Now that the first wave of free agency has passed and the NFL Draft has officially been put in the books, we have a near full layout of what NFL rosters are going to look like for the upcoming season. With that, we have a host of rookie content and freshly updated ranks for season-long and dynasty formats already up in our 2020 fantasy football content hub.
With the draft, a number of veteran players had their 2020 fantasy dynamics impacted for better or worse. Throughout the week, we are going to highlight some of the biggest winners and losers from the draft from each position. We’ll start here with the winners.
Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
The Broncos won four of the five games Lock started to close the 2019 season, but Lock himself still left a lot on the table to question. Over his five starts, he posted just 6.5 yards per pass attempt and an 89.7 rating. For fantasy purposes, his weekly scoring finishes were QB22, QB8, QB31, QB20, and QB21 despite facing the fourth-easiest schedule of pass defenses. With limited weaponry at his disposal during those starts, Denver was relying on players such as DeSean Hamilton, Tim Patrick, and Royce Freeman, who were three of the top five players in targets from Lock outside of Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant.
This offseason the Broncos have gone all-in on finding out what Lock can do with surrounding talent. The team went offense-centric, selecting Jerry Jeudy at No. 15 overall, then added burner K.J. Hamler and Lock’s former collegiate teammate Albert Okwuegbunam, who caught 11 touchdown passes from Lock as a redshirt freshman at age 19 at Missouri. The team also added guard Lloyd Cushenberry from LSU. Denver also has not added a tangible veteran behind Lock, adding only Jeff Driskel. So Lock also has the comfort of not having to look over his shoulder at this time. Providing the tools for Lock, Denver will be able to accurately assess what they have in the 2019 second-rounder in 2020.
Sam Darnold, New York Jets
Per Pro Football Focus, Darnold was pressured on a league-high 42.1% of his dropbacks in 2019. Under pressure, he averaged just 4.6 yards per pass attempt (26th out of 28 qualifiers) while he averaged 8.2 Y/A while kept clean, which ranked 11th from the same group of passers. That +3.6 Y/A difference between being clean versus pressure was the largest such discrepancy among passers in the league last year.
Getting Mekhi Becton at No. 11 overall, the Jets fill a major need with a player that improved over the course of his collegiate career substantially. After being credited with 19 blown blocking assignments and 8 penalties as a freshman, Becton had just 16 blown blocks and 6 penalties over his final two seasons combined at Louisville.
The Jets then came back with their next pick in the second round and grabbed Denzel Mims at No. 59 overall. Jets wideouts were in the back half of the league with 12.1 receptions (17th) for 150.8 receiving yards (21st) per game while combining for 12 touchdowns (24th).
Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars
Coming into the draft, Minshew did already appear to be the starting quarterback for the Jags, but with the team having so many draft picks (12 in total) and two first-rounders, Jacksonville was a team that could have gone in any direction. They chose to sit tight at the quarterback position with the top-three passers off of the board by the time their early picks came up and then continued to wait.
They did draft a quarterback, Jake Luton from Oregon State, but did not do so until pick No. 189 in the sixth round. That is only nine spots later from where they drafted Minshew himself a year ago, but that investment into Luton points to him being a backup and also potential protection from the team pursuing a veteran backup in the second wave of free agency.
Minshew had solid spurts as a rookie and low points. Surprisingly, he led the NFL in scramble rushing attempts (50) and was 13th in rushing points per game (2.6). In Minshew’s 12 starts as a rookie, he finished lower than QB16 in weekly scoring just three times. With his mobility and the potential game script he will have, Minshew is a safe floor QB2 option in 2QB formats with streaming upside in 1QB leagues.
Jarrett Stidham, New England Patriots
He survived the first wave of free agency and now he has survived the NFL draft. The draft is over and Stidham lives another day as the potential starting quarterback for the New England Patriots in 2020. Bill Belichick stated that not selecting a quarterback “wasn’t by design”, but last season’s fourth-round draft selection remains at the top of the depth chart. New England did sign to undrafted free agents in J’Mar Smith and Brian Lewerke. There’s still potential the team can pursue free agent Cam Newton and Andy Dalton could become available, but the Patriots are also very tight against the 2020 cap at the moment.
As was the case with Darnold, some other quarterbacks will be playing behind some new pass protectors that cost their teams high investment.
Daniel Jones was under pressure on 41.7% of his dropbacks as a rookie, which was only above Darnold. Under pressure, he averaged 5.9 yards per pass attempt (17th).
Selecting Andrew Thomas at No. 4 overall, the Giants are getting a potential stud tackle. Thomas started all 41 games of his collegiate career at Georgia. In those games, Thomas allowed just 11 pressures and 5 sacks in those games while committing just 2 holding penalties. Unlike Darnold, Jones averaged just 7.0 Y/A when kept clean in 2019, which ranked 24th in the league, meaning Jones still has a lot to prove himself.
The Browns added Jack Conklin in free agency and turned right around and selected Jedrick Wills at No. 10 overall, revamping their starting tackle positions in one offseason. Cleveland offensive tackles were credited with 81 quarterback pressures allowed in 2019 as a team, which ranked 20th in the league.
Tom Brady has gotten a host of new weapons this offseason and even reunited with an old one in Rob Gronkowski. He is also getting a new offensive tackle in Tristan Wirfs. In 2019, no quarterback had their results impacted like Brady. Under pressure a year ago, Brady averaged just 4.1 yards per pass attempt under pressure, which was dead last in the league. He also completed just 36.1% of his passes under pressure, which was also dead last. The only quarterback with a worse rating under pressure in 2019 than Brady (51.6) was… Jameis Winston (44.5). His surrounding New England pass catchers played a role in that drop off Brady, but added protection for a 43-year-old quarterback is another plus for Brady this offseason.
Outside of Lock, a few other quarterbacks grabbed multiple new weapons. The Raiders added Henry Ruggs, Lynn Bowden, and Bryan Edwards via the draft. A year ago, the Raiders wideouts combined for 13.3 targets (30th), 8.8 receptions (28th) and 114.4 yards (29th) per game. Derek Carr still has the lights on, but also needs to not allow the window to open for Marcus Mariota in 2020.
Carson Wentz closed the 2019 season working a skeleton crew of receivers and was forced to lean on funneling passes to his two tight ends. As a byproduct, Wentz’s 2019 yards per pass attempt (6.7 Y/A) and touchdown rate (4.4%) were his lowest marks in a season since his rookie year. The Eagles still have Alshon Jeffery (42% of the team snaps) and DeSean Jackson (6% of snaps) return, but are both into their 30’s and have availability concerns. The Eagles took a wideout in the second round last season in J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, but after he struggled with separation issues, the team did a 180 in their approach to the position this draft.
With that, the Eagles went and added a ton of team speed at the receiver position. They drafted Jalen Reagor at No. 21 in the first round to go with selections of John Hightower (No. 168) and Quez Watkins (No. 200) on day three as well as adding Marquise Goodwin via trade.
Philip Rivers joined the Colts this offseason, who had a nearly bare cupboard of weapons in the receiving game. Indianapolis wideouts combined for 9.6 receptions (27th) and 120.1 receiving yards per game (28th) in 2019. Adding Michael Pittman Jr. to wideout room to go with the return of 2019 second-round pick Parris Campbell makes this situation look better today. The signal in taking Pittman at No. 34 overall is that the team valued him very highly with the added context that they prioritized him first with the potential that they could still not land Jonathan Taylor, who the Colts then traded back up for seven picks later.