2019 NFL Draft: Fantasy Fits
Dom Murtha breaks down which NFL rookies are likely to make the biggest fantasy impact in 2019.
Wow, what a weekend! By all accounts, Nashville was one hell of a time, setting not only attendance records for the NFL draft, but also bringing television ratings to an all-time high. Now, we look forward, as these recently drafted rookies are no longer names on a board, but players in the NFL. Here we will examine – through a fantasy lens – the best player/landing spot marriages throughout the seven rounds of the draft. We’re going position-by-position and only listing the rookies that are likely to make a legitimate fantasy impact in 2019. If you don’t see your favorite rookie listed, that means that – as it stands now – we are likely fading them for next year.
| Kyler Murray | Arizona Cardinals | Round 1, Pick 1 |
While Murray was my number two quarterback according to game tape analysis, after the draft, there is no doubt that he is the number one fantasy rookie quarterback. For one, his path to playing time is better than any other rookie quarterback, as the Cardinals traded Josh Rosen – last year’s top-10 selection. Beyond that though, Murray offers plenty of dual-threat upside with both elite athleticism and throwing accuracy. Provided that this new coaching staff and subsequent offensive game plan is specifically built to Murray’s strengths (easily defined pre-snap reads; spread style offense) there is a chance that with some newly added weapons Murray could have a big rookie season.
| Dwayne Haskins | Washington Redskins | Round 1, Pick 15 |
On the Redskins current depth chart, technically Haskins is third behind Colt McCoy and Case Keenum . Let’s not pretend that this is how they will enter the regular season however, as Haskins is by far the most talented of the bunch. While it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Redskins open the season with Keenum as the starting QB in hopes of easing their rookie into the NFL, it also wouldn’t be surprising to see Haskins win the job outright in training camp – he’s that talented. In Haskins, the Redskins drafted the most NFL ready quarterback; a guy capable of reading defenses pre-snap and delivering a strike to the open receiver, pass rush be damned. Unlike Murray, Haskins is not exactly guaranteed the starting job right away, which, along with his lack of dual-threat capabilities, is why Murray is the better fantasy prospect. However, with all of that being considered, Haskins will still make his imprint on the fantasy football landscape as a rookie, it just may not be as early or as large scale as Murray is expected to in 2019.
| Josh Jacobs | Oakland Raiders | Round 1, Pick 24 |
While not many scouts agree, there are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding Jacobs as an every down NFL running back. For example, he was used sparingly at Alabama with only one career 100+ yard game, while his work in pass protection also leaves a lot to be desired. Fortunately for his sake though, Jacobs has a first round pick invested in him by the Raiders – a team that suddenly has no competition on the running back depth chart after the season-ending injury to Isaiah Crowell . There is no denying the dynamic talent that Jacobs brings to the table, and while there are questions about his ability to handle a full workload at the NFL level, he’s firmly set up in his rookie season to see the lion’s share of touches out of the Raiders backfield. Regardless of previous evidence as a workhorse back, guaranteed touches are all that fantasy owners can ask or. He has a leg up on nearly every other rookie back in this regard. That should count for a lot in the preseason positional rankings.
| Miles Sanders | Philadelphia Eagles | Round 2, Pick 21 |
As a prospect, Sanders is everything that Saquon Barkley is... minus the power element. You’re probably thinking “well, that is a pretty huge part of Barkley’s game” and while you are correct, just think about what type of player Barkley would be as strictly a finesse back. That’s still a pretty damn good player; a guy who would still remind you of Boobie Myles of Friday Night Lights fame. Simply put, Sanders is well-built with elite elusiveness; a guy who is always several steps ahead of the defense in terms of cutbacks and stutter-steps. Blessed with elite vision and a slippery running style, Sanders makes for the perfect complimentary back to the recently added Jordan Howard . He may not be guaranteed as many touches as Jacobs as a rookie, however he will still certainly make an impact in fantasy football leagues this season.
