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Most Improved Offenses After The NFL Draft


Free agency and the NFL Draft are really the only two events that have the ability to instantaneously and significantly impact NFL offenses. Whereas in free agency, it's somewhat of a zero sum game - one offense gets better at the expense of another getting get worse due to players shifting teams - in the NFL Draft, everyone benefits since teams are only adding players.

Obviously incumbent players can be negatively impacted by draft selections, but overall, at least in theory, offenses should only improve (although drafting bad players doesn't help).

Today, we will take a look at which NFL offenses improved the most as a result of the NFL Draft and what that improvement means for their relevant fantasy options.

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Biggest Post-Draft Fantasy Winners

Chicago Bears

The NFL's most improved offense in general got even better during the NFL Draft. The Bears spent their two second round picks on James Daniels, one of the best Centers in the draft and Anthony Miller, a solid replacement for Cameron Meredith and a guy with a legitimate shot at being the Bears' WR2 alongside Allen Robinson. With these two picks, it is clear the Bears are focused on protecting Mitch Trubisky and continuing to give him weapons at his disposal.

Fantasy Impact: The Bears have an abundance of weapons, which benefits Trubisky the most. He will be a popular late round QB target with the hopes of a Jared Goff like breakout (since the 2018 Bears are the 2017 Rams). Miller is a decent dynasty project, but is unlikely to make a meaningful impact early in the season for redraft. But all it takes is one injury to thrust him into significant opportunity.

Cleveland Browns

Another team that improved significantly in free agency did so again in the draft. It speaks volumes about the overall view of the Browns as an organization that the most common sentiment following the Browns' first two picks was, "Wow, the Browns didn't mess it up!" Cleveland got themselves the clear cut best QB in this draft class in Baker Mayfield and in the second round, grabbed their early down grinder of the future in Nick Chubb. Both of this picks have significant fantasy relevance.

Fantasy Impact: Any other QB would be most likely to sit for their entire rookie campaign. Not Baker Mayfield. Tyrod Taylor was looking like a strong late round QB candidate with the improved supporting cast and his already existing running ability. I am confident Taylor starts in Week 1. I am equally as confident that Mayfield makes starts in 2018. He's just too good and too pro ready to leave on the sidelines, especially since despite the Browns' obvious improvement, they are unlikely to be a dominant team just yet. Chubb's 2018 fantasy value will be limited. Carlos Hyde is going to start and while Chubb will see the field, he will do nothing more than eat into Hyde's fantasy value. The Browns will likely cut Hyde after this season and roll with Chubb as their early down and goal line back beginning in 2019. Nevertheless, the Chubb pick makes both Hyde and Chubb nonviable in 2018. The good news for this season is that Chubb was brought in to replace Hyde, not Duke Johnson. Johnson's role remains unchanged and neither Chubb nor Hyde should eat into any of Johnson's work.

Denver Broncos

I have criticized John Elway for being a bad general manager, and rightfully so. With that being said, it is only fair to credit him for a tremendous 2018 draft. The Broncos selected three important skill position players: Courtland Sutton, Royce Freeman, and DeaSean Hamilton.

Fantasy Impact: The player most ready to make an impact is Freeman. He is an underrated pass catcher and an excellent between the tackles runner. Freeman can be a three a down back if the Broncos want him to. With quintessential "just a guy" C.J. Anderson gone, Freeman only has Devontae Booker, De'Angelo Henderson, and UDFA Phillip Lindsay (who I actually like) to compete with for snaps. Freeman is better than both of them and has an excellent chance to enter the season as the starter. He has one of the best outlooks for rookie RBs in redraft. As for Sutton and Hamilton, this is just about worst case scenario for 2018, but potentially beneficial for 2019 and beyond. Sutton has elite level agility and is built like a true X receiver. Hamilton was the victim of horrific QB play at Penn State. Had he been with a better QB, he might have been a second round pick. These two project as Denver's future 1-2 punch at WR. Unfortunately, with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders still around, there's no room for either to make any sort of noise, barring injury, in 2018. Both should be firmly off the redraft radar. In dynasty/keeper formats, however, Sutton is the prime target with Hamilton a later round flier. Sanders is almost certainly gone after 2018 and Thomas, while less likely to leave, is nearing the end. He will be 31 years old when the 2019 season begins and his skill set does not translate well into his 30s.

Indianapolis Colts

Sometimes, it's the unsexy picks that make a team's offense much better. The Colts didn't draft anyone that you would really want to take in fantasy, but they did improve their offense tremendously. The Colts spend their first round pick on Quenton Nelson and their second second round pick on Braden Smith. That's two offensive linemen with their first three picks. After almost (and still possibly) losing their elite franchise QB due to a shoulder injury suffered because he took a pounding behind a porous offensive line, the Colts finally did something to address it. An improved offensive line helps everyone on the offense. Jacoby Brissett (I'm still not convinced Andrew Luck ever plays football again) will have more time to find T.Y. Hilton. Their medley of RBs will have better lanes to run through. It's an all around good thing. The Colts also drafted RB Nyheim Hines in the fourth round.

Fantasy Impact: We'll start with Hines. He's a converted WR and some teams actually wanted to draft him to play WR, so we know he can catch the ball. Marlon Mack was the change of pace guy last season. I expect these two to be the main RBs for the Colts in 2018, forming nice timeshare. Hopefully, they are the only two in the mix. If Luck does actually play, both Mack and Hines will have some redraft value and since neither will be that expensive in drafts, the cheaper one is the one you'd want to target (if you want either). As for the offensive line improvement, as I stated above, more time and better blocking helps everyone.

New York Giants

The Giants did not really improve their offense by taking Saquon Barkley, they improved their offense by taking Will Hernandez, a first round offensive line talent, in the second round. It is well document that drafting an RB in the first round is a bad investment, but the Giants got away with it by getting the high end offensive line talent anyway. Hernandez immediately makes this line better.

Fantasy Impact: From a fantasy perspective, Barkley makes everything better. This may not have been the ideal landing spot for Barkley, but it is very close. Aside from the offensive line problem, which the Giants have worked to fix, the biggest concerns surrounding Barkley were a) would he eviscerate an incumbent RB's fantasy value? and b) would he go somewhere with an incumbent RB that could eat into his workload? Neither of those things happened. The Giants do not roster a single RB that is even remotely fantasy viable. So not only does Barkley not vaporize an existing RB, but he has absolutely zero obstacles preventing him from being a three down back. It is wheels up for Barkley in the back end of the first round in redraft leagues and it goes without saying that he's at worst a top-six pick consideration in dynasty startups, if not top overall.

 

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