A more overlooked part of of the draft is how it affects veterans. Teams gave their internal scouting report on their own players with actions rather than words, which is always more valuable. Last week I discussed veteran winners in the wake of the draft. Here are eight players whose outlook is worse coming out of the draft.
1. Todd Gurley, RB, RamsThe Rams have spoken about the status Gurley’s knee with their actions. They played him behind street free agent C.J. Anderson throughout the playoffs, matched an offer sheet to Malcolm Brown in March and then traded up 24 spots in the third round of the draft to take Darrell Henderson. This comes in the midst of rumors suggesting stem cell treatment on Gurley’s knee. Henderson, who was comped to James White by tape guru Greg Cosell and has the one-cut style necessary for Sean McVay’s scheme, showed serious juice between the tackles at Memphis by averaging an outrageous 8.9 YPC. At a minimum, the Rams now have two very solid prospects to spell Gurley in Henderson and John Kelly – plus they still have Brown. It’s very difficult to see Gurley getting anywhere near the 19.8 carries plus 5.3 targets he had through the first 10 games of last season.
2. Jordan Howard, RB, EaglesThe Eagles only gave up a conditional sixth-round pick in the trade for Howard. They used a second-round pick on Miles Sanders in the draft. It spells bad news for Howard, whose early-down only skill set already puts a cap on his projection. Now we add Sanders, who met all six minimum thresholds of an elite fantasy running back and was the apple of the organization’s eye. This is an Eagles team which hadn’t drafted a running back in the first three rounds since 2009, but made an exception for Sanders. “Miles was a staff favorite. A personnel staff favorite. A front-office favorite,” said GM Howie Roseman. Expect Sanders to cut into Howard’s early-down work right from Week 1 and move into a featured role later in the season.
3. Mike Davis, RB, BearsDavis is a better player than most give him credit. He’s an excellent pass-catcher (34 receptions on just 402 snaps last season) and was PFF’s No. 28 RB among 137 qualifiers last season. Unfortunately, he’s never been able to sustain health in the NFL, so no one was surprised when the Bears traded up for David Montgomery at No. 73 overall. We know Tarik Cohen will handle the overwhelming majority of third-down, two-minute and four-minute plays. So now that the Bears used two of their five draft picks on running backs (Montgomery and Kerrith Whyte), we have major opportunity concerns on Davis. We also should be concerned about the game-flow of the Bears, which allowed them to rank 6th in team rush attempts last season en route to a 12-4 record. A large part of that was the highly volatile league-leading 36 takeaways. This year the Bears have the NFL’s fifth-hardest schedule, per Sharpfootballstats’ metrics.
4. Corey Davis, WR, TitansThe Titans ranked 31st in pass attempts and 28th in passing touchdowns last season, and Marcus Mariota was 27th in average depth of target. This is not a quarterback or scheme which can support strong fantasy seasons from multiple pass-catchers. Last year, Davis held a massive 25.6 percent target share but still caught just 65 balls and finished as only fantasy’s No. 38 receiver in PPR scoring. That has to be some kind of record. So adding the very talented A.J. Brown in the draft along with slot man Adam Humphries in free agency and getting TE Delanie Walker back from injury is a problem for Davis. He was barely usable at that 25.6 percent share last season and now he’s looking at a share closer to 18%. That’s trouble.
5. Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ersThe 49ers tried to use Goodwin as a featured, every-down receiver in the middle part of last year. It did not work as a lack of production combined with injuries led to zero games with more than four catches. That doesn’t mean Goodwin can’t play a valuable role – he’s a situational lid-lifter with world-class speed and can be this offense’s version of Taylor Gabriel. However, the Niners knew they needed to get George Kittle and Dante Pettis help so they Deebo Samuel in the second round and Jalen Hurd in the third. Expect Samuel to start at flanker right away, Pettis to continue his ascent as the starting split end and Kittle to dominate the middle of the field. It’s an exciting group with Jimmy Garoppolo coming back, but we can’t project anything more than 20-30 snaps per game for Goodwin.
6. Aaron Rodgers, QB, PackersRodgers was near his career-lows in completion percentage (62.3%), touchdown percentage (4.2%) and yards per attempt (7.4) last season. He was also only 9th in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks. The wild part of this is that he did it with Davante Adams having an All-Pro 111-1,386-13 season. With just a little bit more weaponry around Adams, Rodgers would project to soar back into the top tier of fantasy quarterbacks. But the Packers chose not to spend any of their eight draft picks on wideouts, instead hoping Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimious St. Brown can take a leap forward. It’s possible that they can and it’s possible that a new scheme will help Rodgers elevate their play. But the draft did Rodgers no favors even though they did add an offensive lineman in Elgton Jenkins in the second round. That’s clearly not be enough though; the Packers allowed the third-most sacks in the league last season.
7. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, CardinalsYes, it will be difficult to push everyone’s hero Fitzgerald off the field. But the Cardinals now have the talent to do so. Christian Kirk (last year’s second-round pick) and Andy Isabella (this year’s second-round pick) are both capable of playing in the slot. Fourth-round steal Hakeem Butler has positional versatility as well and Keesean Johnson was also added in the sixth round. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Fitzgerald’s snaps should be limited as he enters his age-36 season. So even as this Arizona pass game trends upwards from a play volume and efficiency thanks to Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme plus Kyler Murray’s big-play electricity, Fitzgerald can’t be counted on for a major leap. The Cardinals know he’s at the very tail end of his career now.
8. Rex Burkhead, RB, PatriotsBurkhead has been a very productive player for the Patriots in a part-time role over the last two seasons, repeatedly proving he’s a plus in both the rushing and pass game. However, he’s missed 14 games over the last two seasons and will be 29 years old in July. The somewhat surprising selection of Damien Harris in the third round put Burkhead’s roster spot in serious jeopardy as Sony Michel, Harris, James White and special teams standout Brandon Bolden are all locks to make the roster. Even if Burkhead does find a way to stick, he’ll be battling Harris for a jersey on game days. And that’s a battle Burkhead is unlikely to win. The Harris selection also isn’t great news for Michel, mostly because of durability. It’s much easier to project Michel for an 80% carry share with Burkhead constantly nicked up. Harris, who got very little tread on his tires at Alabama while splitting time with Josh Jacobs, is at least someone to watch closely in camp. How much early-down work will he take from Michel?
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