NFL Draft Reactions
As usual, the NFL Draft has already had myriad surprise choices and selections through the first three rounds. There are not that many times where we can get inside the heads of our respective favorite NFL teams brass, but the draft provides us, the viewers, with one of the rare occasions. Here, we are going to look at some of the biggest surprises from Rounds 1-3, keeping in mind the fantasy implications the respective moves may have, going through the draft in descending order.
Denver Broncos Passing on QB At No. 9—Aaron Rodgers?
If the Broncos somehow manage to pull off a deal for incumbent Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, disregard this entire diatribe.
Broncos have indeed put together an impressive deal for Rodgers https://t.co/zWwCjJePSL
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) April 29, 2021
However, if that doesn’t happen and we have a Broncos squad with the “dynamic” duo of Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, I’ll just be beside myself.
Let’s address this: Patrick Surtain II is a fantastic cornerback. He may not have the ceiling of a Jaycee Horn who went one selection before him, but Surtain is a high-floor type of player who could start Week 1, but how do you pass on a quarterback here?
There has been zero indication that Lock is the answer and Bridgewater was barely better than Lock last season, finishing as the QB17 and QB25, respectively.
Sitting there at nine was both Justin Fields and Mac Jones. In my final mock draft, I anticipated a trade-up to get Fields, but here, the Broncos did not even need to do that and still passed on him. With such a talented receiving group headed by Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, this is disappointing.
The entire receiving group will need to wait for higher production potential.
Chicago Bears Get Justin Fields
This is without a doubt, unequivocally, and not even close, the steal of the draft.
Going into the draft it was difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Bears could trade up to get a quarterback, but they do so, trading with the New York Giants to go from 20 to 11. To do so, they traded this year’s first-round pick, next year’s first-round pick and there were some Day 3 pick swaps.
Consider that the San Francisco 49ers needed to trade three first-round picks to get Trey Lance who may have more upside, but Fields is ready to go immediately.
For Bears fans, this is a major upgrade from Andy Dalton, and Fields may be one of the best quarterbacks in recent Bears history. Fields offers arguably the most accurate passing record of any quarterback in this draft and has a 4.40-range speed.
Lance, if he starts Week 1, is likely in a better situation and a better tool kit to potentially finish ahead of Fields in fantasy, but Fields will also be able to utilize his rushing ability and has some decent options to throw to, headlined by wide receiver Allen Robinson (who finally gets a quarterback with a pulse). Fields would initially be in my QB15-17 range, only behind Lance in the rookie quarterback rankings.
Standing Pat(s): New England Stay at 15, Get Mac Jones
This may not be a surprise to many, but with how valuable the position is, this is a little eyebrow-raising.
The quarterback position is the most important position in football and these five quarterbacks may be in their own tiers, but they offer something different from the other. After starting Cam Newton last season, the Patriots ceiling is fairly limited.
Jones does not at all resemble Newton’s skill set or have the rushing upside of any of the other quarterbacks in this class, but he can sit in the pocket and is accurate from there. He’s definitely not Tom Brady, but his skillset mirrors that more than Newton without a shadow of a doubt. In bringing in Jones at No. 15 overall, and having a vastly different skill set, all signs point to Jones starting Week 1. With that said, even if he does, unless he lights it up with yardage and touchdowns, he’s just not going to be a valuable fantasy asset.
This does, however, help out the value of wide receiver Nelson Agholor and maybe raises the stock of tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry a bit, but those two will be their own worst enemy in fantasy football.
Agholor is currently going as the WR82 in PPR leagues. That’s (to use a Stephen A. Smith word) blasphemous.
He may not be a WR2 or even WR3, but he could be in the WR4 bye week filler category with Jones.
Las Vegas Raiders Take Second Round Player in First Round
Without a doubt, the Las Vegas Raiders needed offensive line help after virtually their entire offensive line was dismantled this offseason.
So, they did get it half-right.
Drafting Alex Leatherwood at No. 17 overall is a risk. He needs more time to develop, as do most rookie offensive tackles, but sitting there at 17 was Christian Darrisaw who could enter right away and suit up at the tackle position.
Leatherwood may get the start by default, but the development curve will be slightly slower and he was more of a second-round offensive lineman.
The Raiders added Kenyan Drake this offseason which was already going to dig into Josh Jacobs’ value, but a depleted offensive lineman and the first upgrade in the draft being a project will hurt him more so.
Jacobs is currently going as the RB12 in PPR formats, that’s too rich for my blood.
Tennessee Titans Pass on Receiver
If the health works out, the Titans got an absolute steal in the draft with cornerback Caleb Farley. If not for the health issues by way of a back injury, Farley is likely the first corner off the board.
Also, yes, the Titans needed corners with all of them either leaving or just simply not being productive any longer. After Year 1, all could be OK and that would be an instant, high-level elite cornerback in the fold. Looking at the offense, though, the Titans lost wide receiver Corey Davis and tight end, Jonnu Smith, in free agency.
With wide receiver Elijah Moore and Rashod Bateman there on the board—man was that tough to watch.
Moore was likely the better fit as he would have offered such a different skill set to A.J. Brown, which would also improve his value being able to get downfield with Moore taking everything over the middle of the field.
If Moore landed with the Titans, he could have been a PPR darling, keeping in mind the role he would play and the Titans likely trailing more next year than previous years.
