Fantasy Football 2015: Breaking Down The NFL Draft

NFL Draft, amari cooper

Flags have been planted, players have been drafted.


After months and months of speculation, we finally have some clarity around the incoming rookie class. No, Marcus Mariota will not be playing football in Philadelphia. Yes, Jameis Winston will be playing football in Tampa Bay. And, most importantly, yes, Mel Kiper did use the words “high-motor” and “high-upside.” I mean, seriously, there was an entire drinking game devoted to Kiper sayings. On Thursday evening, months of mystery transformed into certainty–for now. The NFL Draft, at least to me, is far more exciting than the Super Bowl. Unless, of course, the Buffalo Bills are playing in said game, but, yeah…

But wait. You’re here for fantasy football words, right? Of course you are. With a very deep crop of running backs and wide receivers, there is no shortage of fantasy aspects surrounding the 2015 draft.

I’m on the clock:

1.01- Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

We knew it would happen, but Winston was the first overall pick in Chicago. The Buccaneers have an obvious need at the quarterback position, and Winston, when his head is on straight, is the best pro-style passer to choose from, and it’s not even close. There’s so much to like about Winston from a measurable standpoint. He’s a 6’4″, 230-pounder with a rocket arm. And although he can take some serious chances with his throws, that can be both a good and bad thing. But Tampa Bay doesn’t care–he’s their guy.

Landing with the Bucs is actually relatively good for his fantasy value. You have both Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, two towering wideouts who can both catch 10 touchdowns or so, not to mention Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who should take another step in year two. With this kind of weaponry, Winston could easily approach 4,000 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, which would make him a mid-tier QB2. But don’t look at Winston and assume he’s going to get you a ton of rushing totals, because he won’t, only rushing with the ball 145 times for seven touchdowns in two seasons at FSU. However, in new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s vertical passing attack, Winston can put up strong numbers, and makes for a popular streaming option. I see a lot of Eli Manning in the former Heisman trophy winner.

1.02- Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

Because he’s not in Philadelphia, Mariota isn’t going to be the ground-breaking fantasy option that many were hoping for. However, he will be given the opportunity to start for the Titans right away, and because of his ability to run with the football, he will be relevant in fantasy land. I mean, we’ve seen far lesser passers post strong fantasy numbers based on their legs alone. And although Tennessee selected talented wideout Dorial Green-Beckham in the second round, this unit doesn’t have enough playmakers to warrant Mariota as a starter in fantasy. However, Mike Clay of PFF projects him to carry the football almost 100 times for nearly 600 yards–that is relevant.

1.04- Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders

I don’t care if he’s playing for the Raiders. Amari Cooper is the best rookie wideout.

The Raiders were projected to land Cooper, and nothing changed on Thursday night. The Alabama product was one of the most productive college receivers I’ve seen in a while, becoming the first player in NCAA history to post at least 100 catches, 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns. And with his 124 receptions from a season ago, he became just the second player in SEC history to catch at least 100 balls in a season. Cooper is one of the most NFL-ready prospects in this class, which has me certain he can handle the pressure of serving as a number-one option in an NFL passing game. I think Oakland will TRY to establish the run, but will eventually be forced to throw. Very quietly last year, Oakland led the league in passing play percentage (66.1%), so look for Cooper to have a similar PPR season to Jarvis Landry of 2014, but with more upside. At Alabama last year, he hauled in at least five passes in 85 percent of his games. He won’t be Antonio Brown, but the volume and talent are there for him to be a WR3.

1.07- Kevin White, Chicago Bears

Plenty of people have Kevin White as the top receiver in this class, and for good reason. He’s fast, can go up and get the football and when in open space, essentially turns into a running back. He’ll immediately slide in as the Bears’ number-two wideout with Brandon Marshall off to Gang Green, and, like Cooper, is a potential WR3 in fantasy. With Marshall gone, Chicago has 105 targets to replace, and White is immensely talented. And, opposite Alshon Jeffery, White should see single coverage most of the time, and Jay Cutler isn’t afraid to chuck it. I could see Jeffery becoming Marshall and White becoming Jeffery.

