The 1st round of the 2018 NFL Draft certainly came with its share of surprises. It was hard to believe when a story leaked saying Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield would the first overall selection, but it happened.
It was hard to believe that UCLA QB Josh Rosen, arguably the most talented and NFL-ready QB in the draft, actually fell to Arizona who moved up to #10 to grab him, but it happened. It was hard to believe that with USC QB Sam Darnold readily available at #2, the Giants would be sure to take him to eventually succeed Eli Manning; that did not happen. They instead chose the best overall player in the draft in RB Saquon Barkley, which amplifies New York’s win-now attitude while still resting their faith in their 37-year old 2-time Super Bowl MVP QB.
I play in a dynasty football league, and our annual rookie draft is next Saturday. I gotta say, I’m trying to stockpile as many top-20 picks as possible because I love this draft. I think so many of these players are going to have serious impacts in the NFL.
Contrary to most, I actually love that Cleveland took Baker Mayfield. They’re getting a guy that has earned every single thing he has. We all know the story; wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school, 2-time walk on that eventually found a home at Oklahoma and dominated. The reigning Heisman Trophy Winner is not without faults, however. He has some serious maturity issues, but that doesn’t scare me. He doesn’t have a drug problem (that we know of), doesn’t have a domestic violence problem (that we know of); he’s just a hard-working kid that has built an oversized ego based on the fact that he never got the respect he felt he deserved until now.
He will bring an attitude and confidence to Cleveland along with the on-field ability that they’ve been starving for. The most accurate passer in the class will have the opportunity to throw to some seriously talented targets in Josh Gordon and recently acquired Jarvis Landry. They also signed Carlos Hyde to bring some stability to the backfield. If 2017 1st round pick TE David Njoku can progress the way we all believe he will, they can actually have a legitimate offense. Not to mention, with the signing of QB Tyrod Taylor, Mayfield isn’t going to be thrown to the wolves immediately, which will be huge for his development as a franchise QB. I won’t say he’s going to be a Hall of Famer and win a SB for the Browns, but I do believe they will be removed from the pit of NFL misery and they’ll be rewarded for the risk of taking a chance on Baker first overall.
Here’s my ranking of the 11 offensive skill position players and their fantasy value for dynasty leagues:
1. Josh Rosen QB (cardinals)
I know Rosen was outspokenly angry about his drop to #10, but I think he got away with murder moving forward. He fell into the best situation of any QB drafted. He has one of the most dynamic backs in the NFL behind him in David Johnson, an excellent coach, a star receiver in Larry Fitzgerald that can really be a positive influence on a very cocky, young star. I believe, based on situation, he’ll be the most successful QB that comes from this draft.
2. Saquon Barkley RB (giants)
Barkley is a bad Giants’ offensive line from being #1 on this list. He is by far the best overall player in this years’ draft. He brings a Le’Veon Bell type talent to East Rutherford; pair that with Odell Beckham Jr. and company and he is destined for greatness. The offensive line in New York scares me. The addition of Nate Solder doesn’t make up for the losses of talented, albeit oft-injured Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh. Even with the line in its current state, I believe Barkley to be dynamic and gifted enough to make up for the blocking deficiency and have a Rookie of the Year caliber season to start his career.
3. Baker Mayfield QB (browns)
As I went into detail above, I love this choice. I think he is going to be very good in his career. He reminds me so much of Russell Wilson, it’s startling. He’s a pocket passer at heart with outstanding accuracy; with the ability to improvise and make excellent decisions and throws on the move. He has very good weapons at his disposal that the numerous predecessors in Cleveland have not had. This is the best surrounding cast the Browns have had in a long time, and I think they finally have the QB to go with it.
4. Sony Michel RB (patriots)
Belichick did it again. I LOVE this pick for the Patriots. Belichick has a knack for taking a group of RBs, all with different skillsets, and creating a tantalizing backfield. Well, now he has one that will top them all. Michel brings size and speed that New England hasn’t had in a RB in some time. In a system like the Patriots’, I believe Michel has the ability to replicate what Alvin Kamara did with the Saints in 2017.