In the second round, it is hard to fault them, however, for taking offensive tackle Dillon Radunz. The Titans needed an offensive lineman who isn’t going to get himself kicked out of the league after playing just two kneel-down snaps and also being seen on the hood of a car.
Oh well. I guess we can now only ponder what could have been (this applies to both a second receiver and Isaiah Wilson if we’re being honest).
Buckle up, Brown is about to receive over 200 targets.
Jacksonville Jaguars Take RB at 25
The Pittsburgh Steelers also should not have taken a running back one pick prior at No. 24 overall, but we all saw that coming from a mile away, so it really wasn’t much of a surprise.
Just one pick later, the Jaguars taking running back Travis Etienne was a bit of one.
The Jaguars need almost anything and everything. They still had the opportunity at No. 33 overall to take safety Trevon Moehrig, but passed for Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell. At 25, Greg Newsome II should have been the pick, or perhaps Bateman. Newsome would have improved the secondary immediately and Bateman would have provided new quarterback Trevor Lawrence with an excellent receiver.
Now, there is a caveat here: If head coach Urban Meyer deploys Etienne similar to how he did Curtis Samuel at Ohio State, utilizing his pass-catching ability and complementing that with 170ish touches, Etienne could provide that Alvin Kamara-like role.
In fantasy football, we love pass-catching running backs!
With James Robinson and Carlos Hyde in the fold, it will immediately appear as a crowded running back room, but if Etienne gets a role that consists of some carries with an emphasis on pass-catching, his PPR value will be high-end RB2 or low-end RB1 potential.
Let me reiterate: The pick could prove valuable for fantasy purposes, but from a real-life, NFL team-building standpoint, it was, again, eyebrow-raising.
Broncos Trade-Up, Draft Javonte Williams in Second Round
Originally slotted at pick 40, the Broncos traded up to 35 and took Williams, one of the three best running backs in the draft.
There were multiple potential spots for Williams atop the second round, including the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons, but the Broncos didn’t really cross my mind.
The Broncos lost Philip Lindsay to free agency, so adding a running back makes sense, but the trade up for Williams, when players such as Christian Barmore, Teven Jenkins, Moehrig, Walker Little, Asante Samuel Jr., Rondale Moore, and Azeez Ojulari were sitting there was a curious decision.
Now, with Williams in the building, yes, he should be in a position to succeed immediately. Current running back Melvin Gordon will be the lesser of this two-headed backfield as the Broncos only have $4.5 million committed to the 28-year-old back.
What will be interesting is to see if the Broncos trust Williams to catch passes out of the backfield, as that wasn’t a huge part of his game coming out of college, nor was it Gordon’s.
Eskridge and Atwell Taken Ahead of Terrace Marshall Jr.
This absolutely blew my mind. To me, minus some medical red flags toward the end of the pre-draft process, Marshall had the potential to be a first-round pick. D’Wayne Eskridge, the 24-year-old was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, and Tutu Atwell, the less-than-150-pound receiver was taken by the Los Angeles Rams.
To be fair, Eskridge does make sense for the Seahawks offense as he can perform those horizontal routes with his route-running savvy, but Atwell is more so just a pure deep threat kind of guy.
For the Rams, an offense consisting of Robert Woods in the slot and Marshall and Kupp on the outside would have been a blast to watch. Yes, they have DeSean Jackson, but he has not been able to stay healthy. The Rams would have gotten their proverbial first-round draft pick. Marshall, who landed with the Carolina Panthers, could be a true No. 1 “X” receiver.
Now, the Panthers and quarterback Sam Darnold will have an even better offense to work with as they both attempt to resurrect his young career at the quarterback position.
Houston Texans Draft QB Davis Mills With Their First Pick
Well, we seem to have a bit more clarity when it comes to the Houston Texans quarterback situation.
It has been an offseason for the ages when it comes to the Texans quarterback room, headlined by Deshaun Watson wanting to leave the team, and then multiple allegations came his way that could potentially be either cleared up totally or result in criminal charges.
The Texans also added Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Finley this offseason as well. Now, with their very first pick in the draft, the Texans at No. 67 overall draft Stanford quarterback Davis Mills.
During the NFL Draft broadcast, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah did say that everyone in the league expects that Watson has played his final snap with the Texans.
Mills does offer the tools to potentially get it done at the next level in terms of his arm talent and his five-start recruit profile, but his lack of experience (appeared in 13 games over the past two seasons) and mobility are some red flags.
If Watson is indeed gone, we could see a three-horse race during training camp and into the preseason: Taylor vs. Finley vs. Mills.
Expect the Texans to likely be in a great spot to draft Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler atop the 2022 NFL Draft.
There is no fantasy value to be had here with Mills. If he is awarded the starting job, it likely helps out pass-catchers Brandin Cooks and fellow 2021 draftee Nico Collins (who is looking likely to start opposite Cooks), but it’s still a more than sketchy situation in Houston from all angles.
A journalism graduate from the University of New Hampshire, Richard has written about fantasy football for nearly a decade, having previously contributed to Bleacher Report. Outside of fantasy football, Richard is in a metal band, TrueShot, and has a 10-year-old son. A fan of the Baltimore Ravens, Richard does not think Joe Flacco is elite but believes Jay Ajayi is still a future Hall of Famer.