Got it?

1.10- Todd Gurley, St.Louis Rams

There weren’t many surprises during this draft, but by far the biggest was when the Rams selected Todd Gurley at ten overall. He’s the most talented rookie player, which has me willing to invest in him, despite the possibility of him missing some time. Coming off a torn ACL, Gurley states he’s on track to play in Week 1, but head coach Jeff Fisher wants to bring his future star along slowly, which indicates a potential PUP list opening. But still, this is an offense that will feature the run quite a bit, especially under Fisher. When the Rams are up close, they’ll be giving Gurley the football, and they ranked inside the top-10 in terms of rushing touchdown percentage last season (30.6%). Many people view Gurley as the best running back prospect since that Adrian Peterson guy, and you have to think the Rams feel that way, which tells me that it is his backfield now. Sorry, Tre Mason dynasty owners. I view Gurley as a 5th or 6th round pick in re-draft, and I’d be fine with him as a low-end RB2 on my team. The Rams followed the Gurley pick with tons of offensive line help, and the elite talent should thrive. According to PFF, Gurley led the entire nation in elusive rating (116.6). To put that into perspective, the NFL’s league-leader in that category was Marshawn Lynch, who sported a 94.3 rating.

1.14- DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins

I’ll be honest. I wish Parker landed in Minnesota with former teammate, Teddy Bridgewater, but the Louisville product is still my second-ranked receiver in this class. And it could have been worse.

I mean, he could be catching passes in Cleveland…

Parker missed the first seven games of the season, but finished his 2014 campaign on a tear, hauling in 43 balls for 855 yards and five touchdowns. And at 6’3″, with the ability to get to the highest point, this guy could be a monster touchdown producer very soon. In fact, during his entire tenure at Louisville, 21 percent of his total receptions went for touchdowns, while only credited with three drops. He’ll have to compete for targets with the likes of PPR monster Jarvis Landry, as well as Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings, but Parker is an immense talent. We’ll see how Miami’s offense looks this year, but in 2014, they ranked second in football in red zone scoring chances per game (4.2), so Parker could be a nice touchdown producer. My only real concern is Ryan Tannehill’s deep ball, which has been bad. Over his first three seasons, he’s posted an accuracy percentage of 43.1, 32.8 and 37.7 percent, via PFF. Parker, meanwhile, finished second in the nation in yards per route run in 2014 (4.21).

1.15- Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers

“Hey, don’t forget about me.”

While I think Gurley is the best running back in this class, Gordon very well might be the best for fantasy. The Chargers traded up to acquire the former Badger, and now he’s a lock to start the season in the San Diego backfield. He’s in the best offense out of any rookies selected in the first round, so the Chargers clearly weren’t sold on a backfield consisting of Danny Woodhead, Branden Oliver and Donald Brown. Gordon has massive upside, as he rushed for not 100 yards, but 200 yards, five different times last year. And according to PFF, he posted the second-best breakaway percentage among all rushers (56.7). He also had 40 rushes of 15 yards or more, which led the entire nation. We’ve seen running backs have success in Mike McCoy’s offensive system, so Gordon should find success. He’ll lose 3rd down work to Woodhead, but should be the primary 1st and 2nd down back. Feel free to select him as the first rookie in drafts this summer.

1.20- Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles

Since Philadelphia didn’t trade up for their boo jawn (sorry), they decided it would be wise to upgrade their lackluster receiver position. That’s exactly what they did, selecting Agholor, a talented product out of USC. There are plenty of wideouts in this class who exclusively lined up out wide, but last year, Agholor operated out of the slot almost 55 percent of the time, via PFF. That will allow sophomore wideout Jordan Matthews to line up out wide more for Philadelphia. Many are comparing Agholor to former Eagle, Jeremy Maclin. And while I don’t think he’ll give Philadelphia that type of production, you can’t argue the comparison.


If he landed almost anywhere else, I wouldn’t be all that interested in Agholor. But in Philly, in an offense that ran a league-leading 70.7 offensive plays per game last season, he’s definitely worth a draft pick in the later rounds.

