NFL Draft fantasy fallout: Biggest winners and losers

Follow The Money's Matt Youmans and Jonathan Von Tobel discuss the early props for top 3 receivers out of the draft, in Kyle Pitts, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.

The NFL Draft is like Christmas in April for many football fans, but for fantasy football managers it can lead to some nervous times as certain players’ value can rise or fall dramatically with a single selection.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the fantasy winners and losers from this year’s draft.

WINNERS

Sam Darnold, QB, Carolina Panthers

There was plenty of speculation the Panthers would take a quarterback with their first-round pick, but the team ultimately decided against it by taking cornerback Jaycee Horn. Not only did Carolina decide that Darnold would be their quarterback, but the Panthers also added multiple weapons to Darnold’s arsenal with wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. (59th overall) and Canadian running back Chuba Hubbard (126th overall).

There are no excuses for Darnold to underperform now with one of the best group of playmakers in the NFL.

Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears

Robinson hasn’t been blessed with star power at the quarterback position since his collegiate days at Penn State. That list includes Matt McGloin, Christian Hackenberg, Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel and Nick Foles. Now, the Bears will have Justin Fields under centre and he should be an immediate upgrade at the position, finally giving Robinson someone who can get him the ball.

We could see a career-year from Robinson with a competent quarterback at the helm.

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions

The Lions saw a real overhaul this off-season and part of it didn’t include replacing wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones from a talent perspective.

Enter T.J. Hockenson.

Hockenson improved in his second year to catch 67 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns on 101 targets. There is a real shot for the third-year tight end to take a big leap into elite territory with the likes of Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller. Crazy? Maybe, but he’s the most talented pass-catcher in that offensive group; are we really worried about Breshad Perriman, Quintez Cephus and Tyrell Williams?

A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans

Many fantasy managers have yearned for the A.J. Brown alpha season since he entered the league in 2019 and they just might get it in 2021.

The Titans have the third-most vacated targets in the NFL heading into this upcoming season and didn’t do much to replace them at the draft. Brown has put up video-game-like stats considering his lack of “alpha” target numbers. He has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons despite not having more than 106 targets in a season. Unless the Titans go out and make a deal for someone like Julio Jones or Michael Gallup, Brown could be in for a monster year that sees him garner over 150 targets.

LOSERS

James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

I, like so many others, was absolutely stunned the Jaguars selected Travis Etienne with the 25th pick on Thursday. It’s not as if Robinson wasn’t good last year; in fact, he was great and far exceeded the expectations set out for an undrafted rookie.

What we know is that draft capital is king in the NFL and Robinson doesn’t have that. I do think that new head coach Urban Meyer is looking for a bit of a thunder-and-lightning approach with the two running backs, but this is a significant hit to Robinson’s workload, especially in the passing game. Robinson didn’t become a bad football player overnight but it’s certainly not an ideal situation just a year removed from such a great rookie campaign.

Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals selected wide receiver Rondale Moore in the second round of the draft, marking the second time in the last three drafts since the team selected Kirk in 2018 that Arizona has taken a wide receiver in the second round.

Moore has blazing 4.37 speed and should get his fair share of run out of the slot this upcoming season, a place the team was hoping Kirk could take over from Larry Fitzgerald. Couple the addition of Moore with the off-season signing of A.J. Green and it doesn’t leave a ton of targets for Kirk to be a relevant fantasy option, especially after he saw a dip in targets from 2019 to 2020 from 108 to 79.

It looks like the ship has sailed on the once highly thought of Cardinals receiver.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Denver Broncos

Heading into the 2021 draft, it seemed a foregone conclusion Melvin Gordon was going to get out of draft weekend unscathed but that certainly didn’t happen. The Broncos leap-frogged a few teams who might have been interested in taking running back Javonte Williams and snagged the North Carolina product with the 35th pick.

Williams will take away some of Gordon’s passing work out of the backfield and we could see a 50-50 split among touches for the running back tandem, leaving Gordon with a much lower floor and a capped ceiling.

Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

As a big believer in Boyd, watching the Bengals take Ja’Marr Chase with the 5th-overall pick on Thursday really did a number for the confidence I have in Boyd to put up big numbers.

Boyd was a top-tier wide receiver in terms of fantasy production prior to Joe Burrow’s injury last season so the talent is there, but adding another top-tier wideout to a group that already consists of Tee Higgins really puts a cap on Boyd’s ceiling.

The expectation is the Bengals are trying to replicate the offensive model of the L.A. Rams a few years ago with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks, so maybe there’s hope there. Boyd’s ADP will be low enough that he’ll be worth the risk, but that risk just got a lot higher with the drafting of Chase.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.