Fantasy Implications From The First Round

Contributed by: Bill Enright
Last Updated: Apr 30, 2011 1:17 PM

Without much Free Agency or off-season trades circulating due to the CBA situation, the 2011 NFL Draft is a major news item for all Fantasy Football manages. Here are four  major storylines from the First Round of the NFL Draft and their implications on the world of Fantasy Football.

1. Bengals Get A WR That's Not A Diva, But Still A Problem In Fantasy: Quarterback Cam Newton may have been the 1st overall selection in the Draft, but that doesn't get him an automatic bid into this article's first spot. Because let's be honest, unless you are in a Dynasty league, your probably not drafting a Rookie QB for your fantasy squad. 

But a top-talent Rookie receiver, now that's an entirely different situation. Green was hands down everyone's #1 WR in this year's Draft Class and with so much doubt about Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens returning to the team in 2011, Cincy knew they would need a playmaker for their aerial assault. Green has the makings of an elite NFL Wide Receiver and should develop into one much sooner rather than later (especially since he'll likely take over the Bengals #1 role from the get go).

But there is one MAJOR problem…who will be throwing Green the ball? Carson Palmer or Andy Dalton? It's a well-known fact that Carson Palmer desperately wants out of Cincinnati and if the team doesn't meet his demand for a trade, he says he will retire. Since the Bengals used their 4th pick on Green, they missed out on some of the top QB prospects in this year's class. Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, and Cam Newton all went in Round 1, which left Andy Dalton as the best QB available in Round 2.

Best case scenario for Green and Fantasy Managers, is the Bengals convince Palmer to return to the team, after all they just got him a shiny new toy to play catch with. If Palmer returns, Green should have a real good Rookie season and could finish among the Top 20 Wide Receivers. Worse case scenario: Andy Dalton starts as a Rookie and Fantasy Managers are left questioning whether or not to draft Green because his QB is so unproven.

Side Note: Ok so I cheated a little bit since Dalton was taken in the 2nd Round, not the 1st. If that ruined your weekend, tweet me and I'll personally apologize.


2. Julio Jones Can Make Matt Ryan A Top 5 QB : The blockbuster deal between the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons was one of the most popular topics of discussion after Round 1. Atlanta gave up a total of five picks (3 in 2011, 2 in 2012) to trade up from Number 27 to Number 6 in order to grab the Alabama prospect.

With their Franchise QB already in place and their star Wide Receiver constantly getting double covered, the Falcons needed to add a new weapon who can open up their passing attack and thus help them advance further in the post-season.

Jones is one of the most physical receivers to come out of College in a long time and admits he “LOVES to block.” How many NFL receivers are willingto block, let alone enjoy doing it? Not only will Jones become one of the more reliable targets for Matt Ryan, but he'll help boost Roddy White's, Tony Gonzalez's, and even Michael Turner's value with his ability to spread out the Defense and block downfield.

Now, as for his own fantasy stock in 2011, Jones finds himself in a much different place than AJ Green. Jones won't be the team's #1 guy, but he does have a proven QB passing him in the ball and joins a proficient NFL Offense. So while Green may have been drafted two spots ahead of Jones, don't be shocked if Jones is the one who finishes with better stats in his first year playing professional ball.


3. Saints Draft Mark Ingram, Reggie Bush Starts To Cry and Pack His Bags: The New Orleans Saints backfield was decimated by injuries in 2010. Pierre Thomas missed 9 games, Reggie Bush missed 8, and Chris Ivory missed 4.  So when the former Heisman Trophy winner was still on the board at Pick 28, the Saints made a deal with the Patriots and traded back into the 1st Round to grab him.

Once the news of the Saints' pick made it's way down to New Orleans, Reggie Bush had this to say via his twitter account:

“It's been fun New Orleans.”

Bush still has one more year on his contract but was expected to restructure his deal in order to stick with the team. Now that Ingram is a Saint, Bush figures they'll no longer need his services and I'd say he's 100% right in that assumption. Bush hasn't played a full season since his rookie year. It's pretty simple: The New Orleans Saints run a business and Bush is one of their employees expected to show up for work on Sunday. What business owner wants an employee that only shows up for work half the time? Certainly not one that wants to succeed.

Ironically, Bush and Ingram both have the same agent, Joel Segal. While one of Segal's clients was playing the “poor me I've just been replaced” card on Twitter, the other was getting extra motivated for having to wait so long before getting drafted.

Even without Bush, the Saints backfield will be crowded as always. Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory are expected to make a full recovery but Ingram will certainly get his fair share of snaps too.  Ingram may not be as dynamic as Bush, but he proved he's a capable receiver in College and showed the ability to run in between the tackles, something Bush was never known for.

Expect a RBBC with Thomas, Ingram, and Ivory in 2011 but if we've learned one thing about the Saints rushers, it's that one, two, or maybe all of them may go down with an injury at any point in the season.


4. Four QBs Taken In The Top 12 And None Worth A Damn For Your Fantasy Team: Heading into this year's draft, nearly every so called expert said this was a weak class of incoming QBs. Apparently no one informed the Panthers, Jaguars, Titans, and Vikings of that theory. Cam Newton was expected to go #1 all along so that came as no surprise. But people were shocked (including myself) when Jake Locker (#8 Titans) was drafted ahead of Blaine Gabbert (#10 Jaguars), only to be absolutely flabbergasted when the Vikings announced Christian Ponder as the 12th overall selection.

It seems Ponder, Newton, and Locker will start from the get-go. Gabbert on the other hand will likely play behind David Garrard in 2011, which will probably help his career in the long-term.

Will any of these QBs be able to find success similar to Sam Bradford's rookie season?

Short answer: A very emphatic: NO.

Long answer:

Gabbert was probably drafted by the best team (the Jags were only one game away from making the playoffs), but again he likely won't play much as a Rookie.

The Vikings have two good receivers with Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin and a great RB in Adrian Peterson, so Ponder inherited the best Offense. But he was projected to go in the 2nd or 3rd Round, not 12th overall, so it seems Minny may make a move or trade for a veteran QB at sometime this off-season.

There is a ton of pressure that comes with being the #1 overall selection, especially if you play QB. Cam Newton needs to work his butt off the next few months to learn as much as possible about the Panthers' Offensive game plan and how to breakdown a pro-style Defense. Wide Receiver Steve Smith is expected to leave the team, which leaves three 2nd year WRs to take over in the starting lineup. A rookie QB plus three VERY young WRs means a lot of Jonathan Stewart, Mike Goodson, and DeAngelo Williams if he returns.

Jake Locker, please repeat after me: “Hand the ball to Chris Johnson.” “Hand the ball to Chris Johnson.” If Locker can understand that, he'll help his team win games. But in all seriousness, Locker was expected to go #1 in 2010, but stayed in College an extra year. He has the skill sets to succeed in the NFL, but it probably won't happen right away.

So which QB  should Fantasy Managers? It wouldn't be fun if I said NONE, but that's how I feel about Rookie QBs.  They just don't offer much value in terms of Fantasy Football. Newton or Gabbert could be the best prospects for Dynasty Leagues, but still have so much to prove.

Follow Bill Enright on Twitter: @BillEnright

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