| Darrell Henderson | Los Angeles Rams | Round 3, Pick 6 |
The fact that a guy who averaged 8.9 yards per carry in each of the last two seasons was just added to the Rams offense is downright scary. Sure Henderson is a bit one-dimensional in his skill-set, but with his elite athleticism and acceleration as his calling card, I can’t envision a better offense for him to have joined as a rookie. Just imagine a guy – who in college was a guaranteed first down every time he touched the ball – being put in jet motion – something that the Rams do more than any other team in the NFL – and taking a pitch or handoff with already a full head of steam before the ball is even snapped. Henderson may not be guaranteed even 10 touches per game, but with Sean McVay calling the shots, I’m sure he is going to make a significant impact when he does eventually get his number called. Side note: a running back selection this early from the Rams does not bode well for the potential health prospects of Todd Gurley …
| David Montgomery | Chicago Bears | Round 3, Pick 10 |
In terms of value and fit, Montgomery to the Bears may be the best running back/team pairing of the draft. When watching the tape, Montgomery reminds me a lot of James Conner in terms of a power running style, plus field vision, and limited athletic upside. That may also remind you a lot of Jordan Howard , however the difference is that Montgomery is a more thoughtful lane finder as a runner and is a far superior receiver of the football. Completing the tandem with Tarik Cohen , Montgomery may actually have more potential in this Bears offense than Howard ever had. Don’t be surprised if he emerges out of camp as the starting back, slated to see 220+ touches this season.
| Devin Singletary | Buffalo Bills | Round 3, Pick 11 |
While not a popular opinion, Singletary was my number one ranked rookie running back entering and leaving the draft process. His tape will remind you a lot of Devonta Freeman and now somewhat ironically, LeSean McCoy . Rumors have it that the addition of Singletary has put Shady on notice, leading many to believe that McCoy will not open the season as a member of the Buffalo Bills. If that ends up being the case, I like Singletary’s chances of beating out Frank Gore for the early down duties, while the passing downs will still be handled by T.J. Yeldon .
| Justice Hill | Baltimore Ravens | Round 4, Pick 11 |
Hill’s college tape looked like a carbon copy of Philip Lindsay’s rookie season with the Broncos. Raise your hand if you are interested in talent and potential production like that. Now, imagine the next Philip Lindsay being drop shipped into the number one rushing offense in the league; a team with a pure ground-and-pound mentality… Hill has underwhelming competition surrounding him for touches, making him perhaps the most intriguing rookie running back available in 2019. Feel free to color him red on your boards as a “sleeper.”
| Marquise “Hollywood” Brown | Baltimore Ravens | Round 1, Pick 25 |
A DeSean Jackson clone, Brown joins the Ravens as unquestionably the most talented receiver on their roster from day one. While Baltimore appears far more committed to the ground game at the moment, there is little doubt that Brown will have plenty of opportunities to take the top off of defenses as a rookie. The concerns are that he’s coming off of an injury and currently sports an incredibly lean 165 lbs. frame; however, being that he’s arguably the fastest receiver I have ever scouted, the worrying has slightly dissipated. Speed wins in most cases at the NFL level, regardless of size.
| N’Keal Harry | New England Patriots | Round 1, Pick 32 |
Harry is a big bodied receiver with talent reminiscent of Dez Bryant . He operates like a power forward in the red zone and is insanely combative at the catch point. Tom Brady will have a field day getting him the football, and if I’m wrong, he won’t really have much other choice anyway, considering the lack of depth on the Patriots receiving corps. He should be heavily targeted as a rookie, while the only hang up might be early on as he learns the nuances of the Patriots offensive playbook.
| Deebo Samuel | San Francisco 49ers | Round 2, Pick 4 |
While Samuel is likely going to be a “slot only” player in the NFL, that doesn’t mean that his fantasy prospects as a rookie are hopeless. As it stands now, it appears that Samuel is in line to be the Niners starting slot, which with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo could be a very valuable title. What to know about Samuel is that he’s more closely built like a running back and he plays like it after the catch. He is a nightmare to bring down in the open field, while as a route runner he creates easy separation. He should be a mismatch for most slot corners in this league. Expect immediate production from the rookie receiver, provided his long history of injuries don’t come back to haunt him.
| A.J. Brown | Tennessee Titans | Round 2, Pick 19 |
A.J. Brown was my number two ranked receiver behind only Hollywood Brown. Like Deebo Samuel, Brown is probably going to see a lot of his work out of the slot with the Titans, but that should be considered a fantasy positive instead of a negative. Brown finally provides Marcus Mariota with a reliable over-the-middle option, something that he hasn’t had during his entire NFL tenure. Expect him to quickly become the preferred intermediate target over Adam Humphries , while Corey Davis will continue to serve as the Titans WR1.