1.26- Breshad Perriman, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens spent their first two picks on pass-catchers, a hole they desperately needed to fill. Perriman has some insane wheels, running a 4.26 40-yard dash. He also stands at 6’3″, 212 pounds, giving him a good combination of size and speed. Catching passes in a Mark Trestman-led offense isn’t a bad thing for fantasy purposes, According to Mike Clay, both Alshon and Brandon Marshall lead the league in end-zone targets during his tenure in Chicago. Perriman wil need to work on his hands a bit, but the landing spot is one of the better ones for rookie wideouts. There are plenty of targets to be had, especially with Torrey Smith (and his 93 looks) off to San Francisco.

2.04- T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars

You might need to give me some time…

My favorite running back in this entire class, heck, my favorite player in this entire class, Yeldon was the third running back selected, coming off the board in the beginning of Day 2 to the Jaguars. Would I have preferred it if he landed in Dallas or Atlanta? Yeah, probably. But at the end of the day, Yeldon is more than likely going to enter the season as the Jags’ starting tailback, which alone makes him fantasy relevant. This is a back who has produced at the highest level of college football. He ranks fifth in Alabama history in carries (576), 4th in yards (3,322) and third in touchdowns (37), behind just Shaun Alexander and Mark Ingram. Yeldon isn’t the most talented back, but he can do a bit of everything, and has some of the best lateral quickness and power in this class. He fits Jacksonville’s zone-blocking scheme very well, as he possesses tremendous foot quickness and good vision. He’ll be given every opportunity to dominate the backfield, and I’d be comfortable with him as my third running back in fantasy leagues.

2.08- Dorial Green-Beckham, Tennessee Titans

What do you do when you draft (hopefully) your franchise quarterback?

Surround him with weapons, of course.

Tennessee took a flier on the insanely talented DGB, who I thought would still go in the first round, despite his off-field concerns. Beckham is easily one of the most gifted players in this class, but multiple non-football instances had many teams afraid to invest. A 6’5″, 240-pound freak who runs a sub-4.5 40 is very enticing, and he has the potential to be an elite red zone presence. I see a ton of Martavis Bryant/ Plaxico Burress in his game. Based on talent alone, DGB will be a boom-or-bust fantasy prospect in year one, especially with Mariota under center. But I’m still not sure how often Tennessee will be inside the 20 this year (they ranked 27th in RZ scoring chances last year).

2.22- Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions

I’m pretty excited about Abdullah, who I had pegged as a top-five back from this class. He joins a Lions backfield that, quite frankly, has plenty of work to offer. Reggie Bush is gone, Theo Riddick isn’t an every-down back, and Joique Bell is good, but is coming off knee and Achilles surgeries, and will be 29. I see a lot of Andre Ellington in Abdullah’s game, and could be an elite PPR back in this Detroit offense. The guy hasn’t dropped a single pass in the last two years, and has tremendous breakaway ability. We know the Lions love to utilize the backs in the passing game, as 28 percent of their total targets last year went to rushers. Abdullah could easily be an RB2 by the middle of the year.

3.09- Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons

I was praying that one of these top backs would land in Atlanta, and sure enough, Coleman was drafted by the Falcons towards the beginning of round three. With only Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith in his way for work, Coleman could be a tremendous fantasy option in year number one. He has big play ability, posting the highest breakaway percentage in college football last year (57%), while he had 30 runs of 15 yards or more. It also helps that he doesn’t need a ton of work as a blocker, but he’s currently lacking as a receiver, which could hinder his three-down ability. However, he’s arguably the best back on the roster already, and we know how Kyle Shanahan feels towards running the football.

Notable picks: Devin Funchess (CAR), Jaelen Strong (HOU), Duke Johnson (CLE), Phillip Dorsett (IND), Maxx Williams (BAL), Jay Ajayi (MIA), Devin Smith (NYJ)







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Adam Pfeifer
Adam Pfeifer is a fantasy sports writer for ProjectRoto and XN Sports. He covers the NFL, NBA and MLB. You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.