is fluid because of an extensive history of injuries. Their impact depends on where they land.

The consensus, if there is one, is that two rookie wide receivers will also be drafted in the first half of round one. They are CeeDee Lamb, from Oklahoma, and Jerry Jeudy from Alabama. Both could be fantasy assets if they are drafted by the right team.

But if you’re looking for a real impact player that could help you win your fantasy league, it won’t be a wideout. A rookie running back is much more likely to become an every-down back than it is for a rookie receiver to take over as a No. 1 target.

The problem is that there is no Saquon Barkley in this year’s draft. Barkley, who was taken by the New York Giants with the second overall pick, has been a huge fantasy asset. This year, there may not even be a running back drafted in the first round.

You shouldn’t be surprised by that possibility because only 16 running backs have been selected in the first round of the NFL draft over the past 10 years. However, I am going to predict who will be the first one drafted and why you should target him.

Ready? It’s D’Andre Swift, the speedy and elusive running back from Georgia. If you play in a PPR league, he also one of the best pass-catching backs in the draft. He can be a three-down back, a true bell cow who can lead you to the promised land.

Swift rushed for 1,218 rushing yards (6.2 average) and seven touchdowns on the ground and 24 receptions for 316 yards and one more score in the passing game. In three seasons, he rushed for 2,885 yards (6.56 average) and added 73 receptions.

Okay, here’s the caveat on Swift being the one to lead you to the promised land. It all depends on where he goes. Several teams have already been mentioned as landing spots: Buffalo, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia and Las Vegas (yes, that’s the Raiders).

There are reasons why each of the five above-mentioned teams could limit Swift’s fantasy impact. They either employ a running back committee, or just stink. But there is one other team that is a real possibility – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

First, Tom Brady signs with the Bucs. Then, we get the news yesterday about Rob Gronkowski coming out of retirement to join Brady on Bruce Arians team. Now, Brady has three huge weapons to target – Gronk, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

But when it comes to the ground game, Tampa Bay needs help. Ronald Jones is a work in progress and has  plenty to prove in regards to developing into a top running back. Peyton Barber, who wasn’t even drafted in 2016, is nothing more than filler.

Yesterday, I told you that the Super Bowl hype surrounding the signing of Brady and Gronk was absurd. At the risk of talking out of both sides of my mouth, the addition of Swift would make the Bucs an offensive powerhouse in the upcoming season.

 

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