5. Sam Darnold QB (jets)
The fact that Darnold excelled in his Pro Day bodes well for his destination. In terrible, wet, windy weather, he put on a show for NFL GMs that I’d assume weighed heavily in the Jets’ decision to draft him. MetLife Stadium is known for creating a wind tunnel that makes it very difficult for QBs to throw the ball consistently. He probably has the highest floor among this years’ QB class as well which is also a huge reason for the selection. If the Jets can surround him with some quality talent, a case can be made that he could be the savior the Jets have been searching for at QB and could challenge Rosen for the title of most successful QB from the 2018 class.
6. Calvin Ridley WR (falcons)
Like I said, I absolutely loved the fantasy implications of this first round. Ridley was the perfect choice for the Falcons. He’s coming to a situation that will alleviate him of any immediate pressure. Playing opposite the game’s most physically gifted receiver in Julio Jones, catching passes from 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan, Ridley should have ample opportunity for success. The RB tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman draws the defense up, Julio Jones draws the safety attention, leaving Calvin Ridley spending most of his day in 1-on-1 coverage, which he showed he can dominate at the college level.
7. Lamar Jackson QB (ravens)
Had it not been for the small sample size of dominance from Deshaun Watson last year, I would not have liked this pick as much. But, Watson opened the door for this type of player. I don’t believe Jackson is as skilled a passer as Watson, but he has just as much, if not more ability with his legs. He’s a very accurate passer that will need to spend some time learning NFL-style offenses, but with Joe Flacco still presumably the starter for at least another year, Jackson has time to develop and achieve his high ceiling as an NFL starter.
8. Josh Allen QB (bills)
I love Josh Allen, the QB. I don’t love Josh Allen, the Bills’ QB. I hate this situation for Allen. I don’t like the way the Bills are constructed on offense. They do have a very dynamic back in LeSean McCoy but not much else for receiving weapons. Kelvin Benjamin is very good when healthy, but he’s been more hurt than healthy thus far in his career. Zay Jones showed flashes in 2017, but he was very inconsistent. TE Charles Clay is probably the team’s best receiving threat and that doesn’t bode well for Allen. I will say he is best suited to play in this city of any of the QBs drafted with his unbelievable arm strength and large hands; he’ll have the ability to throw through the wind and snow, I just don’t like the construction of the team for his development as a QB.
9. DJ Moore WR (panthers)
The thing I like most about Moore’s potential is the QB that’ll be throwing him the ball. Panthers’ QB Cam Newton has a cannon of an arm that will bode well for the speedy DJ Moore. The emergence of Christian McCaffrey as a dual threat back and TE Greg Olsen in the middle should also relieve Moore of any double coverage. He should have plenty of opportunity to win 1-on-1 matchups and Newton loves chucking the ball up and giving his guy a chance.
10. Rashaad Penny RB (seahawks)
I was a little confused by this pick, as I’m sure many were. I believe what may separate Penny from guys like Guice and Chubb is his ability in the return game. He was an excellent return man at San Diego State, and could battle with Tyler Lockett in Seattle for that role. For fantasy purposes, I’m not as high on him. Seattle hasn’t been favorable in displaying fantasy success from the position since Marshawn Lynch originally retired. I can’t see him going before the 2nd round in dynasty rookie drafts.
11. Hayden Hurst TE (ravens)
The biggest thing I don’t like about this choice is Hurst’s age. A 25-year-old rookie isn’t ideal in the NFL. Careers are short enough as it is with the abuse that these guys take every play, and he’s already behind the 8-ball. Outside of that, he has the potential to be a very stead fantasy TE option. He has very sure hands, 100 catches to 1 drop in college, and he is very adept at finding the hole in between the 2nd and 3rd layer of defense. Baltimore hasn’t been kind to TEs in recent memory, but Hurst should be a quality NFL player.