| Mecole Hardman | Kansas City Chiefs | Round 2, Pick 24 |
While I’m not on board like most people are in the thought that Hardman is going to plug in and replace Tyreek Hill , I do see the merit to the conversation. Hardman is a lot like Hill in terms of skill-set, however he has a ways to go in terms of overall polish for the position. Rest assured, with this intelligent coaching staff and elite quarterback, they will find a way to have Hardman make an impact, but I’m also not going to cosign the thought that Hardman is far and away going to be the most impactful fantasy rookie receiver either.
| Parris Campbell | Indianapolis Colts | Round 2, Pick 27 |
Campbell has a running back’s build and the speed of an elite return man. While you would think that this skill-set would conflict with what the Colts have in T.Y. Hilton , understand that most of Campbell’s work is going to be created underneath and across the middle. Having him operate in that area with that type of game breaking talent only adds another level of Andrew Luck ’s passing game that he can take advantage of. Think of Campbell like Curtis Samuel and how he operates in the Panthers offense.
| Jalen Hurd | San Francisco 49ers | Round 3, Pick 3 |
Hurd is a former running back and he shows it as a runner after the catch. Only problem for defenders however is that he’s not only running with the ball with the skill of a back, but he’s also 6-foot-5 and nearly 230 lbs. On top of that, as a receiver, Hurd shows natural instincts with his hands catching the football and also as a route runner. He instinctively gets an excellent release and creates easy separation off the line of scrimmage. Considering that he’s only played wideout for one season, he seems rather advanced for the position. Don’t be surprised if he quickly moves up the depth chart in San Francisco.
| Hunter Renfrow | Oakland Raiders | Round 5, Pick 11 |
With all of the new weapons that the Raiders have, as it stood entering the draft, they did not have a starting slot receiver or even a legitimate threat to handle the underneath routes. Renfrow may not be highly drafted, but he has an extensive collegiate resume of production (just ask Alabama fans in the season finale of each of the last four seasons). Imagine that the Raiders just got themselves Cole Beasley , only there is also no competition for him in the slot or any competent tight end to threaten his over-the-middle looks.
| T.J. Hockenson | Detroit Lions | Round 1, Pick 8 |
Love the player and love the landing spot. While the Lions have already recently been burned by a top-10 tight end (Eric Ebron 2014), this time around they managed to get not only an incredibly safe prospect, but also the most talented offensive player in the draft. Hockenson possesses Jason Witten ’s blocking, leadership qualities, and ability to get open, while he reminds me of Jeremy Shockey after the catch with his bucking bronco running style and never-quit demeanor. With Detroit’s average-at-best arsenal of offensive weapons, don’t be surprised if Hockenson quickly becomes a go-to target for Matthew Stafford .
| Noah Fant | Denver Broncos | Round 1, Pick 20 |
Fant – while less polished and more of a finesse player than Hockenson – is considered to be the higher ceiling receiving prospect of the two talented Iowa tight ends. He has plenty of size and more than enough athleticism to serve as a unique weapon and matchup piece in the red zone. The problem with Fant is that he’s not yet an NFL level blocker, which may stunt his ability to play a large percentage of snaps at the tight end position. Early on, Fant may have to be relegated to a specialty package player, most often lining up as a “big slot” within the Broncos offense. Either way, he will contribute as a rookie, however it just may take a few weeks for him to develop a knack for blocking at the NFL level.
| Josh Oliver | Jacksonville Jaguars | Round 3, Pick 5 |
Oliver is an underrated athlete, especially for the position, while his skill-set also usually goes unrecognized, despite being the best playmaker on his college offense. This should change, as he joins the Jaguars as their most talented tight end, despite the fact that they just paid Geoff Swaim this offseason. His underwhelming ability as a blocker may prevent Oliver from starting right out of the gates, but the offensive coaching staff would be dumb if they didn’t draw up specific plays to get him the ball early on this season. He’s certainly a sleeper to keep an eye on, as Oliver is rarely discussed amongst NFL fans, but may end up getting starting reps before 2019 is all said and done.
| Jace Sternberger | Green Bay Packers | Round 3, Pick 12 |
Yes, the Packers still have Jimmy Graham , and yes, we tend to overrate how much Aaron Rodgers really likes his tight ends, but adding a rookie to learn from Graham can’t be a bad thing, that’s for sure. I always tend to worry about potential production from an Aaron Rodgers tight end, let alone a rookie, but his mismatch ability against slot corners should give him added value to the playbook. He can play as the “big slot” and not miss a beat, which should help him stay on the field more than his mediocre blocking skills will.